Off the Edge : Opinion

Off the Edge is a marketing blog  written by Sharon Wilding and Jim Hunt of THE PURPLE EDGE and occasional featured guest authors. It aims to provide thought-provoking and useful content on marketing and business issues. Please feel free to comment on our musings, and if there are subjects you want to discuss further then please get in touch.

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Christmas - a boost for charities?

Raleigh InternationalDecember each year brings the debate about whether to send paper Christmas cards or just e-cards or, my preferred option, a combination of both!

This year, as my son is fundraising for his volunteer trip to Tanzania, I have been wondering if charities really do benefit as much as is promised by the rash of e-cards all proclaiming that "instead of sending cards this year we are giving to charity".

I've Googled it, of course, but couldn't find any specific information on whether charities have benefited from the switch from paper to data. What I did find was a lot of articles on how little money ends up with charities from the packets of cards sold in the high street in the name of charity, so it is possible that any additional donations from sending e-cards will have helped!

Indeed, if you do want to send paper cards the advice was very definitely buy cheaper cards and give to the charity direct, or buy your cards direct from the charity to be certain that your donation is real [read on...]

If you mean no say no - not yes!

Yes, no or maybe?Recent experiences have prompted me to search through the archives for a blog I wrote a couple of years ago about saying no. I'm so frustrated with having to chase suppliers who I think should be chasing me, the customer! My plea - if you don't want the business please stop wasting my time and yours and say NO!

Why can't people say no?

I don't believe people deliberately aim to waste my time - but that they prevaricate through some misguided sense that they are being nicer or kinder, or maybe they are really kidding themselves that they will fit the work in somewhere?

An old boss of mine used to refer all the sales calls he received to me: "You need to speak to Sharon. She makes those decisions. Here's her number." When they contacted me I knew that my most likely response would be, "Thanks but no thanks". I was open to their approach, would listen and give it fair consideration, but if there was no real opportunity or likelihood that we would give them any business then I wou [read on...]

Could you use a nudge?

Need a nudge?This summer, when I wasn´t immersed in the court of King Henry VIII (courtesy of Hilary Mantel), I was reading the book Nudge, by Thaler and Sunstein

Having been published in 2007 I realise that I´ve come late to this party, but it´s a concept that I´ve long been aware of and, now finally having read the full book, I can see evidence of all around me. The presentation on the new pension rules that I attended recently now makes much more sense (although it fails the test of simplicity that they strongly advocate)!

It´s a book I would strongly recommend to all marketers, as it marries product innovation and message creation with human behaviour. Humans, as most of us are well aware, are often not the rational, clear thinkers that we would like to present ourselves as. And this knowledge has implications if you are creating new or improved products or planning campaigns. 

The Nudge authors advocate what they term ´Libertari [read on...]

The Top 8 Ways To make More Time For Marketing

make time for marketingOne of the most common reasons given for not getting to grips with their marketing is that business leaders can't find the time. Despite good intentions, real life gets in the way. We all know that we should spend more time working ON our businesses than working IN our businesses, but life isn't always that simple.

Here at The Purple Edge we're not immune either. We recently decided that a project we conceived several months ago just wasn't going to progress unless we could devote a lot more time to it so we started researching ways to create more time. What we found were mostly things which we sort of knew already but we just forgot about when up to our ears in "real work". 

We thought others might benefit from a refresher too, and maybe we'd uncovered a few things which might be new to some people, so we thought we'd share them. We've done the research so you don't have to!

So here goes with our top 8 ways to make more time for marketing (or other important things you wa [read on...]

Are newsletters a waste of time?

News I spend quite a lot of time on email newsletters - planning, writing, creating, even reading. Email newsletter sending has grown a lot because it is seen as a very cost-effective way to get a message out there. But I started to wonder recently whether they really had a place in the days of mass, bite-sized, real-time communications.

I'll come clean and say I don't have the definitive answer to this question as I don't have the resources to carry out statistically significant research - but I'm happy to share with you where my thinking has got me, and would love to hear what you think too!

First, my observations

Open rates declining

Or not improving. Does that mean the newsletter is a bad idea? Not necessarily - it could be that the content is becoming tired and predictable, particularly if you have a very stable audience/mailing list. In which case it is time to reinvent your newsletter before you abandon it completely. In Mailchimp's own tests (Mailchimp being a very popul [read on...]

Marketing is the most important business function

Everything is marketingSure, there are other important things you have to do to run a business - manage your finances and people for example. But without marketing you have no customers which means no business!

We've had the following argument (sorry discussion) with many businesses over many years:

  • I don't do any marketing
  • Yes you do
  • No, I don't need to, I get all the business I need from xxx - OR well, I tried it once, it didn't work so I gave up

What these conversations reveal is deep-seated confusion about what marketing is - and that (since everyone that has a business with customers is doing marketing) there is a lot of unconscious effort going into it. Which is fine if you are getting the results you want and hitting your goals.

If not it's time to get more conscious!

Marketing is everything you do to create satisfied customers profitably - that is people who pay for your good/services and who are prepared to keep coming back for more! Of course, there are variations on t [read on...]

The power of controversy

Controversy makes newsWho said "there's no such thing as bad publicity?"

It's clearly nonsense of course - there are some spectacular failures in marketing case history. Stories of companies severely affected by bad publicity: BP, Hoover, Perrier.

But a bit of controversy, on the other hand, can get you a lot more column inches and air time than sticking to the straight and narrow. Just recently Sky Broadband have been in the news having their Bruce Willis ad banned for being misleading. Coca-cola was similarly castigated not so long ago, Ikea was accused of frightening people with its gnomes ad, and Marmite too has been criticised for being insensitive to animal protection organisations.

I've picked up on these in the marketing discussion groups, but they were all featured on major websites, including the BBC. Publicity worth having?

Could it be that some companies actively seek to use the angle of controversy to make their publicity budgets go further?

There is a ad for Dreamscape Networks featuri [read on...]

Is fear holding you back?

Transform fear into action in your marketingDid you watch the BBC Three series 'The Call Centre'? I've got them recorded and have only watched a couple but Nev, the call centre owner, is a fascinating character. He has some unorthodox tactics, but the fundamental principles he uses to approach the motivation of his team seem to have merit. 

To produce not just good but great results you need to feel positive and energised about the role you're carrying out. And working in a call centre, where you are continually abused or simply hung up on time after time, has got to be one of the hardest jobs ever. If you can't handle rejection then you won't last 5 minutes.

His motto is: "Some will. Some won't. So what? Next!"

A great philosophy that many of us can benefit from. And it got me thinking about other fears, or limiting beliefs, that stop us achieving our full potential in business.

Fear of rejection is common among many of us engaged in sales and marketing. But what about some of these other fears:

You don't need a website!

I'm putting the final touches to the website course we are running on Friday - so have been thinking a lot about websites the last few days. It seems appropriate, therefore, to reprise a blog from last year. 

Frankly, your website has to be more than a fancy brochure - it has to be working hard for you in your business. And if it's not then you have to know enough to be able to back and challenge your web company to put things right for you. 

We'd like to make you a smarter customer of web services - come and find out how!

Originally published 12 October 2012:

marketing hub"Nurse! Nurse!" I can hear you cry. "Mr Hunt's out of bed again!!"

But no, really, it's completely true. You don't need a website. Well you certainly don't if they're anything like some of the websites we've seen lately. Websites that:

  • aren't optimised
  • aren't updated
  • aren't well written
  • aren't clear
  • aren't effective
  • don't facilitate interaction with potential customers
  • don't generate leads
  • d [read on...]

We're not a charity you know!

Kent MS Therapy CentreSummer brings with it a rash of sponsored events - regular demands from kids, friends, colleagues and mere acquaintances to support their efforts for charity. And it also brings a number of dilemmas. How do you balance your desire to give a bit back and do a bit of good with requests from all angles? Do you feel a little bit guilty every time you turn down a request to donate? Is it better to give £500 to one charity or £10 to 50 charities?

I haven't found the answer to all these issues - but I was very pleased to come across an idea that we can implement in our business while doing something positive for charity at the same time. I can't claim any credit really - I have Spacemaker Architects for showing me the way (and they admitted they 'borrowed' it from somewhere else too). I bet many of you could do likewise.

Like a lot of companies, Spacemaker Architects included, we offer a free initial consultation to allow a potential customer to find out if we could work together. The consultation may lead to us presenting a formal proposal, but in the course of that discussion we give huge amounts of value in the shape of feedback and ideas on a client's business. To raise money you simply ask for a donation to charity in return for the time and valuable advice - and everyone gets to feel good about the process!

We've advertised this on our website but have not had chance to try it out yet - although Spacemaker Architects tell us it's received very positively.

So that solves one issue - how to raise money for a cause - but how do you choose the cause you wish to support?

Charities are in a fiercely competitive market - there are many of them chasing our limited funds, personal and business. And there are lots of good causes, the first problem for me was how on earth do you choose who to support and who to spurn?  For charities the key is usually to find an emotional link that they can tap into - either supporting someone you care about (the kids) or presenting a cause that you have an affinity with. For me that means the charity that is 'flavour of the month' has changed over time:

  • When my children were young I supported kids & baby charities
  • When my dad died in the Pilgrim's Hospice of cancer my allegiance shifted
  • Concerned about the beggars in the subway I supported Porchlight charity for the homeless
  • As the surviving grandparents (and me) get older Age UK seems attractive

I will continue to make random personal donations to various charities no doubt, but for the business we wanted something we could really get behind and believe in, and ultimately it was the words of Mary Daly of the Kent Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre that swung it. She talked movingly about her own experience as a sufferer with MS, about how important the centre is to many people, but also about how by supporting their Butterfly Appeal to raise funds for a new building we can be part of a long-lasting legacy for the local community. 

The last point swung it for me. Several times a week Caspar and I run past their current ramshackle building and, by supporting their cause, I'll be able to witness and feel part of the development of their new centre. It will feel more real and more personal than giving to a huge national charity.

At the same time we've also agreed to support the JM Recruitment and Pinnochio's team doing the Martha Trust Rome or Bust rally this September - it's another very good cause, but also an inspired fundraising project that offers a lot of fun! So another key factor for charities is how innovative and inspiring they can be!

Companies have long identified that supporting charity can be good for business - it reflects well on them in positive public attitude and can be good for staff motivation too. Good for business and good for the charities - thankfully.

What ideas have you had in your business to work with charities? And how do you make your decisions on who to support, how and how much? I'd love to know. 


Sharon WildingSharon Wilding is a Chartered Marketer with many years experience in marketing for businesses large and small. As a lecturer and a practioner she aims to help small businesses use theory in practical ways to improve performance. You can connect with Sharon on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.