Native Advertising – it works, you know…..

Did you know that 99.8% of all banner ads on your website are ignored? 99.8%. That’s two clicks out of a thousand. To the customer used to navigating around numerous sites these ads become wallpaper – they’re simply not given the time of day. A recent survey showed that unto 50% of customers who DID click on the ads did so by mistake. I kid you not. Native ads, on the other hand, are looked at 52% more than regular display ads.  Spending on native ads grew 39% in 2012 and 22% in 2013.

Native advertising is the integration of marketing content into an article without distracting interest from the rest of the material presented there. It aims to blend in seamlessly with the written content and, to all intents and purposes is part of the article itself.

The classic example is a Purina campaign:- (With thanks to

Purina sponsored an article on Mashable titled “5 Heartwarming Stories That Prove Dog Is Man’s Best Friend”. Mashable is best known for its tech news and its “X number of (insert practically anything here)” articles. And Purina nails the latter. The piece shares stories and videos of the sweetest pups — one who saved its owners life, one who mourned the death of its Navy SEAL owner, and three others. By the end of the article, you’re in tears and more in love with your own dog. This article received more than 20 000 shares — meaning that Purina generated many impressions, without even mentioning dog food.

You too can achieve this by making your article similar to but not directly selling your product. In Purina’s emotional, tear-jerking article dog-lovers are filled with warm, fuzzy feelings. Imagine if the article was about dog food — who’d want to share that with friends?


the shift to native advertising
courtesy of


Making your website work harder (pt. 1)

This is the first in a series of  posts regarding creating a more worthwhile and profitable website for your company.


What is your website for:

There are two main types of business websites. The first is a flat brochure style website, showcasing the best your organisation has to offer, it can include some testimonials and will have clear calls to action. The other is a site that engages visitors and generates leads. It attracts interest and offers solutions and advice to visitors initiating a relationship.

Your website is the hub of business communication and the home of all of your valuable content.  It’s critical that the look, feel and tone of voice are reflective of all that your organisation stands for and the products/services you offer.  The traffic driven to your site will have been directed from all areas so it is important to make sure your website has a strong and clear identity.

Although your website is about you and your business it needs to be written and designed from the customer’s point of view, so instead of writing about ‘what we do’ focus on ‘ here’s how we can help you’.

The content on your website, as well as that posted in social media or shared on others blogs is all integral to your brand. It is there fundamentally to engage and inspire. To endorse your expertise in a sector, to help build trust and to get customers inspired and enthused about you. Smart and cleverly produced content will encourage customers to talk about you and will ensure that you are front of mind when they are ready to make a purchasing decision.

A good website with well constructed editorial will pull in leads and convert them to sales.

The 3 main objectives of a content focused business website?

1. To attract potential customers and retain existing ones

2. To navigate them to the most relevant areas of the site, and

3.  To engage prospects and start to build a relationship with them.


In the next post we will look at the key elements that make a smarter business website.



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Time and Project Managers – The 80% Rule

Inexperienced Project Managers, regardless of their industry come to me regularly with the same two problems:-

“Regardless of how carefully I have planned my project always overruns.”

“Regardless of how carefully I have costed my project is always over budget.”

Stress ensues. Blood pressure rises. Staff work longer hours to catch up and both the management and the client are spitting blood. But for a new Project Manager, management will judge whether a project has succeeded or failed on whether it’s been delivered on time and on budget. You will need to be able to negotiate realistic budgets and successful deadlines if you want to be well respected in this career.

Almost without exception extended projects are due to one cause. The amount of time  needed to complete it has been seriously underestimated.

Now, certain aspects are beyond our control, unexpected events or urgent high priority work for example, but if The 80% Rule is implemented an awful lot of  new Project Managers would be more successful, less stressed and home from work at a decent time sipping Chablis and thinking about the new Italian Restaurant down the road. What is the 80% Rule?

Well, if you answer the questions above with ‘By how much?’ you’ll get an amazingly similar reply. 90% of projects that overrun do so by the same amount – 17-23%. Regardless of the minutae of the excuses. A figure which varies only marginally regardless of the industry. It should be assumed that your resources and people will only be productive for only 80% of the time.

Why? Apart from a natural over-optimism (that will often significantly underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete tasks), unexpected events should be factored in. People get sick, their family members get sick, suppliers run out of stock, accidents happens, equipment fails. You’ll need  time to have meetings and to solve problems. Part time staff and freelancers will have other commitments and may not see your project as a priority. The possibilities for delay are numerous.

So do all the estimates and scheduling you would normally do in the creation and costing of your project. Use whichever criterium or method you find most successful;- Three-Point, Parametric, Comparative…but remember the 80% Rule and you might get to that new Italian after all.

With thanks to

How NOT to write a Press Release

Four or five years ago a select group of journalists were approached and asked what they looked for in a Press Release. Contrary bunch that they are they changed the stress of  the inquiry and answered what not to write. Remember, a press release is a presentation of facts aimed at the media with a chance that it gets read and published. Here are a few tips to improve that chance.

Do not make the title of your press release tedious, over-verbose or over-excited. Use a subtitle. Make it interesting. Do not use puns unless Oscar Wilde is responsible for your PR.

Do not forget graphics or photographs. The media receive hundred of press releases written by professionals every day. An image of your product and perhaps of good, head and shoulders portrait of yourself will often help you stand out. Do not imbed or attach these images – servers will often regard this as spam and your press release will be blocked.

Do not write in the first person. It sounds rubbish.

Do not drone on. Short and sweet is the way forward. If your press release stretches to a second page it’s too long. Remember ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘when’. You can add a ‘how ‘ and a ‘why’ if you really have to. You can bulk out the details in a second paragraph but do not add spurious information just for the sake of it.

Do not over hype. Avoid superlatives. Avoid CAPITALS. Avoid exclamation marks!! Do not use ‘World-Beating’, ‘Unique’, ‘Industry-Leading’ or similar. Do not use management speak. Do not sound like you are in marketing. Journalists and content curators can spot BS better than most – they are used to receiving it from the very best.

Do not mess up your punctuation. Do not spell incorrectly. Check things. Check them a second time. Journalists are terrible grammar snobs and nothing winds them up more than….doing:- This (sort Of thing).

Do not forget quotes. Ideally use something that doesn’t sound like your Mum made up on your behalf. A good quote from yourself or a customer will do or better still one from an expert in the field.

Do not forget dates, contacts and the boilerplate. Date at the top. Town and country. Full name, landline and mobile numbers, e-mail and perhaps your postal address too. In the boilerplate at the bottom of the press release add your website URL with a small personal summary.

Do not put headings in pointless bold-type just to look interesting. Er…



What is a call to action or CTA?

Emarketing isn’t the only form of branded content out there. There is this popular misconception when you hear buzz phrase ‘content marketing’ blogging, email newsletters and web content instantly springs to mind. We mustn’t forget that long before digital there was print.

Content marketing has always been around, perhaps in different guises though. The advertorials, the newsletters, the members magazines and the infomercials, all forms of content marketing.

By using expert sector journalists to write features old membership publications evolved into an industry worth £4billion. Marketeers recognised the power of content to build on relationships with customers and in turn the benefit to CRM.

It’s all very well having an excellent engaging and informative newsletter, email or ad but there must be a clear and definitive sign off for the piece. The piece should almost whet the readers appetite, leave them wanting more, the ‘more’ should be the call to action (CTA) device, and should lead the reader onto doing something as a result of reading or engaging.


There are some straightforward rules for CTA’s:

1. K.I.S.S. – keep it simple stupid
Make the CTA simple, focus on one or at the most two main actions – don’t confuse or clutter the sign off.

It’s important to make the CTA standout by using contrasting colours and a smart holding device/box or button.

3. Relevance
Wherever possible make the call to action relevant it should follow on seamlessly from the feature in terms of context. If it’s possible you try to personalise it through segmentation.

4. Activate
It’s important to use activating phrases and words to encourage readers to react. Using action words, for example, “click here” or “go online to find out more” or “turn to page 7 to see more” or “call to register”. Through testing it’s possible to identify which CTA’s work most efficiently for your audience base.

5. Don’t be afraid
To have more than one CTA to a page or section. It makes perfect sense to always have the URL or social media link as page furniture but you can have others to such as read more or try this. The CTA doesn’t have to focus on the end point or sale, it can be something that aids loyalty, retention or acquisition.

The importance of trial and measurement in all marketing cannot be underestimated. In the case of CTA’s it’s key to try different words, timings, devices, placements etc.

It’s important to always have a call-to-action with every piece of marketing produced. This helps deliver and quantify Return On Investment but also drives loyalty, and acquisition.

Adapted from Original text: Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

The psychology of colour in driving positive reaction

Although getting colour right is important, it’s key that the content is engaging, informative and encourages a reader to do something as a result of reading. A positive action can be anything from recommending a friend, clicking on a link to read more but, ultimately engaging with the product or service to purchase point.


The Psychology of colour

What is content marketing?

traditional advertising and marketing is- rock star

Back in 1999 I got a job whilst in the last few months of college. I didn’t think it would be a permanent thing, just something to tide me over and to start making a dent in the vast student loans I’d accumulated.
Redwood Publishing logo
Back then REDWOOD PUBLISHING, founded by Publishing and Marketing genius Mike Potter, was a ‘contract publishing house’, specialising in creating customer magazines for the array of blue chip clients on the books. I started out working on the VOLVO account, our editor was an extremely accomplished ‘petrol-head’ journo who had previously launched TOP GEAR and his energy, enthusiasm and dedication rubbed off on us all.   We, as a team, grew incredibly passionate about the brand – We loved VOLVO.
Back then contract publishing was the craft of writing engaging features relating to a niche or sector whilst cleverly promoting a brand. By using skilled journalists as sector experts, the customer communications delivered by the brand was actually credible. Suddenly there was more substance to a marketing campaign, customers didn’t feel they were being directly sold to by ad agencies through a whimsical 30 second ad. 
The content was compelling, believable and original and readers were encouraged to engage with features which were entertaining and informative.
Now, nearly 15 years later,  Mike Potter has sold up and moved  to Barbados, Redwood is no longer a sole player and  contract publishing has evolved from a *£200m  industry in 1999 to what is described today as **’owned media’,  and  worth in excess of £4 billion! 
The traditional contract publishing agencies are being forced to branch out and specialise in branded content across all mediums. No longer are they competing against other publishers – key players come in all forms from digital agencies to social media strategists to PR’s, ad agencies and marketeers. It seems these days everyone can write branded content, the art and skill the early adopters invested in back in the day has been heavily diluted and although only very few do it well the sector continues to thrive with ***70% of UK marketeers using content marketing.
****Content Marketing is described in WIKIPEDIA as a marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers. This information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, etc
Unlike traditional advertising, content marketing is focused not on selling, but on simply communicating with customers and prospects. The idea is to inspire business and loyalty from buyers by delivering “consistent, ongoing valuable information.” On the web, content marketing is “simply using content — news, feature, or otherwise — to commercial advantage.
According to y2m, content marketing is utilized by ad agencies to improve brand awareness and later customer acquisition.
Today, despite budget cuts, recessions and global issues the industry continues to thrive with new clients joining daily. Tried, tested and proven the power of branded content is unrivalled in terms of growing loyalty, reducing churn and acquiring new customers.
But only if it is done well and by the experts!
Source: *APA Member Survey/Mintel Research Consultancy 2008 & **Seven/YouGov ISBA 2013 ***State of the nation CMA/TNS 2013 ****Wikipedia

The importance of loyalty marketing

the importance of loyalty


It costs 6-7 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one – Bain & Co.

On average, a company loses between 10% – 30% of its customers every year – McKinsey

The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% – Marketing Metrics

A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-1 5 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people – White House Office of Consumer Affairs