When you live in the west of Ireland, it’s easy to get down about the weather. This is especially true if you’re not from here and you’re used to a slightly kinder climate. It can be wet, windy and cool, all at the same time. It probably pours, rains, drizzles, mizzles or spots at some point during the day, 300 days a year.

I’ve taken a very crude measure of the weather in Galway every day over the past 10 years. If it so much as rains one drop, I put ‘Wet’ in my diary for that day. I daren’t go back over a sample 12 months and count the number of Wets, which is why 300 is an intuitive guess rather than evidence-based fact.

The amount of times I’ve been on the phone to my Mother, a mere 300 miles away in the south of England and it’s been tipping down here and glorious there…

Anyway, I know I’ve been looking at this wrong. I’m not trying to underplay the seriousness of SAD syndrome, but I know I’ve been looking at it wrong.

Weather is wallpaper. It’s simply there, in the background. Sometimes you notice it, sometimes you don’t. You get on with things regardless.

There are many benefits to a temperate climate, after all. And anything dry, or warm, becomes a bonus. Then, the background comes to the foreground, is more noticeable, and is enjoyed for that.

I think that’s what people from here have been doing all along…

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A while ago I wrote about the distinction between ‘urgent’ and ‘important’ when it comes to work, tasks, jobs and so on. On another occasion I wrote about the differences between liking something and something being ‘good’. It’s time to revisit these themes, or more specifically the word important.

When we think about things and events, we often have to make a judgment on them. There’s a subjective way of reaching a decision and answering the question, and an objective way of getting there too.

‘Do you like this song?’ ‘Is it a good product?’ ‘What do you think of iTunes?’ What about this development? You can give a subjective answer, by saying whether you like it, or whether you think it’s good. You can also choose not to answer it and say, ‘well, it’s important.’

You could argue, of course, that you’re still making a subjective judgment on the weight or value you attach to something. My view is that you’re rising above the personal preferences and saying, in effect, I’m not saying whether I like it or not, or whether it’s good: I’m simply saying it merits respect because of what it does.

Of course, by saying something’s not important, you’re also implying it’s not even worth addressing subjectively. You’re not going to bother assessing whether you like it, or whether it’s good, you’re done with it.

 

Town planning is a tricky but fascinating thing, isn’t it?

When you think about your own town or city, is it new or old? Has it grown organically or in a more structured way? Can you easily get where you need to get to, and out again? What’s the transport infrastructure like for public and private travel to a big event?

I live in a small town and I work from home a fair bit, so my measure of how well a town has been planned is how quickly I can get to strike all the errands off my list at lunchtime. You’d be surprised at how much you learn about traffic flows, parking, accessibility if you’ve only got 20 minutes and 3 different places to go.

My town is well served by trains, but not well served by bridges, which means it’s well served – if that’s the right word – by train barriers to block pedestrians and vehicles while the train traverses the road to get from A to B. The upshot of this is that it’s not uncommon for you to be caught for 5 minutes at a barrier both on your way into town and out of town. If you’ve 20 minutes for errands, driving or walking, you’re stationery for half of it in this scenario. Your alternative is a long detour round the town’s medieval and therefore maddeningly narrow one-way streets to use the one railway bridge.

We have loads of train advocates in our area, and it does provide an important link to the east and west of the country. I’m not sure, however, if those advocates factor in how it plays with the other 2 modes of transport, especially at lunchtimes when you’re under pressure.

In a recent post I explained that the 4 basic questions you need to cover when you introduce yourself is who you are, what you do, who you do it for and why it matters.

A really good follow up question from someone who is sufficiently engaged with you is ‘how do you do that?’ They’ll only care about the how if they’re genuinely interested or they’re making polite conversation. This got me thinking about how I would explain the process by which I get companies to accelerate their time to market and their sales growth.

Imagine holding an imaginary set of bellows or a concertina in your hands. Then you bring your hands together, before bringing them apart. That’s exactly what you do in sales and marketing to grow more quickly.

You have to reduce in order to increase. By that I mean that you start with your market, then you narrow down the segments of that market until you’ve identified the ideal target audience for what you do. Then you design your offering and your marketing and sales messaging to that audience. Because it’s tailored to the specific requirements of your tightly defined target audience, you have good success and you quickly grow your business or your new product or service.

So, how you do it is by reducing to increase. I imagine that the next time someone asks me how I do what I do I will accompany my explanation by the bellows or concertina hand actions, to reinforce my point.

When we’re introducing ourselves to people for the first time, even if we’re not in the selling business, there’s the opportunity to sell ourselves, to make a good first impression, or to influence people in a positive way. They might not need our services, or to be our friend, but they might know someone who does.

So what are the four introductory must dos? I see four questions that we should answer for the person we’re meeting:

  • Who? Who are you? What’s your name? Not necessarily the organisation you’re with, your name is more important. They have to remember it. I’m sometimes not a fan of leading with yourself, but in this case they need to remember your name when you accompany it with a handshake
  • What? What do you do? What do you provide? Can you describe this simply, without jargon? This is the bit that’s going to catch their attention, since they will use it to pigeonhole you in their mind
  • For whom? Who do you provide what you provide for? Who are your customers, stakeholders, patients, students or constituents?
  • Why? Why should the people for whom you provide what you provide care? What do they get out of it? This is the bit that adds value, your chance to say what makes you different

For some people, you don’t need to cover these four bases. “Hi, my name’s John Smith, I’m a dentist.” You can pretty much stop at second base. But for others, perhaps those in more complex business-to-business roles, you’ll probably need the last two, especially if you’re networking. “Hi, my name’s Paul Dilger, I’m a sales and marketing consulting to small to medium-sized companies so they can grow their business more quickly.”

If it feels unnatural to add the fourth point, you can always drop it into the conversation later, especially if the first three points resonate, make a connection or provoke a positive reaction.

 

I’ve just renewed a contract with my mobile telecoms provider. Along with the 2-year deal came a free upgrade to a better smartphone.

Not the latest smartphone, you understand, because I don’t need the latest smartphone. I’ve eased from an iPhone 6S to a 7. An improvement, I think. I got more data too, which is nice.

One of the ‘improvements’ of the 7 is that it does away with the circular port for the headphones. You get headphones with a firewire thingy that goes into the firewire charging port.

This means two changes in behaviour for me, none of them good. Firstly, it means I can’t charge my iPhone 7 and use it with the headphones at the same time, which I used to do a lot. Secondly, it means I need one set of headphones for my laptop (standard earphone port) and one set for my iPhone (firewire). I travel quite a bit, and now I need to pack two sets of headphones for any trip. Harrumph

Of course, I could spend more money on bluetooth earphones that will pair with both laptop and phones. Double harrumph…

The lack of time and thought invested in accessories compared to the base product is something I’ve blogged about before.

What’s the right blog length for a post? Isn’t a bit like asking how long a piece of string should be, and that of course depends on the purpose for the string.

That said, there’s never a shortfall of best practice articles trumpeting the right length for a blog post. It’s an old chestnut, and it keeps changing. A few years ago it was about 450 to 500 words. These days, for long term SEO they reckon 1600-1800 words, which is clearly way more than 500 words, and waaaay more than my typical post. Perhaps the advice is not exclusively for blog post content, but you get the impression it is.

As with all things marketing, you have to keep your objective in mind. SEO is about attracting people to your stuff and building a following. I’ve always said that the purpose of my blog is rather self-serving, to keep the discipline of writing, in which case I can make them as short or long as I like. As it happens, they retain a striking consistency of length.

The current vogue for longer ‘anchor’ or ‘capstone’ blog post content doesn’t seem to hurt Seth Godin. An early inspiration for my own blog, Mr G seems to have garnered an immense following with a pithy style and length that hasn’t changed in a decade. Mind you, he has broken ground in marketing on numerous occasions and has a large bunch of other strings to his bow.

Often it’s just a nugget of information, a flash of a thought, or a sideways comment that provides the inspiration for one of my short posts.

So what is blogworthy? What idea, opinion or story is worth a pauldilger.com blog post? Firstly, it’s got to be robust enough an observation that I can spend a minimum of four short paragraphs on it. You can cast your eye over the previous 900-plus blog posts, but I don’t think I’ve ever written one less than four paras.

Secondly, I sometimes invoke the rule that if I don’t remember it, it’s not blogworthy because it’s not memorable enough for me to retell. I don’t often invoke the rule though, because I’m middle aged and my brain can’t retain thought like it used to, especially if I’m concentrating on something else at the time.

These days I almost always write down the blog title, on my phone or a scrap of paper. Usually the title on its own, sometimes an explanatory sentence or two if the title is a little cryptic.

Thirdly, if I can’t remember the central premise of the short descriptor, I don’t write it. How could I?

I’ve lost far too many blog post ideas to try and hold them in my head. When you’re nearing the 4-figure mark for total posts you can’t keep dipping into a finite well.

I like the newish thing with Ryanair where you can add a buck to your flight price to offset your carbon footprint for the journey. It’s a token gesture I know, but it’s heading in the right direction. I wonder how Ryanair passes on the buck to the relevant authority or worthy cause?

I took a flight with Ryanair the other day, accompanying my mother to the UK. She took a can of juice and I took a can of soda. Towards the end of the flight the stewards came with the white plastic bags to take away rubbish. It looks like everything goes into the bag.

I asked the steward if they recycled, since I had two aluminium cans and two plastic cups to get rid of. No, he said, shaking his head in a rather embarrassed fashion. I said I would take them with me and recycled them at my Mum’s place.

Maybe he was wrong, but maybe not. With Ryanair it’s all about process. They’re massively process-oriented, striving for operational edge and, as I write this post, seeing their profits dwindle and talking about flight crew layoffs. I can’t imagine how they think that taking away rubbish in one bag and recyclables in another bag is a good use of their resources. To them they’d rather take the slight hit to their brand. Short term goggles to stay in the game over long term loss to the planet.

Action and reaction are equal and opposite of course, as Newton’s third law goes. Someone’s going to take the hit eventually, just not in your or my lifetime.

You can tell a lot from a handshake. First impressions and all that.

It’s not that the handshake is the only component of greeting someone. It’s the accompanying smile, the eye contact, the body facing the other person.

I once attended a corporate speaking engagement where the guy said the optimal time to clasp someone’s hand in a business handshake is 2 seconds. Anything shorter is a touch disrespectful, anything more is uncomfortable for the other person. Then there’s the angle of hand of the person leading the handshake. Palm down is a power play, palm up is subservient but also friendly.

As I said, it’s not only the handshake. It’s about eye contact, a ready smile, and physical engagement. I’ve seen people line up a handshake and actually be turned away for the moment of contact as they move onto the next person or thing. Not good.

When I shake someone’s hand, I extend my hand upright, with the arm at three-quarter length. A straight arm and they’re too far away, half arm makes them come into your personal space, another power play. My fingers are slightly splayed to stop someone gripping too soon and getting your fingers and none of your hand. I smile, face the person properly and apply a medium grip. If someone has a strong grip I increase my grip pressure; if a weaker grip I ease off on the grip. I don’t bother to adjust the angle of the power player’s or servile/friendly hand, as you’re advised to do. I simply go with it. Ladies and Gents, a medium grip is the minimum really. You don’t want to offer some a wet fish, and you don’t need a handshake like a docker’s vice to assert your personality.

Always good to say one’s name slowly to help the other person remember it. Telling them it’s good to meet them never hurts either.