Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Thinking Linked-in...

Back in the mid nineties, both Julia and I worked at BCA – Book Club Associates – recognised then as one the leading players in the DM business. We produced full page adverts and inserts in the press selling book club membership around the simple proposition of 4 books for 99p. Admittedly, the work wasn't the most exciting, but the people and the atmosphere at the office more than made up for this. The other great thing about BCA was that it was full of marketers, copywriters and art directors/designers and we all socialised together regularly.

Over the years as that group has moved on, many of us have remained in touch. This loose affiliation have helped each other out with freelance work and recommendations, staying in contact, first through email and more recently with the likes of Facebook, Myspace and Linked-in.

Recently we (HUGHES | DESIGN) needed a Heavyweight copywriter on a project and we were trying work out if knew anyone from the old days. At roughly the same time an old colleague from back then, whom I was in touch with already on Facebook, asked for a recommendation on Linked-in. Now this probably says more about me, but it never crossed my mind to think of this ex-colleague as a professional when I'd be in contact with them on Facebook. It took an e-mail from Linked-in to make the professional connection and prod me into action. Suffice to say they did they did the copywriting job too.

So is it just me who when on Facebook sees it purely as social tool? Or should I increasingly be thinking that Facebook presents business opportunity to network? Should I be using Linked-in to be sociable? I've heard tell of a man who if you buy him lunch, will give you access to his thousands of friends on Facebook and in return you can market your product or service to his contact book. Is this really the future of marketing or just one man's plan to eat well? If it's anything, it's certainly food for thought.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

What's with the blog?

Mike and I have been watching our website creep up Alexa's traffic ranking table, we are currently 919,917 - and, between you and me, I am pretty pleased about this. The blog is a little experiment in search engine optimisation: everyone knows that content is king, so let's see if a blog makes a difference.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

www.east-finchley.com: one year on

Our involvement with this project came after we responded to an article in our local newspaper, The Archer, where Paul of the Phoenix Cinema and Jana of the Noble Sage Art Gallery were suggesting that local businesses should get together to put East Finchley on the map - in its rightful place alongside better known neighbours such as Muswell Hill, Highgate and Hampstead. Meetings were called,traders were interested, and REEF (the Regeneration and Enhancement of East Finchley) was born.

The first projects included a website, and this went live one year ago. In addition to providing local news from the Phoenix Cinema, The Archer and general sources, the website is becoming an online directory for local businesses with its free listing facility. Paid advertising slots have also proved popular, so popular in fact that we have had to build in capacity!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

HIT ME! How to get your business to punch its weight on line

It's not very often that a project comes your way that challenges you to find innovative solutions, pushes you to flex your creative muscles while educating you on how to improve your own business. The HIT ME! eBook, which we are just putting the finishing touches on, just so happens to be one such project.

The Brief was simple and very open: Fresh Business Thinking asked us to create an eBook from a series of interviews with several renowned Internet Marketing experts about specific aspects of online marketing... that was it. No Title. No preferred format. Just a deadline and a budget.

First up, we asked ourselves, what exactly is an eBook? There doesn't seem to be an established format. There's Adobe Digital Editions, Mobipocket Reader and Microsoft Reader which are all software interfaces to manage/read downloaded "eBooks" – but no default/industry standard, like the ubiquitous 'pdf'.

The second consideration was that the content of the interviews for the book were all about the internet and internet marketing. Logically any eBook produced, would need to be internet based and marketed using the techniques outlined in the eBook.

So we needed a suitable supplier to help us create our eBook. We recommended www.yudu.com to Fresh Business Thinking.

We first came across Yudu publishing last year when we were working on Welcome 2 The Fun House book with Terrence Brake from TMA. At one point during that project TMA proposed publishing an on-line version of The Fun House, but upon reflection they decided against – their preferred delivery method for The Fun House was a hardback.

But with HIT ME!, there would only be a digital edition.

Having never published with Yudu before, we were initially weary of their promises that creating digital editions was simple, straightforward etc. Their online examples were very persuasive, their trial even more so. In fact, we're so impressed we would be hard pressed to be convinced to used any other supplier for a project like this. Not only is the end product interface attractive and easy to use, actually constructing the online edition is relatively simple too; the only caveat being that you need to have a basic understanding of publishing/layout etc...

That aside, the process is really simple. Create your book in your usual layout package, ie InDesign or QuarkXPress. Output the document as a pdf. Upload to Yudu via the account login area and then follow the instructions. Once there, you can move pages around, add AV content and create links out to relevant websites. Then publish. So simple it deserves to be the industry standard.

As for HIT ME! The book itself is full of useful advice and tips about how to improve your business online and it's not just for e-commerce businesses. The lessons within can be applied to all types of businesses. We've applied them ours, and have learned many useful tips which we can now pass on to our clients.

So, thank-you to Fresh Business Thinking, and best wishes for a successful launch of HIT ME! We hope it will be as positive an experience for you and your client as it was for us.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

A break in Cornwall

If you're looking to go to Cornwall, click here.

Set in five acres of land, Tredarras is a 17th Century restored farmhouse. For more information contact Robin at Tredarras Altarnun Cornwall PL15 7SF
Email: senorbob@mac.com

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Entrepreneurs in London

Taking advantage of a little downtime on a Sunday afternoon, I have been blogging about EiL on the Fresh Business Thinking trade space on BT Trade Space. This is an event that is taking place on 20 November 2008. Entrepreneurs in London is a one day extravaganza with speakers ranging from Ben Way (one of the original and youngest UK dot-com millionaires) to Lawrence Dallaglio the former England Rugby Captain and Zac Goldsmith, Green Social Entrepreneur (and adviser to the Conservative Party on green issues). Should be really interesting. Find out more click here.

Blogging and BT Tradespace are all new experiences for me, and I will wait to see how effective the blogging turns out to be for EiL, but also how this one works for Hughes-Design and its ranking on search engines.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

We Love East Finchley

Thursday 10th July saw a flurry of e-mails regarding the looming pavement tax in East Finchley, London. What this is is a local tax enforced by the borough council on high street retailers who use the footpath to display their wares. Why does this concern us? Well, some of these businesses are our customers, and from time to time we are asked to produce content for their 'A' boards. Should the council implement the tax, then retailers have indicated that they would remove the taxable items rather than pay, so there goes a revenue stream... of course, being a creative agency, we would suggest alternative ways to promote their offerings, but frankly we think that flower displays outside our florists and furniture outside our cafés add colour to the area, so we'd rather join the retailers and dispute this tax.

So, with this in mind, and support from fellow members of REEF (Regeneration and Enhancment of East Finchley) we used the website we created to promote EF to raise awareness of this issue and try and get some public support behind the campaign with an entertaining editorial...

It has come to our attention here at EF.com that Barnet Council wish to introduce a pavement tax on local businesses who wish to advertise their wares on the High Street. In the first instance the council claim that 'A' boards, flower arrangements or street furniture are a potential danger to pedestrians – quite right too in this age of Health and Safety. But, if retailers pay them a quarterly fee, it turns out they can put these "hazards" back on the street! It seems to us here at EF.com that there's some muddled thinking going on. Many people feel that the tables outside our cafés, and the flower displays outside our florists add character to the area. But it's not just the retailers who are upset by this, one local resident, Harriet Copperman summed it up best "How can something like this be right or wrong depending on whether or not money is paid - isn't that akin to bribery?". She has a point. So will this tax go towards all the insurance claims generated by the lethal obstacle course that is our High Street? Or is it going to used to plug holes somewhere else in the council's budget?...

You can find out more at www.east-finchley.com
Right now we're focusing our attention on promoting our business, with the sole intention of increasing our profile to attract new business. While we are busy at the moment with 2 two major website projects, and many print projects, our gut feeling is that things seem to be slowing down.

With this in mind we are actually stepping up our marketing activity, adding pages to our website, creating this new blog and reaching out to our customer base and collecting testimonials – an exercise that has been entirely successful in so much as hearing from clients that we haven't heard from in a while, and getting glowing references to add to our site.

Here are a few samples:

"(The exhibition stand you created) attracted so much attention in our products that I was interviewed by the local TV station!"

Alistair Frost
Vitec Air Systems Limited


Throrough, detailed and creative. Refreshing to find a creative agency that listens and understands the business goals."
Christopher Crosby

TMA - Transnational Management Associates Ltd.

So big thanks Chris and Alistair for these and everyone else who said great things about us.