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!

Measuring your marketing

To make your marketing really effective, you need to measure every marketing activity that you carry out.

You can start by measuring the number of enquiries that you generate from each activity and how much it costs for each enquiry. Go a stage further and measure the number of new clients generated from those enquiries. Some activities may generate many enquiries, but if they’re not the right sort of enquiries – not your ideal clients – you will not get the conversion to clients that you want.

When you are measuring the cost, take everything into account. If you attend a regular networking meeting, include the annual fee and cost of each meeting. You can even include the time that you spend at each meeting and your time to travel there – this will show you if it’s worth you driving for two hours to that networking meeting, even if it’s free to attend.

Be really specific with your measurements. For example, for networking meetings, measure the effectiveness of each group you attend, as this will show you if some are better for you than others. If you advertise in newspapers or magazines, measure the results you get from each one.

Once you have started to measure your marketing, take a look at the numbers. Are there any surprises? Do you have some marketing activities that are working better than others? Are there some that are not working as well as you thought they might be? Are there some marketing activities that you should stop and others that you should do better?

This is an exerpt from my new book about Marketing Planning, which will be published on 16 November 2011.  Pre-launch orders now being taken – click here to reserve your copy.

Do you work with your ideal clients?

When someone asks you who your clients are, is your answer something like, ‘anyone with a pulse and a cheque book’?

If it is, I’m going to let you into a secret. No matter how hard you try, you are always going to struggle to grow your business. You might think that trying to attract every sort of client to your business is a great way of getting more clients to work with you. But that’s not true. Trying to work with every different kind of business means that you will always be chasing everyone you meet, working hard to persuade them to work with you. It means that you will agree to work with clients who don’t really value what you do and how much you want to charge. They will beat you down on price and then want everything done really quickly. They won’t recommend you to other businesses, because they don’t think you’re that special.

Do you still want to work with clients like that?

Your perfect clients are the ones who come and find you. They want exactly what you want to offer them and they want to pay what you want to charge. They are a joy to work with and they always recommend you to other businesses. But there is a trick to finding them. Nearly every consultant or coach that starts a business begins by doing whatever comes along. The idea of sitting around waiting for people to come to you is a strange one, but it’s one that you need to understand. When you know who your perfect clients are and what you want to offer them, you’ll be able to attract them to you, instead of having to chase after them. You can save time by focusing your attention on only working with clients who really appreciate what you do and who pay you what you’re worth. You can save money by only marketing to your perfect clients and you can make more money from working with them.

Do you know who your ideal clients are? Are you working with them or putting up with not-so-perfect clients?

This is an exerpt from my new book about Marketing Planning, which will be published on 16 November 2011.  Pre-launch orders now being taken – click here to reserve your copy.

Where do your clients hang out?

If you know who your ideal clients are – the people that you really want to work with, who will love working with you – 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 – 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.

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? Write a list of everywhere your clients ‘could’ spend time and divide the list into the places they do hang out and the places don’t. Are you putting your marketing messages in the right places?

This is an exerpt from my new book about Marketing Planning, which will be published on 16 November 2011.  Pre-launch orders now being taken – click here to reserve your copy.

I can’t write a book – what would I write about?

Did you know that 95% of people who think about writing a book never get around to it? That’s a lot of unfulfilled dreams and ideas.

But did you know that writing a book is just about giving? This means that a book is about sharing your ideas and your advice; it’s about writing about what you know about.

I recently suggested to one of my clients that she should write a book. After she’d stopped laughing, she said, “What on earth would I write about and who would want to read it anyway?”

The client in question, Debbie, is a riding instructor who works with people and their own horses, helping them to develop better relationships. It’s not about teaching people to ride, but about helping her clients to train themselves and their horses to the next level of fitness and performance. It’s a bit like a sportsman having a coach who helps him with the next competition; or the business coach who helps her clients achieve greater success – whatever that might look like. A great deal of Debbie’s work is also based around the psychology of riding and how the way riders think affects the way they ride.

So to answer the first question – what do I write about? My suggestion to Debbie was that she writes about some of her clients and the training they’ve been through. She works with a huge range of people and horses, so I suggested a series of case studies to highlight different issues and the different – all successful – results they’ve achieved. Debbie actually enjoys writing, so that won’t be a problem; for people who don’t like writing, a series of case studies can easily be produced by interviewing people and transcribing the interviews.

And question two – who will want to read it? I asked Debbie how many happy clients she has, who would like to know more about training themselves and their horses. She has dozens and all of them would buy her book – especially if they’re signed! In addition, the number of horses in the UK is huge. (According to the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) survey of 2066 there were 1.35 million in the UK.) Take off of few for the people who own more than one horse; remove a few professional riders who have written their own books and you’re left with a vast number of ordinary people who love their horses, ride for fun and would love a book that can, practically, help them improve their riding and develop a better relationship with their horse – without spending a fortune on an expensive course or ‘horse whisperer’.

The good news is that having answered Debbie’s two concerns, she’s giving it a go and is going to write the book! We’re starting with a half day planning session at the end of September and once we’ve done that, I’ll write another blog to update you on progress. If you’re a horse rider who would like to read Debbie’s book, let me know! Once we have the outline, we’ll put details of the book onto her website at www.Gain-field.co.uk with details of how to order a pre-launch copy.

Is there a book in you? Do you know what you could write about and the ideas and advice that you could share? Even if you don’t have the answers to the questions, if you’d like to write a book, get in touch by leaving a comment and ask about our new Book Consultancy service.

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.

CSR Update for Appletree

Corporate Social Responsibility is something we hear more and more about in business. Instead of keeping our heads down and just working hard for our own ends, CSR is about looking into the wider community and environment. It’s about looking at the impact we have and about seeing where else we can all help.

In 2010 we published our first CSR Report, to set goals on what more we could do and to share our results with you. Click here to read our report – it’s on our website. I updated our progress in a blog post in January (click here to read it) and since then we’ve completed one more task on our list – we had double glazing fitted to the office windows! They had an almost instant effect and as well as keeping us warmer, will definitely help reduce our heating bill and oil consumption.

So then we started looking at what to put into a more up to date CSR report. We weren’t sure what to do, so recently I met up with Jo Sandford from Creating Synergy – a CSR consultant who helped us with the first report. On Jo’s advice, we’ve decided not to publish another report, but instead to up our game. There’s a new standard called the Responsible Business Standard and we’re going to go for it. There are three levels – bronze, silver and gold – and we’re aiming as high as we can! We started by completing a survey run by the Organisation for Responsible Business to find out our starting point and what needs to be worked on. You can do the survey at www.ORBuk.org.uk. Jo and I then went through the results, to see what we need to work on. As Jo is an assessor for the standard, she’s given me some great advice on what we need to do, to achieve the standard.

What do we need to do? Here are a few of the activities I’ll be carrying out this year, before Jo comes to assess us:

  • Write an environmental policy for Appletree
  • Document our waste and recycling policy, so that new recruits know what to do
  • Write to our suppliers telling them that we’re going for the standard. We can’t always buy ‘green’ (although we often buy local) but we can spread the word about it
  • Carry out a survey of our clients to get feedback from them and see where we can make improvements
  • Write up our complaints procedure and tell our clients about it.

So not much, then! I’ll let you know how we get on with this lot and then the level of standard we get, once we’re finally assessed.

If you’re interested in achieving the Responsible Business Standard, complete the survey on the ORB website and send me your results. I’ll send them on to Jo who can assess them for you, and give you advice on what to do next.