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Five ways to leverage winning an award

December 14, 2015 by Shweta Jhajharia

Five ways to leverage winning an award{{}}One of the tried and tested ways to establish your business in your sector is to win an award. An industry accolade is an independent evaluation of your firm and a public recognition of your worth - and it's something that your customers are more likely to trust than your own marketing material.

Most business owners already know this - and yet many fail to take full advantage of a win and leverage it for the massive authority building that it provides.

Here are five ways to get more mileage out of an award:

1. Write a press release

Writing a press release can be one of the best ways to leverage an award. Not only does it increase your media exposure, but it also provides core content that you can adapt and use in a wide range of marketing materials – such as on your blog, on social media channels and to send in emails.

2. Add it to your website

Potential clients often visit your website to look for proof of what you do, and the quality of what you do. An awards section will help this tremendously.

Convert your press release into a blog. Details of your win will persuade anyone that is sitting on the fence that you are credible and it will further reassure those who already believe in what you do.

3. Add it to social media

Share links on your social media channels to your press release, any media coverage and your blog post. Share a snippet from your press release; something short, sweet and compelling, in line with the tone of your business.

Include a picture from the awards night. Social shares with photos tend to capture attention better than those without. Sharing to your social media is essential as many consumers look to social channels to find out more about you and gauge your quality.

4. Send an email to existing contacts

Using your press release as a starting point, write a short announcement to those who have opted in to receive your emails. Upload any relevant photos to your Facebook or other social media platforms. Then place a link to the album within your email. This helps encourage readers to share via their own channels.

Gaining social shares contributes not only to your authority but to your "social signals" which is great for search engine optimisation (SEO).

Towards the end of the email mention how to get in touch, or flag up one of your latest offers, to encourage prospects to convert.

5. Celebrate with your team

Take a break in your day-to-day activities and really celebrate this achievement.

This is an opportunity to build authority with the public and to foster a sense of achievement amongst your employees. It is their win as well and they need to see that you appreciate their contribution to the business.

This will allow you to get to know your team better and have a good time with them. Plus, it will contribute to motivating your team to keep your business on a trajectory of greatness.

Putting into action these five steps whenever you win an award may take some time out of your schedule. However, the time taken to leverage something like this is worth it for the authority building that has far reaching effects with your customers and with your team.

Copyright © 2015 Shweta Jhajharia, principal coach and founder of The London Coaching Group.

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My top five ecommerce books to read over Christmas 2015

December 07, 2015 by Chloë Thomas

Chloe Thomas, ecommerce expert, has been turning her mind to good reads for the Christmas break. She shares her top picks here.

One of the biggest challenges in ecommerce is finding the right materials to learn from. And Christmas/the New Year is a great time to revisit our plans and goals for the coming year.

I put together this podcast to let you know the top five ecommerce books I would recommend you read, and how to pick which one of them will make the biggest difference to your business success in 2016.

The books I've selected are a real mix - some biography, some very practical, and others to just get you thinking!

The books are:

I hope you find the podcast helps you pick the one for you, and you enjoy reading your chosen book as much I did!

Why pop-up shops are not just for start-ups

December 07, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

Why pop-up shops are not just for start-ups{{}}The UK has seen a 110% increase in independent stores in the past five years, according to recent research published by EE and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

And what's interesting is that the pop-up shop in particular is providing a significant boost to the UK economy, contributing £2.3bn a year and with revenues growing by 12.3% last year in this sector.

The UK is currently home to more than 10,000 pop-ups and the report reveals that it's not just start-ups that are interested in the pop-up concept; many established businesses are also keen to open up a pop-up extension of their current business.

Pop-up stores are a flexible add-on to a fixed retail space. They can serve as an extra outlet for your best-selling products or a short-term retail space allowing you to connect with new audiences and test out new products in new areas.

For a growing business, this is a prime opportunity and, as this latest research shows, there's no need to miss out on the pop-up trend just because you already have an established business.

If you want to grow your small business, testing the market with a pop-up extension is a great way to start. But there are two key things to consider before doing so:

1. Handling transactions

Pop-up businesses cannot rely on a cash point machine being nearby. Consumers now pay by card more than they have ever done before; they will expect to be able to pay by card, so don't lose business by only accepting cash

All retail businesses, pop-ups included, need to invest in an electronic point of sale terminal (ePOS) and card machine. Not only is this more convenient to your customer but this will also limit the liability that comes with storing cash at your temporary premises or in a vehicle overnight.

2. Gathering customer data

It's important to manage a pop-up with the same proficiency and standard of customer service as you would with a permanent, established business. Aim to capture as much data as possible and analyse it; learn what works and what doesn't and tweak your business strategy accordingly.

Wherever you are selling your goods, you should be able to ascertain when to offer discounts and how to target them and be able to track inventory to make sure you always have the right stock. This doesn't have to be difficult; you'll find plenty of low-cost business apps available via the cloud that you can access from anywhere.

Running a pop-up on a short or long-term business will no doubt be a valuable learning experience. We recently ran a survey across 1,000 UK small business owners and found that that one third of respondents set up their own business because they wanted something more "exciting" than a normal day job - the pop-up phenomenon offers just that.

Copyright © 2015 Raj Sond, general manager of First Data Merchant Solutions.

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How your business could benefit from working with a charity

November 30, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

How your business could benefit from working with a charity{{}}In a world where we are becoming increasingly isolated and where chats on social media are taking the place of face-to-face conversations, the search for a human connection is increasingly important. 

It's that feeling of being connected to someone or something that makes things matter and gives us a sense of belonging. So, when a business - big or small - chooses to work with a charity (or a number of charities), it is taking a positive step in building that "connectedness".

People are much more likely to feel a connection to a specific cause than they are to a commercial enterprise. So, when a business starts working alongside a charity, it is portraying itself in a much more human and personable manner, which can only be a great thing - and there are various reasons why:

1. Two heads are better than one

If a business is looking to grow (and what business isn't?), bringing onboard a charity can be a great move. As soon as that business links up with a specific charity, it will be adding to its audience of potential customers or clients. Of course, it works both ways and the charity will benefit from an increased target audience too.

Furthermore, when a business chooses to team up with a number of different charities, as is the case with Instantprint and its Christmas card campaign, even more potential audience avenues are opened up. 

2. Benefits on the inside

When a business links up with a charity, the benefits of such a partnership aren't just felt on the outside. Yes, it's going to be beneficial for the business to be seen as a supporter of charitable causes, but it can make a real difference to the inner workings of the company too.

For instance, getting employees involved in fundraising for your chosen charity won't only raise vital funds, it will also help to build relationship between individuals within the company. Teams can bond, members of staff can get to know each other better and the sense of "doing something good" can only help to boost staff morale.

3. Money talks

The number of businesses and charities taking the decision to partner up is certainly on the rise, and perhaps a cynic's view of this could be down to the fact that when a business gives to charity it is entitled to certain tax relief from the UK Government. However, while this can certainly help to lower the amount of tax paid, it can hardly be looked upon as an easy way to cut the tax bill, and certainly won't be saving bucket loads of cash as the money you may have given to the tax man will have instead gone to charity.

Despite all of the different benefits a business can enjoy when it teams up with a charity, the main one has to be that feeling of "doing something good". According to research, giving to charity makes us feel better - happier even - and what better reason is there than that?

Copyright © 2015 Amy Woodcock.

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Ace your next presentation - tell a story!

November 23, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

Ace your next presentation - tell a story!{{}}

A key skill for marketing professionals is being able to create presentations that stick. Whether you are looking to win more budget internally or to pitch a new client - by harnessing the power of business story-telling, you can stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression.

Stories are powerful tools. They change how we think and feel about something, so a well-structured story takes your audience on a journey they'll always remember.

Still, many marketing professionals don't know how to use story-telling in their presentations. There are several key things to remember:

Facts

First, do your research. Double check any facts and figures; don't be caught out by claiming something incorrect.

Structure

Once you have your information to hand, start assembling it into a story - this is your script. Your presentation should have a clear beginning, middle and end, as well as an overarching narrative. Work out any obstacles, find solutions and create a central character. Write these down and don't worry about editing in the beginning.

Review

Take a break from what you've written and go back to it with fresh eyes. Focus on why your idea will appeal to your audience and cut out anything that seems unclear or non-essential. Your watch-words for this process should be clarity, accuracy and efficiency.

Messaging

What do you want your audience to remember? The bottom line is always the most important thing. Once you've developed succinct and engaging content, you need to distill the take-away message down to one sentence.

Design

Design is essential for making a good first impression. You have limited time: people take just 15 seconds to make an initial judgement. The software you choose can help get you noticed. Everyone knows about Microsoft PowerPoint but there are new alternatives out there that you can also use - Google Slides and Prezi are two of the more popular ones.

Six more key things to remember are:

  • Keep text to a minimum. Think headlines, not paragraphs. Less is more;
  • Highlight the main messages – use bold and font size to emphasis what you want people to focus on and remember;
  • Focus on one thought at a time and stick to one idea per image;
  • Use colour wisely. Use Adobe's color wheel to pick a complimentary colour palette and use it consistently;
  • Use great photography. Invest a small amount of money (£5-£30) in buying images from an image library like istockphoto to make your presentation stand out. But avoid having lots of photos without a purpose;
  • Choose a business-style font that sets the right tone – a sans-serif font for a factual approach, and a serif font to give a more stylish impression.

Remember that the visual impression you give is just as important as developing excellent content, as illustrated in this Prezi.

Copyright © 2015 Spencer Waldron, UK country manager of presentation software company Prezi.

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How to make your customers the heroes on social media

November 16, 2015 by Grant Leboff

Customers the heroes on social mediaI was pretty despondent when I walked through the door of my parents' home. I was 17 years old and had just had my first driving lesson. I thought driving was going to be a breeze; but inevitably I had stalled the car and made the multitude of mistakes most people do the first time they get behind the wheel.

As I passed my Dad on the stairs he asked, "What's wrong?".

"Do you think I will ever be able to learn to drive?" I murmured.

He quickly responded, "Have you seen all the idiots on the road?"

Of course, that was my father's way of saying "yes".

I meet company directors all the time who tell me they don't understand social media. They don't use Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter and wouldn't know where to start. I always want to use my father's quote, "Have you seen all the idiots on Facebook?"

Facebook is used by 1.3 billion people a month. It is designed to be user friendly. It is not elitist and it's not that difficult. Anyone who gives themselves some time on any of these platforms will quickly master the basics. Moreover, there are a plethora of online articles and videos that can help if you're stuck on a particular task.

Social media state of mind

Social media doesn't go wrong because people don't understand a particular aspect of functionality on LinkedIn or Twitter. Social media doesn't work for businesses and individuals because they don't understand the mindset shift that has to happen to make it work. Social platforms are very different from broadcast media. To put it simply, social media is not a platform; it is a mindset, a way of thinking, a state of mind.

The mind-shift is simple to explain and yet I am often surprised at how difficult people find the change of thinking. Quite simply, broadcast media was about "me". I would talk about my company, what we could offer, the benefits we gave and so on. This worked when the audience had no right of reply. In a world where there was scarcity of choice and information, audiences would allow themselves to be interrupted by messages they would not necessarily be able to access in any other way.

Social media, however, is not broadcast. It is a two-way communication. Audiences don't merely have the right of reply, rather your business is communicating in their channel. Social media platforms are the primary communication tool of choice for a growing number of individuals. Rather than pick up the phone, many individuals will prefer to send a Facebook message. Therefore, when a company communicates on social platforms, it is in its customer's space. This, of course, is what makes the channel so potentially powerful. It is also why it can go badly wrong.

Make your customers the heroes

To make social media work, you have to make your customers the heroes. This normally means allowing your customers to get involved and participate – by encouraging social sharing and feedback.

However, the more you can allow your customers to be involved, the more effective your social media will become. Great examples are Walkers Crisps encouraging customers to come up with a new flavour, JetBlue asking customers to share the story of their flight or Heinz asking its customers which bean they are.

The power of stories

These companies understand the importance of the narrative. Stories are what we tell each other. Stories are how we learn. Whether we obtain the story via word of mouth, books, TV or films, it is stories that have been capturing our imagination since the beginning of time. Before you unleash your communications on the world, ask yourself, "what is your narrative?". What is the story behind what you are doing or the story you are trying to tell? Is it compelling? Could it be improved?

Once you have the story, then you need to work out how the audience can take a central role in the story. If the audience are the heroes they will want to get involved and share the communication with others. And that is ultimately how your social media will be successful.

Rinse and repeat

I don't mean going "viral", which is one of the most overused marketing terms; I'm talking about "social sharing". It only takes a small percentage of any audience to share your communications in order for you to reach a relevant group of potential new customers in the most credible way. After all, it is not you saying how good you are, but a trusted friend or colleague. Rinse and repeat this process on a weekly or monthly basis and that is a lot of potential reach over the course of a year.

Social media is not about the platform. That is merely the outlet for the communication. Social media is about great narratives where your audience takes the central role. David Bowie famously sang: "we can be heroes, just for one day". If you can make your audience the heroes, then your social media might just work.

Copyright © 2015 Grant LeBoff, expert contributor to Marketing Donut and ceo of the Sticky Marketing Club.

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