What’s the best marketing you’ve done this year?

Chantal

What marketing have you done that has really worked? What have you done that hasn’t been a great success? What was your best effort and what will you be doing more of less of next year?

2010 has been a busy year for Appletree so we’ve taken a look at the different marketing we’ve done, with different levels of success. Hopefully it will give you some ideas for different marketing to try out next year.

Have a party. In August 2010 Appletree turned 10. We celebrated by inviting our clients, friends and suppliers to a Birthday Party in September. We put a marquee on the lawn outside the office and arranged for some delicious food to be served. We caught up with people we’d not seen for ages and introduced people to potential clients. What can you celebrate next year?

Do something for someone else. Each year, everyone in our business can spend a week of their paid time with a project for a local community. Dianne helped organise a volunteers’ day in Newbury, persuading many local shops to take part – taking to strangers is not something she used to enjoy doing. I will be visiting a prison, to spend time with people who might not have anyone to listen to them, without passing judgement. Alice will be listening to people at the local elderly care centre and writing down some of their stories.

We’re doing this Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to improve our skills and to give something back to local community. Being able to tell people about the work we’ve been doing is an added bonus for our marketing. For your own CSR Review and Report, click here.

Do more networking. We bought another business this year – a networking company called Ladies That Lunch (and men too). Networking is one of the best ways to promote businesses and running the meetings allows us to share out networking experience, while bringing people together. We have big plans for next year, with new groups opening up. Take a look at http://www.ladiesthatlunch.co.uk/ to see when and where you can network with us.

Write a book. I’ve been wanting to write a book for a long time and this year, with the 10th birthday of the business, I got the idea to write a book about how to survive 10 years in business. Each chapter is divided into a number of sections and each one will be available to buy separately next year as a workbook and video.

Beginning to blog. In February we launched our blog. Clients had been asking about blogging – should they be doing it? What’s the best system to use? How does it work? So we started testing it. We now post three times a week, sharing advice and ideas with the world. We linked our blog to our Twitter account followers hear about new posts. Now we can set up blogs for clients and give them advice on how best to use a blog to market their business. Click here to find out how we do it.

So what has been our best marketing this year? We’ve done a lot of different things and there’s been no one thing that has brought the best results. What has worked best has been the integration of is all. Our CSR has been talked about in our blog; we talk about the book at networking meetings; we share marketing and networking tips on Twitter. Our marketing pulls in the same direction so in 2011, whatever marketing we decide to do, we’ll be making sure it’s all integrated and working together.

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Going to prison – the next stage

Chantal

A few months ago I wrote about how I was looking into becoming a prison visitor, as a way of developing my listening skills and sympathy, while getting involved in a community outside my own.

After a number of emails and phone calls to find a prison nearby that has an Official Prison Visitor (OPV) scheme already running, I was invited to an interview at a prison. I was rather nervous for two reasons. Firstly, I haven’t been to an interview for about 12 years – the last one was for the last proper job I had, before I set up Appletree ten years ago; and even back then I wasn’t very good at interviews. Secondly, I’ve never been inside a prison before! I felt quite safe because of all the gates and locks and keys; the barbed wire on the tops of the walls and the not knowing what was round the next corner of the corridor was just a bit unnerving.

My interview was with the prison Governor and the Chaplain. They asked me questions about why I wanted to become an OPV and I decided that honesty was the best option. I explained how everyone at Appletree is being encouraged to give some of their time this year to a local charity or project that pushes them outside their comfort zone. I told them that I might not be the most qualified person to speak to prisons and that I was prepared to give it a go, to help a community that needs volunteer. I also told them that I’d like to blog about my experiences.

I must have said the right things, because I’ve been invited to join their OPV scheme. The next stage is to go through their security checks and training. Once that’s done, I’ll be visiting the prison every two weeks to meet with prisoners who have requested a visitor. While I’m not allowed to tell you anything about who these people are, I’ll certainly tell you how it’s going and what I’m learning from it.

If you’d like to push yourself and do something for a local community, becoming an OPV might be for you. If you’re interested let me know and I can put you in touch with people to get the ball rolling.

Blog carnivals: how they help your blog traffic

Alice

A blog carnival is a great way of getting more traffic to your blog.

It is referred to as a blogging event or community, or even a magazine. All these terms are confusing, so my interpretation is that a carnival is a special blog whose posts contains links or permalinks to other related blog posts within a particular subject or topic.

If you think of it like a magazine, a blog carnival contains a title, topic, editors, contributors, audience and a regular publishing schedule. The editor or host gathers together relevant and recently written blog posts on a predetermined topic. These are then listed in the carnival post, accompanied with the host’s comments, remarks and opinions to assist with comprehending the subject matter and choosing the relevant permalinks to read.

If you think of it like an event or community, it is a place where like-minded bloggers come together to collate, share and follow each others posts within a specific subject. New material is submitted regularly according to the schedule, and the collection of links within the carnival is extremely attractive to both search engine spiders as well as committed readers, hence why it’s good for increasing traffic to your blog.

If you’re interested in contributing to a blog carnival, browse through the blog carnival index and find one that is relevant to your niche. Many have a homepage that explains the carnival’s subject, submission details and how often it is published. Also, take the opportunity to read past posts to see if this carnival is the right one for you, and to get the general style and content. It is also a great way to meet other bloggers and use the blogosphere fully.

Dianne’s next CSR step: a positive attitude

Dianne

I work as an Administrator and Customer Services Assistant for Appletree based in Compton.  When my boss Chantal gave me the opportunity to go out and help Garry Poulson, Director of the Newbury Volunteer Centre, to organise a charity event, I was really keen to get involved, giving 20 hours (my working week) of my time to help launch a project. 

This would be a worthwhile thing to do and would involve me giving something back to the community.  It was good also to have a specific project with a beginning, middle and an end.  I could almost picture myself celebrating success.  Perhaps there would be a write-up in the local paper, my name would be mentioned and the name of my company.  I was very excited and proud to be linked to a company who felt so strongly about CSR and the benefits for all involved.

My task was to recruit local shops and banking halls to host a local charity event for the day in order to raise awareness of local charitable work and to recruit more volunteers. I would need to speak to managers face to face and win them over to the concept, getting as many as possible on board for the event taking place on 5 June 2010. 

I am used to sitting behind my desk writing emails or phoning customers who approach me for my help. I felt nervous and unsure about the task and how I would manage going out onto the High Street in Newbury and using my powers of persuasion to convince managers to participate in this event.  I armed myself with lots of information about the Volunteer Centre and the work that they do.  Garry gave me a letter of introduction to leave if I could not speak directly to individual managers. On my first contact my aim was to come away with a firm ‘Yes’ plus an email address or telephone number.

I had decided that I would need a positive attitude and approach if this was going to work.  It was not just about imparting information, it was the way the information was delivered that would win through.  I was acting as a representative of the Volunteer Centre; managers would make a judgement on my appearance and voice and then content of the information given to them.

So it was with a positive attitude that I stepped out onto the High Street of Newbury town centre.  How did I fair?  I will update you next week.

CSR – An Admin Assistant’s view

Dianne

How this Administration Assistant became aware of Corporate Social Responsibility:

 “I will set you a challenge” said my boss. “I would like you to go out into the community, find yourself a job and volunteer your Administration services for one week.”

I thought this a stiff challenge. I might have to leave my comfortable office, meet new people, take on a task and successfully complete it within a given timeframe. Success or failure, how will I fare? How can I combine this with helping within the community? Where can I look for such a task, and who will help me? With all these thoughts running through my mind, I turned to the one source I usually turn to when I need information and set about searching online using key words such as volunteer, charities, events. There were pages and pages of these so I decided to take down telephone numbers and a few contact details of local charities in my area. 

I considered emailing the various charities with details of when I would be available for work but this would take time. The only course of action was to pick up the phone and talk to someone. It is now March and I needed to get things moving quickly if I was going to get involved in a key event being held this year. 

After many phone calls I discovered the Newbury Volunteer Centre and spoke to Garry Poulson the Director. I outlined briefly what I would be able to offer in terms of admin support, and my time. As a result, I am due to meet Garry to discuss a project that he has in mind for me. After our meeting I hope things will become clear. I want to feel a sense of achievement at the end of my task. I will ask myself, has this work been worthwhile? Who in the community will benefit? How can I spread the word about this? What have I gained from it? I will keep you posted. 

Are you doing anything similar with your company?