Strapline

Ideas and Words for all Business Communications

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Thoughts for marketing in 2016

Broken ankle time off has now come to an end and I’m back out and about after a 3 month quiet time.

This time has been really useful to take stock of my current marketing thoughts and concerns and hopefully be in a position to now offer clients views and direction as they prepare for a very uncertain future.

Are you ready for the marketing challenges of 2016?
Across all market sectors there are going to be some seismic shifts in the fundamentals that underpin the stability of each marketplace during the next 2 to 5 years. I used to be overly concerned with identifiable and individual incidents, such as macro and micro fiscal changes, the EU debate and demographic change. 

But now I’m more concerned with the organic flight and fight response that I think consumers will start to exhibit in light of a toxic combination of lack of job security, rises in inflation, removal of some differentials in wages of lower paid employees, reduction and removal of many social security benefits, rises in homelessness, more and more violent terrorist activity, and the inability of any government to manage the views and values of the majority in society.

The individual in my view will soon become just that – an individual. Sounds great, but after a short time, any reference to shared and common values will dissipate.  I predict a move to individual and national protectionism, linked to increased suspicion of others, fear of authority, and a need to reduce risk.

If you’re in business today, I suggest you start to plan for:
  • ·         A 30% reduction in non-essential spending
  • ·         Lower property values
  • ·         Increase in company insolvency as interest rates rise
  • ·         Lower rents in the long term
  • ·         Lower food costs – but also less choice and increased home cooking/baking
  • ·         Reduction in car ownership in real terms
  • ·         Less foreign travel
  • ·         Increased pressure on wages to maintain essential services
  • ·         More crime and just as worrying an increase in the perception that we live in a more lawless environment
  • ·         Changes to how we trade with Europe

In short marketing folk need to start to stop worrying about increasing market share and improving brand value and start worrying about finding new customers.

The good news is that for many the internet will help. Many companies still regard a fifty miles radius from their base as there market – not anymore. I know of a lawn company who recently started an online advice line and now provides clients around the world access to their considerable expertise.

There are thousands of potential customers who are happy to pay for knowledge, expertise and guidance.


In short the UK market is heading for prolonged stagnation – so create a global proposition and start finding income from beyond or current horizons.

Image courtesy of Anoop Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

What can a broken ankle teach you about marketing? Part 3

Well this broken ankle malarkey has taken more out of me than I thought it would - healing when you're a bit older takes time. But it has given me the time to really review how I've generated new business for myself and for my clients and here are some of my conclusions.
When was the last time you thought about why clients love or hate you?
The primary reason why businesses struggle, falter, and fail is not because of failures in marketing, or finance, or even effort. They fail because the idea behind the product or service was crap in the first place. Sorry but you can't polish a turd and eventually the market finds you out.

So lesson number one - if you can't generate new and repeat business, ask yourself if you have something worthwhile to offer, or are you just pissing in the wind and wasting your time.

Lesson number two - if you are making clients happy and they are paying with real money then find out why. You probably think you know, but in my experience you might not. I used to think clients used my services to generate more business - but I found out that clients used me to challenge them about what the future for their market might look like. My natural instinct to create space in a marketplace that has yet to be filled, led me to ask questions other marketing folk just ignored. 

Lesson number three - when you find out what you do that others will pay for - just get on with doing it. The time I've wasted doing everything else but getting on with doing what I do has cost me thousands. You don't have to have the best website, or nice business cards, or a new brochure - you really don't. Just find a client and do what you do - and then ask that satisfied client if they can help you grow your business by giving you an introduction to someone else. If you sell a product rather than a service you can do the same. Get your customers to become advocates for you. And when I say ask them, I don’t mean email them, I mean sitting with them eyeball to eyeball and asking them directly. In all the years I’ve been doing this, not once has a happy client said no!

Lesson number four - marketing and selling are two different skills, but increasingly forget the selling bit. Customers will come to you when they are ready. Selling is very old fashioned. Having excellent negotiation skills and being able to build a relationship with a stranger on the phone in less than 30 seconds are more valuable than learning how to handle a few objections!

The fastest way of growing your business is to make your clients genuine advocates for what you do – part 4 will focus on how this can be achieved.

Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 12 October 2015

What can a broken ankle teach you about marketing? Part 2

Enforced stillness and the requirement to slow down as a consequence of breaking my ankle has been both frustrating and surprisingly enlightening.

I've learnt that a portion of my working day was just wasted with "doing things".

Now I can't do so many activities and have to focus on stuff I can do, it's really clear I've been wasting time. I don't think 1 shall be as unfocused as I was, and I suggest that if you get to the end of the day and have missed your objectives you might want to reflect on what got in the way.

Practically speaking the old busted ankle has given me the time to take a long look at what I do and what I want to do over the next few years. But part of that process was a little bit scary.
When was the last time you did a bit of planning?
My Marketing and Business Development Plan was 3 years out of date and most of the action points and milestones I so carefully crafted were just not hit. How the hell did that happen?

Do you have a plan for marketing your business? How's it going?

Well don't break your ankle to find out! - If like mine it's out of date and just a forgotten wish list then do yourself and business a favour and make it a priority to fix.

There are loads of ideas on the web about how to build a marketing and business development plan - if you want to know where to look just email me and I'll send you a list of places that have always inspired me.

It's taken me the best part of 10 hours to get my ideas down on paper and now I'm putting the milestones into my Google Calendar so I get a kick every month. They say if you don't plan you're planning for failure - well I'm not sure. But what I've have learnt is that if you do plan you really should take it out every week and see if you're on track and not leave it in a drawer hidden away.

Next up on the list is a review on the return I have managed to get on the various different marketing comms activities I've used over the past 5 years. The initial results surprised me.


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

What can a broken ankle teach you about marketing? Part 1

I've broken my ankle.

Take my advice - don't do this!

Completely my own fault even though I've tried to include the dog as part of the incident!

I'm back from hospital and have to be non weightbearing for at least another 4 to 6 weeks, so you can expect a few more blogs, as I have more time.

And as I've been lying in bed reading and reflecting some ideas are developing concerning time and marketing.

With a busted ankle I can assure you EVERYTHING takes a lot longer and you need HELP to get even the most basic things done. ( I won't go into all the details, but be under no illusion not be able to get around with speed and precision is a real problem).

Speed, precision, and flexibility are all aspects of today's marketing communications activity - so we all think, but are they really? When you only have one good leg and have to plan carefully just getting from the office to the loo, things start to slow down.

You also can't make meetings without a struggle, and you get tired and have to take rest when normally you would be expected to running around doing doing doing.

But 10 days into this, even though I'm not loving it, I'm doing some great work and have come to an understanding that we might think we have to be doing doing doing, and have to react with ever shortening timescales, but WE REALLY DON'T.

Because all of us actually respond better if we can consider and reflect before we make a decision, just like I have to pause and reflect before I decide to hop into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. We think we can make up our minds faster and faster, but we can't and we don't like when we have to.

I'm developing ideas on how this has an impact on inertia and its relationship with the decision making progress. Eliminating friction and inertia for our customers to make a purchase decisions is often linked to pricing strategy and third party recommendations - and it is, but I'm convinced it's also linked to our innate "slow processing" capacity which has been part of our mindset for generations.

Over the next few weeks I hope to show that taking time over marketing strategy and tactics and understanding that our customers prefer to take time, should be something to consider.

Image courtesy of sippakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 7 September 2015

A fundamental change in purchasing decision behaviour is taking place - are you ready?

We all worry about what other people think. It's in our nature. We are concerned that other people might have a better insight or appreciation of a given situation and none of us like to find out after the event when it's too late.

The internet ensures we don't have to rely on salespeople to sell us goods and services until we want to buy them, but that means we are now faced with having to make our purchase decisions on our own.

And the truth is we're not very good at it.
No reviews or testimonials tells a very negative story

This has led to the critically important "review".

If your goods or services have no reviews or third party testimonials then you are in big trouble.

Forget all the rubbish you read of tracking the customers journey and enticing them with enriched content. If at the point of purchase there are no reviews or testimonials then I can guarantee the best you're going to get is a call to find out more - and in the majority of cases you're just going to be ignored.

If what you sell is crap then stop selling it. You can no longer polish a turd and expect it to outshine the competition.

Encourage reviews, ask for them when you feel it appropriate, have a reviews system built into your post sales communications process.

If you get a bad one - deal with it in real time and for all to see. Prospective customers understand that things go wrong sometimes and that problems crop up. If they can see you have dealt with the issue quickly and resolved the issue it builds confidence.

Bottom line is NO Reviews No Sales!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The first sale is not the hardest

Traditionally new customers are thought of as the hardest to gain. New business development is still seen as one of the most important jobs in any company and is usually staffed by hard nosed professional communicators with an eye for a good margin.
How are you going to earn that second sale?
But like everything else - times have changed and are continuing to change as customers learn that they are in complete control of the buying process. Customers are slowly realising that they can buy when they want, at a price point of their choice, new or secondhand without any help from a smooth or not so smooth talking salesperson.

So the first sale you make is going to be very much like the second sale you make to that customer - not really under your influence.

But there are 4 things you should consider when trying to get that second sale:

  1. Thank your new customer for the first sale. Not in an email. By way of a "thank you" postcard. No offer, no special deal, just a plain old thank you and perhaps some handy customer service details.
  2. Having established postcards as a media calculate the most probable next order date and 2 weeks before hand send another postcard with a discount code of say 15% off everything you have on your website
  3. If that fails and you have an email try the same with an email
  4. Change the offer - if practicable try a buy 1 get one Free, or a related product or service add-on 
If you can get the second sale - you have a significantly higher chance of hanging on to your new customer - that's why the second sale can be the hardest.

But the good news is that most companies still work on the assumption that new customers are more important, and don't really care about them after they get the first order. If you do, and put the investment into chasing down those second orders, growth will be more sustainable and competitive advantage improved.

Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 10 August 2015

What Jeremy Corbyn can teach every marketer

Jeremy Corbyn is currently one of four politicians who want to lead the Labour Party. For those readers outside the UK the Labour Party is the official opposition party in the House of Commons, facing down the Conservative Party who have a small but workable majority.

Could this man hold the secret of marketing success?
But you don't need to know anything about UK politics to learn from Corbyn when it comes to marketing communications.

He's successful because of 3 important factors:

  1. He's genuine - he really and truly believes in what he says
  2. He's not soundbite driven - he says it how he feels, he does not have any alternative audience he has to appease
  3. He's perceived as a leader and not a follower - he is someone anyone will follow regardless of their political persuasion or class loyalties - he has a universal appeal 
As a marketer or someone who is responsible for communicating your company's products or services this translates into 3 principles you must follow:
  • If you are trying to con customers with a crap product or service you will fail
  • If your value proposition sounds false you will fail
  • If your product or service has very limited appeal, you will fail
Please take a long hard look at your product or service. If you are failing to win new business or retain existing clients stop blaming sales and start asking yourself some difficult questions! 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

What is your marketing motivation?

Why do you bother with marketing?

Is it all about profit?  Or is it all about the product or service benefits? Is it about raising awareness of the thing you love to do and can do well,  and you hope will bring in some money?

Whatever it is unless you market with the right fundamental attitude you will fail.
What really motivates your marketing?
The secret is not why you market what you do it's the way you get up in the morning and go about it.

The only mindset or key attitude you need is the right motivation - and that is:

To Always Exceed Expectations

If you do everything connected with your marketing with this attitude you will succeed. 

If you consider the other person whether a client or supplier as a possible advocate for your business or organisation and you always try to exceed there expectations you will succeed. 

If your key motivation is to make everyone who can influence the success of your operation to really be impressed with what you do and how you go about it, then YOU WILL SUCCEED

Because there are so many scumbags out there whose main motivation is to:
  • Screw the customer
  • Pay suppliers late or not at all
  • Make false claims about their products or services
  • Never deliver on-time
  • Ignore complaints
  • Etc.etc
You must do everything, say everything, deliver everything, driven by the desire to exceed the expectations of everyone all the time.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 13 July 2015

Trust - the lifeblood of every business, brand, individual and even a country

As you stare across at the person you are doing business with today, perhaps for the first time or for the hundred and first time, ask yourself what are you really buying or investing in.

The bottom line is you need to be convinced that what you are promised is what you're going to get.

If you're unsure you might take a reference or even a risk, but what's at stake fundamentally is this

CAN I TRUST THIS PERSON OR THE BUSINESS HE OR SHE REPRESENTS?

Trust takes years to earn and seconds to squander. But amazingly everyday promises made will be broken, invoices deliberately not paid when they should be, total untruths sold as fact, and individuals let down.
Do you think trust had something to do with this mess?

Greece has lost the trust of the whole world and the consequences are having and will continue to have terrible consequences for the whole population. People will die, the hopes and aspirations of probably two generations will be severely curtailed, and the impact on other lives across the world will be dramatic. All because the "Greek Brand" has become synonymous with broken promises, 
self-interest and total mistrust.

Is your company like Greece? Are you aware that you as an individual could have as much credibility as a Greek politician?

Things go wrong, timescales have to slip for health or other reasons, but the way you communicate unwanted information is critical to the way you and your business is perceived, the real secret is if you recognise the value that trust has in the relationship you will be sensitive to the needs of the people you are dealing with - if you don't think trust is important then you'll just treat them with contempt and not worry about letting them down or not paying an invoice etc etc.

Do you care?

If you don't eventually you will end up like Greece, friendless, bankrupt, and without a future.

Image courtesy of thephotoholic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, 2 July 2015

How do your customers decide when making a purchase decision?

You know your product or service offer better than anyone else - or you should do!

You know what makes your product or service different and special  - or you should do!

You are responsible for making sure you have a clear value proposition that can be easily understood by your new and existing customers. Those purchasers need to make a purchase decision in your favour - and you need to help them every step of the way.

What information do your customers need before they buy from you?

Just for the next few minutes put yourself in that prospective purchasers position. Write down all the motivations that they might have, what they are looking for, the significance of price and availability etc.

Make sure you include if they might need to take others into the decision making process. Perhaps they might need credit, or perhaps they might need to be sure you have a sound business platform before they buy from you!

Also consider if this purchase for them is a risk. What guarantees would you expect to find?

What you will find is that in most cases the number of factors that could impact on the purchase of your goods or services are many and varied.

Now the problem is that before the internet gave us access to perceived unlimited information, if a prospect was unsure they would contact you and ask questions.

Now if you don't have the information on your website, in the vast majority of cases

YOU NEVER GET THE CALL

That's why it's imperative you put yourself in the buyers position and make sure your online presence both static (website) and dynamic (social media) deals with all the information needs your new and existing customers need.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

3 easy ways to sabotage your marketing

Are you wasting your marketing effort by doing any of these 3 things?
Marketing costs are based on real cash, real time, and in many cases really hard work.

But many individuals, companies and organisations sabotage all their marketing activity when they indulge in the following three actions:

  1. They are crap at paying their bills - not paying your invoices early or at least before the due date is the biggest way of damaging personal and business credibility. I've worked for hundreds of companies and the vast majority think they can get away with abusing suppliers without it damaging the perception of their brand. Well they can't and apart from being a bad way to manage a business it's a wonderful way of devaluing a brand.
  2. They are crap at leadership and management - having a demotivated team in the office is another fantastic way of wasting your marketing budget. Why would anyone who has to suffer the daily agony of working for and with poor leaders and appalling managers feel anything but contempt for the product or service they help sell. When they go home or socialise and explain what an a***hole they have as a boss, it's the company's brand that suffers.
  3. They actually have a crap product or service - it may come as a bit of a shock but many companies try really hard to sell a substandard product or service. They waste time and money trying to polish a turd. The sad thing is that in most cases the owners actually believe they are offering superb value and it's the market that has it all wrong. 
If you want your marketing to work for you please consider:
  • Paying your bills 5 days before they are due
  • Treat your staff with respect - if you have poor managers get rid of them
  • Be honest about how good your product or service actually is, and if its rubbish then do something about it
Image courtesy of satit_srihin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 11 May 2015

Marketing is like a coat hanger

Like a lot of blokes I have a nasty habit of throwing my best clothes down on a chair, or the floor, etc. This irritates my wonderful wife who begs me to consider the value and use a &^%$£&^ coat hanger!

Do you use these?

In recent months as the UK economy has been waiting for the election result,  a number of clients have treated their marketing in the same way. They just discarded plans, stopped investing, refused to participate in social media, and just threw their marketing activity "on the floor".

I've done it myself. When you're super busy and have piles of work you just forget to do the basics. Some will notice this is the first blog in quite a few weeks!

Marketing takes time and investment and needs to be part of a business plan just like managing cash flow and new product or service development.

Marketing is just like the coat hanger you use to protect and keep your best clothes in the best shape possible.

And the most important part of your marketing coat hanger is the bit at the top - the hook or loop that you use to hang the item up with. That loop has to be strong and resilient and designed to take a lot of weight. In marketing terms that hook has nothing to do with money or time. The hook or loop on your marketing coat hanger is all about focus and importance.

I consider marketing to be the most important function in running and developing a successful business - and every business needs to start the day with a marketing moment. Every day is a marketing day and a day which is dominated by anything else is a wasted day.

I can assure you that businesses that fret over investing 5 or 10 percent of turnover on marketing are competing with businesses that invest 20% as a minimum.

So put your business away each night on a marketing coat hanger you can be proud of, rather than just leaving it in a crumpled heap on the floor, waiting for someone to tread on it.

Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Personalisation of messages and information is just the start

It used to be that if you didn't have a website you were in trouble.

Then, if you didn't have an active email or emarketing programme you were in trouble.

Contact Us - Why should they?

Now if you can't or won't embrace the concept of personalised online engagement you could seriously be missing out.

I recently tested a generic newsletter with an offer to my white list. Compared with 18 months ago the results were really quite a surprise. Open and click through rates were down significantly.

Filters that automatically place emails in smart inboxes have stopped generic messages in their tracks and recipients increasingly will only engage with something that is obviously personalised and relevant.

So back to the test. Same list but now segmented by purchasing history and potential. Each email sent using the name in the individual and their company in the subject line and in the body copy a reference to their company with a specific offer.

The results were impressive.

The problem is the time and resources I now have to invest in making sure my emarketing is up to the required standard.

I'm not convinced that I have the right solution for my size business and I shudder to think of the investment in time and resources that will be required for a large retail company. The problem is that competitors that are able to combine prospect and customer data with personalised communications across all media,  will be at a significant advantage over other businesses who just don't have the time, understanding, and money to play by the new rules.

And this is just the start - within 5 years the vast majority of online sales will be conducted via platforms that allow people to see and talk to each other, 24 hours a day, in any language, sharing screen images and information. The businesses that are gearing up for that level of engagement will be in a very dominant position.

How would your business cope if your top 5 competitors improved their engagement strategies and you did nothing?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Why dogs would succeed in any sales and marketing job

We have a small, and I mean small, rescue dog called Dinky - see image!

I may be small but I'm all dog!
Dinky like most dogs would be great in most sales and marketing roles because he has 5 traits which are critical for success:
  • Persistence - if one of us won't feed him then he will find one of us who will and then if that fails he will bother one of us again in the nicest possible way. BUT HE WILL GET FED 
  • Boundless energy - he will keep on going even if he is knackered because he loves being out and about and doing things
  • Knowing the rules - he knows not to do things which will get him in to trouble, or at least not get found out
  • Being individual - he has a real and genuine personality for being friendly and nice to people and very nice to children and not bark and make a fuss at the slightest thing - unless he sees a cat!
  • Being confident - although he weighs in at less than 4 kilos he confidently approaches bigger dogs and gets on well with them
Sales and marketing roles are becoming very complex and very fast. The average in post time is less than 3 years and in some senior position can be half that.

You still have to be technically competent and always on a learning curve, but that's just the stuff you have to know. As a person you must have the above "Dinky" qualities in abundance if you are to survive and prosper.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Posting invoices improves sales

I used to email my invoices because it was direct, fast, efficient and cost nothing.

Why would I want to pay for the envelope, printing, paper and the stamp and then have to take the time to print and fold the invoice and then stuff the envelope, stick on the stamp and then walk to the post box?

Do you email your invoices?

Email everytime - until three months ago.

I had a number of invoices to send and I wondered what would happen if I mailed them and included a few extra items.

The thing is the invoice gets opened - I address it to Accounts Payable and or the MD.

Weight wise, a 4 page newsletter or set of service offers can be included without any extra postage being charged.

You can send your invoice with a nice covering letter on nice paper - your invoice will stand out if it's on nice stock and in colour with a good offer.

You can include all sorts of items.

I recently suggested sending a nice wrapped teabag out with a jovial letter directed at the MD suggesting now was a good time for a cup of tea and a sit down to read all about some new social media research -  that was included in the same envelope as the invoice.

My results are pretty impressive.

It costs me in time and material costs about £2 to mail an invoice, marketing update, and two copywriting offers.

So far my invoices have been settled quicker, which is marvelous and I've picked up several hundreds pounds worth of new work.

But the biggest shock was when I sent a referral request out and asked for people who I could contact and received 3 responses - no work yet but 3 new warm leads.

So don't email something that your client has to process - mail them something they can deal with and also benefit from.

This month I plan to do both. Mail and email - same info and offers to see what will happen.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 30 March 2015

The key sales messages you must be making all the time

Surprisingly we all forget that we are all different.

We seem to think that with a bit of segmentation and buyer persona analysis we can group our prospects and customers into a couple of nice looking columns on a database.
This of course is not how it is in the real world. It's a very good idea to undertake thoughtful targeting, but sadly everyone we are in contact with is at a different stage of THEIR buying cycle.

What are you trying to tell me?
However you can overcome this by making sure you use certain key messages throughout your marketing communications. Sometimes you just need one or two, in others like long tail direct mail items you need all of them.

The key messages you have to have working for you all the time are:
  • I'm here
  • I'm relevant to your needs
  • I'm very good at what I do
  • I'm risk free
  • I'm really easy to deal with
  • I'm an asset to others
Take a look at the landing page of your website, or the last direct mail piece you sent out.

The challenge is to make sure that above the fold on your website homepage, or within the body of the headline and first two paragraphs of any direct mail going to prospective customers, you can include all of the above messages.

So you could use the following as a template.

If You're Looking for a UK Based B2B Copywriter - Then You've Just Found One

Thanks for visiting the website of Simply Great Copy, my name is Chris Crossland and I've specialised in all media B2B commercial copywriting  for the past 30 years. 

I make two really important promises to new and existing clients  - I will work on the project until I get it right, so no limit of the number of revisions as along as the brief stays the same and when my invoice is settled you own the copyright and the IP.

You are always welcome to comment and amend the work we create together and I will always justify my approach. 

Check out the attached client testimonial list - if you want to contact any of them to find out why they work with me, please do.

The next call is yours to make - you can contact me on etc etc

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Selling - the only question you really need to answer to make a sale

Here's a little known fact. the vast majority of businesses go bust because they provide products or services that no one wants, understands, or trusts.

Why should anyone buy what you sell?

Now one of the best tests you can use to see if your business has a sound product or service offer, is to as this simple question:

What makes what we do so different that our customers will want to buy from us?

It's an easy question and one which as a copywriter I ask my clients, especially when we meet for the first time.

I get two types of answers:

  1. vague, illogical, ill thought out, confused and incoherent
  2. clear, concise and easy to understand
Now I'm not saying that just because you have a clear explanation of your offer all is fine, because many company owners really believe in their own bullshit. 

But I have found that really good offers that are delivered with clear and easy to appreciate  messages which are totally understood by customers, are the mainstay of every successful business or organisation I've ever encountered.

As you read this be honest with yourself - is what you provide a benefit to the customer or just something you do with a hope of getting paid?

Customers won't tell you they are confused by what you offer, they will just walk away of click on something that does makes total sense to them.

Customers won't argue over the cost, they will find something that fits their price/benefit calculations and buy from someone else.

So to make more sales today and tomorrow all you have to do is ask the one question honestly - what makes what we do so different that our customers will want to buy from us.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Do you follow up enough?

Well I don't and I should know better because I know when I do, it works well for me.

I've read and had it confirmed over the years, that following up is one of the biggest differentiators between individuals, businesses and organisations that flourish and the rest that just about get by.

Start with your own experience.

How many times have you been approached at a networking event or prospected,  and after expressing some interest heard those wonderful words- " I'll get back in touch next week" - and then nothing happens.

My reward when I have done my daily follow up calls

I've said it and DONE NOTHING. Firstly it's very rude and it also shows you to be all talk and no action.

And yet I still forget to follow up.

I think I fear rejection and use excuses like the dog needs a walk, or I've got other work on.

But I know if I allocate time, have all the info to hand and get on with it - I generate huge amounts of business.

So now I have a new system and I hope it might work for you.

I decide in the morning who I'm going to follow up that day. It could be one person or perhaps five.

I then get a list of all the contact details and resolve to make the calls or if requested follow up emails during the day.

Sometimes I get some done in the morning, or all during a break - but I get them done and then reward myself with something nice. Chocolate biscuits are always high up on the list with fresh ground coffee.

Currently it takes 7 to 12 contacts to secure a first order.

Most of us and that includes me, give up after 2 or 3.

When I'm stacked out with work I never follow up - when the order book is getting a bit thin, I follow up and it fills up again.

I must be mad.

But only recently after adopting my daily follow ups regardless of how much work I have,  I've found the work coming in on a constant basis.

Image courtesy of tiramisustudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Change a cold call into an info call

I was asked last month to review some cold call scripts and create some "new ideas to improve sales".

WOW - are people still using cold calls to make sales I thought - what a waste of time and money.

Cold calls can really upset prospective customers and are so old school
The scripts were painful, but the service was good and customers were enthusiastic about the service they were getting.

So why cold call?  Seems that the existing team were targeted and rewarded on number of calls made per day and that was that.

Long story short is I declined and then we had a little row, and I was given an opportunity to change things. I introduced the concept of the info call. It works well for products or services and all you need is:

  1. The type of business you want to target
  2. Someone with a warm and non aggressive telephone voice
  3. A printed and digital version of an info document about what you do which has at least 10 good testimonials quotes
  4. A good follow up process
And then you call and say

"Good morning/afternoon - my name is <your name> from <your company>"
"We provide solutions to <identify main pain point you provide solutions for>"
"I would like to send some information about our services to <their company> who would be the person to send it to?
"Thank you - would they prefer it via email or in the post?"

Don't sell anything, just get the info and get of the phone. If they want to buy or want more info there and then, just take the contact details and get someone else to call them.

Then mail or email them something and make sure there is a time limited offer included.

Then wait a week and then follow up - making sure they have had the info and are aware that the time limited offer is coming to an end.

The result - less calls, more orders, and happier staff. Happy Days!

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net




Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Postcard marketing - 5 reasons they work so well

I still hate sending postcards when I'm on holiday but I think the world of them as a business development device.

Can you ignore a postcard?
I've used them in most market sectors with brilliant results - here are 5 reasons why you consider using them:
  1. They don't get ignored - you don't have to open postcard to see the message. In test after test postcards get picked up and scanned read without judgement whereas envelopes get picked up with preconceived notions of junk mail.
  2. They are understood - a postcard has a front and a back one with an image, the reverse with some words. The recipient knows what to expect - so you just get their attention.
  3. Postcards are low cost - It's a simple printing process with a wide variety of different finishes available. And if you are mailing them, you can personalise them using variable data printing, changing text, images and graphics for no additional cost. Many mailing houses can print and mail in one process saving you time and money.
  4. They can be targeted very easily and quickly - if you have to respond with speed to a competitor offer or have something to say to a few local people, postcards can be designed and printed within days.
  5. They are retained - it's been found that cards which have calendars on them or just a beautiful image, are retained, or passed round. It's the ability to use nice materials that seem to make the difference.
So 5 reasons to use postcards - there are loads more but the above are why they have worked for me and my clients.

Image courtesy of chayathonwong2000 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Sunday, 15 March 2015

Prepare for changes to the buying cycle

The buying cycle follows the journey that new and existing customers go through before they purchase. It can be extended to after they have purchased - this is when they should become advocates for your products or services.

The traditional cycle includes:

  • Raising awareness
  • Recognising possible solutions to a real or perceived problems
  • Research of possible solutions
  • Identification of possible suppliers
  • Final shortlist
  • Initial contact
  • Request for solution costing
  • Negotiation and specification analysis
  • Purchase
  • Post purchase research to confirm purchase decision
The biggest and most significant change to this cycle is the decision to purchase. 

When customers decide to buy - you have to be ready
The following changes need to be appreciated and changes made to how sales are made and managed:
  1. Purchase decisions are being left to the last possible moment
  2. There is an expectation that everything is negotiable
  3. Estimates have to be within minutes
  4. Delivery times have to be very quick
  5. Price has to include everything
  6. Terms have to be flexible
  7. Sales staff have to knowledgable and have the ability to negotiate price
  8. Credit checking has to be fast
  9. Customer expectations have to exceeded at all times
Ask yourself the question - "Can the staff I employ to take and make sales deliver all of these?

If the answer is no then get training because this is an area where sales are won or lost.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, 13 March 2015

Check your online footprint

Our nature is to be inquisitive. It's in built and part of the way we protect ourselves and the people and things we cherish.

When we meet new people, or have to visit new places, or undertake new actions, we try and find out as much as possible to satisfy the organic need to predict possible outcomes.

Not so many years ago we sought the comfort of others as being the only way of finding out more. And still today anyone who we trust who recommends someone, some place, or some product or service, has tremendous influence on our decision making process.

What's online about you or your business today?

But increasingly as we have to make decisions in real time rather than at leisure, we turn to the internet for valuable insight into the people and things we need to know more about.

So what if someone put your name, or your company name into any number of search engines. The easy option is to do it yourself. Check yourself out as if you were someone who wanted to find out more about you.

Check social media, LinkedIn, Google images, Youtube, Shareslide, etc etc. What you find might surprise you, and even if it doesn't surprise you - does your online footprint enhance you or your business?

One check I always run on a business is to put the company name followed by testimonials. What happens when you search using your own name or business details?

The problem we all face, is that increasingly, we are never in the room when a vital decision is being made that could have an impact on our success. We must all manage as best we can our online footprint,  because sometimes that's all we have to create and manage the way we are perceived.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

What can you do with contact details?

Clients change on a daily basis, new ones arrive, existing ones make additional purchases, some never buy again, others die, many more move, and some will never have a need to contact you again.

How well do you know your contacts?

All this needs to be reflected in the data records you hold - and maintaining an effective and up-to-date client database is time consuming.

So let’s assume you have made the investment and your data is a clean and current as it could be.

Now what – is it just a reference point or does it have the potential to become a rich asset to help you grow your business?

There are many ways of doing this – a simple method is segmentation. Segmenting your data can be and should be related to purchase history, but the real fun starts when you add a bit of informed intuition.

Why not consider profiling by potential lifetime value?

Take a look at all your existing clients and consider what they have purchased, the value, the channel, the time or times they have purchased, the size of the company, the contact point, the relationship you have now and in the past, the profitability based on all the associated costs of serving the account, 
and crucially what potential they have to purchase more from you.

Segment in to High, Medium and Low potential.

Now review the results and set some realistic growth targets and set about creating suitable cross-media marketing communications plans to support sales and account teams.


This activity will give you a good idea of the value of your proposition, the markets you serve well, the potential you miss out on, and importantly what changes you could make to products, services or processed that would improve your profitability and competitive advantage.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 9 March 2015

Online stats to start the working week off with a scare

Everyone likes a nice dose of stats in the morning
These are gleaned from a variety of sources – probably a bit out of date but the links should guide you to the latest scary numbers:
  • 81% of B2B purchase cycles start with web search, and 90% of buyers say when they are ready to buy, “they’ll find you.” (Earnest Agency)
  • More than half (53%) of marketers rank content creation as the single most effective SEO tactic. (NewsCred)
  • 57% of B2B marketers say SEO has the biggest impact on lead generation. (NewsCred)
  • Organic search leads have a 14.6% close rate, compared to 1.7% for outbound marketing leads. (NewsCred)
  • 33% of clicks from organic search results go to the top listing on Google. (Social Fresh)
  • 85% of B2B buyers believe companies should present information via social networks. (Iconsive)
  • And yet – only 20% of CMOs leverage social networks to engage with customers. (Marketing Land)
But what does it mean and what can you do today in order to make sure you and your business are in the best position to capitalise?

I recommend the following:
  1. No need for a knee jerk reaction – most of your competitors will be in the same position you are, and the ones which are able to benefit from the above are way out ahead of you already so a few extra days won’t make a difference
  2. Make sure that within a week every page of your website has your contact details clearly visible, make sure you include a landline no – just having a mobile makes you look flaky, and make sure you have an address. No address increases your flakiness (if there is such a word)
  3. Make sure within a week you have clear calls to action on most pages. FREE quotes, FREE downloads, no obligation quotes, time sensitive discounts, 1st time purchaser discounts, 90 day guarantees, free advice, etc. etc.
  4. Make sure that within 2 weeks you have:
  • Social media marketing strategy agreed
  • Landing page optimised
  • A good SEO strategy and plan
  • Someone with at least some copy experience to review your site and make keyword recommendations
  • Identify resources either inside or outside the business to help
Or just do nothing. You know that’s really what you want to do. You know all that online stuff is just bollocks. It sure will make it easier for your competitors, and people like me who create, manage and develop awareness throughout the purchase decision buying cycle.

Tomorrow and for the next few days I’m going to focussing on simple solutions you can do to enhance your online foot print.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, 5 March 2015

5 reasons to love printed marketing collateral

Yesterday was my online warning, but today I want to give you 5 reasons why printed marketing items will never go out of fashion and in my opinion need to be used at every point of the decision making process.

Much easier and engaging than a tablet

Here are 5 reasons why I love print:
  • 1.       Unless you are in a cave or going through a tunnel, or its night time – you don’t need a power source to read printed items. It might not seem much, but the fact that you can pick up a brochure of leaflet and engage with it without having to peer at a screen is often overlooked.

  • 2.       Print is instantly portable. You can hand a brochure or leaflet to a colleague, you can even use it to start a debate. You can add notes. You can fold it up and stick it somewhere safe. Printed items are just brilliant for getting messages across.

  • 3.       Using variable data printing each printed item can be personalised, with relevant copy, images, graphics, tables, and colours all being changed according to who its being presented to.

  • 4.       Printed marketing material is one of the most effective ways of putting your brand in the hand. There are hundreds of different papers and finishes that you can utilise to enhance your brand – a screen is just a screen. There is no texture and no tactile relationship possible with a screen.

  • 5.       It’s not expensive and with digital printers and new offset technology you don’t have to produce 1000’s if you just want 50


There are loads of other reasons why print for me is still the media of choice, for raising awareness and educating your new and existing customers about what makes you and your business special.

If you are set against it I suggest you visit your local printer and ask for some ideas on how they can help you grow your business. 

Many printers are reengineering so that they become cross-media specialists.I work with quite a few and frankly they can give most creative agencies a good run for your money.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Online has only just started

You hear a lot about content, inbound, outbound, cross media, SEO, etc etc.

Everyone who has a business has comes to terms with having to create and manage an online presence and appreciate that their online footprint is a deciding factor.

To put it simply - you can't be in the room when you or your business is being evaluated, but you can manage those perceptions with a positive, endorsed online presence.

There is a view that online has got about as intrusive as it can, and with an engaging well optimised site and an active social media strategy all will be well.

What happens when connection speeds are 100 times faster than they are today? 


I suggest we all have to take a different view, and here's why:

  1. The current infrastructure that delivers online is at the Morris Minor stage of development. Perfectly adequate, but bugger all performance and dubious reliability. Over the next 5 years the majority of the UK will be benefitting from an online infrastructure that will feel more like a Porsche 911.
  2.  The use of real-time screen communications like Skype will increase 100 fold. Inbound enquiries will be dealt with customers who want to and will expect to see who they are talking with and complex screen sharing will be normal.
  3. Mobile/Tablet platforms with even current software will enable decisions to be made very quickly - with many decisions being made by AI.
  4. Many of the professional services we pay through the nose for such as accountants, lawyers, marketing consultants, designers and even lowly copywriters will have to compete with very low cost alternatives. It is already muted that 50% of court cases will be held online within 10 years. And new automated business software based on scanned documents will mean that management accounts and final year end numbers will be available instantly.
  5. Staff will be very savvy not just with Word, but with Excel and all of the adobe Creative Suite, so designers will have to add value elsewhere.
So my message is we all have about 5 years - some market sectors a lot less.

I'm looking forward to it.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 2 March 2015

Why do you buy? And why is it important?

Pretty simple really and it's got nothing to do with selling.  

We should appreciate why people buy and then create communications that help them to buy, not help us to sell more. Selling is old school now - all we have to do is to make it easy to buy.

There are 3 reasons we buy stuff:
  1. Because we need something to solve a personal problem like buying a present for a difficult rich uncle, or a problem that is hindering business development, or a problem that we think we have
  2. Because we want something to make us feel better or something we perceive will enhance us
  3. Because we just want something new - it's been found that over 40% of people wandering around a shopping mall are there because they want to find something to want!
Why do we like a deal? Even when we didn't want one

So how should you arrange your key messages to your existing and prospective customers or clients?
  • First by thinking about your product or service delivers for people - what fears does it deal with, what desires or aspirations are fulfilled, and what  simple or complex frustrations are going to be solved
  • Second you need to create a single or perhaps multiple set of easy to understand statements that are people can engage with. Not just about factual things like price and performance but critically on how people feel when then use your product or service
  • Third on the list is what is the best media to use to reach out or provide people with these messages. Here you need to understand the difference between inbound and outbound messages, they are very different
  • Lastly - make sure you have a way of listening to what your customers want. And if you can't find out by listening find out by asking!
Over the next few days I'm going to be sharing some research I've just  completed on the impact that online will be having on various parts of the services sector. It appears we are just at the start of this online revolution - oh joy

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Headline writing tips - part 5

If things like sub-heads and credibility statements are just gobblygook then check out parts 1-4.

But hopefully you have everything in place to craft a nice clear call to action and the right contact details.

A call to action is a combination of encouragement, threat, and permission statements, which are designed to get readers to DO SOMETHING. In most cases it should include a real person's name who will be able to pick up the phone and deal with the enquiry with total confidence.

I get a bit fed up when you see a nice image of a product, with the company name as the headline and then just a telephone number. As they say in all the best tweets WTF.

The image needs an appropriate headline and sub-head followed by some relevant credibility statements and then a request or instruction to do something - this is the call to action.

They might if you ask them!
It could be soft and engaging like "if you need any additional information call or email Chris"

Or perhaps a bit more edgy " Orders not placed before the end of March will miss out on 10% early bird discount - call Chris now or miss out on your guaranteed saving"

Or include a statement which gives permission to ask for something -" quote the reference number below for a guaranteed 25% reduction on all tyres - just ask Chris for more details"

The call to action is very important and often overlooked, but it also needs to be helped with a decent set of contact details.

I recommend the Rule of 3 - 1 x landline number. - 1x mobile number and 1x email as the absolute minimum.

If you can add a physical address this boosts credibility, and then make sure you include your web address. If you are using the marketing item to drive inbound traffic then make sure you give the right URL.

Headlines need to work hard but won't work in isolation. They need lots of support, which is why advertising in particular is such a fascinating discipline.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net




Friday, 27 February 2015

Headline writing tips - part 4

Just a quick re-cap and if none of this makes sense please check parts 1 to 3 of this little insight into the world of headlines.

You've crafted a headline and considered images and fonts to make it work extra hard, and then built an easy to understand and appreciate sub-head or value proposition. Now you need to help the reader into the final stage.

There has always been a debate about adding some credibility to an ad. Some believe just getting attention and having a strong call to action is enough, but I'm of the opinion with so many options available for indecision, you need just a few words to support your headline message.

Indecision is exacerbated because we live in an information rich world, which means if we need to purchase something we can, even if that means we are drinking a glass of wine sitting in front of a television at 11 at night.

It's not because we are all wedded to procrastination, it's just that we all now believe we don't have to move to the end of the buying cycle until we actually have an immediate need.

Don't assume your readers know everything about you and your business
Therefore I recommend at least 3 credibility statements - or 3 information statements that support your headline and sub-head. It could be:

  • Established since 1964
  • Knowledgeable and helpful staff
  • Open late on Friday and Saturday
These statements will sit just above your call to action and contact details. In the final post of this 5 part series on headlines I'll deal with these often overlooked elements, but you should consider if these credibility statements can be used to make it imperative that the call to action is not ignored.

So they could look like this:
  • This will be our 51st Summer Sale
  • Ask our helpful staff about our 10 months Interest Free Payment Option
  • Open to 10pm on Friday and Saturday with additional 10% off on selected items
This approach will help you with a clear and targeted call to action and set of contact details - but more of that in part 5.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Headline writing tips - part 3

Hopefully you now have a couple of headlines you are happy with. If not go back to parts 1 and 2.

It's not a lot of use on its own. It needs some support and confirmation.

This is sometimes called a sub-head or value statement. But before we consider words, don't forget design and imagery.
Words often need design to shine
Your headline can be significantly enhanced with the use of the right font, and the use of sizing, position, shadow, outlining, colours etc.

In addition an image can add so much. If your headline is focussed on a large discount then having a large "sale starts on the 4th" flash can be very effective.

So hopefully you now have a headline and creative theme that works.

And we have captured someone,s attention.

Now what?

The next few moments are critical and depending on the headline all can be won or lost. This is where the sub-head is useful.

Think of it as 10 to 20 words which explain, justify, enhance, expand, clarify, promote, endorse and promote your headline.

This can be make or break for  the few moments your headline has won for you.

I like to make sure the sub-head confirms the offer, and leads into the next stage of the ad. It's all about taking the reader on a journey. You have raised awareness or peeked interest with your headline and the sub-head has continued to the process. Your headline still needs help.

Tomorrow is all about credibility and preparing for action - to deliver what your headline was designed to do.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Headline writing tips - part 2

Just a quick check you have everything you need:

  • You know who you're aiming at
  • You know what you want them to do
  • You have the media in mind - is it an ad, sales letter, leaflet, postcard etc.
  • You have considered the delivery method
  • You have thought about timescales
  • You have thought about who deals with the responses
  • You have thought about your value proposition and amended it if you have too
Now you are in a position to think about developing your headline.

There are other options than just discounting
There are 15 tried and trusted formulas you can use - below are the 5 I start off with:

  1. Make it personal - Ideal for subject lines but also can be functional specific. So something like "Chris - we help writers like you to find new business" or "Other Sales Directors use our system to manage remote field sales staff"
  2. Include why - this helps with the justification process to move into the rest of the piece. I like to pose answers to questions which might be being asked. "Here are 5 reasons why my clients don't worry about content marketing" or "Why you might never know how much business you lost last month"
  3. The good old guarantee - This is great when you need to build credibility. " Save 30% or you'll get 100% refund" or "10% off your best quote -Guaranteed"
  4. Questions are good - they should get the reader to think about what they don't know or confirm what they do know but would prefer not to think about. "Do you dread having to make presentations?" or "How much time do you waste dealing with staff issues"
  5. Time waits for nobody -  and the lack of it is a real motivator. "Discounts end on the 21st March" or "On average we save your staff 2 hours a week - every week" 
Use the above formulas to create 5 headlines and see which suits your needs the best. Then start to work with your top 2 or 3.

Tomorrow I'll describe the process you need you go through to build the supporting copy for your headline.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net