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I can still remember the profound disappointment I felt when I realised as a teenager in the early 1980s that a Harrington jacket teamed with burgundy Sta Prest trousers did not actually make me cool. I even feel it now, when I pore over beautifully styled but thoroughly expensive Rapha cycle clothing that I know will not make me pedal faster. It will only make me the most expensively-dressed slow cyclist in south London. “We’re selling a lifestyle” is the kind of vague promise that gives marketing and sales a bad name. It leads to confused USPs, distorted evidence, too much focus on branding at the expense of practical product development and – ultimately – dissatisfied customers. Yet marketers still go to enormous lengths to persuade us that their product will somehow transform our ordinary lives into something fantastic. They forget that it is salespeople who actually have to deal with the queries and objections, the reluctance to buy, the disappointment that arises when goods don’t make us happier/wealthier/better-looking – or in my case, cooler. The sales section of the Marketing Donut, which launches on 20 April, is for the salespeople. It deals with the grit behind the marketing glamour, the techniques that convert interest into hard cash. I’m talking about the ins and outs of negotiation, cold-calling, chasing prospects, keeping databases up to date, giving presentations to executives who think they’ve seen it all, managing sales teams and distributors, and so on. We’re trying to keep it realistic, practical and, above all, useful, and we’re being helped in the task by some very knowledgeable experts, who share our view that selling is a discipline. These include Grant Leboff, principal of the Intelligent Sales Club who challenges conventional sales wisdom, Ian Cochrane of Gazing Performance, who specialises in getting sales teams to deliver under pressure, and Bryan McCrae, director of Cognitive Sales Consulting, who has helped dozens of firms improve their sales results. We’re not selling a lifestyle. We’re not selling anything at all, in fact, because all of this information is completely free. No strings, no add-ons, no hidden extras - just exactly what it says on the tin.
Blog posts don't need to be long to be effective . They don't need to take hours to write to have impact. Some of the best posts are shortest ones. Just check out Seth Godin's blog for example. Great marketing advice in easy sized chunks. He hasn't done too badly, has he?
That's all for now.
The Marketing Donut is a truly collaborative project and we’ve used some of the best people available to create this fantastic new resource. Central to this is the involvement of more than 100 expert contributors.
We’ve always worked with experts at BHP and believe their involvement is key to the practical and unbiased nature of the content we produce. It can be a challenge to incorporate feedback from different experts, each with their own views. But there’s a real sense of achievement when after the umpteenth round of corrections, you end up with a piece of content upon which everyone agrees – and that still reads well.
We’ve struck gold with the Marketing Donut and have some great people working with us. From high-profile marketing writers through ex-marketing directors of blue chips to well-known social networkers, plus, all the key marketing bodies – they’ve all given their time, knowledge and support. We’re very grateful for this.
Currently, we’re recruiting for the next Donut – so if you’re an expert in start-up issues, please get in touch.
Like it or not, no matter what your business, you have an image. And you're selling that image of yourself, your products and your services. PR, in all its forms, takes control of your image and boosts your firm’s reputation by getting you good media coverage and publicity.
Good media coverage for a firm is worth its weight in gold - and only a Public Relations campaign can create that. Done well, good PR develops and creates the fine reputation your business and products deserve with your public and customers, and at its best, drives your sales.
PR works because the public give it more credibility than advertising. Getting the media to say a good thing about your product or service is smart marketing.
Naturally, getting good PR is notoriously difficult - but our Donut experts, including PR Agency owner Edwina Hughes, SME adviser Debbie Leven and PR supremo Sarah Walker, exclusively share their insider secrets in a range of articles, checklists and toolkits created for the site.
Packed with professional’s tips and tricks of the trade, our PR Section shows you how to write great press releases and create good media relations as well as, crucially, how to get good, free publicity for your business. Access it on April 20 to create a comprehensive PR pack for your business.
You might perceive businesses’ use of merchandise, also known as promotional gifts, to be one of two things: a desperate ploy by large corporates to con their customers into buying even more stuff they don’t need, or a tacky technique used by fledgling small businesses that don’t know any better. But although it can often be used for the wrong reasons, there is in fact a third way to use it; as a successful, targeted marketing campaign to build customer loyalty, drive more people to your website or inspire new customers to make a purchase.
Speaking to sales expert Andy Preston of Outstanding Results for a recent Small Business Update feature, I found out that some firms have ditched the cheap stationery and garish wall calendars for an altogether more thoughtful variety of merchandise. He told me about an outdoor clothing company that once produced a compass displaying its name and the words ‘helping you find your way to the best clothing supplier’. Their existing customers might already have a compass – hardy, all-weather hikers that they are - but the point is that they will feel valued by that business because it has actually presented them with something that is not only in tune with their interests but could also come in handy in the future. As the item is relevant and quirky, it is also likely to attract potential new customers to find out more about the business.
It might sound more costly, but if you sample small quantities of different types of merchandise and measure the outcome, you could be surprised by the difference in the return you get for each. Investing a bit of effort and money in an unusual gift for a smaller group of recipients is likely to give you a far better return than mass producing a luminous-coloured biro or an ugly soft toy, neither of which would add much to people’s lives or to their opinion of you.
Think about your industry and your target or current audience, and match your merchandise to the message you want to communicate and the customer’s interests or needs. It doesn’t have to be complicated - if you run a bar, printing beer mats instead of bog-standard flyers could do the trick, and if you’re a florist a packet of seeds or a flower pot might appeal. With a bit of imagination, merchandise can be a rewarding way of boosting your business, however tight your budget.
You could have the best product or service in the world at the best price delivered by the best people. But if no-one knows about it, your business will fail. That’s because success in any public enterprise isn’t just about doing things well. It’s about telling the right people what you do well in the right way and then proving it – whether ‘it’ is making sewing machine needles or selling herbal remedies for dogs. Once you have your customer’s trust, they will buy from you again and again. This is marketing, and it’s something we humans have been doing since we started trading bones for beads tens of thousands of years ago. Religion, of course, got the hang of it early and business has been playing catch-up ever since – but then, how can any product possibly compete with everlasting life? We can’t promise that the Marketing Donut will help you live forever. But we can promise that it will help you promote and sell your product or service more effectively. Actually, that’s a nailed-on certainty, because we have masses of useful information in our marketing strategy category. If you’re looking for the ABC of marketing strategy or a straightforward explanation of market segmentation, this is the place to find it. It deals with the fundamentals of marketing, such as planning, branding, pricing, product development and entering new markets. All this information is free, comprehensive and accessible. What’s more, it’s been prepared with the help of industry experts like David Thorp, head of research at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Carrie Bendall, who heads up the Marketing with Zest small business marketing agency and Andrew Gerrard, MD of marketing and communications specialists InTouch. The Marketing Donut will not make you live forever. But it will help you sell more stuff. See for yourself on 20 April. Sold?