Did you invest in Tights or Online Marketing? #theapprentice

The-Apprentice-2014OK, so after the 6th person asked me if I had seen “The Apprentice” I just had to watch it.

Lots of people had been talking about it and most of you may know I don’t watch TV so I had to fire up BBC iPlayer to find the 2014 Finale of The Apprentice to watch Mark E Wright (24) and Bianca Miller (25) battle it out to become Lord Alan Sugars’ 1st business partner.

*I will admit, I didn’t watch all episodes, just the final with Mark and Bianca.

During an annual catch up with a group of friends a 7th person asked me if I had watched The Apprentice and sat back as I gave my opinion of the final episode, knowing that she would have sparked something in me.

The conversation started… “I have been doing this for 8 years as Koogar (15 years in total) and I’m wondering why is now the right time for Lord Sugar to be investing money into this type of business?

Is it because he didn’t feel the tights were a good option? Or has he suddenly realised the “Internet thing” is catching on?

True Skin

Bianca’s idea for “True Skin” was a great one and being from ethnic minority myself I have worn “tan” tights to work (which were a VERY milky tea colour / white), so I could relate to this issue and that others darker than me would most certainly have. However to ask for £20-£35 a pair they would REALLY need to be special tights.

Bianca was going for the higher quality client which is fine if you have a brand that matches their expectations, not a brand that could be seen to be equal to a cheap brand on the high street that does not portray the value of the garment inside the packaging.

Remember the 3-5 second rule. We all make a decision rather quickly and if we see a price range and a product or service that is not congruent with each other, we will leave it to one side for someone else. Understanding the people you’d like to sell to is key, I would argue the most important thing when it comes to marketing and pitching your idea to an audience.

Branding is about setting the levels and expectations for your audience and also working out how much THEY value your product or service. It not just about giving them something you think they need, which most certainly helps but it’s the EXTRA little things that people remember.

I do appreciate Bianca only had one focus group and not a lot of time to create the brand and packaging. Displayed in the right way and in the right place I would certainly buy a pair.

Climb Online

Climb.media  – A brain storming suggestion for the company.

What a great domain name for a company… said in a slightly different way could bring out lots of different connotations…. This did make me chuckle!

My 1st impression of Mark wasn’t much at all in all honesty, he didn’t look passionate about anything during the session and even when he said he was stressed he just looked laid back and not really bothered, although as individuals we display these feelings in many different ways. His knowledge of the industry came across as basic / old to an extent and he wasn’t doing anything new, which Lord Alan noted in the boardroom so I’m not sure what was so special?

The saying “getting people to the top of the Search Engines” is a vague and overused term which a lot of business owners have heard, maybe tried before (with one of the telesales companies calling them and pushing them into a contract they might not be able to get out of) and have also realised that it is not possible unless you put a decent budget behind it and not just a couple of hundred pounds over a few months. Search Engine Optimisation (S.E.O) is a long game and you need a strategy to go with it. Having all the right marketing elements (on and offline) to back up your online presence is essential. That said this is an issue that most business owners and marketing managers want to conquer and it is up to us (as Digital Marketeers) to educate our clients, set their expectations and show them there is another way without using outdated lingo.

Mark set the starting budget of £400 for businesses he wanted to work with, which is a good place to start as you are qualifying your lead right from the outset. However, you have to back it up with some actual wins you have delivered to your clients. He was obviously going for the business that has that budget to spend but the video for me didn’t display it well with a builder and various other business owners hanging off a climbing frame. If you are going for a bigger business you have to been seen to be equal to them.

His business model was a sound, by taking people on as the company grew ensuring each person is sustainable by either coding or selling. Again, I understand that Mark had a tight time frame to deliver his pitch in and think with some tweaking he could do well!

Congratulations for Mark and Bianca for being in the final of The Apprentice 2014 as it was no mean feat. Koogar have started following Mark Wright on twitter and we wish him the best of luck with his new venture. He sure has the capital to start him off well!

What did you think of the finale? Did you think the right person won? I’d love to hear your opinion…

Up close and Personal

Personalisation is something we talked about at the beginning of the year (2012) when it comes to Digital and Social Marketing, and it has started to happen off line too.

A great digital version of personalisation is email marketing or social media. Those emails you get that say “Hi [your name], Did you know that we could help [your company name] do…” or were your Facebook news feed shows you updates from a page you Liked the day before.

In Marketing the first and foremost element you need to look at is your target audience. These are the people or businesses who buy from you, will come back to you and will recommend you time and time again. Most of the time they are an oversight because you are to busy selling your product or service. The super brands have this down to a tee.

Coca Cola and Starbucks are prime examples of personalisation, were they have added your name to their product making you feel that little bit more special or even Amazon recommending another book based on the ones you have already read.

Lets take Coca Cola as an example; Coca Cola changed our weekly shopping trip were we are greeted with a large plastic container or fridge to rummage around in to “Share a Coke with…” someone you know or love. Taking you 5 minutes or more to find your names just to make the other person feel special.

They will forget what you said,

they will forget what you did,

but they will never forget how you make them feel

Within your Marketing you need to be taking your target audience on a journey that gives them your brand/company experience. By that I mean what are the steps you take to make sure they end up at the final goal, which is to purchase something from you and how can you make that person buying from you today feel like they are your only client?

This also goes for automated tweets which gives the same message to each person who follows you, even though they may be following you for different reasons. A personal experience is what we all expect from the person, company or brand we are buying from.

I am not a number, I’m a free man! – Number 6 (The Prisoner)

Personalisation should be used in the right place at the right time across the right marketing elements (within your brand/company experience) or you can make people feel like they are being stalked which can be a little creepy. Google remarketing has a knack for that.

The action I would like you to take is to understand your audience on a personal level and the benefit to you will be longer and stronger relationships!

Walking in my Shoes

Walking in my Shoes (Depeche Mode, 1992)

I would tell you about the things,

They put me through,

The pain I’ve been subjected to,

But the Lord himself would blush,

The countless feats laid at my feet,

Forbidden fruits for me to eat,

But I think your pulse will start to rush…

From this article I want you to understand your current and potential clients from THEIR point of view.

In my time, I have heard some horror stories from business owners who we have worked with and are still working with, about the web designers/agencies they have been working with; for example a website not going live for two and a half years, not being able to reach the web designer to make changes to then find out they have gone out of business, general lack of communication with regards to being too technical or just not replying at all!

Here are a few questions that will help you understand how you can work with your current clients better and how to work with potential clients in the future:

Q1: What is it they need from you?

It will be your product/service and one or two other things like: commitment, proactiveness, creativity, communication!

These additional wants are what the previous supplier didn’t give this customer, so how can you make sure that they don’t have the same experiences with you which could make them want to leave and move on again?

Q2: How do you need to communicate with them?

Do you need to use email more or pick up the telephone? The answer is: it depends on the client.

Each client likes to be communicated with in a particular way. For example; one of our clients just likes a text message so he can get in touch in his own time. Another client likes to have a teleconference every 2 weeks to see where we are up to with things.

Make sure you communicate with your clients in the way they prefer you to.

Q3: What are their challenges and fears when it comes to your industry?

Obviously this will depend on the product or service they have purchased from you. Maybe they don’t have much time on their hands, which is why you are getting involved or they are unsure what to do and this is why they need your expertise.

Q4: Are your clients having the same problem with previous suppliers?

Without mentioning names, ask why they are thinking about leaving or why they have left their current supplier. This will give you an insight into what not to do which will build and grow your relationship with that client.

Q5: Have you asked the question of why they have come to you?

The answer to this question can help you with your Purple Cow!

Now knowing what they had in the past that didn’t make them happy, you can work with them in the future to make their experience of working with you and your product/service life changing.

Questions leads to answers, answers lead to customer rapport and customer rapport leads to profit!  – Jay Conrad-Levison of Guerrilla Marketing

When you understand the issues they have faced, you can then help them move forward by outlining the benefits of working with you.

Create a beautiful online experience

Keeping your website up to date shouldn’t be a chore nor should it be ignored. When you visit a website that has information which isn’t up to date even by a month your confidence in that company drops, thoughts going through your mind are;

  1. Are they still going?
  2. Mustn’t be successful or wanting to grow
  3. They obviously can’t be bothered

And its natural to think if they can’t be bothered why should I be? I don’t want to have to trawl the Internet for information on them unless this item/product is rare and that I MUST have it.

Most business owners know that having a website is essential for the company, not only to backup what you do but it’s also there to make sure people can find you. In fact, a website is much more than that! It’s a place where you should share experiences others have had with you and the experience of working with you and your company. A website should not be built but it should be “created” and moulded into a marketing tool that helps you sell your company to the audience you want to attract.

“Create a beautiful online experience” – Randy Zucherberg (iStrategy 2012; Amsterdam)

Design the journey you want the audience to take. Move them through the website by clicking on various links. Get them to read pages, posts and testimonials and look at images to make them think about things.

13% more people buy when images and words are together!

When designing your website always have in mind; “What the end goal?”. Is it to get the user to fill in a form? Pick the phone up? Book an appointment with you? Whatever outcome you want, you need to guide them to it and all things related to it.

By keeping your site up to date and engaging you will do 4 things:

  1. Evolve the website together with the company, brand and ethos
  2. You will be found more easily
  3. Keep your visitors coming back to see more
  4. Create something that is similar to the face-to-face experience

All I hear is, we want more hits to the website, people commenting on our blog posts, more emails from people interested in buying from us as well as being found naturally for the right keywords.

When creating this experience, remember it is for your audience to ‘walk past’ your on-line ‘shop window’, get to the next step and ultimately buy from you – make it easy for them and enjoyable!

Article written for The Edge Magazine (2012)

Now that’s Customer Service! by Jo Beevers

Jo Beevers from Kokonoir ChocolatesI was quite surprised when Amanda asked me to write an article about said Customer Service, surely she meant chocolate tempering or truffle rolling. But when I stopped and thought about it, this was a subject that I knew a lot about. Both Toby and I have worked in the Hospitality Industry from a young age and of course running your own business depends a lot on how you treat your customers.

In one of the companies we both worked for we were told to “choose your mood”.

This was already something I practiced but it soon became my mantra. I would shout it at all the glum faced staff that turned up to worked on my shifts. Why not come into work and have a great time, it made the time go quicker and really improved customer service. I soon had a following of regular customers who would come in just to be served by me and it was easy to up sell them extra goods and increase the average spend.

People will go where they feel valued and welcomed and will choose great service over great food.

A personal example of this is our recent trip to Las Vegas for our wedding anniversary. Now the Americans really know how to do customer service as that is how they make most of their wages. They have a basic wage and then they make up the extra with their tips.

Our big anniversary meal was booked in at the 3 Michelin Star Joel Robuchon Restaurant in the MGM Grand. We had booked it before we flew and were super excited about the 16 course tasting menu priced at $435 dollars (it was a special occasion).

Well the night before we stumbled across the Gordon Ramsey Steak Restaurant and went for dinner. Now let me just say we went with no expectations, we knew Ramsey could cook, but we thought that this was another one of these celebrity restaurants that just carries the chef’s name, with him only visiting twice a year. Well we couldn’t be more wrong we were blown away.

The food was fantastic and the service was some of the best I have ever experienced anywhere. The waiter who served made a real connection with us without being intrusive. He noticed that we were struggling to choose from the wine list that was given to us on an iPad and came to help us without any prompting. He brought out the raw cuts of meat on a trolley and talked us through each one. He then choose a bottle of wine to match the food we had ordered showing he had a great knowledge of the wine and the food. When I got up to use the ladies he scooped up my napkin that had fallen to floor and refolded it. He kept both our wine and water glasses topped up. Now this was not a stuffy restaurant it was packed in there and with the open kitchen and all the people it was a buzzing atmosphere. Our waiter made our evening and even though he had other tables he never looked rushed and took plenty of time to talk to us. Of course we left him a generous tip and spent the walk back to the hotel raving about it.

The following night we went to the Joel Robuchon Restaurant. We had booked this months earlier and were super excited. The restaurant was super formal and the food and service was impeccable, but there was no “chat”. The staff were almost scared to engage in conversation. Toby and I are both very chatty and will attempt to engage everyone we meet in conversation. These waiters were unbreakable, we asked questions and commented on things, but they were straight faced and sombre.

Surely to key to good service is to match the personality of the person you are serving.

I appreciate that some people wish to be left alone and that is fine but when customers are chatty, you need to chatty back.

The food was some of the best I have ever had. The trolley that was presented with coffee had 50 different chocolates and petit fours on it, and was amazing. But because of the service we received, the meal that will stick in my mind will be the one at the Gordon Ramsey restaurant and it will be there that I rush back to when I return.

If you deliver fantastic customer service then your customers will return to you. Many people buy my chocolate just because they have met me and we had a great conversation about something random.

The saying is very true, People buy People.

How can you “Engage” your audience?

Engagement is the buzz word around Social Media and should in all honesty be around all of your marketing. You want to make people feel and think about you, your company, product or service and to do that you need to engage the audience. You have to start a conversation that relates to them that will also spur them into action!

What action do you say? Well it’s whatever action you would like them to take. For example; When someone arrives on your website and finds what they were looking for, what is the next action they should take? Or when you meet a new contact at a network meeting or in a conference, what do you say to them that makes them want to ask you the next question?

Meaning of engagement; involve somebody. Become involved.

So how do you engage your audience with your business giving them an authentic experience of your brand, company personality and product or service?

#1: The quickest and easiest way to do this is to get to know them better!

What do they like and what don’t they like.

How do they see your product/ service?

Have you asked them if you can improve what you do in some way?

Engagement is about becoming involved with the people you want to buy your product or service. So how can you involve yourself or your brand with them. I’d like to hear about how you have engaged your audience.

#2: When you understand more about your target audience you then need to create the product or service that they want.

Now I can appreciate not everyone wants the same thing and at this point you can tailor the end result to their requirements, but before you do that you need to give them what they want.

#3: Develop a feedback and follow up strategy where you can get comments on how you are doing as a business.

How is the product/ service performing?

Without feedback you could keep doing things that they don’t want which in turn could lead them to someone or something that can.

#4: Act upon the feedback and show them that you are listening and taking note of what they are saying.

For example; Kodak made one change to a product by adding a mic jack to one of their HD Pocket Video Cameras (zi6) after they received feedback from Twitter. Kodak worked out the cost and how quickly they could do it, then did it! That product out-sold their competition by 10-1 from one tweet!

Take a look at these 4 suggestions and have a go. Let me know how you get on with them to see how much more engagement you get.

Number 3 can be done in many ways, get creative with it!

Remember; it’s not what you know, or who you know, it’s how well you know them.