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Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

StarsI read somewhere that the Burj Al Arab in Dubai is the only seven star hotel in the world. I also read that the Customer Service Manager had three simple standards for great customer service.

They are:

  1. I will always smile first
  2. My first response to a guest will never be “No”
  3. I will treat all colleagues with respect and integrity

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

So what does this have to do with marketing and finding new clients? Two things. Firstly, when you look after your existing clients with seven star customer service, they will love you for it and will stay with you for years. After all, you don’t want to put lots of effort into marketing and finding new clients, just for them to leave you within a week. Secondly, because your clients love you and the customer service you give them, they will recommend you to lots of potential clients, thereby doing your marketing for you.

“But I don’t run a hotel,” I hear you cry. Don’t worry – if you run a service business, you can apply these principles to what you do.

  • I will always smile first. Whether you’re meeting a prospect for the first time, meeting a client for the hundredth time, or answering the phone, remember to smile first.
  • My first response to a guest will never be “No”. Think of your clients as ‘guests’. Whatever they ask, never answer ‘No’ first. Your answer might need to be “We’ll see what we can do” or “Let me look into that for you” but never “No”.
  • I will treat all colleagues with respect and integrity. And this one is just the same, whether you run a hotel or a service business!

See how you can put these simple standards into practice, deliver seven star customer service and see the effect it has on your business.

Referral programsDo you actively encourage people to refer your business to others, or do you just wait for a nice referral to come along? Are you doing anything to encourage more people to recommend you, or are you one of those people who doesn’t like to ask?

Referrals are one of the best ways to promote your business and yet too many small business owners don’t make the most of them. Here’s an example of how they work for us at Appletree.

Nearly half of the new clients who come to Appletree come because we have been recommended to them. (Nearly half come from networking. We know this because we measure our marketing – more of that in another blog.)

Last year we made a number of changes to the way we work at Appletree. I’d taken my eye of the ball with a few clients and then found out that they weren’t that happy with the service they were receiving. So I spent a lot of time on the phone and meeting clients, to talk about what they really wanted from us and whether our ‘new look’ service would suit them – or not.

One client I spoke to at this time, told me that actually he didn’t like what we were doing and that he was close to leaving us. I was devastated as I hadn’t realized how bad it had become. It took a number of long (and not particularly easy) phone calls and a meeting to work out the best solution for him. In the end, we agreed to carry on working together, with us providing exactly the service he wanted.

Having a happy client was the result I was looking for, but the benefits were better than that. Not long after sorting out these issues, this client recommended us to another business that needed some marketing help. I went to see them and within a short meeting, they had booked us to do lots of marketing for them. “Do you want to know more about Appletree and our credentials?” I asked them. Their reply was “No, because if Simon has recommended you and is working with you, we know that you’ll do a great job for us too.” How good was it to hear that!?

How can you turn your clients into raving fans who recommend you?

When is the Best Time to ask for a Referral?

Many people are wary of asking for referrals, thinking that it might sound a bit pushy. There is a very comfortable way to ask for referrals. The next time someone thanks you for helping them to solve a problem, ask who else they know who might be looking to solve the same problem.

You can do this with both clients and potential clients. They ask you a question – “How can I encourage more referrals?” You give them the solution – “The next time someone says thank you.” They say “Thank you very much for helping me.” You say “Who else do you know who needs help getting more referrals?”

Referral programsWhen you’re looking for a new service provider, how do you go about doing it? When you need a new accountant, IFA or someone to service your car, how do you find them? Chances are, you ask people you know to recommend someone. Why? Because someone won’t recommend a business to you unless they trust them. If they trust that person with their finances, their pension or their car, you can be pretty sure that yours will be in safe hands too.

You may have also noticed that people who have been referred to you are much easier to sell to. They’ve already been told great things about you by their friend or colleague, who they trust, so turning them into one of your clients is relatively easy.

However, rather than just waiting for referrals to come along – or hoping that they will – what can you do to encourage more of them? Here’s how one of our clients does it so brilliantly!

How do Referrals work for our clients?

Barry runs a number of fun, energetic camps for children, during school holidays. The camps are currently held at a number of private schools around Oxfordshire, which have really good facilities. The children who attend the camps regularly go home fitter and healthier after a week of camp, than when they arrived. They get to take part in a huge range of activities, including swimming, archery and canoeing.

The vast majority of new clients – the parents of the children – find out about the camps because their friends recommend them. Happy parents, whose happy children come home tired and well looked after, are happy to recommend Barry and his team to their friends. The business runs a referral scheme, where anyone who refers a friend, whose children are then booked into camp, can receive free days for their own children, or a bottle of champagne. There are some children who have had many weeks of free camp, as a result of all the referrals that their parents have made to their friends and their children. The referral scheme is advertised in the weekly newsletter that the business emails to clients; and it is on their website too.

However, there are also many parents who turn down the bottle of champagne or the free days of camp. Why? When they’re asked, they usually reply “Please just look after my friend’s children as well as you look after mine.” They want their friend’s children to experience the same fun, energetic camp that theirs enjoy. This means that the best way for Barry’s business to encourage more referrals is not by asking them, but by focusing on the quality of the service that they provide.

Can you encourage more referrals by providing the best possible service and by really looking after your clients?


Number 1Many, many years ago, when I was first learning about marketing (we’re talking way back before Social Media existed and email marketing was unheard of) I learnt about the 4Ps of Marketing. They were gospel and had to be applied to any marketing that was done. I even wrote essays about them and answered questions on them in marketing exams.

Times have changed and marketing has moved on a huge amount since those distant days. However, some of the fundamentals of marketing still need to be considered, for it to be successful. So over the next few blogs, I’m going to write a mini-series in which I’ll tell you a bit about each of the 4Ps – Price, Product, Place and Promotion. I’ll show you how you can put them into practice in order to successfully promote your business.

Number 1 = Price

I wrote recently on this blog about why, when you provide a service, you should not promote your business on price. You can read that blog here. It is much more important to promote your business based on what makes you different and better than your competition. The other big challenge that we all face with promoting our service businesses, is how much to charge – and how to work out how much to charge.

How do you decide what to charge? Do you just pluck a number out of the air? Or do you look at what your competitors are charging and do something similar?

If you sell a product, you can work out how much it costs you to produce that product and then add on your profit margin, to get your selling price. But how much does it cost to ‘produce’ your service? Some people will tell you to decide how much you want to earn over a year, look at how many days you want to work in the year and from that, you can decide how much you need to charge per day. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has done this successfully, achieving their target earnings in the number of days they want to work. Most people end up working more days than they’d like, due to lower days rates than they’d hoped for.

However you go about setting your prices, think about how to use them in your marketing. I know I keep saying that you must not use price to promote your service … but price does have a part to play. If you want to promote the quality of your service and show how much better it is than your competitors, then you can think about charging more than they do. What you must also do in this case, is show your prospective clients the value they will get from working with you. Think carefully about the benefits that your service will bring to anyone who uses it. Don’t talk about the features – show prospects what they will get from your time and experience and how you will solve their problems. All your marketing material needs to answer the ‘So what?’ question that potential clients will ask about your service.

If you use networking to promote your business – ideal when you provide a service – it is vital that you talk about the value that you provide, to the people you meet. If you strike up a conversation and start telling someone how much you charge, before you’ve explained the value they could get from your expertise, you won’t have a very long conversation. The same applies to online marketing – promote your value and benefits through any social media where you can have a ‘conversation’ with prospects.

And what happens to your marketing when that happens?

Building green unitThe way in which products and services are marketed is very different. With a product, you can show your potential buyer what they are going to buy and they can compare your product to those of your competitors. But with a service, you can’t show anyone what they’re going to get, until you’ve delivered the service.

At Appletree we specialise in promoting services, because that’s what we’ve always done. However, when Phil called me, to ask for help in marketing his product, I had to think again.

Phil’s company designs and sells eco buildings – stunning arc shaped constructions that can be put up anywhere. Standard ‘product’ marketing says that he should advertise the ‘product’ with images of how it looks from the outside and inside and he does this very well on his website. There are images showing how the buildings can be used, to help potential buyers to picture themselves living or working within one of the buildings. He will be taking a section of a building to an exhibition later this year, to allow more people to see it, touch it and walk through it. Phil has run a number of events at their ‘show home’ so that people can experience it. All this is standard ‘product’ marketing.

However, there is a huge element of ‘service’ involved in buying one of these buildings. Each one is individually designed for the person buying it. The buyer can choose the size, number of sections, layout of the rooms and use of the space. This means that there is a lot of hand holding, through a long design process. Phil and his team will help clients to secure planning permission for putting up a building, if it’s needed. They will advise on the best layout, to give their clients the best use of their building. They project manage the installation of the building, to make sure that everything works – the electricity and water supply – and are on hand to smooth out any teething problems. All these elements of buying an arc are actually a ‘service’ and as such, the marketing that’s needed is different. It’s about building up the reputation of the company, to reassure potential clients that they will be able to take their project from design to a fully working building with the least amount of hassle. A few photos on company’s website won’t be enough to persuade buyers to trust them!

Do you sell a product or a service? Are you using the right marketing tools to promote what you do?

If you’re not sure, or you’d like a quick review of your marketing, just get in touch to tell us what you do and we’ll give you some advice on the best marketing for your business. Call us 01635 578 500 or click here to email us.

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