Spark into Marketing

Small business marketing ideas and inspiration

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Profit from success and failure

February 6th, 2015 · Inspiration

Whenever we want to move forward it is vital to look back as well.  At the start of a new phase – a new year, a new quarter, a new month a new day- time spent reflecting helps to create bigger changes for the future.


The first thing to do is to look at your successes.  Listen to the audio to help you.   It  was recorded at MarlowFM  and has the music edited out for legal reasons.  Choose some music you love so you give yourself time to write out your own successes.

What can you learn from your successes?  I talk about my biggest success which was the intention to turn a difficult situation into something far more enjoyable.  Having been flooded I decided to turn the fact that I had to move out of my house into a positive experience.  In fact turn it into the equivalent of a holiday and give myself some ease and peace.  What was your biggest success?

Even as I was writing down successes, my mind flipped to things I hadn’t done.  There is no point avoiding unpleasant experiences because they are often the place where we gain most insight.

So the next part of the process is to look at things that didn’t go right even if they cannot officially be called “failures”.


Write down what didn’t go right in the past.  There is a lot of information you can use for the future when you simply look at the things that didn’t happen.  Get past any feeling of failure and see whether in fact you want to do that thing anymore. Sometimes the timing was wrong and in fact it was a good thing it didn’t work out.  Sometimes you decide that it is no longer appropriate and you can let go of it altogether.  It may have been too difficult and you had not factored in the learning, the time  or the support that you needed in order to achieve it.  Very often we don’t want to let somebody else down more than ourselves, so finding a partner to share what you want to do will be invaluable.

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Looking back on the year ask yourself this question

December 21st, 2014 · Internet Marketing

Looking back on the year is the first important step in creating what happens in the New Year.

This was recorded by Jean Wolfe for the Biz Buzz show on Marlow FM 97.5 .

Reproduced by kind permission of MarlowFM.

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Reality TV shows conclude

December 12th, 2014 · Branding, Marketing

The weeks leading up to the end of the year are always full of TV shows coming to an end.

In addition to a drama series of, say, 12 parts we have the added excitement of reality television.

Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor are approaching their finale, I am a Celebrity finished last week, and The Apprentice has two more shows to go.  The most interesting part for me towards the end of these shows is where we start to understand more about the contestants as people.It is their authenticity which is on show after we see how they perform their task.

In”Strictly” so often a poor dancer is kept in the show by the public simply because they warm to him or her.  That is the ingredient that non-dance specialists can see.  Most of us can’t tell a tango from a foxtrot, but we can tell if we like the person, if they get on with their dancing partner, and if they are attractive.

In” I am a Celebrity” I am always more responsive to someone who does not like all those bugs but does the task anyway. Oh yes and they should’t rant about others behind their backs.

In” X Factor”  we know that it is not always the best singers who win.  Even more to the point those who don’t win can often do well in their career after In contrast,  the contestants often simply express gratitude  for the experience and that they felt it was good even though they did not stay to the bitter end.

These shows thrive on

  • Scarcity
  • Definitive timeline with a deadline
  • Authenticity (or not) of those involved.

All these are relevant for small businesses, too.  Scarcity doesn’t have to be some faked thing, it can genuinely reflect the fact that you only want to work with a certain number of people.  The defined timeline is a great aid to getting people on board – it can help them make a decision, and helps you to punctuate your activities. To start a campaign, to end one.   Of course authenticity is the big opportunity for a small business.  We don’t have to pretend to be something we are not.  Who we are is probably perfect!

My favourite Apprentice show is always the interviews.  It seems that the candidates make up all kinds of stories on their cv and the rather dour interviewers ask very simple questions and the contestants  walk happily into some kind of trap.  I can’t wait for next week’s show!

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Eating an elephant – an expression I would like to ban

November 26th, 2014 · Face to Face Networking, Words

When I first started face to face networking I heard many expressions which were intended to help understanding of the way to network.

One of these which I heard frequently was the question ” How do you eat an elephant?”

The supposedly correct answer was ” One bite at a time>”

The principle was excellent: don’t rush into networking relationships you have to take it a step at a time.  The wider message is all about finding out about the other person, seeing if you can help them, and not expecting direct results from the person in front of you, but connecting to their wider network.  Once you understand the joy of having a network and helping other people the What;s in it for Me attitude disappears.  And usually that is when the results do appear.

But what about that poor elephant?  I didn’t even like to think about eating an elephant at all.  In fact I was so revolted by the idea of eating an endangered species that only eats vegetation and does not kill other animals that I found it difficult to listen to the message at all.

I would like to consign this distaseful expression to oblivion. I hope I never see it again in a book, and certainly hope I never hear anyone saying it.   Do you agree?

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EU changes affecting UK small business VAT for digital products

November 25th, 2014 · Internet Marketing

Small businesses who are under the VAT threshold in the UK and sell digital products may have a problem in 2015.

Digital products sold in Europe could attract VAT which will then be charged on all products and services.

To find out more go to and if you feel motivated to take action sign the petition.

From 1 Jan 2015, the new ruling means that should you make a sale to the EU (how one can prevent that with online services is not clear) from the first £1 of revenue your business earns you will need to be VAT registered in the UK and under the VAT MOSS Europe-wide scheme – meaning that you will immediately have to apply VAT to all your services, including those in the UK.

Digital products are the solution for small businesses to expand and make more difference.

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How to find the Big Idea for a small business.

November 25th, 2014 · Branding, Inspiration

finding the big idea

Where is the big idea?

If you are a small business – or a solo entrepreneur – you may think your big idea is your product or your service.

You have spent a long time getting the design right, getting it manufactured, or creating a one off face to face experience that your clients love, or even a programme.

Or you may have decided you could reach far more people with an online course so you can make more difference.  This has taken a lot of time and effort and you are justly proud of it.

But is it your big idea?  No. Your big idea comes from something far more nourishing.

How to find your big idea

If it has not occurred to you that you have a big idea, you may be being very busy. Busyness can get you through the day but it won’t ultimately satisfy you. When you look back at the end of the month, the year, the decade the busyness with be less important than your big idea.

Give yourself the luxury of a 15 minute break, something to drink, pen and paper, no phone or internet, and ask yourself a question.  This should help you to stop just being busy for 15 minutes and connect with something that is fulfilling.

Ask yourself “why am I creating this product, this service”?

Answer it with Because …… and ramble round the answer.  You may have lots of ideas so get them all out of you.

When you have finished your line of thought add in “so that”….and go off on more explorations of what it is all about for you.

Keep on saying” So that” and filling in the response until you feel you have reached something complete and satisfying.

Then just sit for a few more minutes and let your answers settle inside you.

Over the next few days notice notice notice what conversations you have with people, what you overhear, or see, or what other ideas come into your head.  Collect them and add them to your ideas.   Don’t force your ideas but let them develop.


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3 contestants fired from The Apprentice in one episode!

October 30th, 2014 · Marketing

I admit I don’t go out of my way to watch “The Apprentice” these days.  But last night’s episode was all about creating a video and putting it on to YouTube which seemed like a welcome change from selling in the street.

There were many interesting factors to note – the first being the small gap between winning and losing. Just like life – there can be a hair’s breadth between the two.  If you are on the losing side you can learn from your mistakes and get up to fight another day.

Not on The Apprentice.  Once you are on the losing team you don’t often get compliments.  It seems a rather black and white in the television boardroom.

Last night was no exception.  They got little praise from each other or Nick or Karren.  Their behaviour was very poor: a complete inability to listen, and the wish  to simply tell Lord Sugar how bad the other candidates are and how good they are.

It seemed as though having decided to fire the first person, the remaining two thought they were safe and failed to simply keep quiet.  Lord Sugar then went on a bit of a firing rampage and got rid of the second, and then when the leader thought she was safe and was still talking her fired her.  She couldn’t believe it and continued to explain why she needed a second chance.

Rules is rules.  If you are playing someone else’s game with someone else’s rules they can do what they like.  Running a Care Home means exhibiting some caring qualities, having an online dating site would involve some web experience, having a film business would seem a more natural activity if you have uploaded videos to YouTube.  Each of the candidates lacked some basic experience in actually taking an approach that showed some graft and the wish to get started. Lord Sugar of all people, favours in-the-trenches experience over academic qualifications.

Three people have never been fired before in one episode in all of the 10 years that the programme has been running.

The business take away is that your customers may not have behaved in a certain way before, but don’t assume they won’t.

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Your blog is a gateway to your readers

September 24th, 2014 · Inspiration, Uncategorized


Your blog is a gateway

Your blog is a gateway

Your blog is a gateway to your readers.  They don’t want to get to the gate they want to go through it and have a fantastic journey.

In fact they don’t really want the journey at all they just want what they want at the end of it.

What is that?

The solution to their problem.  The answer.  Presented in the right way exactly for them.  At this point they are unlikely to care about you at all.

They need to know you know your stuff and that you care enough to help them.

They will check you out.  Test you.  See if you have the answer.

If you have, you will have a reader who is likely to want to know your take on their problem.  The specific ways in which your experience and expertise can help.

This photograph was taken in France.  We turned up at the gate because there was a sign on the road advertising crepes / pancakes and we were starving.

The sign was not inviting but it was a Sunday night and we had been told there was nowhere else to eat within 15 kilometres.  We wanted food and didn’t really care what it was.

What a delight to get to this gate and realise we were going to have a more interesting experience than simply eating a crepe.

What an intriguing view.  We couldn’t wait to walk into the garden. This looked like an adventure we wanted to have.

We were’t disappointed in any way.  The garden inside was sensational.  Something beautiful wherever you looked. Lovely old trees.  Rambling roses rambling.   Little tables tucked into exciting nooks and crannies.  And the thing we had originally gone for was amazing.

It was all organic.   They were the best crepes I had ever tasted!  We ate inside as it was not very warm in a small room and we exchanged friendly snippets of conversation with people at other tables.

Would I go back?  Definitely!  I will positively organise my time so that we go there again!

The gateway was inviting… as you can see.

How can you make your blog the equivalent of a beautiful gateway that will appeal to your readers?  Don’t hit them over the head with information but provide an element of intrigue to satisfy curiosity, so that they want to walk, skip or run along the path!

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National Stationery Week 2014. Enjoy stationery!

April 4th, 2014 · Marketing, Words

National Stationery Week is the perfect time to give yourself permission to buy some beautiful stationery!

I have lost track of the number of ” We love notebooks” conversations I have had with small business owners.

It seems although we also love technology and wouldn’t be parted from our smartphones, nothing quite beats the look and feel of real paper.

I think there is a direct connection between the brain and the hand holding a pen and touching paper.  It brings a more satisfying sense of touch than a keyboard, and in my experience people write better.  They are more relaxed and better able to access the whole of their brain.

Paper has gone out of fashion so has far more novelty value.  A lovely notecard or letter – maybe with your own initial – is a memorable way of staying in touch with clients.  Most people I talk to love the feel of the paper, and also enjoy having a card to put on the mantelpiece.  Especially if you are a service business and you like your clients writing cards can be a real pleasure.

Jacqueline Rogers of The Athena Network sent me a card yesterday which was a real pleasure to receive. She told me

” I love writing cards of thanks to the members in my groups.  Each card is different and it is a real pleasure to write, not a chore.  Plus a beautiful image helps me to feel even better about it.”

Another idea is to send a card or note with your own or a relevant initial.  A more relaxed version of a logo which could help to contribute a feeling of exclusivity .  WolfandInk have some special designs for National Stationery Week and a competition to win a notepad.

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International Women’s Day – which writers do you admire?

March 6th, 2014 · Inspiration

International Womens Day is a great opportunity to think about women we admire. We can learn from their success but also from their setbacks.  In fact, failure or difficulties overcome can often be more powerful motivators than success.

This International Women’s Day I am choosing to acknowledge women who write.

One of the biggest disadvantages of being taken seriously as a writer can in fact, be about being female.  Probably the best-known English writers who published as men were the Bronte sisters. Anne Bronte (“The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”) became Acton Bell, Emily Bronte (“WutheringHeights”) published as Ellis Bell, their sister Charlotte (“Jane Eyre”, “Villette”) published as Currer Bell.  They could have published under their own names but in the 1840’s the books of lady novelists were taken less seriously.  And anyway they didn’t probably think of themselves as “lady novelists” at all.  They had the disadvantage of growing up in a remote village in Yorkshire and had a tough life.  But they turned that into an advantage, and large parts of Jane Eyre are based on their childhood.

The other Victorian woman who published under a male name was of course, George Eliot (best known for “Middlemarch”) whose real name was Marianne Evans.  I also admire George Eliot because she was a very clever woman who lived (unmarried) with a man who was described as a “barbers block” .  He was almost too good looking for his own good. I would imagine in the 1840’s it took a lot of courage to live – “in sin” – with a good looking man, especially if you are more of an intellectual.  The equivalent today might be if you are a woman running a successful business and your partner is a cute looking drummer in a not very successful band.

The other writer is really admire for her determination is Sue Townsend who first came to fame with the Adrian Charlotte BronteMole books.  When she first started writing she used to hide the paper she wrote on under the cushions on her sofa.  Her then husband would not have approved.  Living with disapproval is not easy, but she didn’t let that define her.  Sue later married happily and has been supported by her husband, but has had diabetes for many years and her vision is impaired.  She cannot actually see enough to write, and dictates her books to a member of her family.  So Sue has continued to have obstacles but has not let that hold her back from writing.  She has now published over 10 books and counting.

So if you have full use of your eyes and hands, nobody disapproves, and you can be yourself the question is “Are you writing what you want to?”  A blog can be set up quickly and you can get your message out there without even having to contact a publisher.

Sometimes what hold us back is difficult to identify.  Often the equation involves permission to write and the realisation that the only permission we need is from ourselves.

Thinking about the difficulties that someone you admire has gone through can often be the catalyst to get you going.  Who do you admire?  Have they had to overcome a disadvantage?

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