Can Your Business Afford to Stand Still This Year?

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingIf your business is standing still – always doing the same things, the same ways, for the same people – then you could be missing out on new opportunities and new business. Your competitors will be innovating – looking for different ways of making money – which means that you could be losing business to them.

Every year your competition becomes fiercer, more pressure is put on margins and new products or technologies come along and nibble away at your market. This means that just doing what you’ve always done is a recipe for eventual failure. You need to innovate and improve your offer continuously, or someone else will either steal your market or leave you working harder for less money.

So how do you innovate? Where do the new ideas come from?

Steve Jobs from Apple said “Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat.”

Innovations happen most frequently when you need to solve a problem. You may not know which one thing about your service niggles your customers most, because it might be very small. And yet when you find out what it is, it could open the way making huge improvements. So you need to make a point of asking your clients what it is about your service that they don’t like.

Towards the end of 2011 we decided to run a workshop, to help service based businesses to get more from their marketing. In the run up to the event, I realised that there was only so much help and advice I could give the delegates in one day. This was a problem for me, because I didn’t want my delegates to get all fired up and then not be able to carry on marketing their businesses. After a bit of thinking I came up with the idea of an ongoing mentoring programme, to provide a regular top up of marketing ideas and momentum. And hey presto – a new service was created! The clients who have joined the programme are making great progress already!

Innovative Marketing

You don’t have to restrict innovation to developing new services. You’ll also find a lot of scope for applying new ideas in sales and marketing. I recently started working with a new client because he’d been using the same marketing tactics for the last year. While they used to work, bringing in a steady flow of new clients, over the last six months he’d noticed that flow almost completely dry up and he didn’t know what to do. He wanted some ideas on what could be done differently with his marketing. There are so many marketing channels now available to you that you’re almost spoilt for choice!

Innovative Pricing

You can also be innovative in the way you charge for your service. Experiment with a mix of incentives, or price test your new services, to see what response you get. Don’t think that cheaper is better – some clients won’t take you seriously if they think you’re too cheap; and offering endless discounts can devalue your service and expertise. Look at ways in which you can add value to what you provide, without adding to the cost of delivery.

Can your business afford to stand still this year? What will you do differently this year?

Marketing planning and why now is a great time to do it

Planning, that old exercise of writing a list of things you are going to do, only never to look at the list again!  Sound familiar?  The start of a new year is generally filled with repeated resolutions that are quickly forgotten once day to day life starts. We all do it in various aspects of life, but planning for your business and your marketing is crucial.  Your business has the people, resources and desire to make the year a great one, why not augment that with an effective Marketing Plan.

Marketing planning should be something you look forward to as it is this plan of activities that will lead to business over the year.  There are however a few golden rules that must be applied to your plan.

The plan must be something that works with you at all times, it must not be completed then ‘filed’, never to be seen again.

The plan must be visible, either as a chart on your office wall which you can tick each time you’ve completed an activity; or a spreadsheet that you populate with activity, costs, and results.  It really doesn’t matter how you choose to see your plan, the important bit is that you do see it, daily.

It also needs to reflect activity that can be carried out by you, on a regular basis.  It may include the number of prospect calls you’ll make each week; the client visits you’ll book to focus on repeat business and upselling; the target number of tweets you’ll send out daily; the networking events you’ll attend each week.

Whatever the action, make it SMART, that old marketing adage which still applies to business today: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.  Some of the activity can be outsourced to expert providers, but again this can, and should be, ticked off your list and measured in terms of performance on an ongoing basis.

Creating a plan now will also make future planning far easier.  Reflect on which activity has worked: created the most leads and most importantly, provided the best return on investment.  Without a plan you can’t accurately reflect which marketing activity works best for your business, so which to do again, and which not to.

When you know where you want your business to be in 12 months time, you’ll have a much greater chance of getting there.  With a strategy in place and a plan of action to follow, any marketing for your business will produce much better results than ad hoc initiatives.

For practical help in writing an effective Marketing Plan for your business, why not come to a workshop we’re running on the 24th January at the Harwell Innovation Centre, Harwell Campus, near Didcot from 9am to 1pm.  At the end of the workshop you’ll have an effective and achievable Marketing Plan to take away and put into practice.  For more information on the SOS Marketing Workshop click here.

Why Christmas is Just a Marketing Tactic

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingAre you a big fan of Christmas? Do you have your tree up, your lights on and all your presents bought and wrapped? Or do you say “Bah humbug” to all the festive glitz and expense?

Whatever your attitude, Christmas is actually a great marketing tactic that should not be ignored and this issue of Scribbles will give you some ideas on how you can use it to promote your business.

Personally I’m not a huge fan of Christmas, because it has become too commercial. We’ve forgotten the real meaning of Christmas and it can be so stressful. (On 25 December I’ll be at home with my husband, cats and dogs, enjoying a quiet day and a roast duck!)

However, from a marketing point of view, I do think Christmas has its uses. Here are a few ideas for you:

Seasonal promotions – you can use the end of the year to run special promotions. “Last chance to buy this service at this price before the prices go up in the New Year.” Just make sure your promotion is different to what you offer throughout the rest of the year, or no one will take you seriously.

Christmas cards – I always take the time to write personalised Christmas cards to all my clients, suppliers, friends and supporters. It’s my way of saying thank you for being with us this year and here’s to more success next year. Each card is hand written, with a personal note in it, which shows the receiver that we’ve taken the time to think about them. The cards are only signed by people in the office who know the recipient; they are a great way of getting back in touch with people we’ve not spoken to for a while.

Party time – throwing a Christmas party for your clients is a great way to thank them for their custom and support over the year. It needn’t cost the earth – think of something original and people will talk about it for years to come. The mince pie extravaganza we held a couple of years ago was a real hit.

Networking mayhem – many networking groups hold special Christmas events. If you go to all of them, it could get expensive, so choose wisely. Some will be more relaxed than usual, so if you want to do something a bit differently, this is the time to turn up wearing your reindeer antlers!

So will you be using Christmas as a marketing tool, or will you just be eating and drinking as much as you can, while wearing a party hat and dancing around the Christmas tree?! Let a comment here to let me know.

What makes your perfect clients tick?

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingIf you’d rather work with PERFECT clients, than ones that sometimes pay you on time and don’t demand too much too soon, you need to work out who these people are. One way is by thinking about what makes them tick. If you already have a perfect client, think about how they would answer the questions below. (If you don’t yet have a perfect client, think about how one might answer the question.)

There are five questions to ask them.

  1. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
  2. Who is the most important person to you?
  3. What is the most important to you?
  4. What do you want to achieve in your life?
  5. What do you love about your life?

When you’ve got the answers to these questions, look over them. Does your perfect client remind you of anyone? Do you see yourself in the answers you’ve written down?

Here’s the clever bit that will make your marketing easy. The Law of Attraction, when applied to business, says that people want to work with people just like them. This means that if you are hard working, passionate about helping other people and you get out of bed in the morning because you like a challenge, chances are that your perfect clients are just the same. It means that you will find it difficult to work with people who don’t really care about what they do or are only in it for the money. Trying to attract people like that to do business with will be hard work and you won’t enjoy the work you do for them. On the other hand, when you know what sort of people your perfect clients are, you’ll find it easy to attract them – they will actually come and find you! How much fun will that be? How much time and money can you save on your marketing now?

If you already have a perfect client, once you’ve written the answers you think they would give, call them and ask what makes them tick. See if you know your perfect clients as well as you think you do!

Want to know more about how to find your perfect clients and the best marketing to attract them? There’s more of this in my new book – Magnetic Marketing. Click here to order your copy.

Why you need a strategy for your marketing – part two

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingRecently I wrote a blog about why you need a strategy for your marketing and I explained two out of four possible strategies you can use. Click here to read the first blog about the first two strategies.

Here are the other two strategies you can consider.

3.       Selling Existing Services to New Clients

The third strategy you can consider looks at selling your existing services – the ones that you know work and are loved by your existing clients – to new clients with whom you’ve not worked before.

Your existing services have a proven track record. Hopefully you’ve got some great testimonials from your clients and case studies that show why clients came to you and how you helped them. These recommendations are what new clients will want to hear, before they work with you. Your existing clients know that you’re really good at what you do; your potential clients need to see, hear and read the proof. This strategy is about getting some help from your current clients, to help you sell your services to some new clients.

How can you sell your existing services and products to new clients?

4.       Selling New Services to New Clients

The final strategy is usually hardest – and can be the most expensive to carry out successfully. While it usually involves the most risk, strategy four can also bring you the biggest returns.

Why is it so risky and expensive? Because it’s about selling brand new products and services that have no track record, to potential clients who don’t know you, let alone trust you. You have no proof that your new products and services can do what you say they’ll do, because no one has bought them yet, or used them long enough to be able to see the results. This means that you can rely on existing clients to tell people how great you are.

In addition, this strategy is about finding new clients, with whom you have no reputation. They’ve not worked with you before – they might not even have heard of you – so selling them your expertise is going to be harder and require some really targeted marketing. If you’re up for a challenge and have already done everything you can or want to do with the first three strategies, then this one is for you!

Do you want to be brave and develop new products and services to sell to brand new clients?

How many strategies are you going to use to promote your business? Have you worked out which ones to use? Whichever ones you’re going to use, start at the top of the list and work your way down. Strategy one is the easiest and most cost effective, while strategy four is usually the most expensive and risky – even though it can provide the biggest returns. Even if you’re going to use a combination of strategies, start at the top of the list and work your way down it for the best overall results.

Why you need a strategy for your marketing – part one

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingWhy do you need a strategy? For the very same reason that you set goals for your marketing and your business. You could just set off and try lots of different marketing activities, in the hope that they will take you to your goals – a bit like just turning up at a bus stop and hoping that one of the buses that stops there is going your way. Or you could plan the best approach and only spend your valuable time and money on what you know will work. Having a strategy and following it is much cheaper in the long run than the scatter-gun approach to marketing.

There are four strategies you can use and the first two are explained in this blog. I’ll explain the other two another time!

1.       Selling Existing Services to Existing Clients

The first of the four strategies to consider is the simplest and most cost effective for many consultants and coaches. It is about selling more of your existing products and services to your existing clients.

If you provide one day of consultancy to a client each month, can you sell them more of your time and give them two days a month? If you sell coaching programmes of 10 sessions over 10 weeks to your clients, can you provide an additional 10 sessions over the next 10 weeks, to the same clients?

This strategy is the simplest and most cost effective because it involves you doing more of what you’re already doing, with clients you already have. Your clients know and trust you, making them the people who are the most likely to buy more from you. Your services are already established and getting good results, so they are the easiest to promote to your clients, who already know that they work.

Selling more of your existing services to your existing clients doesn’t need a huge investment in marketing or time. It’s about spending time with your clients – outside the time you spend working with them – to tell them how investing in more of your time will benefit them. It’s about keeping in touch with your clients on a regular basis and treating some of them to lunch now and then!

How can you sell more of your existing services to your existing clients?

2.       Selling New Services to Existing Clients

Strategy number two is about selling some new products and services to your existing clients. These people already know and trust you – and hopefully you keep in touch with them on a regular basis. This means that you can talk to your happy clients about the sort of new products and services they’d like you to provide for them. You can create new things to sell them, based on how you’re already helping them and other problems they need help with. Because they know and trust you and know that what you already do for them works, they will be open to hearing about how else you can support them.

What new products and services can you create? If your service is based around your time, think about how you can package your knowledge into products, like books, fact sheets and workshops. If you provide 10 face to face coaching sessions in a package, could you create a ‘quick start’ programme of 4 shorter, more intensive sessions, to help clients get started with a new project?

What new products and services can you create for your existing clients?

This is an excerpt from my new book about Marketing Planning, which will be published on 16 November 2011.  Pre-launch orders now being taken – click here to reserve your copy.

Where is your business?

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingWhen you first set out on a journey with a map, you need to know where you are. If you don’t know where you’re starting from, you can’t work out the best route to your destination and you can’t determine how long it’s going to take you to get there.

The first thing you need to think about when you’re creating a Marketing Plan for your business is where your business is now. Knowing where you are at the start of this journey will help you plan the best route to your goals. It will also help you set your goals so that you can see the distance you’ve got to travel between where you are now and where you want to be. You might think that you’d like to take on 100 new clients in the next twelve months, charging each one £1000 per day for consulting or coaching. However, if you’ve only got two clients right now and you’re only charging £300 per day, you’ll have a lot of work to do to reach your goal. (Of course, if that’s the goal you really want to aim for, that’s great and knowing your starting point will help you plan the most effective way of getting there.)

So what is your business? What resources do you have at your disposal, to deliver your services to your clients? How long have you been doing what you do and what sort of reputation and experience do you have?

You also need to think about the products and services that you currently provide and be clear on what you offer, to help you decide the best direction to take. Are you delivering what your clients actually want and are you doing what you really want to do? Is there a demand for what you want to offer or are you doing something you only think people might want?

Who are your clients? What sort of people and businesses do you work for? Where are they and why do they need your help?

Finally, what about your competitors? Do you know who your main competitors are and what they do? How much do they charge and what makes you different from them?

Take the time to think about all these questions and the answers as they apply to your business and make sure you know the starting point of your business journey.

This is an excerpt from my new book about Marketing Planning, which will be published on 16 November 2011.  Pre-launch orders now being taken – click here to reserve your copy.