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One in Ten

Thousands of new businesses are started in the UK every year and yet few of them last for one year, let alone ten. This book is the story of one of the successful ones and is full of motivation and inspiration.  Buy your copy of the book now for just £12.99 + £2.50 p+p.

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Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

Massive Marketing Mistakes – Number One: Being the Same as Everyone Else

Number 1Over the years I’ve met many people who are new in business and are struggling to get going. They are finding the first few years really tough and are wondering when it will get easier. I’ve also met a large number of people who have been running their own businesses for a number of years – sometimes more than 10 years – who are struggling to keep going.

When I look closely at the problems that both these sets of businesses have, I see some real similarities. In fact, I think there are nine marketing mistakes that the new businesses and the more established ones are making. These mistakes prevent you from enjoying the freedom that running your own business is supposed to bring you. I have built these nine mistakes (or rather the results of avoiding them) into a clever process that you can apply, in order to build the business you want – one that isn’t struggling to survive! I will write a blog about each of the stages for you to follow.

Massive Marketing Mistake Number One – Being the Same as Everyone Else

In order to win business, you need to stand out from the crowd. To do this, you need to show potential clients why your business is different from your competitors.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard business owners say “My business is different because we’re the cheapest/best/most unique.” You can’t all be the cheapest or the best or the most unique!

Too many businesses don’t put enough effort into working out what really makes them different. You’ve probably heard of USPs – Unique Selling Propositions – and you might even have yours written down somewhere. But does it really show potential clients how you can help them better than another business? Does it connect with their emotions? We all make emotional decisions about what to buy and who to buy it from – not rational decisions. You need to know how your service helps people on an emotional level.

How do you avoid the first Massive Marketing Mistake?

Work out what really makes your business different – your Emotional USP (eUSP). There are six eUSPs and you can find out more about them in this blog. Have a read and decide which is yours; then think about how to use that information in all your marketing messages. Here’s an example:

At Appletree we used to think that clients worked with us because marketing was a fun, exciting thing that they wanted to do. Wrong! Most of our clients don’t want to worry about their marketing – they just want to have it done for them, so that they can get on doing what they get paid for. They want the certainty of knowing that their marketing will be done, building their reputation and bringing them new clients. At first we thought that Certainty was a rather dull eUSP to have, until we started explaining to prospects that they could trust us to just get on with it. Now we have a reputation for ‘done for you’ marketing. “Just make it happen” is a request we often hear from our clients.

So what really makes your business different? What is your emotional USP? Knowing it is a real foundation stone for a successful business. Get in touch to tell us, or to let us know if you need help working out your eUSP and how to use it.

The second Massive Marketing Mistake is having no goals for your business. If your eUSP is your starting point – where you are now in your business – your goals are where you are going. In the next blog in this series, we’ll look at how to build your goals from your USP and take your business to the next level.

 

How To Get Recommendations – Find Out What Your Clients Don’t Like About Your Service!

Chantal Cornelius - Appletree Blog Image

 

The Appletree Client Survey – Part Two

In December I wrote about how we commissioned a client survey, to find out what our clients really think of our service. You can read Part One here. The second stage of the survey was to look at the results and the comments we received. After all, there’s no point in carrying out a survey if you don’t do anything with the information you collect.

 

First we looked at the overall scores we received. A question that all the participants were asked was “How likely are you to recommend Appletree?” On a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 = ‘not a chance so don’t bother asking’ and 10 = ‘absolutely, definitely, of course!’) we scored an average of 8.7. That was a really nice number to see, but there’s no point in being complacent and ignoring the individual scores. I started by looking at the 6s we received, to see what needed to be done to increase those scores and give those clients a better service. They all have different needs. Many of our clients commented on how they appreciate our flexible, bespoke approach, so we’ve applied that to sorting out their specific issues. This is work in progress – something I will focus on for these clients over the coming months.

Then I looked at the comments made by the clients who scored us 8, 9 and 10. Again, we’re not allowing ourselves to become complacent. Just because a client is very keen to recommend us, does not mean that there’s nothing we can do to improve the service they receive from us. One particular client, who gave us a score of 10 made some specific comments about the mentoring service he receives from us. He said there was something he’d like me to do differently on our monthly calls. So the next time we had a call, after the survey had been completed, I did what he wanted me to do! I didn’t say “You said in our survey that you want me to do this so …” I just did it. What he wanted from me actually made a lot of sense and was simple to do. We ended the call and he thanked me for my time and support.

Two days later I received a really lovely recommendation from this client on LinkedIn. I didn’t ask him to write it for me. I didn’t make any suggestion that he might like to recommend me. He just did it. Why did he do this? I think it was as a result of a) giving him the help he expects and pays for on his mentoring calls and b) listening to his views and actually acting on them!

If you’d like to get more genuine recommendations from your clients, why not ask them what they don’t like about your service – and then do something about it?!

 

Why Do We Use Social Media?

In January I joined one of my clients at their quarterly Staff Meeting. Usually this is when they all get together to share the successes of the recent quarter, award a few prizes for great performance and a enjoy a really nice curry. For the January meeting, they asked me to join them, to tell them a bit about the social media work we do for them and explain the how and why of it.

This company has a number of staff spread across a number of different offices, so I hadn’t met most of them. I meet a select few at our quarterly Marketing Meetings. At one meeting last year, I realised that many of the staff didn’t really know how we were using social media to promote their business.

To show them properly, I put together a few slides. The first one included this clever graphic that shows just how many people are using social media these days. One thing it shows is that nearly half the people on this planet are using social media through some sort of mobile device! That’s a huge potential audience you could be speaking to.

 

social media stats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you decide which social media to use?

For this particular client, we focus on Facebook and Twitter. Why? Because we’ve looked at where their referrers and potential clients ‘hang out’. I was really pleased to see this next graphic, which shows that Facebook and Twitter are still the most used social media platforms! Showing the image to the boss at my client’s company also reinforced what I’ve been saying to him for a while – that we need to look next at how to use Google+ and LinkedIn to promote the business.

social media statistics2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sparking ideas

The next thing I did was show the team some of their best performing tweets and Facebook updates. I asked them why they thought those updates had received the highest number of likes, retweets and favourites. It was good to hear a unanimous answer of “It’s about the people.” This client provides a very personal service to their clients and they need to build a high level of trust.

Every week we post updates about the service available to their clients. This conversation sparked a huge number of ideas around all the other details we could share – everything that will help their potential clients get to know and trust them. All of sudden, we had members of the team volunteering ideas and information we could use in their social media. In the past, getting anything useful out of most of them had been a real challenge.

By the end of the evening, we had a really engaged team of people. They all had a much better understanding of their social media and were all really keen to get involved. Which makes my job much easier!

 

Where is Your Business Going in 2015?

Business planI know you’ll already have read a lot by now about setting goals for 2015, about New Year’s resolutions and about plans … and that’s because this is still a good time to think about all of them!

So where is your business going this year? What goals have you set for your business?

At the start of 2014 I created a new Business Plan for Appletree. We nicknamed it ‘The Napkin Business Plan’ because it was so simple that I could (and did) draw it on a napkin! It outlined five stages that I was going to take the business through. Each stage had a number of activities that needed to be carried out before I moved onto the next one. I had to reach certain milestones – or goals – before the business would be ready for the next stage. Each stage also had specific marketing that needed to be done, in order to meet the goals. It gave our marketing a really clear focus, with clear targets.

Let me give you an example.

One stage of the Napkin Business Plan was called Recalibration. At the start of the year, I decided to focus the business on providing marketing content – something I always used to do, but had wandered away from. This meant that I needed to spend time talking to my existing clients, to make sure they were happy with my decision. The goal was to retain as many clients as wanted to receive the sort of service I wanted to provide. The marketing that needed to be done was about making contact with my clients – lots of phone calls and meetings with them to discuss the options.

The result? A couple of clients left us during the year, because they needed something different from the service we wanted to provide. And that was OK, as it left room for new clients to join us, who do want the service we want to provide. They have ended up being more fun to work with and more profitable!

Following the Napkin Business Plan helped make my business the most successful and profitable it has been for many years – proof that having goals and following a plan really does work.

Where is your business going this year?

What Do Your Clients Really Think of You?

CJC for websiteThe Appletree Client Survey – Part One

When did you last ask your clients what they really think of you? Do you know why they use your services and what they like about what you do for them?

Too many businesses, especially large ones, provide a service that they think their clients want. They don’t actually stop to find out if it’s what their clients are looking for; and then they’re surprised when clients leave them for someone else.

Small businesses have a distinct advantage over larger ones when it comes to talking to our customers. It’s much easier for us to keep in touch with them and really get to know them as individuals. And yet how often do we ask our clients what they think of us? Not often enough. Why not? Because we might hear comments that we don’t like! Clients may tell us what we don’t want to hear. So it takes a certain amount of bravery to ask clients what they think and it needs to be done properly.

At the beginning of 2014, I started to carry out a survey, to find out what my clients thought of Appletree and the service they receive from us. I emailed a number of them, asking them a series of questions and asking that they reply by email. I emailed some others the same questions, telling them that I would call to go through the questions. And then something got in the way and I never got around to collecting the information from my clients!

This autumn I decided that, due to a number of changes that have happened at Appletree this year, I should carry out a proper survey. Having failed to do it on my own earlier in the year, I realised that I needed some help. So I found a great company who specialise in looking at customer experiences and they’re carrying out the service for me.

The process we’re going through is very interesting. We started by looking at the ‘customer journey’ that clients take, from the very first moment they meet me, through to becoming a client and receiving our ongoing marketing service. Think about booking a flight and all the interactions that you have with the airline – each time you come into contact with the company. You need to do the same for your business.  Working through this journey gave us a series of twelve questions to ask our clients. The questions cover a number of aspects including the initial meeting, the paperwork we send out, the speed and quality of our responses and the value they receive from each different aspect of our service. Our clients will also be asked how likely they are to recommend us, on a scale of 1-10 and why they give that particular response.

The way in which the survey is being carried out has been carefully thought out. Each of my clients will be contacted by phone, by someone who knows how to have proper conversations, rather than having to follow a script. Allowing people to talk about how they really feel will give us information that will be really valuable.

So that is part one of the story. I’ll report back once the survey has been carried out, to let you know how we get on and what we’re going to do with the results!

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