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.

Using the Law of Attraction to grow your business

I’ve been reading The Law of Attraction by Michael Losier. I attracted it to me – by putting it on my Christmas list!

I’ve been a fan of the law of attraction for many years, since finding out how to apply it to find ideal clients and attracting them to my business. It works on the ‘like attracts like’ principle and you can read more here in a blog I wrote about it. Now I know a bit more about how it works. You see, your words turn into thoughts and those thoughts turn into feelings, or positive or negative vibes. This means that you get what you say and think, whether it’s positive or negative. You know what happens when someone tells you not to think of a pink elephant, don’t you? The words are ‘pink elephant’, so that’s what you think of.

So if you want to get rid of your overdraft, you can’t do it by saying “I want to get rid of my overdraft” because the focus is on ‘overdraft’. You could repeat the phrase over and over, like a mantra, but all it will do is attract you an overdraft!

Losier has a three stage process for attracting what you want. The best thing you can do is read the book, but in the meantime, here’s a summary.

  1. Identify your desire – get really clear on what you want. One of the best ways of doing this is by writing a list of what you don’t want. Then take each thing on the list and turn it into something positive. If you don’t want to be late for a meeting, think about being early or on time.
  2. Give your desire attention – use your words to get more of what you want. One tool you can use for this is rewording affirmations. If your affirmation is that you have a fit, toned body, but you don’t see that when you look in the mirror, say instead say “I am in the process of developing a fit, toned body.” That’s true and it feels much better.
  3. Allow it – because allowing is the absence of negative vibes, or doubt. Take away the doubt and what you want can get to you.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?! It is and it works. Try this process on something small to start with, and see what happens. And for the full story, read Losier’s book.

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.

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!

Can Your Business Afford to Stand Still This Year?

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingIf your business is standing still – always doing the same things, the same ways, for the same people – then you could be missing out on new opportunities and new business. Your competitors will be innovating – looking for different ways of making money – which means that you could be losing business to them.

Every year your competition becomes fiercer, more pressure is put on margins and new products or technologies come along and nibble away at your market. This means that just doing what you’ve always done is a recipe for eventual failure. You need to innovate and improve your offer continuously, or someone else will either steal your market or leave you working harder for less money.

So how do you innovate? Where do the new ideas come from?

Steve Jobs from Apple said “Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat.”

Innovations happen most frequently when you need to solve a problem. You may not know which one thing about your service niggles your customers most, because it might be very small. And yet when you find out what it is, it could open the way making huge improvements. So you need to make a point of asking your clients what it is about your service that they don’t like.

Towards the end of 2011 we decided to run a workshop, to help service based businesses to get more from their marketing. In the run up to the event, I realised that there was only so much help and advice I could give the delegates in one day. This was a problem for me, because I didn’t want my delegates to get all fired up and then not be able to carry on marketing their businesses. After a bit of thinking I came up with the idea of an ongoing mentoring programme, to provide a regular top up of marketing ideas and momentum. And hey presto – a new service was created! The clients who have joined the programme are making great progress already!

Innovative Marketing

You don’t have to restrict innovation to developing new services. You’ll also find a lot of scope for applying new ideas in sales and marketing. I recently started working with a new client because he’d been using the same marketing tactics for the last year. While they used to work, bringing in a steady flow of new clients, over the last six months he’d noticed that flow almost completely dry up and he didn’t know what to do. He wanted some ideas on what could be done differently with his marketing. There are so many marketing channels now available to you that you’re almost spoilt for choice!

Innovative Pricing

You can also be innovative in the way you charge for your service. Experiment with a mix of incentives, or price test your new services, to see what response you get. Don’t think that cheaper is better – some clients won’t take you seriously if they think you’re too cheap; and offering endless discounts can devalue your service and expertise. Look at ways in which you can add value to what you provide, without adding to the cost of delivery.

Can your business afford to stand still this year? What will you do differently this year?

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.