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Showing posts from 2011

O2 (and all the others) are Useless

Every two years I switch to one of the other four UK mobile network providers because a) my memory of the last time I was one of their customers has faded, b) I have a mistaken expectation that they've done something in the meantime to improve their service, and c) I'm bored or angry with my mobile and hope that a new one might suddenly work better as a phone (why did I ever abandon my old Nokia?).

We all know every mobile operator offers a patchy service in the UK. Most of their money goes into marketing. Clearly very little goes into increasing their coverage. What's even more annoying is that we've grown to accept this in the UK (where our declining economy has just been overtaken by Brazil!). Everywhere else on this planet the service is brilliant. We're told its crap because:

a) we're all watching porn, football and soaps like Coronation Street on our mobiles, and that's used up the bandwidth (which of course is bollocks, because no-one CAN watch any …

Jewish Laws. The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Odd

In researching my previous blog about using the fear of god to encourage moral behaviour, I came across a list of the 613 commandments which jews are meant to follow. Before I read them, I had assumed that most would be either anachronistic or simply arcane. However, several set me thinking that maybe the bearded ones were not as tyrannical or irrational as I imagined they might be. However, some of the laws do not stand the test of time, and some are simply unpleasant at best, and bordering on evil.

The largest bunch of laws are to do with sacrificing animals. Who does it, when and with what type of beast. Why ancients thought that killing an animal in any way affected the way a deity might feel about them is mysterious at best. However, there is also a great deal of advice about helping the poor and less fortunate - although inevitably poor and unfortunate Jews are favoured over everyone else. Intriguingly there is even a law which had Shakespeare and his audiences known about - no…

An Atheist Argues for Faith

I am an atheist. Not an agnostic, an atheist. THERE IS NO GOD. At least not a supercomputer-in-the-sky fairytale type of god. And certainly not one defined by a bunch of bearded blokes thousands of years ago. I'm not going to go into the arguments which support my lack of faith in there being any possibility for a deity (there are many better arguers for atheism around) suffice to say that I believe we all have the potential to understand every unexplained mystery. We are surrounded by stuff today that would blow the minds of those beardies for which they invented gods to explain, but where we now have scientific explanations (science means 'know', not 'have faith').

Where organised faith is concerned, I believe there are two types of people in this world. Those who need to ring-fence things they don't understand by assigning them to a god (who does the understanding for them - otherwise referred to as the 'god-of-gaps'), and those who refuse to assign …

We're forgetting how to sell

I’ve just returned from a conference in Rome where I listened to a procession of impassioned CRM managers from car companies telling an audience of CRM managers about their latest marketing initiative to increase sales and keep customers loyal. All made good sense. All faced similar challenges – legacy IT; recalcitrant dealers; experimentation in new media channels; no money; harsh market conditions (ie no-one’s buying cars these days). But many of them missed arguably the single most important factor which will affect their figures – Selling!

Marketing people, and increasingly their sales colleagues along with top management, believe that it’s all about giving the customer what they want, when they want it. Seems logical and sensible. But it‘s only half the story. Sure every business has to do that, and better than their competitors. Sure we need to make the processes involved in attracting prospects, responding to any interest they express, and achieving a happy sale for both partie…

Mansion Tax - why it's a bad idea

A 'mansion tax' would be unfair, impractical to implement, and would bite hands that feed us.

What's the difference between a hoodie who raids a shop to take a TV because he doesn't have enough money to buy one for himself, and a politician who advocates taking someone else's money because it doesn't affect him or most people who vote for him?

This might sound a ridiculous comparison, one party being irresponsible, and the other believing they're taking responsibility for the well-being of society, but I'm suggesting in reality there are some unhealthy similarities between their attitudes. "It doesn't matter if I'm not the one losing out - it will only affect a small number of people who can probably afford it". The hoodie grabs TVs they can't pay for, the latter is planning to grab money from people who own larger houses than them. Both do it because it's easy and their peers encourage them to do it. It makes them popular amo…

The Marketing Virus - it's closer than you think. Scary!

If you read my earlier blog about the Marketing Virus and perhaps felt that I was being a little over alarmist, watch this:

Respect - Especially for Football Referees

When my kids were young, they would come home from school saying they hated Lucy, Kate or James. Like every parent I used to agonise over what advice to send my little darlings back to school with which a) wouldn't get them detention / prison sentence, and b) might help them turn adversity into advantage by avoiding retaliation and potential escalation. Eventually my advice boiled down to one simple idea for them to remember:

If you make some one feel good about themselves, they'll feel good about you.

So if Lucy calls you fat and ugly, instead of hitting her or insulting her back, why not try "I love your hair, or can you teach me the words to that song....". Not only will that take all the wind out of her sails, she probably won't jeopardise you not saying nice things again, so she may start being nice to you. Worth a try? If it doesn't work, you can always bop her.

Psychologists call this Cognitive Dissonance. In a nutshell there are three components to an …

RBS - no help to the UK economy - and we own the bastards!

My business banks with RBS. We're only still there after around 20 years because I suspect all banks are much the same and I don't fancy the turmoil of trying to change from one bunch of wankers to another, until this week, that is....

My history of banking with RBS started in the mid 1990s when I finally got sick of the mess Lloyds were making of simple things, like supplying cheque books and statements. RBS (prior to their buying Natwest) were supposedly a bit different, especially for Guildford (hundreds of miles South of Scotland - non-Brits might be wondering). So my previous company started trading, at a loss of course for several years while we found our feet and our customers found us. I build companies who sell something called Software As A Service (SAAS). It used to be known as an ISP (Internet Service Provider) and today it is starting to be known as a Cloud Solution provider. But basically we don't sell software, we provide services over the internet (and othe…

Is Eric Schmidt right about the UK losing its way with our youth? Does the internet offer a massive education revolution?

Schmidt has just delivered the annual MacTaggart lecture to TV bosses. It's worth reading in its entirety since the main thrust is calling for lightness of touch in regulation and the freeing up of the use of data... I wonder why?... read my blog about the Marketing Virus! Google wants to help businesses sell to you. Period.

But the UK media has ignored all that. It has instead picked up on a couple of comments Schmidt made about the UK abandoning sciences and mathematics in favour of humanities. He was also appalled that the UK national curriculum had dropped Computer Studies (not that I knew it was ever included).

Taking this last point first, I am not so sure we need to teach our kids how computers work. Every kid in the UK can use them, and many have learned how to edit videos and pictures. Many of them will eventually be able to use spreadsheets and word processors as well, if only as part of other disciplines such as English and Business Studies etc. So why is it important f…

Knowing Beats Hoping – the case for hacking employees

Q: When is it ethical to listen to other people’s phone conversations?
A: When it’s in the best interest of both parties. Making sure customer gets what they want, and helping staff achieve their objectives.
Maximising Customer Experience is the buzz expression these days. But less obvious is the benefit to the employee. But benefit they will. By identifying how they can improve their performance, we can not only help them achieve greater success and therefore greater job satisfaction, the resulting increase in customer satisfaction will assist profitability, which in turn translates into better employment conditions and good morale amongst work mates. They’ll be delivering for their employers and pulling their weight in a team. So what is at the heart of what ‘hacking’ or listening-in to calls to and from your organisation meant to achieve? What are we trying to measure?
It’s all about really knowing what your customers are experiencing. And it’s about knowing for certain, quantitativel…

The Marketing Virus

I have spent the past 35 years helping corporations, latterly my own, communicate with customers and prospects (people they want to become customers). When I first entered the world of marketing, we were known by other departments as the 'Gin and Tonic Brigade' due to the long lunch hours with suppliers and the frequent conferences and 'inspection' visits we felt we needed to make. Our work was broadly about creating the right message, in the right place, at the right time to attract the attention and persuade the right people, usually but not exclusively, to part with money. More significantly, our skills at the time focussed mainly on the message, rather than the targeting and timing. This was basically because in those days we only had blunt advertising and direct marketing tools at our disposal. Calculation of Return On Investment (ROI) was an obscure art, universally employed to justify retaining client contracts (if we were agencies) and to encourage bean-counter…

Talkers and Listeners

I'm off to TED Global 2011 in Edinburgh next week. Can't wait. If you've never watched any TED presentations, click on www.ted.com. Become an addict like me. Amazing people telling amazing and thought provoking stories - each lasting no more than about 20 minutes. 50 of them for 5 days.

One of the things Tedsters (that's what delegates are called... tacky?) have to do before arriving is to create the wording for their badges. All the usual stuff: Name, Job Title, Employer, Location, Picture etc, but also a section that starts "Talk to me about"... and then you have to list three things (with limited character length) that you want people to talk to you about. You are advised to be serious, amusing and controversial (or something like that). Pause for thought. There are 1,000 of the world's smartest thinkers at TED. How do I make sure I won't look stupid. But wait. I also want to look smart. But not so smart that I'll look stupid or at least hopele…

Democracy is not always the answer

When I hear pompous politicians like Obama, Cameron and their predecessors state that it's their duty to encourage nations to adopt democracy (by bombing them into having it), I feel a serious gromble needs to be expressed. It was Churchill who said “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” and then there's Thomas Jefferson who said “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.

'Great' democracies like the UK, the USA and the world's largest, India, believe their system of government and periodic accountability at elections, work - because they exist. Ergo they work. But democracy means something rather more basic. Democracy is a voting system whereby minorities accept the decision of the majority about who governs them. Minorities in working democracies therefore do not feel sufficiently passionate about their d…

Facebook is for kids

There’s a panic amongst grey-haired business execs. “Surely we’re missing out on the Social Media revolution. 600m people we can talk to. Although I don’t bother personally with Facebook, and Linkedin is only for chaps looking for work, I’m worried my customers are expecting us to do something with social media, and we’re not”.
Don’t panic! You’re almost certainly not missing out on anything. At least not urgently. If you’ve watched the Hollywood film, The Social Network, about the rise of Mark Zuckerburg and Facebook, then you may have missed the original point of Facebook and its ascendency to world domination of Social Media. The film missed it completely. The clue is in the name. Social Networks have existed on the net for decades before Facebook appeared. Originally called bulletin boards, early forums, members (‘friends’) could ‘post’ comments on ‘boards’ (today’s ‘walls’) for other members to read and join in. At the time pictures and other media weren’t included. Not only were …

Call Reluctance - a growing business problem

Most people in the developed world communicate these days using texts, messaging, ‘walls’, and of course email. We choose to use these methods of communication because they are cheap, fast, easy (once you’ve mastered a keyboard using varying numbers of fingers), and most importantly, none of them put us on the spot. We can compose what we want to say, in our own time. We also aren’t being judged for our accent, hesitation, pronunciation or, much to the disgust of English teachers throughout the world, spelling and grammar. Unfortunately, by avoiding being put-on-the-spot, we are not practicing the skills required to converse in real-time. We are increasingly losing confidence to either initiate conversations, or to make ourselves available to respond to requests for conversations. And with respect to phone calls, we’re consequently becoming Call Reluctant. We don’t like making calls, and we don’t like answering them.
This is not only true for the general public, it is increasingly true…