Archives for category: Marketing

New Year’s resolutions are old hat, apparently. The new new year thing is New Year’s aspirations.

I suppose the logic is that we resolve to do something and then it falls flat – maybe it’s too lofty a goal, or we can’t sustain it – whereas an aspiration is something more realistic, something we can ease up to, to give ourselves time, to make a gradual behaviour change rather than go cold turkey.

I don’t really start my New Year’s stuff until a few days after the first of January, usually my first working day of January, which is today in fact. There’s too much of a social hangover from the holidays for you to stop dead in your tracks and change direction. You know what they say: stop smoking gradually, the way you started. Also, I tend to be away for New Year’s and then you end up getting home a couple days after the start of the month, and it’s hard to effect real change when you’re travelling.

I like the idea of New Year’s aspirations, though. It fits in with the science of effecting true behavioural change. You prep for change, you change, and then you enforce the change repeatedly until it’s the new normal.

I wish – or aspire for you – a great new normal.

It’s tough being a kid, especially a teenage one. It’s the one decade where you change out of all recognition. So much to learn, so much to get your head around.

It’s no wonder that kids seem to be all over the place sometimes, their poor brains scrambled as they rewire at an alarming rate through adolescence.

I know my kids often struggled with remembering to bring stuff with them, or to bring stuff back, or to give me things from school. So much going on, and so much to remember.

It’s unfair to expect them to remember everything, so you have to take memory out of it. You have to make it systematic: an automatic, engrained behaviour for a situation.

Give them a system, or a process, that they can follow until it’s almost instinctive. After all, that’s what you did when you taught them how to go to the toilet, hold their knife and fork, or tie their laces.

In point of fact, this advice works in work as well as play, for cutting down the errors, the miscommunications and the inconsistencies. A culture of system or process services us all brilliantly well. And then, on those occasions when we cut loose and get spontaneous, it’s so much more refreshing and enjoyable.

 

Hello and Happy New Year! I wish you a simply stellar 2020. I wonder if they had as much fun with the year 1010 as we will have this year.

This very day, the 1st of January, reminds me of an example as to why marketing is always leveraging the nuances of language in its work.

Here’s my example. This is the eighth year that I’ve blogged. Sounds a lot, doesn’t it? Eight years! Except it isn’t really. It’s not that I’ve been blogging for eight years. It’s not even that I’m into my eighth year of blogging. Let me explain.

I started blogging in 2013. Fairly late in 2013, September in fact, but September nonetheless. Counting up the years – 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 – this is indeed the eighth year that I’ve blogged. At least one post in each of those years, and if you exclude 2013 and 2020 I’ve blogged 156 times in each of them.

In reality the elapsed time is exactly six and a third years, or six and one third as our US friends would say, but eight years, or the eighth year, sounds much more impressive.

Trading on these nuances is what helps us marketers stretch our claims to our advantage, but not to breaking point.

It would take some going to get into my eighth year of blogging, and what seems like an eternity to have been doing it for eight whole years. Not gonna happen, don’t think.

 

The phrase ‘to judge a book by it cover’ is a common one, and I’ve blogged before about how we should judge products by how good the accessories are, since they’re an intrinsic part of the product itself and the overall product experience.

I’m a firm believer in that you can judge a lot about a public place from the standard and cleanliness of its toilets. This is especially true of restaurants. If the toilets are not clean, what does that lead us to conclude about the restaurants’ approach to hygiene and about the kitchen in particular? Toilets are part of the product, the brand, the whole experience.

You can say exactly the same about pubs. I was out on a mini pub crawl the other evening. It was out in the country; we’re talking the deepest, darkest, quietest, most rural parts of east county Galway. Almost literally, the middle of nowhere. Some pubs you’d walk into, everyone would turn and look at you, and the decor was basic at best, very rough and ready.

The one pub that sticks in my mind? The one with the nice decor, the pleasant ambience, and, I have to say, the nicest toilets I have ever seen for a pub. Super clean, well appointed and with a recently applied expensive-looking tiling.

The pub that sticks in my mind is the one I will visit again. It got the whole product experience right, possibly without consciously trying to do, but by making an effort.

 

The media’s obsession with bad news, or sensational news, means that it’s really hard to maintain a positive outlook and a sense of balance. This is because someone else is deciding which bits of the millions of bits happening in the world are worthy of making it through the funnel into the wider world.

Unfortunately, bad news, at least someone else’s bad news, sells rather well. Natural disasters, accidents, terrorism, politics; there’s not much uplifting in that lot.

My good lady sent me this great feature the other day, which I feel we all need. It’s from Bored Panda and the title says it all: I’m Honestly Fed Up With All The Bad News, So I Illustrated 50 Of The Best Ones From 2019.

The illustrations are in a style I love and each good news story is a great one that should go viral. It’s a serious antidote to all the FUD that threatens to cloud our view of the world. I’m not sure why good news is unfashionable, but it has been so for a while.

It’s really hard to pick a favourite, both in terms of illustration and news story; they’re all superb.

 

Deck or doc, which are you? Slide deck or word document?

How do you prefer to get your information? Sometimes it depends on the type of information you’re getting. I’m a fairly visual person, and I like to be able to short-cut the information acquisition process and zero in on what I want. This is hard to do with a doc(ument), unless it’s well laid out and sign-posted. If I’m clicking on a web page link to learn more, I prefer a web page to a 2-minute or 3-minute video. I can scan the headings of a web page in a few seconds, rather than sit through something for a few minutes, or jump ahead and risk missing the nuggets.

I’m therefore a deck guy. By this I mean a slide deck. I find this kind of ironic since I’m better myself at creating words than pictures. I generally delegate the pictures to someone who’s good at pictures.

Some people are doc people. They prefer to absorb the information in a word-processed document to a slide or picture presenting document. They like the detail. They want to pour over it, or at least have the option to at a later stage if they need to.

Ask yourself this: when was the last time you said to your customer or your audience, ‘how would you like this information, by deck or doc?’ Even though some types of information are better presented in one format over another, your customer’s or audience’s preferences are important.

I was recommended to listen to a podcast the other day by a customer’s CEO. It was from the series Anatomy of a Strategy. The link to the podcast, which is well worth listening to if your business is content, is here.

In the podcast, Alex Hillman draws the difference between thinking of a blog post as ‘just a blog post’, a piece of ‘throwaway’ content, and viewing it as small product, in fact a ‘tiny free product that delivers value’. From here you can then deliver content which works up to your own paid product which delivers even more value.

This is, of course, correct and I agree with it. It treats a single piece of content as part of a process, or a strategy to build your customers.

It did, however, get me thinking about my own blog posting, since I’ve done several hundred of them at this stage. I seem to be not practising what I preach. My posts are often throwaway and often do not lead to a more engaged conversation on the topic or on what I do for a living.

Then again, you have to think about the end goal for me. I get most of my business from my network and profile within that network, but blogging is not about building my business. It’s about the joy and discipline of writing. And at its root it’s also about process.

So, while I agree that each blog post is indeed a product of Paul Dilger inc, a mini-destination if you like, it’s also a small journey for me.

 

 

For what seems like an age my good lady and I have been considering switching banks. They’re such a traditional, archaic industry that, naturally, switching from one bank to another is not remotely straightforward.

It really should be the responsibility of the incoming bank to do all the work. Instead, companies cover themselves so if something goes wrong they fall back on the small print which blames the customer.

We recently changed from Ulster Bank to KBC Bank. A few forms, quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and a whole bunch of standing orders and direct debits that needed to move from one provider to the next. I was sceptical that it would work seamlessly. After all, there’s a bunch of stuff that can go wrong.

Lo and behold, the payment on our car failed to go through and we get a letter from the car finance company to say that we owe them money, probably to the detriment of my credit rating. A quick call to our new bank and they refer to us to a small section of the document that indicated we should have, in addition to passing through the bureaucratic eye of the needle, also called all of the companies with whom we have a direct debit or standing order and tell them. In other words, use manual methods in case the human-driven automated process falls over. We had a lot of these arrangements in place. My view was, I’m the customer, why should I? It’s not my responsibility. I’m not the one getting all the business.

Anyway, I got a rather large shock from my old bank during the week. It was a letter detailing the charges they’d levied in the last 12 months. €214.34. No, that’s not a typo. It was the main reason why we changed, apart from the fact that all banks are generally a degree of rubbish. It’s a case of trying to establish which one is less rubbish than the others. What a terribly and depressingly low bar.

I was in a meeting a good few years ago. It could have been any meeting over the last 5 decades, or any meeting you’ve had. It was fairly typical. Some progress, but also frustrations and miscommunications.

People were not listening to each other, they weren’t answering the question that had just been made. They wanted to make their own point. As a consequence, there were some frustrations, raised voices at times, and frayed tempers. One particular person was asked what they made of the meeting, while we were still in session.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’ve heard a lot of heat, but not much light.’

And that is the essence of a good meeting, isn’t it? You want the light, you don’t want the heat. One of them illuminates, the other makes you hot and bothered. One of them makes a meeting worthwhile and a good use of the considerable resources in the room, and the other doesn’t.

Since then, I’ve tried whenever I can in meetings to provide light and not heat. After all, it’s all about productivity, forward momentum, direction, speed and group harmony. Light helps with all of those, whereas heat almost never helps with any of them.

 

Everyone’s been all in a tizzy over the customer experience the last few years, with bags of content being produced and companies popping up all over the place with offerings to help companies focus on their customers’ buying process and the end-to-end journey.

This is all great, but what’s not really talked about much is the employee experience. You see, a company’s most important stakeholder is usually not their customer. It’s their staff. If you have good staff they’ll take good care of your customers.

From this, it follows that getting the customer experience right is actually secondary to getting the employee experience right. How many times have you worked in companies – or been a customer of companies – where the staff don’t know what’s going on, they’re not brought along on projects and processes or the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing when it comes to news, launches and the like? This is a top-down thing, and to get the employee experience and internal communications right senior people need to follow a similar process as they should do for marketing to their customers.

Here’s a link to a really good whitepaper from Hubspot on how internal communications can be the secret weapon within the marketing function.