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August 18, 2014

On branding

Filed under: General — Tags: , , , — Katherine @ 10:16 am

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We all know that carefully crafted and lovingly cultivated brands can underpin every area of a company, becoming a valuable asset and adding value to services and products.

If you say the word ‘apple’ to most people, they don’t first think of the fruit now but a certain international company with a simple yet evocative apple logo. This logo has gone through a series of changes over the years but at the core of this (excuse the pun!) is that Apple’s offering has been consistent and evolving – beautifully designed products, with intuitive functionality, great innovation and solid technical support. This has allowed them to charge a much higher price than their competitors – and people come back time and time again as they believe in and indeed whose lives are enhanced by their quality products and they have emotionally invested in the brand.

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Of course a brand isn’t just for large organisations – it is one of the most important aspects of any business.

What is a brand? A brand is what you promise to your clients. It tells them what to expect from your products and services – and what sets you apart from your competitors. A brand is directly linked to who you are, who and what you want to be and who people perceive you to be. Are you a cutting-edge industry innovator or a seasoned pro who is a reliable ‘safe pair of hands’? Is your product the low-cost/high-value option or high-cost/high-quality option?  Your brand needs to be based to some extent on who your target market wants and needs you to be – but you can’t be all things to all people, so clarity and simplicity is key. And in all of it, don’t forget the personality of the company! First impressions last.

Defining your brand can be a difficult, exciting (and at times uncomfortable) process of self-discovery, but this is an essential and potentially lucrative asset to your business.

Where to start? Grab a cup of coffee (or something stronger!), a pen and a pad of paper. Write down your company’s values and mission statement. Then list out the benefits and features of your products or services. Ask yourself what do your customers and prospects already think of your company? If you’ve not had any feedback up until now, then ask. Do their perceptions match with the qualities you want your clients to associate with your company? Don’t forget about your aspirations, this brand will be part of achieving them. Now set about making that brand brief a reality! If you are thinking of embarking on a branding project, contact us and we can send you a copy of our brand questionnaire to help prompt your thinking around this subject in ways you perhaps hadn’t already considered.

In summary, defining and developing a brand strategy, creating the brand and then managing the roll out and ongoing evolution of it can be complex and of course a challenge to fit around your day to day, but taking the time out to dedicate to this important task will be well worth it.

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August 11, 2014

Life’s a pitch!

Filed under: General,Marketing — Tags: , , — Katherine @ 10:32 am

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There is quite obviously something in the air – in the last two weeks we have been hard at work putting together 3 large pitch documents for our clients. We have definitely noted an increase in need for supporting our clients in planning and delivering pitches over the course of this year, which we take as a definite sign that business confidence and opportunity is on the up and up. While we can’t talk about the pitches in any detail, we are thrilled to say that one has already proved successful with a very large order being placed very quickly after the big day! Needless to say we are over the moon for the client in question and are waiting with baited breath on news of the others.

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It really does give us such pleasure to be able to help our clients successfully showcase their strengths in the best possible way. We really enjoy the process of working with clients to structure the document with the right page plan, write appropriate copy, choose images to tell the right story, and advise and deliver on the right print options for the task in hand, with quick (often overnight!) turnaround as standard. More often than not given the tight deadlines, there is often the requirement for us to burn the midnight oil on these projects, but all for a good cause! It’s what we love to do!

Pitches can be pretty daunting when you consider the usual combination of a tight deadline, the detailed submission required and the need to present a document that not only represents an organisation effectively, but stands out from the competition. Add into this heady mix that quite often clients don’t have the time (or the headspace) to plan and execute it amongst their other commitments, which is where we come in.

There is no doubt about it, everyone would love to win every pitch – but even if you’re not successful in one pitch and you’ve still managed to communicate your value well, and leave a compelling and enticing leave behind, that could very well open up doors later down the line. One thing is certain, if you are not in it – you won’t win it!

 

 

August 4, 2014

The changing marketing landscape (and how to navigate it!)

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If you were to carry out a retrospective on marketing practices over the past decade alone, it wouldn’t be hard to identify many, many significant changes. Ten years ago, companies could afford to rely on consumer loyalty alone to maintain a stake in the market. However, amongst so many other influences, with our lives now becoming so digital-centric with the almost unquantifiable influence of the internet, the advent and ever-evolving social media landscape and devices which keep blowing our minds with every new release, the routes to market have changed completely.

To have more (or should that be any) chance of success in this fiercely competitive global marketplace, as a business owner you can’t afford to ignore digital in your current marketing strategy – not only to attract new clients, but to actually retain a consistent market presence and communication stream to keep you on your current clients’ radar. If you don’t, your position can more quickly and more easily be swallowed up by your more proactive competitors.

This not to say that you have to go all-out and utilise every digital marketing channel available to you (unless you have unlimited funds!). Nor is it to say that the more traditional elements of the marketing mix, such as printed direct mail campaigns, networking and the face-to-face relationship building side of your business development activities to name but a few, are defunct – they are still an essential element to so many company marketing plans. In fact, if anything we are starting to spot that some traditional practices are enjoying somewhat of a renaissance, such as really targeted, clever direct mail.

So, the message here is don’t ignore any part of the mix really! Analyse all of the options and choose those which are right for your business and then consider how best to incorporate these activities, in the most appropriate way for your business and brand.  The key to success is a truly integrated approach, so reviewing your overall plan regularly is always a worthwhile exercise.

For now, I  thought I would leave you with some pretty mind-blowing statistics on digital trends found in recent reports online recently:

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July 7, 2014

Are your website presence and search rankings heading south? Panda 4.0 could be the reason.

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Have you noticed a drop-off in traffic to your website?  Or, when you search for your site, the result rankings are less than impressive – particularly in the last month or so?  Are you worried that as a result, you could be losing valuable website business – and ultimately contact with your current and prospective client base?

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The reason could be down to Google’s latest algorithm update, Panda 4.0.  This algorithm determines which pages will feature in search results as well as ranking positions based on content quality and relevance of a website.  This is all part of Google’s efforts to push poor quality websites with spam content right down the search rankings.  Which on the face of it is a good thing!

Unfortunately, Panda 4.0 – along with other recent algorithm changes – has affected many sites that are clearly not spam but still don’t manage to pass Google’s ‘quality filter’.  All of these sites experienced a deep decline in visibility as well as a steep drop in SEO rankings.  In extreme cases, they’ve needed to be completely redesigned to continue to work.

Here are some good basic principles that will help you stay on the right side of Google Algorithm updates:

  • Content is king – make sure you write great content and that any data included is from a trustworthy source.
  • Remove any low-quality or duplicated content – is the amount of useful information a little thin on the ground, or will the reader gain real value from what you choose to share?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine reader interest, or does the site generate content by guessing what might rank well in search engines?
  • Are there any spelling mistakes or other errors? A lot of spam will contain spelling or syntax errors.
  • Are the images relevant to the content?  If not, they should be.
  • Improve your technical SEO – do the words on the page match the ‘keywords’ in the search query?
  • Revamp internal linking structures and navigation paths to ensure the user is able to easily travel through your website without being bombarded with advertising banners or third party offers.
  • Create more mobile friendly pages or go responsive.
  • Avoid dealing with any risky affiliate marketing set ups and remove any rogue risky pages and subdomains.
  • Make sure your site is optimised for loading speed – slower loading is associated with the more ‘bloated’ spam pages present within ‘low quality’ websites

If you have noticed that things aren’t what they were when you review your latest analytics reports – then take a tip from the Google Webmaster Central Blog.  Keep the points outlined above in mind as you focus on developing high-quality content, merge and develop content on ‘thinner’ pages and remove any low-quality content that may be the cause of your dropping search rankings.

July 3, 2014

The Sunday Times Festival of Education: A roaring success

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Having had the day marked in our calendars for a long time (mainly with a view to the deadlines we had to reach on the projects we were working on for it!) it was with great pleasure that we spent the day at The Sunday Times Festival of Education on Friday 20 June. It was a really wonderful day, full of energy, thought, fun, sights, sounds and surprises. If you haven’t heard about the Festival then where have you been?!

With keynote speakers such  as Michael Gove, Simon Mayo and Baroness Estelle Morris as well as events ranging from scuba diving to cooking with Paul Rankin to a driving taster session with Mercedes Benz World or testing your running speed against Usain Bolt’s record time, it strikes the perfect balance between a fun festival and a serious place to clock up some CPD points and engage with leading educational thinkers.

Congratulations to Summerhouse Education, Wellington College and The Sunday Times, and to everyone involved, for a fantastic event. The event will run again in 2015, so bookmark www.festivalofeducation.com now to keep up to date. See you there!

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June 27, 2014

Welcome back Claire!

Filed under: General,Miscellaneous — Tags: , — Katherine @ 12:37 pm

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Claire_Intern_amdOur delightful intern Claire Archibald has come back to help us out for a couple of weeks – which is just great! We very much enjoy the fact that we can give someone who is just starting out some agency experience. We also love the fact that we have her efficient assistance with jobs that always seem to stay on our ‘would like to get done some day‘ list!

We’ve asked Claire to share a little about herself here:

If you weren’t studying English at University, what would you be doing?
 I had a dental nurse training opportunity but decided to go to university instead – so probably that!

What is your favourite book?
The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. He managed to give the reader an interesting insight into the world of an autistic boy.

Who is your favourite author?
J.K. Rowling – she has the most amazing imagination!

What is your favourite advert at the moment?
Probably the Innocent smoothie advert, loved the way they showed how the mangos were each hand-turned for a few days to get the ultimate flavour. They managed to show what could be a potential boring process in a light-hearted yet simple way. Which actually also matches their brand very well.

What is the best part about doing an internship at Mzuri Design?
The range of experience I’m getting from working with everyone and the different jobs I’m getting involved in. I’m also able to start to identify what really interests me, which allows me to start to think about how I may want to develop my future career.

June 26, 2014

Cyber attack: is your website safe?

Filed under: General,Websites — Tags: , , , — zoe @ 11:04 am

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Blog-Image-cyber-attack-imageFollowing the recent spate of cyber attack warnings in the media we wanted to keep you up to date on best practice with regard to your website.

TIP 1: UPDATE YOUR CMS PASSWORDS
We have no reason to believe that your website is at any greater risk as a result of these threats, however, it is always prudent to ensure that your content management system t forget, if we help you manage your site, do let us know of any changes you make to your passwords!).

TIP 2: BACK-UP
In addition, we recommend that you keep a regular back-up of your CMS data. You may have back up facilities as part of your  hosting package but it is worth noting that any backup provided by a web hosting company is typically only useful in the event of server failure, not a hacked site. In addition, many web hosting companies will take no responsibility for your site at all, whether it is lost as a result of hacking or server failure. If you would like more information about our off site back-up services please do get in touch.

TIP 3: LIMIT ACCESS TO SELECTED IP ADDRESSES
To further protect your website it is also possible to lock down your CMS further by only allowing access from certain IP addresses. This option will prevent you from updating your website from any IP address other than the fixed one(s) i.e. via mobile but will provide a greater level of protection. If you would like to discuss this option further please do call us on 01428 722990.

GET IN TOUCH
In short, there are steps you can take to ensure your website is as protected as possible and if you would like to explore any of these, we are here to help. Please call Zoë on 01428 722990 or email zoe@mzuridesign.co.uk.

June 25, 2014

Need a website in a week? No problem!

Filed under: General,Websites — Katherine @ 10:07 am

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We all know that unmistakeable feeling of too much to do and too little time, and when we sense that a client is feeling that way, that is when we particularly relish stepping in to help them achieve their objectives with as little fuss and bother as possible.

One example is the recent website launch for growing company, Summerhouse Education. As a successful events company, specialising in events for the education sector, Summerhouse Education came to us not only to build their website, but also to plan and write the content to ease the pressure on their own team at a very busy time as they put together the final details of the wonderful Sunday Times Festival of Education at Wellington College, amongst other events.

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We were only too pleased to help and managed the planning, content, image selection, build and launch in just over a week. Timely and hassle free for the client and fun (and intense!) for us. There is nothing like working to a deadline. We loved working on this project alongside the other exciting work we do for them and look forward to embracing the next challenge! See their new site and the fabulous work they do at www.summerhouseeducation.com

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June 23, 2014

Royal Mail Delivery – Insight for Ecommerce Businesses

Filed under: Ecommerce,General — Tags: , , — Katherine @ 1:12 pm

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In case you didn’t receive a piece of direct mail from The Royal Mail recently, I thought I’d share their insight into online shopper’s buying behaviour. It gives only a tiny snapshot, but I found it interesting.

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For further information you can download their Delivery Matters online shopper report here.

Happy reading.

 

 

June 17, 2014

New website for Thompson’s Galleries

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We are used to being presented with a challenge but this project is one we are particularly proud of.

When we were first asked to work with Thompson’s Galleries it was to develop a stand alone website for their contemporary gallery in The Kings Road. Mid-way through the project it became clear that, for a variety of reasons, it would be prudent to alter the brief to create one website that included all three galleries in the group. Not a problem!

The challenge, however, was in obtaining usable content from the existing sites in order to populate the new website effectively. The volume and variety of content and images accumulated over several years of exhibitions and sales across three successful galleries was significant but we rose to the challenge by coding a bespoke programme that not only gathered the necessary data but also imported it seamlessly into our content management system, populating the site automatically. Not only did the client have a site  fully populated with historical content within a very few days but also avoided additional delays and costs as a result of the import.

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Our content management system (CMS) is the key to the success of this site, allowing staff from all three galleries to log in simultaneously to easily and intuitively upload new and edit existing content and images. The CMS allows the client full control of the site as well as the facility to make changes to the site themselves whenever they wish.

The design of the site has also been extended to develop a series of easy to use HTML email newsletter templates in the same style to develop brand consistency and awareness.

So far the site has been a huge hit with great feedback from both the client and a number of site visitors (though we may be skewing the analytics slightly with our constant visits to look at the lovely pieces they have for sale!)

Meg Thompson, our client, commented, ‘Working with the Mzuri team was a pleasure. No task too big or problematic! They were efficient and professional throughout the project and we were grateful to have such a understanding team. I had strict ideas of what I liked, Mzuri developed these ideas and we are thrilled with the result. Many thanks!’

 

 

 

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