When a workshop is more than just a workshop

If you offer any kind of service to customers, running workshops are a great way of marketing yourself and your business.  They inform and advise and can act as a great way of speaking directly to your target customer audience.  Also, as will become apparent here, they are not a one-off event in terms of marketing, they actually offer a lot more.

At Appletree we recently held a ½ day marketing workshop for small, service-based companies.  As well as it being a great opportunity to give marketing advice and tips to the businesses, it was also a great way to use a number of different marketing activities, at little or no cost.

On the surface, it was an activity that happened during a few hours, with a captive audience who listened and participated in a lively workshop.  Dig deeper however, and it becomes clear how many marketing activities were involved in the workshop, before, during and after the event.

Let me take you back a few weeks.  Once the venue and timings of the workshop had been confirmed, an online booking system was created.  An email promoting the event was then sent out to a database of small businesses.  This database was known to be ‘clean’ and up to date, an absolute must when dealing with contact databases.  Details of the event were added to our website.  This is great for SEO, which looks for regular updates on sites in order to rank them.  We then sent details of the event to another mailing list, via our monthly newsletter, which is linked to our website.  Again, this encouragement to visit our website is a great way to share more of our services to those contacts, and to improve SEO.

A reminder email was sent to all contacts a week before the event, and some follow up telephone calls made to outline the benefits of attending the workshop.

The desired number of delegates was reached before the day, and an email was sent to each asking if they had any specific objectives they were hoping to meet as a result of the workshop.  This was the start of relationship building with our key audience.

During the day we met some really interesting people, all of whom were small business owners and all wanting to learn how to use marketing successfully to help grow their businesses.  Feedback from the day was asked from each delegate, along with a personal thank you to each for attending.  It’s this long-term relationship building that creates the most long-lasting business opportunities.

All in all, around 6 different channels of marketing were used, just for a workshop that lasted a few hours.  It led to lots of ticks on our marketing activity plan!

So if you’re considering running a workshop but don’t think you have the time, consider it as a huge opportunity to cost effectively market yourself and your business.

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Online marketing may not be quick, but it’s effective

Alice

As the recession deepens (and all those BNI types who still testify that there isn’t a recession, wake up and smell the coffee), businesses are starting to appear a mite desperate. This is when marketing gets a raw deal, especially if the CEOs don’t really understand what marketing is all about.

Looking around and reading the signs, it is beginning to be obvious that companies are waking up that they need to market more online. But their lack of understanding shows that although they furiously update their websites with fancy new designs, they omit to think about the content or how they can communicate better with their customers, namely by interacting with them and getting their feedback through social networking.

If your company is still bogged down in the dark ages, the difference between marketing and sales will still be hazy, muddy and out of date. There is a new concept going about now that may not only confuse, but worry CEOs and Marketing Managers. There is this thing called customer relationship marketing (CRM), and the worst thing is that it happens over a long period of time!

But their balance sheets and cash flow statements are crying out, and the Accounts department report doom and gloom. What to do? The immediate response is to bombard the online marketing world with PPC projects, sales objectives and buy-now strategies. Money is pumped in to make a fast buck – and yes, it works! But only for the immediate future.

But they have forgotten about this CRM thing, which is apparently a real bind because it takes so long to happen. It’s may be really boring, but it is proving to be necessary. Gradually it dawns on them that marketing is a long-term affair, and communicating with prospective clients to really get to know them, understand their needs and desires, work out how they can help them, so that the company becomes a benefit rather than another faceless corporate identity, will have long-term results that can be worked on for many years.

And another thing, it doesn’t cost that much either. Certainly cheaper than a quick blast of PPC when they don’t really know what they’re doing. The ROI may be slower, but the graph is constantly rising, with no signs of those drastic peaks signifying boom and bust, or as Chantal puts it, feast and famine. CRM with its cousin data management will allow further marketing endeavours for future objectives.

And if you know more about what your customers are doing, thinking, saying or whatever, isn’t it easier to adapt your marketing strategies around this? And when the penny drops about social networking, Marketing Managers will begin to realise that here is a place to find out this data with the minimum of fuss and expense, with marketing research tactics at their fingertips and somewhere where people can exercise their natural tendency to chat, communicate, strike up a conversation and create a relationship. With all this at very little cost (except the time taken to monitor it), perhaps this online marketing lark isn’t so far fetched as it previously seemed.

The importance of a personal email list

Alice

None of us like receiving spam. So considering we all hate spam so much, why do businesses still pursue buying lists of contacts to sell their wares? Why is it that they cannot wait to build up a personal communications list – is it because it takes too long, it is too much hard work and is therefore inconvenient?

But this is a world that is becoming increasingly more savvy to email marketing practices, particularly those on the receiving end. It’s not worth bombarding people who don’t want to receive your stuff, especially since, of course, there are mechanisms in place that weed out unwanted material and dump it in a spam folder.

Therefore you need to do it properly right from the beginning, and set up an opt-in email capturing service on your website. How fast you progress in building your list will depend on how much you work at it, how much you are prepared to provide good quality information that readers are willing to receive, absorb, retain and act upon.

The result is the list that you have accumulated is yours only, and nobody else’s. It will comprise of members who have signed up voluntarily, who want to read your newsletters, who value the information you give them, who look forward to next month’s issue, who will comment and leave feedback so you can improve what you provide, both in your business as well as your newsletters.

And why are you communicating with them? To win your readers’ trust, opinion, understanding and appreciation. You extend your expertise and increase your reputation, convince them of your qualities and give them what they desire. After you have won them round to your way of thinking, they are then more likely to buy your products or sign up to your services. Marketing yourself and what your business provides is all about building upon a relationship with your customers, whether they are past, present and prospective, to facilitate business or develop advocates to influence others – and so the list can continue to grow.

And growing your list is important, especially organically. Don’t feel dispelled to increase it with purchased lists, otherwise you’ll be taking several steps backwards. All that hard work to win the trust and build relationships will have been thrown down the drain. This is a case of less is more; what value is there in communicating to a large amount of people who aren’t interested, who only press the delete or spam button, who don’t know you from Adam, and who certainly don’t care a jot? Why should you pander to them, when you could be writing to a list of people who want to know more about you and what you do, because you’ve managed to convince them you are worth while?

One piece of marketing advice given out states it’s easier to sell to existing customers than to find new ones. Think about it…

How not to do direct mail – part 2

Chantal

About 18 months ago, we got in touch with a company that sells mailing lists, to see if they could provide us with useful contacts for one of our clients. At the time, we had a lady called Lisa working with us.

Recently we received a letter from the mailing list company, with words and phrases like ‘Targeted’, ‘Focused’ and ‘Up to Date’ printed all over the envelope. It was addressed to Lisa; she moved to a different job over a year ago!

If a huge mailing house, that specialises in selling business data, can’t get it right, who can?! How difficult is it to keep in touch with your clients and prospects, to check that their details are up to date? How much money could you save by updating information before putting large envelopes in the post?

Before the digital age, I was a big fan of direct mail. I used it a great deal during the first couple of years of my business, to find new clients. I looked up marketing and PR companies online and then called them, to ask for the name of the best person to send information to. I posted them a letter and a leaflet, none of which ever came back with ‘not known at this address’ on them. Then I made more phone calls to arrange appointments. On the limited budget of a start up business, it worked really well. I had the time to do the research and saved a lot of money by getting the correct details. Some people I spoke to didn’t need my help, which saved me from sending them anything in the first place.

Direct mail still works if you do it properly. Spend time doing some research before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!) and you won’t fill up your letterbox (or inbox) with returns. Instead, you’ll get to speak to people who are interested and want to work with you.

How to use your customers’ details to your advantage

Alice

There is no point in collecting data about your customers if you don’t use it effectively.

For example, Andrew had a new boiler fitted the other month, and as per usual the plumber came in to check it was working OK before giving it the final sign-off.

Andrew asked him when it next needed another service, and was told in about a year, but it was up to Andrew to remember this and make contact to book a service.

Andrew thought about this, and then asked him if he used Excel on his computer. Yes he did. Did he keep records of the customers he did work for, even if it was for accounting purposes? Yes he did.

Could he update an Excel spreadsheet with his customers’ details and the last job done, with dates for next services and other functions, and then programme in the computer’s diary 11 months later a reminder to check the Excel spreadsheet and contact the customer to make an appointment for that service? Oh, he hadn’t thought about that.

Did he think it would be beneficial for him to take the advantage in contacting his customers well in advance to remind them their boilers were due a service? Would it be a good idea for them to use him again because he had prior knowledge of that boiler, and to save them looking for another plumber in the phone book, thus losing their custom to someone else? Yes it would be.

The beauty of this is that it doesn’t require special software and fancy technology, just an understanding of how to use data correctly. Also it’s not worth compiling lists of your customers’ details if you aren’t doing anything constructive with them. It doesn’t have to be fancy newsletters and other marketing techniques, just a simple reminder system to ensure continued custom with past and present customers.

As the meercats would say, simples!

What is the difference between Web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0?

Alice

For those who are still confused by my title, Web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 are the various stages the internet has evolved, and how it has affected electronic, email, online or digital marketing (the various terms for marketing on the internet also suggests how technology and its concepts have rapidly changed).

Web 1.0 deals with static websites. These were originally set up to be online brochures, a representative of your business on the internet where people could go to find information.

A space was provided on the web which was filled with an attractive (if applicable) website that hardly changed since its conception, except for a few additional alterations and updates, sparsely accomplished due to cost and reliance on webmasters. The concept was simple, and at first confined to those who could afford it or had access to it.

Web 2.0 deals with interaction. Now there are all sorts of websites that allow their visitors to add their own contributions, that are regularly updated with new information, encourage participation, call to action and regular methods of following or subscribing.

This concept of interaction has been spread to social networking and sharing sites, a phenomenon that has expanded hugely to become almost a part of our daily lives, a requirement to be constantly up-to-dated with what’s going on, become a trend setter or act as an innovator to start off the next big thing.

Then there is the ability to update your website through CMS (content management systems), in whatever format it is in (website, blog, blogsite, forum, status update or whatever), by yourself whenever and wherever you like (on any suitable hardware, software or media), and also by others through leaving comments, feedback, contributions and advice.

Web 3.0 is no longer a concept of the future, it is already here. The use of smart and android phones have commanded a change in internet use. It’s not just that websites have to adapt to be effectively seen on people’s mobiles, but the technology behind them as regards data gathering, customer segmentation and promotional targeting.

Data about consumers are gathered from a myriad of sources: mobile use, payment cards, loyalty cards, telephone voting systems for popular television participation shows, the list is endless. Today’s technology allows marketers much easier access to all sorts of information that would have taken ages and with much higher costs than before.

This is mostly permission based (a requisite much more heavily policed in the States), but unfortunately subjected to technically advanced fraudsters and spammers. Even so, marketers have to find new ways of promoting their products to overcome apathy and avoidance of regular advertising, and technology provides constant answers to beat the increasingly rapid changes of today’s society as it adapts to whatever is thrown at it!

How to perform a marketing follow-on

Alice

Last year I responded to my husband’s request for a metal watering can for his birthday.  That’s OK, it’s easy to go to Google, type in ‘metal watering cans’ and choose a website from the links that came up.

Having been thoroughly annoyed by all the inadequate links, including the sponsored ones in the shaded areas of the search engine page, I eventually found a website that provided exactly what I needed. Their concisely written pay-per-click advert directed me straight to a landing webpage that offered three metal watering cans. I didn’t have to wade through irrelevant pages, such as the website’s index page, to find out exactly what I wanted.

They made it perfectly easy to choose the one that fitted my requirements and to pay through an efficient shopping cart system. With the confirmation of my purchase I also received tracking information of my watering can’s delivery progress, which arrived before the time specified, and resulted in a happy husband on his birthday.

Having achieved my objective, I thought that would be that. But I should have known that a company that was so adept in compiling Google Adword campaigns that resulted in a successful sale and delivery to satisfied customers, they wouldn’t stop there. I have just received a nicely designed catalogue full of all the tempting gardening products they have on offer, just in time for Christmas.

As a marketer I immediately recognised the value of this exercise. Why stop with just one transaction? Their shopping card system gathered all the information they needed, my address, and they used this data to send their perfectly timed catalogue to me. They also thoughtfully didn’t send it for the Christmas immediately after my purchase, gauging that holding back would show respect and consideration.

Businesses who are marketing orientated work on furthering customer relationships. Any data gathered from transactions should be carefully used to promote the rest of your product range as unobtrusively as possible. This can be accomplished through a regular newsletter, a seasonal catalogue, an informative blog, participating on the kind of social networking sites the target market is most likely to populate, including offline networking groups, in fact anywhere where your customer will be ‘hanging out’ and your business can communicate with them in an effective manner that corresponds with their lifestyle.

And encouraging this relationship marketing goes with added value, incentives, special offers, improved customer service, recognising their needs and providing relevant solutions – making the customer the most important element of your business to create customer loyalty and continued purchasing prowess.