Create the best customer experience

The need to create a good customer experience has grown exponentially over recent years as every market is flooded with options for the buyer in terms of whom they work with and/or buy from so the need to stand out is more important than ever. Why I ask myself, is something as fundamental as good customer service now labelled; why has it become a “thing”?? 10537-mark-804938_1920

Well, it’s because so many companies don’t seem to make this thing called customer service a priority. I may have been in business for more years than I care to remember, but customer service should be something that happens naturally. Surely?

To me people and communication should be at the centre of all businesses even in this ever increasing digital world. Everyone is a customer: customers as buyers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders. Whether it’s in their capacity as consumers, citizens or workers, people and the ways you engage, serve and empower them are key to future business growth.  Organisations can have the best product in the world, but if the people who represent the company or the way the company sells (before and after) the product is poor, then the product won’t sell.

There is nothing faster in marketing than a good reputation travelling fast…..apart from a bad one. If a customer has a good experience, they usually tell 2 people. If they have a bad experience, the average number of people they will tell is 7. Do the maths.

All parts of your organisation and marketing need to be connected and aligned with creating the best customer experience as this is how to create a reputation and ultimately, drive revenue.

Customer service shows that organisations are putting their customers more at the centre i.e in the sense of optimising processes and business functions around the customer.  However, to me everyone is a customer: from employees and investors to partners, customers, buyers and their contacts.

Customer experience is crucial for the present and future of your business. It always has been but in an era of a more autonomous and ’empowered’ customer who has higher expectations it is even more so.  In a society that has become increasingly reliant on digital communication, the determining factor in the buying decision could easily be the customer service.

One thing my father said to me once that has stuck with me throughout my life is “treat people the way you want to be treated” and never has a truer sentence been spoken.


What to include in your marketing plan

Marketing plan is actually your how-to guide for your marketing, advertising and business development. This can be a few months or a few years depending on the purpose of the marketing plan and the company strategy so hang in there!

However you should be aware that not one universal marketing plan fits all businesses and all scenarios – Instead, I feel that the structure for any marketing plan for a business is based around the following planning elements:

Step 1 – The prospective target market or audience and the specific marketing objectives. In other words who your ideal customer is and what would you like to achieve – start as simple as that before you go into specifics of when, how often, where, how much etc.

Step 2 – The type and structure of your company will set the planning horizon as well as the marketing and business growth strategies and tactics.
For example, a small business requires a completely different set of tactics and approaches compared to a large global corporation that markets to customers in various market segments worldwide. The small business plan might be quite uncomplicated, specific and actionable in a few months because the small business is more flexible and adaptable whereas the large organization needs more time to change its marketing strategies because market development, product development, etc take months for bigger business. There is also the issue of internal communication i.e. the larger the organisation, the more the need for communication and “buy in.”

Step 3 – The market structure. You should carefully evaluate your key competitors and other stakeholders like vendors, legal, social influence…so that you have a clear picture of what you’re up against. Every market is full of “noise” so must know where to make yours and how loud!

The old adage of failing to plan mostly meaning planning to fail is very true when it comes to effective marketing.


Burn baby burn…..

I saw this quote many years ago from the marketing director at leading advertising agency, Young & Rubicam and I have never really forgotten it.

“Marketing is rather like building a darn good fire. You need to start off slowly, gently nurturing it and not expect results immediately. With constant care and attention, the fire will grow and grow and the investment of logs rather than kindling will produce even greater results. The fire can now burn freely and produce the rewards. But beware, if it is left unattended for any length of time, you can be left trying to resurrect the ashes.”

For many organisations, marketing is viewed as some sort of magic switch – “business is slow so we need to do some quick marketing” – which can be flicked on and off during tricky times. This is NOT the case! Marketing is a never ending process, not an event or a knee jerk reaction to something that is happening in your market.

We always advise people to take baby steps with their marketing; test new initiatives, implement new ideas and set aside time each day for marketing rather than do “marketing” one morning a month. Little and often is the key and make sure your message stays “on brand” and consistent. After all, it is highly unlikely that your prospects are only looking for what you offer at the exact time you offer it. You need to remain on radars so that your name is at the top of the list for when the prospects are looking.

To help you, most social media platforms can be automated, emarketing can be done very easily, you are very likely to be spoilt for choice with networking opportunities and print is now much cheaper than it used to be.

My advice to every business out there is to continually market their companies even when business is booming as this lays the foundations. Don’t fall into the trap of delaying your marketing until you’ve finished the latest project as, you will very likely raise your head at the end and wonder where the next project is coming from. Then is is too late to kick start the marketing process. The fire needs attention or it goes out!

Marketing (and sales) should be run continuously regardless of your current successes, failures or situation. Put a plan together and use as many platforms to get your message out there!

You can only initially sell a meeting

No matter what sort of sales and marketing strategy you implement, it is highly unlikely that any of the activities will result in a direct sell. In fact, making a sale shouldn’t actually be your objective. In my experiences, it just doesn’t work like that in professional services.

The aim of your marketing activity i.e having an optimised website, running a targeted advertising campaign, implementing direct marketing, holding a conference, making “cold calls” etc etc should be to get you infront of your prospect.

Bath Marketing Consultancy sees the marketing initiatives as a means to an end not the end in themselves. You should be employing them solely for the purpose of getting you to that all-important first meeting. Yes, advertising can be sexy, design can be pretty, PR fabulous but keep the purpose in the forefront of your mind: “I want to meet that person!”

Your aim should be to meet this person (or people) before your competition does and it will undoubtedly help if a meeting takes place against a background where the marketing messages you want to convey have already entered their brain! Your marketing, therefore, is preparatory. It is implemented to soften up your suspects, to turn them into prospects and ultimately clients!

Makes sense? If you need any help with your marketing, email me direct and I will come back to you or fill out our contact form………..

Advertising on a limited budget

I am pretty sure that this post applies to the vast majority of us in that using advertising as a route to market is probably not at the top of the list and, even if it is, the budget is going to be small. This means that, if you are going to use advertising as part of your marketing strategy, you probably need to get as much bang for you buck as possible.

So…..imagine you are a plumber in and around Bath – i.e. some sort of service company. Your budget for marketing as a whole is probably £5k per annum so you’re probably very tempted to use the local free-sheet (because it is cheaper than the local paper) and something like the local Parish magazine. Neither of these are, in my opinion the most cost effective way to spend your small budget as the need for something like a plumber is occasional and only usually once something bad has happened. Therefore, the 2 main areas to invest in are something like the Dentons Directory and online as people use these when actively looking for services.

But…….these 2 platforms are probably exactly where every other plumber with any intelligence is also advertising so how do you make your advertising stand out?

If we take advertising in this case, all you have to do is ask yourself 2 simple questions (the answers are probably more tricky than the questions!) 1. Why should anyone flicking through the plumber section phone me? 2. What do I offer that no one else is offering?

The answer to these may be functional – “we guarantee to have someone round within xx minutes or we’ll do it for free.” The reasons may also be non-functional – “all our plumbers are clean, well presented, transparent and clean up after themselves.”

The next step is to make your ad look good, professional and then make your phone number/contact details stand out. You’d be surprised how many companies do not do these basics!

I will address the online side of things in the next post!

If you like this post and need some help, please get in touch with us on 01225 436426.

You are all individual!

In my experience, the vast majority of clients think that they have unique problems and that their needs are “special” and, as a result, they tend to buy “a la carte” solutions because they are looking for a particular solution to their own, unique problem.

As a supplier or problem (or service) solver, you should try and avoid offering an off the shelf solution as part of your services as you simply wont appeal to the majority of clients as they want to be made to feel special.

The best and most successful professional services suppliers know this and a part of their marketing approach they aim to get the message across that they have the potential answer to the problem…….. i.e “I can help you!” You should be looking to say to prospects that your solutions are customised/tailored to meet their needs. After all Mr Prospect, if I cant, why am I in business?!

There are 3 key rules when dealing with new potential business –
Understand the problems
Offer the professional solution
Minimize any uncertainty

If you can really help…..and you can sell……..then success in business is almost assured! Remember, while you are pondering about what to do, when, who to work with, how much to spend etc, your competitors are very likely to be planning an assault on your clients. The downside of working in a service related industry is that you are only as good as your last job so act now.

Another point to remember is that “you” are most likely a professional first, a sales and marketing person second and this means that it is not deemed as failure if you need help in the form of marketing consultancy!

Plan your marketing and stand out from the crowd

In business one of the key aims must be to turn a “suspect” into a “prospect” and then into a paying “client.” Competition is increasing in every sector and the emphasis on providing a great package to clients has never been stronger. You can pretty much take it as read that clients simply do not want to part with their hard earned cash unless they really have to and the days of them flicking through the Yellow Pages to find someone to help them are long gone. Reaching and retaining new clients are not only the key to business success, but these clients also play a huge part in on organisations’ on-going marketing.

I read recently that the general feeling among clients is that differentiation is lacking between the offers made to them and you will find that your competitors are not as active as they should be when marketing themselves so Bath Marketing Consultancy feels that organisations who make a concerted effort to stand out will have a major advantage when it comes to attracting new business.

In my opinion there are probably 3 ways in which you can “lose” business –
You can lose an existing client
You can have your proposal rejected in favour of another organisation
You can fail to be invited to pitch/tender
…and it is this final reason which is the worst because you haven’t even got to stage 1. As I have written in a previous article (Leaky Bucket), your objective is to keep the bucket full of water; to overflowing if possible, but the bucket has a hole in it and this means water will leak out. In this case the client is the water and it is almost impossible to plug the hole.

However, do not despair! With the right planning, you can make the diameter of the hole very small indeed.
Contractual agreements, proper client maintenance and servicing all go some way to facilitating this. On the flip side, there is also the danger of opening the tap above the bucket and letting new business flow in continuously neglecting existing clients as a result.

If you truly believe in new business the only way to look at things is to consider every existing client as vulnerable and new business as a constant need. In addition, no matter how busy you are at the present moment, you must sell for tomorrow. If you wait until a time when your business is less busy, it will be too late!

Make sure you put real effort into making yourself (and your business offer) remarkable. You must stand out vs all the competition and you must put a real marketing strategy in place which will keep the tap turned on at the right speed!

Make hay while the sun shines

If you are one of these people in business who worries about being too busy or where the next piece of work will come from then you are not alone! Many businesses (especially the smaller ones) will go through huge peaks and troughs when it comes to workloads and these are likely to bring with them emotional swings too so partners (domestic and/or professional!) beware.

These peaks and troughs can be as a result of seasonal fluctuations, industry trends or even as a result of the state of the economy in general. In my experience, workloads are not always steady, linear processes so the key thing is to prepare for inconsistencies. In busy times stress levels are likely to increase, but slow times also can result in stress levels increasing. As I saw in a recent article on a recruitment job board, “Examine what important tasks will be coming along in the future and ask yourself is there anything you can prepare for now.”

One area I do think will work when experiencing downtime is to use this time productively and this is where planning and evaluating your marketing activity can help. By this I mean, what about using this time to visit existing clients? For too long email can actually over take a relationship so why not organise a face to face with your clients? These types of meetings can strengthen a relationship and may even result in additional business especially if you use these meetings to update a client on changes in their market and/or changes you have made to your products and services.

Similarly, what about using the time to go on training courses? There are lots of courses run locally on anything from Social Media to IT so maybe enhance your skills in certain areas or learn how to adapt your business to other marketing platforms. Maybe use this time to evaluate your marketing strategy; what havent you tried? What is working….maybe even schedule in an appointment with a top level marketing consultant for them to review what you’ve been doing?!

In some creative industries, studio downtime is often a chance to ‘pitch’ for new business or generate new ideas. However, in any organisation, it can be a chance to explore and investigate new opportunities or a new way of doing things.

What does Bath Marketing Consultancy do if I]there is a quiet day or so? Well, I try and write blog articles, update my website, do market research and generally keep myself busy and be productive. I do see existing relationships and being strategic in how you market your business as key areas to concentrate on in a quiet time… problem is that I dont get a huge amount of quiet time to do this!!

In sum, dont panic if your workload changes! We all know it is all hands to the pump when it is busy, but make the best use of your time, and other people’s time if you get any quiet time…..and try not to stress too much!

The Company Brochure – Part 1

After nearly 20 years in the industry, I am not 100% sure why companies have such an obsession with a company brochure! Yes, by all means have one so that you and your staff have a leave behind, but it is very unlikely to be a means to winning new business i.e I doubt whether potential clients are going to make their selection of provider based purely on it. In my opinion, a company brochure is something that can act as a showcase for your business that organisations will treat as a calling card at best and junk at worst.

Looks great, but what do I do with it?!

Sorry to open with a bit of a downer this week, but getting the brochure to become a live entity can very often be the result of months of gestation within a business – a birth process that often produces great passion and/or great rifts as it is often an initiative driven by the MD, but becomes a committee process!

When the beautifully printed brochure finally arrives in their thousands in numerous boxes after vast expense, most companies have a question – “what do we do now?” The answer usually has a predictable logic: “well, there’s no point in having them here gathering dust, send them out.” This means that these expensive documents are sent out to anyone with their details on your files or anyone you have crossed paths with and guess what, nothing happens. No letters of thanks, no congratulatory notes and no new business.

In my experience most brochures are full of words like “we” and “me” meaning that they tend to concentrate on the business and what it offers i.e. “we do this” and “we have 20 years experience”…..

Does any of this sound familiar?

I don’t see the company brochure as a sales vehicle. I see it is as a way of showing your prospects what you can do for them. You MUST think about how you want to use them, what they will say and what they hope to achieve.

Tomorrow’s article will be Bath Marketing Consultancy’s suggestions on how to utilise the company brochure…..