The Appletree Blog has moved!

If you’re looking for our latest blog – we’ve moved! We have finally launched our brand new website and our blog is now integrated into that site. We’re still posting two to three times a week and bringing you lots of useful advice and ideas.

Just go to www.Appletreeuk.com/Blog and you’ll find our most recent blogs – and any others you’ve missed, since we moved over there at the beginning of February.

See you there!

Passive marketing – or how to get clients knocking at your door

During the first week of January this year, we took on two new clients and had two existing clients ask us to do more work for them. I wasn’t at work during the first week of January, and, as one of my members of staff pointed out, I hadn’t been out networking or meeting clients for a few weeks. So where was the work coming from?

I could say it was the Law of Attraction at work, or that it was Zen Marketing, but I like to call it ‘Passive Marketing’. Or ‘sit back/go on holiday and wait for the phone to ring’ marketing.

So how does this great new marketing strategy work? Here’s what you do. You start writing a blog or an email newsletter, or both. You build up a list of contacts, by going to networking events and speaking at seminars. You give away lots of advice and ideas to help the people you meet. You have regular meetings with your clients and listen out for things they’re struggling with, with which you can help them. You build strong relationships with them so that they trust your advice. You might like to write a book and sell it to people you meet; you can even give it to some people, like past clients. You can spend time on sites like LinkedIn, connecting with people you’ve worked with in the past.

Once you’ve done all that, then you get to sit back and wait for the phone to ring! One of the new January clients came to a workshop we ran 3 months ago. We’ve kept in touch with her ever since and come the New Year, she decided she was ready to kick start her marketing. The client who decided to accept our quote for writing her blog is one with whom I meet every two months, to work on her marketing. Back in the autumn she told me she was thinking about setting up a blog and could we do it for her. After a few months of keeping in touch with her – and a few more regular meetings – she too decided it was time to take the next step.

Marketing is a long term process. It’s not a quick, over night fix. You can’t go to one networking event and expect clients to flock to you. One newsletter or a week of tweeting won’t build you a great reputation. So, if you want to practice Passive (sit back and take it easy) Marketing, then you need to put in the effort and the groundwork. Once you do, then the clients will come flocking to your door!

Remember what you’re going to say?

How do you remember what you’re going to say? If you’re giving a talk or a presentation, how do you remember what to say? Can you memorise a couple of hours worth of material, or do you have a clever way of reminding yourself what you need to cover?

I usually start by writing out what I want to say, in long hand – or the typed version. Then I go through it and highlight the key words or phrases that will remind me what I’ll be talking about as I go through the session. They get marked with a highlighter pen or put in bold. After that I usually create a postcard for each section of the talk, with the keywords written on them. I take the cards with me and put them somewhere that I can see them, where they won’t distract my audience. I’ve been using this technique for many years, since I learnt it at Toastmasters (a great place to start to learn about public speaking, by the way.) Most of the time the postcards work quite well, but I have to make sure I don’t put so much onto each one, or the writing gets too small. Which means that I can’t always get enough onto the card to remind me of everything I want to cover.

And then I learnt a great new technique! It was at the monthly session of a peer to peer group I belong to, called MD2MD. Our speaker, David Hyner, taught us this great new way of remembering stuff. He read out a list of about 20 words and on their own, none of us could remember beyond the first three or four. Then he had us attach an emotion to each word – joy, fear or love. When he read out the list again, I started to see the words as pictures – things I knew or had seen somewhere else recently; things that made me laugh or smile at. Being a visual person anyway, this really brought the list of words to life and all of a sudden I could remember them, like a story. When we were asked if anyone would like to have a go at remembering the whole list, I volunteered. I scored 20 out of 20 and won a bar of chocolate for my efforts!

To prove that this wasn’t a fluke, I decided to try out the technique when I got home. I was due to give a 30 minute presentation the next morning at a networking event. I got out my coloured pens and a sheet of card. I looked through the presentation that I’d already typed out and turned the highlighted words into colourful images. Now, each section of my talk was represented by a picture!

The following morning I took my pictures to the networking event and had them on the table next to the flip chart. Each time I needed to know what came next, I just looked at the pictures and knew exactly what to say! Rather than seeing a list of words, I saw an image that represented paragraphs of a whole page of text. It was one of the most enjoyable presentations I’ve given for a while!

In this blog is a picture of the images I drew for the presentation. It won’t mean much to you, but I thought you might like to see what you can do!

The case in the defence of Twitter

A client recently remarked “let me know when you get a sale from Twitter”.  In other words, “I bet I’ll never see the day we get a sale as a result of Twitter!”

A statement said many a time I would wager.  My answer, said smiling: “No, you probably won’t if you just use Twitter on its own, but use it as part of an integrated marketing plan and yes, you probably WILL see sales as a result of it.”

A great deal of our time as a marketing consultancy is spent working with clients on their marketing planning, and crucially the implementation of those plans.  We ensure all marketing activity is tied together with a common message.  We write blogs, newsletters, press articles, tweets, website copy – all focused on key marketing messages unique to our clients.  It’s the combination of all these activities, carried out regularly, timely but regularly, which is enabling our clients to become seen as experts in each of their fields.

Crucially, the information they are imparting on their target audience is being seen in a variety of areas.  Websites are great as long as people are getting to them, LinkedIn is great for networking and discussions, and Google+ is growing and will be great.

What Twitter does is allow you to ‘speak’ to a huge number of people, at no cost, and with little time.  Just make sure you apply a bit of thought to ensure your message is ‘on plan’ and you create a call to action (eg website links) and you have an effective marketing tool.

In a recent statistic I read (I know stats are what you want them to be but…) ‘80% of business decision makers now prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement.’  By using the platforms social media provides, your company information can be seen this way.  Social media writing can easily be incorporated with Facebook, Twitter and other outlets, driving valuable inbound links for SEO.

I feel privileged to be involved in providing intelligent content marketing to clients who recognise what marketing actually should be, which consistent, ongoing, valuable information to customers is.  With the right marketing planning and delivery, customers will ultimately reward with their business and loyalty.

Yes, marketing is still what it always was – creating messages, identifying prospective customers and trying to influence their behaviour.  These days, it’s just being delivered in a different, I would say smarter way, and across different platforms, even Twitter.

Contact Appletree  (debbie@appletreeuk.com) and let us know if you have or haven’t seen sales from your social media plan – and yes, that does include Twitter!

Great marketing won’t get you anywhere … Part 3

This is the final blog of a 3 part series that I’ve been writing, about how to close a sale. Great marketing won’t get you anywhere if you can’t close a sale, so here is the final part of the very clever sales process that I’ve been taught. Click here to read part 1 and click here to read part 2.

Finally, after you’ve spent time asking your prospective client lots of questions to establish what issues they are currently facing, that you could solve for them (part 1); and you’ve helped your prospect to identify the opportunity that’s open to them (part 2), it’s time to tell them what you can do!

Describe elements of the solution. Tell your prospect what you can do to help them, how and why it will work and how the different elements of the solution fit together. This is where to get to describe what you exactly do.

Make sure your solution is aligned with your prospect’s strategy. Because you’ve already asked a lot of questions about their business, you know what they’re aiming for. This means that you can create a solution to meets their strategy. If you suggest a solution that doesn’t help your prospect to meet achieve their goals, they won’t be interested in buying from you.

Ensure that your solution will meet your prospect’s personal need. As well as meeting their business objectives, your solution needs to meet the personal needs of the person who will buy from you. Do they need to look good in front of their boss? Do they need to save time or not get lost in the detail? Whatever it is, make sure your solution is aligned.

Why is your solution the best one? This is where you tell your prospect why your solution is better than everyone else’s. Talk about your experience, your USPs and the great results you’ve achieved for your clients.

Engagement questions. Finally, ask your final engagement question. “Does this sound like a solution that will meet your needs?” or, “How does this sound?” or even “When would you like to start?” are all great questions. After all the preparation work you’ve done, don’t forget to ask this final engagement question and actually ask for the sale. If you don’t ask for the sale, you certainly won’t get it.

Next steps. Whatever answer you get to your final question, make sure you agree the next steps with your prospect (or new client!)

If you use this sales process (all the sections of it, from parts 1, 2 and 3 of this blog) you’ll find it much easier to close all those sales.

Be a pest – Everest

A little while ago I wrote on this blog how impressed I was with the customer service we received last autumn when we bought new windows from Everest. The company has gone to great lengths to prove that their windows are in fact the best. Click here to read the original blog.

Sadly their after sales ‘sales’ leave a lot to be desired. It wasn’t long after our new windows had been fitted that I received a phone call one evening from Everest, asking if I was interested in buying a kitchen from them. Their reps would be in the area very soon and wondered if they could drop off a brochure. Since I’m very happy with my kitchen, I said no thank you.

A month later and I noticed a cold draft coming through the frame of one of our windows. I arranged for someone to come and look at it and two days before that visit, I received another call – just as I was sitting down to eat my supper – from the sales team. “Are all your windows double glazed?” the young man asked, before stopping to ask if it was a convenient time to talk. “You should know – you installed them” I replied. He simply continued with “Would you like new fascias?” At this point I managed to suppress the urge to be rude and politely told him that since I was waiting for an engineer to come and fix the problem window, his phoning to try to sell me something else was really not a good idea. I suggested that he either remove me from his sales ‘hit’ list, or run the risk of some very bad publicity. At that point he got the message and said goodbye.

I don’t really want to give Everest bad publicity (it will be interesting to see if anyone from Everest reads this and gets in touch!) but I do want you to learn from this tale. Don’t ruin a great customer services experience by then treating your customer like just another number. Don’t waste all the hard work it takes to win a new client by not telling your sales department or others in your business, about the work you’ve done for a customer. Don’t let them rush in and try to sell more, before the dust has settled. Instead, spend time really getting to know your customers and they will come to you and tell you when they’re ready to buy.