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When my Dad died, about 12 years ago, there were a number of pieces of paperwork we had to complete. I say paperwork because the forms we had to fill in were just that, paper.

Dad was truly pre-digital. He didn’t have a mobile phone, an email address or an online bank account. He didn’t have anything digital. Heck, the guy didn’t even own a pair of jeans. When he died, we wrapped up his affairs in a 100% offline way. And that was it. He generated no more paper. He didn’t write any more letters.

Nowadays a good portion of us are digital. I’m sure you are, reading this blog post. When you die, what will your digital death be like? Will someone set up your email out of office for you? ‘I’m sorry, but Paul is not in a position to reply to your email, ever. You see, he’s dead.’ Will someone close your Facebook account, your other accounts, your online subscriptions? Will they even know where your passwords are, if you’ve committed them to offline or online sttorage somewhere? There’s guy I’m connected to on LinkedIn who hasn’t just retired. He died along time ago, and I get his work anniversary notifications, which is a bit surreal.

Your digital death extends way beyond your physical death, perhaps forever. When you die, you’re not just in our hearts and minds, you’re still around in the ones and zeros.

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I wrote recently about how many of us are in front of a device keyboard all day and manage to get by with 2 or 4-finger typing, rather than potentially the 10 digits at our disposal. When was the last time you saw a job ad for an predominantly office-based role that wasn’t for a PA or secretary that said ‘since the majority of your time is desk-bound, you must be able to type 50 words a minute or more to apply’?

When I had a few months off between jobs about 15 years ago, I went to a typing course. I didn’t last more than a couple of weeks. Even though I wasn’t working, I couldn’t spare the lost productivity while my typing speed was cut into a quarter of ‘slow’. I didn’t have the time to engrain the behaviours to see the long term benefit.

Because I’ve probably typed a million words since then, I’ve improved my typing ‘organically’. I’ve made it up as I go along. My organic typing is now a flurry of activity as hands cross over each other and fingers overlap. I look like a piano player when I type, and it’s hardly a virtuoso performance.

Interestingly, one of my brothers can type properly, and he’s had some issues with RSI – repetitive strain injury. I wonder if the act of anchoring your wrists down more and being more regimented with the spaces your fingers occupy makes you more prone to these injuries of ‘isolation’ compared to the organic way of letting the fingers go where they want to and damn the downturn in efficiency.

Park and ride is a great concept for cities, especially those that have compact centres, limited parking or horrific traffic. Dump your car out of town, hop on a dedicated bus every few minutes, swoop into town on the bus lanes, get dropped off really close to where you need to be, do your thing, pick the bus back up and pick up your car.

People who like having their car close, like driving or want some control and flexibility, they tend not to be big fans of the park and ride.

I tried it for the first time in decades quite recently. It was an interesting experience. I was taking my mum to a cricket match, in a place notoriously poor for parking – even if you have a disabled parking pass – so we opted for the park and ride.

First of all, there were almost no signs to get the park and ride. Fortunately my mum knew where we were going, and I had looked at the map beforehand, but still the signage was very poor, which makes no sense if you want to encourage the use of it by providing a good first experience. We had little or no wait for a bus to leave, and the fair was an extremely reasonable £4 each for both ways. The journey was OK, and we were dropped off at the place which, we were told, would also be the pick-up point, on the same side of the road. Fine.

The walk to the venue was short, so it was all good. Then came the return journey. As often happens after an event finishes, the whole attendance who had arrived at the event in steady streams over time then exited the event all at once in a massive throng. Consequently, there were a couple of hundred people waiting at the bus stop when we got there. The match had finished early and no-one seemed to have told the bus company to be ready early and at short notice. There were 15 minute gaps between the buses, rather than the 5 minute gaps that were advertised.

We finally got on a bus, which departed and took 40 minutes going 3 sides round the mobbed ground we had just exited in order to follow the park and ride route. We finally got back to the car and made our way home.

So, a great concept, with less than great execution, which was a shame. I score it 6 out of 10, a B-, ‘could do better’ on the report card.

What a difference one tiny letter makes. There are cartoon strips devoted to plays on words that involve the slip of a letter. I’m sure we all have our stories of disaster from a typo that precipitated a completely unforeseen and opposing chain of events to the one intended.

Take the words summoned and summonsed for example. Summoned means that someone has requested your presence. There’s a degree of politeness involved, and there’s the implication of choice in there as well.

Summonsed, on the other hand, with the addition of an innocuous ‘s’ in the middle of the word, kind of means the same thing but doesn’t at all. It carries legal weight, you’re being forced, against your will, to attend. Choice doesn’t come into it.

One letter difference, a big difference in meaning. I’m sure there are myriad others, but that one stuck me quote forcefully the other day.

In this Internet-enabled age buyers often know as much as we do about what we’re selling. They’ve usually done their homework, researched the alternatives, and – most importantly – asked their peer group what their experiences of the alternatives are.

Gone are the days when we knew more than them and we could act like masons, jealously guarding our information and secrets. Customers now are used to self-serve and the most savvy companies are making it possible for buyers to buy their stuff with no or a light touch. After all, why step in front of a moving train? Why increase the cost of acquisition when they’re in buy mode?

Imagine how frustrating it must be, then, for B2B buyers of complex software systems who can’t demo your software on their own, without your intervention? What signal does it send to the buyer if it’s hard or impossible to try your software for themselves:

  • I’ll think your system is too expensive
  • I’ll not see the value unless you explain it to me
  • It’s too hard to use, too hard to navigate
  • It doesn’t look good
  • It’s clunky
  • It falls over

The list goes on…

The challenge for the purveyor of complex, comprehensive B2B software is to simplify it without compromising on power. The challenge for the purveyor of poor B2B software is to fix it before you’re no longer the best of a bad lot.

The provider’s response might be that they can’t sell to a buyer unless they understand the seller’s requirements and how the system can help them address those requirements better than anything else. This shouldn’t stop the provider using content, guiding the buyer to that conclusion and packaging a bunch demos of their software to back up each argument.

Low touch is the pathway to no touch.

In Time – Part 1 I  wondered out loud what it would do to the notion and fabric of time if we could either see into the future or travel back in time and therefore know everything that would happen between the point in the past we’d arrived at and the point at which we left.

Or maybe our act of moving back in time meant that we could actually re-shape the past and create an alternative future? That’s been the basic premise of more than a handful of books and films over the previous few centuries.

Many scientist are quick to point out why physically it’s not possible for us to time travel, and I spent Time – Part 1 arguing that existentially it’s not possible either.

So where does that leave us? In our working lives and in our family and leisure lives? If we can’t manipulate time, then we have to make the most of it. Which means we have to make the most productive use of it that we can, because, as I’ve said over many posts, it is the most precious resource we possess. We shouldn’t waste any of it. When we run out of it, we run out of everything else.

So, live in the present and give it your best shot, with the best knowledge and resources you have. Time to go.

Ah Ohio. A heart-shaped state in the middle of the US that you probably don’t know too much about. On eastern time but still a lot of driving hours (probably 18 or so; never done it) west of New York City.

I spent two-and-half years living in Cincinnati, which is nestled in the so-called tri-state area of south-west Ohio, south-east Indiana and north-west Kentucky. Strangely enough, I never visited the state capital Columbus, or the northern metropolis of Cleveland, which was probably a mistake, and certainly an oversight.

I had a great time there. The mid-west is pretty different to the East Coast and West Coast. It’s fairly conservative and traditional in its outlook. It’s often accused of being late to things. There’s a famous quote, attributed to mark Twain and several others, that when the end of the world comes, it’s best to be in Cincinnati as it’s always ten years behind the times.

What’s more interesting is that Ohio is actually a microcosm of the US. The US is not California, New York or Florida. Ohio is a reflection of the whole of the US in terms of demographics, like race, age, religion. It’s also one of the so-called swing states in US Presidential elections.

As you might expect of a national bellwether (no, I thought it was spelled weather too), Ohio has voted for the Presidential winner every year since 1960. As I write this post, Hilary Clinton is comfortably ahead in the Presidential polls, nationally speaking.

But not in Ohio…

Someone’s misfortune is almost always someone else’s fortune.

You get offered a great job or contract, someone else loses out. Someone gets pulled over for speeding, you escape punishment. You find a wallet, someone loses theirs, and the contents, giving them a truly frustrating day cancelling cards, and ruing lost money and irreplaceable keepsakes.

What do you do in these situations? Do you indulge in a bit of schadenfreude and have a laugh at their expense, being secretly relieved that it didn’t happen to you?

Do you return the wallet you found, or do you pocket the contents? Do you take a perverse pleasure in someone else’s reversal, or do you help out, knowing that at some point you’re going to hit a downer and hope to meet someone who can lift you up?

It’s karma baby, you do with the situation as you see fit, and everything will, in all probability, level out over a lifetime. But make sure you’re in credit, in case you need to make a withdrawal…

In our previous B2B marketing step, we costed out all of our activities to make sure that each activity and the sum of the activities give us a reasonable targeted return on our investment towards achieving our goals. Our plan is ready to go now, or is it?

Not quite. Now we have to socialise the plan among our colleagues, partners and superiors, get feedback, adjust the plan where necessary and get approval to proceed. This is our twelfth B2B marketing step.

Any draft plan will benefit from different view points. Specific subject matter experts and the people we report to can be a valuable sounding board for the plan and help give it more direction and shape.

Make sure you build in time for these iterations before you start to execute the plan. Sometimes the review and approval process can be quick and painless, but it’s usually more drawn out, since you’re eating into the time of other people whose priorities might be different to yours, even if they’re aligned in overall business terms.

Be prepared to make concessions and adjustments to your plan. It’s inevitable; you won’t get it right first time. Be sure to pick your battles and let go what’s less important, while being ready to defend what is important with evidence and numbers.

Once your plan is approved for execution, you’re good to go.

Your business-to-business customer is not someone you can stereotype, commoditise, or shoehorn.

One approach does not fit all. These days it often doesn’t fit more than one.

Within the word ‘customer’ is the word ‘custom’ – as in personalised, made-to-measure. It’s linked to the French word costume, as in made-to-fit.

Think of your prospects and customers as a series of people, each of whom is looking for and expecting a solution from you which is uniquely able to meet their requirements, solve their problems and meet their goals.