The 8-word rule

The 8-word rule

Apparently readers absorb 8 words at one glance.

Which means shorter messages can be more powerful.

Particularly when writing for posters, flyers and advertising.

The aim is to make every word count.

If cutting words keeps the meaning, do it!

It’s a good exercise and can be fun.

Take 50 words and reduce them to 25.

Then see if you can reduce them further.

Next try some punchy headlines in 8 words.

One last thing

Notably, Google search listings rarely exceed 8 words.

Readers absorb information quickly and decide to click

(or not).

Making a clean sweep

Making a clean sweep

This week I had my chimney swept by a new (to me) company Wilkins. They were excellent. So far I have recommended their service to five people and now I am blogging about them.

Matt, the sweep-guy, was courteous and friendly. He arrived on time, despite getting lost (I am hard to find). He offered to take his shoes off (big tick), he welcomed the new-best-friend Labrador and didn’t object to having his ears ‘washed’ (very big tick) and there were no sharp intakes of breath when he found tricky parts of the chimney containing stubborn soot. He worked tidily and made no mess.

When finished, he polished up the flue, cleaned the inside and glass doors of the wood burner, and hoovered all the interior bricks of the inglenook because I mentioned I’m frightened of spiders. He charged as quoted, which was less than I’ve paid other sweeps, and offered to call me next year as a reminder. As a customer, I felt I’d received good service that exceeded expectation.

That’s good marketing.

I was trying out this new chimney sweep, because doubts had crept in about the company I’d been using before (for several years). I won’t name them, because that wouldn’t be fair. Their sweep-guy came out to remove a jackdaw’s nest, which was blocking a flue. It’s not an easy job, but when asked to cost the work, I got the distinct feeling he was plucking a (high) figure out of thin air. My trust was waning slightly but the job had to be done to avoid Co2 poisoning, so I went with it.

All in all it wasn’t the clean sweep I was hoping for. Much grumbling, a few choice words and a heck of a mess. But what was worse was the guy’s treatment of a young lad assisting him. He picked on everything he did (in front of me), causing the lad embarrassment and coming across as a bully. The collective experience for me as the customer, despite having a clean chimney, was not positive. I felt I may have been been ripped off and I don’t approve of bullies. Hence, my decision to go elsewhere.

That’s bad marketing.

It’s a simple tale of two chimney sweeps with two different approaches. One customer focused, the other self-focused. And it brings to mind a couple of points about customer service and retention.

  • Customers like to buy from people who they feel are serving them.
  • To serve customers well, you need to be an advocate for them.
  • That means seeing the experience from their perspective, not yours.

Matt will likely acquire and keep many more customers, making a valuable contribution to his employer’s marketing, whereas the other guy’s client list could be in danger of going up in smoke.

Blog problems

Blog problems

I’ve had a bit of trouble with my blog posts.

The problem is that I need to write more of them.

There are some past posts, but not enough and way too many gaps. This isn’t deliberate. I’ve just been doing other things – like work projects – and not thinking about blogging.

Excuses, I know. And ironically, most of these work projects relate to corporate communications.

Cobblers with leaky shoes come to mind.

I fully understand the benefits of blog posts. Search engines like blogging, it’s a way of helping people, it builds relationships, it connects potential customers with your brand, and more…

And there’s no shortage of helpful bloggers sharing subject ideas.

So, what are the common problems for bloggers, and what do they need to do to really get going?

Apart from taking on the obvious response, “Just get on with it”, I resolve to research (and react to) the many online tips that will be useful for planning, organising time – and motivation.

As soon as I get time.

Thank you to readers and fellow bloggers. I promise to try harder.


Challenges ahead for charities

Challenges ahead for charities


The 2016 edition of Public trust and confidence in charities shows that public trust in charities has fallen to its lowest level since the study began in 2005.

The research, carried out by Populus, reveals that negative media coverage, a perceived lack of accountability and transparency, aggressive fundraising techniques have contributed to the reduction in trust.

Currently, many charities focus their marketing strategies on persuading people to give money, when what they should be doing is informing their donors what they are actually doing with the money and how effectively it is being used.

Interestingly it is the smaller, well-established and local charities who come out better in the report, especially those who can clearly demonstrate how funds are spent and the positive difference donors can make to the charities’ causes.

But the sector as a whole will need to work harder to build positive public opinion and effectively meet the needs of their donors.

The top 5 reasons for the decline in trust are:

  1. Media stories about a charity or charities in general
  2. Media coverage about how charities spend their donations
  3. Lack of trust and knowledge about where the money goes
  4. The use of pressurising techniques to raise funds
  5. Belief that too much money is spent on advertising, wages, etc

As it stands only two-fifths of the public believe charities are making a positive difference to the cause they represent. And attempts to reverse these opinions will require careful positioning and a complete review of strategic marketing tactics.


The problem with customers…

The problem with customers…

A business owner once said to me: “Everything would be fine if we didn’t have to deal with the customers”.

It is a statement that invites sympathy from many a business leader. However, in the absence of an alternative to making money, the only way forward is to make dealings with customers more enjoyable and profitable.

Customer service and experience is central to every business that has a product or service to sell.  It is a simple tale.  Good service motivates people to buy from you and keep buying from you.  Bad service motivates them to buy from somebody else.

You can roll out the most intelligent, innovative and sophisticated marketing plan that has ever been written, but if it is not supported by positive customer experience, it is more likely to roll off the desk and onto the floor than take you to the dizzy heights of success.

Integral to customer experience is the ‘c’ word – communications.  Communication with the external world and its wealth of potential customers; communication with existing customers, at point of purchase and aftersales, and (this is the one that is the most overlooked) communication with your staff.  Because there is little point in launching that intelligent, innovative and sophisticated marketing plan if your staff know precious little about it and/or they think it is rubbish.

Employee motivation and engagement is directly linked to communication; communication is directly linked to customer service; customer service is directly linked to customer experience, and customer experience is directly linked to making sales and brand loyalty.

How to improve customer service

What’s needed is a review to identify gaps and failings in communication that affect customer service and experience.  It won’t all be wrong, but there are likely to be weak spots that make it not quite right.  If you were in your customer’s shoes what would you see and hear?  If you were an onlooker, what would you notice?  Every business that is still in business will have worked hard to please customers.  This means it is likely you already have the resources you need, which is excellent news.  The next step is to work out how to make best use of them to improve your current and future offer.

The objective of my business, Ribbon Media, is to identify areas of customer experience that are working and not working and add real value that will result in customers signing up and coming back to you again and again.  We know customers choose to buy or not to buy based on their ‘shopping’ experience and we want everyone in your organisation to live and breathe your values.  We call it building the brand from the inside out.  Your customers will notice the difference – as will your financial director…

In the meantime, consider the 8-rule list designed to make customers like you more:

1. Answer your phone with real people, not robotic messages which involve punching numbers and endless waiting listening to piped music.

2. Listen, listen, listen.  When your customers are speaking they are generally communicating to you what they want.

3. Deal with enquiries effectively and be helpful.  If in a shop, for example, don’t point to the distance and say “it should be over there” or the most irritating – “if it is not on the shelf…”

4. Don’t make promises you cannot keep.  If the customer cannot have the product or service tomorrow, don’t tell them they can or this will come back to bite you.

5.  Deal with complaints.  Bad news travels fast – sadly, a lot faster than good news.

6.  Equip your staff with knowledge, motivation, enthusiasm and loyalty.  They should be proudly ‘wearing the tee-shirt’ of their organisation and voluntarily singing the praises of its products and services to everyone they meet.  Note also, the most successful brands are usually near the top of the ‘best place to work’ category.

7. Deliver beyond the expected. Give your customer something extra.  They may not show their gratitide immediately, but they will love to talk about it to all their friends.

8. Smile.  It is completely free and it creates the impression that you are enjoying your job!

Christine Long

New Year, New Blog

New Year, New Blog

The tree’s gone, Berry’s New-Year-glo-stick-collar has run out and the tax return has been submitted. It is officially time to get on with 2016.

And to help, people have been sending me motivational New Year emails ranging from how to kick start my business to financial planning and forming an exit strategy.

One I particularly liked gave some helpful blog tips. 8 in total, which I have shared below in case they inspire fellow or would-be bloggers.

Blog tips

  1. Make the headline snappy, good and/or intriguing – containing no more than 120 characters, so it can easily be tweeted, etc.
  1. Think – what’s the point of this blog? – restrict to one main point, not several.
  1. Think about secondary blog points that may be included – but best no more than 2.
  1. Consider what best search term would describe your blog and incorporate it somewhere in the copy.
  1. Break up the blog with sub-headings, especially if quite long, to help the reader along.
  1. Include photos or artwork which add a bit of interest and can be enjoyable to look at. (eg Berry the Lab-blog with her glo-stick).
  1. Think about where you could be linking your blog to increase readership.
  1. Put some sort of call to action at the bottom. (Plus Expert Blogger advises us to end with a Question if you want to generate responses, which makes sense).

Very Happy Blogging for the  New Year – and if you have more useful tips to add, please feel free to contribute.