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Too much information! Where's the line between sign-up and turn-off?

August 20, 2010 by Emily Leary

I thought I’d take a moment out to tackle a personal bugbear of mine: excessive sign-up information requests.

Many websites quite reasonably ask users for sign-up information in order to access specific features like forums, or to join mailing lists, but sometimes, they just go too far:

  • Mother’s maiden name?
  • Annual net profit?
  • Favourite after dinner mint?

It’s very understandable to want to know as much as you possibly can about a customer so that you can serve them better, but if you ask too many questions, you’re encroaching unnecessarily on their time, and if your questions get too personal, you’re encroaching on their privacy.

Remember, by its very definition, sign-up information is usually requested at the beginning of your relationship, so why ask in depth questions about a person’s business practices and personal life that you wouldn’t dream of asking at a first face-to-face meeting? At best, your customers will plough through the questions with a feint feeling of resentment and at worst, they’ll change their mind and go somewhere else.

Of course, asking for too little information may make it difficult to follow up with customers and target future marketing campaigns, so think carefully about the core information you need to know, and ask for that and only that. Otherwise, prepare yourself for a barrage of aborted sign-ups and false information.

Emily Leary is director of Emily Cagle Communications

Notes on a Donut

August 18, 2010 by James Ainsworth

Some of you may know and some of you may not but this is my last day with BHP Information Solutions and so 15 months of being ‘the one behind the Marketing Donut Twitter account, the joint number 1 ranked Twitter account in Bristol and the one that did that 24 hour election live blog thing’ must, for me, come to an end.

I have enjoyed every tweet of my time here and getting to know what makes a small business tick has been a great education. We have had some great conversations online, you and I. We have created some brilliant articles together and shared some notable success. I am sure that with the help of the Marketing Donut (and the other Donut websites too!) you and your business will go on to have many future successes also.

For the Marketing Donut and @MarketingDonut, it will be small business resources and communication as usual and you will notice very little change from this day to the next. I wish the Donuts the absolute best for the future and know that I am leaving a resource that is truly valued by small businesses.

Best wishes

James Ainsworth

Dragons' Den digest - Week 6

August 17, 2010 by James Ainsworth

If you missed last week's, catch up here and below you will find the highlights of episode six.

Quote of the Episode: "Problem: Doesn't make money. Solution: I'm out." Peter Jones

Idea 1
Peel Engineering - The world's smallest production car with an electric engine
Investment sought: £80,000 for 10 per cent
Handling: They have an initial product but too many 'flights of fancy' revenue streams. Requires focus and a stronger business proposition.
Outcome: A hard fought negotiation saw them secure £80,000 for 30 per cent of the company. James Caan also secured himself one of every design of the vehicles.
Verdict: With a strong business partner and savvy investor, the pair could make a good go of their business.

Idea 2
Angel Cot - a multi-purpose baby unit.
Investment sought: £150,000 for 40 per cent
Handling: A relatively straight forward presentation suddenly descended into a ridiculous pitch with the second half being performed through the medium of song. Product was trying too hard to be all things.
Outcome: No investment
Verdict:  Pitch poor and then there was the singing...

Idea 3
Advanced Building Designs - A variety of products for the plumbing and building industry
Investment sought: £89,000 for 15 per cent
Handling: A beautifully choreographed presentation. They would be great on a TV shopping channel. The product was deemed unnecessary and 'fixing' a problem that did not exist.
Outcome: No investment
Verdict: James Caan said, "You are just going to burn my money"

Idea 4
Funky Moves - Interactive play equipment
Investment sought: £120,000 for 20 per cent
Handling: Set the cat amongst the pigeons revealing costs for tooling to create more stock and disclosing that he had received £140,000 in Government grants to establish the product. Some Dragons were well and truly riled. Duncan threatened to go offshore. 
Outcome: A joint investment from Theo and Peter saw Funky Moves give away 50 per cent of his business in order to secure £120,000
Verdict: Once Peter Jones saw the bigger picture, the investment was always going to be forthcoming.

What did you think of the episode?

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Reuse, Recycle, Reinvent

August 12, 2010 by Ben Dyer

It’s holiday season in the UK, the time of the year every company dreads, but every employee looks forward to. For business owners it’s a bitter sweet time of the year. I am no exception having just returned from an excellent weekend break to watch the F1 in Budapest.

In between the trips to the race track I did what tourists the world-over do, which is to explore. During one trip with friends we discovered a fantastic bar called Szimpla ( The Szimpla ethos is brilliant. When a building is deemed unfit for purpose, instead of knocking it down they take it over and set up a bar. Szimpla, by my reckoning, is an excellent example of how to turn something old and unloved into a business that is both exciting and profitable.

In business there can be a huge temptation to simply consider everything that appears past its sell-by-date as completely irrelevant. I know I have done this many times in my career, sometimes to my cost. This is especially important in the tech market, which a colleague of mine often refers to as nothing more than a fashion show!

We can really learn from this. I am a massive advocate for innovation, always looking for the next big thing to invent or focus on. However innovation should be twinned with a focus on reusing and recycling what you already have. Especially in this economic climate, it just makes complete sense.

Ben Dyer is director of product development for SellerDeck

Cuts, cuts, cuts - but cut your marketing budget at your peril.

August 11, 2010 by Sara Brown

The media is full of one story – Government cuts. NHS cuts. City council cuts. All sorts of cuts! In times like these your marketing budget may feel like a luxury and history shows that in an economic downturn, the top of the list of cuts for businesses is marketing. But cut your marketing budget at your peril. Here’s why:

We live in a competitive environment. Brands are competing for attention like never before. Cut your marketing budget and your impact on your target audience will reduce significantly, if not die out because you’ll be swallowed by competitive.

It takes seven touches to move from being unknown into conscious awareness. Let’s use the example of Swirl Printers.

1. Potential client stumbles across the Swirl website from a Google search. They opt in to their e-newsletter.

2. They later receive the Swirl e-newsletter.

3. Then they see a Swirl advert.

4. At a networking event potential client meets a Swirl representative. Potential client takes a Swirl leaflet promo.

5. Potential client comes across the Swirl leaflet promo a few days later and places it in a draw for safe keeping.

6. Another Swirl e-newsletter reminds them of the leaflet promo in the drawer.

7. They visit the website and can quickly find further information on the promo (reinforcing the leaflet). The telephone number is easy to spot and they take action.

Without a marketing budget Swirl Printers would not have had the website, e-newsletter, advert, the representative at the networking event or the leaflet promo.

The seven touch theory also relates to the process of increasing brand awareness. Through those seven touches, Swirl Printers increased their brand awareness to their potential customer. Educating your target audience about your brand takes place through a similar progression of drip fed communications. You’ve got to speak to your target audience frequently so they do not forget your brand.

In a downturn marketing it is even more important than it was before! It is now more than ever that you want to attract customers. Therefore you need to communicate. Since many people stop marketing in a down turn, if you keep it up, or even increase it, you will be at an advantage.

I’m not talking about a million pound budget! I’m suggesting you cover the basics and do it well. You need a simple but effective website that is up to date; some information you can give out on request such as a promo leaflet, booklet or e-mailable PDF; exposure in the form of adverts or articles in relevant magazines, on or off-line; and if your target audience is other businesses then keep networking.

And then there’s the free stuff. They demand some of your time but they do wonders to raise your profile if you add value and are consistent. Use Twitter; blog regularly; get on LinkedIn; write and post articles and press releases; and, offer to speak at relevant events.

These are just a few hints and tips. Don’t follow the trend of cuts, cuts and more cuts. Rather invest in your marketing wisely.

Dragons' Den digest - Week 5

August 10, 2010 by James Ainsworth

Week 5 of Dragons' Den signals the halfway mark in the current series.

If you missed last week's, catch up here and below you will find the highlights of episode five.

Quote of the Episode: I never used to use salt until three years ago. Then I discovered rock salt” Duncan Bannatyne

Idea 1
Black Nut Iberian Pig Feed - Manufacture of pig feed for rare species of pig
Investment sought: £100,000 for 20 per cent
Handling: Handled questions well but his answers were his undoing. Pitched as 'Organic' when it was not.
Outcome: No investment.
Verdict: Beyond the bizarre idea, this is also a weak business plan and more of a whim.

Idea 2
Tree of Knowledge - Educational play resources
Investment sought: £100,000 for 10 per cent
Handling: Educational products often do well in the Den. Nice genuine and down-to-earth pitch but didn't do enough to convince more than one Dragon wholeheartedly to invest.
Outcome: Peter Jones offered £50,000 for 20 per cent. No Dragon would match his offer and Dragons' Den rules require full value to be met for an investment.
Verdict: Good pitch but fell just short of being a 'Wow' product.

Idea 3
Zigo - A combined buggy and bike invention
Investment sought: £225,000 for 6 per cent
Handling: Theo was shocked by the valuation of the business. The owners said this was due to the $400,000 invested into the business three years previously and further questioning revealed the Dragons' investment would be to cover a loss this financial year.
Outcome: No investment.
Verdict: Peter Jones saw the bigger picture. The product design, although aesthetically pleasing, was not practical.

Idea 4
WedgeWelly - Stylish wellies with heels for festivals
Investment sought: £65,000 for 20 per cent
Handling: Name-dropped a few high street retailers and high-end fashion names to lure the Dragons. A weak grasp of their figures and need some astute business direction but they have a great product.
Outcome: James Caan offered the full asking price. Deborah offered the full amount but sought an additional 30 per cent. Theo offered the same and on the same terms as Deborah. WedgeWelly went for their Dragon of choice over retaining company stake: in the end they negotiated hard to get Theo down to 22.5 per cent. Theo countered with 25 per cent.
Verdict: Fun fashion product and a great deal secured for the business.

What did you think of the episode?

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