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Tips on managing a multi-cultural, de-centralised workforce

May 26, 2010 by Ben Dyer

I currently find myself in the fantastic city of Chennai, India. Sadly it’s a strictly business trip. I’ve flown in for six days to spend time with the SellerDeck team and hire a new team member. Hiring outside the familiar waters of the UK has been a very interesting process. Sometimes it’s a little frustrating, but it’s been a masterclass in managing a distributed team.

So, while it is fresh in my mind here are my top three tips for managing a diverse, dispersed and multi-cultural team:

1. Communication is key

Of course it depends on the roles and responsibilities within your organisation, but having everyone well-versed in a common language is the essential requirement for any team. However it’s also important to remember that you may not be talking to someone in their native dialect. So take care on phrasing, be patient and understanding.

2. Encourage questions

If someone hasn’t understood something you have communicated, it’s easy to put your head in the sand. Some cultures find it embarrassing to ask questions, especially to supervisors. So my tip is to actively encourage queries and questions as much as possible. Also, put yourself into situations where you have to be the one asking the questions - it’s empowering for the others involved.

3. Boots on the ground

Nothing beats getting together. If you are willing to employ people in far-off lands you need to be ready to get on a plane and visit. The Internet has given us hundreds of different ways to communicate, from Skype to Twitter, but nothing compares with talking face-to-face. You learn more about a team and its dynamics over a five-minute coffee break than you would ever do over the phone or by email.

Ben Dyer is CEO for SellerDeck

Coming in August: great IT advice for businesses

May 25, 2010 by John McGarvey

IT Donut logo

I’m pleased to report that the wraps are off: The IT Donut, a new website for small businesses, will be launching the week of 23 August.

The IT Donut will be the fourth in a family of websites. You might already have seen the Marketing, Law and Start-Up Donuts. Its aim will be to demystify every aspect of business technology.

Expect heaps of advice about choosing, using and generally not getting totally frustrated with IT in your business.

I’ve taken on the role of editor (the next few months are looking to be very busy), but thankfully there’s a whole team of great people from BHP Information Solutions working hard on the site too. And because you can’t substitute for first-hand knowledge and experience, we’re on the hunt for experts who know all about IT at the sharp end of business.

You see, when businesses use IT, there’s an ideal world, and there’s what actually happens. The two often differ quite considerably.

The IT Donut isn’t going to live in the plain sailing, smooth running and largely theoretical ideal world. It will acknowledge the situations and challenges businesses face every day with their IT.

Although the team behind the website is packed with experience (I’ve been writing about small businesses and IT for years now), we need people who’ve been there and done it to help us cover every area. These IT experts are the people who’ll really bring the site to life.

So if you know a bit about IT in business, I want to hear from you. You might be an expert in web hosting, networking or accounting software. Or you might be a business that’s experimented with cloud computing, open source software – or gained some other knowledge that you’d like to share.

Whatever your expertise, give me a shout. It’s your chance to be involved in one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on – and to get some great PR while you’re at it.

John McGarvey is the editor of the forthcoming IT Donut and is happy to discuss ideas and opportunities with you.

Crafting the email

May 21, 2010 by Karen Purves

Emails are the lifeblood of your communications.

  • You want people to read your material and respond.
  • You want people to feel good about seeing an email from you in their inbox.
  • You want to give your readers a reason to open your email.

That is all your email has to do.

It doesn’t have to close the deal. It doesn’t have to take the payment. Leave that for your website to do.

Then your reader has the option whether to click on the link and take it further or just consume the information you have provided.

To test the sort of content that is right for you, call a couple of prospects or clients and give them the information you want to send in an email. If you find your hands going clammy at the thought, then perhaps your message is not right at this time.

People will buy when they are ready to do so. There is nothing you can do to get them to buy quicker or differently to the way they will do so. It is your job to understand how your prospects buy and map your communications accordingly. A couple of things will happen – less of your emails will be found in the spam box and the number of sales will increase.

This blog post by Karen Purves originally appeared at HaveMoreClients.com

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 facebook.com/octaneinteractive. 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

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