Archives for category: Strategy

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.

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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.

 

I subscribe to lots of different publications and newsletters, some of which are focused on lifestyle. One of them is the succinct, informative and weekly email called 5-Bullet Friday from the very well known Tim Ferriss. You can find him and it via https://tim.blog/ or else on Twitter via @tferriss and #5BulletFriday.

I was reading one of these the other day – a Friday obviously, but I can’t remember which one – and in the ‘Quote I’m Pondering’ feature were the following words by a Thomas Merton, whom wikipedia describes as ‘an American Catholic writer, theologian and mystic. The words resonated with me and I repeat them here:

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence ….
(and that is) activism and overwork. The rush and pressure
of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form,
of its innate violence.

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of
conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands,
to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone
in everything, is to succumb to violence.

The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace.
It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the
fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of
inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

What I like about the quote is that as a commentary on modern life it could have been written yesterday, when in fact it dates to at least half a century ago, since Mr Merton died in 1968.

In our headlong rush to get stuff done – and I’m as guilty as the next person, not just because I prefer to have lots of small things on the go rather than one massive thing – we become one of these people who ‘try to do too much’ and we diminish the good we do, not increase it. Was true, still is true, probably will be too.

 

 

I’ve been mentoring for a few years, to a range of SMEs, and I’ve learned a lot. Here are 5 of my distilled thoughts on mentoring. It’s not intended to be a how to, more a set of observations.

  • Listening more than talking. As a sounding board, I think our job is to listen and absorb, then to suggest, rather than to tell
  • Focus on the few. Any business has a thousand things it could do, so I try to focus on a small number of key points. If you end up handing out loads of pointers, then your mentee goes away confused and overwhelmed
  • Process is important. When you’re in the thick of all those entrepreneurial factors, it helps if someone external is helping you with simple approaches to process, structure, and priorities for execution
  • It’s easy to say, hard to do. It’s all very well for consultants, mentors and advisers telling people what they should do. We then get to walk away and leave it to them to do the difficult bit, which is executing. I’m acutely aware of this, which is why my company’s ethos is to focus on using my experience to being responsive and practical in my recommendations
  • Be humble. Generally you’re advising someone who’s getting out there and giving it a go with their own business. They deserve a ton of praise for that alone. They’ve put themselves out there and it can be a nerve-wracking, lonely existence. The last thing they need is arrogance or haughtiness. They need empathy, constructive criticism – which comes from our experience – and encouragement

Mentor can mean teach, but for me it’s better to think in terms of advise and support.

To tender or not to tender, that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind etc… when I worked in the sales effectiveness business, the golden rule was that your success rate for an unsolicited tender is between 0 and 5% – yep, a terrible return – for a host of factors too numerous to mention here. Perhaps for another post.

This is a statistic that should bring out the most sober analysis of how our business development time is best spent, but the truth is that it really applies to the private sector. The public sector is often duty-bound to go out to tender from a pretty low base contract value, and with increasing levels of sophistication at higher threshold amounts.

I decided to respond to my first tender in a long time last year. It was a pretty good fit for my skill-set, but it’s still an agonising decision to invest the considerable time into collecting references, getting legal documentation signed and writing the response.

I wanted to go through the process for the journey itself, to get a feel for it since it would better colour future decisions. I ended up winning the tender, and the reasons why you win are always invaluable when you do a ‘drains up’ – win or lose – with the awarding company.

Emboldened by the fact that I was batting 1,000 as the Americans would say, I promptly entered another tender, and lost it, thereby killing my excellent average.

So what can we conclude from this? My $0.02 is this. Unsolicited private sector tenders, don’t touch them. If you weren’t expecting it, you’re simply making up the numbers. Public sector tenders, if it’s a genuine project, and it’s worth it to you, and it’s a good fit, and you intuitively feel you’re in the top 3, it’s worth throwing your hat in the ring.

 

Mothercare store front

I was at my mother’s house in England the other day, casting an eye over all the toys we had as kids, which she has saved of course, and which her grandkids now enjoy.

I came across the edge of a toy package from Mothercare. This company has been around for ages and is clearly a highly respected name in anything to do with children. I love the identity – which I think the company has now moved away from – with the little child image literally under the protection of the m of mother.

What struck me for the first time that I can remember was how outdated the name was; the actual words mother and care put together to make a new name, as many company and product brands do. Back when Mothercare came into being, parenthood was possibly the almost exclusive preserve of the female parent, and that’s simply not the case any more.

The funny thing is, and I feel this about many household names and brands, we never question the name. We see the word mothercare and we equate it with a parenting brand for children. This is what a brand does to us. We rarely take the name out of context, deconstruct it, before realising that it’s perhaps not as appropriate as it used to be.

I think there are lots of examples of this, brands that we take for granted because they’re much more than the sum of their words. Lots of them, hiding in plain sight.

In this ultra-PC world we live in, as I’ve noted previously, communication is never far away.

I was travelling on a train in the UK the other day and the automated announcer reminded everyone that they needed a ticket to travel and couldn’t get one on the train. This message came from the ‘Revenue Protection’ department.

That’s the fraud protection department, right, since travelling without a ticket is fraud? I’m left wondering what message they’re going for, what impression they’re trying to project, with the term revenue protection.

Isn’t that a little like calling a short person like me vertically challenged? Perhaps they don’t want to antagonise the fare-dodger.

If someone travels without a ticket, and they’re not entitled to free travel, then they’re damaging the profitability of the transport company. As a consequence, all of us fee-paying passengers are indirectly punished when the company has to raise fares, or reduce services, or go for more government subsidy – which is of course a function of the taxes you and I pay – and we end up paying more.

So why not call it what it is? Fraud prevention is better, methinks.

The Win/loss analysis is a really important part of business. That said, when people think about win/loss analysis, they generally mean loss analysis.

Calling up the customer, asking how did we lose out, what could we have done better, who got ahead of us. This is all valuable information for introducing back into the mix so that we can improve.

Not many companies actually do win/loss analysis, which is a glaring omission in strategy and sales process. The funny thing is, and this even worse, people hardly ever do the win analysis call or meeting. Why did we win? Why did you give us the business? Where could we have improved? These are vitally important questions, and the answers to them are even more important.

I did a short, 20-minute win analysis call with a customer the other day. He said, ‘I’ve been doing this job 9 years, and I handle around 30 tenders a year. This is only the 3rd time someone’s done a win analysis debrief with me.’ So that’s 1 win analysis call every 90 tenders, a fraction over 1%.

The win analysis call is the simplest, most obvious sales call that no-one hardly ever does. I’m in a generous mood, here’s another one: going back to a recent new customer and asking them for 1 to 3 more non-competing sales leads.

This is obvious, right?

I wonder what hotel energy bills are like. They must be astronomically high. All those airy, high-ceilinged communal rooms…

I’ve been staying in hotels in Dublin recently. When I check in evening-time the room is always toasty warm. I don’t know if it’s been on all day, since the last person checked out, or maybe the cleaner put it on when they finished preparing the room.

When I leave in the morning, to return later that day, the room is warm. It’s probably warm all day, unless the cleaner turns it off when they come in to clean, since it would be too hot to do all that work, before turning it back on as they leave. Or, perhaps, as you often see as you check out, the cleaner has the hotel room door open of the room they’re cleaning, to allow then to easily go to and from their supplies trolley, with the heat from the room seeping out into the corridor.

Presumably more modern or larger hotels take a more automated approach to central heating. But I wonder if they could automate it further. Perhaps they could ask guests their estimated check-in time when they book, or their estimated return time, and this could be programmed into a system which automatically activated the heating in their room 30 minutes before they were due in?

Either way, there must be huge scope to reduce energy bills without giving the guest the feeling that you’re scrimping on the finer things you expect from a room, like warmth and cosiness.