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!

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 ……unless you know how to sell and close the deal!

You can spend a lot of time, effort and money generating enquiries, getting your phone to ring and having meetings with prospective clients. But if you don’t have a great way of asking for the sale and getting it, you’ll be wasting all that time and expense.

Here is a simple sales process that I was taught by a very experienced Sales Consultant. I use it a lot, to great effect and have shared it with many other consultants and coaches. It works very well in face to face meetings; you can also use it for sales phone calls.

Situation questions – start by asking your prospect about their business. What do they do? Who are their clients? What are their dreams and plans for their business? These questions will help you build up rapport with them and allow you to get to know them better. They will also start to highlight any issues they have.

Problem questions – then ask what issues they’re struggling with at the moment, related to what you do. For me, these will be questions about what marketing they are doing, or the number of new clients they want to attract and what’s stopping them.

Implication questions – what will happen if they don’t address the problems and do anything about them? You need to ask this question, because it starts your prospect really thinking about what might or might not happen to their business, if the problem persists.

Urgency and importance questions – how urgently do they want to deal with the issue? Are they looking for help right now, or within the next six months? This will help you plan your solution and any follow up. Is it important to them right now, or are there more pressing issues they need to deal with? If the latter, no matter how great your solution, they won’t be ready to buy from you just yet.

There are two things to point out at this stage – firstly you’ve still not told your prospect anything about your business – other than what they already know about you. Don’t be tempted to jump in at any stage with your ‘presentation’ because if you do, you won’t win the sale. Secondly, you’ve also asked a number of ‘commitment’ questions, which help you establish whether or not you need to carry on talking to this prospect.

And the third thing to point out … is that I’ll tell you the next steps of this sales process in a future blog – so come back soon!

How not to run an event

So you’re planning to run an event. A workshop or perhaps a seminar, where you can share your expertise with an audience. Or maybe you’re aiming high with a conference? Here are some tips for you to follow, if you want to make a complete mess of the event and ruin your reputation!

  • Use a sound and lighting company that doesn’t know what it’s doing
  • Put a screen behind your speakers and keep changing what’s on it to distract your audience
  • Enlist the help of a compere who has never done this role and ask them to wear something outrageous
  • Use live music to keep your delegates entertained. Make sure it’s badly played
  • Don’t bother booking any reserve speakers, in case any of your headliners drop out at the last minute
  • If you’re using a stage to stand on, make sure it’s really small and that your audience can see what’s underneath it
  • By all means have some people helping you during your workshop, but have them sitting at the front of the room where everyone can see what they’re up to
  • Introduce your speakers by simply reading what’s written in the programme
  • Allow your compere to be judgemental and opinionated – after all, people have come to listen to him/her
  • During breaks, make sure you don’t clear the tables; let the empty cups and saucers build up and don’t worry about putting out more bottles of water
  • Sit down while you’re presenting your material – don’t waste energy by standing up.

I could go on and on, because I’ve been to many events where I’ve spent as much time watching how the event was run, as I’ve done listening to the material.

If you want to create a really great impression and leave your audience wanting more of what you have to offer, then think very carefully about how you run events. Avoid the glaring mistakes made by some people and you can use events to promote and grow your business.

Do you need a niche?

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingA while ago I wrote about how important it is to identify your ideal clients – the people you really want to work with and who really want to work with you. Click here to read that blog post. Once you know who your ideal clients are, you can take it a stage further, by identifying a niche.

What is a niche? It is a really narrow market in which you specialise. It is a way of positioning yourself as an expert in your field. It is a way of helping other people to network on your behalf and send you referrals to your ideal clients. For example, your ideal clients might be women in corporate jobs and your niche – your specialism – might be helping them to lose weight and get in shape after having children. Or your ideal clients could be companies that want to sell their products online. Your niche could be retail shops within a 15 mile radius of where you work. In my case, my ideal clients and my niche are very close – we work with coaches, consultants and trainers and provide them with marketing services to help them grow their businesses.

So why do you need a niche? Surely if your focus is too narrow, you’ll risk losing business from other potential clients? You might, but if they’re not your ideal clients and they’re not in your niche, chances are you won’t do a really great job for them. It’s a competitive market out there, so if you stick to your niche, you can position yourself as an expert in that field. This will help you stand out from the crowd of all the other people who say that they do what you do.

When you have a niche, you can use it to position yourself as an expert, and then you can do things like speak to audiences about your subject – click here to find out about a workshop I’m running for coaches, consultants and trainers who need help with their marketing. You can even write a book about your niche – click here to read about The Client Magnet – How to Market Your Services as a Coach, Consultant or Trainer.

So what’s your niche? Do you have a really narrow focus that will help you become an expert in your field? If you need some help working out your niche, tell me in a comment and I’ll send you some feedback.

How do you use Twitter?

Alice

In marketing terms, people view using Twitter in different ways. Some see it as a somewhere to make friends and listen to lots of gossip. Others use it for fact finding and a method for free and easy research. Others regard it as a voyeur’s haven, watching what others are saying and gleaning the latest news before it breaks. And then there are others who treat it merely as a place to feed your blog into and share expertise and tips.

 
So which scenario do you fit into?
 
Do you use your name in your Twitter username? Are you interacting freely with your followers? Do you start and partake in conversations? Do you write your tweets yourself? Are they spontaneous or composed beforehand? Do you keep an eye on Twitter throughout the day?
 
Do you use your business as your Twitter username? Are you representing a corporate identity? Do you only tweet what you’ve been told to say? Are you given free rein to reply? Do you find you’re repeating the usual mantra without any personal context?

Are you representing a brand on Twitter? Do you monitor the Twittersphere to see what others are saying about your brand? Do you intervene only to correct misconceptions? Do you promote facts and figures in order to spread awareness to a larger audience?

Are you using Twitter to spread your expertise through blog feeds and top tips? Do you use an automated service to carefully space out your tweets throughout the day? Is this to give the impression of a constant presence, or to capture different people in different time zones?

Remember, using social media should be a sociable affair, to create relationships with others in order to find out more about each other, with an aim towards long-term associations, referrals and recommendations, and maybe (or ultimately) business.

This mechanism for creating two-way, even multiple-way, communications with any like-minded person should not be abused by the never-ending desire to sell and make money, for cheap and easy research, or to crow about how wonderful you are.

Using Twitter means sharing resources and ideas, problems and answers, tips and expertise without a hint of selling, gossip and laughter, making connections and above all, friendship.

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.