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As a writer/editor, I have a vested interest in the way people use the written word. With the Donut sites (and our other small business offerings), for example, we editors encourage all of our house writers and external contributors to write in a clear, straightforward way.
Jargon doesn’t help anyone, except the select group of people who speak it. Likewise, unnecessarily long words or complicated phrases are both barriers to clear communication. When you write for a general audience, as we do, you can’t afford to lose them because you’re speaking the wrong language.
Unfortunately, the business world loves a bit of jargon. Why spell things out when you can come up with a smart-sounding phrase that makes you look like you belong to the club? What amazes me is how quickly these things are picked up and how readily people use them without really thinking about what they mean or whether they are even making sense.
Last week , a colleague interviewed a spokesman from a well-known small business body, who suggested that we were experiencing an ‘L-shaped’ recession. I’ve heard about a ‘W-shaped recession’ before, which at least is reasonably self-explanatory – although the alternative phrase, a ‘double-dip’ recession, is a bit clearer.
But an ‘L-shaped’ recession? Does this mean a total economic collapse, followed by a period of zero-growth? Surely not, because the reality is very different. Perhaps this person meant an ‘L-on-its-side, a-bit-like-a-tick’-shaped recession - ie a rapid fall followed by a slow climb back to where we were before. Something like this, I suppose (though with a shallower tail):
To make things even more confusing, he went on to say that instead of a “double-dip” recession, we ought to watch out for the “triple tumble”. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always associated tumbling with gymnastics. So I had a vision in mind of a young woman hurling herself across the floor, bouncing and flailing, legs and arms akimbo, before finally coming to rest – miraculously – on her feet.
Are we really saying the economy is like a gymnast? I’m sure we’re not, because what on Earth would happen if the gymnast took to swinging around the parallel bars? Would that be an ‘O-shaped’ recession?
There’s a lesson here. Keep it clear, keep it simple, say what you mean. And if you don’t really know what you’re talking about, just admit it. There’s no shame in that. Let’s face it, nobody has made any reliable predictions about the economy in the last three years, so why do we keep pretending we can?
It was inevitable with a name like ours and the increasing popularity of franchises of a certain chain of donut makers that our website would take some hits from people searching ‘Marketing Donuts’.
I have an interesting tale to share with you all as to how one of these franchises has gone about announcing their arrival in Bristol and marketed their donut products.
Last month I watched the England versus Slovenia match in the centre of Bristol at the Football Fan Park facility. This is essentially a square in the centre of Bristol that has a giant screen and a fenced off arena where football fans can congregate to have their hopes and dreams of national sporting glory dashed once again.
During the second half of the encounter which saw us secure second place in our group and prolong the inevitable demise, there were people walking into the arena with boxes of sugar glazed ring donuts. The more people that came in with donuts, the more people left to seek confectionery
Outside the arena there was a van packed full of trays of donuts and a sizeable but orderly queue of people receiving a free box of donuts. By the time the final whistle had been blown, the crowd inside the arena raced to the exit to join what became a sickening display of greed. The scenes were reminiscent of an aid convey arriving in an earthquake ravaged town. (Responsibility for the welfare of the public on the part of the company was tossed in the air like the final few boxes of donuts as the polite queue fast became a scrum of over one hundred people.)
The cost of this exercise may have been sizeable for the company but the clever part has been the size of reach that they will have achieved. Hand out a single donut and you make one person happy. Hand out a box of twelve and you empower that one very happy person to do the leg work for you in sharing the product and news of the soon-to-be-open new store with others. Seeding the public with samples of donuts has raised awareness of the new addition to Bristol. Word of mouth never tasted so good.
How do you encourage word of mouth with your existing customers?
I’ve long been an advocate of the power of blogging, but when you’re posting three times a week – or even trying to muster up something original once a week – it can be hard to consistently create compelling content for your blog posts.
We all have ‘off’ days, times when the creative juices aren’t flowing. Sometimes finding different, interesting and useful content to share on a blog proves tricky. With that in mind, here are ten ways to consistently create great blog content:
1. Re-visit your blogging legacy
Have a look through your previous posts – are there any blogs you can add a second part to, an update, additional content?
2. Read through the last 24 hours Home feed on your Twitter account
Reviewing the last day on your Twitter Home feed usually delivers a few good blog ideas or content themes to explore.
3. What are you doing at the moment – share the love
Discuss things you’re working on at the moment: projects, new client work, challenges, success, lessons learnt. Add value.
4. Check the blogosphere
Look at what bloggers are posting and expand their debates – this is a great way to further link into the blog community, too.
5. Become a source of exclusive information
Are you a thought-leader in your commercial space? No? Become one. Add exclusive content in your area of expertise.
6. Ask for help
Speak to your clients, colleagues and trusted network associates about what interests them. Ask for their help in creating content.
7. Do market research
Get online and see what your competitors are talking about. Then write something better on the same subject. Add insight.
8. Get passionate
If you have strong beliefs or proven methods around a commercial subject, share it. Share your passion. Readers love this.
9. Remain teachable
Ask your readers what they want to see. Start a survey, ask your audience what they value. Create statistical value.
10. Start with the end in mind
Remember why you’re blogging – think back to your earliest blog posts and recall what sparked you to start blogging. Share it.
We do not say “thank you” enough.
Therefore we take people for granted. If people feel taken for granted they become less loyal. Is that what you want?
I don’t know why people don’t say “thank you” so much these days. Maybe it just isn’t cool to be seen to be thankful.
Maybe it shows vulnerability or frailty to acknowledge that you are grateful.
Or maybe the problem is that most words lose their value and their currency with over-use ("nice", "pro-active", "strategy" to name but a few).
Turning the situation around, I am constantly aware of how certain people seem almost incapable of saying "thank you". Why would that be? Maybe they aren’t grateful(?); but their inability to acknowledge my action actually hurts me.
So, when did you last say (and mean) the words “thank you”?
Your kids, partner, staff, customers, suppliers will all appreciate a sincere "thank you".
The cynical may say that I am just trying to put a deposit in the emotional bank account (or some similar weasel words), but actually I think that it is just basic common courtesy to acknowledge when someone does something for you.
Thank you for reading my blog.
Here are three steps to making sure your content is seen by an interested audience.
Automation is good
It performs a small but significant task for your carefully crafted text. Sign up to the dlvr.it service and add the RSS feed of your blog to the system. dlvr.it will detect when you have published a new blog post and then seed it into your status updates across a range of social networks. This leaves you more time to get on with all the other jobs you need to do and draws in your interested audience wherever they choose to have a presence.
Repetition is good
Not only is it perfectly acceptable to repeat your status updates, it is encouraged. Your audience will not be on the web all the time. You may have an international audience where time zones come into play. If you publish a blog in the morning it is good practice to update your Twitter status and any others later in the day with a link to your blog post.
Laziness is good
Do not panic if you get ‘Blogger’s Block’. If you do not have any inspiration for writing content do not force yourself to write. Your audience will thank you for the quality control. Regular updates keep a blog alive but writing content for the sake of it will do you no favours.
The questions I most often get asked about marketing budgets are:
All totally reasonable questions… but what you should be asking is: what shape should my marketing budget be? Seriously, it is the most important question there is on the budgeting front. So, let me tell you what I mean.
A decent marketing programme is centred on a sales funnel, onto which you’ve mapped the decision making process for your target audience. (see previous posts Making Marketing Pay, and What to Say When).
Fig1: Chart to show the influence of marketing spend across the sales funnel
From this you can put together a programme of activity that moves a person from awareness to a sale. Each marketing technique has a different level of influence at each stage of this process. You need to determine the level of influence at each stage, then apportion this across the funnel.
There are a few ways to decide the amount of influence each technique has:
From this exercise you now have a powerful tool for designing programmes and allocating budget. Now analyse your budget in the same way:
Compare your actual budget shape to the ideal budget shape you’ve established to maintain a free-flowing sales funnel. This allows you assess where you’re spending too much or too little, and to adjust your spend according to the funnel requirements.
Now, if you have a budget cut, or find a pot of cash, you again have a powerful tool to decide how to adjust your spending. The crucial factor here is to maintain the shape. So, rather than cutting a project that happens to be the right level of spend, you can cut evenly across the funnel ensuring that you’re not leaving any gaps.