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Monday, 23 January 2012 - Innovate or stagnate. Which is it to be for 2012?
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that recession can be a time of great opportunity. While competitors fall by the wayside, companies with the right attitude can prepare the foundations for explosive growth once the economy starts to turn.
One of the things that characterises an innovative organisation is its environment. People won't share new ideas unless they know that they will be given fair consideration. And you can't expect reasonable suggestions from the team unless they really understand the market and their customers.
So creating a very focussed workforce, that looks at their market with an enquiring mind and values each other's judgement is fundamental to successful innovation.
For more thoughts on the innovative environment, have a look at James Caan's book "The Real Deal".
Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - Do your customers feel great about you?
Measuring customer satisfaction is one of those costs that large companies find hard to cut. Tracking the ups and downs of every aspect of customer service is addictive, and gives the illusion of control.
Companies like to believe that perfecting their processes will make customers like them more. So they tinker under the bonnet, without looking at the bigger picture.
But do we really expect perfection? Or is it something else that makes us stick with our favourite companies?
In many cases it's driven by the people we deal with, and how they treat us. But for online businesses it comes through the tone and style of the website, the packaging and even the materials that come with the delivery. All of which is much easier to control than actual people.
Although price, service, and quality are top of mind when we buy something for the first time, our reasons for repeat purchase are usually less tangible. It is how we feel about them that can make the difference.
So rather than investing big money on tracking customer satisfaction, take stock of your customer warmth in three simple steps:
- Buy your own product, whether online or in person. How does it feel to be a customer?
- Spend time with your customer service staff. Work in the shop, the factory or the call centre. How does it feel to deal with your customers?
- And finally, talk to your customers how they feel about you. Do they feel friendly and positive? Or are they just craving a reason to go elsewhere? Don't measure, just listen.
Monday, 23 May 2011 - Marketing in action: alliances and networking
With a degree of cynicism surrounding some formal networking, it was inspiring to see real connections being made, generous advice being given and strong alliances developing. And the lasting benefit will be a step change in their marketing approach, and real confidence developing in their future business success.
Thursday, 12 May 2011 - Workshop May 21st: Practical marketing for growing businesses
Every small business owner knows how hard it is to make time for marketing. When you are busy, it doesn’t seem important, and when the work dries up you don’t know where to start.
In these uncertain economic times, it is even more important for smaller businesses to market themselves effectively, capitalising on the fact that they can be more flexible, more responsive and better value for money than their larger competitors.
This workshop helps smaller businesses to focus on their target market, communicate their messages with clarity and identify which of the numerous marketing channels are most likely to work for them.
The programme is designed to be very practical and interactive, using examples from delegates’ own businesses. And for two weeks after the course, delegates will have access to telephone support to help them put their plans into action.
What we will cover:
- Three key questions to ask your prospective customers
- How to define your target market in a way that works
- The best way to communicate your business proposition
- Identifying which marketing channels will work best for you
- The million dollar question: how much to spend?
- Pulling it all together: preparing a marketing plan for your small business
Who should attend?
This half day programme is designed for small business owners who want to grow their business effectively. If you are already running a business and want to market it better, then this is the session for you.
Date and Location
The workshop is on Saturday 21st May, 2:00pm-5:00pm, at The Hilton Cobham Hotel, Seven Hills Road South Cobham KT11 1EW
What is included?
The cost of the workshop is £79.50 + VAT. The price includes refreshments and individual telephone support for two weeks after the course.
How to book
To check availability contact Oriel Marketing on 01252 727625 or email email@example.com. Payment is by cheque payable to Oriel Marketing Ltd., Oriel House, 22 Brambleton Avenue, Farnham, GU9 8RA
Thursday, 24 March 2011 - When to outsource your social media?
CIM Surrey hosted an interesting debate recently about whether outsourcing social media is ever a good idea. The argument polarises between those in favour of outsourcing (because Twitter just eats up time), versus the social media aficionados for whom it forms an integral part of their day.
Smaller companies seem to have the edge over their larger rivals when it comes to using social media well. The benefits lie in communicating with an authentic voice and building real, direct relationships. But for this to work, tweets and blog posts have to come from the heart, without jumping through hoops to get sign off.
So why might you consider outsourcing your social media activity?
- If you don’t use it in your personal life, it might just seem too difficult or too specialist to do yourself. It just takes you too far out of your comfort zone.
- An external agency is easier to control in some ways, and easier to stop if you don’t like what they do.
- Your own staff won’t be diverted from their day jobs.
- A specialist might just do a better job because they know what works best.
But there are weaknesses in this approach.
- Someone completely separate from your company is never going to sound authentic, and your followers will sniff this out.
- Social media is fast moving, and an agency will struggle to bring spontaneity into your posts.
- If you don’t engage with it yourself, you are missing out on the value of building relationships with genuine followers.
So which is the best way forward?
There are important points to consider on both sides of the argument, and the trick is to find the right balance for your style and your business.
Social media is just one of the important tools available to market your business, and like the others, it needs to be used properly. Just because you use Facebook in your private life, it is not necessarily the right tool for reaching out to your customers. And like all your other marketing materials, the quality of your social media presence reflects your brand and the professionalism of your business.
So how can you maintain the spontaneity and authentic voice of social media, whilst keeping control of the time spent and quality of output?
An outsourcing model that works
- Use an agency to help you develop a strategy for your social media presence. Identify what your objectives are and who you want to build relationships with.
- Take advice on which media will best deliver these objectives. You don’t have to do everything, and some tools just won’t be appropriate for your kind of business.
- Bring together a small team within your business who will take responsibility for delivering your social media strategy. They need to understand your objectives, but have the freedom to use their own voice.
- Use an external specialist to keep an eye on the quality of your posts and their fit with strategy. This is a very cost effective way to bring expertise into the organisation, and grow the skills base of your team.
Social media isn’t complex in itself, but we are all learning fast about how best to use it in the business environment. In any fast moving arena, the smart operators buy in expertise to get ahead of the game, but always make sure that the learning is embedded swiftly, so they can move onto the next innovation, secure in the knowledge that their team is at the leading edge of best practice.
If you have tried outsourcing social media what works best for you?