A different way to use PowerPoint

Used properly, PowerPoint can be a really effective way of enhancing presentations. Used badly, it can do harm to your reputation. I’d like to share some tips I received on a birthday card, for an alternative way to use PowerPoint.

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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!

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.

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?