Spark into Marketing

Small business marketing ideas and inspiration

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Have you had an “off” day recently?

July 17th, 2015 · Inspiration

Have you had some off days recently?

Wimbledon, Ascot, Lords …. Or just a picnic with friends and family?

Summer is the time to get away from your work and have a day off.  Take time out.  A planned day off for a special event is usually something you want to do and feel entitled to do.

“Off ” days

But what if you have an “off” day which is different from a planned Day Off.  And you can’t work out the reason for it?

Two days ago I had an “off” afternoon.  I didn’t plan it. It took me a long time to realise I was doing it. It wasn’t until I was half way through a scone with cream and raspberry jam that I woke up and realised what was going on!

  • I suddenly thought I don’t want to do any work.
  • I don’t want to think.
  • I feel like a spot of shopping  – or window shopping and seeing the world going on around me.

If I had been with a friend, my partner or someone in my family I would have counted it as a Day Off.

My “off” days happen when I am on my own.  They usually come at me from nowhere and I suddenly feel as though I must go and do something and get out of the house.  I tell myself that I will “do some work” to justify it.  This usually means take my notebook and write. But I never do.

I feel a vague kind of discontent.  I don’t want to see a film or read a book – I am too jumpy for that. I don’t even want to gaze at a beautiful view.  Nor do I want to do what I normally love .. have a good conversation. I have a need to soak up a variety of quick experiences as an outsider. Being in a shops or a busy shopping centre with lots of people around seems to be the answer.

What is the point of having an “off” day?

No point at all at the time!

I have been tempted to justify it by saying it is the essential darkness before the dawn.  The drought period before a surge of creativity but in my experience that is not always the case.  I have felt more comfortable looking back afterwards and telling myself I just needed the space.

But probably a more honest approach is to simply enjoy it.  Go with the flow.  When I do that and trust that my whole life will not be spent in this phase I think it helps to get through it.

The next day after your subconscious has absorbed the experience and you have slept, it is helpful to check in and see if you feel more engaged.   Usually I find I do… but not always.

It feels like a downtime between worlds.  It is neither fully engaged relaxation, nor is it fully engaged concentration.  Both of which are life-affirming.

It is a bit like the space between the stones in a drystone wall.  No cement needed. Simply space that allows everything else to have shape.Enjoy it.  Feel no shame.

Maybe there is no point to it.  It just is.  And that is the point! After all in the old days we would have had a lot more quiet time … walking to places, working in the fields, kneading bread, churning butter, doing repetitive household tasks that did not use our whole brain.  Perhaps we still need those times in our sped-up world.

Or maybe the point is to acknowledge your own instincts and this is a perfect opportunity to practise not fighting them …

What do you think?  Do you have “off” days, too?

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Biz Buzz on Marlow FM – away from the office / studio

June 16th, 2015 · Marketing

Marlow FM 97.5 broadcast for a week from a coffee shop in the high street in Marlow.  So Biz Buzz the programme about business moved out of the studio.   It was all part of the “Love Marlow” initiative about bringing communities together.

Getting away from the studio encouraged discussion of getting away from your business.  As I had to get used to different technology and a different environment it allowed for a different way of being and thinking.

Jean Wolfe presenting the Biz Buzz show on Marlow FM

Jean Wolfe presenting the Biz Buzz show on Marlow FM with guests Jan Campbell and Alice Nugent.

The studio was located in the front of Starbucks and as the weather was warm all the windows were pulled right back.  So effectively it felt as though we were on the street.  I first noticed that people were smiling at me, and then I started smiling at everyone too.  It was a wonderful sensation and I imagine because they could see I was part of a radio station they felt more relaxed than if we had crossed paths in the street.  Usually I am in the studio with a guest and the outside world is not so evident.

When I was joined by Jan Campbell and Alice Nugent they too enjoyed the fun of it.  So even while we had a good conversation we were aware of all the people going past.

Getting away in the old days meant getting away from the office.  Then it meant getting away from your laptop.  Now it means turning off the mobile phone in your pocket and forgetting about it.  Once you can get away from the insistent demands from the world, you have more chance of tuning in to you and actually improving the quality of your thinking.

So as we were “out of the office” I asked Jan and Alice about where they wanted their business to go, and how they wanted their life to be in,

say, 5 years time.  This is exactly the sort of question that can be hard to answer if you are jumping up and down and responding to clients all the time.

Alice started Hippopot is a medical herbalist and after 10 years of individual consultations has added another income stream to her business.  She is making teas for specific ailments that produce the desired result.  So her teas can help promote sleep, reduce anxiety and so on.   Unlike chinese herbs that are bitter to taste, Alice has made her teas pleasant to drink so they can be a natural part of life rather than be viewed as a medicine.  Her plan for the next 5 years is to increase the sales of her teas and so reach more people than is possible just with one to one meetings.  Basically she wants to scale her business up. See her business at Hippopot.

Jan helps business define their strategy and therefore make it more successful – depending on what success means to them.  She loves working face to face with companies but is keen to factor in her personal life as well.  Having spent many years helping corporates and not having enough time for her own life she now wants to make sure she supports her lifestyle rather than fitting her life round it.  Jan’s answer fits very much into the zeitgeist.  See Jan’s website

Do you want to work for somebody else all the hours of day and night?  That is what many corporate jobs offer.  Lots of money but no life.

Do people want to simply look after children, or at the end of the age spectrum just retire?

No most people I speak to want a business doing something they love but having time for social life and personal life… time for a lifestyle.

A “lifestyle” business has traditionally not been seen as a serious business but I feel it is the way forward for the future.

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Sign in or Sign up?

June 10th, 2015 · Internet Marketing

sign in sign up for sites

Sign in sign up

Sign in and Sign Up can look as though they are interchangeable and mean the same thing.

Sign In

In fact Sign In is the instruction found on many websites and indicates you already have an account and have registered with them.  So this is where you go back to add in your email address and password.

You could also see the expression Log In which effectively means the same thing.

I was with a client yesterday who was slightly apprehensive online and confused the two words which were very close together on the screen and hard to distinguish.  She went for Sign In and in fact meant to go forSsign up.

Sign Up

Sign up is where you arrive on a site and decide to register.  No money has to change hands but they may want to have your email address and a password you generate in order to use their service.  You could also see the word “Register” which means the same thing.

If you have to create your own password it is important to remember it.  Do you know what the most popular password was found to be? Yes, the word ” Password!”

A good password is eight letters long, and includes letters and numbers and to make it even safer an additional symbol.  This could be something like !, @ .&, $, ( + #.

If you are a paper person and trust a notebook more than the web just write it down… and keep the notebook safe.  Unless your password is very memorable the chances are you might forget it.  Some sites you may decide are less important and so you create a more generic and easy to remember password.

Any site that represents you to the world might get hacked and effectively you could have your identity threatened so on these sites you want to make sure you have a good one.  You also might want to change the passwords occasionally to prevent the danger of getting hacked which would be big problem for you and your business. You can also keep your passwords in a spreadsheet online but buried deep and probably with a different name than Passwords. Some browsers remember your passwords if you give them permission (Google Chrome for instance) but it is better to keep a record as well in case your settings are altered and the memory is lost.


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Less cash more online payments and cheques

May 29th, 2015 · Marketing, Technology

Apparently for the first time we are spending less physical cash and using “virtual” payments more.

I am surprised it has taken this long, to be honest.

Why would you want to use cash?

It helps you to budget.  When you are out of money and the wallet is empty you can’t spend any more.  Simple.  It also helps to feel “real” about your money.  If you are a kinaesthetic type of person this is probably the way you feel happiest.  I remember having a French client and we discussed the fact that money in went into his right hand jacket pocket, and if there wasn’t enough there, he wouldn’t buy.

Why should you accept online payments as a business?

Because people will buy the course or service they want because they intend it to be an investment.  It is a business purchase, very different from paying for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake.

Last month for the first time two of my clients made payments to me via their mobile phones.  They had set up payments before and it was easy to simply pay the same amount again.  We are all getting more confident with online payments, and smart phones and tablets have made it easier when out and about.

I was at a craft fair at the weekend and wanted to buy a lovely vase.  Luckily the potter was able to take cards so payment was easy as I had a card but not enough cash and no chequebook.

Then we moved to a stall of wooden turned product and my friend wanted to buy a bowl.  The wood turner did not have the facility to take cards, so it had to be cash or a cheque.    As it happened it was not very expensive, and the cash was found.  If it had been a lot of money, however, the purchase would not have happened.

So we talked about taking payment (well, I did!)  and discovered that the stall holder was thinking of taking up the new option from paypal. We had a big discussion with the neighbouring stall holders, too, who were also in the same situation.  Paypal makes quite a low initial charge then a percentage on top but it may well be a cheaper option than taking cards with a card reader.   However it does require customers to have a smartphone, internet access and a paypal account but all those things look increasingly likely these days.

So if you do not have the option to take easy payments from your clients, now is the time to take the step.

Money is on the way out, and of course helps your clients to budget and resist those impulses to impulse purchase!

What business owner wants that?


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What can business learn from the General Election?

May 8th, 2015 · Bit of a Rant

What can business learn from the General Election?

Despite all predictions that this would be a close run election and difficult to predict, in fact one party has done much better than the others.  So what can we learn as business owners?

People don’t do what they say they will do!

All the opinion polls got it wrong.   The only polls that were predicting a conservative win were the polls tracking the record of what people had done, rather than asking what they were planning to do.

We often hear that the foolproof way to predict what your customers will do is to ask them.  The big problem here is that you are asking questions in a vacuum.  When it comes to actually paying very often the story is very different from what people say they will do.  It can work both ways, however.  Sometimes even though you may have received negative feedback about your product or service, in fact you can find that people will buy!

My own experience was in offering product and packaging to potential customers.  I was told that nobody would ever buy it, and the colours we chose were completely unacceptable.  In fact in both cases the product was incredibly popular, and the colours chosen were adopted by the customers for their own branding!  Seriously you can’t preplan for both success or defeat.

Social media is important and may become more so.

There was a comment allegedly by Nick Clegg put on twitter by a Liberal Democrat which actually made the mainstream news.   Social media is increasingly important and is unlikely to go away in the near future.

UKIP are saying that a lot of their voters are younger and that social media was an important part of their campaign.  When you think that traditionally it was all about door to door canvassing politics is moving more towards using social media.  Even if you don’t get the “Win” the support is very important.  Staying in touch with your “supporters” with social media, email etc means that maybe the win can come later.

 Strategy is key. 

Patching things up and moving forward with a quick alternative is not the answer.

Labour’s losses both in Scotland and in England and Wales are being attributed to the loss of direction.  Traditional Labour voters were not sure what Labour stood for, and Labour was not appealing to new voters.  It is important to get the strategic vision right.


You are only as strong as the people who believe in you.

Your voters, your customers are what you are all about.  David Cameron has used the word Serve in relation to becoming Prime Minister again.


It is tough when things don’t go right.

The people who have failed to get re-elected : Nigel Farage, Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Ed Balls, for example have by and large been dignified in defeat.  It is extra tough in politics when your failure is so public and quite so brutal.  In business you can spring back after failure – even bankruptcy.  But it is always tough.

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Winner of the BBC Big Painting Challenge – Paul Bell

April 28th, 2015 · Inspiration, Marketing

Are you an artist?  Would you like to become one?  Winning a television competition is an excellent way to kickstart your career.

It sounds like an improbable dream but it happened for Paul Bell.  Paul was an amateur artist when he entered the competition and – since his win – now has decided to commit to a full-time career as an artist.

Paul came into the Biz Buzz studio and spoke about his experiences.  If you have a chance to go for a competition, Paul’s advice is to go for it.

He spoke about his time on the television show and what it was like

and what his plans are now. Of course the issue for any painter is how to get your painting seen by prospective buyers and knowing how to charge.

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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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