Archives for category: Customers

I’m a fan of LinkedIn. It’s a great networking platform, and really good for staying in touch with people as they move around the place. Also, people tell me the Navigator premium enhancement is worth it for prospecting. Furthermore, I’ve found the LinkedIn Adwords more expensive than Google Adwords but better quality in terms of leads that go somewhere.

I tend to connect with people I either know or have worked with, at least on some level. I generally don’t connect with someone who I’ve never heard of, although I must confess that very occasionally I might try and reach out to someone influential that I don’t know, which I admit is hypocritical.

Then there’s the LinkedIn news feed. That’s another story. It’s hard to see the value of that. The majority of the news feed items are of the Facebook-type, Look-at-me! variety. Most posts come under the heading of:

  • Here I am at this event
  • Here’s a presenter from an event I’m associated directly with
  • Aren’t we great? We just got shortlisted/awarded/commended for this thing
  • Come to my event
  • And so on

There’s very little helpful content along the lines of here’s how to do something, here’s the inside track on something, here’s an introduction to something, here’s a resource you might find useful.

Good marketing is about putting out content that’s useful to the people you’re trying to reach, via a place that you know they hang out in. The direction is pulling interested people to you, not blasting out stuff to people who aren’t interested.

The majority take the me, me, me approach, or the us, us, us approach, when they should be talking you, you, you.

 

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I travel on Irish trains a lot. You might too. In fact you might be reading this on the train. Central Dublin, for example, is far easier to reach by train and LUAS than by car, and you can work on the train, obviously, or ‘obvs’ as the young people of the world write in their SMS messages. I always book my train ticket online in advance, unless I’m heading somewhere local like Galway and I’ve left it too late.

The booking system is very straightforward, and they always offer you a choice of manual or automatic seat selection, as well as whether you want your name or your booking number above your seat. 19 times out of 20 I will choose automatic seat selection, opt for the booking number display – some kind of English, under-the-radar thing no doubt – and sit where I like.

On this occasion, I manually picked my seat – A26, a rather pleasing rear-facing aisle seat in the lead coach – and also opted to have my name up there. Why not, I reasoned.

The following morning the train duly arrived, and I hopped onto the lead coach to locate my seat. I couldn’t see my reservation for A26. There was no name up there, and none for the chap sat close by me who was travelling by train for the first time in ages.

I sat somewhere else, like I normally do; the train wasn’t busy. 30 minutes into my journey, I realised that the train was back to front. I was in coach E, not coach A. The lead coach, the one that arrives closest to the station exit, is normally coach A. Not on this occasion. It’s also not that easy to know which coach you’re on. You have to get on and wait for the coach ticker tape to tell you, by which time on a normal busy service all the good seats are gone.

Later that day, on the return journey home, I made a point of going to the exact seat I had booked, on the correct coach. They were no bookings at all showing on the train.

Both journeys kind of defeat the purpose of booking, I thought. I might go back to my 19 times out of 20 thing.

A good while ago I wrote about how strategy and execution are joined at the hip, but that one tends to attract a higher consulting rate than the other. It’s hard to have one without the other. If you have little or no strategy and you execute like mad, you will have some success, but not as much as you might have hoped. If you don’t execute on a good strategy, you don’t really have anything.

I was reminded of this in a recent post by Tom Tunguz on the importance of execution. He referred to an HBR article from over three decades ago about ‘hustle’ – or the concept of getting it done – as the strategy. The central premise was – and still is – that it’s really hard to get competitive advantage, let alone sustain it, so you’re better off executing your plan better than everyone else.

I think a lot of people who work in areas where it’s hard to genuinely differentiate will identify with this approach. You still need to plan well, hire well and measure well, however.

Execution is what separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the growing companies from the struggling companies. It’s about following through, staying the course and closing the loop. You need to just do it, repeatedly.

Are you a taker or a maker? There are those of us who make stuff, and those of us who take stuff.

You can look at this at two levels. At the first level it’s simple commerce, the transaction between buyer and seller. A manufacturer makes something and the customer or consumer takes it, for an agreed price. It’s a fair exchange, in most cases, otherwise it often ends up being the last exchange between those two parties.

In the wider sense there are those that make something. They create something, they offer it up. It might be their time in the form of volunteering. It might be a form of social enterprise to benefit the community. They might invent something that they give away. Then there are those that take that something. They use it, consume it. Sometimes they thank the maker, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they don’t pay it back, in other words make something for somebody else to take and give back. They leave a debt to the community, they’re in debit. The makers create something for the community, they’re in credit. Sometimes the makers object to this and stop making. Sometimes they don’t and carry on making.

So the question remains: are you a taker or a maker?

 

Digital marketing is one of those terms that has tended to confuse people over the last few years. It’s become very high profile of late, to the point where people believe that digital marketing is all of marketing, and all there is to do in marketing. That’s not the case though.

Sure, it’s an important part of the marketing mix, but to focus on it simply because all people seem to talk about these days is social media or mobile is short-sighted.

Digital marketing is really about electronic marketing, a form of marketing that is received through an electronic device, hence the term ‘digital’. More often than not this means online marketing, using the Internet as the medium, as in on-the-Internet marketing.

Under this banner we can put types of marketing like social media marketing, search engine optimisation marketing and pay-per-click marketing – like good Adwords – to name a few. Email marketing, a good bit older than my three examples, comes under this heading too, since we’re talking about the device through which you deliver and consume the marketing.

There are other forms of marketing that are digital but not necessarily online. These might be electronic billboards, on-screen demos and good old-fashioned telly. For more examples of digital marketing and a good definition of it, go here.

Digital marketing gets the headlines and its fair share of budget but it’s just one part of the marketing pie, alongside traditional marketing and hybrid forms of the P that is promotion. You’ve got events, non-electronic advertising, direct mail, public relations among others, and we haven’t even got to the other three P’s of the 4-legged P stool – which sounds a bit unappealing – namely product, price and place.

A couple of blog posts ago – an English couple, not an Irish couple – I closed what I felt was an important post with these two words – just deserts. That’s deserts with the stress on the second syllable, not the first, which is obviously something else completely.

It’s a tricky one though, isn’t it? Desserts – as in puddings – is pronounced the same way as the non-arid version of deserts. So which one is the right one to use for this particularly arcane phrase?

It’s deserts, of course, with one ‘s’, as it derives from the same family of words as ‘deserve’. Deserts are what you deserve. So are desserts as well, if you’ve a sweet tooth like me, but now I’m digressing.

The only time I suppose you could justifiably write Just Desserts would be if all your business produced or served were puddings.

Probably enough said on this, unless you want to go here for slightly more…

This is not an April Fools’ post. This is a serious post.

What are we doing anything for? Ultimately, it’s to be loved, right? To be loved trumps everything. Not as a destination – I’m doing it so people will love me – but as a journey – I’m doing this because I am loved.

To be loved, properly loved, and to know you are loved, by your family, your friends, your fans, your customers, your partners, or your suppliers, is as good as it gets.

When someone loves you, they haven’t necessarily given you money, or even their time. They’ve given you their everything. They’ve made a total sacrifice to you, a total commitment. They are emotionally invested in you, and this transcends the financial, physical or material aspects of things. They’re being as generous as it is within their power to be. They are saying, “you are so worth it.”

To be loved is the ultimate status. To be loved is to be able to put everything else in perspective. It is true luxury.

The opposite, not to be loved? Well, for a human being, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

We all go through lean periods. From a sales perspective, a winning perspective, business, pleasure, whatever. You have to have downs for there to be ups, so you can appreciate the ups.

Sometimes, when you’re in that trough, or on that plateau, it’s hard to see your way out or over, respectively. The one thing that keeps me going, however, is this.

Stuff comes through for you. It always does. If you keep working, making the effort, doing the right things, eventually stuff drops your way. It works out for you.

As Gary Player is thought to have said: “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” Luck is one thing, but working hard, working well, and working with your eyes wide open reaps its rewards.

It’s no more, and no less, than you deserve. Your just deserts.

 

 

I was back in the UK recently, where the mood was somewhat Brexit-fixated, as could be understood for the single greatest economic event in our lifetimes. There is a feeling of uncomfortable change and uncertainty.

Unfortunately, I was accompanying my mother to a funeral. It was a slightly convoluted travel arrangement, as the funeral was 2 hours away. My brother would drive us up there to attend with us, before heading somewhere else for work. We would take the train back. Mum wanted to avoid the Friday afternoon motorway traffic. So, it was two singles from Stafford to Bristol, about a 2-hour journey on the Crosscountry Trains service.

Mum insisted on paying for my ticket, a ludicrously expensive £60 for a single off-peak journey. The train was 10 minutes late picking us up. There were no seats available, the train was only 4 carriages long, an intercity train service running at 6pm on a Friday, what I would call peak travel time. I managed to find one seat for Mum and stood in the aisle. Two minutes later the food trolley wanted to come through – well, not the food trolley, a chirpy soul directing the food trolley. I had to walk the length of the carriage to let him past, and then come back again. I offered to lie on the luggage rack instead, but he said that would be too dangerous.

After 20 minutes, some seats freed up, so we were able to sit together for the rest of the journey. The train arrived, twenty minutes late. I’ve written before about how the UK rail system is so complex that it seems impossible to keep the trains on time, yet the Germans and Japanese manage it. Nobody seemed all that bothered by the crushed train and its lack of punctuality. Par for the course, they would probably say.

It has been a while since I took the train. No feeling of change and uncertainty there. Same as it ever was.

I’ve spent the last 14 months or so working in the food sector. Not exclusively, but a few days a month, enough for it to form a sizeable chunk of my workload and recent experiences.

So here’s what I’ve learned about food. Not food itself – after all I’ve been a consumer of it for the wrong side of half a century – but the food business. I’ve listed 6 things I think are important, at least for new or small players in the industry. The FMCG business is a whole different ball of wax, I imagine

  1. Location, location, location. Not where your store is, we all know that one, but where in the store your product resides. The easier it is to spot or find, the more you’ll sell. You need to bolster a poor location with something eye-catching if possible
  2. Taste. Taste is the number 1 driver for consumers. If the food doesn’t taste good, it’s really hard to shift. Even superfoods struggle to move if they taste less than appealing
  3. COGS. Control over your Cost of Goods Sold – or COGS  for short – gives you options. The lower your COGS, the greater your gross margin. If you can’t lower your COGS any further, your back’s against the wall
  4. Distribution. Distribution is key. You need to get your product onto shelves, but then you’ve got to get it off the shelves and into shopping bags. A good distribution partner is a key element of this, and the key to scaling. A bad one will just wait for the orders to come in, leaving you to work hard with the retailer while all the time giving your wholesaler margin that haven’t really earned. The more the players in the distribution chain, the more margin you have to give away, which feeds into point 3
  5. Badges. You need the badges for premium products. The organic, sustainable and vegan check marks and accolades are important credibility nudges, and prestigious awards help a lot too
  6. Graft. It’s a lot of graft building and sustaining a product line. Almost everyone, especially lean model companies, has to do the graft and sell it themselves to start