Archives for category: Communication

If you’re reading this post on the day of its publication, I’ve been blogging for exactly six years, to the day. If you subscribe and you’re reading this post at the moment of publication, then I’m asleep, or at least blurry-eyed and limp-tailed at the end of a rather tiring music festival in central Ireland.

Six blogging years. Six bloody years you’re probably thinking, or six blasted years if you’re slightly more polite. Six years ago today I published my first post. 941 blog posts later and here is post number 942. A moment ago I cast my eye over previous blogging milestones and I’ve been rather tearing the seat out of this theme. My ‘sixth blogging year’, ‘my seventh blogging year’ – from a calendar point of view, four years blogging, and so on. I’ve been milking every anniversary and many ’round number’ posts since I started this 3-times-a-week blog.

I promise there won’t be any fanfare for blog post 950, since that’s barely a fortnight away and not really an important enough round number. It is, however, perilously close – 58 posts or less than 20 weeks – to a rather large monument, which is 1,000 posts.

At previous milestones I’ve introduced the idea, more to myself as I think out loud, that I might quit at 1,000. I think as the closer I get there, the more likely that is. Maybe that’s a symptom of me running out of things to say, though since the tagline of this blog is ‘Musings on stuff I come into contact with’, that seems an unlikely reason, unless I lose 3 or more of my senses. Maybe I’ll get to 1,000 and, rather like Forrest Gump running across America for the umpteenth time, stop.

Anyway, I hope you’ve been able to take something from the musings of the last six blogging years. Happy Monday!

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Culture, practice and customs seem to highly sway the concept of punctuality. In some cultures it’s considered bad form to be late; in others, it’s considered the norm.

Context is another aspect to punctuality. There’s no point turning up fashionably late for a train, a flight or a show, but in many cultures it’s advised for things like parties. Perhaps that’s why the rather helpful ‘7:30 for 8’ invitation works so well. Don’t turn up any earlier than 7:30, but the important thing starts at 8 so come and have a chat or nibbles and don’t be later than 8. A 30-window is enough for the top 90% of organised people.

Which got me thinking: speaking for my culture, punctuality is one thing, but being early is often as inconvenient to your host or the person you’re picking up as it is being late. If someone says they’ll pick you up in 40 minutes, which gives you enough time to pack, shower and get ready, and then they turn up 20 minutes later, when you’re in the shower, you get a rushed and stressed start to your day.

There always has to be the first people to arrive at a party, but have you ever got the time wrong and arrived early? Misread or misremembered an 8 til late as a 7 til late? It’s a major pain, for you and your host.

Same rules apply in business and work, methinks…

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.

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.