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Cutting through the data jargon

May 06, 2011 by John Keating

The world of business-to-business data is full of confusing acronyms and jargon.

For the uninitiated, data purchasing can be a minefield and if you buy the wrong list you can end up with a failed campaign and wasted marketing budget. The jargon doesn’t help. Here’s our pocket translation guide to help make sure that your direct marketing campaigns succeed and deliver increased sales.

DMA: Direct Marketing Association

This is the governing body for direct marketing. The DMA ensures that all members comply to best practice guidelines and the rules and regulations of gathering, storing and selling data. You should only ever purchase from data companies who are registered DMA members. Offers that are too good to be true usually are just that. A million records for £50 on eBay is the data equivalent of ”a bloke down the pub” and could end up costing you a hundred times that in fines for data misuse – leave well alone and stick to the straight and narrow with the DMA.


These are the Suppression services;
TPS — Telephone Preference Service
MPS — Mailing Preference Service
CTPS — Corporate Preference Service

Anyone who has registered with any of the above suppression services is off-limits as far as direct marketing is concerned. Aside from the fact it is against the law and will cost you thousands in fines (TPS), why bother wasting time and money trying to hook up with someone who is just not interested? It is damaging to your brand and your budget. Keep your self-respect, keep your money in your pocket and make sure all data you buy is screened against the relevant suppression files. This is standard for DMA members, so you shouldn’t need to worry – unless you speak to that bloke in the pub of course...

Data licences and leases

Data is usually sold on a lease. This means that the data owner leases you the data rather than sells you the data outright. Outright purchases are usually very expensive as data owners, understandably, want to protect the investment they have put into gathering, storing and maintaining the data. If they lease you the data then they retain ownership and you have to comply with the rules of the lease. There are two types of data licence; single-use and multiple-use for 12 months. These are fairly self-explanatory. With single-use you can only communicate with that business or contact, once. With multi-use, you can communicate with them as many times as you want within the 12-month period, depending on the precise terms of the license.

Beware the data seeds

“How will anyone know I am using data when I shouldn’t be?”

The answer is data seeds. Every data file purchased has between one and three dummy records. These dummy records are called data seeds and they are there to monitor activity to that record. If you send an email, it’s recorded. If you send 20 emails, they are also recorded. If you use the data without a licence, the seed reports will highlight this mis-use and you will be charged. But if you comply with the rules you will be fine.

SIC codes

Now we are getting to the nitty-gritty of actually selecting your data. SIC Codes are Standard Industry Codes.  Every business is given an SIC code according to what they do. You want to sell knives? Then the SIC for butchers is a good place to start. A good data salesperson should also advise you on other industries you could target that you might not have considered. For example; restaurants, catering colleges, specialist kitchenware shops and department stores.

Data count

Once you have decided on what industries or SIC codes to target and applied any other criteria such as business size or location; your data advisor will go away and get a data count for you. This is the total number of records that match your criteria, your “data pot” so to speak. From this pot you can decide on how many records you need for your campaign. In some cases the number of records will be less than you expected, in which case you can expand your criteria by targeting additional industries, for example, or by extending the geographical boundaries. Again, a good data broker will be able to advise on the best way to increase the data pot numbers while maintaining the campaign focus.


John Keating is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and director at Databroker.


Powerful design: what's the difference that makes the difference?

May 04, 2011 by Fiona Humberstone

Powerful design enables you to connect with your ideal clients. It’ll help you attract, engage and seduce them into buying from you or working with you, and of course, it’s a wider thing than just design. It’s about your powerful design fitting into a powerful brand strategy.

How can you be sure, when you’re working with a design agency, that they’re going to provide you with powerful design and not just good design?

What is the difference that makes the difference?

Powerful design requires an in-depth understanding of your business, your objectives and your customers. Run a mile from anyone who asks you what colours you want or to sketch out how you’d like something to look.

Powerful design takes time. Coming up with creative concepts that will really connect with your audience and unlock something within them doesn’t happen in a matter of moments. It’s going to take time to develop those concepts and produce polished artwork.

Powerful design uses colour psychology to unlock your goals, values and message and also use it to authentically communicate with your ideal clients. There’s more to colour psychology than simply knowing that blue is calming and red can be aggressive. Colour psychology enables us to help our clients communicate coherently, authentically and with clarity.

Powerful design is creative. When we create powerful design we think outside the box. A business that works with large corporates should have a website that is bland and safe, right? Wrong! A designer must tap into a client’s brand values and company ethos to create a site that firmly differentiates their company from their competitors and enables them to connect with their customers. Oh, and win a whole pile more business.

Powerful design sweats the small stuff. Often the difference that makes the difference is the attention to detail. When you look through a powerfully designed website, it’s not just the homepage that looks lovely — that strong design runs throughout the site and reassures and engages.

Powerful design will cost you more than good design. You need to find a really good agency – one that has a firm understanding of not just how to layout a page, but typography, design trends and colour psychology. They’ll probably be very serious about investing in their team, which means that their hourly rate will reflect that. They won’t be the cheapest, but they will give you the best results.

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


Keyword-rich domains - I told you so... here come the tears

May 03, 2011 by

Back in February I wrote about the growing fashion to buy up multiple keyword-rich domains — like “”, “” etc — in the hope of gaining higher rankings on Google. There was some evidence that this type of domain could indeed rank well, without requiring many inbound links. At the time, though, I cautioned against this approach. Google has a history of acting against such practices by de-emphasising the spammy element and wiping out any benefit gained. Since then, we have seen it do just that with links on article sites.

Now it seems that the big G may indeed be preparing to act against spam in domain names. In March of this year, Google spokesman Matt Cutts slipped the news into one of his popular YouTube videos. You can watch the whole video here.

So if you are one of those who bought up a raft of keyword-enhanced domains, now is the time to prepare for their disappearance. If you’ve being considering doing it, don’t bother.

This recurring pattern of action and reaction by website owners and Google does raise an interesting question. What will happen when every ranking factor that could be spammed, has been spammed, and Google has de-emphasised all of them? Theoretically we should end up pretty much back where we started, except that the whole web will be stuffed with spam.

It’s always tempting to look for the magic bullet that will fire you onto the top page of Google, and the potential rewards are obvious. Forty percent of external traffic to websites comes from search (source: Outbrain), and in the UK over ninety percent of that comes from Google. But to build a sustainable online business with rankings that will stand the test of time, you need to provide good quality site content that is useful to your customers; and invest in building a network of links from good quality and relevant sites.

Anything else is vapour.

Bruce Townsend is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and online marketing specialist at SellerDeck.


Read more about SEO here:

What is SEO and why should you be doing it?

Keyword research — a beginner’s guide

Three SEO mistakes you must avoid

Building links to boost your website ranking

Don't let the trolls get you down

April 20, 2011 by Bryony Thomas

When we received a particularly vile piece of feedback via our feedback button, I have to admit that my smile did fall for a moment… well, about the time it takes to eat a chocolate brownie actually.

And, then I saw a tweet from a lawyer who is doing great things in social media, saying how he had received some vicious feedback in a LinkedIn discussion.

It put me in mind of Seth Godin’s excellent advice on dealing with trolls in which he says:

Lots of things about work are hard. Dealing with trolls is one of them. Trolls are critics who gain perverse pleasure in relentlessly tearing you and your ideas down. Here’s the thing(s):

1. Trolls will always be trolling
2. Critics rarely create
3. They live in a tiny echo chamber, ignored by everyone except the trolled and the other trolls
4. Professionals (that’s you) get paid to ignore them. It’s part of your job.

“Can’t please everyone,” isn’t just an aphorism, it’s the secret of being remarkable.

Separate cruelty from constructive criticism

It is, of course, important to distinguish between trolls and genuine and constructive feedback. We do, occasionally, get negative feedback (I know, I admit it… we’re human). Usually this is really useful, and gratefully received. We can always improve — and that is exactly why we have a feedback button on our website. But, when it is vicious and unhelpful you need to find the strength to hit delete and carry on.

Brace yourself — it will happen

The thing is, if you put yourself up to scrutiny — which is exactly what you’re doing by having a website or posting a blog — then you will at some point encounter nasty people. Even bullies grow up and get jobs. If you engage heavily in social media, then I’m afraid to say that you’ll find them.

If you’re not expecting it, then an ugly side-swipe can really knock your confidence. Surround yourself with a group of people who you trust, and whose opinion you value. Get them to regularly feedback on whether you’re doing good stuff. And, if you are, then hold your head up high and brace yourself… at some point a mean-spirited individual will try to burst your bubble. It is amazing how much nastier people feel able to be through a remote connection, and even more cruel when hiding behind the mask of anonymity.

When it does happen, tick it off as a social media right of passage and congratulate yourself at having generated an emotional reaction in someone you don’t even know — that’s an achievement.

Bryony Thomas is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a marketing consultant, speaker, and author. Her first book – Watertight Marketing – is available Summer 2012

Grow your own brand - become a key person of influence

April 19, 2011 by Mike Southon

When it comes to turning a good idea into a great business, the key issues are the ability to generate revenue and then build a team, starting with a foil, someone with the opposite set of skills to yourself.

Then, it is only about doing simple things well, by understanding your target market and consistently delivering on your promises. If you do these two simple things word of mouth will spread, and you will then find yourself selling to people outside your immediate close circle of friends.

Early stage businesses are usually developed around the reputation and personal brand of the company founder, so the next stage is to see if you can turn yourself into a key person of influence.

This is the title of a new book by Daniel Priestley, a successful entrepreneur who has built several multi-million pound businesses in events marketing and public relations. He has identified five key elements that will help you to establish your reputation in your in your chosen industry.

The first and most important part of the process is to identify not just a niche, but ideally your own micro-niche. The more specialised you are, the easier it is to establish yourself quickly in that area. So, while being an accountant in London might be a good niche, an accountant specialising in small retail businesses in London would be even better.

The outcome of this first part of the process is to define your perfect pitch, and Priestley draws on the expertise of Mike Harris, who has developed several multi-billion brands from scratch, including Internet banks Egg and First Direct.

Once you have identified your niche, the next stage is to be published. This might eventually be a book, but in the early stages you should demonstrate your thought leadership in the specialist trade press of your chosen area, using weblogs and articles.

Priestley then advises you develop information products, including CDs, DVDs or internet downloads such as eBooks. This allows you to share your ideas with more people and even earn money directly from your expertise.

The next step is to raise your profile online to be near the top of the Google search rankings. Learning how to use key platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Ecademy and Facebook will enable you to grow your personal brand online and connect yourself to other thought leaders in your chosen field.

The final element is forming the right partnerships, which can provide significant leverage if managed correctly. Priestley himself provides this expertise, gained from many years’ spent developing affiliate programmes for his events business.

I was initially sceptical about this process, as my first impression was of the internet-based get-rich-quick schemes, which encourage people to leave their experience behind and pursue new and unfamiliar territory. These websites promise much but generally deliver little genuine value for most people.

But Priestley stresses that there are no short cuts; you should first carefully examine your experience in your chosen field and then take specific steps to establish your personal brand.

Priestley explains that influential people draw on the minimum of ten thousand hours that they have devoted to something they are genuinely passionate about, as recommended by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers.

This gave me much more confidence in his process, as I remembered all the eager and ambitious people who have asked me for advice on starting a business over the years. All of them had great ideas, but only a select few had the willingness to put in all the hard work required to really learn their craft.


Key Person of Influence by Daniel Priestley can be found at


Originally published in The Financial Times. Copyright ©Mike Southon 2011. All Rights Reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon is the co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur and a business speaker. 

The importance of images in PR

April 18, 2011 by Ceri-Jane Hackling

The importance of images - pile of photos{{}}Many people think that PR is about press releases, text and words — which, to a certain extent it is. However, the importance of images cannot be underestimated.

Pick up a newspaper or magazine near you and have a flick through — what catches your eye? I would guess that the stories with accompanying images are the ones that get your attention, which should be telling you that good images are essential when trying to achieve press coverage.

As PR professionals, one of the biggest problems we face is clients who don’t understand the importance of images, so here some guidelines on images and how and why to use them.

  1. A picture says a thousand words — whether it’s a product image, an image of you and your team or images from an event. Including an image in your press release will grab a journalist’s attention and help you tell your story.
  2. Think about the different images you might need. It’s useful to have a variety of shots — from your product in action, to cut outs to your product on a plain white background. That way, your shots will be appropriate for most uses.
  3. It’s always a good idea to invest in a proper photo shoot. Never underestimate what a photographer can do for your brand. Outside of the business of actually taking the photos, a good photographer can advise on the kind of images you need to show your business to its best advantage, provide lighting and professional backdrops and develop creative ideas to really make you stand out from the crowd.
  4. Avoid amateur Photo-shopping – if you can’t afford a proper shoot, it’s best to avoid making the shots up. Badly Photo-shopped images are obvious and won’t do your brand any favours.
  5. Finally and most importantly, newspapers and magazines can only use high-res images, so it’s essential that any images you send have a resolution of over 300 dpi (dots per inch) and are at least 1MB.


Ceri-Jane Hackling is the managing director of Cerub PR.

Posted in PR | Tagged press releases, PR, photography | 7 comments

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