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!

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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!

Which are your best selling months?

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingI’m currently reading Faff by Mike Pagan. He gave me a copy a couple of months ago when he presented at a meeting I attended (click here for more information about the meeting and a link to Mike’s website.) Mike’s book is a collection of articles and ideas and one that got me thinking is about the best months for selling. He says that only six months of each year are fully available for proper selling. For example, January isn’t a full month because of the New Year (and post Christmas) holiday. He also says that July, August and September are out because of summer holidays. This will of course change for different businesses and you may have different high and low months if your business is seasonal.

I looked at Mike’s table of when proper selling can take place and it worried me. If you’re really looking to grow your business, setting out thinking that you can only really sell during six months of the year will really limit you. If you want to grow, then I believe that you shouldn’t limit yourself to just six months of the year. Some people don’t celebrate Christmas, or they go back to work early in the New Year, so you can get started early. Some people do take a holiday in July or August, but not everyone on your prospect list will go away – and not for the whole two months – so don’t stop following up with prospects. If you get to know your clients and your prospects, you’ll get to know when they’re away and when they’re receptive to your call. Use all the time you have available for selling and plan when you’re going to use different tactics and campaigns to promote different services, for the most effective, year round selling.

What will you be promoting this month? What’s this month’s sales offer?

Marketing works better when it works together

I’ve just written a case study to go into my new book and wanted to share it with you. It’s about one of my clients how using a wide range of marketing activities, all working together, is really helping to grow her business.

Options HR is a company that provides valuable HR advice to businesses that do not have their own HR department. To attract new clients and encourage existing clients to use more of their services, they use a range of both Online and Offline Marketing tactics, all carefully integrated and working together.

The company had a website which was used as a brochure site. It was static and the company was not able to update the content easily. There was no way of keeping in regular contact with existing clients or networking contacts. A number of clients used the HR services on an ad hoc basis, only when there was a problem that needed to be sorted out; they were not aware of all the services available to them.

After a planning session that showed a large potential for winning more business from existing clients, we put together a plan for a range of integrated marketing. We moved the website to a Content Management System so that we could update the site whenever we needed to. We started writing and publishing email newsletters, every two months, to be sent to existing clients, past clients and other contacts. This is a simple way of the company keeping in touch with everyone on a regular basis and the newsletters provide useful, up to date HR advice.

We ran quarterly HR clinics where clients and prospects could bring their HR issues to a confidential meeting and get help from the HR specialists and the other people around the table. The first two sessions attracted just a handful of visitors, but generated new work for the company. For the third event, a special email invitation was sent to all clients, inviting them to bring colleagues or their own clients to a session specifically around Performance Management. A Telesales specialist was then brought in for a day, to call everyone on the list and ask if they would be attending. Everyone who accepted was emailed a few days before the meeting to remind them. This session attracted nearly 20 people, including some prospective clients, who were all able to get help with their specific issues and pick up expert tips.

I took my video camera which was used on the day, to capture the presenter giving advice on Performance Management. A number of short video clips will be put onto YouTube to be found by anyone who needs them and encouraging people to visit the website for more advice. There will be links from the email newsletters to the videos and they will be embedded into the website for visitors to watch. All past issues of the newsletters are also available on the website, building up a valuable resource for clients and prospective clients. If you’d like to attend the next clinic on 19 January 2012 get in touch with Options HR through their website.

By planning and then integrating a range of marketing activities, the results have dramatically increased for Options HR. Marketing works better when it works together.

My new book, The Client Magnet (How to Market Your Services as a Coach, Consultant or Trainer) which will be available from 16 November 2011. Pre-launch orders are being taken now – order it now and it’s just £10! Click here to place your order.

Facebook – Is it really the modern day business necessity?

When you first started your business, print media was probably your main marketing concern. Not very long ago, it wasn’t entirely unusual for a business not to be online. To interact with your customers, the internet wasn’t your only option. But now, things have changed. Not only is the internet everywhere, we’re expected to always be connected. Social media is getting bigger, and wise businesses are using it to their advantage.

The average Facebook user spends 23 minutes each visit, and 70% of local businesses use Facebook for marketing. How can you communicate with your target market? Facebook is modern-day equivalent of the telephone book. It holds so much personal information that you can quite specifically get in touch with your market, right down to gender, location and age range. Facebook isn’t just a place for adverts, there are many uses for it – and it’s a brilliant way you can build a relationship with your consumers. You can use a Facebook page to promote and test new products, and you can use it to sell products or content directly using Facebook credits. Marketing is about selling yourself, a personality; not just a product. Facebook is one of the best ways to communicate that, as a business you can find yourself getting the same access to an individual as their friends or family.

There are many examples of people using Facebook third party for their businesses, and utilising the platform partnerships e.g. the business creating the advertisement or application, and Facebook selling the space or the ‘platform’ necessary to promote and effectively use it. For a lot of service providers, it’s another platform – just one with potential access to thousands of people. There are 600million users on Facebook as of January 2011. It’s illogical not to be a part of it. Facebook has been around for years, and immortalised in film. It’s not just a passing fad, the words “Find Us On Facebook!” are everywhere. You see it on a twitter page, on a website, on a blog, on email signatures and even print media and leaflets. It’s quite possibly the most effective and accessible call to action for this generation. Not being on Facebook is like saying your business doesn’t have a phone, but you can still get in touch via your pager.

The internet isn’t everything, and only focussing your marketing online would be a mistake. Good businesses have a presence in more than one forum. What about those people who don’t go online? The people who still don’t understand what the words ‘social media’ mean? If all of your customers are technophobes, then perhaps heavy investment into your Facebook page may not be the way to go. In that case, understandably, you’d focus your marketing elsewhere. But even in your print media, you’d want to make a reference to your online social media, because you never know who is going to see it.

Facebook isn’t a business necessity, but most definitely is a modern day necessity.