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Five easy ways to avoid collateral damage and win more business

May 19, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

You’re probably savvy enough to realise that you need to get the pros involved when it comes to creating your logo and website. But what about everything else? The reports, invoices, proposals and posters that you create yourself? Are they sending out the right signals, or do they chirrup “cheap! cheap!”.

The good news is that you can make some simple changes to the way you design your own collateral in house that will make a big difference to how people perceive your business. Get it right and you’ll build more confidence and win more business. And you don’t need a graphic design degree or an expensive piece of software to do it. Here’s how…

  • Work out what’s important (it’s probably not your logo!)
  • Get some decent structure in place
  • Use fonts that enhance your brand (that means no Arial or Verdana!)
  • Use colours that engage and attract your ideal clients
  • Make sure your images are relevant and do you justice.

1. Work out what’s important

With the exception of your business stationery, your company logo and name shouldn’t take centre stage – so move the logo away from the top! Think about what message your clients will respond best to and make sure that’s what stands out.  Secondly, think about what you’re asking people to do. Your call to action also needs to be clear.

2. Get a decent structure in place.

Don’t send your text from one side of the screen to the other! Use columns and grids to add structure and clarity. And remember, odd numbers are good – threes, fives, sevens. Feel free to “break the grid” and use text across two columns.

3. Use fonts that enhance your brand

Fonts are often overlooked, even by some graphic designers, but nothing will scream amateur more than a dodgy stock photograph coupled with Verdana! The point is that fonts subconsciously create moods and send your clients signals about your business. Ask your designer to advise you on what fonts will work best with your brand and use them for all printed material. Emailing something? Consider creating a PDF if it’s important.

4. Use colours that engage and attract your ideal clients

Colour psychology is a powerful thing. Using the right colours will have a big impact on how your clients and colleagues perceive your business. And it’s not just about the colours you use – think also about the tones and how they all fit together. Ask your designer to recommend you a colour palette and make sure you use it!

5. Make sure your images are relevant and do you justice

Images can make or break your design. Try to avoid the temptation to use over-used and clichéd “clever” images that you have to shoehorn a headline around. Instead, pick images that are relevant to what you do and are also visually pleasing.

And finally… let’s not get things out of perspective. I’m not suggesting for one moment that these simple tricks can replace your fabulous graphic designer. But I’m a realist – I know you’re always going to need to design something in house – so why not learn how to make it look a cracker!

Fiona Humberstone is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy.

Would you like a sample, sir?

May 18, 2010 by James Ainsworth

On Saturday I went to the inaugural Bath Coffee festival. By Sunday morning I was still so wired from indulging in the free samples that I found myself thinking about writing a blog for the Marketing Donut. On a Sunday. So here we are: inspired by my experiences at the caffeine-based foodie-fest, these are my tips for getting the most out of an important aspect of exhibition marketing — samples.

  • Make it clear whether your samples are free or require a nominal donation to charity.
  • Make your samples a true sample — miniature versions of the product are perfect and if people like it they will look to buy the full product.
  • The best stands at the coffee festival gave small shot-sized samples of their product. Some stands were offering full-sized coffees and fared less well.
  • Stick out like a sore thumb — from my own buyer behaviour and looking at the tweets of attendees, I could tell that a lot of tea was bought at the coffee festival. There were just two tea exhibitors present, their alternative choice proving a winning formula.
  • A free sample does not guarantee a sale; but you can seal the deal with a coupon on the packaging or accompanying marketing collateral.
  • Make your product available to buy at the event and use an event only offer. One stall was selling their coffee in packs of three for £5. Standard retail price per pack is approximately £2.70.
  • Ask visitors to try a sample and complete a form for a prize draw in order to capture customer data. Stick to the data protection rules!
  • Think about what others might offer and whether your offering has extra appeal. Attendees are likely to walk away from an event with bags of literature, samples and, er, bags of bags. Don’t allow your sample or accompanying literature to be the uninteresting one that is first in the bin.
  • Make sure people know you are there and appeal to their senses — I was sold hook, line and sinker by the gentleman casually walking around the arena with a tray of freshly-baked goods which he deliberately carried at nose level. Just you try and resist it!

If you like this sample of content about exhibitions, why not try our full range of content on exhibitions and events.

Ten steps to creating a powerful Facebook page

May 18, 2010 by Wayne Smallman

Facebook won't suddenly transform your business into a superstar sales machine. But it can help you win friends and influence people. But like anything else in life, this is about commitment, effort and starting on the right footing.

A lot of people still get sucked into the idea of thinking "if we build, they will come". And doubly so with Facebook — just because there's a huge audience, it doesn't mean everyone is suddenly going to beat a path to your door!

So it's as well to begin with the basics — think long term, trust in your network of friends and stay focused. With that in mind, here's my ten steps to create a powerful Facebook page: 

  1. Start by creating a page for your business. If you're a business-to-consumer company and you have a product / service, you should create a page and build a community around your brand(s). There are different options for pages, so be sure to pick the right ones. You also have the option to add things like a discussions tab, which is ideal for managing customer feedback.
  2. People love photos, so be sure to post pictures of you and your team both at work and play! You want to connect with your followers, and this is a great way to demonstrate you're real folk, just like everyone else. Also, don't forget to tag your friends in those photos, which will help broaden the exposure of your page.
  3. Quality, not quantity. It's vital that you keep in mind that this is all about attracting the right people. So it's far better to have just 10 people join your page and have five comment and / or share than have 100 people join and only have the same 5 actually interacting. Be sure to focus on people who are relevant to your business and those that may benefit from your page.
  4. Make use of your contacts on Facebook. When you're looking to build up some momentum ahead of a release, use your presence to create buzz with small teasers with your status updates. If each friend or colleague has, on average, 100 friends, then just ten of them joining your page and sharing something you post means you are potentially exposed to a thousand more people.
  5. Generate some buzz and be a tease! Just won a new client? Build on that success and let people know. Be brief and quickly outline what you'll be doing for them. Who knows, someone might pick up on your message and call for more details. And when you've got that exciting new article lined up, post a teasing message and see who bites with an enquiring comment.
  6. Give praise and recognition to your Facebook friends who suggest news, related articles, or who have perhaps even written articles for your company blog. Even better, in the message part, use the @ symbol and then type their name to tag them in the shared item. That way, you're giving them some added exposure. You could score some extra points by tagging a Page of theirs the same way.
  7. If you can't be engaging, be informative. It's not easy being engaging, especially when writing. So if you struggle, make sure you're informative and helpful. Think of the people who are following your page and share relevant content. Also, consider adding a note in the comment area and ask a question or two, to encourage discussion and debate.
  8. Create your own page tab. This will stretch the skills of many, but it's easily accomplished with the help of your web designer. Perhaps you have a portfolio page and you'd like to show off your work? Or maybe you want a snazzy graphic to use as the default tab people see when they come to your page? Either way, you can do all of this quite easily, without too much fuss.
  9. Put a link to your page on your company website, ideally on your contact page or in the footer of your blog pages. This way, when people visit your website, you're driving them towards your page and your burgeoning community.
  10. Get your own page URL name. If you have a page with more than 25 fans, you can get a nice URL name, like the one for Octane, which is Just go to the username selection page and choose your name now. Why bother? Facebook is a hugely popular website and ranks very highly on the search engines. So there's a good chance people could find your page on Facebook when they're searching for your business.

Hopefully, that all makes perfect sense and you're inspired enough to venture forth and create an amazing page for your company. And be sure to come back and tell me how you got on!

Wayne Smallman of Octane

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.

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