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Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

In the A?Z of Marketing Q is for ? Questions

QIn the olden days, to promote your business and sell your services to a potential customer, you would turn up at their office and make a presentation to them. You would tell them all about your business and what you do. You might take along a great PowerPoint slide show, full of testimonials, all the awards you?ve won and examples of what you?ve done for other clients. You?d round off the presentation by asking if your prospect had any questions and if they wanted to work with you.

What do you mean, you still try to sell your services that way? How is that working for you?

I once sat through such a presentation from a potential supplier, after which she asked ?So, does that look interesting to you?? She was rather stumped by my reply of ?No?. Why? Because what she had presented to me was not relevant to my business; she hadn?t asked me a single question about the company and the issue we were looking to solve.

The next time you visit a potential client, think about asking some of these questions, to help you to find out what they really want from you:


Situation questions: Where is your business now? What do you do/make/sell? How long have you been in business? What are your goals for your business? These questions allow you find out where your prospect is now and where they?re going. I also ask them what marketing they currently do for their business and what?s worked in the past.

Problem questions: What?s the problem we?re here to talk about? What?s getting in the way or keeping you awake at night? You?re there to solve a problem, so this is your chance to find out what it really is.

Implication questions: What will happen if you don?t do anything about this current problem? This question will help your prospect to focus on the problem and see why it?s so important that it?s solved.

Urgency questions: How soon do you need to do something about this issue? If the answer is ?Right away? then you know you need to provide the solution now. If the answer is ?In six months? then you don?t need to keep pushing for the sale right now. Things might have changed in six months.

Importance questions: How important is it to you that we solve this issue? Having answered all your questions, if your potential client then tells you that actually there are other more pressing issues to deal with, you can focus on them, or step away. If solving the problem is urgent and important, then you need to present your solution and ask for the business.


We all love talking about ourselves and our businesses, so use questions to build up rapport with your prospects and find out what they?re really looking for. That way you can provide them with a solution that actually meets their needs.

What questions do you ask your prospects, to turn them into clients?

Don’t Waste Money on Marketing ? Develop a Secret Salesforce Instead

On 1 May I wrote a blog about the core values we have at Appletree. (Click here if you missed it.) Core values are an essential part of promoting your business because they show other people what you stand for and how your principles influence the work you do for your clients. I’ve recently discovered another reason for having core values and sharing them with the world. They are part of your Secret Salesforce and can help you find new clients without the need for any marketing!

Secret SalesforceSteve Catchick from Performance Counts introduced me to his Secret Salesforce, which is made up of three vital areas. When you combine them, you’ll be able to attract new business, almost without worrying about spending money on your marketing.

The three areas you need to work on are:

  1. Core Values. These are your fundamental beliefs and what you stand for. At Appletree our values include the fact that we get stuff done for our clients. This means that they get more than the service they expect, so they frequently refer us to new clients. We’ve published our values on our website for everyone to see.
  2. Relationships. When you provide a service rather than a product, it is especially important to build up great relationships with your clients. We spend a lot of time getting to know our clients, so that we understand them and their businesses. When you know your clients really well, you can provide a great service for them and they’ll keep coming back to you for more work.
  3. Communication. This is how you build those great relationships that you need. We keep in touch with our clients almost on a weekly basis; we don?t wait for them to ask for something. We communicate with our contacts and prospects in a number of ways, including a free, monthly email newsletter. The April issue of Scribbles generated two great enquiries for work, one from a contact I first met nine years ago and another from a former client who we last worked with nearly two years ago.

So how does this help you reduce your marketing spend? When you’re clear on your core values and you stick to them, you’ll be able to deliver a better level of service to your clients, which people are happy to pay for. Develop strong relationships with your clients and they’ll be loyal to you, rather than spending money with your competitors. Keep communicating with your clients to let them know how much you value them and they’ll rely on you more and more. Happy clients stick around for longer, spend more money and give great recommendations. Combine your core values with relationships and communication and you can develop a Secret Salesforce that you can use to grow your business, without having spend thousands on your marketing.

Do you have a Secret Salesforce working for you that you didn’t know about?

CJC for website

What are Your Business’s Core Values?

What makes your business tick? What do you stand for? When you know the answers to these questions, you can use them to promote your business and really stand out from the crowd. When you can show that you stick to your values, your actions will be more powerful than any marketing you can pay for.

Here are our values and how we use them to promote Appletree:

1. We get stuff done. Our clients trust us to set up and look after their marketing for them. Getting stuff done means that we don?t tell clients what marketing to do and then expect them to do it on their own. We do things for our clients even before they have to ask us to do them!

2. We stick to what we’re good at. Writing marketing copy is what we?re really good at, so that?s what we do. When clients need content for their website, material for their newsletters and blogs, or engaging copy for their tweets and social media updates, we can create it. Because we stick to what we know best, we can make sure that we provide our clients with top quality marketing solutions.

3. We give free advice freely. Our business has been built on helping anyone who asks about marketing. We treat everyone as if they?re a paying client, so if people need advice, we look forward to them getting in touch and we?ll do whatever we can to help.

4. We’re in it for the long haul. Appletree has been around since 2000. Since then, we?ve always done marketing. The business has changed as new marketing tools have been created ? social media didn?t exist when we started out ? but we?ve been consistent in the marketing support that we?ve provided our clients. And we’re going to carry on doing that!

So those are our core values ? they are what drives our business and what keeps us in business. What are yours? What’s important to you? What do you stand for? Tell us what makes your business tick!

3PCSRDo You Have a Responsible Business?

CSR ? Corporate Social Responsibility ? is a phrase that?s been around for some time. Large companies shout about how they send their members of staff to carry out volunteer projects. Others tell us how much money they donate to charity, or how they offset their carbon or plant trees.

But that?s not all that CSR is about. It?s about becoming a more responsible business and looking at how you can use what you do to stand out from the crowd. This blog is about how we?re doing this at Appletree and how we?re helping our clients to do it too.

At Appletree we?ve recently renewed our membership to a clever programme that helps us become a more responsible business. I was never quite sure what CSR we were doing and what we could tell people about, so taking an assessment was a really useful way to get clear on it.

The assessment gave us scores in 10 different areas ? People, Profit, Planet, Management, Marketing, Sales, Service Delivery, HR, Accounts and Legal. While we scored quite well in some areas, overall achieving a Silver award, there are three areas that we need to work on.

1. Planet ? taking care of our planet should be a priority for all businesses, not just the environmentalists. Why does it matter? Changing the way you do things like reducing the resources you use, such as power, water and paper, will cut your costs and lower your impact on our planet. And this reduces your carbon footprint, which is good news ? and good marketing material.

At Appletree we?re improving our Planet score by encouraging more of our clients to think more about their environmental impact and how to use it in differentiating themselves. At the end of this issue of Scribbles there?s news about how you can get involved, too.

2. Service Delivery ? this is about how you transform resources into services or results that create and deliver value to your customers. If you make actual products, it?s about how you produce them.

At Appletree we don?t make anything ? we provide a service. So to become a more responsible business we?re going to carry out a Customer Satisfaction Survey, to find out what our clients really think about us and to ask them how we can improve our service to them. The survey starts this week and should be completed by the end of June, when we?ll report back to our clients on the changes we?re going to make for them. I?ll probably write another issue of Scribbles all about the survey and the improvements, too.

3. Legal ? the legal aspects of a business are often overlooked until there?s a problem, but which time it?s too late to something about it. You need to make sure that you?re up to date on the legal requirements around your business and put the necessary processes and procedures in place, so that you, your clients and your business are protected.

At Appletree we?re working on our legal score by updating all our client contracts and Ts&Cs, to make sure our clients know exactly what service they?re getting from us. It will give them better peace of mind as everything will be clearly agreed.

These are the three main areas we?re working on, and there are others. Throughout the year I?ll tell you what else we?re doing, through Scribbles and our blog.

How Can You Create a Responsible Business?

Simple ? by joining the 3P CSR programme that is helping Appletree to become more responsible.

You start by taking the assessment ? a simple online questionnaire ? which gives you a great report you can use, to start looking at the areas that need improvement. You get help with putting together your CSR action plan, to help you make those improvements.

You?ll also get an email newsletter every month, which helps you focus on a particular aspect of developing a responsible business. Each month you get a simple exercise you can carry out, which you can then tell the world about!

Membership to the 3P CSR programme usually costs £300 +VAT per year, but we?ve arranged a special deal for our contacts. If you sign up through us, it will only cost you £270 +VAT. If you?d like to take part and start building a responsible business, click here to email me or call me on 01635 578 500.

There?s more information on the programme and lots of tips to get you started at

CJC for websiteDo You Know What Your Customers Really Think of You?

This year at Appletree we?re doing a lot to make our business more responsible. We renewed our membership of the clever 3P CSR Programme, which helps businesses see how responsible they are and how they can improve the situation. The assessment looks at a number of different areas of your business ? including management, marketing and service delivery ? and gives you a score for how well you?re doing. Then it offers suggestions for improvements.

We?ve picked three areas to work on over the coming months ? Planet (how does what you do affect our planet?), Legal (are you up to date with legal requirements?) and Service Delivery (how do you do what you do?)

One of the ways in which we can improve our score in Service Delivery (currently 62%) is by looking for improvements in how we deliver our service to our clients. How do we do this? By asking them what they think of us!

Scary? Yes! Will we hear things we don?t like? Probably! Worth doing? Definitely!

How often does one of your suppliers ask if you?re happy with what they do for you? Too many businesses assume that if you don?t complain, you?re happy with their service or what you bought from them. But if you have a bad meal in a restaurant, what will you do about it? You just won?t go back. And you might tell your friends not to go there. However, if you?re asked during your meal if you?re happy and you?re given a chance to complain about your over-cooked steak, the restaurant has the opportunity to do something about it. They could cook you another steak or not charge you for it. That way you?re more likely to go back and more likely to tell your friends to go there too.

But what if you don?t like the feedback you get? The way to deal with negative feedback is to do something about it and show your clients what you?re doing about it. When we carry out our survey, if any of our clients tell us they don?t like us emailing them, instead of phoning them on a weekly basis, then we?ll make sure we phone them every week instead of sending them emails. If one of them asks for a different style of monthly report on their Social Media, then we?ll change the way we report their results.

We?re currently working on putting together a short list of questions ? no more than ten ? which we?ll ask our clients to answer. Some of them will be asked over coffee or even lunch, to help us really explore their answers. When we?ve got all the results, we?ll let you (and our clients) know what they are and what we?re going to do about them.

When did you last ask your clients what they really think of you?

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