Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Interesting article about changing values

The Generation M Manifesto – Umair Haque –


Selling to your Boss

Show your boss the evidence and make it real

Show your boss the evidence and make it real

I realised that I first learned how to sell a few years after I first did it. I was a young British Army Officer and one of my jobs in the Mess was to have all of our dining room chairs restored. The chairs were getting battered by many functions and daily use by thirty blokes and their occasional guests. I took one chair as a sample to a local furniture restorer to be restored and took it back into the Mess to gain the approval of the senior officers before having all of them restored.

But I didn’t just show them the restored chair. Firstly, I showed them a chair which had not been restored and which was probably the worst one of our set. The unrestored chair was rickety and had had much of the varnish chipped off. I showed the group of senior officers how bad things were but how good that they could be by investing in having the chairs restored. Having the chairs restored was a whole lot cheaper than buying a complete new set. Approval was gained.

One of the biggest challenges that some employees or even business directors face is having to convince their boss or fellow directors that they need to invest money into their project. Most people fear the rejection or fail to persuade their boss or bosses on why the investment is an investment and not a gamble.

I met someone recently who is facing this challenge. Their business is a web based news site which focuses on a science and technology. It has grown its unique visitors to the site from 6,500 per month to nearly 15,000 in the last year. It has benefited in the economic downturn, it would seem, as people seek more knowledge and information.

On the outside, it appears that this is a good news story. But, the underlying trends on the site show that people are spending less time on the site. The site is very much a ‘broadcast’ site meaning that it does not have capabilities for viewers to interact with the site by way of leaving comments, sharing articles with friends or colleagues, or even posting other content onto the site such as photographs.

Its competitors are large. One of their competitors has fifty times the number of unique visitors per month to their site. The competitors’ site is more advanced by way of tools which allow visitors to subscribe to the web site through RSS feeds, to read blogs, or to download and listen to podcasts, for example. Not only are their competitors larger, they are competing more effectively for the visitors by providing reasons for them to keep them coming back.

Herein lies the problem with the smaller news site. They have an infrastructure to their site which is bespoke and they are finding it nearly impossible to change. Furthermore, the owners of the web site do not see the problem. They see rising visitor numbers and they have achieved their original aim of setting up a successful web site providing the specialist news. “Why should we change the infrastructure?”

The infrastructure they have is bespoke and there very few people who can develop their system to customise it and add new features. They are stuck with a single supplier who charges them a lot of money to maintain but not develop and expand the capabilities of the site.

The owners are not seeing that their web site will become soon see the number of visitors declining because they receive better services and news elsewhere. The people in charge of marketing and running the site don’t have the support of the owners to make changes because the owners don’t think there is a problem. So, the status quo prevails and when the number of visitors and subscribers decline, they won’t be able to react. This is a classic case of people not worrying about what a rising tide covers up until the tide turns.

How do you deal with this inertia? How do you show that something is wrong when all seems to be rosy when your boss doesn’t believe it? Think back to the chairs earlier. Everyone in the mess was uses to the chairs being a bit battered or wobbly. Nobody was really complaining about them. But, by showing them how good they could be and how much more presentable and professional our Mess would appear, the senior officers approved the investment. They did not care how the chairs were restored as long as they were done professionally.

This is similar to the situation with the contact I met who was struggling with their bosses to see that their web site was not competitive. You have to show them evidence and keep showing them and not just accept the status quo and the inevitable pain they would go through again if they did not change their infrastructure. You need to show them what their competitors are doing. You need to show them what real people want and then how that will help their business survive. It’s tough but evidence and outcomes are very persuasive. You need to be bold, strong and persistent.

You Can Learn a Lot from Terrorists

Setting patterns is dangerous

Setting patterns is dangerous

Within twelve hours of being on Londonderry, I was in one of the British Military bases in the city with my platoon. It was early 1991 and I had flown out to take over from a fellow officer who was needed for preparations the Army was making to commence the first Gulf War. I had been through training for an earlier tour to South Armagh but this tour was on the streets and not in the fields.

We sprinted through the gates of the base onto the streets and within a minute a bomb went off some 500 metres away. Our drills kicked in and we made our way towards the area to cordon it off. It turned out that it was a small bomb but we still had to do the drills and provide a safety zone to keep people out so the bomb disposal team could come in and make the location safe and clear any other potential bombs.

The next stage is the part of the ninety-nine percent of boredom that all troops experienced in Northern Ireland when you are out on the streets for twelve hours or more while the bomb disposal team do their jobs. Trying to keep alert is tough, so you move your teams around in the area to keep them sharp. You make sure that they are supplied with hot food and tea to keep them happy. And all the time you are there, you are not somewhere else. And that’s what the terrorists know.

The next thing we saw, some eight hours after the bomb, were the phosphorescent tracers of rounds streaming through the air towards one of the watchtowers in another base in the city. The IRA were using an M60 machine gun and they had been very clever. They sucked us into setting up a cordon around the bomb while they set up their real target.

And that’s why they say respect your enemy because they are not stupid. This is why you are trained not to set patterns in the Army so that you minimise the chance of walking into their traps. And this is a lesson for anyone in business too.

Last week I was with two people who run their own business making weights for balloons. Their manufacturing business is an industry where there is little marketing carried out by their competitors. Most web sites are dull and most of their business is carried out through orders sent by fax and there are no distinct brands. 

But the business owners I met want to grow their business and they wanted to start doing it by developing their brand and using the Internet to reach new customers and sell more to their existing customers. Their competitors are setting patterns and doing business in the way that they have always done business. My clients have recognised that they need to use their competitors complacency to their advantage and out-market them. 

So, respect your enemy or your competitors. Get to know the patterns they are setting and disrupt them. And be prepared to set off on a path of continuous change and innovation to stay ahead and keep them on their toes.

New Marketing – Mob Rule


The Mob Rules

The Mob Rules

In 1991, I found myself in a lonely part of the Central African Republic, cycling towards the capital, Bangui, with my brother, Dan. We had been cycling for over six months since leaving the UK. The route we were on took us along dusty roads and tracks, through rain forest and into the odd town. The particular town we were in was fairly typical of most small towns in the region, being made of buildings built from wattle, daub and wriggly tin on the roof. The difference with this town was that we met a guy who was working for the American ‘Peace Corps.’

He was welcoming and invited us to stay for a night or two. Over dinner that night, he talked about what he was doing there for the Peace Corps. His role was to help the local people generate cash from fish farming. He was showing them how to build fish ponds, nurture and tend the fish to the point where they could sell them to earn a decent living from it. He was very frank and said that it was a hopeless task.

Fish farming was not as easy it seemed. Digging fish ponds, filling them, feeding the fish and making sure they are healthywas not for the faint hearted. In reality, he said, the local people could earn money far more easily by planting a banana seed in the rich soil, and then walk away only to come back a few weeks later to harvest the bananas without having broken out in a sweat. 

He believed that his task was one which the Peace Corps believed was beneficial to the local people because of the greater amount of money they could earn through fish farming. But they had misunderstood that there were far easier ways to earn a living for the people and that earning money from harvesting bananas was good enough. The locals were not interested in the good intentions of the Peace Corps.

Years later, I was working as a commercial manager in a large training company. One particular sales team was struggling to meet its sales targets because their clients were asking for the courses to be customised to their requirements. A director of the business, in a frustrated yet revealing moment in a meeting, raised their voice saying “Why can’t they just sell what we have to their customers?” It was a classic moment of a company selling what they wanted to their customers rather than enabling their customers to buy what they needed. 

Both of these instances show how organisations and individuals became out of touch with their ‘audience’ and which used old ways of thinking about providing what they thought their audience needed. And this way of thinking for a business in the world we are in now will leave them obsolete very quickly if they do not adapt. 

Marketers in large corporations have until now launched a new product with a large ‘push’, spending huge sums of money telling their customers that they should buy their new product. This was the status quo. And it was risky, so the marketers spent a lot of time and money researching their customers seeking reassurance that their customers would buy the new product. They employed lots of consultants and experts to reassure them that this was the right thing to do. This all took months, even years, before the new product was launched. 

And then came along the internet and the customers started to say what they thought about the new product and the good marketers listened. The marketers started to provide tools so that instead of hiring a few highly paid experts to tell them if their product would sell, their customers had ideas about what they would like and other customers started to vote for the best idea. 

The marketer suddenly became the best listener in the world and put down their megaphone and old ways and realised that the mob now ruled and that employing ten thousand for free was infinitely more effective and quicker than paying a small number of experts to see if customers liked what they assumed they would like. 

Long live the mob.

Advertising in the Recession



Corporate Hospitality is Accountable

Corporate Hospitality is Accountable

I heard an interesting piece on a BBC Radio show this lunchtime where the presenter had two guests from the corporate hospitality business speaking about their industry in these tough times. I shared the presenter’s reaction to the state that their businesses might be in because of the obligatory cuts that business and organisations are making to their marketing budgets which include corporate hospitality.


Of course, I listened and could not help but think that they were going to be facing dire straits because corporate hospitality is just a ‘big jolly’ with no real benefits apart to the company apart from getting a better seat at Wimbledon or the Olympics if you are a client and a day off work if you are the hosting business. And the expense of inviting a client to an event, whether sporting or arts, is very costly. The speakers were talking about some of the top-end events costing several thousand pounds per seat. 

But the guests talked about the fact that their clients were still bringing their customers to the same events, but instead of having champagne all night at the Royal Albert Hall, their clients had just offered wine and beer all night. Still, I thought, nobody is really  persuaded by these events to make them buy products or services, are they? The guests, obviously, said that this was not the case and that their clients still valued the benefits of corporate hospitality. 

The one of the guests said something which I found remarkable becuase I had just not thought about it and I had let my own dogma get in the way of clear thinking. The guest said, “Well, of course, you can account for every penny you spend on a client at a corporate hospitality event which you cannot do with other advertising. You can track its effectiveness on whether they buy your product or service.”  

What was I thinking? He is absolutely right about the accountability that a marketing manager benefits from bringing a client to an event. He was not entirely up to speed about digital marketing. Through the web, you can track people’s behaviour, interests and habits which many forms of advertising fail to do. And now that we are in a recession, accountability in marketing and advertising is vital. 

So, while marketing budgets are being slashed by the management, marketers will be able to fight well if they understnad which aspects of their planned marketing investments can be easily measured for their effectivness and return on invesment.

Before lunch today, I thought it was only digital advertising and marketing that could offer that level of detail. Now I am a little wiser.

Does anyone have tickets to Wimbledon?

Get Techie To Thrive

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Working in and around the technology, publishing and retail world for over 11 years has shown me that most principals that are applied within the individual sectors to grow their business remain the same, but then something always happens that changes the way they work dramatically, forever. This used to happen infrequently in each sector. But now the frequency is increasing. 

For instance, technology was quite happily bumbling along with its massive mainframe computers and along came desktop computing to change the way we thought about computers. Booksellers were happily selling books in their shops and along came Amazon selling books through the web to spoil the chain stores’ party.

But publishing has not really had a major change for years (apart from the Net Book Agreement when price fixing was dropped in 1997). Publishers find, produce and market books. Books might have CD’s attached to them or they might have a companion web site with extra benefits when the book was purchased.

eBooks have been around for ages but they have not been widely popular because they were not very easy to use. But now there is a rush to convert books into eBooks because sales of them have become noticeable  in the accounts. Many booksellers have now started selling direct to their customers rather than through booksellers and online retailers which is quite a change. 

But most publishers have their marketing budgets tied up with the retailers buying the ‘end caps’ of the shelves, placing branded point of sale items onto the floors, or buying space in the windows to promote and sell their titles. A publisher will pay many thousands of pounds on the prime retail space in stores or on an online retailers site for a branded store, for instance. 

And publishers are spending a lot of money and time on converting their books into eBooks in a rush to get them into the eBook stores of the retailers and onto the mobile phones, laptops or eReaders of their customers. For this, the publishers will, no doubt, have to pay for the virtual store space to get their eBooks noticed in the vast eBook libraries of the retailers. Amazon has some 250,000 eBooks already in its store which feels like a lot before the publishers have even got going on converting books into electronic versions. 

Now is the time for publishers to get techie and understand that their moment is here to understand digital technology which can help them identify their niche customers, in ways which an high street retailer can only dream about, to sell not only eBooks but printed books to them. But don’t just advertise your books. Provide your customers with tools and applications which they will find useful to find, read, discuss and question your books.

But don’t just make your books elecronic versions of printed books with no functions or features. And don’t think that eBooks are all going to be read on mobiles or eReaders. Remember that nearly 70% of the population that is online in the UK accesses the internet through a laptop or PC at home or work. Provide them with a desktop tool which you can have built for a fraction of the cost of buying an ‘end cap’ in a store and which will help you connect with your customers not just for a couple of weeks, but for months. 

So, publishers, get techie and be imaginative to thrive because now is the moment when your industry is changing forever. If you don’t have the skills, don’t worry. But do get to know what the technology can do and think of doing things which would have been unthinkable five years ago. And hire some outside help to get it done.

Being Sociable Loses Meaning Online

Relationships are made face to face

Relationships are made face to face


Is it just me? Social networking is all the rage but it is so shallow. Don’t get me wrong. It’s terrific for finding information and making connections with interesting people. But most relationships are transitory within these tools. I expect I have made more connections and had more chats people through Twitter since 1st January this year than my ancestors had in their lives. 

I just get to the point when my head is frying with the amount of information (or tweets) that I have to sift through that I want to reach for the brilliantly titled book ‘Taming the Information Tsunami‘ by Bill Bruck to cool it down. And I have learnt that I am not being rude when I ‘unfollow’ people so that I can get my life back under control and keep the guilt in check for not reading all those damn tweets. 

I have noticed that whenever I join up to a social networking tool or site such as the business networking site,, I get a small wave of people sending a message saying something like “Hi, I’m Greg. Let me know how I can help you“. What? Are you mad or just socially inept? I have seen this today on Twitter too. “Let me know what I can do to make your day!” You can get real for a start! 

I’m afraid that’s a big turn off for me when someone gushes how they want to make my life extra-super-special. It feels like the unwanted attentions of someone who fancied you at school but from whom you could not run away fast enough. 

But, I am hooked by the usefulness of all the tools such as FaceBook and Twitter. FaceBook helps me keep up with my past and Twitter helps me keep up with my future. I have been in touch with some terrific old friends and workmates through FaceBook. And with Twitter, I have managed to learn vital lessons in connecting with people with shared interests, and even experience contributing to a radio programme.

For instance, the highly skilled radio presenter (William Wright at BBC Radio Lincolnshire) reminded me, unwittingly, of something very important last night on his show. Technology is poor at helping to make meaningful bonds with other people. 

At the end of the section to which I had contributed, William took his headphones off, looked me in the eye and said thank you. He then asked me if I had done any radio work like this before , to which I said that I hadn’t. He then suggested that if it was easier for me, we could speak over the phone or through the internet next time rather than come into the studio. 

But, the reality is that I got to know about William through Twitter. And I got to know William by sitting in his studio with him. And that is human. Connections can be made now through the internet and relationships are made face to face.