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Why you need to get real when it comes to visual content

January 06, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Why you need to get real when it comes to visual content/media player button icons{{}}A one-minute video can convey as much information as 1.8 million words — that’s according to a study by Forrester Research. Big brands recognise this and are increasingly running image-led campaigns to increase awareness and generate sales.

But what are the best ways for small businesses to harness the power of images and why are pictures so powerful?

Images can tell a story succinctly, keeping the viewer’s attention because they convey emotions. Images are also extremely shareable, giving businesses the chance to reach a wider audience.

No more stale stock shots

Traditionally, brands have sourced images of “customers” by buying professional or stock photos, however stock photo libraries can feel stale or staged and images are often over-used. Brands today need real images that their customers will connect with, such as those shared daily on social networks.

Social media platforms are powerful tools to connect your brand with your community to co-create visual content. You might not have the budget to create all-star image campaigns but there are numerous ways that small businesses can echo big brands’ success without breaking the bank.

Social sharing

Build your community on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to engage customers by sharing photos that may interest them. For example, an events consultancy could share photos of events they have organised; highlighting their expertise whilst offering expert opinions on food and drink.

You can also crowdsource images from your customers and members of the public. By using “real” photo and video content produced by the public in your marketing, your campaigns will truly reflect your customers, and in turn, your brand. Letting them get involved in co-creating your content is highly valuable because it creates a bond, making your customers more loyal to your brand.

Through image-led engagement, small businesses can raise awareness, building a community and driving sales and brand loyalty as a result. The social tools available mean that it’s easy to get started quickly, and without spending a fortune — so what’s stopping you? Snap to it.

Petri Rahja is CEO of Scoopshot.

How to become the go-to stand at an exhibition

January 02, 2014 by Guest Blogger

How to become the go-to stand at an exhibition/moving crowd{{}}Exhibitions are a brilliant way of getting your brand under the nose of industry movers and shakers. But they can also be very expensive and hard work. Exhibiting at a trade fair can take a huge chunk out of your company’s marketing budget and it’s important to make sure the investment is well used.

For me, the stands that I am attracted to and that I remember after an event are those with a clear offer. It might be because they are clearly showing, through their banners or literature, that they deal in something that my company needs, either now or in the future.

But suppose you’re exhibiting at a trade fair where there are lots of companies who do exactly what you do. You have to compete with them for the attention of as many attendees as possible. There are several ways you can entice attendees to engage with your stand rather than that of a rival.

Dare to be different

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box — novelty sells! Fancy dress and themes can be great ideas. At one exhibition I attended, I came across a stand for a company that sold office cleaning products and services and the staff were dressed as fairies — even the men! It drew a lot of attention and they were busy all day long. This sort of thing may not be to everyone’s taste but if you can find an angle, it really can work for the right company.

Creating a buzz and atmosphere is a big draw too. Get some interactive games going, and have a leader board with prizes for the top scorers. There’s nothing like a bit of competition to pique the interest of company executives!

Make people comfortable

And what works for us? Comfy chairs. Exhibitions are tiring and attendees appreciate the rest while we’re bending their ears about our products. Not many stalls provide them for fear of slowing down attendee turnover, but the longer you can keep people on the stand, the more chance you have of making that sale.

Finally, don’t underestimate the draw of sweets and giveaways. All kinds of exhibition-savvy visitors will make a detour if they get word of a decent freebie!

Good luck.

Jo Morris is director at Rio Lounge, an exhibition furniture hire company.

Happy Christmas from Marketing Donut

December 19, 2013 by Rachel Miller

Happy Christmas from Marketing Donut/christmas ornament{{}}2013 has been a game-changing year as we’ve seen real signs of economic recovery and the continuing evolution of exciting online opportunities, including multi-channel marketing, crowd-funding and social sharing.

In some ways, it has never been easier to start a new business. But challenges remain, especially as many small business owners now seek to grow their enterprises and take advantage of new opportunities.

Here at Marketing Donut, we are focused on bringing you the latest news, views and advice to help you with everything from day-to-day decision making to long-term strategic planning.

This year our ever-popular blogs have covered the full gamut of marketing issues affecting every small business — from customer service to content marketing. We’d like to say a warm thank you to all our experts and guest contributors that have shared their wisdom and experience so generously.

We’d also like to say a big thank you to you — all the hard-working entrepreneurs and small business owners out there — for visiting us throughout 2013 and for sharing our content with the wider world.

Here are some of the highlights from our blogs in 2013:

Sara Drawwater: Lessons from a secret millionaire

Rupert Staines: Nine simple ways to make your hashtags work

Robert Craven: Has your business got 'five-year-old-itis'?

Sharon Tanton: Five ways to miss the content marketing bus

Rachel Miller: Four lessons David Bowie can teach us about marketing

Grant Leboff: Dumb marketing question #1 - does social media work?

Andy Preston: Seven things to do before you send a proposal to a client

Mike Southon: Customer care lessons from a fish and chip business

Rory MccGwire: A brief history of SEO — and why Google is doing us all a favour

Andy Bounds: Improve your customer communication in 20 seconds

Luan Wise: Seven useful things your LinkedIn homepage can tell you

Sarah Orchard: Just how much is a Facebook Like really worth?

We’re taking a short festive break but we’ll be back with more top tips and valuable resources next year. Happy Christmas and see you in 2014!

The Marketing Donut team

Six ways to maximise landing page conversions

December 18, 2013 by Guest Blogger

Six ways to maximise landing page conversions/airplane landing{{}}A landing page is the heart of your online marketing campaign, capable of driving leads down your conversion funnel in a matter of seconds. So how do you create a first impression that’s both persuasive and consistent with your brand?

Here are six steps to help you maximise landing page conversions:

1. Write a benefit-driven headline

Tap into your visitors’ pain points and use the headline to offer your unique value proposition. The most memorable headlines demonstrate how the reader will benefit in a creative way that lets your brand personality shine.

2. Focus on one compelling offer

Writing copy for your landing pages is like telling a succinct story: people need to be able to get it almost immediately. Cut out all the clutter and focus your messaging on a single objective.

3. Create a strong call to action

A well-crafted call to action (CTA) can make all the difference when it comes to conversion. Make sure your page presents just one specific call to action. You can think of the CTA as a response to your headline, describing how users will benefit if they click through.

4. Prioritise content in your layout

Have you heard of the eight-second rule? It’s a marketing principle that you have eight seconds (sometimes fewer) to convince a visitor to stay on your site. So put the key information above the fold (top of the page), including your value proposition, logo and call to action.

5. Add a short video

A video can really add impact. Create an informational video of around 30-60 seconds and let your visitors know the running time up front. Place a call to action beside the video and remember to publish it on a sharing site like YouTube.

6. A/B test

Get the most out of your landing page by continuously testing and optimising different factors. Target the low-hanging fruit first. CTAs and images are easy to swap and often have a huge impact on conversion.

Lauren Gard is PR manager at 99 designs. These tips are taken from the free ebook, Landing Page Design that Sells.

You can read more about landing age optimisation in this guide by James Gurd.

Are you prepared for your next face to face sales appointment?

December 17, 2013 by Andy Preston

Are you prepared for your next face to face sales appointment?/Have you done your homework-note{{}}Preparation is one of the keys to sales success, especially for face to face appointments. It should be one of the main focuses when it comes to winning new business. However, more often than not, I find that lots of people are still doing the wrong sort of preparation.

Mistake number 1: Are you too worried about yourself?

In my experience when training businesses and salespeople, people often reveal that they are more concerned about their own preparation, such as: Have I got enough business cards? Are my Power Point slides done right? Or, have I got my product samples in my case?

This is a big mistake — surely you should be more worried about your client than yourself?

Mistake number 2: Are you doing enough client preparation?

The best preparation is client preparation, such as looking at and printing out pages from their website. You’d be surprised how many people do not even visit a prospect’s website before meeting them face to face, only to be left faced with awkward situations that involve them asking questions such as: “tell me a little about your business”.

Mistake number 3: Not using Google!

There is no excuse for not even carrying out basic preparation — after all, anyone can use Google.

Google the company name (to see what else comes up, not just checking out their website); Google the name of the person you are meeting; check out their competition and see who you've worked with in a similar industry or situation.

Instead of asking questions like “tell me a little about your business”, ask questions like, “I was looking on your website and noticed that....” or “I noticed on your website that you worked with...and I wanted to know a little more about it...”.

Do you think these have a different impact on the person you're meeting? Do you think they would perceive you differently than your competitors who ask the same tired old questions, time after time? Absolutely.

If you do the right kind of research, do you think it might have a big impact on the results from your sales calls and appointments? You can bet on it.

Andy Preston is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a leading expert on sales. His website is at

The 12 days of Christmas planning

December 12, 2013 by Guest Blogger

The 12 days of Christmas planning/12 days of Christmas{{}}Just like people decorating their houses for Christmas, there are countless ways of preparing your business for the festive season, depending on the type of operation you run. For instance, if you’re a plumber, it might simply be a question of finding a reliable means of managing any calls that could come flooding in (no pun intended) if there’s a cold spell and pipes start bursting.

On the other hand, if you’re a retailer, then there are many opportunities to make those cash registers jingle more than ever.

Here’s my guide to the 12 days of Christmas planning for SMEs. You may not be able to afford £7 million for a Christmas TV advert like John Lewis’s “The Bear and the Hare” — a lavish animation with Lily Allen trilling Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know in the background — but there’s still a lot you can achieve even on a tight budget.

On the first day: Christmas callers

All businesses need to think about communication with customers who may call over the festive period. While you’re enjoying some stress-free time with family and friends, will people be able to leave messages for your business, can someone else in the organisation field any calls or would it be easier to make use of a telephone answering system?

On the second day: Spring-clean your site

Online sales are still rising as a proportion of total sales. Have a look at your website and make sure it’s fighting fit. Are there any broken links? Does it provide all the relevant information in a simple, readable format? Make sure it’s updated it with sufficient information about when you are closed and when you will be back at work.

On the third day: Spread the word

Use your website and social media presence in an engaging way and be sure to add value for your customers. Remind them about your special offers, products and services and think about hosting exclusive competitions, special discounts, awards or giveaways.

Whether it’s a huge sale, an in-store event, a brand new product or service, make sure you use all the channels available to you including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and your own direct channels such as email and database marketing.

On the fourth day: Pay-per-click advertising

Localised, seasonal pay-per-click can help you reach new potential customers online. Consider increasing your bids on relevant keywords — and rewriting your ads to emphasise things like free delivery.

On the fifth day: In with the old with the new…

“Out with the old, in with the new” is not the best approach to Christmas marketing. Getting more sales from existing customers can be a better bet than searching for new ones — they’re already your fans! Think of ways of capitalising on this, such as discounts for existing customers and cut-price upgrades to newer/better versions of things they’ve bought in the past. 

On the sixth day: Put the customer first

Go the extra mile for your customers. They need a reason to come back to you rather than your competitor. Giving great service is among the best ways to achieve this. Give some thought to how you can achieve this for your business.

On the seventh day: Sell your uniqueness

Competing against the big boys is a major challenge. If competing on price is difficult or impossible, be sure to highlight the fact that yours is an independent business and therefore unique. Look at ways of emphasising what’s special about you — for most small businesses it’s the level of service they can offer.

On the eighth day: Be flexible on delivery

If the items you sell have to be delivered to the customer, make sure you’re offering as wide a range of delivery options as possible. Are you able to offer next-day delivery immediately before Christmas to accommodate late buyers?

On the ninth day: Returns

Remember that returns usually increase after Christmas. Customers will want to know that the recipient of a gift will be able to change the item if necessary. Think about how you can make this as easy and economical as possible.

On the tenth day: Additional resources

Everyone needs elves at Christmas. It’s a good idea to consider temporary workers as a means to be more agile and scale your staff in line with business requirements such as extended opening hours.

On the eleventh day: Staff training

If you have staff, they will be under extra pressure during the festive period. Consider running refresher training to ensure they are up to speed. Above all, ensure they have full information about any new offers you are running. The same applies if you take on additional staff to help out over this frenetic period.

On the twelfth day: if you’re planning to go away for Christmas

It’s like having your Christmas cake and eating it — you’re going away, but you want the business to carry on perfectly. If you have reliable staff to cover for you, there should be no problems. If not, you might want to think about outsourcing your operation temporarily by using one or more of the many business solutions available to SMEs.

Ed Reeves is the co-founder of Penelope.

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