Archives for category: Marketing
The Glastonbury Ghost

The Glastonbury Ghost

I’m a late convert to festivals. Music festivals, arts festivals, family-focused, eco-focused: there are now so many to choose from, from May to September every year, and no shortage of acts to perform at what are now for them highly lucrative sources of revenue.

I’ve probably been to about a dozen festivals, all but one in Ireland. For a number of years I’ve tried to get tickets to the Glastonbury festival, the Daddy of them all, for my good lady and her friend. I’m not that keen myself, I like the creature comforts at my festivals.

So for the last few years, having registered Mrs D’s details, and Mrs G’s too, I’ve got my notification email and stood ready at my laptop at a few minutes to 9am on the day of ticket release. That’s as far as I’ve ever got. A few minutes before 9 and you get the holding webpage. 8:59am onwards and the page hangs, then returns a time out error. You repeat this process for maybe a hundred times until you get to a holding pages about half an hour later that tells you tickets have sold out.

You see, I think Glastonbury tickets are now the preserve of IT people, people who know the back routes into booking servers, or how to pool resources into multiple simultaneous requests until someone gets through and orders the maximum amount for their cohort.

For the rest of us, the event is like a ghost. You’re met with platitudinous messages about being really sorry but supply has so far outstripped demand blah blah blah. It’s getting like the Wimbledon tennis lottery.

From a marketing point of view, this is the dream, because it’s all about scarcity. There’s not enough to go round, and the excess demand drives the price.

You see it on TV and you know it does happen. At least, you think it happens, you’ve never seen one.

Advertisements

I was having lunch with my mother the other day. We were catching up on plans. ‘Apart from mine in Ireland, are you going anywhere else for a break?’ ‘I’m going to see Irene, remember?’ ‘No, I mean abroad.’ ‘No, I can’t get reasonable travel insurance now I’m over 80, it’s too expensive.’

OK, so I understand the underlying business model behind insurance. Anyone elderly is at a higher risk of needing expensive healthcare services compared with someone younger, it’s simple statistics. Throw in a medical condition and the risk increases even more sharply.

That said, does it not appear to you to suck big time that you can’t get to a certain age, when you have time, freedom and money to travel, without having to pay as much as your holiday in travel insurance?

That seems to me to be a real poor reward for working a full career and wanting to enjoy it.

‘So what did you do for travel insurance last year when we all went to Spain then?’ ‘I think I just took the risk and went without insurance. I didn’t feel like I had the choice’

That’s coming from an ordinarily very risk-averse octogenarian. Something’s not right, but I’m not sure what the answer is.

I was visiting my mother the other day. She lives in a small town on the edge of Bristol in England, with a lovely high street of the usual shops and cafes you might expect to find.

At about 5pm on the Saturday I decided I would wander 5 or 10 minutes up to the high street to get a card and small gift. I know I was leaving it late, but I figured that they would close at 5:30 so I would be fine.

The shop I had my eye on closed at 5:15pm, according to the sign. What kind of shop closes at 5:15? It’s neither one thing nor the other. I reasoned that they probably said 5:15pm so they serve their straggling customers by 5:30 and close at the ‘normal’ time.

I tried the door. I was exactly 5:12pm on my phone. It was closed, and 2 prissy ladies were beavering away at the till. I knocked on the window. ‘Closed’, they signed. I pointed at my phone and their sign and walked off in disgust.

It drives me mad, that kind of thing. If you say you’re closing at 5:15, don’t close early. I went to my second choice shop, told them all about my experience – they closed at 5:30pm – spent my money there.

No wonder the high street is dying a slow death. Still focused on itself, and not us.

Who’s the most important stakeholder in any organisation? If you’re in the private sector is it your partners or your customers? If you’re in the public sector is it the people who use your services, like the general public, or is the local and national government entities? If you’re in the charity sector is it your funders, your donors, or your clients?

The answer for all three types of employer is the same: none of them.

You are the key stakeholder. You and your colleagues determine your organisation’s ethic, its culture, its brand. You are responsible for making people aware of your products and services, getting them to use them, delivering those products and services to them, sorting out problems for them.

Having the right staff in place, the good ones like you, will take care of your customers, clients, partners, suppliers, funders, donors, volunteers  Рall the other stakeholders that make up your industry or community.

When it comes to stakeholders – to adopt a well-known car-maker – you are job 1 .

It’s easy to get hung up on a go to market plan. Sometimes it can feel a bit daunting: all that research, data analysis and projections to do. Yes, a full go-to-market plan can be a big undertaking depending on the stakes, but the essence of a solid go-to-market plan is being able to answer 6 questions.

Who? Who are you selling to? Which customer segment? Which individual buyer types are you appealing to within your target customer?

Why? Why should they care? What can you do for them and why should they come to you rather than elsewhere?

What? What’s your offering? What’s the make-up of your product, service and accompanying services?

Where? Where will you reach them? Where do they go for their information? The web, via partners, consultants?

How? How will you reach them? Email, advertising, promotion, PR, events, calls, meetings?

When? What’s the timeframe for preparation, execution, review, adjustment?

You can probably see that this kind of 6-question framework doesn’t simply work for go-to-market projects. You can apply it to almost anything you need to do, in order to cover the key bases and get a quick-fire direction that you can build on.

 

When I look back on individual short-term events in my life, or over long-term things like career, health and so on, I find that I have allowed external factors to shape and evolve me. I have on occasion rolled with the punches, got caught up in the forward momentum and gone with the flow.

I’ve not been in control. I have allowed the focus of control to be external of me, rather than internal to me.

I think it’s important to level-set every so often and endeavour to take back control. Take back control in everything from individual decisions to relationships with other people or entities and to strategy for companies and organisations. Not at the expense of others, that’s not what I mean here. I mean to be active, positive, current, engaged and decisive.

Yes, an important part of assessing our strengths and weaknesses is also assessing the opportunities and threats that are outside our control. Yes, sometimes we have to play the hand we are dealt.

But, if that hand is not what we like, or has developing into something that we don’t like, do we have the option to walk away, and play another game? A game that gives us back control?

It’s about options, isn’t it? If it is, then it’s about taking back control, because without it our options are poorer and more limited.

Most people are either short on time and long on money, or they’re short on money and long on time.

If you’re the former, it’s because you’re busy and / or important, and while you have plenty of disposable income you don’t have much time to dispose of it.

If you’re the latter, you’ve bags of time on your hands but your lack of money limits what you can do with that time. Both scenarios seem to me to be deeply ironic yet are classic examples of what life is like in the real world of limited resources.

The holy grail is of course to be long on time and long on money. I’m reliably informed that this is known as a financially comfortable and healthy retirement, a concept that feels very distant and remote to me. Then there’s winning the lottery or a similar kind of windfall, which is the short cut, at a distance and remoteness that tends to zero probability. And yet we play it, eh!

Unfortunately, I seem to be spending a good bit of my time in the lower quartile, the bottom left box of your management consultant’s two-by-two matrix. Yes, that’s the short on time, short on money variety. Dashing around the place developing business, creating projects, getting things off the ground, doing good things, for no money.

Yes, I’m happy, and lucky, I know. But a bit more of both wouldn’t go amiss, I promise.

As I write this, daily and even hourly developments in the UK get filed under the ‘you couldn’t make it up’ column. As you read it, I expect the same situation is currently prevailing.

I heard an interesting story the other day, another symptom of the ‘every man for himself’ panic that sets in during similar times, affecting everyone from your neighbour up to national governments, causing us all to pull decisions, funding and the plug left, right and centre. If only we could be so decisive in our positive actions.

Anyway, this training company was offering programs on business growth. All very worthy in any environment, never mind today’s. Front and centre in the program was Brexit planning and mitigation.

Attendees were signed up, trainers were assigned, everything was ready to go. At the last minute, three companies pulled out, causing the program to be re-organised and two trainers to be let go. The reason they pulled out? Brexit! The irony that you’re pulling out because of concerns around the area that the program is focused on helping…

Remember recently when I mentioned organisations pulling marketing at the first cost-cutting sign of hard times ahead, when the one thing that can differentiate them in a challenging economy, and even grow at their competitors’ expense, is marketing? More of the same :-).

One of the fascinating characteristics of the universe is entropy, the notion that eventually everything gets messed up. Or, as the Americans might say, it all goes to sh*t.

This has never been truer when it comes to large political, financial and economic systems. They’re pretty easy to get into it, but after while you’re well and truly tangled up and they’re really hard to extricate yourself from. Perhaps that’s why there was no real plan for how a country comes out of the euro, or why the UK is finding it so hard to come out of Europe – whatever that means. Maybe the sages knew this all along and kept quiet.

Someone told me the other day that if there was another referendum on Brexit, ‘remain’ would win comfortably. Not because of the recent experiences, though. More because in the last 3 years many of the elderly who voted to leave have shuffled off their mortal coil. For them Brexit turn out to be a final parting gesture like when the Terminator disappears below the surface and gives us the thumbs up, except this time it’s the middle finger.

That is the true Brexit irony. We’re over 3 years further on, and how far have we got? Governments are composed of people, and as people we have a tendency to leave that washing up, that job, that year-defining dissertation til much later. Let’s take a break first, rather than immediately planning for the finishing tape and getting a sense of what we need to do right now to hit the deadline.

Now, with the deadline looming ever closer, and almost no progress made, we’ll be hoping for another instance where productivity accelerates hugely before the due time and we get it out the door, something, anything, just get it out.

Or maybe we’ll ask for more time, again. And if we don’t get it, and the deadline passes, will it be like Y2K, or WW2?

In the preceding post I wrote about the bites Brexit is already taking out of our daily lives at work and play. It’s really hard to fathom what the economics of it are going to be. Bad is the universal opinion, but how bad and in what areas?

The trouble with economic models is that they are not very good at predicting the future. They’re great for explaining and rationalising the past, but that’s not much good when you’re staring down the barrel of the single most important macro event of the last half century. The last economic downturn took some of us a decade to recover from. This one looks like being at least a generation, and not just economically. For the last few years we’ve been in a period of serious isms – isolationism, protectionism, lookafterourselvesism…and this is the background against which Brexit is going to play

The central banks’ methods of, for example, keeping down interest rates to stimulate the economy while at the same time making it more difficult for us to plan for a financially secure retirement, may well not work in 2020 and beyond. They might have the opposite effect. We simply don’t know.

Business uncertainty makes businesses worry and stop spending on the only thing that’s likely to bring them growth, namely marketing. Why is it that the practice of positively influencing the exchange of outcomes between you and your customers the first thing you stop doing when the going gets tough?

Personal uncertainty makes us stop spending money and consuming as much as we were, which of course impacts businesses. It’s the downturn death spiral.

Who knows, perhaps any impending hardship will actually force us to properly embrace the environmental tenets of reduce, reuse, recycle, like our parents and grandparents had to do in wartime eras? Perhaps this kind of economic downturn and conservative/conserving/conservationist behaviour is just what the planet was hoping for. It might re-engender some genuine altruism and community spirit, and turn us from a diet of me-ism to we-ism.