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.

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Which are your best selling months?

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingI’m currently reading Faff by Mike Pagan. He gave me a copy a couple of months ago when he presented at a meeting I attended (click here for more information about the meeting and a link to Mike’s website.) Mike’s book is a collection of articles and ideas and one that got me thinking is about the best months for selling. He says that only six months of each year are fully available for proper selling. For example, January isn’t a full month because of the New Year (and post Christmas) holiday. He also says that July, August and September are out because of summer holidays. This will of course change for different businesses and you may have different high and low months if your business is seasonal.

I looked at Mike’s table of when proper selling can take place and it worried me. If you’re really looking to grow your business, setting out thinking that you can only really sell during six months of the year will really limit you. If you want to grow, then I believe that you shouldn’t limit yourself to just six months of the year. Some people don’t celebrate Christmas, or they go back to work early in the New Year, so you can get started early. Some people do take a holiday in July or August, but not everyone on your prospect list will go away – and not for the whole two months – so don’t stop following up with prospects. If you get to know your clients and your prospects, you’ll get to know when they’re away and when they’re receptive to your call. Use all the time you have available for selling and plan when you’re going to use different tactics and campaigns to promote different services, for the most effective, year round selling.

What will you be promoting this month? What’s this month’s sales offer?

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.

What does making paper hats have to do with marketing?

At a networking meeting recently we were all paired up and asked to sit with our backs to each other. One of us was given a piece of paper on which were diagrammatic instructions and the other person was given a plain sheet of paper. The ‘leader’ had to give their partner the instructions on the sheet. They weren’t allowed to show them what was on their sheet on the paper; they weren’t allowed to check that they’d understood the instructions, because their partners weren’t allowed to speak. No questions, no clarification. And we only had about a minute for this exercise.

So how did we get on? The thing that my partner and I managed to create looked a bit like a paper boat. It was supposed to be a hat, so we weren’t a million miles off, but it still wasn’t right.

So what went wrong? The first issue was that, as the ‘leader’ I never actually told my partner what we were supposed to be building! He didn’t know  what the overall objective was. Secondly, the instructions were one way, so I wasn’t able to check with my partner that he understood what I was saying to him. He wasn’t able to ask me questions about what I was saying or make any suggestions as to a better way of creating the hat.

So what does this have to do with marketing?

Do you know where you’re heading? Do you have a clear objective for your business and your marketing? If you don’t know that you’re trying to build a hat, you could end up with a boat!

Is your marketing a one way conversation? If you just keep pushing marketing messages out into the world, without asking for or receiving and feedback, how do you know that your message is hitting the spot? If you don’t allow conversation in your marketing, you won’t be able to get to know your prospective clients and find out more about what they need from you.

And finally, if you don’t let them suggest better ways of doing things, you could miss out on some really great opportunities. If you let them, your clients will tell you what they need you to do for them and how much they want to pay you to do it.

So the next time you think about your marketing and the messages you’re sending out, think about the paper hat that you’re trying to make!

Great marketing won’t get you anywhere … Part 2

A while ago I started writing about a clever sales process that I’ve been taught and wanted to share with you. Click here to read the first part and then read on to find out how to use the next steps in the process.

The next thing to do is to help your prospects to identify their need. Until they really recognise their need, they won’t pay you to fix it!

Benchmark versus actual. Where is your client now? If you’ve established in the first stage of the questioning that your prospect is looking for new clients, you need to know how many clients they have now. If they are looking to cut their costs, you need to know what they are spending now – the actual. Then you can ask them where they want to be – how many clients they want, or what they want to be spending – the benchmark. The difference between the benchmark and the actual is the gap. Helping your prospect to identify the gap – the number of new clients they need or the amount of money they want to be saving – will help you sell your solution to them.

Insights. This is where you tell your prospect how you’ve helped one of your clients to solve the exact same problem. Give them a few details on how you fixed the problem and the great results you got.

The Opportunity. Now it’s time for you to ask another commitment question. Asking “How important is this to you right now?” will help you make sure that your prospect is still really interested in solving their problem and filling the gap that you’ve helped them identify. If they answer “No” then you might just need to walk away, rather than trying to force the sale.

In part 3 of this blog I’ll share with you some tips on how best to present your solution, based on all that you’ve discovered by working through parts 1 and 2.

Have you tried the art of Zen Marketing?

Some people rush around doing masses of marketing – lots of networking, writing articles and blog posts, speaking in public – and hope that the phone rings. They go to loads of meetings and send out dozens of proposals, hoping that all the activities will bring in more clients.

Other people get up late, take the dog for a walk, wander into their office and answer the phone, to talk to a prospect client who is calling and ask if they can pay them for their help.

The latter group of people are practicing the art of Zen Marketing! It’s much cheaper, less time consuming and more effective than the marketing that the first group of people do.

So how does it work? First you need to get really clear on who your ideal clients are, so that other people can recommend you to them. This also means that you can stop wasting time running after not so ideal clients, who will take months to sign the deal and then don’t want to pay you for the great job you’ve done for them.

Secondly you need to build a great reputation. When people are talking about you without you being there – and saying nice things, or course – then your phone will ring without you having to do all the chasing.

So the next time you’re thinking about spending a lot of time and money on your marketing, stop, take the dog for a walk (or go to the gym, or take a nap) and think about getting the basics right. When you get the basics right, the rest of your marketing will be much more effective.