How not to run an event

So you’re planning to run an event. A workshop or perhaps a seminar, where you can share your expertise with an audience. Or maybe you’re aiming high with a conference? Here are some tips for you to follow, if you want to make a complete mess of the event and ruin your reputation!

  • Use a sound and lighting company that doesn’t know what it’s doing
  • Put a screen behind your speakers and keep changing what’s on it to distract your audience
  • Enlist the help of a compere who has never done this role and ask them to wear something outrageous
  • Use live music to keep your delegates entertained. Make sure it’s badly played
  • Don’t bother booking any reserve speakers, in case any of your headliners drop out at the last minute
  • If you’re using a stage to stand on, make sure it’s really small and that your audience can see what’s underneath it
  • By all means have some people helping you during your workshop, but have them sitting at the front of the room where everyone can see what they’re up to
  • Introduce your speakers by simply reading what’s written in the programme
  • Allow your compere to be judgemental and opinionated – after all, people have come to listen to him/her
  • During breaks, make sure you don’t clear the tables; let the empty cups and saucers build up and don’t worry about putting out more bottles of water
  • Sit down while you’re presenting your material – don’t waste energy by standing up.

I could go on and on, because I’ve been to many events where I’ve spent as much time watching how the event was run, as I’ve done listening to the material.

If you want to create a really great impression and leave your audience wanting more of what you have to offer, then think very carefully about how you run events. Avoid the glaring mistakes made by some people and you can use events to promote and grow your business.

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.

Taking your ideas for a ride – or why I can’t write a book (Part 2)

On 20 September I blogged about my client and riding instructor, Debbie, who thought I was joking when I suggested that she write a book. (Click here to read Part 1.) I knew it would be a great way to promote her services and to share her knowledge with some of the thousands of horse owners in the country.

Well, after Debbie stopped laughing, she agreed to spend half a day with me and Sarah Williams, The Book Consultant. Sarah has published many books herself and now helps business owners to write and publish their own books. She’s working on a clever process that will allow even more people to get the ideas out of their head and onto paper. Unsurprisingly, she’s writing a book about it and when it’s out, I’ll let you know. Without giving away too much at this stage, Sarah is developing a specialised thinking and planning process. She avoids putting too much structure into ideas too early on, keeping the structure as loose and provisional as possible, for as long as possible. The way she did this with Debbie was to start by asking her what riding is all about. The negatives and positives all went onto a flip chart – all carefully colour coded. Then she asked Debbie about the process she goes through with new clients (riders) and again the answers went onto the flip chart. All this took a couple of hours and really gave us time to explore the ideas and issues in plenty of detail.

Then we took a break for lunch (and a glass of wine – very important for the creative process!) After lunch we went back to the flip charts and suddenly things started dropping into place. From all the ideas and the loose structure, we could see chapters and sections of the book start to emerge. At the start of the day, if we’d asked Debbie what she wanted to write about, I don’t think she’d have known. But when Sarah asked her now, she could see quite clearly the important aspects that she wanted to write about. Out of the colours and words on the flip charts – out of the provisional structure – came a plan and a process for the writing. How clever is that!

Many people who want to write a book just don’t know where to start. 95% of the people who think about writing a book don’t ever do it. If you really want to write a book – to promote what you do and build your reputation or just to share your ideas – then don’t be one of that number. Get in touch and Sarah and I will see what we can do to help you get the book written and then promoted to the world.

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.

Why Should You Give Your Marketing a Holiday?

I had two weeks off at Christmas last year and then worked through, without any real time off, until the end of July. By the time I went on holiday, I was really ready for it. I was tired, the ideas weren’t flowing as they usually do and I didn’t have all the energy I like to give my clients and staff. The result was that I wasn’t giving my clients everything they expected, I wasn’t inspiring my team on a daily basis and my marketing was suffering.

Some of my best ideas come when I’m away from my desk, so spending time up a mountain, when I’m focussing more on where to put my feet, allows me to really clear my mind and let the new ideas flow in. One aspect of good marketing is trying out new initiatives to see what works. We’re bombarded with so many marketing messages these days, from every angle, that for your voice to be heard you need to say something different, or say it in a different way. You need to come up with new ideas to try; if you’re tired and stuck in a rut, those ideas are not going to turn up. You’ll carry on doing the same old things and be surprised when nothing different happens.

Taking a proper break from your business – whether that means going away, or just having time at home to relax – allows you to see the bigger picture of your business. When you’re not busy dealing with all the day to day issues, you can really take time to just sit and look at your business from the outside.

When I was at the top of a mountain in Wales, the cloud cleared just long enough for us to see a lake, way below us, at the base of the cliff. It was like getting a bird’s eye view of a business – being able to see the whole thing in one go, rather than catching glimpses of it through the cloud. You need to get a full view of the shape of your business – or the shape you want it to take – to help you decide what marketing to do, to get you there.

Back home, I looked at the whole of my veg garden and drew a plan for how to make the most of it next year. I know what I’m going to plant and sow where, to get the best crops to keep us fed through the year. When you have a plan for the coming year, you can be much more prepared and make the most of every opportunity that comes along. Instead of leaving things to the last minute, you can get your seeds in the grounds in plenty of time to give you a healthy crop. Plan your marketing and you’ll get much better results.

So if you’re still thinking that you don’t have time for a holiday, please think again and plan a break really soon. Your clients will understand – they will notice the difference when you get back – and your business will not fold if you’re not there for a whole week.

Why doesn’t telesales work?

It doesn’t work because …
… when you provide a service, people will buy from you when they know and trust you. This is because when you sell a service, you can’t show it to people as you can with a product. You can’t show people what colour it is and how big it is; you can’t compare it to your competitor’s products. Quite often, you’ll be asking clients to pay you before you even start working with them. You’ll be persuading them to invest in you long before you create any results for them.
So this means that before someone buys from you, they need to get to know you and trust that you can deliver what you promise. Can someone build up that level of trust with just a phone call? Can you, or a telesales specialist persuade someone that you or they have never met, to part with their hard earned cash and give it to you? Can you (or they) sell something you can’t see, to someone who might not even be looking for your service?
For service businesses, telesales does not work.

It does work because …
… when you’re selling a product or promoting an event, you have something tangible that people can see and touch. If you’re selling products, you can actually show them to people. You can show them the cover of the book and some of the content. If you’re running an event like a workshop, you can show potential customers the material that you’re going to use. Because the event has a date, people can make decisions about whether or not they are free that day and how much time they want to spend out of their office.
Buying a product or booking a place at an event is transactional – it’s a one off decision and it’s a relatively easy decision to make. It’s not like investing in an ongoing service with monthly payments.

For service businesses selling products and events, telesales does work.