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!

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Where do your clients hang out?

When you know who your ideal clients are – the people that you really want to work with, who will love working with you – to get your marketing message to them, you need to think about where they hang out. When you know this, you can put your marketing messages in places where they will see them and respond to them. If you just splash your messages everywhere, your prospective clients will see them, but so will hundreds of other people that you don’t want to work with, so most of your effort and money will be wasted. Putting your messages in places where your prospects won’t see them will waste your effort and money too.

To figure out where your clients hang out, think about who your perfect clients are and what makes them tick. Combine these with the products and services that you want to provide and you’ll get a picture of who these people are and where they hang out.

For example, if you provide weight loss advice to people who want to get fitter and live a healthier lifestyle, leaving a brochure in a pub won’t bring you many enquiries – if any. You will have more success if you leave that same brochure in a doctor’s surgery.

If you specialize in helping women become more successful and assertive at work, promoting your business in magazines aimed at men will be a waste of time.

For ideal clients over a certain age, will they see your message on the internet? More and more people are going online, regardless of their age, but you still need to know where on the internet they spend time. What other products and services are they looking for? Which websites do they visit?

 Where do your clients hang out? Make a list of everywhere your clients ‘could’ spend time and another list of places where they don’t hang out. For instance, your clients might hang out at industry specific networking events, but not at trade exhibitions. Once you’ve got your list, make sure you only put your marketing messages in places where your clients hang out and you will save yourself a lot of time and effort.

Never be ashamed of making things easy

Alice

There is nothing more off-putting than being spouted at by a lot of jargon, especially if you’re not familiar with it. It can be very demoralizing to keep asking what ‘x’ means, and wearisome to retain the information and applying it to what you already know.

Therefore if you produce a new product or service to your public, make sure it is easy to understand. Making things simple is not a crime, it is a necessary requisite, if you are to get your prospective customers to comprehend and ultimately to buy it or hire you.

Making something simple is not as easy as it sounds. It does require a large amount of forethought, analysis of how a product really works, or how a service can be efficiently provided. It needs to have volunteers to demonstrate it on first, to watch its performance and recognise any glitches, ready to be amended or adapted where necessary. Only when the result glides by on silken runners will the product or service be ready to release on your unsuspecting public!

And even then you can’t rest on your laurels, as feedback and comments needs to be collected, instigated and prompted, as well as acted upon to make the required improvements. These things can always evolve into a better model as time goes by, so constant awareness and watchful motivation will alert you to concepts that are succesful, or even failures needing attention.

At the end of the day, it is the simplicity that has made the difference, provided the USP and proved its worth. Unless your customers can properly cope with what you have to offer, in a way that they can appreciate, absorb and act upon by themselves, presented in a way that totally relates to the way they think, act and react, all that hard work would have gone to waste.

More marketing methods for Twitter

Alice

Twitter is designed for communication and interaction. It isn’t somewhere just to tweet about what you’re doing or to thrust your latest blog post into the limelight. This is as bad as putting up a poster saying “collect your prize here” and then immediately going away without seeing if anybody is interested in collecting it. You’ve left nobody there to help promote this prize, engage with any interested persons attracted by the offer, answer anbody who wants to ask more questions, or collect information from those who want to sign up! What a wasted opportunity!

Putting up a tweet without monitoring the result is like going into a networking event, standing on a chair and shouting very loudly about what you do, and immediately leaving without bothering to find out what others think about it or even finding out about them and their businesses. Not only is this very rude, it is the same principle as those who thrust networking cards into people’s hands without any form of engaging, or talking endlessly about themselves without anybody else getting a word in!

To use Twitter properly for marketing purposes, it isn’t just a medium for your RSS feed outlet or to tweet about your latest successes or engagements in your diary. It’s somewhere to find out about other things, to put on your investigator’s hat, to sleuth your way about the Twittersphere picking up vital bits of information, to learn new material that could help further your business.

You could use search.twitter.com as your personal search engine by inserting specially researched keywords related to your business that might be used in the conversations of your prospective clients. In fact, it’s like turning into a big eaves-dropper through search engine optimisation. By recognising that others have conversations, and don’t just tweet facts and blog posts without anything else, you home in on specific parts of what they are talking about that interest you.

Once you’ve established a series of tweeple who are talking about what your business is about, now is the chance to jump in and start engaging. Yes, you are allowed to gate-crash in Twitter conversations, as long as it’s relevant to what’s being said. But it must be done in a sociable style, without any hint of selling. There is nothing more of a turn-off than somebody who wades in with all guns firing trying to sell you something you haven’t asked for. Your style must be equally conversational, like if you were at a cocktail party and you overheard an interesting conversation. Subtle-like.

If you are successful, you are one step ahead to connecting properly, gaining their trust and forming a business relationship with them. As with all marketing, the softly-softly approach is best, feeding them beneficial information they can immediately use to make their lives better, befriending them so they become more comfortable with you, getting them to sign up to your newsletter or subscribe to your blog, gently engaging with them until they get to the state they are interested in doing business with you.

The importance of long-term marketing

Alice

Businesses have a varied view of what marketing is for, and how it can be used, and it invariably depends on their financial position, the product or service they are promoting, the mindset of the management, the resources available to them, both personnel and technical, and the general attitude towards marketing and selling tactics.

But it has been noted by researchers that small businesses and sole-trading entrepreneurs are stealing a march over the larger organisations. This is because they are far more flexible in their approach towards marketing practices and how it can affect their businesses.

The other thing to note is that these smaller outfits are far more likely to accept the fact that marketing can and will take a long timespan before any results start to materialise. Impatience and impetuousness may be prevalent in both kinds of businesses, but the larger corporates may have demanding bosses, crippling financial forecasts, unreasonable objectives and impractical processes that overshadow any marketing strategies, however carefully they have been put in place to create optimum results.

It is these smaller businesses that are able to see or realise that marketing is a long-term objective that are able to benefit the most from it. This all depends if they are willing to be consistent with providing content for blogs and newsletters, contributing sociably on social networks, spreading their expertise through social media and offline networking and speaking engagements, maintaining a high visibility on the web through blogs, articles, RSS feeds and constantly responding to what their past, present and prospect clients and contacts are doing.

If your company expects immediate returns, do selling, not marketing. Instant ROI may be obtained through various pushy methods, but can it really be compared to that gained through long-term marketing, principally obtained through relationship building, research into customer understanding and responses, providing what is requested or desired, and filling the niches opened up by the misdemeanours of the larger organisations.

Long term marketing results in long term relationships and proven sustainability from your customers. Even so, once acquired, there is no time to sit on your laurels – the pace must be kept up to maintain this much sort-after and coveted friendship, by providing more benefits to make their lives better, and more relationship-building tactics to keep them from converting to the competition.

Therefore you can see how this cannot be achieved through short-term methods without your prospects turning up their noses because they don’t know anything about the company or what it is providing, or losing them immediately afterwards because they haven’t acquired enough knowledge about how your business works for you to gain their trust and appreciation. If you haven’t bothered to take the time to woo your customers to fall in love with you, how can you expect the relationship to last?

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.

Please stop sending junk mail!

Chantal

What do insurance companies, garden supplies, office stationery, solar panels and window blinds have in common? Leaflets advertising them were all delivered to my home recently, on the same day, by my friendly postman.

There was a 16 page A5 leaflet advertising dozens of different insurance companies with their latest offers. If you advertise in this totally untargeted, unpersonalised leaflet, please stop wasting your money. No doubt the printers of this rubbish are charging you a fortune for it, on the promise that it gets delivered to hundreds of home for you. Here’s the thing – the majority of people who receive it a) won’t be looking for insurance at the time so will bin it; b) object to this rubbish so bin it; c) go online to get really up to date insurance deals and just bin what you send. Save yourself money and paper by not doing this.

The catalogues for garden supplies and stationery came from companies from whom I have bought before. I bought a tree last autumn and this is the second catalogue they’ve sent since. I’ve not bought stationery from the other company for years and yet they keep sending me something, usually every month. Both pieces are going in the bin. Try asking your customers what they want and how often they want to hear from you, to avoid annoying them.

Solar panels? I don’t have £8000 to invest right now and my roof faces east-west, so we’d need lots of panels to earn the income they reckon I could earn – which would cost even more to install! If you’re going to do direct mail, make sure it’s targeted.

As for the window blinds – I actually called this company a year ago, to book an appointment, only to be told that they don’t have any representatives in my area! Why waste money and paper sending me a leaflet, then? Get your facts and figures right before you commit to investing in direct mail.

Direct mail can work very effectively, if you plan and research what you’re going to send, who to and how often.