When a workshop is more than just a workshop

If you offer any kind of service to customers, running workshops are a great way of marketing yourself and your business.  They inform and advise and can act as a great way of speaking directly to your target customer audience.  Also, as will become apparent here, they are not a one-off event in terms of marketing, they actually offer a lot more.

At Appletree we recently held a ½ day marketing workshop for small, service-based companies.  As well as it being a great opportunity to give marketing advice and tips to the businesses, it was also a great way to use a number of different marketing activities, at little or no cost.

On the surface, it was an activity that happened during a few hours, with a captive audience who listened and participated in a lively workshop.  Dig deeper however, and it becomes clear how many marketing activities were involved in the workshop, before, during and after the event.

Let me take you back a few weeks.  Once the venue and timings of the workshop had been confirmed, an online booking system was created.  An email promoting the event was then sent out to a database of small businesses.  This database was known to be ‘clean’ and up to date, an absolute must when dealing with contact databases.  Details of the event were added to our website.  This is great for SEO, which looks for regular updates on sites in order to rank them.  We then sent details of the event to another mailing list, via our monthly newsletter, which is linked to our website.  Again, this encouragement to visit our website is a great way to share more of our services to those contacts, and to improve SEO.

A reminder email was sent to all contacts a week before the event, and some follow up telephone calls made to outline the benefits of attending the workshop.

The desired number of delegates was reached before the day, and an email was sent to each asking if they had any specific objectives they were hoping to meet as a result of the workshop.  This was the start of relationship building with our key audience.

During the day we met some really interesting people, all of whom were small business owners and all wanting to learn how to use marketing successfully to help grow their businesses.  Feedback from the day was asked from each delegate, along with a personal thank you to each for attending.  It’s this long-term relationship building that creates the most long-lasting business opportunities.

All in all, around 6 different channels of marketing were used, just for a workshop that lasted a few hours.  It led to lots of ticks on our marketing activity plan!

So if you’re considering running a workshop but don’t think you have the time, consider it as a huge opportunity to cost effectively market yourself and your business.

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The importance of long-term marketing

Alice

Businesses have a varied view of what marketing is for, and how it can be used, and it invariably depends on their financial position, the product or service they are promoting, the mindset of the management, the resources available to them, both personnel and technical, and the general attitude towards marketing and selling tactics.

But it has been noted by researchers that small businesses and sole-trading entrepreneurs are stealing a march over the larger organisations. This is because they are far more flexible in their approach towards marketing practices and how it can affect their businesses.

The other thing to note is that these smaller outfits are far more likely to accept the fact that marketing can and will take a long timespan before any results start to materialise. Impatience and impetuousness may be prevalent in both kinds of businesses, but the larger corporates may have demanding bosses, crippling financial forecasts, unreasonable objectives and impractical processes that overshadow any marketing strategies, however carefully they have been put in place to create optimum results.

It is these smaller businesses that are able to see or realise that marketing is a long-term objective that are able to benefit the most from it. This all depends if they are willing to be consistent with providing content for blogs and newsletters, contributing sociably on social networks, spreading their expertise through social media and offline networking and speaking engagements, maintaining a high visibility on the web through blogs, articles, RSS feeds and constantly responding to what their past, present and prospect clients and contacts are doing.

If your company expects immediate returns, do selling, not marketing. Instant ROI may be obtained through various pushy methods, but can it really be compared to that gained through long-term marketing, principally obtained through relationship building, research into customer understanding and responses, providing what is requested or desired, and filling the niches opened up by the misdemeanours of the larger organisations.

Long term marketing results in long term relationships and proven sustainability from your customers. Even so, once acquired, there is no time to sit on your laurels – the pace must be kept up to maintain this much sort-after and coveted friendship, by providing more benefits to make their lives better, and more relationship-building tactics to keep them from converting to the competition.

Therefore you can see how this cannot be achieved through short-term methods without your prospects turning up their noses because they don’t know anything about the company or what it is providing, or losing them immediately afterwards because they haven’t acquired enough knowledge about how your business works for you to gain their trust and appreciation. If you haven’t bothered to take the time to woo your customers to fall in love with you, how can you expect the relationship to last?

How to make a brand powerful

Alice

I noticed a clever piece of branding yesterday on Twitter. It was incredibly subtle (the best marketing always is) and this company took advantage of Valentine’s Day to send a message of love (with a little present attached) to its clients without having to say who it was from. In this case the recipient would have immediately known who sent it because of the brand. There was no logo or name to latch onto, just the design of the card in that distinctive style that could be nobody else.

Now anybody who truly knows what a brand is will know that the design is not the be-all-and-end-all, it is also the ‘baggage’ that comes with it. Certainly this particular exercise would have backfired if this brand hadn’t worked on its reputation. It is also through hard-earned relationship-building with its clients that enabled this company to make a difference, as well as a consistent message of quality, added value, desirability, trust, knowledge and experience that is necessary to build a powerful brand.

A brand should reflect the culture of a business. Customer perception is formed after developing a relationship with the company, through purchasing their product or using their service, being a supplier, attending a workshop, offline networking, hearing recommendations and WOM, reading their blog or newsletter, and communicating with them through other media, such as social networking. There the customer will learn more about the company and the people who work in it, their values, aspirations and how they connect within the business world and their industry. The more sociable and approachable the company is, the more likely the brand will develop into an ever-lasting concept that ‘sticks’ in their minds.

And it is the ‘after-care’ that is so important to enhance the perpetuity of a powerful brand. The client should leave with a glowing feeling of achievement, excellent customer service, satisfied requirements, a sense of good value, and an affinity and liking for the company and what it provides and stands for. This is also an area where the company needs to work just as hard as gaining the customer, as advocacy is a powerful and strong marketing method that should be cultivated and appreciated with an appropriate sense of attainment.

How customer loyalty is preferred over satisfaction

Alice

If you make your customers happy, then they are satisfied; but that is not the same as loyalty. Loyalty requires working on these satisfied customers, giving them excellent, high quality service, forming a relationship with them to find out exactly want they want, how it can be delivered to them in the best possible manner, and consistently providing your service that exceeds their needs.

It’s a bit like marketing and sales. Sales will make your customers (and business) immediately happy, and therefore satisfied; marketing works on a higher level, and helps maintain that satisfaction to transform it into loyalty, a long-term process that assesses how to provide added value, nurturing customer relationships to supply an excellent experience, pre-empting their needs and desires in advance or making the solutions to their problems available whenever required.

Of course it’s much easier to maintain loyal customers than to get new, satisfied ones. It’s that 80/20 rule, 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customer base, the loyal ones. Provide 80% of your business to everyone, but retain the most valuable 20% for your most loyal customers, to make them feel special and to engage with them on their particular level.

Work with that top notch customer criteria, satisfy them to the utmost level, and they will transform even higher to become raving fans. Then you know you’ve cracked it, as they will become your branding ambassadors, spreading the word about your business and what it provides to an even wider audience.

So what does your business provide for your loyal customers? What added extras do you deliver to maintain a relationship with your most valued customers to keep them in tip-top condition and consistently returning for more?  What’s the best possible customer experience you can offer that sets you apart from your competitors, goes way over the top in delivering that experience, and treats them like royalty in return for their loyalty?

How to get your newsletter content read

Alice

In my last post I wrote about how to increase the opening rates of your newsletter, and for this post I am concentrating on newsletter content and how that can increase the likelihood of it being read.

Newsletters should be conversational pieces to educate, entertain and inform your readership. They shouldn’t consist of long technical articles stuffed full of jargon which really should be published in professional periodicals or on suitable article directories on the internet. They should consist of short, sharp, snappy sentences in everyday English; the same concept applying to sections or paragraphs, preferably three rather than five or more, accompanied with apt subheadlines to aid scanning and quick reading.

I mentioned earlier how important headlines were. Some people write their headlines after the content has been created, others think of a headline first and then the content materialises afterwards. Whatever you do, most of your attention should be directed to your headline, and the time taken to revise, rethink and rewrite your headline could pay off dividends. Successful newspapers employ special copywriters just for the headlines alone – they realise the importance of a good headline, and so should you.

Be aware that newsletters are not a medium for sales (the same with social networking), they are there to create and maintain a relationship with your readers. Like networking, you provide information about your business and what you are doing to enable your audience to understand various elements in fuller detail that what is available from your website. This is also the same with a blog, albeit in smaller contributions, more frequently and consistently delivered in a bite-sized, digestible format (and even smaller and frequenter still in Twitter).

Another way to boost interest in your content is to work around a prop like a picture or cartoon. Select a single product, idea, concept or service (too many can be confusing) to attract attention and aid concentration, as well as something to hang your subject matter from. One specific idea or concept, simply expressed, will go a long way towards comprehension and relationship building than long-winded missives full of complicated technical stuff that only results in confusion, turn-off, deletion and ultimately unsubscription.