5 foods guaranteed to kick your work focus in to touch

Constantly in a state of distraction at work?  Desperate to sit down and finish that email but keep magically gravitating towards the coffee maker?  Grab back control of your attention span and tickle those taste buds in the process with these 5 foods guaranteed to give you the focus you crave:

1. “Just eat your greens!”  Turns out mum was right.  According to neurologist Jeff Victorov, leafy greens can help improve attention and are packed with antioxidants that protect against strokes, Parkinson’s and can help fight dementia.

If you’re like me and think salads have about as much charisma as scratMiliband, here are 17 super simple recipes from Huffington Post that’ll take your salads from bland to brilliant.

2.  Go nuts.  Take a tip from Scrat and store up some brainpower: Nuts and seeds pack a load of nutrients that can seriously boost cognitive performance.  A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that a good intake of vitamin E might help to prevent cognitive decline and nuts are rich in this vital vitamin, so get cracking (and nibbling).

Also, just a handful of pumpkin seeds a day is all you need to get your recommended daily amount of zinc, vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills.

3.  Count on coffee.  Coffee isn’t craved by most office workers first thing for nothing.  I’m glad to report that studies suggest caffeine in an eight-ounce cup of coffee can improve attention and short-term memory.  But be careful when gulping down your triple shot espresso, too much coffee can cause restlessness, nervousness, excitement, insomnia, flushed face, diuresis (you keep passing urine), and gastrointestinal disturbance (upset tummy) as this very unfortunate but hilarious story confirms from Buzzfeed.


4.  Chocoholic’s delight.  I’m also delighted to report that you can go ahead and stuff that double dark chocolate muffin right into your pie-hole!  Yes, that’s right, flavonols found in dark chocolate (also found in red wine, green tea, and blueberries) offer a short-term boost in cognitive skills.

Dark chocolate also boosts the body’s production of endorphins (happy hormone) and can help to reduce pain and combats the negative affects of stress.  So go forth and release your inner Augustus Gloop!

Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

5.  Chews gum. Randomly, that stick of Hubba Bubba may be the key to making it through a busy day. Studies have found chewing gum improves mood and alertness and reaction times were quicker, this effect became bigger as the task became more difficult. Chewing gum also improved selective and sustained attention.

gum wall

But be warned, much like tennis elbow, you can get ‘chewer’s jaw’ or temporomandibular joint disorder, which can be a painful chronic condition. Anytime you overuse a certain set of muscles, it can lead to contracted muscles and related pain, including headaches, earaches, and toothaches over time.

So next time you’re looking to get hyper focussed at work, grab a dark chocolate fruit and nut bar with a side of spinach and a venti mocha to go.  Then tame that coffee breath with a stick of Wrigleys to crank up your productivity.  Just be sure you enjoy each of these brain-boosting foods in moderation!

Baldrick, I have a cunning plan.


Blackadder liked nothing more than a good, old fashioned, plan.  And any business, whether you’re little or large needs one to get the best out of your marketing efforts. A good plan is the glue that holds together your marketing activities and campaigns, it’s a constant reminder for you to tell a consistent story across your various comms channels and lets you monitor progress in a methodical, meaningful way.

So assuming all the initial market research, product development and set-up is done and you have something ready and waiting to be marketed, where do you start?  Below I’ve outlined a few areas of marketing worth including in your plan.  It’s by no means exhaustive but it’s somewhere to start.

Market research – knowledge is power
I know it fills you with all the excitement of watching paint dry but knowing your market and where you fit within it (positioning) is hugely important when you’re planning your marketing activities.  Go back to what might be pages and pages of dry facts and figures and pull out the key points for your plan:

  • Who are my target customers?  (Job titles, age, gender, socioeconomic status…)
  • Who are my potential partners and sales channels?
  • What industries, sub-industries or sectors am I selling to?
  • Why would they want to buy my product/service over and above anyone else?
  • What problems do my product/service solve for them?
  • Would my sales and marketing activities have to change depending on what country I sold in?

Messaging, positioning and personas – make it personal
Now you know what the market conditions are like and who your key audiences are, it helps to create a simple statement explaining what your product is, how you’re positioning it in the market and the benefits on offer to that particular type of customer.  It only needs to be a couple of sentences but remember to write like a human being.  Try to avoid complex terms and business jargon.  You may think it makes you sound more ‘corporate’ but a) that’s not a good thing and b) there’s nothing like a bit of ‘blue sky thinking,’ ‘moving the needle’ and ‘bleeding edge’ to turn your audience off faster than you can say ‘low hanging fruit’.  If the buzzwords are getting in the way and you’re finding it difficult to craft your positioning statement – pretend you’re explaining it to your granny.  It’s a good start!

It may seem obvious but tailor your story for difference audiences.  For example, if you’re a B2B company selling a mobile app to a Hotel for their guests to use, create a different message for the Hotel than for the Hotel guest.  You might even break it down further and consider what the COO of the Hotel would want to know and would it be different from the CMO for example.  When you’re done, you can use these messaging and positioning statements as a template from which all your other marketing materials (data sheets, brochures etc) can be created.

Marketing materials – content and consistency is key
You know your audience, you’ve honed your key messages so now, the fun stuff: creating content and designing some marketing materials!  Whether it’s a business card, your website, a brochure, data sheet or case study – make sure you keep those key marketing messages at the front of your mind so you explain and promote your products and services in a consistent way.

Continually look back at the different personas you’ve already identified and make sure each piece of content is written with them in mind.  For example, if you’re selling tech to Hospitality, Travel and Entertainment companies, create separate sections for each industry on your website.  The issues hotels have might be completely different from those of a cinema or stadium, for example.

Look at creating great content before anything.  Make it insightful, playful, interesting, entertaining or visual. Once the hard part of creating it is done, look at the different channels you can use to promote it; Twitter, Facebook, blog, press release, website etc.  But remember to tailor it to the channel.  What might work well for a blog won’t be appropriate for, say, a press release.

Reporting without it, you’re flying blind
You’ve put all this time, money and energy into market research, creating content, designing marketing materials and promoting, how do you know it’s all working?

Measuring your marketing performance shows you the fruits of your labour.  It tells you whether you’re on track to meet your goals or whether some campaign tweaking needs to be done.  Reporting comes in all shapes and sizes and whatever marketing channels you use, it’ll have its own analytics functions.  For example, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all have their own reporting dashboard to show you how you’re doing and you can see your how your website is performing with Google Analytics.

I should have mentioned this earlier but one of the first things you should outline in your plan are some realistic objectives.  Make sure you set some marketing goals so you know what to work towards and what to report on.  For example, some marketing goals might be:

  • Achieve 10% increase in the rate at which people visit the website and are converted to buy.
  • 500 new likes of Facebook page by the end of the month
  • Increase traffic to website with blog referrals by 20% by the end of the quarter.
  • Add £50k worth of new account business through marketing generated, qualified leads by the end of the year.

There’s so much more that can be included in your plan but it really depends on what your marketing appetite is and whether you have the time and ability to do it justice.  Whether you decide to do a little or a lot of marketing, it’s always best to have a plan because,  unlike Blackadder and the long-suffering Baldrick, you’re far more likely to be successful!

I’m not small. I’m concentrated awesome.

Small but mighty

5 reasons why small businesses can outmanoeuvre the Goliaths when it comes to marketing

Some smaller businesses feel that because of their size, they lack the marketing punch larger multinational organisations might command. You may not have the budget but your marketing can be just as effective, if not more so. I’ve worked for small companies and I’ve worked for large ones and what you might be lacking in funds, you can make up for in innovation, speed and agility.

Here are 5 reasons why size is irrelevant when it comes to marketing might:

  1. Agility:  If there’s an unexpected change in the market or new legislation throws a spanner in your business plan then small companies can turn on a sixpence and market accordingly.  It’s easier to get your house in order, prepare a statement, rework presentations and sales materials, update your website, brief staff etc in a company of, say, 20 than a company of thousands.
  2. Speed: This is related to agility and recognises that with fewer people in the mix, marketing doesn’t have to suffer the long, drawn-out process of multi-departmental sign-off and decision-making by committee.  Small businesses can be quick off the mark and get that great marketing idea developed and out the door before competitors, reaping the rewards of first-mover advantage.
  3. Consistency:  One area of marketing larger companies struggle with is maintaining a consistent message across all of their marketing channels and ensuring their many brand ambassadors (e.g. employees) stick to the script.  You may have the perfect product, the best service and the most compelling unique selling point (USP) but if you don’t talk and write about it in a coherent, consistent way then it’s a moot point.  The message is diluted and lost to your customers in the quagmire of competing voices.
  4. Innovation: Ever produced your best work under pressure? Necessity sometimes is the mother of invention and you might find that being a smaller company with limited marketing resources drives greater innovation.  This might be a controversial one, but smaller companies can, in some ways, take bigger risks.  It’s not so easy to take a risky marketing decision in a big company when you’re battling against ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ mentality and a long-standing conservative culture.  And sometimes, the bigger the marketing risk, the bigger the revenue reward.
  5. Personality.  Generally people follow people rather than faceless brands.  People like to follow the CEO or head of sales of a company rather than a logo.  If your brand has bags of personality then this might not be the case (take Nutella’s Facebook page as an example). As a start-up you’re effectively working with a blank canvas and can spend time honing a genuine corporate personality and tone of voice that you can use from the start vs. a more established business that might need to go through a costly, wider re-brand.

So don’t write-off your marketing efforts just because you feel you can’t compete with the big boys. You can. And you can do it well, outmanoeuvring the clumsier corporations and quick-stepping your way to original, credible and, most importantly, profitable marketing success.


Part 2: Two examples of great social media campaigns: Cuckoo’s Bakery

Halloween cupcakes

I’m particularly excited (and salivating) to be talking about Cuckoo’s Bakery, my little local cupcake shop and their brilliant use of social media, especially during Halloween this year.

I know the whole pregnant women/cupcake thing is a cliché but I tell you now, no one was more surprised than I when my daughter was born and wasn’t at least 50% red velvet given the number I scoffed prior to her arrival this year. (Red velvet is indeed my favourite flavour should I start taking cupcakes as payment in exchange for marketing services in the future).

One of the great things that Cuckoo’s Bakery does on their Facebook page is continually update it with juicy, sumptuous photos of their beautifully crafted cupcakes. This Halloween was no exception and I must say, they went all out. I mean, just check out their ‘Snot your business’ and ‘Something eary’ specials. Wonderful! (If not slightly gross.)

Cuckoo Bakery cupcake

‘Snot your business

Each photo really encourages their audience to interact with them through comments, shares and likes and even checking-in when they visit the actual shop. In fact, as a business, photos are the best way to engage your audience. Research published by eMarketer found that photos account for 75% of content posted by Facebook pages worldwide and they receive a whopping 87% interaction rate from fans. No other post type (e.g. link, video etc) received more than 4% interaction rate, which is pretty spectacular.

Another thing Cuckoo’s Bakery is really good at is responding to people’s comments on their page. No one likes to be ignored and if a fan is praising you, your product or service, recognise it! Send them a simple thank you. It’s all about building positive relationships and an on-going rapport with your audience.

Over the past couple of posts we’ve looked at two great examples of social media campaigns from two very different companies: Always’ #likeagirl and Cuckoo’s Bakery Halloween Facebook activity (Qantas and Air New Zealand’s World Cup antics have made it in there too). So what could you apply to your own business? The key takeaways are:

  • Make it relevant. And the only way to do this is if you really know your audience. Make sure whatever you’re posting is useful or at least entertaining for them. #likeagirl ad struck a chord with pretty much every woman and girl who saw it and was particularly poignant for mothers and fathers of daughters.
  • Size doesn’t always matter. You don’t need a ground-breaking, high profile, socially disruptive global campaign to be an online success (although, of course, it does help). Developing and maintaining a good relationship with your customers and making a bit of effort during key times (e.g. Halloween, industry events, holidays, sports events, industry news, company milestones, the latest #trend…) are equally important and can go a long way to growing your audience, increasing website traffic and ultimately gaining new customers.
  • Use photos.Picture
  • Respond to comments. Be generous with your time and responses. Your audience will thank you for it and your brand will really benefit from the injection of personality.
  • Make the most of your different social media channels. Always created the #likeagirl video and went on to promote it on YouTube, LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter which spread like wildfire, being shared on Pinterest, Google+, tumblr, Instagram and more.  If you’ve spent ages creating some good content, whether it’s an infographic, blog post or white paper, be sure to use all communication channels at your disposal to promote it (remember to tailor you posts to each channel, what might be suitable for Twitter might not work for say, LinkedIn).
  • Be yourself. What makes both Always’ and Cuckoo’s Bakery campaigns work is that they’re are unashamedly them. Their message, style, tone of voice, photos and responses aren’t trying to be anyone else. You may need time to figure out what your business’ social style is but once done, you can really run with it!

Cupcake photos courtesy of Cuckoo’s Bakery Facebook page.