Happy Mondays (no, not the band, although I do hear that they are reforming for a tour one month this year).

As I got in the car to drive to work on Monday, it was with a sense of relief after surviving the usual chaos of getting everyone out of the house on time and in the correct clothing and the right bags and kit for the day.  My thoughts then turned to the day ahead and what it might bring.  I am lucky enough to be doing a job I really enjoy, that is providing marketing advice and support to small businesses in the area.

Some days of course bring challenges and it can still be hard to summon enough positive energy for the day ahead, particularly on a Monday.  What does make this easier for me though, is that the clients I work with are a really positive group of people.  We work with business owners who are facing these seemingly tough times, but are amazingly positive about how they are going to make their businesses successful.  This positivity really does have a knock-on effect on us, and how we go about giving them the best marketing advice we can.  But we are constantly reminded about how hard life is at the moment, with no apparent easy way out of it, all of which we find far too negative.  The subject of recession and tough economic times is actually banned in our office.

It was interesting then to hear on the radio, during my journey in, that it was ‘Happy Monday’, apparently the happiest day of the year.  According to psychologists, the combination of getting the first pay cheque of the year and booking a summer holiday makes Monday 31st January the highpoint of the year.

‘We each experience an average of ten major happy days every year but none is happier than January 31, or Happy Monday,’ said Dr David Holmes, senior psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University.

So, I thought are my clients going to be extra happy today?  Perhaps not, but what it did make me appreciate is that although the people I work with do face challenging times, they work hard to be positive.

Building your own business, brand or company takes time, energy, and a lot of work. Why do I think my clients are so positive? One reason I believe is that they all set realistic goals and a schedule to work towards them.  We work with them to create a marketing plan with realistic business growth objectives.  Our services provide the marketing activities which helps work towards those goals. The reward from the time and energy spent on their businesses is realised through those goals being accomplished.  If small steps are taken to maintain or grow your business, you are more likely to continue that cycle of hard work, commitment and achievement.  With achievement and reward comes positivity, whatever the challenges faced along the way.

So let’s all keep positive, and have a few more Happy Mondays this year, or any other day of the week for that matter.

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!

Making a case for case studies

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingA great way of promoting what you do is by writing case studies about your clients. They are also a great way to get feedback from your clients and to build up stronger relationships with your clients.

But how do you go about doing it? Where do you start? How do you make sure you include all the best information, without boring your readers?

Here’s how we do it. We ask our clients 4 questions and then we write up the answers. Here are the questions:

1. What was the problem that you were looking to solve?

This puts the work into context and it also gives your readers a good idea about the sort of issues you can solve for your clients. Say a bit about your client too, to give them some promotion.

2. Why did you come to us rather than someone else?

This question gives you the chance to get some feedback on your business and your marketing. What makes you better than your competitors? What did you do differently that attracted this client?

3. What did we actually do?

This is where you get to explain the actions you carried out to solve your client’s problem. It’s a great way of showing off your expertise and talking about how you actually do what you do. Don’t go into too much detail because it might get too technical for some people. Just give them a taste of what you can do.

4. What were the results of what we did?

So what did you actually achieve for your client? How did your actions and expertise solve their problem? No matter how you solved it, what’s really important is what happened as a result. This is what other clients will be interested in buying from you.

Using these questions will help keep you really focused on writing clear, concise case studies that will be very powerful tools you can use to promote your business.

Want to know how to use the case studies you write? Ask me nicely and I’ll answer that question in another blog for you!

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.

3 pillars of progress

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingHave you heard of the 3 pillars of progress?

They are related mainly to business success, but I think they are also relevant to your marketing, so I thought I would share them with you.

They are:

  1. Strategy – have a good one that will get you to where you want to go. With marketing, you need to select your strategy based on whether you’ll be aiming your marketing at existing clients or new ones; and promoting your existing services or new ones. Choosing the wrong strategy will take you in the wrong direction and cost you money, so choose carefully.
  2. Laser focus – once you’ve got your strategy, whatever you are focused on, give it your full attention and don’t get distracted. Plan and prioritise what needs to be done. This definitely applies to your marketing, because you need to plan and prioritise your marketing and then stick at it, with laser focus, until you get it done.
  3. Integration – be 100% aligned with where you’re going and what you want to do. Your marketing also needs to be completely integrated. All your messages need to be pulling in the same direction, to give you an even better return than they will on their own.

How can you build your business with the 3 pillars of (marketing) progress?

How much does marketing cost?

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingMarketing costs as much as you can afford, or as little as you can afford! The most important thing is to work how much you have, or can afford to spend. Here are three ways of working out your budget.

The “10%” Method – This is where you allocate 10% of your turnover to your marketing. As your business grows, so can the marketing that you can afford to do. If you are starting from the very beginning, with no clients and no turnover, you need to think about how much you can afford to get you started and find your first clients.

The “How much have I got?” Method – This method is about looking at what funds you realistically have available to you, which you can allocate to marketing. If you have been made redundant, you might have a sum of money you can put to developing your business. If you are working while setting up your business, you can allocate a proportion of your salary. If you are already running your business, look at what money is coming in and what you can afford to invest in your marketing.

The “How much does it cost?” Method – With this method, you need to look at all the marketing activities you identified in Chapter Six and calculate how much it will all cost. Then you need to look for that investment – either from your own savings or from external sources. You can speak to banks, investors or family to raise the funding you need. While this method might see you relying on outside help, it means you can definitely afford to do everything in a very professional manner.

Spend some time thinking about the different ways of setting your budget and how much you can or want to spend on your marketing. Do this before you start spending your hard earned money and you’ll get much more from your budget.