Archives for category: Planning

Every month or so over the summer I declare a war on weeds at the front of our house. We have what you might call a low maintenance front area, with a lot of it paved for a car and the border is a mixture of pebbles over weed-block tarpaulin and plant areas.

The thing with weeding is that it’s a bit like sales and marketing. It’s all or nothing. You either do it properly or you don’t bother. You can do a half-cocked job and they’re back 2 weeks later. I thought they were growing up through two layers of tarpaulin, but, following a root and branch – see what I did there? – analysis of the blighters they appear to be growing between the pebbles and then pushing down through the weed-block with their sturdy little roots. They’re all over the edges of the borders, or perhaps I should say the borders of the borders, sneaking in between the concrete and the weed-block edge, and helped by the zealous over-watering of the overhead balcony plants by Mrs D. Getting at the roots is tricky.

I can almost see the weeds looking up at me when I turn up with my trowel and my brown bin, and saying. “Here he is again. We’re not going to go through this charade again, are we? You realise you’re just giving us a haircut, right? Give us a couple of days and we’re going to be looking even better.”

So I’m turning up the heat on my war on weeds. No more Mr Nice Guy. No more vinegar mix and organicy stuff that cosies up to the weeds. I’ve bought the real deal, armageddon in a bottle and spray. This stuff will kill everything in its path, only stopping and evaporating at the earth’s core.

I just need to wait for a dry spell, in the west of Ireland renowned for its lakes, rivers and soft days…

 

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One of the things I find really useful in work and life, both in terms of getting things done and getting them done well, is this: set the bar high.

From the smallest of tasks to the biggest of dreams, setting the bar high has two chief benefits.

First, if you reach the bar you’re delighted with yourself. You did better than you thought you would. If you don’t quite reach the bar, your slight underachievement against such a lofty target is probably better than you were expecting. Stretching yourself and pushing yourself to go really high means that you’ll give it your all. Setting an easily achievable bar leads to complacency and a sub-optimal improvement curve.

Second, setting the bar high and pushing yourself feels great when you’re finished. It means you’ll be more satisfied more of the time. Challenging yourself leads to more success and more rewards, gets you through down periods or slow periods, and all that becomes a virtuous circle.

It’s not a question of being glass half empty or glass half full. Want to do well and stay happy? Set a bar, and set the bar high in everything you do.

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.

Flies looking at the sky the wrong way

It’s the beginning of the second half of the year, a chance to review how the first half went and figure out where we want to be by the end of the second half. A chance to step back for a moment, take stock and ask ourselves if we’re looking at things the right way.

There are lots of business books, concepts and parables to help us do this. One that comes to mind regularly is the parable of the boiled frog from Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline. The story goes that the frog will react to sudden changes, like being dropped into boiling water, but will not notice and respond to gradual changes in temperature if you put it in cooled water which you then heat slowly.

I’d like to offer another parable: the fly in the skylight. We’ve all seen moths round a lamp or flies on a window. They’re both in search of the light. I was reminded of this recently when I noticed the skylight in our sun room. We were enjoying a spell of warm weather and this had drawn a number of flies inside and into the recess containing the skylight. You can probably see them in the picture. The flies can see the sky, their way out or so it seems. They will constantly bang against the skylight, searching for a way out, until they die of exhaustion and lack of food.

Their problem is that they’re looking at the sky the wrong way. They need someone to show them the open window or door lying a few metres away that are 100% better ways for them to get to where they need to go.

So as I embark on the second half of the year, I ask myself this question? Am I choosing the right path for trying to get where I want to go, or am I stuck in the recess, looking at the sky the wrong way and not noticing the glass which blocks my path?

Hope springs eternal

There was a famous sales book doing the rounds about ten to fifteen years ago, called Hope is Not a Strategy. In the interests of disclosure I should say that while I was working full-time in the area of sales effectiveness a decade ago I haven’t read the book. Suffice to say though that the author built a successful business around this concept that you need to plan and execute a sales strategy rather than hope a deal will come off.

The idea of a sales methodology is that you plan to a degree that removes – as far as is possible – things like hope or luck from entering into the decision as to where the customer awards their business.

Hope is good though. It’s good that hope springs eternal. We need hope, we need to hope. It keeps us going, keeps our head up, and keeps us feeling that onwards and upwards are just around the next corner or over the next rise for us. While we can’t legislate for the luck of the lottery, we can plan for and execute most other things so that we increase our chances of winning, success and happiness.

That’s why I’ve always liked the realist approach of the Jack Reacher character in the Lee Child novels. We hope for the best, and we plan for the worst. If we engineer it so that the worst case scenario is the bare minimum we’ll accept, and we plan around achieving at least that, then we should do pretty well, and with luck and hope, we might achieve even more.

As the publication of this blog post coincides with the remaining draw date in the ticket above, I’ll let you know if I win anything. I’m hopeful…

 

It’s a little known fact, but GDPR, of which you’re probably sick at this stage – if you’re reading this post soon after publication – doesn’t actually stand for General Data Protection Regulation.

Well, of course it does, but for me it stands for Great Delivery and Proposal Reduction.

I subscribe to a lot of email and I’ve found myself on a lot of additional lists as a consequence. As I’m sure you can attest yourself, all these organisations have been frantically getting in touch of late to make sure I’m properly opted in to continue to receive their communications.

I’ve received emails from organisations I had no idea either I was subscribed to, or had information on me in the first place. Consequently it’s a super way for me to cull my subscription lists. Those I don’t want to stay in touch with, or to market to me, I simply let lapse and after 25th May I should be theoretically free of their shackles. I have a great opportunity to reduce the delivery of offers, invitations and proposals coming into my email inbox.

On a more serious note, this is a big, big deal for a lot of European organisations, and other international organisations who do business with customers from Europe. It’s a ton of work to be compliant and they will see their subscription lists getting quite a severe haircut.

If we’re not careful, the winners in this will be the unscrupulous organisations who carry on regardless, and with no regard for the GDPR’s provisions, at the expense of their dutiful, compliant competitors.

We’ve all heard the statistic that we use about 10% of our brain’s total capacity, the inference being that, to the precious few and perhaps some of us mere mortals too, additional unfathomable powers are at our fingertips, or rather at our synapses.

One of the first lessons I learned on those graduate work programs was the power of positive thinking and, specifically, the self-fulfilling prophecy. If you go into a situation with a certain frame of mind, then that’s the result you will probably end up getting. Go in thinking you will lose and you will, go in thinking you will win and you will. What is unsaid in all this is whether you can influence the actual outcome with the power of your thought. Perhaps we’re tapping into the 90% at that point?

I’ve always liked the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy and I’ve used it myself, pretty successfully, before major events like sales meetings, prize-givings and so on. You can even use it for micro-events, like wanting to hit the treble twenty at darts or the outside corner with a tennis serve. If you imagine it clearly, and see it happening, it has a far better chance of happening. I’ve never found it works with gambling though…

The other day I was working away when an email pinged in with the results of a competitive bid process. My stomach did a small flip, as the bid was important to me. I relaxed, took 5 minutes to clear my other emails and then got to the award results email. I had a 1 in 4 chance of winning. Before I opened it I imagined reading the email awarding me the contract, and I even said the word ‘win’ a number of times in my head like a mantra.

I opened the email and found that I hadn’t won the contact. Just kidding! I had won, which was nice.

What is also interesting is that on the occasions when I have not been successful with the self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s because I have allowed doubt and negativity to intrude into my thoughts. Suspecting I might not have won was enough to poison the positive thinking.

Disclaimer: this does not mean you will win the lottery if you think positively as you buy the ticket or as each ball drops into the chute…

Not currently recyclable 5

Not currently recyclable 1

I’ve been in slightly bad form lately, the last few weeks in fact, and I couldn’t put my finger on the source of the malaise, until the other day. It’s because of recycling.

Or lack of it. In a post a while back, in fact about a year ago, I talked about how I recycle as much as possible but have no real knowledge of what happens once my bin is tipped into the truck.

I was chatting to a friend the other day, glorying in how much we recycle. We recycle all our plastics, I said, even shopping bags. You shouldn’t do that, he said, because you can only recycle hard plastic and it contaminates and adds to the cost of the recycling process.

He was right. Sure enough I was reading an article about the very same thing, confirming what he said. I had been doing it wrong. So I started doing it right, checking all of the packaging on stuff before I threw it away.

This led to my current feeling of frustration and exasperation. WE RECYCLE SO LITTLE OF OUR PACKAGING, EVEN NOW, IN 2018. How have we allowed governments and companies to get away with this for so long, to produce packaging that is ‘Not Currently Recyclable’? To me it seems beyond laughable, if it wasn’t so sad, that we can’t recycle:

  • Shopping bags
  • Shrink-wrap that binds our food and our drink containers together
  • All forms of packaging for perishable goods

This is the grim recycling realisation. We have so far to go.

As a consumer, you want to be able to consume conveniently, easily, quickly and painlessly. This applies in both the offline and online world.

The other day I was planning to take a punt on the Euromillions, since the jackpot had done that thing it does every few months where it gets up to a ridiculous amount and draws in punters like moths to a flame. It was the middle of the day so I told myself I’d do it later. After all, there was an invitation to play in my webmail inbox.

I got tied up with work for the rest of the day and was glancing through my webmail after work when I saw the lottery email. It was about 27 minutes past 7pm, and the cutoff for the draw was 7:30pm the same day.

I went onto the lottery.ie site, and selected Euromillions. There was 2 minutes and 15 seconds left in which to play for that evening’s draw. I logged in, picked a line of random numbers, confirmed it and paid. The transaction took 30 seconds. I could have waited another minute and 45 seconds and still would have beaten the deadline.

Now that’s slick, in my book. Mind you, with millions of euros coming in every hour through the site on busy days, you would have expected them to get the process perfect. And it is, in my view.

Sadly, my numbers weren’t perfect. Not even close to perfect.

2 x 2 segmentation matrix

I ran a series of marketing workshops a few months ago, covering a pretty wide range of topics in a relatively short space of time. It was quick-fire, perhaps 30 minutes on a topic and then an exercise to put into practice what we’d discussed.

The one area that people struggled with the most was segmentation, and the task of segmenting your market. It’s easy to see why. It’s a really important part of the marketing process. How you segment your market determines who you will sell to, and also who you will compete against. Segmentation can be basic, such as by country, region, or company size, or it can be more sophisticated, covering groupings around values, or buying criteria.

Generally, you see people pick two axes against which to judge their segments or groups. For example, one axis might be how easy it is for us to sell to each group, and the other might be how attractive is this group to us. Then you plot each group against these two axes – low, medium or high – to decide which quadrant or group is worth targeting.

The trouble is, how you group your companies, and which axes you choose to judge them against – and there could be many possible axes – is critical. Bad decisions here can lead to you targeting bad companies, bad for you that is. Also, you could end up competing against the wrong competitors. As this post reminds us, if you know your market, define it, and segment it better than anyone else, you may find yourself to be the only competitor.