Create something today.

As 2011 draws to a close, I’d like to ask a few questions of you.  They’re not hard, well they shouldn’t be.  Just a few straightforward questions to get you thinking about quality and quantity of the time you spend.

We’ve got plenty of time haven’t we? Or have we?  Average life expectancy in the UK is 82.  Remember that averages are an average of everything though.  For example, 1 in 100 people never see their 20th birthday, 1 in 20 people live to be over 95.   Somewhere amongst all of that data is you and I.

Life is short, when you turn 40, you’ll wonder where all the time went!  I’m talking from experience, a young head on maturing shoulders is how it feels.  Consider these 10 questions when you get a moment to yourself: -

  1. How have you stretched yourself physically, mentally and spiritually this year?  The body needs nourishment of all three.
  2. What has been your greatest achievement and why did it mean so much to you?  Replicate that feeling.
  3. Who have you unconditionally helped?  Fantastic nourishment for the soul.
  4. What one thing holds you back from achieving greatness?  Change it.
  5. How much of your time have you spent reacting to things rather than creating things?  In today’s busy times, too much time is spent reacting to things.
  6. Have you any regrets about how you spent your time thus far?  How can you change that?
  7. Are the people that you surround yourself with the type of people that you view as quality?  Quality breeds quality.  Surround yourself with people that will programme you to excellence.
  8. Are there any changes that you feel you want to make to your life? Home or work?  Do something!
  9. Who do you admire most?  What qualities do they have, which you would like to emulate?  You can start right now.
  10. What is your legacy?  Do you know?  Most people say “make a difference” – so why don’t you!

Point is this.  Treat every second, every minute, every hour, every day as an opportunity to create – do something.  Not based upon what you have achieved in the past, but what you want to create in the future.  Set yourself up, mind, body and soul to achieve them.  Be unconditional in your support for others, give generously and you will navigate more closely towards them.

Wishing you a prosperous future. You don’t need a New Year to start creating, you can start right now.  On any defined second, of any day, of any year – point is – do it now!

Sponsor Me?

Being part of a multi-national, people assume (wrongly) that you have a bottomless war chest for commercial sponsorship.  It’s just not like that.  Like any business, we have finite resources, strategic goals and a target audience to play for.

Having seen hundreds of requests over the years, there is a common theme that runs through them – a poor business case.  So many people send me poorly thought out sponsorship proposals because they’ve had a good idea and want someone to back it, without ever giving due consideration for the person signing the cheques.   Here’s five tips to get your approach right.

  1. W11FM.  This is an acronym for “What’s In It For Me” (or us).  No benefit, no sponsorship.
  2. What evidence can you bring of the audience that will see the sponsorship.  Viewing statistics, visitor numbers, participants.  ”We’re hoping,” “we’re soon to have, ” “we estimate,” don’t give a potential sponsor a lot to work with.  Talk specifically about what you do have.  Industry data, demographic data, supporting evidence.
  3. How are you going to activate the sponsorship?  It’s not enough to say we have XXXX followers on Twitter and XXXX facebook likes – so what.  What specifically are you going to do to get the audience engaged and how are we going to get value for the money you are requesting?  Make a clear proposal as to your proposition.
  4. Research the company you are approaching.   A blanket bomb request for sponsorship will fall over.  Understand the business you are targeting.  Download their corporate report, look for clues about their target market and see if there are any crossovers.
  5. Personalise the approach.  Mock up a logo, an image, an advertising hoarding.  Bring it to life.  Many people are visual and tying up the opportunity with images and words will help you stand out.
The summary is this.  Personalise the approach, back it with some numbers relative to the investment and make it relevant to the audience of the business you are targetting to stand a chance of success.

What is 141%?

At Brother, we have a philosophy we call 141%.  It was derived from a campaign we ran promoting our A3 range of printers.   In short, if you put a piece of paper onto a photo-copier and enlarge it to A3, the enlargement ratio used is 141%.

As the campaign was targeted at small businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups we began to think about what it takes to be successful.  Long hours, guts, risk-taking, doing extraordinary things, ambition, drive, energy.  Our “light on” moment was recognising that these people give more than 100% to be a success , they give it 141%.

We’ve taken this essence and used it to sponsor people that do extra-ordinary things.  One of those people is Paralympic cyclist Simon Richardson MBE, who fought back from an horrific road accident to go and win two gold medals at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic games.  

He was awarded the MBE in 2009 and has shown extraordinary mental strength and courage.  Today, he is recovering from another major accident which left him critically injured and showing that same gritty determination in his recovery.  We’re backing him all the way to get back to his pre-collision condition.

A forthcoming 141% sponsorship is around one of Britains most successful ever athletes – James Cracknell.  Just read his biog here and you’ll immediately know why he is a 141% person.  He’ll be attempting to break no fewer than four major cycling records on a tandem with Jerone Walters in the near future.  They are: -

  1. Fastest time from Lands End to John O Groats.
  2. Furthest distance covered in 12hrs on a bike.
  3. Furthest distance covered in 24hrs on a bike.
  4. Fastest time to cover 1000m on a bike.

That’s inspiring stuff.  Following this attempt, Cycling Commentator David Harmon and Professional Cyclist Magnus Backstedt will attempt to break the 25M time trial record on the same tandem bike, called Rocket2, sponsored by Brother under our 141% theme.

This bike is the most technologically advanced tandem ever built, made here in the UK by master framebuilder – Terry Dolan.  That’s another great fit for us – technology, effort and innovation.

When you have a key proposition, sponsorship’s come easily, they are aligned to your business objectives.  We can easily select whether a sponsorship does or does not fit because it has to demonstrate something over and above – not run of the mill.  It has to be 141% and show the sort of commitment that our customers show in growing their businesses.

So, when you see the 141% logo out and about, you’ll know that something interesting is going on and that the individual who has the logo on their back is going above and beyond.

If you want to know a little more, please go to


Judging industry awards.   We’ve all entered them or attended them at some stage.  For many industries and sectors, awards are a great mechanism to celebrate best practice and give the marketeers something to talk about (aswell as a good excuse for an industry late night).

Having recently returned from the judging session of the some comms awards, there is no doubt that being invited to be a judge is a great use of time.  Arguably, when you are burning the midnight oil, reading through entry after entry and trying to collect your thoughts or prioritise the entries, it’s easy to disagree with that last statement, as it is a big personal time commitment.  However, the return on investment is good.

Why?  For me, three reasons. 

  1. You get to read example of what people consider to be/and are best practice so you can benchmark your own performance (or panic). 
  2. You get to meet lots of different people from different industries and go social to facial .  Yesterday I met three people in person that I only knew via social media.  It was very interesting to hear the views of others in non-competing industry sectors and to also hear their commentary, always plenty to learn.
  3. You get your name associated as an industry leader with the awards.  Always good for reputation and profile. 

You do need to think twice before you accept to be a judge though.  Have you got the time?  The skills?  Is the sector relevant? .  If you have, I’d encourage you to do it.  You might well learn something or be able to bring back an idea from a non-competing industry to implement in your own business, you will meet some new people or contacts on the panel which might be useful in the future and your business reputation can only go one way.

What do you think?

When did you last survey your key customers? Do a bit of research about how you’re doing?  Couple of times a year?  Annually  Never?

A survey is different from – let’s say – a peer to peer relationship.  We can maintain those, nurture them and pay attention to them.  However, in larger businesses which often rely on a spiders web of contacts between two businesses, it’s amazing how opinion can differ.  Leaders aren’t always connected with the detail.  That’s where a survey can come in and give you a healthcheck, beyond the parameters of “do we like each other as people”.

The trick with surveys is to keep them short.  Don’t expect too much of people, they are busy with their own stuff.  If you keep it concise, targetted, simple and easy to complete you will get greater response.  I regularly use Survey Monkey, a free cloud based application, which allows you to create a basic on-line survey for free.  All you have to do is decide your questions, decide what format you want the answers in – multiple choice etc – and then publish the URL to your customers.  Easy as that.

Well, it’s easy is you really focus your questions down and make them relevant.  Surveys have to give the recipient a right of reply.  Not everyone is comfortable with being “totally honest”.  I like Survey Monkey as it is done anonymously, so you tend to get to the real truth.

Sometimes it can be difficult to read difficult things, sometimes people fill them in when “in the grip” of a difficult situation, so the timing triggers a negative response.  Regardless, they should always be seen as an indicator for you to take action and investigate further if things aren’t going your way.  It’s surprising what you can learn and in our world of “user generated content” the most important voice we should be listening to – is our customers.

The New OTE

Later this week, I’ll be presenting a short talk to a group of salespeople about social media and how it can help you “cut through” when prospecting for new business.  My thesis is that in a world where time, attention and trust are scarce within customers, interruptive methods of marketing have an unintended consequence.  That is, your intentions are good, you’re trying to inform a customer of a new product or service which you feel will really benefit them, however, due to their workload/pressure, they see it as an interference in their working day.

Let me give you a concrete example from today.  In amongst my post, I got two cold prospecting letters.  One – from a large advertising agency – was a chest beating letter of how good they were, how they had done a brilliant job for someone else, how many awards they had one and they included a free box of cereal from the client they did the work for.  So, no relevance, totally unpersonalised, they hadn’t taken the time to research our business, just expected that the brownie badges on their arm means that I should give them some time.  All I had was a crushed box of breakfast cereal.  Ahem.  I don’t think so.

Contrast that with letter two. A highly personalised piece.  My company logo featuring prominently.  Letter signed by the MD of the business, with full contact information to the decision maker.  Referencing things that they had seen about us in the press, things that you can pick up off of my social media feeds, offering solutions to those forthcoming projects.  Which did you think had the cut through?

I call this “B2ME” marketing, I’m always banging on about it.  Social media channels such as Twitter, Linkedin or Blogs allow you to quickly establish the movements, challenges, projects, problems and successes of your potential customers and create personalised communications to them.  Clearly, you can’t do this if you are – say – a credit card company, handling millions of customers.  However, if you are a B2B brand, targetting specific decision makers within key target accounts, frankly, you’ve no excuse to be sending plain vanilla letters.  They are a waste of time.  A waste of resources.  And have the opposite effect that you are intending.

So, to all salespeople out there, selling to large and major accounts.  To hit your OTE (On Target Earnings or Commission), you can powerfully use social media channels to incresae your “Opportunities To Engage.”  By doing this, you can learn more about your target customers and offer meaningful solutions to them.  Simple as that.


Shopping. We all do it.  Some on-line, some off-line, some new, some second-hand.  The High St. continues to change in front of our eyes as traditional retailers struggle to pay the rents, when up against the internet business model.  So, shouldn’t all shops be dead now?

Of course the answer is no, because the internet doesn’t satisfy the emotion of immediacy.  Retailers have us clearly segmented into our demographic groups, they know what we buy, how we buy, when we buy.  Heaven only knows what the Tesco Clubcard database could tell us about human behaviour, that probably explains the constant store re-layouts, which confuse the hell out of all of us, but continue to contribute to their results.  They use the immediacy concept to entice us into impulse buying, trading up, cross-selling and filling our baskets up.

I used the acronym “I-WIN” above relating it more to higher ticket goods.  What that stands for is “I Want It Now”.  That is, I’m in the market, I’m active, I’ve got the money and I am a hot buyer.  Men particularly – when in this mode – can be  hugely impatient.  There are generally three stages that buyers are at when they’re shopping: -

  1. Absorbing (Not in the market, but their minds are absorbing, taking in stuff).  Seeing ads on TV, general branding.
  2. Researching (Thinking about the purchase, reading reviews, comparing).  Browsing in shops, reading reviews, comparison sites, sourcing suppliers.
  3. Active (In the market, price checking, ready to buy).  Using price comparison engines, searching for vouchers, visiting specific shops.

Your sales and marketing strategy needs to cater for people in all three stages of the buying cycle.  Generally, it’s a pyramid shape with stage 1 at the bottom, stage 2 in the middle and stage 3 at the top.  The bottom being the large bulk of your market at any one time, the top representing the tip of the pyramid, smaller, more focussed buyers.

When you have a customer in “I-WIN” mode, they are either in “distressed purchase mode”, that is, an event has forced them to look for a product (due to technical breakdown) or they have researched, selected and are now choosing a product.  At this point, you must have it in stock or you will lose the “I-WIN” buyer. I come across so many businesses that spend money on demand generation activity such as Google adwords only to get people to their sites, without offering a call to action to buy or conversion to buy.  Businesses that spend money on newspaper adverts, to then not stock the items they are advertising.

With time becoming a rarity, buyers will reject any retailer that doesn’t serve up what they want, when they want it.  It’s a lesson to us all to get the basic hygiene factors right.  Product. Price. Promotion. Place. People.

Branding vs. Demand Generation?

I attended a conference in Manchester today called Brand vs. Demand, which aimed to address this issue. It’s not easy topic to tackle as there are many different factors which should dictate where you spend your marketing dollars.  Are you a B2C or B2B brand?  In an established or new market?  What your route to market is? And so on infinitum…

It’s the traditional tussle which exists between the Marketing Director and the Sales Director in many big businesses (except if you’re both in my case and you find the right balance).  Activity which tells a brand story, reaching out to the emotional decision making criteria of your customer vs. activity which generates instant leads and ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment).  In a recession, all the spotlights get turned to ROMI, for obvious reasons, sales matter, the bottom line matters.

Branding is easily overlooked, seen as a luxury, not a necessity.  Capital is impatient.  Most pieces of commissioned research tell you that for every year you underinvest in branding, it takes you triple the time to catch back up again.   Notwithstanding the above (what you’re selling, to whom and in what phase of the market you are), you need to keep your credentials out there.

When people decide to buy things, if you meet all the basic hygiene factors, price, performance, place, then other factors come into play.  Generally, people narrow their choice down to three brands, you need to be in that top 3 box of consideration.  If not, you’re not in the game.  So, getting the balance right is all about shifting your weight on the see saw, appropriate to market conditions, your budget and your objectives.  If you launch a killer product in a recession, get behind it, spend and take advantage of all the cheap deals out there.  Now might be a great time to get on and do some branding work to take advantage of your key competitor not spending, for example.

There was a promising line up of speakers today, some delivered, some didn’t.  The Rt. Hon Lord Heseltine was interesting, still bright as a button, despite his accelerating years.  He’s been the brains behind the Haymarket Publishing empire for many years and it was interesting to hear his views around printed media.  His prediction is that the specialist marketlaces continue to remain to be profitable as customers “don’t know what they’re looking for.”  As someone that regularly buys road cycling magazines, I concur with that, page by page consumption is typical behaviour for me and my bedtime browsing, however, things will change in time, of that I’m sure.

So in conclusion, you have to do both.  Big or small.  Recession or not recession.  Big budget or little budget.  What it’s for you to decide is how where you put the weight (your budget) on the see saw of spend (brand vs. demand)  Over time, it should be balanced.  In recessions, it can shift much more to demand generation (making the numbers) or branding (taking advantage of great deals), it’s for you to decide the “how, why and when.”

How are you spending your money at the minute?

Brain Food…

Twenty years ago, we acquired our knowledge through books. The Encyclopedia Brittanica was the ultimate status symbol for the aspiring family travelling up the hierarchy of needs. Today, knowledge is freely shared across the web. Check this out. A free e-book from marketing superbrain Seth Godin. Years ago, you would have had to pay a lot of money for this. Here we all are being lucky enough just to read it on-line for free. This is classic “Freemium”. Seth is giving away part of his knowledge, the other bit you have to pay for (i.e., buy his book). Fair enough. For me, this is a clear demonstration in how to do Freemium properly and also use the power of social networks to widely distribute the content. Awesome.

B2B or B2ME?

Continuing on with the B2B marketing theme following on from yesterday’s blogpost. Today I posted at Tweet that said “Lines between Home and Work are blurring”. What I meant by that is that working hours are getting longer, 5pm – 9pm is the new 9am to 5pm goes a recent saying.

Hours are so long now that people are catching up work, post work. It begs the question, When is the optimum to catch them? Your B2B proposition is now hitting your potential prospect potentially outside of their working day in their domestic environment. So, how should your approach change?

Well for starters you should think about when you are sending your communications, moment to moment marketing is what it’s all about. Choosing the right moment, when your prospect has cleared their work and is more open, is what it’s all about. 10pm at night is a good time. Interruptive marketing is as good as a “no” vote from your potential customers if it ram raids itself into their “maxed out” lives. Appreciate that, be concise, be clear, make it easy for them to act.

My next point is about B2ME. Personalised communication gives you the highest propensity for action. B2B marketing is often highly prescriptive, using Corporate language with a general theme of “we know what you want”. The more personal the better. Broadcast marketing has huge wastage. Personalised marketing takes longer, but is more effective.

Here’s a social media tip. Follow your potential contacts on Linkedin or Twitter. See when their travelling or out of the office. They may have potential deadtime or flatspots in airport lounges, train stations or hotels. Use that time to start a conversation. That’s what I mean about B2ME, it’s highly personal, relevant and interesting as you are talking about the most important person in your prospects lives – them!