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I was talking to a potential client today who is tearing her hair out because she’s had a new website designed which she knows isn’t quite hitting the mark, but she can’t quite put her finger on why.
After a brief conversation we identified the issues: insipid stock photography; clunky use of fonts; and a less than inspiring layout.
“To be fair to the designer,” she said, “I wasn’t really quite sure what I was looking for, so I probably haven’t given him a very good brief.”
“That’s not your job!” I wanted to scream.
This poor lady was beating herself up because she’d failed to choose the right stock photos and failed to tell her designer exactly what she wanted. As a result, the design work was less than impressive.
Your job as a client is to give your designer the answers to the questions they ask you. I sincerely believe it’s not your job to tell them what you want and where, just get them to “construct” your vision. If you do that, you’ll get back, at best, what you wanted. You probably won’t get what your business needs.
When I meet with a client on any project we don’t discuss colours, fonts or layouts. I ask the client about their objectives, business and clients. We talk about goals for this piece of marketing literature and we get to grips with the messages they want to communicate. We might also talk about brand identity (if they have one) and about the impression they want to create.
At no point do I expect the client to tell me how they want the piece of design to look. And I actively discourage any client from creating a mockup.
What’s the point? You work with a creative, insightful and intuitive designer to add value to your business. You shouldn’t be expected to provide a steer on the design – that’s what you’re paying us for. Sure you need to give a decent brief – but it’s down to the designer (or account manager in my company) to ask insightful questions and draw the right information out of you.
You know what results your business needs. And if you can relay that information to a graphic designer you trust, they will be able to provide you with the collateral you need to achieve that result.
Now I appreciate that this level of design doesn’t come cheap. But it’s worth investing in for peace of mind, the value it’ll add to your business and the fact that you can get on with doing what you do best and leave the design work to the experts.
So next time you brief a designer, listen carefully to the questions they ask you. Do they reassure you that they really understand your needs and really care about the result you’re looking for or are they just trying to please you by giving you what you want?
Fiona Humberstone, Flourish design & marketing
It’s come to my attention over the past few months that more and more people are merging their Tweets with their Facebook and LinkedIn status updates.
I’ve also noticed that sometimes my Facebook and LinkedIn news streams are totally clogged with meaningless Tweets that have no relevance to me whatsoever.
So I thought I’d put together a few reasons why, as busy as you are, you shouldn’t feed every single Tweet to other social and business networking websites.
When a Tweet’s been fed into my news stream I know that the person who’s written it hasn’t written it from the website I’m using. It feels impersonal and can convey a lack of interest in what their Facebook or LinkedIn contacts are up to.
Twitter is the only social networking site that has its own language to either tag a subject (#), reply to a Tweet (@) or Retweet (RT@).
These make absolutely no sense on other platforms (although Facebook now has a tagging feature that uses @) and can make your update look as though you're speaking in tongues.
This mainly applies to LinkedIn in my case. Several of my contacts appear to be feeding every single of their Tweets to LinkedIn. Bearing in mind that some people might Tweet 20 or 30 times a day, this equals a heck of a lot of RSI-inducing scrolling to find even one update that might interest me.
And talking of interest…
Facebook is generally for your friends to keep up with what you’ve been up to or for businesses to promote themselves. Therefore, the fact you’ve replied to a hilarious tweet (@DippyGirl lmao and rofl!!) won’t really have any relevance whatsoever.
LinkedIn is for business people to share knowledge, help each other and network. The fact that the roast chicken you cooked with your nearest and dearest last Sunday was delicious really doesn’t matter.
Can you remember every single person you’re friends with on Facebook or connected to on LinkedIn? If not, be very careful to check your Tweets before feeding them to the other sites. If your boss is connected to you on LinkedIn he/she probably won’t appreciate knowing that you’ve just pulled a ‘sickie’ and sounded realistically croaky on the phone.
With an extremely restrictive 140-character limit on Twitter and a more generous 420 characters for status updates, it would make sense to post to these two websites separately. You can be far more personal and descriptive on Facebook, so why not make the most of your update?
If you still feel the need to merge your tweets with other social and business networking sites, please remember to be selective.
Read more about social media on the Marketing Donut:
Hardware warranties play a massive role in minimising early start-up expenditure. They provide not just after-sales value, but also security against future unexpected costs.
A 2009 survey conducted by Lexmark (State of Printing) suggested that 78 per cent of customers expected to have to replace their printer within five years. Printer manufacturers have attempted to assuage these consumer fears by providing guarantees lasting up to five years for most popular printers (excluding budget sub-£50 machines).
It stands to reason that you are going to want to protect this, so you’ll need to know how the terms of your warranty are affected.
Your warranty will typically be void if:
Although it is slightly annoying to know my Oki isn’t covered for lightning bolts or flash floods, these are nonetheless reasonable terms. However, there is one area of huge controversy that can affect your warranty – using third party printer consumables
Third party cartridges, as feared by the vast majority of customers, can have implications for your warranty, wholly dependent on the stage of the warranty you are in.
Standard warranty typically covers the first year’s performance of your printer (or a high volume number of prints stated in the warranty conditions, whichever occurs first). It is illegal for a manufacturer to void this standard warranty because of third party cartridges. Rest assured, they’ll try to tell you they can, but you’re protected by this piece of legislation:
Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act Chapter 50 – Section 2302
(c) No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumer's using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the terms of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade or corporate name; except that the prohibition of this subsection be waived by the commission if:
Typically requiring registration with the manufacturer to activate, it is hazy at present whether these optional, manufacturer-provided, warranty extensions are exempt from the aforementioned Act. Do not be surprised if legislation soon moves to block this common practice by making the Act clearer.
This is unavoidable and places even more importance on the retailers from whom you source consumables. Always check for evidence of quality testing, performance guarantees and testimonials on customer service before buying. You are paying money in a highly competitive environment; these should be provided as standard.
Ultimately, third-party cartridges should be perfectly reliable (it’s so rare I have only encountered it once in the past year) you just need to be careful shoppers.
At my company, Stinkyink.com, we are in contact with manufacturers for explanation of how they can legally enforce this, and we will get back with their response if they ever do provide a straight answer.
Have you had a bad experience with a manufacturers terms and conditions? Post below and see if anyone else has not only gone through the same thing, but if they have suggestions to help.
Missed the final episode? Catch up here.
Stella and Chris have made it to the final and they have one last task to complete — to create a new premium alcoholic drink brand, film a commercial and pitch it to industry bigwigs at a swanky do at the Hurlingham Club.
It’s a tough challenge. So it’s lucky, then, that Lord Sugar has invited back a few of the contestants to help them out.
Or is it? Stella is all smiles. “I’m so glad to have you all back,” she tells her team. Chris is not quite so welcoming — “I’m willing to work with you again,” he says as their first meeting kicks off.
So how do they fare?
The proposition: A rum-based drink designed to appeal to young professionals that enjoy cocktails such as Mojitos.
The name: Prism
The strap: It reflects every side of you.
The branding: A dramatic three-sided pointy bottle that looks like an over-sized perfume bottle.
The taste: Three ingredients — rum, pomegranate and aromatic bitters.
The colour: Pink.
The advertisement: Three people walk into a bar. It sounds like a joke — sadly it is!
The pitch: Chris works hard to liven up his droning voice. Jamie coaches him and promises to give his delivery va va voom. It works.
The proposition: A modern bourbon drink aimed at young professionals
The name: A last minute stroke of genius from Stella — Urbon
The strap: Urbon — the new way to drink Bourbon.
The branding: A tall, slim bottle redolent of a supermarket oil or vinegar bottle from the Christmas gift aisle.
The taste: At the lab, Shibby gives an involuntary shudder after he tastes it but decides to go with it anyway. Lord Sugar calls it “pungent”. Stella admits that it is “over-spiced”.
The colour: Amber.
The advertisement: Two guys and two girls in a cool bar. The girls persuade the boys to try Urbon. To be honest, they don’t look convinced. Cheesy.
The pitch: Polished and with some surprising off-the-cuff humour. When one expert questions whether rural consumers will buy it, Stella says, “I’m hoping to move out to the country if this goes well” and gets a big laugh.
Prism: Good name, clever concept, great bottle, hideous colour, poor ad.
Urbon: Great name, clever concept, dodgy bottle, horrible taste, poor ad.
But who cares about the drinks? It’s the people that count.
Stella: Meticulous, experienced, well-liked, a good leader, cool as a cucumber, impressive career progression.
Chris: Incredibly articulate, intelligent, calm under pressure, voice like a low-flying bomber, inexperienced.
Stella wins. But Lord Sugar predicts a bright future for Chris.
“I didn’t come here to win the competition. I don’t care about that. I came to get the job and I think you’d be mad not to employ me.” Stella to Lord Sugar shortly before he hires her.
Missed this episode? Watch it on BBC iPlayer.
Last Friday I was approached by a search engine optimization (SEO) specialist, guaranteeing me page one positioning for my chosen key phrase within six months. They carried out a free SEO audit, the result of which has set my mind in some level of turmoil and has actually made me realise how much work I have to do.
Although the audit did not provide intricate details of what should be done – well, it wouldn't, it was free! – it highlighted the areas where improvements were necessary. The auditors, with their long list of blue chip clients, were asking me to commit to a 12-month contract for several hundreds of pounds each month, to guarantee me page one positioning.
At this time, that level of commitment and financial outlay is not realistic for my business, Mama Jewels, but I definitely need to do something and I’m wondering how much of this I can do myself?
Do I need to be highly technical and fully understand the complexities of Google or can I manage for now doing this in-house with the basic knowledge I already have.
I know I need to obtain good quality back links, but how? The content needs to be keyword rich, how do I do this without going too far? I am aware, but am not sure how often I need to change the content on my site? What else am I not aware of?
Every book I pick up seems to have a different answer, probably because the rules keep changing to keep us on our toes. From the audit, it seems to me that this is something I could do myself, but looking at the monthly charges from the specialist, I’m sure there must be more to it.
So, should I pay for some level of on-going SEO support or is this something I could effectively be doing myself, after all, I have the deepest knowledge of my business and should know what potential customers will be searching for. On the other hand – should I call in an SEO expert?
Amanda Waring, Mama Jewels
You can find out more about Amanda on the interactive business website www.inafishbowl.com
Missed the eleventh episode? Catch up here:
It’s the interview stage. The previous tasks look like a walk in the park compared to a day facing Lord Sugar’s inner circle of business heavies — Margaret Mountford, Viglen CEO Borden Tkachuk, former Amstrad CEO Claude Littner and lawyer Alan Watts.
The candidates put on brave faces but the masks slip pretty fast after the first bruising encounters. To begin with they try to convince their fellow candidates that they have done well as they wait between interviews but as the day wears on, the toughness of the task is written on their faces in sweat and Stuart sums it up by saying, “I feel like I’ve done ten rounds with Mike Tyson”.
Jamie’s attempt at joking on his CV — saying he has a third nipple and then revealing it’s a lie — is derided as “puerile” by Margaret Mountford. His Cyprus-based property business also comes under scrutiny in the interviews. He is accused of playing the blame game — blaming his parents for his poor qualifications and his Cyprus partner for his business failings. He tells Margaret Mountford, “I’m a key cog in a wheel.” She says, “Any wheel?” and he replies, “I am a cog”.
Stuart greets Margaret Mountford like an old friend and gets a frosty reception. He tries to convince all the interviewers that he isn’t dishonest even though he has written on his CV that he once told the media a whopping lie — that a rival had gone bust. Worse, he has claimed to have a full telecoms license when in fact he only holds an easy-to-get, inexpensive ISP license.
Claude Littner really goes to town on him. He says, “’I am Stuart Baggs the brand’ — what on earth are you talking about? Don’t tell me what a brand is. You are not a brand.” Later Stuart says he is a big fish in a small pond. Claude responds, “You are not a big fish. You are not even a fish.”
Stella’s corporate background is still being cited as a drawback. At one point she is accused of being a “glorified PA”. Borden Tkachuk calls her the “admin queen”. But Nick Hewer leaps to her defence calling her “entirely decent” and Karren Brady says, with feeling, “She’s ambitious and there’s nothing wrong with an ambitious woman.”
Chris is not that long out of university, so he bigs up his academic achievements. This does not go down well at all and you get the impression that Stella’s “I left school at 15 with no qualifications and look where I am today” is impressing the panel far more than a first class honours degree.
Chris also has to deal with accusations that he’s a quitter having dropped out of a law degree to do politics and having left his investment bank job after just nine months.
Poor Joanna is like a rabbit in headlights when Borden Tkachuk asks her to tell him about Lord Sugar’s companies. She doesn’t know how to pronounce them, let alone what they do.
Praised for starting a business, she is then criticised for not trying to grow the business. Joanna says “I don’t want to be known as Joanna the Cleaner”. But the panel suggests she should focus on being Joanna, owner of a successful cleaning business.
Lord Sugar wastes little time in sacking Stuart. He tells him, “I don’t believe a word you say.” And he berates himself for allowing Stuart to come this far.
Jamie, meanwhile, is let down a little more gently — he has “come to the end of the road”.
Finally, Joanna gets high praise from Lord Sugar as he, regretfully, points the finger at her. He says, “You leave here with your head high, You’ve done very very well.”
So two bankers — Stella and Chris — have made it to the final. My money is still on Stella.
“My four advisors, they have said to me you’re full of s**t basically.” Lord Sugar, as he fires Stuart.
Missed this episode? Watch it on BBC iPlayer.