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Would you put this in your shopping basket?

June 07, 2010 by www.inafishbowl.com

In the latest of our weekly blog posts from Marcela of Rico Mexican Kitchen, she'd like to hear your feedback on her new packaging.

I’d like to ask for your thoughts on branding and what messages the packaging is communicating and their appeal to you as consumers.

On the left hand side of the label, there is a stamp which reads “2 of your 5-a-day”. On the back of the label there is information about ways to use the product. We really want to communicate our passion for authenticity, healthy food, provenance and ethically sourced ingredients. We work with local growers and co-operatives in Mexico, but we don’t want to saturate the packaging with loads of writing!

Do you have any thoughts to share with Marcela? Add them to the comments section below.

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

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Achieving your company's targets

June 04, 2010 by Heather Townsend

Every year it seems like the coaching and training world gets really excited about the importance of setting meaningful and achievable goals. Whilst I’m not going to disagree with the importance of goal-setting, I believe that it is more important to actually achieve your goals.

Take a moment to reflect on how many times you have set business or personal goals which you've lost interest or focus in after a couple of months. As a business owner, it is your role to keep your organisation focused and energised on working towards your vision.

My question is, how do you make sure your organisation actually achieves the goals you've set?

Firstly, you have to have some goals set to achieve. Is everyone within your business targeted to working towards the goals of the organisation? If I were to talk with your employees could they tell me what their personal goals are and how these will help achieve the company's goals?

For goals to be achieved, they need to be visible for everyone within your company. Do you have visual reminders for staff about the organisation’s goals? Are your line managers regularly sitting down with their team and talking about the individual, team, departmental and company progress against these goals? In your regular updates to your staff are you talking about company progress against these goals? More often than not, team and individual goals and objectives get written on a piece of paper and stuck in a drawer getting dusty until the next annual performance review. (And that’s if your organisation actually does them!)

The only thing you can rely on in the business world is uncertainty. Far too many companies go through an annual goal-setting process and then tenaciously stick to these goals for the next twelve months, regardless of market or trading conditions. Goals are made to be reset and reassessed as you go through the year. Whilst I’m not advocating resetting your goals every week, it’s worth looking at your company’s goals quarterly and when your results and evidence suggests it, readjusting these goals. Many a company has gone under by spending to a sales forecast level which they are never going to meet.

You have more chance of achieving your company’s goals if your staff feel some attachment or ownership of these goals. To get this feeling of attachment, how about involving them in the decision making process of how the company is going to achieve its goals? Or, and this is the slightly controversial part, how about setting up a bonus pot to be distributed amongst all staff if the company achieves it’s goals?

Many individuals and companies are forever looking and driving forward. Whilst this is a very positive attitude, it is worth looking back to learn and taking time out to celebrate successes. Reflecting and reviewing is vital to help your company achieve its next set of goals.

What are you going to do slightly different this financial year to increase your odds of achieving both your personal and business goals?

Heather Townsend, The Efficiency Coach

This post was first published for Clear Thought Consulting Ltd

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10 ways to attract and retain Facebook fans

June 02, 2010 by Alex Astell

If you’ve set up a Facebook page, you’ll probably be wondering how to (a) attract fans and (b) keep the fans you already have interested. You need to focus on the fact that your fans are people like you and me, so this isn’t a ‘business to business’ transaction. You need to be fun and keep it light.

The idea behind a Facebook page is to create a public profile that enables you to share your business and products with Facebook users. They’re very easy to create by going to Facebook, clicking on “Advertising” at the bottom navigation, and then on “Pages”.

Here are some top tips on creating an interesting page with updates that people will want to read:

1. Make sure you add an eye-catching profile picture to your page that represents your business.

2. Add pictures, photographs or videos to your page as you would with your personal account. Images of your products, events, services, employees or even the office dog will add interest to your Facebook page and give it a personal feel. Remember to tag your friends!

3. Before you start inviting your friends or business leads to become fans of the page and recommend you to others, try to pre-populate it with relevant and interesting updates. You could even ask friends and colleagues to start up a discussion or wall post that fans can get drawn into.

4. And this is intrinsic to point 3: Make sure your updates appeal to your fans. Bear in mind that your fans could be teenagers, pensioners, builders, bankers or bakers so it’s essential that your updates are inclusive, and friendly with a distinct tone of voice.

Let’s use a chocolate shop as an example.

BAD status updates:

10am: “Buy our chocolates! They’re delicious!”

2pm: “Have you tried our chocolates yet? They’re delicious!”

4pm: “Check out our website!”

6pm: “We love chocolate.” and so on…..

GOOD status updates:

10am: “If you could invent your very own chocolate, what would it be? The most inventive answer will win a bag of our delicious Pecan Pralines!”

2pm: “Did you know a piece of dark chocolate a day is good for your heart?” (link to a news story)

4pm: “Stop press: New shipment of Willie’s Chocolate now in! Get yours before they’re snapped up!” (link to relevant page on your website)

6pm: “Order anything in our shop between 1pm and 2pm GMT tomorrow and we’ll give you 20% off! Quote ref: FB03” (link to your website)

Hopefully you get the idea. Put yourself in your fans’ shoes – if they get inundated with mundane, corporate sales messages they’ll soon switch off. But make your updates varied, interesting and interactive, and your updates will be shared, commented on, and recommended to others.

5. Check in to your page regularly and respond to comments from your fans. It’ll reinforce your brand and personality as well as proving that you’re not just logging in to make updates now and then.

6. Don’t neglect your Facebook page. It’s all too easy to forget about it when you’re busy and you could end up leaving it sad and lonely for a few weeks. In the meantime your fans will have forgotten you exist or they might even “cull” your page if they don’t deem it interesting enough. Like a pet, keep your page fed and watered!

7. On the other hand, don’t over-do it either. If your fans are getting 30 updates a day clogging up their news feed, they’re not going to be impressed. It’s all about quality rather than quantity.

8. Have a go at “hacking” your profile picture. You can make so much more of the space available if you have the time to learn to do it. A simple Google search will find plenty of websites that can teach you how to do this.

9. Upload pictures or videos that you can tag your fans in. Unfortunately you can only tag your Facebook friends, but if you’re inventive you’ll find a way.

For example if our chocolate shop awarded a bag of Pecan Pralines to a fan they were also Facebook friends with, they could post a picture of the bag and tag it with the fan’s name and a caption “Congratulations Joe Bloggs! You’ve won!” Joe Bloggs’ various Facebook friends would receive the news in their feed and it could tempt them to also become a fan of your page.

10. Although you’ll ideally grow your page and fan base organically, if you want to kick start your Facebook fan attraction campaign, advertise your page by using this link. Make sure your advertisement is eye catching and unique or your investment could be wasted, and above all do some research on your target demographic before you start your ad campaign.

Alex Astell of Manage My Website

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Olé for Mole!: Turning PR and marketing activities into sales

June 01, 2010 by www.inafishbowl.com

A few months ago, I got an Innovation Support Grant (ISG) from the Food and Drink iNet. The purpose of the grant was to help me improve my marketing and PR. Here are some things we did with the ISG grant:

  • we engaged a web designer to develop our website www.ricomexicankitchen.co.uk (with sections still under construction, but almost there);
  • we improved our packaging and included suggestions on how to use the products we make;
  • we worked with a PR agency to hopefully help us get some editorial coverage in magazines and newspapers...and yes, we were in the Editor’s feature section of my favourite magazine, BBC Olive.

This is a small mention but I hope we can build from here.

The best thing about this grant was its emphasis on working with experts so we learned the tools required so we could sustain the work they had funded. And yes, I learned lots about copywriting for the website and packaging. I also learned that if you want to be in magazines, this is a labour of love and perseverance: you need to contact each magazine, phone the right person, agree to send them samples, then the samples get lost, you follow up, and start again.

Imagine what I felt when I opened the magazine in the shop... and yes, there it was, the article “Olé  for Mole” feature and a photo of our Mole (pronounced Moleh, a wonderfully rich Mexican cooking sauce). I got on the train and I wanted to show everyone the feature, but I resisted the temptation.

Now we are going to appear in some glossy magazines, the question is: How can we turn these articles into real, tangible outcomes, e.g. sales?

Well, as it happened, I was visiting our newest stockist, Partridges of Sloane Square in London. He said he would stock salsas, but not the Mole sauce because people wouldn’t know what to do with it. I showed him the Olive magazine and he suggested I laminate it and place the article by the chiller. Perfect. However, I won’t be able to do this everywhere, so the question comes again, how do we use these articles and turn them into sales?

Do you have any suggestions for Marcela? Add them to the comments section below.

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

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Taking exhibition space to promote the Donut sites? Now there's an intriguing idea

May 27, 2010 by Martin Read

The Donuts are lively little blighters with plenty of reader-on-editor action, but until now our relationship with you, the audience, has been conducted entirely from eyeball to screen. Communicating face to face, and convincing new readers to pay the sites a visit, was always going to give us a fresh perspective on Project Donut. So it was at last week's Business Start Up Show in London's Docklands.

As a form of marketing, exhibitions can be a bit hit and miss. You have to choose the right event, but when you do you're pretty certain to meet useful new contacts and kick start a few potentially lucrative projects. Why? Because exhibitions afford the opportunity for business folk to do what comes naturally - talk. For all our tweeting and texting, technology can never replace the power of a face to face meeting. Get it right, and the contacts you make at an exhibition can lop weeks off your marketing schedule.

Be warned, though - exhibitions require a lot of organisational skill. It pays to use a checklist and work through it before you go. Lights, stand graphics, power supplies, presentations, sales collateral - get them all organised well in advance. I've been to plenty of shows and I don't think I've ever been 100% happy with how things turned out. This time, we suffered from a lack of napkins (we gave away donuts, natch) and blue tack (for the wall-mounted screenshots). Something will always crop up, but at the very least you should download this indispensable checklist and work through it.

And don't forget to take care of an exhibition stand's most important apparatus - your people. Organising a roster which gives everyone a break has the dual effect of ensuring the stand is properly manned for the duration of the show. Also, don't forget to drink as much water as possible. Exhibitions can leave you dehydrated and the air is made thin by all that constant chatter - to which you'll be contributing.

Finally, don't scrimp on stand graphics. The man who designed ours, and the people who designed our pop-up stand, are nothing short of geniuses. The stand fits in a wheelie-bin, and the wheelie bin doubles as a plinth. Add our rather colourful graphics and it's an awesome combination - as you can see here.

Martin Read, BHP Information Solutions

  • You can read Anna Kirby's thoughts on the Business Start Up Show here

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Six common misconceptions about remanufactured toner cartridges

May 26, 2010 by Matt Bird

1. Remanufactured cartridges void your warranty

Often seen as the greatest barrier to effective third-party cartridge distribution, most people wrongly believe this to be true. Pressure from EU and American trade laws mean it is illegal for a manufacturer to void your printer warranty purely due to the use of third-party cartridges. Look in chapter 50, section 2302 of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act for further details.

2. Remanufacturers only replace the toner

Prevalent in the “drill and fill” region of the market, this leads to poor performing cartridges due to the strain experienced from repeated use. Professional third-party providers replace all worn and damaged components in the remanufacturing process. They are then cleaned and tested to standards approaching the original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM’s) stringent guidelines to ensure the quality performance you would expect.

3. Remanufacturers reuse toner in their cartridges

Ignoring the fact OEM cartridges all have different chemical formulations and are thus unable to be mixed, as soon as toner leaves the cartridge and is applied to the page it cannot be reused. Laser printers undertake a complicated series of positive and negative electrical charges to transfer the toner from a cartridge, to a printer drum, to the paper. The moment the toner is ‘polluted’ by particles from the environment such as paper dust, it cannot be reused.

4. Remanufacturers contain lower quality toner

Nearly all OEMs now use chemical toner technology, which provides finer particles in a consistent shape for more accurate printing. Remanufacturers also use this technology, meaning your third-party toner particles are of a similar quality. However, it is true OEM toner can contain more chemicals than remanufactured counterparts, as they are scientifically ‘constructed’ from the ground up for performance in specific printer models. Just remember you will only see their benefits when printing high-resolution images and text onto the original manufacturers paper; often up to double the price of remanufactured options.

5. Remanufactured cartridges can damage your printer

The process laser printers go through to print means the cartridge rarely makes contact with any part of the printer, the only issue is leaking toner. All cartridges lose some toner inside the printer, hence the existence of waste toner collectors within most laser printers. There is still the risk of excess waste through poorly manufactured cartridges, so ensure your supplier is quality tested with a performance guarantee.

6. Returned cartridges to OEMs are all reused

A mere 20% of toner cartridges are reused in the entire market, with OEMs falling behind on this statistic. This is compounded by an InfoTrends study into cartridge remanufacturing, which highlights third-party suppliers collecting 70% more empty OEM toners than the OEM themselves. Furthermore, research highlighted OEMs’ preference to recycle the returned cartridge and use only part of the materials for new cartridges, whilst third-party producers will almost always re-use cartridges once (after inspection and cleaning), saving energy and overall waste levels.

So the bottom line is that you can seriously consider buying third party cartridges in future and save yourself a bob or three.

Matt Bird of printer cartridge supplier, StinkyInk

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