Costly mistakes; everyone makes them

Mistake!
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In 1962, NASA took on the first interplanetary mission with spacecraft Mariner 1. Unfortunately, the mission was cut expensively short after a hyphen spelling error in a punch card, which caused the destination to change. The change in destination sent the spacecraft into a collision path, so 293 seconds into the mission the spacecraft had to be destroyed. This simple error in NASA’s code helped doom the Mariner 1 mission, which cost $18.5 million – remember that this was in 1962, and is equivalent to a lot more today.

The moral of the story is that everybody makes mistakes!

If you don’t believe you make errors or mistakes then you are lying to yourself; even the most skilled people make errors in documents, CV’s, code and more! Sometimes these errors can be brushed aside but at other times, they are critical, costly and can affect your company’s and your reputation.

I’m guilty of it – no matter how many times I proofread and spell check my work there is always that one small error. Unfortunately, you typically don’t see it until after you hit the send button or submit the final copy for distribution, which is then followed by that sickly feeling when the mistake comes to light.

So why do you make mistakes?

The problem arises most often when you are working hard; your brain optimises itself by interpreting words without reading the whole word. This means your brain can focus on difficult tasks such as forming complex ideas. The better you know the content the more efficient your brain is at optimising your reading by skimming over the words (as if you’re on autopilot) and the more likely you are to miss things.

How can you stop making those errors and mistakes?
To look at your work with a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ you need to trick your brain into de-familiarising itself with material you are working on; below are a few tips to stop you from making any troublesome mistakes.

1. Step away from your work
My first suggestion is to step away from your work and come back to it later. This is not fool-proof but using a different part of your brain and focussing on another activity can allow you to come back to your work fresh and ready to proof with a new set of eyes.

2. Change your spelling and grammar settings in word
It surprises me how often people have the advanced spelling settings turned off – this can be really helpful when it comes to proofing. One thing to note is that if you are a Google Docs fan is that Google Docs spelling/grammar settings aren’t as comprehensive – so export it and check outside Google. The same goes for writing emails in Outlook – write your email in Word first then paste it in Outlook.

3. When working online, proof offline
When working on your computer you are guaranteed to make typing errors (amongst others), so make sure you print out your work and proof read the printed version.

4. De-familiarise your brain with your work
The more attached you are to something or the more familiar it is to you, the more likely you will not see your errors so de-familiarise your brain. Do this by changing the colour of the text or background or changing the font type (i.e. switch between two distinctive Serif and Sans fonts). This will help trick your brain into thinking that it is something new that you are reading.

5. Get someone else to check your work
Lastly and where possible, get someone (who hasn’t been involved with your work) to check it, as they will have the best chance of spotting any errors.

Hopefully you work in an environment where a mistake won’t result in a multi-million dollar spaceship being blown out of the sky… but for most of us it certainly doesn’t make you feel great when one is spotted in your work!

Make sure you put the checks and processes in place to help minimise those mistakes and spelling errors, and ultimately give you some piece of mind.
If you want to read more on why our brains make mistakes, check out Wired’s post with psychologist Tom Stafford, who studies typos at the University of Sheffield. I welcome your feedback, any funny but less than ideal mistakes you have seen, and suggestions on how you prevent mistakes in your work (and hopefully there aren’t too many in mine above).

This blog post was originally posted on the Potentia blog

My advice for Kiwi and expat marketers wanting to work in London

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I was recently contacted by a marketing graduate in New Zealand about coming to London, United Kingdom to work in Marketing, so I thought I might as well share my experience to other Kiwi/Expat marketers considering moving to London and seeking work.

To start off, if you want to do well in London, I would recommend getting experience before moving to the UK. It is not an easy job market for most and it is an even harder environment for a graduate. While I was in London I met several European graduates whose parents paid for them to go to London to do 6 to 8 month unpaid internships. So as you can imagine it’s not the easiest for a graduate without well off parents to support them while they do an unpaid internship!

Up skill and do your research before heading to the UK

It is good to know what part of marketing you prefer and research what recruiters are looking for in candidates in those types of roles. I worked in all rounded marketing roles before moving to the UK, however in all my roles I made an extra effort on focusing on improving the CRM and digital aspects of the businesses i.e. email marketing, social media, web/SEO and customer journeys. I learnt basic html coding skills at university and then self-taught email specific coding and best practices – this is what helped me stand out to recruiters and secure roles.

Before moving to the UK I went to a Global Career Link seminar where they told me all about the job market, life in the UK and what to expect. Following the seminar I was put in touch with one of their staff members who helped me tailor my CV to the UK job market. They also set realistic expectations on what type of role I could potentially get and what type of pay I would be looking at. Depending on what experience you have they can also set up interviews with recruiters for you when you arrive.

Will finding a job be easy?

Many people think getting a job in London will be easy. Unless you get lucky most people will need to put in a bit of work especially to secure their first job.

First, I would recommend building strong relationships with recruiters as most roles are recruited through agencies rather than direct (especially if you are after contract work).

Next network as much as you can and keep on top of the latest jobs as if you wait for the closing date your CV probably won’t get looked at.

A few good digital resources

If you enjoy digital marketing I would learn a bit of html and sign up to email newsletters that will help teach you the latest research and findings in the marketplace A few of my favourites are Jericho Smartmail (NZ email provider) have great newsletters , econsultancy, Sticky Content (writing for digital) and Smartbrief (daily email on any topic – the social media and career ones are great) . I can recommend others if there are particular areas you want to keep up to speed with. In addition, Twitter and LinkedIn are great places to learn off others, ask questions and sometimes find jobs. Recruiters use LinkedIn quite a lot in the UK and I was approached about several jobs through LinkedIn based on recruiters seeing my profile and experience on LinkedIn.

Finally, I absolutely loved working in London and would highly recommend at least giving it a go. If you have any specific questions I am happy to help out if I can, otherwise check out the websites that I mentioned above and good luck!


“Think not of yourself as the architect of your career but as the sculptor. Expect to have to do a lot of hard hammering and chiselling and scraping and polishing.” BC Forbes

*Disclaimer: these are just my thoughts and opinions from my experiences so please don’t take everything as gospel!

 

Is it possible to separate your personal life and work life on social networks like LinkedIn?

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Many individuals join professional social networks like LinkedIn for their own professional development rather than as brand ambassadors for their work.

Over the last year I have engaged with many people on social media platforms and have found it hard to separate the two on some networks such as LinkedIn. In my last position for a membership organisation, I often was personally contacted on LinkedIn and Twitter about the organisation. This led me to think about how, if I should or if I even could separate work from play.

Like many people I know I initially joined LinkedIn for my professional development and to keep in touch with contacts who I have met through networking, events and work. At first I wasn’t too sure what I thought of people contacting me directly about my work seeking more information. But it made sense as people like dealing with people who they can put a face and name to. Inevitably if you work in marketing and are doing your job properly you will probably end up becoming a brand ambassador whether you like it or not. If you do not want to be a brand ambassador for your company then perhaps you should rethink what and who you should work for.

With the explosion of social media not only the marketing team and stakeholders need to be brand advocates – all employees need to be as well. Employers also have to take care in making sure all staff will represent their brand in the right light or at the least don’t do the opposite. This does not mean that every employee has to be out there promoting the brand and company through their social networks, but that they should at least know how to respond and act. For example, if an individual asks for information about their workplace via LinkedIn employees should know how to respond and direct them to the right person who can help in their organisation.

Ultimately, my active use of social media over the years for work and play has highlighted how important it is to become a brand ambassador for my work. To me, this can only be done if I am passionate and believe in the organisation I work for. This is now a key factor in my job hunt for my next London marketing role!

I am interested to hear whether you have had the same experience and/or whether you have chosen to keep the two separate?

Helpful websites and links – Delicious

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Just a quick post to let you know that I have started to use Delicious and you can find me at http://www.delicious.com/LivvyMarketing. For those of you who do not know what Delicious is, it is a ‘social bookmarking service that allows users to tag, save, manage, and share web pages from a centralized source’ (www.delicious.com/help/about).

If you own your own business it’s also quite interesting to pop in your business url to see who has added you to their bookmarks. It is good to see who is an advocate and/or sees your business website or webpage as being worthwhile to visit.

I personally find it quite useful, as I often access the internet on several different computers at work and home, my iPod touch and iPad, so I always have to re-save my bookmarks. According to Wikipedia, Delicious has been around since September 2003 and was acquired by Yahoo! in 2005.

Another benefit from using Delicious for bookmarking is instead of putting your bookmarks into folders you simply list all the keywords (tags) that relate to the website or page. This makes it easier to find saved bookmarks – especially if you are someone like me who in the past bookmarked many pages on my web browser, then got overwhelmed with the amount of folders and sub folders I had. Not to mention that when I upgraded my laptop I lost them all.

Simple tips/reminders for marketing emails

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Test, test, test!!

I keep finding it so painful seeing emails that haven’t been tested before being sent out. The most recent one I received included an image that hadn’t been re-sized before placing it into the email body, which then stuffed up the whole format of the email. Some email systems will show the emails properly but others won’t, so make sure you test your email in as many email systems as possible i.e. Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail etc.

The other thing that frustrates me is New Zealand businesses email campaigns not including a unsubscribe option, which is mandatory as part of the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007.

Businesses should create a checklist and go through it before sending out marketing emails. Below are a few quick things to check and make sure you have done correctly. These points are really for small businesses that don’t have the budget for proper email campaign software.

Include a unsubscribe facility

This can be as simple as stating that if you wish to unsubscribe from further communication to reply with unsubscribe in the subject line. I would also suggest merging in the recipients email address into the email (i.e. you are subscribed as bob@xtra.co.nz) as many people have other email addresses forwarded to them especially if it’s a business email. Please do not make the unsubscribe button as an image as if a recipient has their images set to off they will not be able to see it.

Place recipients in the BCC field

If you are sending out a bulk email from a standard email address and not a specific email campaign system make sure you put all recipients in the BCC field and not the TO field.

Resolution and Image size

Re-size images to the size you want before placing into your email and make sure the image resolution is low/small (around 92 dpi). If you do not have Photoshop or similar software, you can easily do this in Microsoft Office Picture Manager. To re-size images on Microsoft Office Picture Manager click on Picture, then Re-size and to change the resolution select Picture, then Compress Pictures.

Emails set as an image

Do not make your whole email one big image as not everyone will be able to read it (my gym constantly does this and sometimes the picture is quite pixellated and hard to read). Many people have their email settings set to not show images, and if they receive an email as a full image, they may not even bother to click on the view images button.
Subject line – do make sure you include text in the subject line and make sure it doesn’t say something like ‘Test Email’. You would be surprised how many emails I have received that have made this careless mistake.

Spelling and grammar

Check your spelling and grammar and don’t just rely on your computer spell check. If you were writing a letter you would check these things, so make some time to proof read your work. Ideally print it out and get someone else to proof read it.

Test, test, test!!

Make sure you test your email in as many email browsers as you can. Do all the links work? Do you have your contact details? Do you have a unsubscribe facility? Have you balanced text to images? Can you view the email in several email systems? Have you checked your spelling and grammar?

There are many other aspects and issues when you are sending out marketing/promotional emails, so this is only a taste of what you should know and check. For example, you should not send out bulk emails from your Outlook address as you are on the track of getting your IP address blacklisted and you don’t get any statistics on who has opened your email, but that’s a whole different topic for another blog post.

If you want to see some great examples of poor emails and more tips on the do’s and don’ts of email marketing, you should check out Jericho’s blog.

No security blankets for SMEs with social media

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Small businesses are trying to keep up to speed with new age marketing and promotion through Social Media, yet many are making crucial mistakes and don’t realise until it’s too late. 

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Traditionally if a business wanted to promote themselves they would advertise through mediums such as print/newspapers, radio or television. When placing an advert small businesses would usually have at least some sort of security that if they were doing something illegal or wrong  someone would pick it up and let them know before it was published.

However with Social Media anyone can jump on and initially post what you want without someone saying ‘hey you’re doing it wrong’ or ‘you will get banned from the site for doing that’. What I have noticed is that there are many small business owners who have heard that Facebook is great for promotion and brand awareness, so they jump on board before finding out how it should be done properly and without any guidance.

One major mistake that I keep on seeing time and time again is small businesses creating a Facebook page by setting up their profile as a personal profile instead of a fan/business page.  This error and its possible consequences are not great as Facebook are continually banning businesses from doing this. It doesn’t matter if a business tries to play innocent as if they actually read the terms and conditions for setting up a profile they would know they were not complying. Mobilize Mail have recently done some research on New Zealand businesses on Facebook. They found that almost 90% of the businesses they surveyed were using a personal profile to promote their business! (Scoop article on Mobilize)

Some may think that it is quite harsh of Facebook to ban businesses who make that crucial mistake, but really for privacy reasons they are not.  For example, when most people add a person as a friend on Facebook they do not add them to a limited profile (a privacy setting option). This means that if you accept a friend on your personal Facebook profile that is actually a business they will be able to see all your photos, access all your details that you have for only your friends to view.

Now you might think who would accept a friend request from a business? Well one example is a business where people sign up to their service and they then receive free drink vouchers for bars in their area. Who would say no to free drinks? As you can imagine they have quickly become  popular.  Not too long ago the business decided to create a Facebook page, but instead of being a fan page they created it under a personal profile.  As you would expect many people have added the business as a friend. 

With the consumer in mind, I expect many people have not thought about how much personal information they are inadvertently sharing with the business. With the business in mind, they now have a huge following on Facebook and all it will now take is Facebook noticing that they are a business and banning them from Facebook entirely and permanently.  Probably the one lucky thing for this business is that at least they maintain their database through their website and  will probably not lose too many fans from their profile being closed. However it will not have crossed many other small businesses and entrepreneurs minds to own their own database by taking fans off Facebook and gaining their details. As all it takes is making one mistake or Facebook making a judgement call for all those contacts and fans to disappear, and that goes for all social media.

Let’s face it, many of the small businesses who fall into this trap or make other crucial mistakes just don’t know what they are doing and don’t have the funds to use an agency to set it up for them and tell them what they should do. The question is as marketers do we say tough to all the businesses we see doing it wrong and let them eventually suffer the consequences or do we tell them out of our own good will? Considering that potentially 90% of New Zealand businesses are using Facebook the wrong way should we be more active and help those small businesses by getting out there and spreading the word?