Archives for category: Strategy

The importance of focus is hard to overestimate. As salespeople and marketers, if we don’t focus we’re not successful. Better to do fewer things well. Better to win 4 out of 7 deals than win 3 out of 10, spreading yourself too thin and chasing bad deals that you shouldn’t be chasing. Focusing specifically on something means that you are actively choosing not to focus on other things.

Focus also relates to a post I wrote relatively recently on the power of positive thinking. If you think an eventuality is going to arise, if you can almost will it to arise, then you have more chance of seeing it arise. Visualising yourself hitting the treble twenty at darts, or hitting the outside corner of the service box, or winning that piece of business…

I recently read an article on the BBC website about the ‘quiet eye‘ and how it relates to the success of athletes, especially when the stakes and the pressure are highest. It has a lot to do with focus I think, both in a general sense and in a specific situation.

This ability to focus in the heat of battle is what defines and distinguishes the best athletes, the best sales people and the best marketers.

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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…

 

There are some jobs where deadlines are constantly present. Journalism for one.

There are also people who can’t seem to work unless they have a deadline in front of them. Are journlists in that category too? Some of them I guess.

The thing that many of us experience with working to deadlines is that the closer the deadline is, the more we get done. When you have to make a deadline you cut through the unnecessary and get to the nub of what your project is all about. This is fine for creating something with words, but when you’re involved with something that has an already defined process, like a complex sales process, one that you can’t bypass or cut short, then you’ve got problems. Then, it’s not your deadline, the end of your sales month for example, that counts, it’s your customer’s deadline.

With the more undefined processes, though, like writing for example, it pays me in my daily work to create deadlines to maximise my productivity. If there aren’t deadlines on a job, or the deadline is a long way from now, create an artificial deadline to work to. Or, split the project up into pieces and create mini-deadlines. For example, can I create two blog posts before lunchtime? Can I get the last page finished before this meeting starts? Can I reach the half way mark before the end of the day?

Of course, the risk you run with this approach is that you’re always producing shoddy, rushed work, work that would have benefitted form a little more time, and a less demanding deadline. That’s the balance between the two that we strive for: the best we can strive for versus the commercial reality imposed by time being money.

If you want to relax on your time off, and simply while away the time in those most luxurious moments when you have the luxury of time, then simply set no targets for the day, no objectives.

As an example, yesterday I set myself the goal of thinking up a blog post topic in the three minutes’ time I had before a call started. I came up with this one, and wrote it today.

By some estimates there are about 2 million books published per year in the world. That’s an awful lot of books. By other estimates it also constitutes a very small percentage of the total number of books written. The publishing bottleneck is such that demand will only ever support the supply of a far smaller proportion of books than the total written.

For every 1,000 books written, perhaps 25 get taken on by a publisher, and perhaps 5 of those get published, and perhaps 1 of those becomes a best-seller. These are the kinds of odds you’re up against as a potential writer of published work. The kinds of odds I’m up against.

Of these 2 million books, maybe half a million are self-published. The writer has written the book, then used a self-publishing platform to typeset, lay out, proof read and publish the work herself or himself, so that the book can be available in both electronic and print-on-demand formats.

Unfortunately, by bypassing the traditional publishing industry, the self-publishing writers also have to market and promote the book themselves, and that’s the rub. Promoting takes time, more work and money. After all the effort of self-publishing, for the vast majority of self-publishers the numbers of books sold – and the consequent revenues accruing – are tiny.

So the publishing bottleneck, and the publishing conundrum, continues for every budding author.

 

I heard a great phrase the other day, and it’s a very useful reminder of how to cover all the key bases in a business. In any business, especially a small business, you need 3 types of role: the finder, the minder and the grinder.

The finder is the prospector. The finder finds customers, partners and even investors. They are the public face of the company, the chief evangelist.

The minder minds the company. The minder looks after the cash. Their responsibility is finance, legals, compliance, looking after the company and making sure it’s meeting its various obligations.

The grinder is the one who delivers. They are operational, with their shoulder to the wheel and on the factory floor – literally or metaphorically. They execute what has been promised by the finder and charged for by the minder.

All of these roles are important, and you need each role working in synergy, recognising each other’s strengths and skills, rather than complaining that they do all the work while the others sit around.

In a sole tradership, of course, one person needs to fulfil all 3 roles, or else contract out some of the other roles profitably or productively. In a partnership you see the 3 roles being divided across the two people. Sometimes they take one role each and share the other. As any business scales it really needs one person dedicated to each role, eventually building to a team for each function.

I live in a country that has, supposedly, mobile coverage in the 90s per cent. That must be by population I imagine, since out of the cities and in the country there are plenty of pockets of poor signal.

One such pocket is my house, where our home and home office have enjoyed appalling mobile coverage for the last decade. All was not lost however, because several years ago we bought a mobile phone signal booster that connects to the landline broadband and is programmed by our mobile numbers for 5 luscious reception bars every time.

Except that 3 months ago the booster box broke and I discovered to my chagrin that the box is no longer sold or supported by Vodafone. Wifi calling is promised, which will solve the problem of poor mobile reception, but I’ve been working in tech long enough to know that roadmaps aren’t worth listening to at all.

I went onto the Vodafone community to look for discussion threads on the topic and found one, to which I wanted to comment and voice my disapproval. I had to log in to do that, and I was invited to do so either my mobile or landline account login. That was fine, but after I’d logged in I was taken to a general community page, and not straight back to the specific thread that I was on, as you would expect 9 times out of 10.

I then had to search for the thread again, and still it wouldn’t let me contribute. By this stage I was wise to the process and copied my contribution content in case I’d lost it.

After a couple more tries I gave up, since I got messages that it wouldn’t post. I returned back to the thread and my post was there, published.

Vodafone don’t seem to make it easy for you to post to their community portal. It’s almost like they’d prefer if you didn’t, rather like in the good old days in England when you could claim unemployment benefit between terms at University but the form was longer than War and Peace…

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.

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.

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.