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Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

Why I started the Donut

I’ve always found small businesses compelling – what makes them work and the challenge of going it alone are to me the most interesting questions in business. And after 19 years of running my company, BHP, I admire SMEs more than ever.

Running your own show is tremendous fun, especially if you know what you’re doing and can manage the 101 challenges that come your way every month. Which is where BHP content comes in.

We’ve been producing our expert how-to guides, sponsored by blue chips and government organisations, for nearly two decades. But, of course, as an entrepreneur, I wanted something new to do. In a (rare) idle moment online, I scouted about for a really good marketing website for small businesses. There wasn’t one.

So we decided to do it, launching on 20 April 2009. We built small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) their own site with everything they needed to make their marketing thrive. Founding partners Google and Royal Mail backed us all the way, as have our ever-growing list of sponsors such as Vodafone and Yell.  

What we’ve achieved in a year

As well as Marketing Donut, we launched two more Donut websites to cover starting up and law. We’ve just announced that the fourth site to launch will be IT Donut, scheduled for the week commencing 23 August.

We use 300 top people to provide the expert advice on the Donuts, but, for me, the real experts are also the users. Before we started work, we asked people running small businesses what they wanted from a site. They told us they needed fast, practical and accurate answers to their questions. The Donuts give SME managers that, free. Tools, templates, checklists, the lot: plus the news their business needs to know.

All the Donuts report live on major small-business happenings – we were the first business advice site to break news of the rise in minimum wage on Budget Day. MyDonut, the e-newsletter, now goes out to tens of thousands of people a month – next year numbers should top 100,000. (This is in addition to the 300,000 subscribers to the SME newsletters that we publish for our clients. Life at BHP is one big deadline.)

Since the launch a year ago, the Donut sites have fast become a key player in the UK small-business scene. Our Twitter accounts have over 40,000 followers and our Twitter team picked up two national awards last year.

Local versions of marketingdonut.co.uk, startupdonut.co.uk and lawdonut.co.uk are syndicated to our partners, both nationally and in the regions. Thirty-five organisations already have their own Donut websites and more are coming on stream every month.

The Donut is a strong business model, because it is a win-win for everyone involved. Crucially, BHP had already invested several years building up the strategic relationships and the content before launching the first website. As with most successful SMEs, we always knew that the Donut project would not be a sprint to success, it would be a marathon.

2010-2011: what’s in it for you?

As we expand the core “answers to your questions” pages of the Donuts, we will continue to cover news and key topical issues for you. For instance, this month the Law Donut explains how to cope with recruitment and redundancy as the economy remains fragile, as well as what to do when all your staff want time off for June’s World Cup.

We’re currently building the IT Donut, which will be a comprehensive resource for demystifying IT, troubleshooting and trading online. It will become the first place any small business turns to when they have a tech problem that needs sorting fast. We’re currently recruiting experts who will rid us all of pesky IT stress forever, I hope.

We’ll also be providing a local service for users, thanks to our partners. Law firms, chambers of commerce and enterprise agencies are all getting involved. This is really exciting, as it gives users the best of all worlds – a huge library of constantly updated advice from experts throughout the UK, combined with local content.

An SME owner’s work is never done, so I’m signing off to tackle the above. Before I go – thanks to you, our users, and all our partners and experts, for a great year.

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I think that marketing is a really important key to opening up the sales door for my yummy sauces. I regularly do food tasting sessions at the shops where they sell my products.

It’s time, however, to up my game and analyse the return on investment of all of my marketing activities. This is another tricky task for a novice like me: do I know how to measure the effectiveness of a marketing event and the get figures to quantify? Er, I think you know the answer.

Take last Saturday, for example. I had discussed the idea of having a Mariachi band at the Food Halls with Selfridges . It turned into reality on Sat 31 January and we had such a good time, which is clearly a good thing. These are some benefits from this tasting session:

  • The event was nicely publicised on the Selfridges website for three weeks and was advertised on their newsletter.
  • People tried the sauces, enjoyed the music and bought my products.
  • They took photos and videos which will hopefully remind them of the brand and create awareness. Does this = sales?

Two videos taken were particularly interesting:

  • one was for a blog for the daddydonkey website. They sell Mexican food from a van in London, have had some rave reviews and have lots of followers.
  • The other was taken by a man whose daughter the Mariachi band and I (!) sang a Mexican birthday song for. This will be posted on his blog.

This is where I reach my limits as I don’t know how to quantify whether the event was good ROI. How do I measure this? It’s not straightforward. On the day, we saw 300+ people and I will get the sales figures next week.

This is what we spent:

  • The Mariachi band fees.
  • The time of three adults, including me, my lovely husband and volunteer Rosie – thank you Rosie!
  • We paid for  four return train fares from Derby. The tickets were cheap as we used a family railway card (the kids came with us, which could’ve been a good plan but they were a real pain as they were tired from a busy week, but that’s another matter!).
  • Samples, tortilla chips.
  • Subsistence costs: meal, drinks etc.

To summarise, I think that the event was worthwhile: we sold, created awareness, and have been/will be on other websites. However, this is only my gut feeling and I need to take the guesswork out of investing on marketing to focus my very limited resources wisely. Do leave me a comment if you have any suggestions.

You can find out more about Marcela on the new interactive business website www.inafishbowl.com

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When starting a business it is difficult to put aside an amount for marketing and it’s hard to justify how much should be spent.

When I started my business Rentabuggy.co.uk in 2008 I spent a couple of thousand pounds on marketing within the first six months but was surprised to find that I didn’t get many results from it. Here are my top five tips for advertising on a low budget.

  1. Network. Networking is free and many businesses are becoming more involved. Networking is a great way to work with like minded businesses on a like for like basis. Shortly after setting up my own company, I set up another company with my business partner called Networking Mummies Dorset and we now have over 150 businesses involved. We share knowledge, advice and advertising and I now use this as my main stream for advertising my own business.
  2. Press release. If you have a newsworthy story involving your business then write a press release. Press releases are a great way to showcase some exciting information you may have with the media. Make a list of local newspapers, radio stations and magazines within your sector and email them. Always write the press release in the body of the email as well as attaching it as a document. For great tips on writing a press release check out www.mumsclub.co.uk.
  3. Reciprocal links. Research businesses on the internet that are in the same sector as you and email them to ask if they would like to do a ‘reciprocal’ link. This means you add a link to your website with their information and vice versa. This is a good way to try increasing traffic to your website.
  4. Facebook. Facebook was originally launched as a social media portal for friends to stay in touch but has since become a great way to advertise your business. Set up a fan page and invite all your friends. Hopefully, they will then request their friends to join and so on.
  5. Blog. Blogging is a great way to keep your customers updated with news, offers and more. You don’t have to be a great writer to write a blog and this can be kept simple. Linking with other companies will help your search engine results too.

Laura Morris, Rentabuggy.co.uk

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Ross (manager): “Welcome everyone, I trust you’re well. Item one: whether to invest in a company branded doormat.”

Ruth (marketing): “A company-branded mat will create a more welcoming entrance and make us look more professional.”

David (finance director; deep, gruff voice): “Make us look more professional? How exactly will a mat make us look more professional? Unless, of course, you intend the staff to wear it?”

Ruth (slightly squeakier now): “Professionalism is about the whole package, David.”

David: “How professional are we going to look when we go bust because you keep buying all this frivolous rubbish?”

Ruth (really squeaky): “If you don’t stop thinking like that, we’ll never go anywhere.”

Ross (calm, obviously): “Ok, David, can we actually afford the mat?”

David: “………………………(long pause)………………………………… Er, yes”

Ross: “Ruth, do we need the extra gold tassels or will it still be fit for purpose if it’s bright pink and hardwearing?”

Ruth: “…………………..(Not squeaky at all)……………… Mmm… We don’t really need the tassels, no….”

Ross: “Right then, got there in the end, didn’t we? Let’s buy the mat.”

Of course, my company has but 10 staff, including me. We don’t have a boardroom or a marketing expert called Ruth or a finance director called David. I don’t know how other business owners make decisions, but when it comes to cost-benefit analysis, this type of things usually works for me.

Ross Campbell, The Exercise Club

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