When a workshop is more than just a workshop

If you offer any kind of service to customers, running workshops are a great way of marketing yourself and your business.  They inform and advise and can act as a great way of speaking directly to your target customer audience.  Also, as will become apparent here, they are not a one-off event in terms of marketing, they actually offer a lot more.

At Appletree we recently held a ½ day marketing workshop for small, service-based companies.  As well as it being a great opportunity to give marketing advice and tips to the businesses, it was also a great way to use a number of different marketing activities, at little or no cost.

On the surface, it was an activity that happened during a few hours, with a captive audience who listened and participated in a lively workshop.  Dig deeper however, and it becomes clear how many marketing activities were involved in the workshop, before, during and after the event.

Let me take you back a few weeks.  Once the venue and timings of the workshop had been confirmed, an online booking system was created.  An email promoting the event was then sent out to a database of small businesses.  This database was known to be ‘clean’ and up to date, an absolute must when dealing with contact databases.  Details of the event were added to our website.  This is great for SEO, which looks for regular updates on sites in order to rank them.  We then sent details of the event to another mailing list, via our monthly newsletter, which is linked to our website.  Again, this encouragement to visit our website is a great way to share more of our services to those contacts, and to improve SEO.

A reminder email was sent to all contacts a week before the event, and some follow up telephone calls made to outline the benefits of attending the workshop.

The desired number of delegates was reached before the day, and an email was sent to each asking if they had any specific objectives they were hoping to meet as a result of the workshop.  This was the start of relationship building with our key audience.

During the day we met some really interesting people, all of whom were small business owners and all wanting to learn how to use marketing successfully to help grow their businesses.  Feedback from the day was asked from each delegate, along with a personal thank you to each for attending.  It’s this long-term relationship building that creates the most long-lasting business opportunities.

All in all, around 6 different channels of marketing were used, just for a workshop that lasted a few hours.  It led to lots of ticks on our marketing activity plan!

So if you’re considering running a workshop but don’t think you have the time, consider it as a huge opportunity to cost effectively market yourself and your business.


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!

More marketing methods for Twitter


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.

Does a brand need a logo?


The instantaneous reaction to the word ‘brand’ cultures up a logo, a symbol which is recognisable for that company. It is an image or shape that becomes memorable (as long as there is sufficient awareness) and resonates with its customer base to stimulate recognition and acts as its identification.

But logos aren’t always symbols, quite a lot are comprised of words, usually the name of the company. This collection of letters, combined with the font and colour used, become the symbolic recognition point, and in some cases the font and colour themselves are protected, as for the BBC and Oxfam respectively.

And then there is the absence of a logo, when the verbal rendition of the name is relied upon to conjure up recognition of the brand. Remember a brand is also a promise of excellent customer service and quality of product, so the mere mention of a brand’s name should result in immediate expectation from that particular target market. To go a step further, blind people can’t recognise symbols, so they have to rely on reputation and referrals to make their decisions.

Another example of brands without logos could be celebrities. They depend on their appearance and performance to command appropriate recognition, so supposedly their faces or whatever they do becomes their brand. In this case it is their relationship with their customers that needs to be cultivated in order to perpetuate their brand.

And finally search engines don’t depend on logos to promote and elevate a company’s brand, as spiders cannot read images. They rely solely on carefully optimised words within whatever digital medium the business uses to bring themselves to their customers’ attention.

It’s not good to make your website flashy


I saw a question on LinkedIn that asked how to optimise a website’s homepage that consisted purely of Flash. Flash is a programme that provides animation with images and graphics for websites, and you probably have come across many examples (I did the other day with a digital marketing firm) where you are greeted with a little ‘show’ of moving graphics that are supposedly meant to be impressive.

This particular website showed a graphic of a computer with a running newsroll describing in a totally unnecessarily cryptic message about how impressive their business was and why you should use their services. The other pages had graphics that moved if you moused over them, but were not immediately understandable with what they represented, and unless you bothered to use your mouse it was unlikely you would have an inclination to progress further.

Luckily someone else had already answered with the correct response to that LinkedIn question – don’t use Flash! – so I was able to confirm he was, in my opinion, quite right.

For starters, Flash, since it only uses images, is not picked up by the search engines. Internet spiders are programmed to only search for words, so will not be able to understand pictures unless they have a ‘alt tag’ attached to them which describes them, an attribute which is also useful for the deaf.

Therefore, since there weren’t any words on that index page that weren’t hidden within a graphic, it was unable to be optimised. OK, you could do the relevant keyword research and populate the meta tags appropriately, but if they were unable to correspond with words on the page associated with them, especially various H-tags, their impact would be severely impeded.

Another problem is that some Flash programmes take time to upload before they can run, which results in a variety of ‘wait’ messages while the process happens. Some websites provide ‘skip’ buttons, but if this is the case, why did they bother with Flash in the first place?

It is becoming a well known fact that the average time a new visitor spends on a website, before they decide whether it is the right one for them, is less than 3 seconds. If after a few seconds you are still waiting for the Flash presentation to start, you can guarantee the majority of visitors won’t bother waiting around.

And the whole point of a homepage of a website is to establish that this is the correct website for the visitor. Not only should they immediately recognise the subject or business type, but it should be made as easy as possible, with recognisable links or click buttons, to progress further into the site.

Not everybody has the inclination or time to waste fathoming out what to do next, it should be instantaneous! Websites are now mediums for finding facts and, more appropriately for Web2.0, interacting with the website’s owners, so the process should be inviting, encouraging, enthusiastic and obvious!

And that means being ‘Flashy’ with your website is, as well as being pretentious, sooo last century!

Why SEO is untouchable


I was talking to someone the other day about SEO (search engine optimisation) and they asked me to send them some examples. Of course I instinctively said ‘Yes’, but then I stopped and thought about it. SEO is intangible, it is not a solid item I can ‘put in the post’, you cannot hold it in your hand like a leaflet, nor can you immediately ‘see’ it like a website.

SEO is the use and performance of keywords and keyphrases within website copy, and in the meta tags in the code. It can manifest itself in many guises: meta tags behind pictures, keywords in headlines, keyphrases woven into webcopy in such a way they are not noticeable to the reader, but stick out like sore thumbs to the internet spider. The browser title in the webpage could be carefully constructed to capture as much SEO as possible, and the (almost) invisible description tags that only materialise in search engine indexing so necessary to match up with visitor search criteria.

In fact, the best SEO should almost be invisible to the web visitor. It is not designed to be obvious, but like a cleverly constructed machine the cogs and wheels behind the system are not revealed; with the fancy exterior perfectly designed to distract the user, they grind away doing their invaluable and important work.

What he could have said was to send him something that showed SEO’s results. This would have to be done in report form, analysed from Google Analytics over a period of time, tweaked to increase performance and perfect the spider response required to increase visitor traffic and ultimately conversions into business (but that bit depends on a combination of design and psychology on the ‘shop front’, a totally different story to SEO tangibility).

Ineffectual landing pages are a waste of time


This sweeping statement has arisen because I see so many examples!

In fact this covers two kinds of landing pages, since it refers to the webpage the visitor first lands on when visiting a website.  This can actually be any page on your website, not necessarily the index or homepage. This is because it may be the result of a visitor asking a question on the search engines, and your landing page answers the criteria or keywords within the question.

If each webpage is carefully constructed to act like mini-index pages for its specific subject, it should have been suitably optimised to respond to such searches, with the keywords strategically placed to activate such a response from the searched question.

The other kind of landing page is the squeeze page. This is also called a sales page and is the result of a email or online campaign where the prospect is directed straight to a specific page specially created to fulfil the transaction portion of the campaign.

This is another point of failure. In the States this kind of page goes on for miles and miles, and this is because the Americans expect that level of persuasion to enable their prospects to be convinced to take appropriate action. In the UK this is not tolerated, as we find it ridiculous that so much needs to be said to make a sale. But even if the British version isn’t constructed in such a manner, it still needs to take on a formula to succeed.

It should act like a story-board, driving the reader onto the next section. Each section should explain why the reader should buy the product, explaining all the benefits that will make their lives better, counteracting all the objections the customer may have towards buying this product, providing case studies and testimonials that will help promote the product in a much better light – and of course all this takes up space! Now do you see why the American versions are so long?

So the latest example I saw was a simple box saying ‘Buy this product’ with a ‘Pay now’ button underneath is certainly not going to work – there was no call to action or explanation why, and with such basic elements missing it hadn’t really got a hope!