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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Passive marketing – or how to get clients knocking at your door

During the first week of January this year, we took on two new clients and had two existing clients ask us to do more work for them. I wasn’t at work during the first week of January, and, as one of my members of staff pointed out, I hadn’t been out networking or meeting clients for a few weeks. So where was the work coming from?

I could say it was the Law of Attraction at work, or that it was Zen Marketing, but I like to call it ‘Passive Marketing’. Or ‘sit back/go on holiday and wait for the phone to ring’ marketing.

So how does this great new marketing strategy work? Here’s what you do. You start writing a blog or an email newsletter, or both. You build up a list of contacts, by going to networking events and speaking at seminars. You give away lots of advice and ideas to help the people you meet. You have regular meetings with your clients and listen out for things they’re struggling with, with which you can help them. You build strong relationships with them so that they trust your advice. You might like to write a book and sell it to people you meet; you can even give it to some people, like past clients. You can spend time on sites like LinkedIn, connecting with people you’ve worked with in the past.

Once you’ve done all that, then you get to sit back and wait for the phone to ring! One of the new January clients came to a workshop we ran 3 months ago. We’ve kept in touch with her ever since and come the New Year, she decided she was ready to kick start her marketing. The client who decided to accept our quote for writing her blog is one with whom I meet every two months, to work on her marketing. Back in the autumn she told me she was thinking about setting up a blog and could we do it for her. After a few months of keeping in touch with her – and a few more regular meetings – she too decided it was time to take the next step.

Marketing is a long term process. It’s not a quick, over night fix. You can’t go to one networking event and expect clients to flock to you. One newsletter or a week of tweeting won’t build you a great reputation. So, if you want to practice Passive (sit back and take it easy) Marketing, then you need to put in the effort and the groundwork. Once you do, then the clients will come flocking to your door!

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?

Great marketing won’t get you anywhere … Part 3

This is the final blog of a 3 part series that I’ve been writing, about how to close a sale. Great marketing won’t get you anywhere if you can’t close a sale, so here is the final part of the very clever sales process that I’ve been taught. Click here to read part 1 and click here to read part 2.

Finally, after you’ve spent time asking your prospective client lots of questions to establish what issues they are currently facing, that you could solve for them (part 1); and you’ve helped your prospect to identify the opportunity that’s open to them (part 2), it’s time to tell them what you can do!

Describe elements of the solution. Tell your prospect what you can do to help them, how and why it will work and how the different elements of the solution fit together. This is where to get to describe what you exactly do.

Make sure your solution is aligned with your prospect’s strategy. Because you’ve already asked a lot of questions about their business, you know what they’re aiming for. This means that you can create a solution to meets their strategy. If you suggest a solution that doesn’t help your prospect to meet achieve their goals, they won’t be interested in buying from you.

Ensure that your solution will meet your prospect’s personal need. As well as meeting their business objectives, your solution needs to meet the personal needs of the person who will buy from you. Do they need to look good in front of their boss? Do they need to save time or not get lost in the detail? Whatever it is, make sure your solution is aligned.

Why is your solution the best one? This is where you tell your prospect why your solution is better than everyone else’s. Talk about your experience, your USPs and the great results you’ve achieved for your clients.

Engagement questions. Finally, ask your final engagement question. “Does this sound like a solution that will meet your needs?” or, “How does this sound?” or even “When would you like to start?” are all great questions. After all the preparation work you’ve done, don’t forget to ask this final engagement question and actually ask for the sale. If you don’t ask for the sale, you certainly won’t get it.

Next steps. Whatever answer you get to your final question, make sure you agree the next steps with your prospect (or new client!)

If you use this sales process (all the sections of it, from parts 1, 2 and 3 of this blog) you’ll find it much easier to close all those sales.

Be a pest – Everest

A little while ago I wrote on this blog how impressed I was with the customer service we received last autumn when we bought new windows from Everest. The company has gone to great lengths to prove that their windows are in fact the best. Click here to read the original blog.

Sadly their after sales ‘sales’ leave a lot to be desired. It wasn’t long after our new windows had been fitted that I received a phone call one evening from Everest, asking if I was interested in buying a kitchen from them. Their reps would be in the area very soon and wondered if they could drop off a brochure. Since I’m very happy with my kitchen, I said no thank you.

A month later and I noticed a cold draft coming through the frame of one of our windows. I arranged for someone to come and look at it and two days before that visit, I received another call – just as I was sitting down to eat my supper – from the sales team. “Are all your windows double glazed?” the young man asked, before stopping to ask if it was a convenient time to talk. “You should know – you installed them” I replied. He simply continued with “Would you like new fascias?” At this point I managed to suppress the urge to be rude and politely told him that since I was waiting for an engineer to come and fix the problem window, his phoning to try to sell me something else was really not a good idea. I suggested that he either remove me from his sales ‘hit’ list, or run the risk of some very bad publicity. At that point he got the message and said goodbye.

I don’t really want to give Everest bad publicity (it will be interesting to see if anyone from Everest reads this and gets in touch!) but I do want you to learn from this tale. Don’t ruin a great customer services experience by then treating your customer like just another number. Don’t waste all the hard work it takes to win a new client by not telling your sales department or others in your business, about the work you’ve done for a customer. Don’t let them rush in and try to sell more, before the dust has settled. Instead, spend time really getting to know your customers and they will come to you and tell you when they’re ready to buy.

What does making paper hats have to do with marketing?

At a networking meeting recently we were all paired up and asked to sit with our backs to each other. One of us was given a piece of paper on which were diagrammatic instructions and the other person was given a plain sheet of paper. The ‘leader’ had to give their partner the instructions on the sheet. They weren’t allowed to show them what was on their sheet on the paper; they weren’t allowed to check that they’d understood the instructions, because their partners weren’t allowed to speak. No questions, no clarification. And we only had about a minute for this exercise.

So how did we get on? The thing that my partner and I managed to create looked a bit like a paper boat. It was supposed to be a hat, so we weren’t a million miles off, but it still wasn’t right.

So what went wrong? The first issue was that, as the ‘leader’ I never actually told my partner what we were supposed to be building! He didn’t know  what the overall objective was. Secondly, the instructions were one way, so I wasn’t able to check with my partner that he understood what I was saying to him. He wasn’t able to ask me questions about what I was saying or make any suggestions as to a better way of creating the hat.

So what does this have to do with marketing?

Do you know where you’re heading? Do you have a clear objective for your business and your marketing? If you don’t know that you’re trying to build a hat, you could end up with a boat!

Is your marketing a one way conversation? If you just keep pushing marketing messages out into the world, without asking for or receiving and feedback, how do you know that your message is hitting the spot? If you don’t allow conversation in your marketing, you won’t be able to get to know your prospective clients and find out more about what they need from you.

And finally, if you don’t let them suggest better ways of doing things, you could miss out on some really great opportunities. If you let them, your clients will tell you what they need you to do for them and how much they want to pay you to do it.

So the next time you think about your marketing and the messages you’re sending out, think about the paper hat that you’re trying to make!

Great marketing won’t get you anywhere … Part 2

A while ago I started writing about a clever sales process that I’ve been taught and wanted to share with you. Click here to read the first part and then read on to find out how to use the next steps in the process.

The next thing to do is to help your prospects to identify their need. Until they really recognise their need, they won’t pay you to fix it!

Benchmark versus actual. Where is your client now? If you’ve established in the first stage of the questioning that your prospect is looking for new clients, you need to know how many clients they have now. If they are looking to cut their costs, you need to know what they are spending now – the actual. Then you can ask them where they want to be – how many clients they want, or what they want to be spending – the benchmark. The difference between the benchmark and the actual is the gap. Helping your prospect to identify the gap – the number of new clients they need or the amount of money they want to be saving – will help you sell your solution to them.

Insights. This is where you tell your prospect how you’ve helped one of your clients to solve the exact same problem. Give them a few details on how you fixed the problem and the great results you got.

The Opportunity. Now it’s time for you to ask another commitment question. Asking “How important is this to you right now?” will help you make sure that your prospect is still really interested in solving their problem and filling the gap that you’ve helped them identify. If they answer “No” then you might just need to walk away, rather than trying to force the sale.

In part 3 of this blog I’ll share with you some tips on how best to present your solution, based on all that you’ve discovered by working through parts 1 and 2.