‘Anywhere Working’ for small businesses infographic

anywhere working event

We (Articulate) recently ran a Microsoft small business mini summit focused on ‘Anywhere Working’. The 22 attendees contributed their experiences and expertise and guest speakers told us about the technology, culture and spaces you need to make ‘anywhere working’ work for your small business.

As a virtual small business ourselves, we were keen to learn how other small businesses:

  • Keep their staff motivated
  • Ensure reliable access to applications and documents
  • And find suitable places to work, collaborate and network

Microsoft will be publishing an ebook containing all that lovely advice and info on their Modern Biz website – so be sure to sign up to the Yammer group and look out for that.

In the mean time, check out this infographic for a round up of the top tips and stats from the event.

(Full disclosure: we also wrote the ebook and created the infographic. Contact us if we can help you with this kind of content marketing.)

Anywhere working microsoft infographic

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Essential business grammar lesson 13: how to use apostrophes

How to use apostrphes: An aposrophe is the difference between a business that knows its shit and a business that knows it's shit.

Whose apostrophes are they anyway?

Apostrophes are the punctuation marks we use to show ownership or contraction. They are not decoration and should always be used with care and precision.

Apostrophes also seem to cause people the biggest grammatical headaches. But don’t worry, if you want to know how to use apostrophes, it’s really very simple.

Plurals

With few exceptions, words are made plural by adding an s or es at the end.

  • box = boxes
  • paper = papers
  • editor = editors

Do not make the common mistake of trying to pluralise a word by adding an apostrophe. Apostrophes are not used to make a word plural. Not even acronyms, so it’s DVDs not DVD’s.

Simple possession

If one noun (name of something) in a sentence belongs to another noun in the sentence then you need an apostrophe and an ‘s’ to denote that ownership.

  • The notebook that belongs to the employee = The employee’s notebook
  • The profits made by a company = A company’s profits
  • The will of the people = The people’s will
  • The orders of the boss = The boss’s orders

Personal names

For personal names, the normal rule is to add an apostrophe plus ‘s’ if you would normally pronounce the extra ‘s’ when speaking the word, or just the apostrophe on its own if you wouldn’t:

  • Dickens’s books
  • Connors’ racket

Plurals ending in s

If the word is plural and ends in s already, you just add the apostrophe without the extra s:

  • The advisors’ recommendations
  • Two weeks’ notice

Compound Possession

When two or more people own a single item, you have what is called a compound possession, which has its own set of rules.

If two (or more) people share an item, only use an apostrophe on the last person’s name

  • That is Rachel and Adam’s office.

In this example, Rachel and Adam share the same, single office.

If you are talking about the separate belongings of two people, both names get an apostrophe.

  • Those are Rachel’s and Adam’s cubicles.

In this example, Rachel and Adam each have their own cubicle and you are talking about both.

How to use apostrophes for contractions

how to use apostrophes

Apostrophes are also used for contractions, where you shorten a word or phrase by removing letters and/or joining words together.

When you join two words together, use an apostrophe to stand in for the missing letter(s).

  • cannot = can’t
  • I have = I’ve
  • is not = isn’t
  • They see me rolling, they hating = they see me rollin’, they hatin’

Examples of correct usage

  • This research doesn’t support your statement.
  • Dan and John’s review is positive.
  • The company’s expense account is very large.

Ok, so I know I said at the beginning that apostrophes are really very easy. And indeed they are – mostly. As with everything in the English language, there are a few exceptions and we’ll cover those in next week’s lesson.

(Hat tip to weknowmemes for the gangster guinea pig)

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I did it for science: On the road with Surface Pro 3 and Windows 10 – full review

Surface Pro 3 and Windows 10 with keyboard and pen

‘California, I’m coming home,’ sings Joni Mitchell as I write this with a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and Windows 10. I’m at 32,000 feet above Montana in a Virgin 747 en route to San Francisco.

For a geek like me, a laptop is an essential travelling companion. It’s the tool geeks use to connect to our world. So it’s important to have the right one and get it set up the exact way we like it.

On this trip I have left behind my trusty MacBook Air and taken a shiny new Surface Pro 3, which starts at around £639, courtesy of my friends at Microsoft. (Full disclosure: they’re an Articulate client and they gave me the Surface. Lucky me. But this review is my own and they didn’t see it before publication.)

Would the Surface be Tarzan or Lord Greystoke? Rough and ready or suave and elegant? I have to admit that I was a little wary at first. I don’t like Windows 8.1 (sorry, Microsoft) and, although I use a Windows computer as my main day-to-day desktop, I’m a bit of an Apple fanboy.

Getting ready

I made the decision to take the Surface a week before the trip and it took a few days to get it ready. I installed:

  • Windows 10 Technical Preview. I have to say that Windows 8.1 made me feel frustrated and confused but Windows 10 (the Technical Preview is available online) just makes so much more sense. The Start menu is back, Modern apps run in Windows and the whole thing can switch quickly between tablet mode and desktop mode in a very seamless and logical way. Windows 10 is to Windows 8.1 what Windows 7 was to Vista.
  • Office 2013. I installed this using my Office 365 account and also set up OneNote (where I store all my notes) and Outlook (which I use for email). I am looking at the more touch-enabled Mail and OneNote clients for Windows 8 but I wanted to make sure I had familiar tools set up and running. It took about an hour to download all my notebooks and email.
  • Dropbox. Although Office 365 includes OneDrive for Business, there’s no client for the Macs my colleagues and I normally use so we have Dropbox for business and it works very well. But it took a couple of days to download all my work files. (Update: Microsoft Office 2016 includes this support and it’s also available online.)
  • X-Lite. This is the client for our hosted Spitfire phone system.
  • Chrome. I prefer Chrome to other browsers because it syncs all my passwords and has useful plugins set up, such as AdBlock, Sidekick, Todoist and HubSpot.
  • Kindle. I also downloaded a few books to read on Amazon’s Kindle app. I’m still taking my iPad Mini for reading but it’ll be interesting to see if I use the Surface too. The kick stand and amazing screen makes it an attractive reading device at a desk or table but it’s a bit heavy to hold for extended reading.
  • F.Lux. The screen is very bright at night but F.Lux changes the colour temperature to make it easier on the eyes. This is a highly recommended app for anyone who uses a computer for an extended period.

The Surface in use

At the airport, I checked my email at the lounge and answered a few Turbine support questions in Zendesk. (Turbine is an online app that we created to handle routine paperwork such as expense claims and purchase orders.) It’s as light in my bag as my MacBook Air and just as quick to start. On a table, the kick stand and keyboard cover work really well and the devices looks very smart. Sitting on a lounge chair, however, it’s not quite so comfortable because the stand sort of digs into my knees. Time to switch to tablet mode.

Matthew Stibbe using Microsoft Surface Pro 3
This flexible working is tough. Very tough.

Tablet mode

With Windows 8.1 you needed to swipe from the right to get the Charms menu and from the top to close apps and from the left to switch between apps and then there was the strange schizophrenic switching between the Modern UI and the old desktop. It all felt a bit arbitrary.

All that’s gone in Windows 10. There’s a start menu and a button to toggle it from a menu to a full screen mode. Swiping from the left shows thumbnails of all the open apps and from the right to bring up a notifications area. It’s much more logical and intuitive.

Windows 10 start menu

There’s a button in the notifications area to switch to tablet mode so that applications run in full screen mode. Modern apps run interchangeably with Windows apps. Again, it all feels very familiar and obvious and Apps suddenly make a lot more sense because they’re integrated with the rest of Windows but offer a simpler user experience.

The onscreen keyboard doesn’t feel as smart as the Apple iOS or Android keyboards. It doesn’t do so much prediction or auto-correction. It may be a case of getting used to it but I found myself making more mistakes with it than I do on my iPhone. Luckily the Type Cover keyboard works very well, adding little weight and folding neatly under the screen if you want to use it as a tablet.

With the keyboard out and the Surface’s clever kickstand deployed, the Surface looks very smart indeed. If Darth Vader needed a laptop, he’d use a Surface. And I mean that as a compliment.

Touch

I find myself using the touchscreen to interact with apps much more than I would have expected. In Word, for example, I touch the menu to choose styles and in Outlook, I use on-screen buttons to delete and file emails. It feels very natural. The trackpad on the Type Cover is also very usable but a little small compared to the touchpad on the MacBook.

I bought an Arc Surface mouse at the Microsoft Store in San Francisco so I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to interaction – keyboard, touchpad, pen, mouse AND a touchscreen. But it all works very well.

Surface Pro Arc Mouse

Likes and wishes

I return to this article after a week in San Francisco using the Surface every day, and now I’m editing it on a flight to Salzburg.

Surface Pro 3 on plane seat back tray table
Surface works fine on a fold-down airline seat tray

There is much to like about the Surface:

  • It looks fantastic, especially in laptop mode with the Type Cover attached.
  • The screen is amazing. Apple gets a lot of praise for its Retina displays but the Surface screen is every bit as good.
  • With Windows 10, the user interface is familiar, logical and easy. If you buy a Surface, I recommend upgrading immediately.
  • It’s light and portable as a laptop and the ingenious kick stand makes it very usable as a tablet.
  • I love being able to use full versions of Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. As a writer, I live in Word and I prefer the Windows version to the Mac version.
  • You can use it on a seat back in Economy and, ahem, it works fine on the table in Virgin Upper Class.
  • It’s fast and responsive. Waking the Surface up is virtually instantaneous and even rebooting takes less than 30 seconds. There’s no noticeable lag opening up new applications, running several apps at once or switching from one to another.
  • The power supply has a couple of nice touches: it includes a USB socket so you can charge a phone or camera as well as the Surface and it uses a standard power cable – the two prong stereo type rather than the three prong kettle plug – so you can buy different cables for different countries without paying a fortune for OEM versions (like you have to with Apple, for example).

I have a few wishes and mild criticisms:

  • I don’t care for the felt-like material used on the Type Cover. It feels out of sync with the aluminium and glass design of the rest of the device.
  • It’s probably too heavy to hold in your hands for an extended period so I’m not giving up the iPad Mini as my main reading device.
  • The pen is a useful option and the pressure-sensitive digitiser works well for drawing and annotating in OneNote but I wish that there was a place to store the pen inside the Surface when it’s not in use. Samsung finds room for the pen in its Note range of tablets and perhaps Microsoft’s engineers could take a leaf from their book for the Surface 4. As it is, I rarely have the pen when I would like to use it because it’s in my bag or back in the office.
  • I am concerned that the battery life may not be as generous in practice as Microsoft’s data suggests. The problem is not so much the Surface but the fact most Windows applications are not optimised for power consumption.

A tablet for all seasons

I think with the addition of a docking station, the Surface could be the perfect computer: an ultraportable laptop, a powerful desktop and a flexible tablet. Installing Windows 10 eliminates all the irritations of Windows 8.1 and, even in beta, makes the Surface a much more user-friendly device, especially for anyone familiar with earlier versions of Windows (which is pretty much everybody).

I love my MacBook Air. It’s the best laptop I have ever bought. Before I got the Surface, I thought that I would never want or use anything else. Now, I’m not so sure. After two weeks of using the Surface as my main computer, I could easily see it becoming my laptop of choice. In fact, I think it could easily replace my Windows desktop too. Microsoft’s ugly duckling has turned into a swan.

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Essential business grammar lesson 12: the passive voice (and zombies)

the passive voice: lego zombie

The active voice makes your writing easier to read, more persuasive and more confident.

The passive voice hides information, takes more effort to read and distances the writer from the reader.

There are – obviously – exceptions. The passive voice is famous for creating controversy and, in descriptive writing, it certainly has its place. It can also be useful for catchy straplines, like ‘Made in the USA’ or for pressing a point about how something or someone is acted upon.

But for business writing, where you need to be direct, informative and easy to read, you should avoid the passive.

What is the active voice?

The simplest format to spot the active voice in is a declarative sentence. As we learned in lesson one, a declarative sentence has a subject, a predicate and, usually, an object.

  • David delivered the packages.

This is a declarative sentence. David is the subject, ‘delivered’ is the predicate, and ‘the packages’ is the object.

This is an example of the active voice because the subject is completing an action. David is doing the delivering.

What is the passive voice?

Consider the same idea, but written a different way:

  • The packages were delivered by David.

The focus of this sentence is now the packages, and the packages are being acted upon.

The subject and object have not changed, but the predicate has changed to ‘were delivered’.

When the focus of the sentence is being acted upon – rather than doing the acting – you have the passive voice.

How do I tell the difference?

Break down your sentences into subject, predicate, and object, then consider their order. If the object is the focus of the sentence—if the object is in the spot you’d expect the subject to be in—then you are using the passive voice. Rearrange the sentence so the subject is the one doing the action.

Quick tip: to spot the passive, watch out for a missing subject, or one that you can grammatically replace with ‘by zombies’.

  • The reports were falsified [by zombies]
  • It is thought [by zombies] that cats like string.
  • Profits were eroded  [by zombies].
  • The packages were delivered by David by zombies.

Exceptions

There are occasions, even in business writing, where using the passive voice is necessary or where it makes more sense. They are, however, very rare and more often than not you can avoid them by rewording the sentence.

Examples of switching to the active voice

  • The report was completed by Cheryl

Becomes:

  • Cheryl completed the report

Or, perhaps,

  • Work is carried out to the highest standard so that return on investment is always achieved.

Becomes:

  • We work to the highest standard so that you always a achieve a return on your investment.

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Wanted: experienced part-time bookkeeper to join Team Articulate

keep-calm-and-hire-a-bookkeeper

About the job                                        

We’re looking for an experienced, part-time bookkeeper to set up and run the bookkeeping systems that Articulate – a small marketing agency based in Chiswick – needs to grow. You will:

  • Prepare monthly management accounts: P&L, balance sheet and cash flow
  • Set up and track business KPIs
  • Invoice clients and work with them to ensure prompt payment
  • Set up and maintain filing systems for financial records
  • Run our payroll, including year-end HMRC returns
  • Prepare VAT returns
  • Process staff expenses
  • Set up supplier payment runs
  • Keep cash flow projections up to date
  • Prepare other reports and analyses as required

It’s not a complex business but we currently use our accountants to do all this so we’re looking to bring it all in-house to ensure a more responsive, more cost-effective service.

The job will mostly be virtual, meaning that you can work from home, but you will need to come into the office in Chiswick from time to time for filing.

We offer an attractive package in line with the market based on experience.

We expect you will work around 20 hours a month and probably more in the first few months while you set everything up.

About us

Articulate Marketing works with some of the best technology companies in the world, including Microsoft, HP, Symantec and LinkedIn. We help them talk to business customers about their products. (In the jargon we do ‘B2B inbound content marketing’ but don’t let that put you off.)

The company currently has three staff and a small roster of freelance writers. But this is an exciting time to join us because we plan to grow quickly over the next three years and we want to get all our systems right from the beginning.

For more information about Articulate, see our website: www.articulatemarketing.com and you may also be interested in this article about our company culture: http://www.badlanguage.net/company-culture.

About you

You’re honest, discreet and experienced. You have a good eye for detail and great organisation skills. You love working with computers. You speak fluent ‘accountancy’ but you can translate it into plain business English for non-financial types.

Experience with online accountancy packages such as Xero would be helpful. Likewise, experience setting up systems from scratch.

You’ll be the only finance person on staff so you’ll need to be able to operate independently and confidently, working closely with the MD and building good relationships with our accountants, suppliers and clients.

To apply

Please send CV and covering letter to matthew@articulatemarketing.com no later than 30 April.

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Essential business grammar lesson 11: what are homonyms?

homonyms:a pair of pears

Where are those pairs of pears?

They’re there in their tree

What are homonyms?

Homonyms are words like they’re, there and their, which sound alike but have different spellings and meanings. These words are false friends and the most common mistakes in writing stem from people substituting one homonym for another.

For example, you don’t want to find yourself saying to clients,

  • You’re ad copy has increased click-through rates (CTR).

When what you mean is,

  • Your ad copy has increased click-through rates (CTR).

Maybe your business aims to insure customer satisfaction when they should aim to ensure it. If so, you are using a false friend.

Homonyms are also called homophones or homographs (although homographs have to be spelled the same, such as the different meanings of ‘fair‘). While homonym and homograph can be used interchangeably, our false friends can’t. When you use the incorrect know, grate or fare, you create sentences that make you look unprofessional. Would you buy from a company that claims: ‘You’ll get the hole experience for just $19.99’?

So, what are the most common homonyms and how do you use them correctly?

They’re, there and their

They’re is a contraction. A contraction is when you join and shorten two words by using an apostrophe. In this case, they’re means ‘they are’.

  • They’re there in their tree = They are there in their tree

There is an adverb. Adverbs are words that modify verbs (the doing or being words). Consider the previous example. ‘Are’ is the verb, and ‘there’ modifies the verb by pinning a location to it.

  • Where is my stapler? It is there.

Their is a possessive pronoun. It denotes ownership of something.

  • Who owns the copyright to this book? They do. It is their book.

Affect and effect

Affect is a verb that means to change or act upon an object. It is active, a ‘doing’ word.

  • What do we expect the discount to do? We expect the promotional discount to positively affect sales.

Effect is a noun (the name of something) that defines the resulting change.

  • What do we expect from the discount? We expect the discount to have a positive effect on sales.

Affecting something produces effects; actions produce things.

Except and accept

Except is a preposition, which is a word that expresses relationships between other words. Except indicates an exclusion.

  • Please send the memo to all of our clients except those in Spain.

The relationship between ‘all of our clients’ and ‘those in Spain’ is that while the Spanish clients are normally part of all the clients, on this occasion they are not to be included in the group: they are clients that are not part of ‘all our clients’.

Accept is a verb that means to agree with or receive.

  • Will all those who accept the new terms raise their hands?

Your and you’re

Your is a possessive pronoun (again, like ‘their’). It shows that the person you are talking to has ownership of something.

  • Your sales pitch is improving.

You’re is a contraction (again, like they’re). It means you are.

  • You’re up for a promotion = You are up for a promotion

Whose and who’s

Whose is a possessive pronoun (like ‘their’).

  • Whose responsibility is this?

Who’s is a contraction meaning who is (or who has).

  • Who’s organising the production binder for this project? = Who is organising the production binder for this project?
  • Who’s got the binder? = Who has got the binder?

The list could go on…

There are numerous homonyms in the English language. The safe approach to identifying them is to read your work aloud as you proofread. If you come to a word that sounds like other words you know, check its definition and spelling. This way, you won’t find yourself eating a pare (pear) at lunch, coming in forth (fourth) in the competition, or taking another grammar lessen (lesson).

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Social media success in 6 hours a week

Social media success in six hours week

6 hours a week; an hour a day (with two on Wednesday); three working days a month.

For businesses on the up and busy managers, it probably sounds like quite a lot of time, especially since you probably feel like you could do with three more days a month, not three less.

But when you look at what you can achieve in those six little hours, they might not seem so daunting.

The power of six hours

According to the Social Media Examiner’s 2014 industry report, nearly two thirds (64 percent) of marketers are using social media for six hours or more a week, and of those marketers:

  • More than half find it improves sales
  • 95+ percent indicated their social media efforts increased exposure for their business
  • More than half were able to build new business partnerships
  • Two thirds (66 percent) saw lead generation benefits
  • 60 percent saw improvements in search engine rankings
  • 84 percent saw site traffic increase
  • Almost three quarters were more likely to gain marketplace insight

Even those without a big old marketing department are catching up. A recent survey by Vertical Response found 43 percent of small businesses are now spending six hours a week or more on social media. And they’re getting strategic about it: over a third (36 percent) pay for publishing and analytics tools and 57.5 percent spend $26 or more per month.

Six secrets of social media success

Of course, to get such great results in so little time, you have to know what you’re doing and execute it with lightening speed. Gamers often refer to their APM (actions per minute) to gauge their skill and dexterity in real-time gameplay. In order to achieve social media success in just six hours a week, you need a high APM, knowing what actions to deploy, when and where.

  1. Target your time. Success doesn’t mean spreading yourself across every social media site you can find. Much better to figure out where your ideal customers are likely to hang out and focus your time there. 10,000 followers on Facebook is useless if none of them are likely to buy your product.
  2. Have an end game in mind for every action. Don’t just bleat out noise and hashtag the hell out of your updates. Think about why you’re posting a message: who’s it aimed at and what do you hope they’ll gain from it? What action are you ultimately hoping to prompt? What’s the business benefit?
  3. Have a checklist. Once you know what you’re doing and where, create a list that you can follow by rote. There are plenty online you can use as a starting point, from the basic HubSpot daily game plan to The Marketing Tech Blog’s sensible social media checklist.
  4. dog reaching outBuild relationships. Social media is about raising your profile and having a conversation. Make sure you do both and interact with influencers, potential customers and anyone who asks you a reasonable question. Look for people asking for help on topics your business is an expert in – go looking for relationships.
  5. Follow up. Don’t keep social media locked away in its own bubble. As you start to make connections, move them into the sales cycle: nurture them with emails and calls. Connect what you’re doing in social media to your wider campaigns and don’t forget to follow and delight existing customers.
  6. Create your own content. You have to be adding to the conversation, otherwise, as Matthew likes to say, ‘you’re just breaking eggs without making an omelette.’ Some people include writing blogs in their social media six hours, others place it in content creation. Either have way have some original content, and be sure to share it well.

Six essential tasks

Exactly how you spend your six hours will vary depending on your audience, what you sell and how you sell it, but there are a few things everyone should be squeezing into their six hours:

  • Review what’s working. What’s getting shared and liked? What’s not? And more importantly, what are your leads liking most? Are the number of qualified leads from social media increasing?
  • Schedule content. Just because you might spread your six hours over five days doesn’t mean you have to spend time posting every day. Line up posts in bulk and do one whole job at a time.
  • Respond. This is daily. Respond as quickly as possible when people reach out to you. Prove you’re paying attention.
  • old shop frontWatch what’s trending. Listen for mentions relevant to your industry, competitors and your own brand.
  • Reach out. Don’t just respond to what people say. Target people and start a conversation. Send an InMail or tweet a question. Be specific.
  • Keep your profiles up to date. Keep your logos, photos, links and descriptions up to scratch. No one’s impressed by a rundown shop front.

Marketing tools like HubSpot (yes, we use HubSpot) can help you with these tasks by pulling in data and making it easier to manage.

Stick to those six hours

Even if you start your optimised six hours a week today, you won’t see social media success straight away. These magic six hours a week have to happen every week, without fail, for the long term. Schedule them in your calendar and set to repeat indefinitely.

The other key finding in the Social Media Examiner’s report was that the longer you keep it up, the better the results are:

  • More than half of marketers who’ve been using social media for at least three years report it has helped them improve sales
  • More than half of marketers who’ve invested at least one year in social media report that new partnerships were gained
  • More than half of marketers with at least one year of social media experience were generating leads with social platforms

Finally, stay focused

Social media success with hands holding cardsSocial media might feel like a flighty task. In your personal life you’re probably used to Instagraming during dinner or Facebooking in front of the TV. But in business, you have to dedicate those six hours a week just to social media – it’s work, like any other part of your job.

No tweeting while you email or interacting on LinkedIn groups while you’re on the phone. You have to concentrate, focus and do it well to get results.

As Daniel Levitin, professor of psychology and behavioural neuroscience at McGill University says,

What it turns out is that we think we’re multitasking, but we’re not. The brain is sequential tasking, we flit from one thought to the next very, very rapidly, giving us the illusion that what we’re doing is doing all these things at once. But I’m here to tell you, as a neuroscientist, just because we think we’re doing something doesn’t mean we are. Our brains are very, very good at self-delusion.

Follow these tips in your six hours a week, and your social media success won’t need any self-delusion at all.

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Essential business grammar lesson ten: differentiating good and well

good and well: well done written

How was your day at work?

A common question heard in houses around the country after 5pm. But what’s the right answer?

  1. It was good.
  2. It was well.

Perhaps that’s an easy example. ‘It was well’ sounds odd, doesn’t it? Let’s consider an even simpler question.

How are you?

  1. I’m good.
  2. I’m well.

Not so clear this time right? In this case, the difference is in the verb. You need to ask yourself: are you using a linking verb or an action verb? Only then can you understand the difference between good and well.

Linking verbs

Linking verbs are those that connect two items. The most common linking verb is ‘to be’ and its conjugate  forms, such as I am, you are, he/she is.

  • He is late.

In this sentence, is connects him with his lateness.

For linking verbs, use ‘good’ to describe a quality.

  • She is good at her job.

Action verbs

Action verbs are those that indicate action. Run. Swim. Jump. Climb. Edit. Attend. Sell. Buy.

When describing an action verb, use well.

Consider this exchange.

  • How was your day at work? It went well.

Since went is the past tense of go, we have an action verb. Go clearly indicates action.

If all else fails…

Some grammarians argue that the difference between good and well is that good is an adjective and well is an adverb. Adjectives modify things and adverbs modify verbs.

Tip: if you’re describing an action, use well. If you are describing an object or thing, use good.

Well done…or is it?

We’re not done yet. You’ve probably seen hyphens used in conjunction with ‘well’. This adverb follows general rules for hyphenation.

  • Is it a well-done report? (Or ‘Is the report well done?’)

Good is rarely, if ever, used in hyphenated words.

In some cases, a hyphenated version of well can replace good. This happens when the word ‘well’ is hyphenated with is the action verb. A good report can also be a well-done report, where ‘done’ is the action verb.

The exception

Sensory verbs – smell, see, feel, hear, and taste – can be both action and linking verbs.

If you are actively using the sense, treat it like an action verb and use ‘well’.

If you are not actively using the sense, treat it like a linking verb and use ‘good’.

  • Can you hear me at the back? We can hear you well.

The people at the back of the room are actively listening to the speaker.

  • How do you feel about this project? I feel it is good.

You are not actively feeling anything in this sentence. (You aren’t touching the project or emotionally experiencing the project, are you?)

Examples of correct usage

  • Sarah is good at researching statistics, but Keith is the best at analysing data.
  • Applicant A seems to have a good education. Applicant B also has a well-rounded education, but no work experience.
  • Our new perfume smells so good it will fly off the shelves.
  • The new police dog smells drugs so well that we put him straight on active duty.

Understand? Good, you did well.

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Marketing telepathy: what content do my leads want to see?

what content do my leads want to see?

Fifty percent of generated leads are not ready to make a final purchase decision when they enter the sales funnel. To hold their attention until they are ready to buy, you have to understand the process they’re going through and what content is appropriate each step of the way.

The journey

HubSpot splits the buyer process into three stages: awareness, evaluation and purchase. They define the purpose and format that content should fulfil in each:

  • Awareness. Content and offers in the form of whitepapers, ebooks and checklists should educate the buyer.
  • Evaluation. Content will inform the buyer about what will fulfil their need and offers like webinars or case studies should follow.
  • Purchase. Content gives the buyer specific information and access to your brand through a free trial or consultation, even product literature.

When a buyer starts out, they aren’t ready to commit to a consultation with your company or even to sit through a webinar, but as they become more invested in your brand, the likelihood that they’ll accept these types of offers increases.

Giving a lead the right choices of content and offers at each stage determines whether or not they choose to take the next step. This is why it’s essential to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and account for their needs at every stage with the content you produce.

Telling your buyer’s story

If you’re wondering ‘what content do my leads want to see?,’ the process of matching content to the buyer’s journey is called content mapping. To find the answer to your question, you have to understand the buyer’s story.

Using your buyer personas, the fictional representation of your ideal buyers, as a foundation, a buyer scenario will tell each buyer’s story from the initial problem they encounter through to the final purchase decision.

You then determine what content they would look for at each stage and fill your editorial calendar based on those topics and the appropriate content format for where they are in your sales funnel.

If you already use a tool like Hubspot (we do!), this is even easier. You can view the profiles of customers you’ve gained and look at the series of content they chose to read before making their final decision.

You can also map it out in story form. Let’s give it a try by putting ourselves in the buyer’s shoes.

Insert your name here

You are a small business owner with a staff of 18-24 employees. Your company sells and installs audio-visual equipment and systems for home and business. You are always interested in finding better ways to do business so you read online sources and talk to your network of small business owners.

You might come across articles or whitepapers on:

  • 20 real uses for tablets in small business
  • 10 top CRM applications
  • 9 ways to achieve better customer service in the cloud

What’s the problem and how could I solve it?

You’ve noticed a disconnect between your sales people and technicians. Customers are supposed to direct questions and problems to their account managers, but technicians are getting requests or encountering questions on site. These things don’t always get communicated back to the office.

Because of the articles you’ve read, you consider equipping the technicians with tablets and access to a CRM application so customer account information is put in the same place in real time by every employee.

Like most buyers, you start your research online. To find the best options, you look at:

  • Reviews on different sites and blogs
  • A case study on how three companies used tablets to make their business mobile
  • A webinar on using CRM software in a mobile small business

Which products am I actually interested in?

This is where business and personal values come into play. You might have personal preferences toward certain vendors, but you also feel:

  • Price matters, but not at the risk of sacrificing quality
  • With technicians on the move, warranty and customer support matter
  • You need compatibility with the equipment you already have in your business

When you looked at the reviews, you found a few tablets which met your basic criteria, but now it’s time to get serious. You look at product literature like a:

  • Vendor comparison guide for tablets
  • Feature comparison between a single company’s tablets

You’re also influenced by the customer experience at this point-how easy it is to make a purchase and the quality of service if and when you make contact with a representative.

What do I think of my decision?

You decide to purchase tablets for your lead technicians with a CRM software by the same company. Now you’re making your post-purchase evaluation of the equipment itself and any support you receive while integrating it into your business. You refer to articles like:

  • Tips and tricks to using CRM software better
  • Staying connected to a growing, mobile staff

This chapter of the story, or this purchase, is over, but you have one more decision to make as a buyer.

To be continued …

Did you just buy a product or did you buy into the brand? A growing business always has different needs and pain points. Will you return to the same brand for future purchases? These are the questions your customers ask themselves.

It costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an old one, so as a marketer, these questions are worth answering. Does your content marketing simply lead them to your products or does it engage them with your brand even after the sale is made?

It’s all about the buyer

Every buyer making a purchase decision has their own set of values guiding the process which are important to consider as you create your buyer scenarios and content to suit.

In B2B transactions, the company sets standards based on desired benefits, price, quality and internal policies. However, even in business, personal factors like job role, reputation and even brand preferences can influence the outcome of a purchase.

Your content should appeal to these internal values, but the way you present your content should be influenced by how people make choices. Sheena Iyengar, in her TED talk on the science of choice, asserts easier choices stem from:

  • Cutting. One company experienced a 10 percent sales increase when they cut their product offerings by approximately 50 percent.
  • Concretising. Buyers are more likely to move forward if they understand the concrete benefits of their choice.
  • Categorising. Buyers don’t want more options, but are more likely to purchase a product or service when they can easily locate the type of product they are seeking.
  • Complexity. In a series of decisions, buyers want the simpler choices first if you expect to keep them engaged.

When you are executing an inbound strategy, a buyer makes a choice whether or not to read a piece of your content or sign up for an offer.

Your goal is to create a logical series of choices for each buyer based on their needs to lead them to the final decision-to convert and become your customer.

You are here: content mapping

(Photo: Stefan Shambora)

Content cartography

Content mapping means seeing an inbound marketing strategy to attract, convert, close and delight from the customer’s perspective. Your buyers want it to be first about their problem, then what would solve the problem, and finally, your products or services.

By seeing a purchase through a buyer’s eyes, you can better curate content, master offers, close sales on quality leads and continue to reel in those buyer’s until you’ve made brand advocates out of every single one.

(Hat tip to Matt Jiggins for the photo)

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Essential business grammar lesson nine: hyphenation

hyphenation: two hands putting together jigsaw pieces

Hyphens are short dashes that join two words in a variety of circumstances. These words might be adjectives describing a noun,

  • Everett is a forty-seven-year-old analyst.

Or prefixes to words, which modify them without confusion.

  • Oliver is semi-involved in that project, but he’s more focused on manufacturing practices.

Compound adjectives

A compound adjective is a descriptor made of two or more separate adjectives that act as one.

When a compound adjective comes before the noun, a hyphen is required. When a compound adjective comes after the noun, there is no hyphen.

  • The well-written ad copy helped boost awareness of our campaign.
  • The ad copy was well written.

Many websites have lists of commonly hyphenated phrases and words like ‘well’, which is often part of a compound adjective.

Prefixes

Prefixes like pre-, re- or mis- are added to words to change their meaning. You can understand or misunderstand directions, without any hyphen.

However, you can sign the report or re-sign the report; you cannot resign report because resign is a word in itself that means to quit. A hyphen clarifies meaning.

When the prefix ends with the same letter the word it modifies begins with, a hyphen is also necessary.

Numbers

Numbers above twenty aren’t commonly spelled out, except when discussing age,

  • I am forty-seven

or starting a sentence,

  • Twenty-three employees attended the seminar

In these cases, use the written version of the number, where numbers above twenty use hyphens.

Examples of correct usage of hyphenation

  • Josh’s plan was well implemented.
  • The well-documented report included a thorough analysis of outdated practices.
  • It’s her two-year anniversary here at our company!
  • The out-of-date software needs bringing up to date.

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