Posts Tagged ‘businesses’
Get Your Marketing Right and You Don’t Need to Know How to Sell
Ask any Marketing Consultant whether they think marketing is more important than sales and of course they will tell you that it is. But ask any Salesman if sales is more important than marketing and guess what they will say?
So as a Marketing Consultant, I obviously think that marketing is more important than sales. However I also believe that when you run a small business and you’re responsible for bringing in new clients, even if your marketing is great, you still need to know how to sell.
For some people, selling is a dirty word. Why? Probably because they don’t like being sold to themselves and probably because most British don’t want other people to think that they’re being pushy, or ‘salesy’. So in this blog, I thought I would share with you how at Appletree, we combine marketing with sales, to make it easy to convert prospects into clients.
The Appletree Sales Process
Once the marketing has attracted a potential client and they’ve asked us for a meeting, to talk about how we can help, I ask them a series of questions.
Situation Questions – these are questions like ‘what business are you in?’, ‘who are your clients?’ and what marketing do you currently do – that either works or doesn’t?’ These questions allow you to find out a bit more about your prospect.
Problem Questions – next you need to find out about the problem your prospect is struggling with, that you might be able to help then with. This will help you behind to get an idea of the solution you can propose.
Implication Question – ‘What will happen if you don’t do anything about this problem?’ is the next question to ask. Most prospects will really sit back and think about this. It will start them thinking about how much they might need your help.
Urgency Question – this is when you can ask how urgently the prospect is looking for a solution to their problem. If they need a solution right away, you know that you need to move soon and not miss out on the opportunity.
Do you notice that so far, all you’ve done is ask questions of your prospect? You’ve not yet said anything about what you do.
Recognise the Opportunity – the next thing you need to do is help your prospect to recognise the opportunity of how you can solve their problem. For Appletree prospects, we might talk about how many clients they currently have, how many they want and therefore the gap between the two numbers. If a prospect tells me they have 10 clients and they want 22, that means they need 12 new ones. If they want to take on these 12 new clients over the next year, that’s just one a month – that’s a really clear goal.
Insights – finally, at this stage, you’re allowed to tell your prospect a bit about what you do. Do it by telling them how you’ve helped a similar business to overcome a similar problem.
Importance – ‘How important is this to you right now?’ is the next question to ask, to make sure that your prospect is still committed to solving their problem.
Present Your Solution – and eventually, this is where you can tell your prospect exactly how you can help them. Describe elements of your solution – how and why it will work. Make sure your solution is aligned with your prospect’s strategy (which you found out earlier, from asking them Situation questions). Think about how your solution will meet your prospects personal needs and tell them why your solution is the best one.
Engagement Question – this is the final question that you need to ask. ‘When would you like to start?’ is a question I love to ask at this point! Too many people don’t actually ask for the sale, so make sure that you do. If you’ve taken your prospect through a Sales Process, they could well be ready to buy from you right now, so don’t miss out on this opportunity!
So you see, sales can actually be quite easy and not salesy at all, when you follow a simple process and put the focus on your prospect and what they need.
Which do you think is more important – sales or marketing?
So far, 2014 has been a really good year for Appletree. In fact, in terms of profitability, it has been the best year in all the 14 years that the business has been running. Our turnover has not been as high as in previous years, but our profit margin has been up and my stress levels have been down. There have been times when I have turned away potential clients, because I’ve been too busy looking after my existing ones.
Why is this? Why has this year been so great and what secrets can I share with you? I sat and pondered these questions while on holiday in Crete at the end of October, so this blog is the result of that pondering.
What is Authentic Marketing?
I think there are four lessons I want to share with you.
What are you really good at?
It all started towards the end of 2013, when I realised that I had too many people in my business. For some time I had been trying to grow Appletree, by taking on more clients and more projects; and therefore by taking on more staff to do the work. However, I noticed that I was allowing the business to drift away from what we’re really good it – providing marketing content for clients and getting their marketing done for them. And eventually I accepted that I’m not very good at managing staff! So unfortunately for a couple of lovely people, 2014 was the year that heads rolled and Appletree went back to being just me again. And I love writing marketing content, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on.
When you’re completely clear on what you do, networking is much easier and it makes it simple for people to recommend you.
What do you clients expect from you?
In February this year, I found myself unable to go networking or go chasing after new clients (all thanks to an unfortunate event on a ski slope.) I love selling and I love the buzz of taking on a new client. However, sitting in my office for a whole month, I realised that I really needed to focus on looking after my existing clients. They expect us to get their marketing done for them and they will often phone to ask for something to be carried out, only for us to tell them we’ve already done it. They rely on us for new ideas, marketing inspiration and expertise.
There are only so many hours in the day, so if you’re not careful, you’ll end up spreading yourself too thin. Or you can concentrate on looking after the lovely clients you have – which will actually save you a fortune in networking fees and petrol!
What can you give?
One day in the autumn, a nice lady approached me at networking event. “We’ve met at a few of these meetings,” she reminded me. “And while we’ve never really talked about what you do, you’ve been really helpful and I’ve decided that I’d like you to do my marketing for me.”
How’s that for an easy sale?! My approach to marketing Appletree has always been with the spirit of generosity. If you have a question about marketing, ask it and I will do my best to answer it for you. No fee. No ties. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out, or I’ll point you towards someone who can help you. (Seriously, if you have a question, click here to email it to me!)
When one of my clients calls to ask if I can make a quick change to their website, or look over an article they’ve drafted, the answer is always “Yes, of course.” It is never “Yes and I’ll charge you for my time.” And it never will be.
The time you put into networking, the talks and presentations you give, the newsletters, blogs and tweets you write should all be about sharing what you know. The resulting flow of new clients will speak for itself.
What are you REALLY good at?
I know that business can be tough. Mine has certainly had its up and downs in the last 14 years. I’ve tried a few different ways to energise the business and to make money, but these alternatives have always been in line with what I know – marketing. I would never consider going off at a major tangent or setting up a side line just in the hope of making a fast buck. Why not? Because I believe this confuses your market. If times are tough, you have to adapt and flex and change and look for ways in which you can still provide your clients with a service that you understand.
Build on your expertise and become more of an expert than your competitor who wanders off in search of an easy win.
The four lessons above are based on the four core values of Appletree. When you’re true to your values, marketing actually becomes really easy. When you focus on being authentic, clients will come to you.
What are your core values and how can you use them for authentic marketing?
How Do You Come Up with Blog Ideas?
This is a question I’m asked on a fairly frequent basis. Lack of content and ideas seems to be something that prevents many people from blogging on regularly. So in this blog I thought I would share a few tips with you about how to come up with topics and ideas for your blog. (You can also apply them to articles, email newsletters and any other writing you’d like to do for your marketing.)
How did I come up with this blog topic? It was actually inspired by my holiday! I was sitting on the terrace outside my room in a lovely, quiet, peaceful hotel in Crete, at the end of October. I’d been staring out over the sea for what seemed like ages, letting the thoughts wash over me, like the gentle lapping of the waves on the beach below me. (See how poetic you can get when you’re on holiday!?) I usually take a note pad with me, even on holiday, for jotting down ideas. And suddenly, there it was. The idea for a blog – about how to get inspiration and ideas for writing blogs! So I wrote it down on my note pad.
More time went by – I have no idea how much – and suddenly another blog topic appeared and ended up on the note pad. And then the flood gates opened. From nowhere, a string of ideas came to me and before I knew it, there were nearly 10 topics scribbled down.
The trick with this sort of list (or brainstorm) is not to judge any of the ideas. Simply write them down. Some of them may sound daft at the time, but put them on the list, because when you review it again, once you’re safely back in the sanity of your office, you may realize just how genius that idea is. Of course, it can go the other way too. Did I drink too much wine that afternoon? Is that why, at the time, that idea seemed to be so brilliant, which now seems ridiculous?
Once you do come back to reality, go through your list. Cross of the really silly ones and look again at what’s left. There will be some gems there and those are the ones to work on.
“But how do you generate ideas if you’re not on holiday, but stuck in the office?” I hear you cry! Apply the same logic as when you’re away. Instead of staring at the computer screen, willing an idea to appear, do something more relaxing. Go for a walk around the office (or even outside in the fresh air.) Go and sit somewhere different, so you have a different view. I’m planning to buy a sofa for the Appletree office that I can sit on for just this exercise; in the summer I sit outside on the bench. Or the next time you’re sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, or on a train, put down your smart phone, take a few deep breaths, watch the world go by and let the ideas come.
If you want to know more about why we’re more open to ideas when we relax, click here to read a blog by my client, Peter Green, which explains it all.
So if you want more blog ideas, give yourself the time to just sit and stare into space and you’ll be amazed at what you can come up with.
Go on – give it a go!
How Do You Write a Book to Market Your Small Business?
Recently I was introduced to a lovely lady called Kate, who is a coach and a trainer. She was interested in writing a book in order to share her knowledge and expertise, but she really didn’t know the best way to go about doing this. I suggested that she come and spend half a day working with me, in the inspiring surroundings of Appletree HQ, so that we could work out exactly what she should write about.
I thought I’d share with you the process we went through, because if you’re thinking about writing a book and don’t know where to start, it might just help!
What’s on your mind?
The first thing I did was ask Kate to tell me why she wanted to write a book and what ideas she’d come up with so far. I summarized what she told me on a flip with some coloured pens. A couple of key points came out – such as Kate’s idea about interviewing a number of different people, to get their take on certain topics. She had already come up with an idea for the structure of each chapter and just wasn’t sure if it would work, so it went onto the flip chart which we stuck on the wall.
A good way to get started is to just get all your ideas out of your head and onto a piece of paper or a computer screen.
What do you do?
The next thing I did was to ask Kate about her business. I handed over the flip chart and pens and, using diagrams, she described the three main aspects of her business, which we’ll call A, B and C. From this, we worked out three possible book topics – A + B, B +C and A + B + C. As we sat and looked at the three possibilities, it became obvious that Kate’s book should be about A + B + C because it was very unique.
It sounds simple, but again, getting ideas out of your head and sharing them with someone else can really help.
Who do you know?
By this time we were getting hungry, so we took a quick break for lunch in the Appletree kitchen and when we came back, we split the next flip chart into two columns. On one side we started to write a list of people who Kate would like to interview for her book; on the other side we created a list of topics she wanted to cover. We worked on both sides, matching up topics and interviewees, looking for the right people for the right topic (and vice versa.) Kate knows lots of very interesting people and is very well connected, so this was not difficult to do.
While interview won’t be right for everyone, brainstorming a list of potential topics is the next logical stage.
How do you bring it all together?
This was all going really well, but there was something missing. Kate told me that she wanted to talk about ‘her story’ and somehow bring that into the book. So we talked about her early days, her influences and what she wanted to achieve in the future. We wrote a list, in chronological order, of the challenges that she’s faced and overcome during her life.
Then we did something really clever. We took Kate’s list of 12 challenges and matched them up to the 12 main topics and interviewees that we’d already identified. All of a sudden, we had a brilliant order for the chapters of the book, each of which could talk about Kate’s own challenges and how other people have dealt with and overcome the same issues, through the interviews she’s going to use.
Every book needs a good order, whether it’s chronological, alphabetical or something else. Work that out and you’re halfway there!
So now Kate has a structure for her book and for each chapter. She knows who she needs to speak to and she knows that she needs to get on with the writing. All she needs to do now, is get started!
In the A – Z of Marketing, Y is for … You!
Many small businesses struggle to work out their USP – unique selling point – that makes them different and makes them stand out from the crowd. Without a USP it can difficult to persuade a potential client to work with you, rather than one of your competitors. For many years I’ve wondered about USPs and what makes very small businesses (ones with only a couple of people in them) really different. For years I’ve tried to avoid one idea that kept cropping up. And then a few years ago, I gave in and accepted the fact that the thing that makes these small businesses different is mainly the people.
If you run your own business and there’s just you (or you are the ‘front’ or the ‘face’ of the business) then your USP is … you! You are what makes your business different. You might be an accountant, a sales trainer or a life coach. The service you provide to your clients is essentially the same as other accountants, sales trainers and life coaches, what makes your service different is the way in which you deliver it ? your knowledge and expertise combined with your personality and the way you do things.
How can you use ‘you’ to promote your business?
We all like to work with people we like. I’ve written about the Law of Attraction in other blog posts (click here to read one of them) but basically, it’s about finding people who are like you, because you’ll like working with them and they’ll want to work with you. You need to know who you are and what makes you tick, because when you do, you’ll be
able to look for people like you. I’m quite a bouncy, positive, creative sort of person. When I meet people who are loud and brash, or negative and always complaining about the weather, I find it really difficult to work with them. So I don’t! I focus on the other Tiggers who have loads of ideas about their business and a positive attitude and we have lots of fun together!
Let prospects meet ‘you’.
The other way in which you can use ‘you’ to promote your business is through marketing activities like networking. It’s not about standing up and ready off a one minute pitch about your business and how great you are. It’s about using networking to let people meet the real you, because if you’re the only one in your business, or you’re the face of the business, your clients will buy into ‘you’. Tell them who you are and what makes you tick and you’ll find it easier to attract the right clients to your business.
So if you’re like me and you’ve been looking for the USP in your small business, stop looking and just work on being you!