How opaque are your successes?

Alice

Every success should be totally visible in its entirity. It should scream out how wonderful it is and why everybody should notice it, be totally easy to understand how it operates and what it can do, be the envy of all who see it and have people clamouring to have one themselves.

But behind every silver lining there is a cloud. There probably was (and should have been) problems encountered along the way. But the success achieved shows that these problems have been overcome, solved and eradicated. All the hard work that goes into solving these problems is not visible, because the very nature of success overshadows all of this.

So a success will become more successful because of the solved problems behind the scenes. If they hadn’t been solved, the success will be short lived, the problems will start to show through, and eventually the success will collapse. Solving the problems builds a strong, sturdy framework that success can hang off, and look good, knowing that everything will stay up safely regardless of what happens.

So bear a thought about those that solve the problems that make the successes so successful. All the activities behind the scenes that are invisible, necessary and totally required, but never noticed, and sometimes not even acknowledged. All the knowledge that has gone into achieving that success, all the expertise put to the test to ensure success achieves what it wants, or sets out to do.

So how opaque are your successes? And what has happened to make them so?

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What’s the best marketing you’ve done this year?

Chantal

What marketing have you done that has really worked? What have you done that hasn’t been a great success? What was your best effort and what will you be doing more of less of next year?

2010 has been a busy year for Appletree so we’ve taken a look at the different marketing we’ve done, with different levels of success. Hopefully it will give you some ideas for different marketing to try out next year.

Have a party. In August 2010 Appletree turned 10. We celebrated by inviting our clients, friends and suppliers to a Birthday Party in September. We put a marquee on the lawn outside the office and arranged for some delicious food to be served. We caught up with people we’d not seen for ages and introduced people to potential clients. What can you celebrate next year?

Do something for someone else. Each year, everyone in our business can spend a week of their paid time with a project for a local community. Dianne helped organise a volunteers’ day in Newbury, persuading many local shops to take part – taking to strangers is not something she used to enjoy doing. I will be visiting a prison, to spend time with people who might not have anyone to listen to them, without passing judgement. Alice will be listening to people at the local elderly care centre and writing down some of their stories.

We’re doing this Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to improve our skills and to give something back to local community. Being able to tell people about the work we’ve been doing is an added bonus for our marketing. For your own CSR Review and Report, click here.

Do more networking. We bought another business this year – a networking company called Ladies That Lunch (and men too). Networking is one of the best ways to promote businesses and running the meetings allows us to share out networking experience, while bringing people together. We have big plans for next year, with new groups opening up. Take a look at http://www.ladiesthatlunch.co.uk/ to see when and where you can network with us.

Write a book. I’ve been wanting to write a book for a long time and this year, with the 10th birthday of the business, I got the idea to write a book about how to survive 10 years in business. Each chapter is divided into a number of sections and each one will be available to buy separately next year as a workbook and video.

Beginning to blog. In February we launched our blog. Clients had been asking about blogging – should they be doing it? What’s the best system to use? How does it work? So we started testing it. We now post three times a week, sharing advice and ideas with the world. We linked our blog to our Twitter account followers hear about new posts. Now we can set up blogs for clients and give them advice on how best to use a blog to market their business. Click here to find out how we do it.

So what has been our best marketing this year? We’ve done a lot of different things and there’s been no one thing that has brought the best results. What has worked best has been the integration of is all. Our CSR has been talked about in our blog; we talk about the book at networking meetings; we share marketing and networking tips on Twitter. Our marketing pulls in the same direction so in 2011, whatever marketing we decide to do, we’ll be making sure it’s all integrated and working together.

Why you shouldn’t neglect your blog

Alice

All the excitement of creating or building a blog, the newness of it all, can be quite short lived. Many would-be writers avidly start their blog with great gusto and go through the settings and themes to get the ‘look’ they want, vowing to contribute posts regularly every week.

But the reality is different. My boss asked me to design a banner for one of her clients’ WordPress.com blog, and taking a quick look at the existing content I noticed that the style and subject matter were good, lively and readable, but he hadn’t posted since May. All that frenzied activity for the first month had quickly fizzled out, the enthusiasm had drained away, and a poor, neglected blog that appeared to have great potential languished before me on my computer screen.

This is the plight of so many blogs out there (the same is with Twitter accounts and other social networking profiles). A blog with no content might as well be a cheese sandwich! These self-editable websites are carefully designed to attract the search engines and their spiders, and thrive on consistently produced new material stuffed full of keywords and links that are so appetising to the internet bots who constantly roam looking for something to index. To forgot to regularly update them is as sad and unthinkable as getting a new puppy and then forgetting to look after him properly!

The adage “blogs are not just for Christmas, they are for life” may be scary, but this needn’t be so. If you are as diligent and full of enthusiasm as you need to be to make your business a success, then you need to do some sort of social networking activity, and a blog is an easy (and it is easy) example.  If you can’t write well, hire someone who can – there are lots of good ghost-bloggers out there who will do a good job. Even so, I’m sure whatever you write will be suitable towards promoting your business the way you want to. After all, who else knows your business better than you?

That is what the blog’s content should contain – all about you and your business.  Don’t submit irrelevant material like you find on Twitter, instead write about what you know. You must be a fountain of information and expertise about your industry, so why not share it with your existing and potential customers? Use your blog as somewhere you could record everything you think is important for your customers to know, a point of reference that can be fed into your social networking accounts, back-up links to affirm your points of view, a place to hold your latest revelations, fantastic ideas for the future, past successes with great clients, scintillating information that your clients would really benefit from…

So don’t neglect your poor old blog!  He needs visiting, reassuring, feeding – remember, he’s hungry for your knowledge!

Dianne’s next CSR step: a positive attitude

Dianne

I work as an Administrator and Customer Services Assistant for Appletree based in Compton.  When my boss Chantal gave me the opportunity to go out and help Garry Poulson, Director of the Newbury Volunteer Centre, to organise a charity event, I was really keen to get involved, giving 20 hours (my working week) of my time to help launch a project. 

This would be a worthwhile thing to do and would involve me giving something back to the community.  It was good also to have a specific project with a beginning, middle and an end.  I could almost picture myself celebrating success.  Perhaps there would be a write-up in the local paper, my name would be mentioned and the name of my company.  I was very excited and proud to be linked to a company who felt so strongly about CSR and the benefits for all involved.

My task was to recruit local shops and banking halls to host a local charity event for the day in order to raise awareness of local charitable work and to recruit more volunteers. I would need to speak to managers face to face and win them over to the concept, getting as many as possible on board for the event taking place on 5 June 2010. 

I am used to sitting behind my desk writing emails or phoning customers who approach me for my help. I felt nervous and unsure about the task and how I would manage going out onto the High Street in Newbury and using my powers of persuasion to convince managers to participate in this event.  I armed myself with lots of information about the Volunteer Centre and the work that they do.  Garry gave me a letter of introduction to leave if I could not speak directly to individual managers. On my first contact my aim was to come away with a firm ‘Yes’ plus an email address or telephone number.

I had decided that I would need a positive attitude and approach if this was going to work.  It was not just about imparting information, it was the way the information was delivered that would win through.  I was acting as a representative of the Volunteer Centre; managers would make a judgement on my appearance and voice and then content of the information given to them.

So it was with a positive attitude that I stepped out onto the High Street of Newbury town centre.  How did I fair?  I will update you next week.