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.

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.

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.

Networking – Do we still need face-to-face?

Nowadays, we have many different ways of getting in touch with each other and meeting new people. The social media takeover means we can keep up with what our peers are doing at the touch of a button but face-to-face networking is a valuable skill, and not many people still have it. Networking and marketing go hand in hand, and it’s all about tailoring it to your business. You need to choose events that work for you. Here are some quick tips about improving your face-to-face networking.

1.       To eat, or not to eat?

Many people don’t think about this, but eating poses more of a problem than you’d guess. Can you hold a flowing conversation whilst eating? Maybe you find it distracting. Different meetings have different catering – some are canapés and others are three course meals! Bear this in mind. Go for valued networking and connect with the most people, not for a meal.

2.       Formal or Informal?

There’s a wide range of formality in networking. Some are so informal there’s little structure at all, it’s up to you to talk to people and start conversation. Formal meetings often have seating plans and timetabled 30 second introductions from the attendees. If you’re a people person, and can start conversations easily, maybe there’s less need for formal networking. Go where you’re comfortable.

3.       Industry Specific?

It’s always worth being strategic with your networking. You’ll get more out of it if you go to a meeting relevant to you. If you work with businesses within a specific market sector, then go out – be proactive! Find out where they network and join them. Chartered institutes or associations are great places to start. If your clients are across a range of sectors, find out what they have in common. Is it business size, or target market? Find out where they network, and see them. There’s no downside to getting to know your client’s industry a bit better.

15 Ways to Give your Business an Unfair Advantage – Part Two

 Here are some great tips I read recently in Real Business Magazine. Click here to read part one; part three to follow soon!

6. Put social media at the heart of your business

“Social media isn’t just about marketing – you have to try and develop your entire business culture around it, “Explains Andrew Gerrard, a social and digital media consultant at Exeter-based Like Minds. Social media should become a part of everything that you do: your business strategy, objectives, customers, growth plan. “Develop yourself as a social business rather than an organisation that does ‘a bit of social media marketing’. This will leave you in a better position to engage with your customers, and it will drive your business forward and the profits up.”

7. Get ready for the cloud revolution

“In the future, all of your devices will exist in the cloud,” predicts Dan Dobley, marketing director at Google. “If you lose your notebook computer, you’ll just be able to pick up a new one and start where you left off, instantly.” The cloud computing market is still in its infancy, and opportunities for entrepreneurs are vast in this space. IDC predicts that spending on public IT cloud services will hit £46bn in 2015 (up from £13.4bn in 2010). Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple – they’re all at it. Make sure you’re there too.

8. Don’t hid away in your ivory tower

“Every year, Specsavers holds 95 retail communication meetings to update our partners on the latest strategies and to hear what’s happening in the stores,” says Dame Mary Perkins, founder of Specsavers. If things aren’t as they should be, she makes sure they’re dealt with as a priority. Keeping lines of communication open with all 1,600 stores has had remarkable results: Specsavers has never had to close a single shop and the company is entirely debt free.

9. When exporting, ask for your money upfront

“If you have a good enough product, someone will pay for it upfront – just make sure they do,” says Lara Morgan, the founder of Pacific Direct, the toiletries business she sold for £20m in 2008 . Getting your money upfront will make it easier for you to grow your international business. “There’s no excuse not to export. People put up unnecessary barriers, and that’s a waste of time. Just get on a plane!”

10. Future-proof your business plan

When starting a business or launching a project, remember to factor in how long it will take to get there. “Technology will move on significantly, and users will move with it,” explains Google’s Dobley. “Design your business plan for the future that will exist when you launch it. It will leave you in a much better position to delight your users and win.” Google believes the future is mobile, so it now builds all of its apps on mobile first, before porting them to other platforms afterwards.

Where do your clients hang out?

When you know who your ideal clients are – the people that you really want to work with, who will love working with you – to get your marketing message to them, 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, so 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.

To figure out where your clients hang out, think about who your perfect clients are and what makes them tick. Combine these with the products and services that you want to provide and you’ll get a picture of who these people are and where they hang out.

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? Make a list of everywhere your clients ‘could’ spend time and another list of places where they don’t hang out. For instance, your clients might hang out at industry specific networking events, but not at trade exhibitions. Once you’ve got your list, make sure you only put your marketing messages in places where your clients hang out and you will save yourself a lot of time and effort.

Six ways to keep your customers and get them to spend more.

“Loyalty marketing” is based on the idea of cultivating and nurturing strong relationships with customers and clients to encourage loyalty over time. Businesses who adopt this are more likely to result in business growth and success. It is said that it costs up to 10 times as much to win a new customer than to keep an existing one.

What is new in loyalty marketing?
Clever ways to encourage customer loyalty have been developed by top brands. The good news is smaller businesses can replicate these approaches.

1. Offering discounts
Using direct marketing techniques through mail, email and now SMS texting, it is possible to direct exclusive discount offers to your existing customers. Here are some tips:

2. Loyalty cards
Encourage your customer to come back for more with point systems or cards that can be stamped to collect free gifts and complementary items. Find out more about structuring effective loyalty programmes at the CRM Trends website.

3. Hospitality
Stores can send out exclusive invitations for loyalty card members to take advantage of a pre-sale or pre-season shopping evening. Add value with fashion shows, demonstrations and complimentary glasses of champagne.

Extending hospitality to a customer or client has traditionally been one of the most effective ways of cementing a relationship and making a confident statement about your business. However, some organisations have strict rules about what their staff can or cannot accept. The advent of the bribery act (see our regulation page on the Bribery Act 2011) means that policies deeming what is “proportionate and reasonable” hospitality may be tightened.

4. First impressions are lasting
Identify what is the first thing that people come into contact with when approaching your business, and make it as attractive and approachable as it can be. Is it you, yourself, or your business card? Is it your answer phone message or your website/email response to their web enquiry? It could be your van, your front door or your shop window. Make it sparkle and make your customer feel really welcome.    

5. Reciprocal discounts
You could team up with some business associates or approach related businesses to offer your customers a quid pro quo deal. For example, if you provide lessons in a sport or other skill you could arrange for your students to get discounts at a favoured supplier of their specialist equipment. In return, the stores could refer its customers to you for discounts on lessons.  

6. Say thanks with a card or note
Once you have a new customer’s details it is tempting to get them onto your sales contact database for sales offers. If they first received a courteous personal note or card thanking them for their business, think how much more receptive they would be to your follow-up sales messages.

Who to focus on
If you have a large customer base it may be profitable to focus loyalty offers and rewards on those customers with the highest potential lifetime value to improve profitability. Use our interactive tool to identify the customers most valuable to your business.