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Editor’s round-up: Time for some changes. Nothing major, mind.

May 14, 2010 by Simon Wicks

When you run the website that never sleeps (officially, following our election shenanigans last week), you become very aware of things that aren’t working as well as they should and other things you’re not doing that you should be. We have long lists of both that never seem to get shorter, no matter how much work we do.

This week, though, we can claim two or three small victories in our battle to stem the tide of stuff that should be better.

First up, James has built a small business events calendar where you can submit your events and find out what else is going on. An events calendar is something every small business website should have, and now we’ve got one. Barring illness, accident and volcanic eruption, it’ll go live next Wednesday.

You’ll have to be a registered user to access the calendar - as with all of our tools. We put some of our goodies behind registration for a couple of reasons: for you, it reinforces the sense that by signing up to the Marketing Donut, you’re joining a community; by registering, you can leave comments, access tools and receive our monthly newsletter, MyDonut.

For us, your registration means we have people to send our newsletter to, we can keep you informed of what we’re up to and we can conduct surveys that enable us to tailor our offering to your needs. It’s basic marketing and it works for everyone, we hope.

Our registration and sign-in processes haven’t been great, however. So we’ve improved them. This is the new registration page, with its simpler form, and you can now also sign in from any page using the ‘Sign-in’ button at the top of the screen. Basically, it’s a lot less hassle to access all our special stuff.

But we haven’t stopped there: we’ve also tweaked the MyDonut newsletter, as those of you who received the latest issue yesterday will have noticed. We’ve made a few small design changes so it’s easier to scan content; the big change, though, has been shifting the main articles away from the Donut websites and onto dedicated newsletter pages.

It’s one of those things we ummed and ahhed about. Surely we want to drive as much traffic as we can to the Donut websites? Well, yes, but we have a greater obligation to think of your experience as readers. Having dedicated pages makes it much easier for you to navigate the newsletter content. We’ve still got plenty of links to the Donut sites, but the whole thing feels more coherent now.

The new format also means we can offer you exclusive content and offers. This means I can now answer the question “Why should I sign up to your newsletter?” with much more confidence. You should sign up because it’s a) really good; and b) has information you can’t get anywhere else. Sounds good to me. By the way, this month’s issue is the best yet, in my opinion (though you won’t know that unless you’re signed up).

So, I guess this is a blog about two things - making things better and building a sense of community, and I find that the two are inseparably linked. Whenever I meet you, I’m always taken aback by your enthusiasm for what we do, but at the back of my mind there’s always that feeling that we could be doing it better.

Speaking of meeting you…

Meet the Donuts!

If you happen to be going to the Business Startup exhibition at the ExCel Centre in London next Thursday and Friday (20 and 21 May), then please come to our stand and say hello. Who knows, you may even get a doughnut.

Tickets to the event are free and you can order them online or by calling 0117 930 4927. See you there?

Do I need social media monitoring?

May 13, 2010 by Nigel Legg

So you want to get involved in social media – you’ve read about it, about how it’s going to help your business, and you’ve got some time at the end of the day to do something with Twitter and Facebook. But now the guy says you ought to be monitoring – and that could well cost you money.  Do you need to do it? I say monitoring of some sort should come before you make your first post, and this is why.

A while back, there was an idea going round that social media was like a cocktail party, and you had to find the right people and talk to them.  But when you got in front of the girl, it was like speed-dating with the next guy trying to muscle in on her – you had to act fast.  Though I haven’t heard the analogy in a while, it is as true now as it was two years ago – if not more so, as the number of people on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn has grown, and the forums and networks have multiplied.

In today’s crowded online space, it’s more important than ever that your message goes to the right place. But when you are starting off, how do you know where the right place is? You may join Twitter and Facebook, but how do you know who is interested in what you have to say? Who is blogging about your particular area of business?

And that’s where monitoring comes in. When I go to a function, or a networking event, I stand in the doorway for thirty seconds, looking around, checking who’s there and who I want to talk to.  In the same way, with social media, you should listen first – for mentions of your business area, for people talking about your subject.

Online there isn’t a doorway that you can hide in and watch; you need a tool.  Plenty of others have listed the wide range of social media monitoring tools, from Social Mention, Giga Alerts, or Google Alerts, which are free, through Simple Web’s MediaGenius, Alterian SM2, and all the way up to Radian6, with many more on the side. These tools – to carry on a tired analogy – will help you to identify which part of the cocktail party to head to, and who to talk to when you get there. But without them, you’re going to be standing around, a lost and confused Billy-no-mates, on your own.

  • Nigel Legg is an independent social media monitoring and marketing consultant based in Bristol, UK.

35 things I have found to be almost always true

May 12, 2010 by Drayton Bird
  1. Relevance matters more than originality
  2. The most important element in any creative endeavour is the brief
  3. Most clients focus on the wrong things
  4. The urgent takes precedence over the important
  5. The customer you want is like the customer you’ve got
  6. The product and positioning matter more than any other element in marketing
  7. Who you are talking to matters more than what you sell
  8. Database is the heart of marketing
  9. The internet is just accelerated direct marketing
  10. Emotion matters more than logic
  11. The simple letter or email gives the best ROI
  12. Long copy beats short
  13. Incentives always pay
  14. Segmentation is almost invariably worth it
  15. Hardly anyone budgets for marketing intelligently
  16. The customer you’ve got is 4 – 5 times more likely to buy from you than someone identical who is not a customer.
  17. A previous enquirer is about twice as likely to buy
  18. A past customer is usually your next best bet.
  19. After that comes someone who’s recommended
  20. It pays to say thank you
  21. Marketers are suckers for magic bullets
  22. Marketing experts complicate things needlessly
  23. If you say why you are writing, response goes up
  24. Questionnaires almost always pay
  25. Making people choose increases response
  26. Few marketers use enough testimonials
  27. Almost all meetings waste time
  28. Flattery and greed are the two biggest draws
  29. All successful messages solve problems
  30. Sincerity always pays
  31. Few messages ask forcefully enough for action
  32. Repetition pays
  33. People’s faces raise response
  34. The more you communicate, the better you do
  35. Research rarely predicts results accurately

Drayton Bird is a renowned direct marketing teacher, speaker and author. Find out more about him on his profile.

#Donut24 was brought to you by cake, coffee, charity and conversation

May 10, 2010 by James Ainsworth

24 hours of general election live blogging and Twittering and for what?

#Donut24 Cake

In a bleary-eyed state, this was something I was questioning. Did Simon and I really just type through the night until our fingers were numb, only to find that the British public (those that were able to vote without being turned away, that is) had deemed not one party suitable for a majority rule, but instead had condemned us to a weekend of conjecture, sucking-up and uncertainty?

Why yes, we did - and it was absolutely worth it.

The Twitterblogathon was an idea we dreamt up a month ago. It started as a dare, but the closer it got to May 6, the more real and organised it needed to be.

We didn’t want to commit to 24 hours of election coverage that would just regurgitate what anybody could see on any of the TV channels. We needed to bring a little bit more to the table.

We opted for unmoderated panellists and also encouraged comments from readers in order to build up a conversation. Without flogging a tenuous small business angle, we also discussed the election campaigns as marketing strategies, among other relevant topics. And in the morning after the night before, while Dimbleby & Co were getting some well-deserved shut-eye, our editorial team was sourcing small business reaction to the result.

Of course, we didn’t think 24 hours of work lent itself to just being 24 hours of work. Oh no, this was also an opportunity to raise some money for charity. As a feat of endurance, not too dissimilar to the exertion of a marathon, this warranted a supplementary fundraising effort.

We had known for some time that The Children’s Trust were to host a National Doughnut Week and, if there is one thing that we can get behind, it’s a week celebrating donuts (whichever way you want to spell it). Thankfully, our readers wanted to get behind this effort, too. So far (‘So far’, because YOU can keep giving) we have raised £319. We were doubly delighted to be featured on the JustGiving blog as their fundraising event of the day.

We are very grateful to all those that donated money and to everyone who got involved in the live blog. We had 400+ reader comments and the #Donut24 hashtag was just the job for creating a hub for conversation on Twitter.

Our thanks go to our fantastic panellists: Emily Cagle, Benjamin Dyer, James Gurd, Eamonn Moore, Bryony Thomas and Anna Kirby.

An extra special mention goes to Claire of Claire’s Handmade Cakes, who generously donated a stunning and oh-so-delicious cake for through-the-night fuel (pictured at top).

Want to relive the #Donut24 live election blog?

The last few words

May 06, 2010 by Kate Horstead

One of our business writers, Kate Horstead, is standing as a candidate in a local election today. Here, she draws on her own experience of campaiging to offer some nuggets of advice for businesses who are trying to win over customers.

As the election campaign rolled into its final days and hours, the political parties geared up to speak to many of their voters for the last time before they voted, whether through a speech, direct mail, on their Twitter feed or website, on the doorsteps or in a party broadcast on TV. The last week is crucial, because however early the campaigners started, it is often the last few words people hear that will stick in their minds. Many of the postal votes have already been cast by this stage, but nerve-wrackingly, 90 per cent of the electorate is still to make its judgement.

But for the local campaign volunteers on the ground, many of whom started out their campaign many months ago, sticking leaflets through doors on drizzly winter nights, talking to voters on the doorsteps and responding to email queries, how do they organise themselves in the final days to make it really count?

As a local council candidate myself, I had established the people who were most likely to vote for us, and those who were leaning our way or yet to decide, as well as hard supporters for the other parties. In business-speak, I did my market research. I had also distributed several batches of information about what my policies are for the local area, and what my party has done so far to help local people. With just days left to win, my team and I needed to prioritise where that time should be spent to get the maximum return for our tireless efforts, or much of that groundwork could well be wasted.

Over the bank holiday weekend we distributed several different types of letters, targeted carefully at different groups. One was a tabloid to be distributed to all the houses in the constituency, while a separate letter was aimed specifically at people who said they would vote for the other main party in the constituency, as a last attempt to sway them towards us. Finally, there were personal letters addressed (handwritten) to all our non-postal voters, a friendly reminder of what we have done and what we plan to do if they vote us in.

Lastly, I fitted in a bit of last-minute face-to-face and phone canvassing, reminding voters that we were there and gathering data for polling day. My last words to them were often something direct and personal, along the lines of “A vote for us in this constituency really does count” or “Thank you for your support, it’s much appreciated”. My personal view is that however often I have knocked on their door or posted a leaflet through, and however firm they think their convictions are, people forget all too easily and those last few words can really mean a lot.

For those who sat through the leaders’ debates, your concentration is likely to have wandered at some point during the programme, but most people will have tuned in for each of the leaders’ short speeches at the end. No doubt it was the way they presented their final argument that will stick in your memory, at least until today, and the manner in which they said it might make you think twice.

But what can you learn from this as a business marketer? Obviously, as a small firm you don’t just have a week to target the right customers and sell to them, but perhaps you should try viewing every week of your marketing campaign with the same urgency as the politicians view this final week of the election campaign. Whether it is a call to action at the end of an email or a summary of what your product can offer them, make sure your last few words stick in your customers’ minds. You never know, it might help you to grasp those last few crucial sales that put you ahead of your competition.

Internet election? #fail

May 06, 2010 by Ben Dyer

In the middle of the most important day in UK politics for five years, I have a simple question: what happened to the “Internet election” we were promised?

I have no idea how many people involved in the Obama campaign were hired to look after social media, but at the beginning of this election each party was trying to outdo the other with grand claims about hiring the brains behind the Obama Internet election strategy. Now, I don’t really know what that means, especially as the brains behind Obama’s campaign were the grassroots activists, but whatever the three main parties hoped for it hasn’t happened.

Instead, of using the internet to empower, the parties have got it the wrong way around by taking bloggers and Twitterati out of digital realm and giving them a real life platform. I am no political strategist, but this is not a good idea.

Labour started it by giving the cringeworthy Ellie Gellard (aka Bevanite Ellie) a lectern and some tissues so she can cry when Gordon speaks; Dave continued to cosy up with Mumsnet whenever there was a TV camera and a packet of Hobnobs around; and Nick − well I spent 30 seconds on his website before my eyes melted.

To summarise, the three parties took something that looked like a digital strategy and applied it to the old world. The very pre-requisite of an Internet election is − you got it − it uses the Internet. And all three parties failed, badly.

Got to dash, I have hired the guy that proofread the blog posts for the Obama campaign popping over in a moment. He’ll like this one.

Ben Dyer is director of product development for Actinic

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