Archives for category: Communication

The Irish have a great word: passremarkable. It’s used to describe someone who is wont to pass remarks, usually of a personal nature, about someone or something.

You could say it means being judgemental, but that’s not quite right. It’s having no filter – or choosing to ignore the filter – between thought and speech. You usually associate it with, and I’m generalising considerably here, younger people and older people.

I always avoid being judgemental if I can. And especially being passremarkable. Better to give a feeling or opinion some thought and phrase your comment constructively than blurt out something that will probably offend. What are you hoping to accomplish?

And this, of course, applies in business as well as our personal interactions.

 

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I was renewing my driving license the other day, which necessitates a personal visit to the driving license centre to bring paperwork and get one’s photo done.

The chap that served me was a trainee, but he wasn’t a young chap, bright-eyed or bushy-tailed. He handed me back my old driving license, telling me I ‘could keep it for prosperity’. I mention his middle age because he must have heard that phrase, or something similar, a good number of times in his life. He wasn’t recycling it having heard it for the first time.

I let it go, after all, he meant ‘posterity’, didn’t he? I guess you could argue he meant prosperity, but maybe he either thought the phrase was prosperity or that it should be. One could claim that the old license could indeed influence my prosperity, but I’m not buying it, though I did buy the license, for a darn higher amount than I was expecting.

This is a malapropism I think, if it was for the former reason, where you mistake a word for another word, sometimes with humorous consequences.

He then took the old license back again to make a copy, but forgetting to return it to me. When I reminded him that he said I could keep it, he apologised, took it out of the copier and said, ‘yes, sorry, I said you could keep this for prosperity.’

He must have meant it then…

A few years ago in Ireland the banks made a concerted effort to discontinue the cheque book, that tried and trusted method of paying for something. I’m sure there’s a serious cost attached to producing and sending out cheque books. And for us as cheque writers, we need to allow a certain time for the snail mail to deliver our cheque, and for the cheque to be cashed, cleared and deposited in the account of the person or business named on the cheque.

I don’t know why the move to remove cheques failed. Perhaps it was because we’re not all digital or electronic, or we prefer not to be, through distrust or tradition. It could be that the first effort to eradicate their use was a dry run to soften us up for a serious retry in a few years time.

I pay for the vast majority of my debts electronically. There is, however, a certain pleasure I get from writing and signing cheques. It’s part traditional, part physical, and part control.

Signing cheques is a link back to the way banking has been done for a long time. I write so little these days that I take a perverse pleasure in completing a cheque. I also feel in control of the process. I usually fill in the date first, then the payee, then the amount, before applying a flourish of a signature. I might also scribble a reference on the back of the cheque too.

Signing cheques is still symbolic to me, symbolising solidity, reality and authority.

Today is the 4th of July. Or as our Americans friends say, July 4th. Happy July 4th, Happy Independence Day to Americans one and all.

Some celebration dates are easy dates, July 4th being an apposite example. Another is Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, which I gather is a big deal in Mexico. May the 4th, Star Wars Day, is yet another, a brilliant adoption and adaptation of the key line in the trilogy – actually it’s about an octology at this stage – namely May the Force Be With You.

Who remembers when St George’s Day, the patron saint of England, occurs, glossing over the fact that he was born in Italy, even among many English people? It’s not an easy date to remember, because the date isn’t in the name of the day. You can make a counter argument for Christmas Day, but that one’s got a good bit more global prominence and focus.

From a marketing perspective, the memorable – and rememberable – you make the day, the easy it is to market.

St George’s Day is the 23rd of April by the way. Just looked it up.

Texture, I’ve concluded – and not before time I hear most of you say – is incredibly important to how we perceive things. While sales and marketing can do much to get us to the stage where we purchase a product, or evaluate it if it’s a large or involved purchase, it’s only when we sample the product first hand, in the flesh, that the final piece of the opinion we form about something seems to slot into place, or else becomes a jagged peg in a round hole.

Texture seems to be very closely linked to the senses of touch and taste. It directly feeds into them. It’s hard to taste something or feel something without being acutely aware of its texture.

I think this is why I have an issue with peanut and peanut butter. I love peanuts, their flavour and crunchiness. I cannot stand peanut butter. I can’t finish even one slice of bread with it. It feels wrong as a paste, even those versions that have bits in them. For me it’s totally the wrong texture.

We were on holiday in the US about a decade ago with American friends, and on a day-trip one of the guys kindly made sandwiches for us all. They were PBJ, peanut butter and jelly – or jam as we say in Europe – the staple of American living. I’m perfectly fine with jam in a sandwich. Jam is supposed to be a paste. Mix it with peanut better, and to me it’s simply wrong. It was all I could do to politely eat a couple of them without the contents reversing direction.

Take avodado and guacamole, on the other hand. I love them both. They feel right in both forms.

But peanut better? Yes, it must be the texture.

Well that’s the 750 up, as we would say in cricketing circles. We wouldn’t say it all that often, as amassing 750 runs in a single innings is a pretty rare occurrence. Well before then, the other team would have got us all out or we’d have declared, which is the cricketing version of ‘we’ve had a good go, let’s see what you can do.’

I guess 750 blog posts is a pretty rare occurrence too. At 3 times a week it’s 250 weeks’ worth of blogging, which is 10 weeks – or 30 posts – short of half a decade of committing thoughts to virtual paper. Put that way, it sounds a lot.

I’m not sure if that puts me in the top 10% of prolific bloggers – and a quick check on google leads me to conclude that it’s not that easy to find out – but it’s a decent quantity. As to the quality, well that’s for others to decide.

When to stop though? All good things must come to an end and I’ve always said that I’ll stop when the fun stops, to borrow a gambling compliance term.

Going completely against that sentiment for a moment, though, 1,000 posts seems like a good number to finish on. I might have run out of things to say by then. There’s also the added bonus of it not being easily divisible by the 3-posts-a-week cadence. We’ll see.

 

Extreme retargeting

As someone who’s spent a lot of time in marketing, including digital marketing, I’m used to retargeting campaigns. Websites I’ve visited, having dropped cookies on my device, drop ads into other websites I visit via the display advertising and remarketing platforms.

If I’ve parted with my email address and I don’t complete the shopping or quotation process, I’m also used to the companies emailing me with a link to where I left off and enticing me to get to the finish line.

My free webmail account has recently starting dropping ads into my inbox, made to look like emails, but they’re ads all the same.

This one’s a new one to me though. I was recently researching campsites in France and to my knowledge did not part with my email address. Lo and behold, I get an ad from the campsite company in my webmail inbox, looking like an email, but advertising the exact same campsite I was on last, which I found a bit freaky. It’s extreme retargeting.

I’ve no idea how they’re doing this, but I think it’s rather cool. I may even book the site now I’ve been reminded. Others may find it a little too intrusive, until it too becomes the norm.

By some estimates there are about 2 million books published per year in the world. That’s an awful lot of books. By other estimates it also constitutes a very small percentage of the total number of books written. The publishing bottleneck is such that demand will only ever support the supply of a far smaller proportion of books than the total written.

For every 1,000 books written, perhaps 25 get taken on by a publisher, and perhaps 5 of those get published, and perhaps 1 of those becomes a best-seller. These are the kinds of odds you’re up against as a potential writer of published work. The kinds of odds I’m up against.

Of these 2 million books, maybe half a million are self-published. The writer has written the book, then used a self-publishing platform to typeset, lay out, proof read and publish the work herself or himself, so that the book can be available in both electronic and print-on-demand formats.

Unfortunately, by bypassing the traditional publishing industry, the self-publishing writers also have to market and promote the book themselves, and that’s the rub. Promoting takes time, more work and money. After all the effort of self-publishing, for the vast majority of self-publishers the numbers of books sold – and the consequent revenues accruing – are tiny.

So the publishing bottleneck, and the publishing conundrum, continues for every budding author.

 

I’ve phoned into lots of sectors over the last couple of decades, doing everything from cold calls to research calls and loss or win analysis calls.

It’s always tough to get hold of people and I’ve found that generally it takes 4 or 5 calls to get through to the person you need. With cold calling, even after an email to tee them up it can be a poorer still average.

I’ve recently spent a few days calling into hotels and restaurants, asking to speak to the head chefs. The media often portrays chefs in TVs and films as moody, broody, harassed individuals who radiate the same kind of angst to their staff.

Not in my opinion, at least from the sample size of the few dozen I’ve been speaking to.

Chefs are nice! In my experience they are polite, happy to take calls, willing to listen, and open to new ideas. Maybe in the social media era they’re more careful to project a polite image to everyone, to avoid the risk of being rubbished or trolled, to the cost of their restaurant. I don’t know, but even when I phoned during meal preparation times, when I could hear the buzz of the kitchen behind them, they took my call.

I can only recall one conversation where the chef sounded harassed and up to his eyes, and he asked me to call back. He wasn’t rude, and he could have been. I think I would have been.

So there you have it. Chefs are nice in my opinion, a welcome break from many other sectors.

The passive should be discouraged…

Ah, the passive voice, our default way of writing. Why do we always fall back on the passive? ‘Dogs should be left on a leash,’ ‘mixing is to be encouraged,’ and so on. Notices and documentation seem to be drawn to the passive like moths to the flame.

The passive is impersonal, overly authoritative and stuffy. Which means, from a business point of view, it prevents sales rather than promotes sales. It’s not friendly or engaging.

The active voice is more involving, inviting, influential. That’s why marketers and sales people use it. It encourages action, which is why it’s called the active voice.

In the example above, better to say:

Mind your kids and the shrubbery will mind itself