Banking Credit Questionnaire

General Marketing No Comments

I received an email from Ronan Dennedy, the CEO of Louth CEB.

The County Enterprise Boards, nationwide, are conducting a survey on the impact current Bank lending arrangements are having on the small business sector.

I’m putting the link to the survey here, for any small business (operating out of Ireland) has less than five mins to spare.

It’s open until Tuesday, 30th June cob.

How to get (more) space in a newspaper

Public Relations No Comments

Twitter is a great tool. I love it for the interesting, relevant and useful information that others provide.  Adrian Weckler is one such fellow that provides useful and valuable information. It all started with a tweet from Adrian advising corporates not to submit head-shots for feature articles. I asked for more information and he gave me the link to this blog  posting - How to get (more) space in a newspaper.

What a fantastic article. I was so impressed by the practical, straightforward advice and I’m using it verbatim here.

Here it is - Thanks Adrian for the use of it.

How to get (more) space in a newspaper

I was impressed with Damien giving away some of his marketing stuff online the other day. In a similar spirit, I thought the following advice might be of some use to Irish companies, especially start-ups.

If there is one element that increases your company’s chance of getting space in a newspaper, it is the supply of a good picture. I don’t mean an amazing picture or a novelty picture (like Richard Branson, Michael O’Leary or Brody Sweeney), but just a competent image. It is amazing:

a) how few competent (supplied) images newspapers have to deal with

b) how few of the images sent in by PR companies — that are ultimately billed to their client — are of decent publishable quality

Many PR companies seem to send in the same, tired corporate shots: the headshot, the arms-crossed pose, the looking-up-from-the-bottom-of-the-stairs pose. In a situation where there is a choice of photography available to the editor, these will always be pushed down to the bottom of the pile. And that is a shame for you, the company: it was a good chance of getting some decent, prominent, publicity.

So what kind of shots will push you up the list?

As editor of an IT magazine and a consumer tech section in the SBP, here are the photos that automatically hit the bin (unless I’m desperate):

– Shots where you’re receiving an award from some dipshit Minister of State

– Shots in black-tie (unless you own a casino)

– Shots where you’re looking up into the camera with your arms folded

– Shots where you’re looking sideways toward the camera with your arms folded

– Any shot with your arms folded

– A studio headshot

– An amateur headshot

– Any headshot

– Any picture at all taken with your compact digital camera or digital SLR you got for Christmas. (It doesn’t matter how many megapixels it has — you take crap pictures, that’s the point. And they’re usually indoors, with a big shadow behind you.)

– Shots with your entire management team in them

– Shots with you, your customer and your head of operations in them

– Any shot with more than two people in it (it’s almost always better to have just one person per shot)

– Shots that are really low-resolution (under 150k of a jpeg, in our case)

– Images that have been cut and scanned from some publication — the quality is usually brutal

– Shots where the logo or branding overshadows the person in the shot: it doesn’t matter if the logo is simply visible somewhere

– Shots where you’re a speck in the landscape, such as shots attempting to show off how big your facility is

And the shots that are considered ‘competent’? They are:

–Full or half body shots that avoid the faux-pas listed above

– Shots on location (provided you are a good visible size in them and not a million miles away in at the bottom of some quarry)

– Shots in context: if the interview or article is about what your company does, have a selection of shots with your equipment.

– Multiple shots. Always, always, commission (and provide) a selection of shots. Sending one in because YOU have decided it is ‘the nicest’ lessens your chances

– Shots which show the subject to be fairly relaxed: photo editors see thousands of shots weekly and look carefully at the humans in them. This is generalising — and there are exceptions — but a relaxed-looking pose generally beats a stiff one

— Shots with proper lighting. If it’s an indoor shot, it’s vital that the lighting is correct. It’s the biggest issue with ‘home-made’ PR shots

To sum up, in a recession, when cutbacks will result in papers trying to restrict the amount of photography they commission, there is a real opportunity for companies to get easy coverage by simply producing a competent photograph. So why not take advantage of it? I guarantee you’ll steal a march on your competitors.

(Note that Adrian deals mostly in photos for feature articles: there can be slightly different rules for news articles. For example, headshots can be sometimes acceptable for news pieces.)

Book Review - Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy

Book Reviews No Comments

Alan Tracey of Knowledge Business Systems gave me the gift of time management, through the guise of Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy.

It is one of those rare finds – small enough to carry around in your bag or pocket and large enough to contain useful, applicable information.

There is an old saying that if the first thing you do in the morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing it’s probably the worst thing you’ll do all day. Tracy transfers this saying into the business world and believes that we, mere mortals, should do our most challenging tasks first rather than work on the smaller tasks.

There are so many good points in this book that I would quite literally be here all day! I enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d share my top five learnings from it.

Five Things to Do to Stop Procrastinating

1. Everyone Procrastinates

As I type this, I look at how long my fingers are. Very long indeed. What I learned is that most people procrastinate. It’s just that most people procrastinate on the top 10-20% of items that are the most valuable and important, what Tracy calls “the vital few”. They don’t procrastinate on the least important items – the “trivial many” – which contribute very little to results. They work away on the trivial few, busying themselves with the mundane tasks that don’t give results.

Tracy suggests that we should ask ourselves with every task - “Is this task in the top 20% of my activities or bottom 80%? This way it will help with working on the highest value tasks and then finish with the lower value tasks.

2. Focus & Concentration

Overcoming procrastination and eating your ugliest frog is a habit that can be taught, once you have focus and concentration. He believes that there are three qualities to develop the habits of focus and concentration, which are all learnable. They are Decision, Discipline, Determination.

  1. Make the decision to develop the habit of task completion.

  2. Discipline yourself to practice the principles you learn over and over until you master them.

  3. Back everything you do with determination until the habit is locked in and becomes a permanent part of your personality.

3. Master Lists

Only three percent of adults have clear, written goals. He says that these people accomplish five and ten times as much as people of equal or better education and ability but who, for whatever reason, have never taken the time to write out exactly what it is they want.

In order to think on paper, he suggests that we plan every day in advance. He goes one step further to suggest that we create a master list of tasks, a monthly list, a weekly list and a daily list.

Using this system, we can divide up the tasks through-out the month and get more of the important things done.

Planning the night before clears the way to hit the ground running the next day.

4. ABCDE Method

This takes another look at the time quadrant. It breaks down tasks into:

A – must do

B - should do

C - nice to do

D – delegate to

E – eliminate

If you have several A, B, C, tasks, then prioritise them into 1, 2, 3 etc.

As you get more tasks to do, add them to the bottom of the list and when you are finished the task that you are working on, then prioritise or re-prioritise your list.

5. Put the Pressure on Yourself

If you feel like taking a break or calling a friend, he believes that you should talk to yourself. Don’t give yourself treats until you have finished a task. That’s a habit to focus and work on. Similarly, he says that you should tell yourself to ‘Get back to work’, ‘Get back to work‘…when you feel like procrastinating.

Only 2% can work without supervision. They are leaders and they are whom we are supposed to be. Putting the pressure on ourselves will give us great results.


I found this book useful for little questions to ask myself but also for it’s amazing clarity. It is common sense but sometimes you need a reminder. Time is going to pass anyway. The question to ask ourselves is how we’ll use it and where are we going to end up at the end of the weeks and months that pass. Only we can control those answers.

What Flogas & Britney have in Common

General musings No Comments

I got a free ticket to see Britney at the O2 on Saturday…and with no other plans for Saturday night, I went along to the O2.

What a production! The Circus tour, I thought, was modelled on Cirque du Soleil….the staging was wonderful, the interim acts (while Britney changed) were great - clowns, acrobats and incredible support dancers. Congratulations to the team that put the whole production together.

But I just couldn’t help but wonder about authenticity and staying real when Britney came on stage. All the rumours that I heard were that she mimed or lip synced through-out the show.

I couldn’t help but agree.

I just thought - what was the truth? She’s a singer - so why did it appear that she didn’t sing live? But then again she is also a performer - so why couldn’t she dance and sing live (ie. perform) at the same time? She looked great though.

While not thinking per se about work on a Saturday night, I really got to thinking how important it is to stay real and truthful. I work with clients on words and how to use them to most effectively communicate the right messages. Up until now, I never realised or I guess verbalised that these words and messages are truthful words. Words that engender a sense of reality, truthfulness and authenticity.

It’s a simple concept - but staying real is so important in engaging with prospects, customers and staff.

Enter Flogas

Back to the hum-drum of real life, I decided it was time to Make the Big Switch! I decided to do my research with Flogas first. I just glanced at the computer clock - 5.25pm. The pdf online said

To Start Saving Money Now, Call

1850 306 800

Mon-Friday, 9am-5.30pm

So I called up, hoping to catch someone…with 5 minutes to go until home-time! Security answered the phone. I asked to speak to someone about the Flogas natural gas as an alternative to Bord Gais. The nice security man explained that the office is open from 9am-5pm.

A fine example of people not saying what they mean. Why say 5.30pm when it’s actually 5pm? 5pm would have been fine by me - I’d put them on the to-do list for tomorrow. It might just a typo but it engenders friction. Friction leads to mis-trust and annoyance. Quite the opposite of what Flogas intended with their new campaign, I’m sure.

Business is all about engaging with people. Trust begets engagement, which in turn results in relationships, which in turn leads to business.

If there is one thing that businesses should do with the wording that they use - is to stay truthful. Say it as it is.

In summary, you can always be creative but stay true & just be honest.

Creating a champagne supernova or toxic reaction with your sales letters?

General musings, Marketing advice No Comments

As Oasis and Britney took to the stage last Saturday, I got to thinking about Slane 1995 when Oasis first played in Slane.

Back then, Oasis was the support act for REM. It was a great day at Slane - the sun shone while Oasis and REM rocked the Boyneside. Fast forward, 13 years later and Oasis are now the headline act.

Britney brought her Circus to the O2 but everyone went to see her - she’s the headline not the Circus.

So I got to thinking about headlines and how they make a huge impact on sales letters. In fact, it is often said that the headline is the most important part of a sales letter. So I’m posing a question to you, dear reader:

Are your sales letters bringing in the champagne or are they just toxic?

If you’re breaking out the bubbly, pour me a glass and I’ll be over. I want your success story.

If you’re not, then you might want to spend some thinking thinking about your sales letters and breaking them down into a number of areas:

1. Headline

2. Sub-heading

3. First paragraph

4. Concluding statement

Take a look at each of these four areas and change one at a time.

I’ll be looking at each of the four over the coming weeks, starting with headlines. So if you want to create a wonderwall of successful conversions, then start making changes. Don’t keep doing what you’ve always done. There will be no more ‘oops I did it again!’ moments if you follow my advice over the next couple of weeks.

3 Must Dos When Undertaking a Pay Per Click Campaign

Internet Marketing 3 Comments

One of the most cost effective, measurable and profitable ways to promote your business is to use Pay per Click (PPC) Advertising. When I first started in the Internet industry back in 1997, banner advertising was the only real way to promote your business, in terms of advertising. Dare I say it but it was a lucrative time for advertisers. Companies that wanted to advertise their company, product or service paid for an advert to be displayed on a web page.

Every time that a web page was displayed, it was called an impression and the advertiser charged the company an amount per impression. Even though a visitor to the website may not have even noticed the ad, the company was still charged.

Pay per click was revolutionary. It now meant that a company only paid for the ad when someone clicked on your ad, not when it was displayed. This meant advertising on the Internet was cheaper than banner advertising. Companies bid on keyword or keywords(s) and the company has control of their budget.

Make the most of your budget by employing these five tactics when undertaking a PPC campaign:

1. Determine your Value Proposition

This is the one thing that should be top of your list. You need to know what it is so that it can be put into your sales and marketing messages.

By answering the following questions, you should be able to determine your unique selling proposition or value proposition:

1. Why should someone buy from you?

2. What can your products do that others can’t do?

3. How are your products different to your competitors?

Once you can answer these questions, you should be able to bring down your words to make a sentence for your advert. This is your starting point.

2. Do your Keyword Research

Keywords are what you bid on so therefore it makes sense to spend time on working on your keyword research. If you approach your keyword research that every keyword is a thought that your client or prospect client has, then it will make it easier to draw up a list of these keywords.

Check emails, questions that prospects, visitors to your website and customers ask. Examine your website analytics or statistics to find out what keywords people use to visit your website.

Use a word research tool like wordtracker to assist you with the knowledge you’ve gathered from your own research.

This will help with deciding the keywords to bid on and the keywords to place within your ad.

3. Test your Landing Page

After spending so much time working on your USP, your keywords, your sentence structure to attract people to your website, the next thing to spend time on is your landing page. Your landing page is as much a part of your PPC campaign as your ad.

Your landing page is the page that creates the interest, keeps the prospect on your website and encourages them to buy from you.

A word of caution – always make sure that your landing page corresponds well with your advert. Don’t mislead anyone with your ad. If you are selling weight loss products, for example, don’t mention in your advert free advice or product to disappoint your visitor with a request for money to get the free deal. It’s misleading and won’t do you any favours.

When you have a chosen a particular landing page, always make sure that you have access to change it. You need to be able to test the following regularly:

  • Headline
  • Opening Paragraph
  • Offer
  • Price
  • Photos
  • Further content (below the fold)

A small change in any of the above could make a huge difference but you need that ability to change the page, without it costing you.

There are many more tips that I will share with you in future articles but these are the big 3. If you have these right, then the other tips will strengthen your advert and increase your click through rate as well as your conversion rate.

In Summary

  1. Like all strategic marketing initiatives, determine your USP. Know why people should buy from you.

  2. Undertake keyword research. Don’t leave it to assumptions that your client and you think the same way.

  3. Test your landing page. Content, layout and structure, all key elements to copy-writing should be tested regularly.

Good News Thursday - 12 June 2009

Good News Thursday No Comments

Well - I was going to post good news stories every two weeks but through-out my travels this week, I came across a few good news stories and thought to myself, why wait until next week?

Next week will see a return of the recruitment and innovative ideas sections but today, we’re delighted to share good news stories on this rainy Thursday.

1. Third Award in Six Months…

Paycheck Plus is no stranger to winning awards - they won the Irish Payroll Association Award for Best Outsource Provider in 2007 & 2008, Best Small Business Award at the Drogheda Chamber Excellence Awards in November 2008 and Best Service Provider and Overall Winner at the Louth County Enterprise Board Awards in March 2009.

Just last week they picked up Best Small Business Excellence Award at the Fingal Chamber Excellence Awards. Well done Anne and the team.

In addition to winning the award, Paycheck Plus also expanded their team by hiring Janice Coleman. Janice is another distinguished graduate of the Irish Payroll Association and brings significant payroll experience to Paycheck Plus from her previous experiences. Welcome to the team Janice.

2. Thriving Business in a Recession…

Another good news story came from David Quaid of Primary Position. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a must for all businesses that have a website. The oldage of ‘If you build it, they will come’ doesn’t work…you need to work hard at getting them to come. That’s exactly what David helps SMEs do - bring traffic to your website.

I hope he won’t mind me telling you but in the past four weeks, he has signed up 10 new clients - all who are export oriented and have new ideas. In addition to growing and thriving his business, he has been approached by 5 start-ups to be IT Director/CTO of their new businesses. Now, this is someone thriving in a recession.

3. Irish Company goes up against Big Guys in Corporate IT Award

MCor Technologies launched its 3D printer, the Mcor Matrix, to much applause last year. It is the only 3D printer in the world that can use A4 paper to make 3D objects. MCor won the 2008 Intertrade Ireland Seedcorn, Best Emerging International company award and recently won the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Award in March 2009.

Just this past week, they were contacted by the World Technology Network and informed that they were nominated in the category of IT Hardware. Other nominees in the category include Sony, Motorola, Belkin International.

The World Technology Network is a real who’s who in the world of global technology. Congratulations to Conor and the team.

4. Tweeting for Business Success..

Claire Boyles of Management Matters continues to educate SMEs, charities and sole traders about the benefits and use of Twitter as part of the social marketing mix.

It’s a lunchtime seminar that educates and inspires people who are aware of twitter but don’t know where to start. Claire is getting great feedback from her participants.

She is planning seminars around the country and more in Dublin so when I have the list, I’ll share it with you.

It’s great to see businesses innovating during these tough economic times.

5. Some Companies are still Investing in New Technology…

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Knight of Donite Plastics during the week and it is great to see a company that is still investing in new technologies and innovative processes.

Donite is a vacuum forming company. Vacuum forming provides an inexpensive way to have your own special plastic parts moulded to order - whether they are small or large.

They’ve recently installed a large 5-axis CNC router to automatically trim their plastic mouldings. Yep, I didn’t know what that meant either so when I asked Michael what the benefit was, he explained that it will allow them to do much more accurate and more complicated trimming operations than was possible before on very large mouldings. It saves time on large and small parts.

Now, a typical new product will take only 2-3 weeks from initial concept to real production parts.

***Ends until next time***

OpenCoffee Club Drogheda - First Meeting a Success

Drogheda, Networking 1 Comment

OpenCoffee Club Drogheda is off the blocks….and both Mary Carty of Spoiltchild and I are delighted. This idea started last year as we went for an evening stroll to catch up. We’ve constantly talked about it but as this the year of Innovation & Change for Achieve Marketing - taking action was the most important step.

Mary was on the ball and found out what locations had free wi-fi and were open at 9.30am! Very and far between we realised in the Drogheda area and decided on the d hotel and on a date - Friday, 26th May. Thereafter we send out the word.

A great bunch of people from many different backgrounds turned up. Our group was hard to miss with dramatic, large foam Open Coffee cups emblazoned at each table, commissioned especially for the event by Made in Hollywood.

The coffee (and scones!) and location was good and spirited conversation and networking ensued. Among the attendees, other than myself, were Alan O’Rourke, Campbell Scott, Sian Maloney, Shane Cowley, David Behan, Raul Dore and Richie Bowden.

Thanks to the trusty iPhone belonging to Alan (O’Rourke), we managed to get great photos of the event. (and thankfully he managed to grab a coffee as well!).

Check out the gallery of photos on the OCC Drogheda website.

In all, 15 entrepreneurs supported the event and made connections with others from Drogheda, Ashbourne, Skerries and surrounding areas. Hopefully in true OpenCoffee spirit, these links will continue to grow and flourish and provide us all with opportunities.

On foot of the positive feedback from those that attended, we have organised another meet up for the 26th June, 9.30am at the d Hotel. Come along and meet enthusiastic business folk for advice, support, coffee and a chat.

We have created a twitter account @occdrogheda so make sure to follow us. Post a reply and let us know that you can make it next time.

On behalf of Mary and I, we’d like to thank all that attended - and I know from emails that I’ve received, there will be more new faces around on the table on Friday, 26th June.

Good News Thursday - 4 June

Good News Thursday No Comments

After a bit of a hiatus as there was no good news stories coming into me, we’re back. We’re going every two weeks now until such time as we have too much good news to share and we’ll recommence every week.

Keep those stories coming!

1. Recruitment is still alive & well… Ireland announces over 2,000 jobs per month

An analysis carried out by the website, Econ-Optimist, to determine the level of employment created in the economy shows that over 17,000 new jobs have been announced in Ireland running from October 2008 to the end of May 2009.

April 2009 has been the busiest month this year for job creation with over 5,300 jobs announced.  This burst of employment was supported by ESB’s announcement of 3,700 to be created over the next 3 years.  The month of May followed rank in job activity with over 3,600 job opportunities created.  In May, Aldi announced that 1,000 jobs will be created over the next 5 years.  Figures for February and March followed respectively.  More announcements are continually made on a weekly basis.

2. New Theatre Company Sees Crowds Attend Opening Show

Earlier in May, I was delighted to hear about a new theatre company opening in Cork. The Roundhouse Theatre Company opened Lipstick to the public two days ago and got a large attendance. Attendance is due to remain steady for the other nights. They open Spitting Love on June 9th.

Both plays are at the Granary in Cork - so pop along to see some great theatre in action.

Lipstick explores the absurd world of Jane and Archibald, a newly wed couple, who despite both traditional and modern pressure find a way to express their love. It comically describes the situations young lovers can find themselves in when the communication cord gets tangled with an interfering mother-in-law!

Spitting Love is a dark comedy about the trauma of losing a child. The play shifts through the inner world of Harry, as he tries to make sense of his loss. It portrays the transformation that takes place between the inner thoughts of Harry and the perception of the outer world.

3. Innovative Ideas to Beat the Recession…

This section shows the the entrepreneurship of Irish businesses. I love this section and hope it will continue to grow.

MediaContact - In Praise of Positivity

MediaContact launched a ‘green shoots’ campaign and it’s aim is very simple. If you’d like to grow a green shoot of recovery for the economy, do one positive economic gesture per day. So it might be paying somebody on time, sanctioning some much-needed spending you’ve been stalling on or bringing your staff out for a ‘well done’ lunch.

Jack and the team believe that if we all did one “green shoot” act a day, the economy would begin to recover. Imagine the goodwill you’d feel by getting paid on time, or getting that order you’ve been chasing for months.

If you want to join in, email your ‘green shoot’ gestures to and they’ll publish them in the next edition.

I’ll be keeping an eye on it myself for Good News Thursday!

4. Berry Good News for Strawberries

As this week is National Strawberry Week (1st-7th June), it’s berry good news for strawberries. The value of strawberry sales in Ireland reached €50million in 2008, an increase of 6% since 2007.

According to Gary McCarthy, Irish Soft Fruit Growers Association, “2008 was a great year for strawberry sales and we are hoping that 2009 will be even better. The signs are for a big crop of juicy sweet strawberries.”

Yum, yum - anyone for strawberries and cream - with a little smattering of chocolate flakes on the top?

5. OpenCoffee Club in Drogheda a Success

Over 15 people attended the first OpenCoffee Club in Drogheda on the last Friday in May. Business owners who work in photography, marketing, online retail, web design, web development, offline retail and technology consulting attended and engaged with all there.

A super thanks to Made in Hollywood who made foam cups (see separate blog post with pics) so it was easy to identify us at the right spot in the d hotel.

For all Drogheda/Fingal/North Dublin/East Meath business owners, we will hold the next one on last Friday of the month in the d Hotel, Drogheda. Free parking for all.

6. Achievements/Twitter News

This week I’m afraid I’ve nothing to report here. I’ve just been busy and haven’t engaged with my twitter friends. Shame on me but I’ll be better for next week!

***Ends until next time***