Tag: marketing

Let me start by saying that anyone claiming your business can be more profitable simply by being on Facebook is a charlatan. Or an idiot. And I’m not sure which is worse.

For me, a Social Business is one that is outward looking. It genuinely cares about satisfying its customers. It not only acts on their feedback, it encourages feedback. A Social Business is innovative and responsive. And it isn’t necessarily on Facebook or Twitter.

Nice guys don’t get rich

Unfortunately, running a business in this way takes a lot of time. You must constantly analyse what is working and what is not. You must solicit, collate and build a plan around customer feedback. You have to stop running the kind of business that your bank manager wants to see in order to make it more social. All in all, it’s far easier to run an unsocial business. In fact, in terms of profitability and gross revenues, it seems make more sense to run an actively anti-social business. There are countless examples to back this up; in the banking sector; in flagrant multi-national tax avoidance; in tech companies’ increasingly closed, proprietary systems. The list goes on and on and gets longer each day.

If you’re here, there’s a good chance that you’re a nice person. And if you’re running your own business, large or small, you still need to sleep at night. We firmly believe that being nice and being in business need not be mutually exclusive positions.

A key characteristics of nice people is that they are open and welcoming to new people and ideas. They are willing to listen act on what they hear. It’s called empathy. The same is true for businesses.

Consider Twitter

In the early days, Twitter was held up as an example of openness. They had a simple but effective platform, but they were willing to let others develop on top of it, building their own ideas and ultimately growing the userbase for Twitter through their own efforts. Now think about the reception they get when they announce increasingly restrictive terms of use and effectively stamp out many fledgling businesses. I’m not judging Twitter one way or another. They’re clearly doing what they believe to be right, but I would argue they are losing their empathy. Whether this will be detrimental to their long-term goals is still up for grabs.

Time is money

According to Steven Covey, one of the habits of highly effective people is taking time for yourself; going to the gym, walking the dog, sitting and thinking. He calls it Sharpening the Saw and uses a story to illustrate the point.

“A man walks through a wood and finds a lumberjack logging a tree. It’s hard work. After a while the man notices that the lumberjack’s saw is blunt. “You need to sharpen your saw”, he says. “But I have all these trees to chop up”, responds the lumberjack. “I don’t have time to stop and sharpen my saw”.”

In other words, we need to make the time to stop and regroup, reorganise our thoughts, and consider new ways of approaching the future. We need to do this both as people AND as business people. A truly Social Business will build this time into its operations. And it may end up being a lot of time. And, in the short-term at least, time is money.

This is what kills many small businesses efforts on the Social Web. As we know, the Social Web is great for gathering feedback and engaging with your customers. However, most businesses aren’t set up to be Social from the start. They are built around a product or service that they believe to be great, so that is their main focus. When they decide to raise their heads and look at their place in the wider world, it can be quite scary. They are not prepared for the sheer number of man-hours that can be consumed. They have no mechanisms for using feedback constructively. So they flounder and withdraw.

Unless your business has a willingness to listen and people who care enough about their customers to act on what they hear, your Facebook page isn’t going to help your business grow. Your initially enthusiastic Twitter timeline will be unused and useless.

Take the time to stop. Spend time listening. Then act with empathy.

And sleep soundly at night.

If you spend any time in a stationery shop, or if you have an internet connection, you’ll probably know that Bic have launched a range of pens designed for women’s hands.  The product itself may be great. I’ll never know – I don’t have woman’s hands, so I’ll never really be able to feel the benefit. Normally, I’d look to reviews on Amazon to discover the pros and cons, but sadly they are so loaded with scathing irony that the design merits (or otherwise) are completely left out.

Designing a pen ‘for women’s hands’ is always going to come with certain risks. Especially when women have managed so well with the existing unisex product. In fact, all the pages devoted to different colours, styles and pack sizes carry reviews about the concept rather than the pen. None of them will make happy reading for Bic. I’ve read them all. There are almost a thousand all told.

Imagine my surprise, then, when this morning I had this email waiting for me:

I wasn’t alone.

I also found this tweet in my timeline:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/ancientnmodern/status/248311926524878850″]

At least Victoria has the benefit of having lady’s hands, so there is some sense in her receiving the email. But how did it end up in my inbox? I have two theories.

Firstly, I admit that I have looked at the lady-pens previously when the storm of condemnation first hit twitter. I don’t check out every hysterical micro-blogging outburst – I have work to do. I did look at this one, though. So Amazon tracked my visit. Fair enough. I’m tracking your visits, too.

If I wasn’t such a cynic I could imagine that Amazon have looked into their vast databases and pulled out a list of products that people are looking at but not buying (please, god, people didn’t buy these pens, did they?) and have simply sent out a little “You Looked At This But Possibly Forgot To Buy It” type email. Maybe that’s what I’m looking at.


But I am an incredible cynic. I know a bit about how these things work. Retailers make money selling stuff to customers. That’s obvious. But they also make money – masses of money – by charging brands for promotions. If you want your packets of stuff at eye-level on supermarket shelves, it’ll cost you. If you want to discount your products and have them on the ends of the aisles, that’s going to cost you more. My guess (and it is only a guess) is that some bright spark from Amazon has spoken to another bright spark from Bic and said “We’ve had millions of page-views for your lady-pens that haven’t converted into sales. People must have forgotten to buy. Give us some cash and we’ll send out some reminders”. And the bright spark at Bic agreed.

If you also received an email advertising the lady-pens, don’t get upset about it – it’s costing Bic money. They’re continuing to pay for their unspeakable daftness. They’re also inventing a process so packed with meta-unawareness that it could be explosive.

And so we enter the world of post-ironic marketing.

Here’s how it could work for you:

  • Come up with an idea. Any idea will do. Brain-storm it in the office. Maybe focus-group it enthusiastically with a bunch of punters who don’t really care. Anyway, do what ever you need to do to convince yourself that it’s a Really Great Idea. Try not to think about it too much, though.
  • Let the Hive Mind pull you up on your enormous lack of tact and insight, shoving mock reviews hither and yon and alerting the world to your idiocy.
  • Wait a couple of weeks. People are stupid – they’ll soon forget.
  • Spend some cash reminding everybody that deliberately avoided your piss-poor product that it is still available. Maybe discount it a little to sweeten the deal.
  • Watch the sales roll in.

This is only the next logical step in a process that has been serving the Mail Online well for years now – bait the intelligensia on twitter with increasing outrageous views; watch the page views come pouring in; sit back and count the ad revenue.

And for those of you thinking that I’m only coat-tailing on a debacle to get some eye-balls of my own; I refer you, gentle reader, to the headline.


The one constant word in the buzz around the web’s emerging technologies and techniques is ‘Social’. Whether web, media, networks, enterprise, capital, currency or bookmarks, everything is social.


When you meet somebody in the real world, whether at a party, a networking event, a conference, or in a bar, do you try to build an ROI case first? Do you stay at home or in the office, eschewing all human contact until you can be sure that bumping into people and starting (or joining in) a conversation is worth your while? Do you ask people how much cash they’re carrying before you talk to them?

Looking to exploit social situations for your own personal benefit is a sure sign of psychopathy. Until businesses fully understand and accept that sometimes it’s just good to share, converse and communicate they will always make a mess of the whole social thing. Going into this looking for ROI will just leave you lost, alone and frustrated.

So, those of you wanting to build and prove an ROI case from the social web can go ahead and try. For my own safety, I will give you all a wide berth.


Posted via email from plainadvice’s posterous

Here’s the thing.

Business communication is like a pop song. Trust me about this.

In any given lifetime, your audience will grant you two minutes and  thirty seven seconds in which to acheive two (2) things:

First – sing your song

Second – get everyone else singing your song, too.

For this to happen, your song has to be individual enough to be worth remebering. But it also has to fit within a style that is easy to recognise and accept.

Unfortunately, singing takes a lot of talent and a lot more guts. Not everyone can do it. Which is why most business communication comes over as a terrible dirge of confused ideas and lame cliches.

Applying the principles of pop to your business communications is not easy, but it works.

To start off with, you need a hook – a neat little riff or idea that is easy to grasp and even easier to repeat. Then you need to back this up with three other elements – a verse, a chorus and a middle-eight. Verses should be short and sweet but provide background, depth and colour to your hook. Maybe a handful of web-pages, maybe some of your staff tweeting around a theme, perhaps a revamped set of business cards with individual designs. The verse should lead into the chorus – this is where you can let rip. Your chorus should get you, your staff, customers, partners, the press and everyone else in the world screaming your virtues at the top of their voices. A simple statement that sums up the true value of you and your company. I’m going to repeat three words from that last sentence: simple, true, value. Simple. True. Value. That’s your chorus.

The middle-eight links your verses with your chorus. This may be the look-and-feel, or the tone of voice. The style of delivery, or the medium for delivery. A key point here is that nobody every listens to a song because it has a great middle-eight, but plenty of songs are left mediocre and forgotten because they had a weak middle-eight.

Of course, pop music has been constantly evolving, from Muddy Waters picking up an electric guitar to the Beatles harmonising with a string quartet, from Brian Eno’s synthesised noodlings to acid fuelled raves and warehouse parties, from Iggy Pop’s flailing nudity to Jay-Z’s tailored suits. So once you have your song down pat, you have to drop it and come up with something new. That’s why we’re here and why we keep coming back.

All together now, after 4…

Here’s a graphic I’ve just put together to explain to businesses that still don’t get it just why the social web matters. The bigger the circle the bigger the potential audience.

Corporate websites are usually full of stale and out-of-date content that may be highly relevant to the company’s business areas but that is hard to find (unless you are looking for it directly). Corporate blogs have very few regular visitors and are only updated when in-house bloggers have the time.

Compare this to the huge audience waiting on the Social Web, which is powered largely by Facebook and Twitter. Here, content is fresh – in the case of Twitter, almost too fresh! – is easy to share and, importantly, can be found almost by chance. Serendipity to us means ‘finding interesting things when you weren’t really looking for them’.

This is the challenge that businesses have to adapt to. The game has changed. Embracing the social web is not a ‘nice to do’, it’s an imperative.

Florence Nightingale did a great many things for the world. Cleaining up hospitals was principle among them. Inventing the pie chart was another.

When she first presented the pie chart to the Royal Statistical Society it caused a sensation. Even today, pie charts cause a sensation – usually one of torpour.

Information is extremely powerful. Look at any one of a thousand powerpoint slide decks and you will see charts and graphs aplenty outlining everything you could possibly want to know. Unfortunately for the presenter, their audience will instantly forget every single piece of data.

The trick is usually to tell a story about your data to bring it to life and make it memorable. Or, even better, make your data itself tell a story. Here is a remarkable example of what we mean:

Visualizing empires decline from Pedro M Cruz on Vimeo.

Next time you contemplate putting a pie chart into your presentation, please think long and hard. It has hard a long and useful life, but would be far more usefully left to die quietly.

Start by hearing (in your mind) a warm round of applause and the congratulations of the attendees at the conference, then figure out how to get there. Your talk is about them, not you. Boil down what you want to say to three key ideas. There will be a hundred and three things you could talk about. Only cover the three that will be important to your audience.

When you are giving your talk, assume that your mother is in the room. Talk at her level. If your content is even slightly technical, make sure you have explained the basics in a way your mother would understand before you dive into the detail. Your mother is, I’m sure, an intelligent woman who can pick things up quickly. You wouldn’t patronise your mother, so don’t patronise your audience. Of course, if you are talking to the Society of Advanced Cosmetic Dentistry, you won’t need to explain what a tooth is. But as most conferences have a fairly general appeal, so tweak your content accordingly.

A picture paints a thousand words, so use pictures rather than text. If you have Firefox, use the Creative Commons search for images to use. Don’t rely on clip art. Ever. And avoid long and laborious slide-builds and animation. A good rule of thumb is 5 words per slide.

Tell stories and anecdotes to show your experience and command of your subject.

Your default body position is shoulders back, arms slightly bent, palms facing the audience, fingers pointing downwards. Practice this. You won’t need to worry about what to do with your hands.

Allow time for questions, but make sure you are able to answer the questions. The only way to do this is to learn as much as possible about your subject. This takes time. Be prepared to deal politely with people who clearly haven’t got what you are saying. Again, pretend it’s your mother asking the inevitable left-field question.

Good luck.

Nothing spoils the pleasure of making a purchase more than cellophane. Not even receiving the credit card bill.

Producers will tell you that cellophane ensures consistency, provides freshness, reduces damage, and improves security. But cellophane tells a whole panoply of unpleasant stories about the product inside. Where you see consitency, cellophane tells of mediocrity, of being literally run-of-the-mill. Freshness? Hmmm. Cellophane says ‘this has hung around in storage almost all its life’. Improved security? Like the unstealable coat hangers in hotel bedrooms, cellophane treats customers like theives.

Which brings us on to trying to de-cellophane a product, a feat requiring the combined patience of every saint and the digital strength and dexterity of a concert pianist. And once removed, of course, the cellophane itself is simply discarded, with all the incumbent ecological issues.

In truth, the only industry to use cellophane in a way that didn’t detract from the product is Big Tobacco. Consider that in your next product design meeting.

The art of making your  stuff easier to buy than the other guy’s stuff.