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Design now for a competitive edge

March 10, 2010 by Sara Drawwater

You don't need me to remind you that markets are much more competitive, revenues are being squeezed and many have lost faith in our politicians and our economy. At times like this when budgets are shrinking, it can be tempting to cut your spending on design. After all, design is an area that can be difficult to understand, measure and source. However, could it be possible to design yourself out of a downturn?

The fact is that it is even more important to invest in design when times are hard. Now is the time that your target audience needs to be convinced that you are the right business to spend with. Now is when your potential customers need to be aware of you, your products and services. Now is when you need to connect with your target audience by responding to their needs and providing solutions.

What's more, if you go against the trend of reining in design investment your business could gain an edge over your competition. Let your rivals reduce or completely cut their spend on design, but continue your own investment in design.

Attitudes to design

According to the Design Council, "When times are tough it is change, dynamism and vitality – not hunkering down quietly – which are the keys to success... The decision to innovate – to rethink and regenerate products, operations and image – can be taken by a company of any size and in any area. Design and brand strategy can help elevate a firm or its products from the ordinary, the tired or the predictable, demonstrating that the business is alive, dynamic and responsive. And in a declining market that just might make the difference between growth and collapse."

I strongly believe that attitudes to design need to change, especially in the minds of start-up and small-business owners. I hear small-business owners convince themselves that they can manage with DIY design solutions, because they are not the 'big boys' and can't afford dedicated design departments. But how can you ever become a 'big boy' without investing in design?

Case study

Let's take beer, for example. This industry is declining with consumers spending less, and reduced supermarket pricing and the smoking ban causing even bigger challenges. Then there was Castle Rock Brewery in Nottingham. Well aware of the weakening beer market, they realised that a stronger brand was a priority. According to the design team that worked on Castle Rock, "Its corporate identity lacked authority, was being used inconsistently and in most cases almost apologetically across its communications. The crafting and attention to detail evident in its award-winning beers was not in any way reflected in its customer-facing image." A clearer focus was brought in, a coherent range of beer badges created and individual beers were given their own personality, whilst clearly remaining part of the Castle Rock range. And the results? Since the rebranding, the company’s barrel sales have doubled (20% year on year), a full year ahead of business projections, in a market which is otherwise in decline.

Is it time to recognise that investing in design (especially in an economic downtown) is not an extravagant luxury but a competitive necessity?

Sara Drawwater of

The top ten common mistakes with Google AdWords campaigns

March 09, 2010 by Claire Jarrett

When training others in setting up their AdWords campaigns, I have noticed that many will have made identical mistakes. My challenge to you is – how many of these errors can be found in YOUR AdWords campaigns?
1. Using just one advert to match to lots of unrelated keywords
Here’s an example advert that is suffering from this mistake:
Virtual Office
temporary staffing, virtual office
registered office, mail forwarding
In this example, the advertiser is attempting to use one advert to advertise many of their products and services. To overcome this mistake, set up multiple ad groups, one for each product or service.

2. Sending people to the homepage
A common mistake is to send all visitors direct to the homepage of your website. You have just a few seconds to get and keep someone’s attention on the web! Don’t risk them leaving immediately as they cannot find what they are looking for – send them directly to the page about that particular product or service.

3. Incorrect capitalisation
Capitalise the first letter of each word in your advert (see the example in point 4 below) – this works by making the advert stand out more and increases the likelihood it will get clicked. 

4. Using your company name as the heading for the adverts
This mistake is often replicated by web marketing agencies as well as individual advertisers. Here’s an example:
Bristol Party Hire
Bouncy Castles in Bristol
Great Prices From £45
Your advert is NOT about you – it’s about closely matching what the potential visitor is searching for. The advert heading should match the keywords the visitor has used as closely as possible. For example:
Bristol Bouncy Castles
Bouncy Castles in Bristol
Great Prices From £45
5. Not tracking the results
Make sure you track your results so you can test which keywords work best to generate leads and / or sales. You can do this by using Google’s conversion tracking (found in the Opportunities tab). 
6. Leaving the content network on
The content network is a large number of unrelated websites, all running advertising on their website. Visitors to their websites have the opportunity to click on your ad, costing you money. Turn the content network off to avoid these unnecessary clicks.
7. Leaving ads running 24 hours per day
For most products and services, it makes sense to only run adverts at certain times of day. For example, B2B advertisers will benefit from running adverts only during work hours.
8. Not using negative keywords
Negative keywords will prevent irrelevant searches. For example, you will probably want to cut out people seeking “free” things. Ideally build a large negative keyword list to save yourself money.
9. Failing to use broad, phrase and exact match keywords
These are the three different keyword types which all need to be included in your ad groups to cut down on costs. So make sure you include them all.
10. Underutilising the display URL
The display URL can be manipulated to increase Click Through Rate. For example, if advertising bouncy castles – instead of use 
Claire Jarrett of MarketingByWeb

Five tips for a successful product launch

March 08, 2010 by Ben Dyer

I have recently been spending a lot of time thinking about product launches. My employer, SellerDeck, is a few weeks away from rolling out a major update to one of its ecommerce software products. While we have the advantage of an existing user base, many of the fundamentals for launching are the same whether it is an existing product or something completely new.

1. Understand the Unique Value Proposition

If your product is sat on the launch pad I would hope by this stage you know what it is that makes your offering different from the rest. The importance of your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) cannot be understated; it’s the lifeblood of any product launch. Review, discuss and research until you are totally convinced you have got it right; you only get one launch window.

2. Talk to prospective customers

Get out there and talk to the very people you want to sell your product to. Discuss your plans for the product, both now and in the future. Get their feedback; it could be you missed something.

3. How are you going to sell and market?

Choosing where to market your product can be difficult. Make informed decisions based on research. It might even be a good idea to run several small pilot schemes to see where you get the most success. However prepare to be ruthless if you’re not seeing the results. It’s easier to make decisions before you have spent the entire budget on something that’s not working.

4. Make yourself heard

Find out who the influential people are in your space and hustle, annoy and pester them. That is until you get a chance to demonstrate why your product is the best. Nothing is better than a personal recommendation regardless of the product or service. Go to events, chat to people and network, network, network!

5.  Bring the whole team on the journey

A successful product launch requires commitment and understanding throughout your organisation.

When President Kennedy visited NASA in 1961 he came across a cleaner, and asked him what his job was. The cleaner replied “My Job is to put a man on the moon, Sir”. Now that probably is the greatest launch of all time.

Ben Dyer of SellerDeck

Strong, surviving or tired – Five key questions for established brands?

March 04, 2010 by John Hayward

A strong brand will help you win more sales and keep more customers, so spend time on a health check:

1. Is my brand position strong? 

Think about what makes your brand unique.  How does your brand stack up now and in the future?  Why should people care?  What your brand stood for in the past may just be that, so have a look at what your competition offers, how they operate and what they do, as well as wider influences and trends.

2. Is my brand clear? 

If you are clear about what you stand for and what makes your brand unique, are you clearly communicating it to customers?  Be careful of jargon and complicated wording, and be single-minded too – a list of 5 or 6 messages will just lead to confusion, leave the detail for later once you have attention.

3. Does my brand look good? 

How current is your look?  Think across all your activity, from the logo and identity, to your web site and promotional materials.  Are layouts clear?  Is your imagery current and clear?  Are there elements of consistency?  Do fonts work together or look a mess.  Brands that look current and relevant feel looked after and worthy of attention, so customers will feel you’ll pay the same attention to them. 

4. Does my brand sound good?

All flash looks with not much to say?  Ouch.  Supporting your central brand promise by what you say and how you behave is critical.  Think about how you and your people talk about, sell and service your brand – attention-grabbing looks might get you over a hurdle, but people soon wise up to brands that can’t deliver a promise.

5. Am I my only brand supporter?

Think about who talks about your brand, and where.  Is it as much as it used to be?  Word of mouth, recommendations, testimonials, social media and news stories will prove it has fans. Prove your brand is worth a look, and maximize every opportunity.

If you’re feeling uncomfortable about two or more of these then it’s time to spend time paying closer attention.

John Hayward of Brand Glue

Like Minds: What was your take-home message?

March 01, 2010 by James Ainsworth

Like Minds People-to-People was about making valuable and meaningful connections. The test now is the connections everyone makes in their sector — armed with the wisdom gained from attending the conference — be that in person or virtually.

We asked attendees to provide us with their take-home message from the keynotes, panel discussions and extensive networking that took place well into the night.

Take-home 1: Strategy's purpose is to enable execution. NOT the other way around. @chrisbrogan wisdom.

Take-home 2: Remove the "media" from Social Media. SM engineering for orgs isn't about media.

Take-home 3: Humanising corporate communications offers a wealth of operational and tactical advantages.

Bonus take-home: @chrisbrogan is every bit as smart as he claims not to be. Truly outstanding.



Take-home: Inspiration, reflection, motivation, acceleration, comprehension, lubrication and a lot of bloody good ideas.



Take-home: Content counts.



Take-home: This is a new medium not a new form of communication, Twitter is the tool, people power it. Authenticity beats brand veneer.



Take-home: Like Minds was jaw droppingly awesome, the creative mix was lovely magic!



Take-home: Inspiring, awesome event. All about the people as the title suggested :)



Take-home: Mine is never, ever take fashion tips from Americans - no matter how famous they are :) #likeminds



Take-home: How can you use available tools to make others feel special? That's a key question.



Take-home: Stimulating, thought provoking and professional. Unexpectedly good way to spend a Friday!


Please do add any further take-home comments below.

Like Minds - morning session summary

February 26, 2010 by Simon Wicks

So, the morning session of Like Minds is over and we’ve covered two interesting presentations which have generated a fair amount of debate.

First up, Jonathan Akwue, the “digital thinker director” of Digital Public, offered “an outsider’s view of social media”. He took a challenging stance, insisting - to gasps -that “Digital technology does not always make things better”. Jonathan cited the example of self-service checkouts at supermarkets, which may have created cost-efficiencies for supermarkets, but are a source of consternation for many frustrated shoppers (although several Marketing Donut correspondents actually said they like self-service checkouts).

What social media has done, however, is release the inner gangsta rapper in all of us. Like hip-hop, social media have given ordinary people the means to control the channel of communication and to get their personal message ‘out there’ in an unfiltered form. Social media are “open source” and they are transforming the way we communicate and interact with each other:

You can use social media to change people’s lives,” Jonathan claimed. “You can use it to save people’s lives. We can make massive behavior changes."

Unfortunately, if you have such an open source communication channel, you need to be prepared for what people are likely to say – a point many corporates have yet to really grasp.

Jonathan was followed by John Bell, digital PR guru for Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence Team, whose “Time for a strategy - Beware social media tokenism” presentation focused on the need for businesses to generate and measure proper business impact through their social media presence.

Citing the example of ITunes on Facebook - which has three million fans - John challenged the easy view that numbers equal success. “Does this really mean three million people are engaged?” he asked.

He went on to stress the need for businesses to find appropriate ways to measure the impact of their social media activities and to only continue with activities that actually have a measurable business effect. Otherwise they are simply tokenism.

His presentation gave rise to interesting discussions around the value of having a social media policy and the kind of voice you should adopt on Twitter, to which several of our followers contributed:

@atkirby I think it's important to try and sound like a human being on Twitter, not a robot.

@7db Like biz attire: Wear (voice) what (how) your customer does.

@global_lingo  Strong selling isn't the way forward but for B2B that can be a struggle.

So that’s it for the Like Minds morning session. We’ll be picking it up again shortly – please do follow our live coverage.

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