How has Applegreen done it?

Applegreen and Me

We spend a lot of time at petrol stations. Well, I do anyway.

We’ve got our Topaz, Maxol, Texaco and others. We used to have our Statoil, Jet, Shell, etc. But never has one brand achieved anything like Applegreen. This is the first time in my life I’d actually bypass a petrol station if it isn’t of one particular brand – and that brand is Applegreen.


OK, so they’re on the motorways. But, in fact, I’m rarely on a motorway, so that isn’t a factor for me personally. No, I’m talking about places like Frenchpark, Swinford, Birr and Poles.

There’s something about them. The interior design is as nice as you’ll find in a roadside petrol station. Heck, some of them even have comfortable armchairs and low coffee tables to sit down and enjoy your coffee. The toilets are – wait for it – clean! They’ve got a decent rewards scheme going, complete with handy small keyring card. Their fuel price signage is big and clear, making it simple to choose to stop when driving towards them. And let’s face it, they’ve got bright cheery light-coloured green fascia and branding.

But there’s more. There’s a quality about the place. They’ve dumped the typical cheap and nasty look of a roadside petrol station, with crappy interior doors and poorly thought out interior. They’ve gone with nice rich-coloured shelving, doors and walls, with some dark browns, rather than bright white or light creams. In as much as is reasonable in this environment, they’ve gone with an upmarket look, while keeping the fuel prices low.

We speak of the “Four Ps” of product marketing. Applegreen has nailed its product, pricing and place (great locations). I don’t need to pay attention to the promotion; I’m converted already. Then again, maybe that means they’ve nailed that ‘p’ too …

But in services marketing, there are three other “Ps”, namely processes, people and physical evidence. Applegreen would appear to have made a particularly conscious effort on the physical evidence front. Basically, they’re nice petrol stations. Enough said.

Basically, this is a great example of positive branding.

During 2015, Applegreen held its initial IPO on the Irish Stock Exchange.

However, in March 2016, Clare County Council rejected its bid for a new motorway station in that county.

Differences Between Agents and Distributors

Differences between Agents and Distributors

OK, so you’re ready to have somebody else selling on your behalf “while you sleep”? Of course, there are various solutions to this, but two of the more common are the ’employment’ of commission (aka sales, aka trade) agents or distributors. But what are the differences between agents and distributors?

Essentially, the difference is one of product ownership. While a commission/sales/trade agent sells product on your behalf that you continue to own and invoice the ultimate customer for, distributors take ownership of the product and sell on to their own customers. This can mean that while, on the one hand, your business builds a relationship with the customer, on the other you may not even know where your product ends up.

Differences between agents and distributors

The key point to remember when choosing between selling via agents or distributors is the following :

In the case of distributors, a supplier / manufacturer sells his product to the distributor, who in turn sells the product on to his customers, adding a margin to cover his own costs. Distributorships are used as a low risk means of expanding business into new markets or territories. The distributor assumes liability, i.e. legal responsibility for one’s acts or omissions. Failure of the distributor’s business entity to meet that responsibility leaves him open to a lawsuit for any resulting damages or loss, which may occur to the other party. As the distributor has taken ownership of the products, he is incurring a greater degree of risk than an agent in the course of his business. The distributor has no authority to create a contract between the supplier and customer. The customer’s contract is, in this case, with the distributor.

On the other hand, an agent is a self-employed intermediary who has continuing authority to negotiate the sale of goods on behalf of another entity – the supplier / manufacturer (aka the principal). The agent may negotiate and conclude the sale of goods on behalf of and in the name of that principal. As he does not take ownership of the goods, the agent does not take on responsibility. This remains with the supplier.

Here are some main differences between agents and distributors.

Distributor advantages :

  • A supplier is able to pass on risk associated with the products.
  • The distributor is motivated to sell the stock he has purchased from the supplier.
  • A supplier will not incur any liability (with exceptions e.g. defective products).
  • The appointment of a distributor will avoid the need for a supplier requiring an established place of business in the territory, reducing administrative costs.
  • The supplier has avoided the cost of employing a salesperson in the territory.
  • A supplier will only need to monitor accounts with a distributor.
  • No compensation is automatically payable to a distributor upon termination of the distributorship agreement.

Distributor Disadvantages :

  • The supplier has limited control over activities of a distributor.
  • Under an exclusive distributorship arrangement, the supplier’s entire credit risk in respect of sales in that territory is concentrated on the distributor.
  • A distributorship arrangement is likely to be governed by domestic and European competition legislation.
  • The supplier lacks information on the ultimate customer – he who buys from his distributor.
  • Given the large degree of autonomy granted to a distributor, it is critical that the selected distributor is financially and commercially sound.

Agent Advantages

  • The supplier has more control over the activities of an agent.
  • The financial and commercial background of the commission agent will not be as critically important to the principal.
  • The principal will want to ensure the integrity of the sales agent, since the principal will in the normal course be bound by the actions of the sales agent. This can be more easily done, when dealing with one person, rather than a company, as with a distributor.
  • The supplier keeps in direct contact with the customers.

Agent Disadvantages

  • The principal is not able to pass on risk associated with the products to the agent.
  • The principal will incur liability as a result of the agent’s activities.
  • In most instances, the principal will be obliged to take on the expense of training the agent.
  • The principal will still be obliged to monitor the accounts of all customers.
  • An agent would normally carry several products from several manufacturers. If the supplier’s product is not selling well, the agent will typically divert more attention and energy to other products in his suite.
  • Under EU Commercial Agents Regulations, minimum notice provisions apply in the event of termination of the agency and the agent may also be entitled to compensation, over and above this notice requirement.

While there is no right or wrong choice here (it depends on your industry and what choices you make for growth strategy), do take these differences between agents and distributors into consideration when plotting our next steps. Also, consider other factors in distribution agreements outlined in this blogpost.

Video Marketing with Camtasia

Camtasia from TechSmith is one of many screen recording and video editing tools out there. Video is all the rage these days, so you might like to take a look at this tool as a potential partner for your future strategy. And what’s more, they give you a 28 day free trial period – plenty of time to get to learn the features of video marketing with Camtasia before purchasing.

Here’s one I made last week. Hope you like it!

Getting used to Camtasia can be tricky and, like other online tools, you’ll make plenty of frustrating mistakes at first. But there’s great power in this tool, allowing you to cur and edit video snippets, add background music and a voiceover and, generally, make a decent video for your marketing purposes. Go ahead – give it a try!

6 Sales Negotiation Tips to Remember

6 Sales Negotiation Tips

Once you get there, a sales negotiation can be tough. You may have sent out sales letters or emails, made a phone call or two, presented your product or service to prospects and arrived here – negotiation time.

Negotiating in sales can be a daunting prospect, but if you can retain these 6 points you will be better armed to succeed.

1. Ask questions and listen

A sales negotiation is most definitely not a time for  you to just talk about your product or service. It’s important to ask questions, involve your buyer and listen to their needs. Would you just talk ll the time during a regular conversation? No. So it’s the same here. Keep thinking while listening – how can you steer this negotiation into a win-win situation?

sales negotiation

2. Do not negotiate one point at a time

It can be tempting to agree to a request (demand?) that your buyer places on you, once he/she has made it. But it’s important to have all issues laid out on the table before agreeing to anything. Examples might include payment terms, minimum order size, delivery delays, pricing (FOB, Ex Works, delivery included, etc.), after-sales service, staff training and so on.

3. Both sides can win a negotiation

A sales negotiation can conclude to both sides’ satisfaction. Indeed, this is the preferred outcome. Get out of your “them v us” mentality.

4. The buyer does not hold all the power

Sales and marketing is all about satisfying the customer’s needs (at a profit). This fundamental proposition implies that your buyer has a need. So, do they have all the power? Evidently not.

5. Price is not the only issue

Often, a seller will fear the price issue, dreading that a competitor might have a better price. But, of course, price is just one element of a negotiation towards a sale. Find out what all the issues are.

6. Stay calm

Your negotiation does not have to conclude today. If there are elements of a potential deal you’re not comfortable with, postpone. Go away, carry out your checks and come back another day. Remain courteous and return to negotiate at a later date.

Sales Negotiation Skills

Of course, it can take time to develop the skills to expertly carry out a sales negotiation that results in an outcome that makes both parties happy. With practice comes improvement. Review the whole of the Sales Process to put negotiation in its context.

How to Present your Product or Service

How to present your product

Knowing how to present your product or service is a critical step in The Sales Process. It can be a scary prospect, but follow these tips to put your best foot forward.

Nowadays, B2B buyers and influencers are busy people and if you have managed to have them dedicate some of their time to listening to you present your new product or service, it’s most likely because they are interested. So banish those fear demons and get ready to be enthusiastic and to impress.

The most important tip when it comes to presenting is to ensure you do not spend the whole time simply talking. Be sure to ask questions and listen for buyer engagement and buying clues. People buy from people they like and one sure way of being better liked is to listen and make your presentation a participative experience for those in front of you. Your buyer’s needs are more important than your product offering. Be seen to grasp that and you are on the right track.

how to present your product

While demonstrating your product or giving a sample of your food product, stop talking. While they are trying out, tasting, working or touching your product, the buyer will not hear anything you say. Plus, you will not pick up on their signals. Knowing how to present your product or service is so much more than the words that spill out of your mouth, no matter how well you have prepared on that front. Observe their reactions!

Salespeople often suffer from a number of doubts – one of the classics being that “the buyer has all the power”. In truth, this is not always the case. Your buyer needs some product or solution to his or her issue. Equally, we often hear a vendor say that “price is the only factor and my competitors are better priced”. Again, this is not necessarily the case and your product or solution should have a USP that trumps price anyway.

During the presentation, be sure to ask questions and seek to gain powerful information from your buyer or influencer. Communicate the advantages of your product or service in a way that is most meaningful to your buyer, that is, in terms of benefit to them. You are presenting because you want to be appreciated as the preferred option. After your presentation, why would they consider any alternative?

How to Present your Product or Service

I like to advise clients to practice presenting their product or service on a prospect that has limited or no capacity to become an important customer. Make your mistakes here, before moving on to the guys you’d really like to be partnering up with. Self-observation can be a difficult to master skill, but it becomes essential when presenting a product or service.

On reflection, did you ask enough questions? Did you talk too much? Did you let the buyer feel, touch, taste or sample the product in peace? Then, did you get feedback and thoughts from him/her? Ultimately, did you impress during your presentation, enough to move on to the next step – negotiation? Remember – it’s not simply a question of how to present you product. It’s one step on the over-arching Sales Process.

The Sales Process – 6 Steps to Success

The Sales Process, Vital Steps to Success

Like its first cousin, ‘The Marketing Process‘ in its field, ‘The Sales Process’ is a way of locating yourself on your path to sales success.

The Sales Process consists of six steps, helping you to keep focused on how you find and then progress prospects and existing customers through the sales funnel. It’s important to recognise at which step of the Sales Process different clients and prospects are. Knowing how long it typically takes to progress a client from unknown prospect to a buyer, with whom you need to do some post-purchase follow-up, is vital to your sales activity. Depending on the complexity of your sector, these steps may overlap to varying degrees, or indeed several may take place at the same time.

Step One is Prospecting. Here, we do the groundwork to identify potential future customers, based on our targeting, product offer, positioning, competitive strength, etc.

Sales Process
6 Steps of the Sales Process

Step Two is Information Gathering. Here, we carry out research in order to learn as much as we can about this business with which we haven’t yet worked. This might include finding out what we can about their current supplier or alternative products/services they are using today, who the decision makers and influencers are, etc. Make first contact and ask about their needs, etc. Request a meeting.

Step Three is Presenting. Demonstrate, present, sample or taste your product or service (depending on your business). Get in front of the prospect and show them what you’ve got. Keep asking questions.

One of the most common mistakes a salesperson makes through steps 2 and 3 is to talk too much. After all, we often feel more comfortable talking than listening. But listening is the key! By asking questions, we learn things. Furthermore, don’t speak while presenting your product. If your buyer is touching, tasting, or using your product, they won’t hear you!

Step Four is Negotiating a sale. Remember not to agree to anything, until you’re agreeing to everything.

Avoid agreeing to (for example) a price, without understanding fully the terms of sale. Discuss all aspects, e.g. price, who is meeting the delivery costs, minimum order quantities, credit terms, training costs where applicable, etc., before making an agreement. In negotiating, price is not the only factor. The buyer does not have all the power.

Step Five of the sales process is Closing. After all, that’s the point, no?

Watch out for buying signals. They will come and you need to be alert to take advantage. Consider different ways of closing the sale, including a once-off special offer, time limited offers, quantity-related offers, sensible comparisons with what others have done, the good-old “would you like the red one or the blue?” argument, demonstration of concrete benefits accruing, etc. And be alert to The Value of No.

Finally, Step Six is Following up, ongoing relationship building and delivery of quality customer care.

We all know the adage that people buy from people they like. Providing quality customer care is an essential pillar of this. When the sale is made, pick up the phone and ask how your customer is getting on. They’ll appreciate it.

The Sales Process and You

Do you know at what stage your various prospects are right now in your sales funnel? Do you understand how long it might take for you to close a sale? Are you ensuring that you follow up, rather than make a sale and move on? Apply The Sales Process to your thoughts and actions and watch your customer relationships improve and deepen.

6 Tips to Improve your Facebook Adverts

How to Improve your Facebook Adverts

So we know and accept that, all things being equal, your Facebook Page reach has dropped (sometimes significantly) over the last year or two. I think that’s fair enough and, if you want to “pay to play”, then here are 6 tips to improve your Facebook adverts.

  1. Include a face in your ad.
  2. Be very specific about who you are targeting.
  3. Try out more than one image for the same ad.
  4. Red grabs attention.
  5. Positive emotions work best.
  6. Follow the AIDA Model.
improve your Facebook adverts
Advertising is an essential part of your Facebook strategy

A face :

As humans (and consumers), we like to look at other people’s faces. Employing a nice, smiley face in your ad will help grab attention on the cluttered FB feed.

Targeting :

FB offers incredibly powerful targeting options. Use them to narrow the focus of your ad to the target market that really matters to you and your business.

Vary images :

For one single ad content, you have the option of trying out up to six different images. play around and discover which image works best, then concentrate your effort on that version of the ad.

Colour :

Different colours signify different things and bring out different emotions in readers. Scroll down to the end of this earlier post for more on colours in branding. Red and yellow grab attention, but while the latter does not work on computer screens, the former most definitely does.

Positive emotions :

If I feel nice when reading your Facebook adverts, I’m more likely to click on them to prolong the pleasant feeling.


Standing for “Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action”, the AIDA Model helps us focus in on the purpose of our ad. If we can locate ourselves and our business on the steps of this model, then we can better decide what we are trying to achieve with any given advert. Knowing what exactly its purpose is helps us devise a better ad.

Improve your Facebook Adverts

Advertising is now an essential part of the Facebook game we all play. I generally recommend that even the smallest micro-enterprise with a real audience on the platform should dedicate Euro 300 pa to Facebook adverts (plus VAT). Use these 6 tips to improve your Facebook adverts and see what positive results you are able to achieve.

Keep your Eye on Market Trends

Keep your Eye on Market Trends at all Times

Be sure to keep your eye on market trends, for the influence they have on small business can be enormous. This is one area where the micro-business owner cannot afford to take his/her eyes off the ball.

This is a core part of the first step of The Marketing Process, the so-called Situation Analysis. Existing and emerging trends can come to dominate the performance of a product or service within its marketplace. Pro-active management is critical here. The business owner who spots the trends also spots the resultant opportunities and/or threats.

That’s pretty fundamental stuff.

keep your eye on market trends

Look what has happened to so many pubs around Ireland that didn’t respond to trends in their sector. Look, too, at accommodation providers that didn’t embrace the likes of, TripAdvisor or Airbnb.

On the other hand, look at the fabulous growth experienced by businesses like Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway, who quickly moved part of their business online. They saw the trend and adapted. Or all the little businesses providing healthy, more natural food for a more discerning audience. Or indeed other great people, like the early app developers, understanding that a more convenient way to consume and interact with brands was being demanded.

No market stands still for long – and that includes yours. Whether you are in FMCG or B2B, market trends can dictate what will happen next, in terms of product features or service delivery. You don’t want to get left behind. If you’re really good, you’ll even start a trend!

There’s a great business adage that you’ll lose 20% of your customers each year. I think that’s a great stat to keep in your mind at all times. At least eliminate one reason why that might happen, by keeping up with market trends.

Market Trends and Your Future – Evolve or Die

Read this extremely interesting review of what happened to the once king of mobile phones, Nokia. We’re all aware of the story, after all, just look in your pocket. An eye-opening read, nevertheless.

As they say, standing still is not an option.

What is a PESTLE Analysis and how can it help?

What is a PESTLE Analysis?

So we have learned that Situation Analysis is the first step of the over-arching Marketing Process. One thought-provoking element of this is the PESTLE Analysis. You should sit down and consider the macro issues that are affecting or will affect your business sector.

But what is a PESTLE Analysis anyway?

PESTLE invites you to consider the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental issues, trends and changes that impact upon your sector and your ability to do business.

For example, if you want to sell your goods into politically unstable Market A, how do you propose to achieve that securely? Due to the economic downturn in Market B, might you need to down-spec the product, or reduce margin to maintain volume sales? You may first need to proof if your product is even socially acceptable in Market C, before you think about thriving there. How is the speed of technological advance impacting upon your R&D budget? How might you react to that legal change about to be introduced in key Market D? New environmental regulations in Market E might impact upon your packaging materials.

And so on.

What is a PESTLE Analysis
Factors in the Macro Environment to Consider

Let’s look at some real examples.

Some years ago, the Irish smoking ban was a legal event that impacted upon many businesses, among them aluminium fabrication enterprises that spotted an immediate need for outdoors wall-mounted ashtrays. Bingo.

The move to mobile has forced the introduction of responsive website designs. Web designers who don’t have any on offer? Bye bye.

The WEEE Directive meant electronic goods retailers suddenly had to put in place systems to take back hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment from consumers.

In the US recently, we’ve seen how non-compliance with that country’s EPA requirements on car emissions can have a potentially major impact on manufacturers in that sector…

PESTLE Analysis and You

PESTLE can be a slightly head-wrecking exercise and should not be attempted in one sitting. You won’t be able to take it all in. Rather, absorb what is going on in the markets that matter to you and build up a file on impacts, both current and potential. You can already see how this ties in with SWOT Analysis, also part of the first step of the Marketing Process.

7 Trade Show Secrets

7 Trade Show Secrets to a Better Event

In lieu of Trade Show Secrets, you can substitute Consumer Show or Conference. The principles are essentially the same.

Often, we get so excited about unearthing enough marketing budget to allow us to exhibit at a show, that we forget these 7 trade show secrets to a successful event.

1. Preparation, preparation, preparation

Never book your stand at a trade show, conference or other event, then fall asleep because you think the job’s done and turn up on the day expecting miracles. Before the event comes along, be sure you’ve invited all those you’d like to meet on the day. That might include current clients, past and lost accounts, colleagues in the industry, journalists, influencers, reviewers, prospects, etc. Allocate specific times to meet. People are less likely to let you down if there’s a slot penciled in for them. However, try not to simply invite these people onto your booth in isolation. Ensure you’ve already put in some PR mileage and relationship building beforehand.

Trade Show Secrets

2. Remind

One of my favourite marketing adages is that “nobody gives a damn about your business but yourself”. Slightly crude and exaggerated this may be, but it serves to remind us that we must be communicating with our targets, because they’ve got a load of other stuff going on. 72 hours before the show’s opening, remind your prospects to come by and visit your stand. Do the same again on the day.

3. Show; don’t just tell

There is little worse for a busy buyer*, who has made the decision to spend some of his or her tight schedule on your stand, than to discover you have nothing to offer. Discuss some new product or service concept you’re working on and ask for their opinion. Show them something. Demonstrate, sample, taste, touch. Involve them. Inspire them.

4. Feed and water

Yes, they do want some snacks to eat and some liquid to drink. Not just coffee. And yes, they do want to sit down.

5. Follow up

The amount of what-turns-out-to-be-rubbish-or-forgettable that buyers collect at trade shows is extraordinary. Be the one who follows up. Stand out. Let this slip and you will slip their memory.

6. For yourself

Wear comfortable footwear. Bring with you a square metre of really good quality, thick carpet. Place it under the regular carpet of your stand floor towards the back of your space and retreat there when there are no visitors. This will save you aches and pains in your legs over the duration of the show and keep your energy levels up – one of my favourite trade show secrets! Drink lots of water and no alcohol. Eat plenty. Sleep plenty. Keep very good notes of who you’ve met, including basic physical features so you can picture them in your mind’s eye for the next time you meet. Even better, take their photo. Have a prioritised “to do” list for after the show. Smile.

7. Can’t afford to exhibit?

Many small and micro-enterprises simply don’t have the budget to book a stand at a major national or international trade show. What can be done? Here’s what. Nowadays, flights are cheap with the likes of Ryanair. Fly over and visit the stands of people you’d like to talk to. Visit others for research purposes. But here’s the secret : In this scenario, you are visiting their stand. And they are at the show to sell, not to buy. So do this work early in the day, right at the start of the opening hours. Because this is their dead time, when their prospects haven’t yet arrived at the show, so you’re not infringing on their selling time.

Trade Show Secrets

Exhibiting can be a big drain on any company’s marketing budget. Be sure to put in the ground work beforehand, use these trade show secrets and then follow up leads afterwards. The show is not a stand-alone gig, but rather should form an integral part of an ongoing pro-active marketing programme. Get comfortable with these trade show secrets and see your ROI, as well as your customer relationships, improve.

And remember that you can still gain value from a show, even if you’re not in a position to exhibit.

* For “buyer”, read buyer, specifier, influencer, financial controller, journalist, etc.