Marketing planning and why now is a great time to do it

Planning, that old exercise of writing a list of things you are going to do, only never to look at the list again!  Sound familiar?  The start of a new year is generally filled with repeated resolutions that are quickly forgotten once day to day life starts. We all do it in various aspects of life, but planning for your business and your marketing is crucial.  Your business has the people, resources and desire to make the year a great one, why not augment that with an effective Marketing Plan.

Marketing planning should be something you look forward to as it is this plan of activities that will lead to business over the year.  There are however a few golden rules that must be applied to your plan.

The plan must be something that works with you at all times, it must not be completed then ‘filed’, never to be seen again.

The plan must be visible, either as a chart on your office wall which you can tick each time you’ve completed an activity; or a spreadsheet that you populate with activity, costs, and results.  It really doesn’t matter how you choose to see your plan, the important bit is that you do see it, daily.

It also needs to reflect activity that can be carried out by you, on a regular basis.  It may include the number of prospect calls you’ll make each week; the client visits you’ll book to focus on repeat business and upselling; the target number of tweets you’ll send out daily; the networking events you’ll attend each week.

Whatever the action, make it SMART, that old marketing adage which still applies to business today: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.  Some of the activity can be outsourced to expert providers, but again this can, and should be, ticked off your list and measured in terms of performance on an ongoing basis.

Creating a plan now will also make future planning far easier.  Reflect on which activity has worked: created the most leads and most importantly, provided the best return on investment.  Without a plan you can’t accurately reflect which marketing activity works best for your business, so which to do again, and which not to.

When you know where you want your business to be in 12 months time, you’ll have a much greater chance of getting there.  With a strategy in place and a plan of action to follow, any marketing for your business will produce much better results than ad hoc initiatives.

For practical help in writing an effective Marketing Plan for your business, why not come to a workshop we’re running on the 24th January at the Harwell Innovation Centre, Harwell Campus, near Didcot from 9am to 1pm.  At the end of the workshop you’ll have an effective and achievable Marketing Plan to take away and put into practice.  For more information on the SOS Marketing Workshop click here.

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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.

3 pillars of progress

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingHave you heard of the 3 pillars of progress?

They are related mainly to business success, but I think they are also relevant to your marketing, so I thought I would share them with you.

They are:

  1. Strategy – have a good one that will get you to where you want to go. With marketing, you need to select your strategy based on whether you’ll be aiming your marketing at existing clients or new ones; and promoting your existing services or new ones. Choosing the wrong strategy will take you in the wrong direction and cost you money, so choose carefully.
  2. Laser focus – once you’ve got your strategy, whatever you are focused on, give it your full attention and don’t get distracted. Plan and prioritise what needs to be done. This definitely applies to your marketing, because you need to plan and prioritise your marketing and then stick at it, with laser focus, until you get it done.
  3. Integration – be 100% aligned with where you’re going and what you want to do. Your marketing also needs to be completely integrated. All your messages need to be pulling in the same direction, to give you an even better return than they will on their own.

How can you build your business with the 3 pillars of (marketing) progress?

Why you need a strategy for your marketing – part two

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingRecently I wrote a blog about why you need a strategy for your marketing and I explained two out of four possible strategies you can use. Click here to read the first blog about the first two strategies.

Here are the other two strategies you can consider.

3.       Selling Existing Services to New Clients

The third strategy you can consider looks at selling your existing services – the ones that you know work and are loved by your existing clients – to new clients with whom you’ve not worked before.

Your existing services have a proven track record. Hopefully you’ve got some great testimonials from your clients and case studies that show why clients came to you and how you helped them. These recommendations are what new clients will want to hear, before they work with you. Your existing clients know that you’re really good at what you do; your potential clients need to see, hear and read the proof. This strategy is about getting some help from your current clients, to help you sell your services to some new clients.

How can you sell your existing services and products to new clients?

4.       Selling New Services to New Clients

The final strategy is usually hardest – and can be the most expensive to carry out successfully. While it usually involves the most risk, strategy four can also bring you the biggest returns.

Why is it so risky and expensive? Because it’s about selling brand new products and services that have no track record, to potential clients who don’t know you, let alone trust you. You have no proof that your new products and services can do what you say they’ll do, because no one has bought them yet, or used them long enough to be able to see the results. This means that you can rely on existing clients to tell people how great you are.

In addition, this strategy is about finding new clients, with whom you have no reputation. They’ve not worked with you before – they might not even have heard of you – so selling them your expertise is going to be harder and require some really targeted marketing. If you’re up for a challenge and have already done everything you can or want to do with the first three strategies, then this one is for you!

Do you want to be brave and develop new products and services to sell to brand new clients?

How many strategies are you going to use to promote your business? Have you worked out which ones to use? Whichever ones you’re going to use, start at the top of the list and work your way down. Strategy one is the easiest and most cost effective, while strategy four is usually the most expensive and risky – even though it can provide the biggest returns. Even if you’re going to use a combination of strategies, start at the top of the list and work your way down it for the best overall results.

Where is your business going?

Chantal Cornelius from AppletreeWhen you first set out on a journey with a map, you need to know where you are. If you don’t know where you’re starting from, you can’t work out the best route to your destination and you can’t determine how long it’s going to take you to get there.

If you’re putting together a Marketing Plan for your business, the first thing you need to think about is where your business is now. Knowing where you are at the start of this journey will help you plan the best route to your goals. It will also help you set your goals so that you can see the distance you’ve got to travel between where you are now and where you want to be. You might think that you’d like to take on 100 new clients in the next twelve months, charging each one £1000 per day for consulting or coaching. However, if you’ve only got two clients right now and you’re only charging £300 per day, you’ll have a lot of work to do to reach your goal. (If that’s the goal you really want to aim for, that’s great and knowing your starting point will help you plan the most effective way of getting there.)

So what is your business? What resources do you have to deliver what you do to your clients? How long have you been doing what you do and what sort of reputation and experience do you have?

You also need to think about the products and services that you currently provide and be clear on what you offer, to help you decide the best direction to take. Are you delivering what your clients actually want and doing what you really want to do? Is there a demand for what you want to offer or are you doing something you think people might want?

Who are your clients? What sort of people and businesses do you work for? Where are they and why do they need your help?

Finally, what about your competitors? Do you know who your main competitors are and what they do? How much do they charge and what makes you different from them?

There’s a lot for you to think about when you start creating a Marketing Plan for your business, but get really clear on where you are now and it will be easier to decide where to go and how best to get there.