How to fail spectacularly at customer service

  1. Go to SNCB Marketing School

I’m in a bit of a pickle, folks. Because Sam’s on call over Christmas, I decided to bring the festive celebrations forward a few weeks. I booked a weekend in Brugge.

It’s been in the bag for months.

Hotel’s booked (non-refundable in case of cancellation), trains to London booked (being a skinflint I bought the inflexible Advance tickets – non-refundable unless you lose all four limbs simultaneously).

In other words, you really don’t want to be in a situation where you can’t go. You’d sacrifice a few hundred quid. And being a skinflint, that would make me cry like an abandoned puppy on Boxing Day.

One SAD puppy.

That is one SAD puppy. Maybe it’s the weather.

Today this puppy has every reason to be mournful.

When he’s not posing for pictures looking indescribably cute, this canine is a customer service critic.

And he’s got good reason to frown.

What are Belgians good at?

I’ve supped a fair few Tripels in my time. Flemish monks, perhaps out of character, nailed it long ago when it came to brewing world-class ales.

Belgian chocolate is equally renowned. Waffles slide down like a helter skelter rider with olive oil on her bum.

And the frites! Oh. I’ve just soiled myself.

That’s the good news.

They suck at customer service

Sweeping generalisation over, let’s survey the evidence.

A couple of days ago I got an email from Eurostar saying Belgium was having a fit about the way its government was handling austerity (apparently manufacturing more beer was not the most efficient way of climbing out of a big economic hole; serves them right for overlooking me as Their First Guy; I’m, like, the perfect Ghent for the job!).

Consequently because I was holidaying there, they were holding a regional strike WHERE BRUGGE IS on THE WEEKEND WE’RE THERE.

Stuff like this makes me mad. Why didn’t they just ask for my support, instead of effectively ruining Christmas?

The TripAdvisor forums were awash with speculation. Because Belgians haven’t done regional strikes before, possibly because they were all too full and drunk, there was no precedent on whether all transport was off, or not.

Like a good citizen of the internet I went to the Belgian rail website, known as SNCB.

17 paragraphs in, not including headlines or lists, we finally get to the crux.

On the SNCB website – for English people (important point, this) – all the trains on December 1 (Monday, strike day) were shown as unaffected. I could literally book one.

But nowhere on the website was there any information about this strike.

Was it a work of fiction? Had I dreamed it, just before the scene where someone slagged the crap out of a big presentation I’m doing in the real world tomorrow?

Negative. All the news of the strike was still there. Not there, but elsewhere.

So I dropped the good folk at SNCB a Tweet. Because that’s how you do customer enquiries these days, if you’re me.

To be fair to the folks, it only took them about 16 hours to reply, and that included snoozytime.

But it was the substance of the response that triggered this enthralling article.

I don’t mind people making mistakes. You just did, clicking on that juicy link to read this chaff. And I still love you. What does set my teeth on edge is when you ignore your customers’ needs. This is borderline racist, for goodness sake!

If I’m passing through your country you’re more than happy to sell me stuff (evidently being on the verge of bankruptcy, one ponders, would be a good reason to do so) in my mother tongue. But you’re not ready to inform me that I can buy stuff and you won’t give it to me.

Maybe that’s it. Cunning. It’s like Del Boy, Arfur Daley and Steptoe rolled into one. A Ponzi scheme! I may have gone overboard with the last one. But you feel my angst, right?

“Sorry about that”. Righty-ho. So what now? Is it on? And those tickets I can buy – what were you planning to do about them? Just let it ride – unlike people on your trains?

There’s a lesson in here. Go figure it out.

Cockatoos and the perfect punter

Let's fly.

Fly high – reach the sky. And I’ve not even started yet…

I’ve a well-reasoned hunch you’re positively nauseous about me rabbiting on about the theories of modern marketing.

Wouldn’t it be nice, you muse, if Dave now and again walked the walk and delivered the goods rather than insinuate the paths to success.

Well hallucination over, folks. Those perfectly manicured digits are about to get a real workout.

I was recently drafted in by an upcoming Northern Quarter drinking den to fabricate a modern marketing strategy.

I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours chinwagging with the overlady about her vision. It is a striking one. When it opens, this pleasuredome will be like no other in Manchester. The vibe will be friendly, and the majority of patrons corporate types.

It’ll be part upmarket dive, part events space. And in the versatility and boldness in attitude of its leading lady will lend itself beautifully to a city whose citizens are more fickle than a Kardashian at Bob’s Boobs.

Take my hand and let’s turn this cornucopia of confusion into a marketing opportunity like no other. Here’s my thought process for proposing to my elegant friend how to make this cathedral of cocktails sing like a cockatoo.

An intersection of Manchester life and passionate people.
An intoxicating mix.
The texture of life.

Making people feel special

We all know there’s too much stuff out there. There are about a dozen books whose message is exactly – and just – that.

Cutting through that mass of nonsense is the critical component of your marketing efforts.

So how do you stand out?

Where I used to work, some guy from Latin America in one of his more lucid moments explained we should act local and think global. I remember fondly using the word glocal in the internal comms magazine, and thinking what a twattish corporate world we inhabited. You have to understand that this was the same year we coined a brand new-to-me territory – Eurasia. Which was pronounced YourArseYeah. In my head.

But in a situation like this, your secret weapon isn’t just acting local – but thinking local. Or localal, if you want to sound like a diet version of kosher meat (you have to say that out loud for it to be in the same postcode as funny).

This is Manchester. City of the minted. Where the real people ran off long ago when the gentrification of a once great city began.

And since everyone has a very high opinion of themselves, the landscape has to pass muster as a perma-Disneyland. Every moment has to be Facebookable, every sight Instagrammed.

This place has to fit. It has to speak for itself.

Speak for itself…

The texture of life

If there’s one thing that people love, it’s people they love talking about things they love.

That sense of community, togetherness, belonging, inspiration, desire.

Influencer marketing is so called because it’s a thing.

And right now we need to be reaching out to precisely those people who will prove our new enterprise the most coveted destination for event organisers and regular joes lusting after a special experience.

If you’re a new business competing in a competitive sector, how do you figure out your influencers?

Answer: you don’t. Your customers do.

But Dave, you’re probably saying, behind the smirk. Dave – throw us a bone.

It’s all about your top 10

Freak like me. One minute he’s on about 1000 true fans. Now it’s your top 10 clients.

If you’ve ever watched Countdown (the 8 out of 10 cats one is particularly good) you’ll know numbers are best when delivered randomly.

To know the influencers, you need to define your 10 ideal clients.

This is no easy task. Of the 90 or so clients I’ve asked this question, approximately 6 have given me an answer within the last decade.

And I’m not one of them child entrepreneurs.

But this is important for all kinds of reasons.

Once you know the 10 customers you’d most like to partner, everything about your business will change. Everything will be so much more focused. Because as I’ve said before, it’s not just about those X keys to your success: we’re not so different, and there will be thousands more who sing to the tune of your perfect 10.

There’s some bonus material here about notching up your gee-whizz customer.

Who are your top 10, Dave?

You’ve probably guessed when it comes to this blog, I mostly write stuff that pops into my head. But now you’re thinking it’s all a big scam. Here you are, 1094 words in, probably none the wiser, and to all intents and purposes I’ve led you on just so I can cajole a plausible reason to name 10 companies for which I have the greatest respect and will promptly offer me a job as an overpaid editorial, content or creative director.

There are 11, by the way. That’s just to show you that 10 should, for you, be a shoe-in:

  1. Technology: I’d love to work with Logitech (Twitter) because they are simply the most responsive and customer-centric tech company in the world. They know their schiz, people.
  2. Food: until I had a chat with their UK director, Thermomix were the company I really admired. After the dream was smashed apart for me like when you get some Jacobs cream crackers in a Ziploc bag and hammer down on them to make Jamie Oliver’s ‘cracking’ burgers, I figured Vitamix (Twitter) would be my ideal client.
  3. Travel: you might not know I spent nigh on 10 years editing Holiday, Europe’s most widely-distributed travel magazine. Yeah. So I get a buzz from the world of leisure and hospitality. And in this realm, I nominate Hilton as my perfect partner. I have a lot of love for Wyndham, my former employers, and also Holiday Inn, now IHG, after striking up a close friendship with the chain’s chairman while scribing for the hospitality business press. But what Hilton has done with HiltonSuggests on Twitter, and how it creates new and exciting digital campaigns (its Vacationitis ‘urgent vacation care center’ initiative was overwhelmingly clever).
  4. Retail: John Lewis, for what it could be in bricks and clicks but isn’t, yet. This isn’t a pony with just the one trick: penguins and cartoon Christmases aside, it knows how to treat its customers (join the loyalty scheme and get free cake and a cuppa out the traps) and if it figures out what to do next with its physical locations using experiential marketing, it could be the poster child for how to integrate r(e)tail. At the charity where I’m digital lead, I sit on the Future team where we envision the organisation’s next move, and the one after that. I’m pretty sure John Lewis’ ‘future’ team has plenty more tricks up its sleeve.
  5. Health and fitness: this is an incredibly disrupted sector right now. An obvious transplant for my skills would be Equinox but I believe strongly in the startup zone here. 8fit has my vote for democratising being better. This is an app you haven’t heard of. I hope that changes soon. I can help with that.
  6. Motivation: Thinkful is an amazing start on the road to habit-forming us. Distractions are damaging and rampant. Getting focus is critical if we are to succeed in whichever endeavour powers us. I think Thinkful could get us there. With me on board.
  7. Books: I have a great friend in Sally Ashworth, one of the nicest and all-round-best people in publishing who introduced me to Harvard Business Review via AMACOM. I’m a regular reviewer of their books and I would love to get my teeth stuck into bringing that brand to life. They have the beginnings of something special: bringing Clay Christensen to launch his latest book at London’s V&A Museum was a masterclass in touching the right communities with the right message at just the right time (the after-work decompression effect of a moody, near-infinite space was gold standard marketing).
  8. Creativity: imagine a playground for your mind, an ever-changing roster of incredible presenters with a lifetime’s worth of expertise to share. Welcome to CreativeLive – a funky studio space broadcasting live channels of educational content for a modern world.
  9. Spiritualism: There’s a kernel of awesomeness in the Scottish team behind Buddhify. Wherever you are, you can take time for yourself. To pause, to spend thoughtless minutes in the beauty of life. Like health trackers, we’re not quite there yet when it comes to commuting meditation to devices. But talking about liking health trackers…
  10. Health tracking: Belle and the crew at Exist.io rock my world with their big picture view interpreting all the data emitted by our squillions of moving devices. I don’t suppose what they have is ultimately where it will be, but it acts as a valiant precedent and I imagine their mission control is transmitting mindwaves of acquisition potential to people like Google and Facebook. I love Basis for what it’s doing with Peak, but more than anyone I admire Withings for coming so far from its wifi scales to the place where elegance meets utility with its Activite smartwatch.
  11. Innovation: Dyson. James has revolutionised domesticity and his smart thinking has won what could have been another humdrum enterprise a place in the hearts of millions. And Dyson is taking the next huge step forward announcing it will transform another 1,000 things with its unprecedented approach to product design. I mean, who doesn’t love a robotic vacuum cleaner?

If I was Moz I’d open up a spreadsheet with 900 rows and 77382 columns into which I’d squirt each of these 11 entities and a further 9 million variables.

But I’m not. Instead, I’m going to run some Twitter analysis on each of my dream partners to learn what they Tweet and who they’re RTing.

Back to reality

About 1,000 words ago, in a faraway paragraph, I mentioned about defining your dream clients and doing everything you can to discern their influencers and influences. Then doing your damnedest to make sweet sonatas with this insight forming irresistible storylines for your uber prospects.

Value and meaning are your golden thread.

We’ve already figured that to put a venue built for social outings on the map, you need to ooze sociability.

That’s the recipe.

The magic ingredients are the space in the centre of your marketing Venn diagram. What you offer (left) – what your clients want (right) – kerching (centre).

After doing some deep dive analysis into the Manchesterati, consisting of an indecent amount of networking, both virtual and at bars, meetings and offices across the city, I’m confident that there’s nothing quite so potent as getting the inside track into this urban sprawl’s hidden delights.

Those chintzy, avant garde, breaking news, cutting edge haunts sating our cultural and emotional indulgences.

A scandalously voluminous velvet and firefly throne, all Graham Norton and Alan Carr.

Daring environment (courtesy of this story’s hero location).

Sophisticated but rough-cut host. Six stellar personalities pandering to the future you.

10 minutes out of life. The ultimate local video show. One to remember. One to eagerly await.

Repurposed across a million different channels to tickle the fancy of everyone, not just the circles’ middle.

Think Time Out, Hello, Lancashire Life, GQ.

Welcome. To The Pleasuredome.

Life’s all about being different to achieve uncommon success.

Because if you’re not, you’re second place. Who wants the steak knives? Or worse?

Be different. How else will they remember you?

How to win at business in 2015

How to win at business in 2015

How to win at business in 2015

My pals at Professional Academy – purveyors of professional learning and development – asked if I would record a short video with my recommendations on how we business owners should make magic in 2015.

I struggle with the whole concept of brevity. So despite being ordered to limit myself to one minute, I delivered something twice the size. My thinking is bigger is better. Imagine going to McDonalds and being handed a toasty, moist Big Mac rather than a limp and dry cheeseburger. I don’t know about you, but I’d skip out that shop.

It’s all about mastering measuring metrics (and helpful marketing)

Despite doubling the length of my video I still couldn’t pack in any detail about the information above in parethesis. I’ll give you a quick hint: it’s all about getting up close and intimate. No more spray and pray. 121 wins. Other than that nugget you’ll have to wait around or scour the rest of my blog for helpful marketing strategies (there are plenty here).

Right now let’s focus on the stats. This article is nothing less than the figurative representation of a data scientist’s soaked sheets. Quants will faint with delight.

Because 2015 is when we all start paying a wealth more attention to numbers and being accountable.

I was chatting with some pals the other day at a user conference for my workplace’s CMS. When I started talking about metrics and analytics, they shot me the look of a man whose mother I punched in the face. I genuinely feared for my life.

It’s like when my pal Gini Dietrich addressed a room packed with PRs. She asked how many used Google Alerts. Gini would have received a warmer welcome had she pulled a big sausage from her trousers in a Vegan Society AGM.

Anyway, in this video I show you how to first reach your customers on social media – and then analyse the effects of your marketing and communications.

Reaching the rights

  1. Let’s take Twitter. Find your most important followers on Twitter using commun.it. This is a ninja tool that few use. You can try it free, then it’s cheap to recruit full-time. And worth every penny.
  2. And Facebook‘s Power Editor (facebook.com/powereditor on the Chrome browser after you’ve logged in to facebook.com) lets you reach exactly the customers you want to using the incredibly powerful hypertargeting capabilities of Facebook Advertising. Quick tip here: just focus your efforts on the news feed, not the right hand sidebar – you’ll reach no mobile users that way.

Secret VIP tip – if you have deep pockets, DemographicsPro lets you get leagues deep into the ocean of data from your Twitter efforts. It’s incredibly good: just ask my pal Jeremy Waite about his penguin obsession.

Caveat: these things take a little learning (especially the Power Editor; there’s so much to it, which in this case is A Good Thing). Any questions, ask me @davethackeray.

Righting the reach

So now you know who you need to work with (and using Twitter Cards and Facebook Ads, you can get people to sign up to your newsletter, by exchanging something with high perceived value for their details which will ultimately end up in your CRM, right? Streak – free – yes?).

Calibrating and refining your efforts so that not one penny or minute is wasted on the wrong consumers is essential. Essays in their thousands have been written about the 7Ps (and my CIM course is replete with them). Measuring your marketing will not only help you grow relationships with the right people – it will separate the wheat from the chaff especially if you take into account attitudinal data which can be harvested in part using some of the tools below.

But we’re here right now to talk about qualifying the correct customers. Once you’re talking to the right people about the stuff they want, measure everything better.

  1. Everything: Mondovo.com is a startup tying performance across all your digital platforms together. This is seriously a brilliant tool. You can start using it right away, plugging in your website and social accounts for a global dashboard, and do some SEO research in the same place to tie it all together. Mondovo, people. It’s ‘a world of vo’*.
  2. Mining your own rich seam of data: Google Analytics Solutions Gallery at google.com/analytics/gallery/ is great if you
    want to start out figuring how your own website is performing (nibbler).
  3. Starting out with web analytics: If you’re new to measuring how users play with your site check out Andy Crestodina videos on how to use Google Analytics at Orbit Media.

Secret VIP tip pre-measuring metrics: do a quick pulse check on how your website is performing. Nibbler is a free website analyser that will knock your socks off when it comes to unearthing incredible insights about how your digital strategy’s working out from the punter’s perspective.

Follow my lead and by 2016 you’ll be enjoying all kinds of new success.

Get more on measuring metrics

As always, Tweet me at @davethackeray to talk about any of this stuff and stay tuned to ProfessionalAcademy.com for more insights on how to win at business.

Why 97 sucks

I'm starting a campaign to lose the scammy, spammy 97. Join me. #end97

I’m starting a campaign to lose the scammy, spammy 97. Join me. #end97

The problem is us.

Us, being everyone.

Increasingly more sophisticated, the marketplace increasingly more fragmented, our voice increasingly quietened by the mass of competition encroaching on our previously uncontested territory.

But still the vile stench of everything “97” festers unrestrained.

You can’t avoid them. The $97 get rich quick product. The $397 product funnel formula. The £997, AAA conference pass.

And the morning after. The wretched feeling of inadequacy, of the missing piece, of raiding your business bank account because the squeeze page oozed sexy words and hollow promises leaving you empty in pocket and mind.W

If you really want to know about how to win at business, you have to be yourself. And understand that no matter how much you want someone else to be your guide, the only true guide is the market and its response to everything you do.

Unique is common

Every single business needs to do things a million different ways.

Let’s take this to the bridge. While I was coaching our golf squad to reach out using their unique assets – the content DNA that marks them out as who they are – it became abundantly clear just how high they have to reach to put their heads above the parapet.

There are so many golf courses out there against which they compete; but equally, the market they’re chasing extends to driving ranges, other sports venues, even computer games. Anything that provides a distraction to the rat race is fair game when it comes to fighting your corner for a share of recreational time.

I would have been laughed off the course had I offered them an out-the-box social media training suite. As we sat down we trailblazed a novel path for them to follow. It’s winter, downtime for the golf fraternity. But those who love the sport don’t just winterise their clubs and swap balls for bigger ones. They live for golf. So this is the perfect time to build a community and sneak out some real AAA, VIP updates on both this club and course.

The YouTube channel Me and My Golf is a great example of where we’re going with marketing today. So fervent are they in favour of selling golf with on-screen lessons, they bring to mind Ray Kroc and McDonald’s – a business foundation built not on selling burgers, but snapping up priceless real estate for knock down prices. Spend any amount of time watching Me and My Golf episodes and you’ll see, quite honorably, that they are using golf to sell ads and generate revenue via YouTube, not using YouTube to sell golf.

Ethical exceptions

I’m not destroying digital courses, period. The rise of online universities proves there’s merit in learning virtually.

Take a look at

So let’s be clear – ethical players with integrity thrive in this space. It’s just so often their efforts are spoiled by the many more who don’t share their same worldview of caring by sharing.

More steering by profiteering.

Increasingly digital merchants are peddling complimentary passes to courses masquerading as normally paid options, to build lists. Get on the list and you’ll rue the day you ever signed up.

Because as everyone knows, there is no such thing as free, according to Squeeze Page law.

So whadda we do?

If you want to learn how to win at business, you need to first take time to tick the boxes in my 14-point business-winning formula. This, rest assured, is absolutely free with no jnnk mail involved, no ulterior motive, simply a prerogative to build better businesses.

If you don’t have the artifice and chicanery of $397 courses to lean on, where do you draw your inspiration and motivation?

The answer lies in the power of groups.

I used to run a lot of mastermind groups, which in scam circles are often referred to as genius networks since that’s a badge you want to wear.

Masterminds should be free. You can make money doing business – whereby mastermind groups should be for the benefit of everyone involved, not to line the organiser’s pockets.

The mastermind group assembles six people with varying experiences in business and life to smash problems of others round the table. It’s the junta, what Napoleon Hill referred to as the power of the collective mind. Try it and you’ll be staggered by the results.

Why free? I’m a big believer in corporate social responsibility. This is why I loathe the idea of paying for networking unless you’re doing it underneath the nose of Concorde, where the experience of being there is as breathtaking as the new connections you make.

Groups aren’t just powerful face-to-face. I’ve learned a ridiculous amount from Facebook Groups, and Google Groups, and even the smattering of LinkedIn Groups that aren’t patronised exclusively by the ‘buy me’ brigade.

I don’t hold the same candle for Chambers of Commerce, since they are run as businesses rather than for them. Same goes for BNI, and basically any network that charges membership fees. In this day and age, where collaboration and communication are freer than most birds, do we really need to rely on an ancient framework which refuses to embrace the miracle of modern technology to bring their constituents closer?

Do you see the minefield?

As you’ll know from previous escapades on this website among my priorities right now is getting more people feeling amazing through fitness.

What really turns me in on this space, is habit-forming. You can’t change lives if you can’t change behaviours. As Tony Robbins says, get the state, the story and the strategy right and it just works.

Pay close attention to how these four startups work

  • Lift (get a coach)
  • Thinkful (get a motivator)
  • Fitbay (social proof; validation that the you in you is just fine)
  • 8Fit (anyone can do this)

because all riff to the beat of my drum.

To succeed in business you need to be more you. To know that what you’re selling is precisely what the market needs and conclusively salves. To provide the kind of customer service that most can dream of. And to deliver on your promise wherever your customers of today and tomorrow need you.

I rant on about the book Hooked which to the casual onlooker appears a blueprint for successful web apps. But do more than scratch the surface and you’ll see, like that E-Myth book, that it’s all about building, and not just selling to, customers.

Habit forming is a critical component of any strategy looking to instil permanent change. Which in the merchant’s case, is creating a loyal customer base.

But habit-forming is not something you can do following a course. You need active mentorship, encouragement, and a smattering of reality talk so you know where you’re going wrong and can man the til when a change of direction needs charting.

Golden rules

  • Anything ending in 97 is going to give you a headache and hit you in the wallet. They’re like the course equivalent of penny stocks (further learning: The Wolf of Wall Street).
  • Courses don’t motivate you to complete them. Some work, but don’t give you the tools to realise this. If you’re the kind of person who reads voraciously every study in an appendix, then you may see beyond the finish line. But you are in the minority, friend, and you’d make much more money in the legal profession.
  • Everyone online is trying to sell you something. The secret is knowing when the goods offered are genuinely going to change you, and not just add an extra zero to the purveyor’s bank balance.
  • Courses with 97 in the price are not dead ends. Only in the sense that they are a dead end to the journey of the money you’ve invested in them.

How to do it right

There’s no substitute for jumping in your scrubs and getting dirty in the trenches. But if you simply need a knowledge and motivational boost, there are resources that are worth their weight in gold. The first one throws a curveball at you and separates the wheat from the chaff.

  • Buy the first five customers that come into your head a coffee. Or jump on a Skype call with them and send them an Amazon voucher. Ask them what they like least about what you do.
  • Buy Gary Vee’s book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. It will help you figure out why and how social media works
  • Buy Jay Baer’s Youtility book to get started practicing helpful marketing (it’s the only marketing that works now the customer is firmly in control
  • Have my book of digital marketing excellence, Sharing Superheroes, totally free – as well as a 14-step formula to winning at business, and 5 practical tips exclusive to your web presence to help you immediately dominate your industr

Prove me wrong.

How to get real in a virtual world

Are you only virtually real? You might be killing your business. Time to get real, for real...

Are you only virtually real? You might be killing your business. Time to get real, for real…

Posturing.

It’s what we do 24/7 on Facebook.

Who’s not a superhero on the big F? Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, everyone’s children are prettier than a peach, and your bum’s even more coffee table than Kim Kardashian’s.

Inevitably this shift in how we perceive ourselves – or how others perceive us – spills over into other aspects of our life.

Our personal life (Big Brother et al actually perpetuated our narcissistic actualities); and our dream life (maybe that’s just me, but my reveries are more vivid than ever before, commensurate with the too-much-time spent social networking).

And more and more, our working life.

How irresistible is it to portray everything that happens at your business in the most perfect way (im)possible? I blame stock images, with everyone dressed up in their best business gear crossing the finishing line as a team, of all the high-fives and high-key handshakes.

But influences to be supreme are everywhere. If your mind is polluted by the perfect world in pixels, it stands to reason you’re simply going to aspire to the same tier, and on, and on, and on.

Our screen-based nirvana is fuelled equally by society’s growing sense of entitlement. If precisely what we want isn’t where and when we want it, we throw adult tantrums.

This happened to me the other day.

The perfect leisure centre

Why aren’t we all buffed and toned to a degree that the beyond-aspirational cover of Runner’s World is just an index page – redundant in its former form, since we are now all muscled deities?

It’s because there’s always something better to do than work out. Unless you’ve discovered the magical effects of exercise-induced dopamine, in which case welcome to an extra five years on earth*.

But let’s pretend you’re one of the other 97% of us who laugh at people dodging raindrops and ice smears as they endeavour to peddle their way from A to B. The idiots.

Imagine you want to get fit. What would it take for you to do so in a contained environment – a leisure centre, say…

Here are my must-haves:

  • Great parking or walkable
  • Friendly welcome
  • Way to see how far you’ve come since you started (tracking)
  • Clean workout areas
  • Way to listen to my music and tune out on machines
  • Yoga and indoor cycling classes
  • Warm and clean showers
  • Complimentary bathroom products for when I forget or run out
  • Inspirational, helpful, and when required, hands-off instructors (in every sense unless they’re call Sophie)
  • Complimentary personal training sessions (up to 3 a month)
  • Updates on my progress, six times a year and scheduled in advance
  • A program I can use and follow religiously that is guaranteed to help me remove some of the fatty deposits commonly referred to as moobs
  • Another program afterwards to give me lovely thick arms

and so on. I don’t want you turned on at this point so I’ll digress.

My own gym – a council leisure centre – is absolutely pathetic. It hasn’t even got a studio, and the showers smell of turtles.

But that doesn’t stop me longing, and believing. And knowing that if the holy grail does exist, I’d pay a small fortune each month for the privilege of calling myself ‘member’.

I want and expect all this stuff in my life because I can see what members of Equinox (it’s not fitness – it’s LIFE. Etc. Yawn.) get. I know it’s out there, as opposed to my perception of keeping fit a few years ago which involved a grainy moving Geri Halliwell and a tawdry techno beat.

But whatever I think I know about Equinox is only partly factual. Read between the lines of its Facebook posts and there’s disconnect among the ranks because they, too, have discovered something better.

This applies to any business and every consumer, of which you – we – are at least one.

And we universally are spoiled. We demand. And ultimately, we are never satisfied.

Despite being your digital doctor, championing anything that bleeps, I know the internet is the cause of our stratospheric expectations and to some degree, bloated sense of entitlement.

Here’s the disconnect. What we do – in the virtual world – rarely replicates what happens IRL. Our digital efforts gloss, buff and polish, which at worst provides the customer with a slideshow of artifice and chicanery.

Lesson for the day

As a business you can match expectations. You just need to start small. Do more than enough to delight a small number of customers and when the moolah rolls in, you can expand your service offering.

There is a tendency for digital and operations to fall squarely into two camps, like rivalling armies in Risk. “We cannot be held responsible for ‘the other side,” they confide. The magic happens when everyone works as one. When digital is less arms-length, more embraced by the organisation as a shop window for all that we do within.

Don’t fall into a digital daze. Eventually what you promise in the virtual world, if it deviates too far from reality, will bite you on the bum.

If you can’t get real – you gotta get real.

How to change your Twitter profile

Twitter's now more like real life. It almost feels like chatting.

Twitter’s now more like real life. It almost feels like chatting. And Amanda Lamb is LOVELY. Follow her.

“Early this morning” (bossproofing) while goofing around on Twitter I discovered two interesting things:

  1. Twitter.com is a lot more like real life now, nattering over the garden fence. At the bottom right of the screen Mentions appear in real time. In blocky speech bubbles. And I think this is amazeballs
  2. The big blue bird has been tampering with its Settings. Previously to change your profile, you had to click on your picture top right, then hit Settings, then click Profile on the next page. But now Profile ain’t there. Now you have to click on the Edit Profile button appearing centre right on your Twitter.com home page.

Helpfully, Twitter makes no public mention of this. Sure, you can dig into the Twitter blog and it might be there, but let’s face it – who can be arsed?

I’m all about useful UX improvements, like the speech bubble. But I spent nearly 3 minutes trying to find a way to edit my profile (which is now “Like you, only taller” – because I probably am) which I feel is pretty bad form from a customer standpoint. Even though it’s free, but now is not the time for that.

What do you think? Twitter evolving: going great guns, or badly executed?

The market of one

Thacked! discovers why it's money down the drain unless you first look in the mirror.

Thacked! discovers why it’s money down the drain unless you first look in the mirror – and realise we all are, we. Photo Credit: striatic via Compfight cc

Had a pretty strange week. Last Thursday at my fortnightly class with the Institute of Leadership and Management we discussed the Belbin Self-Perception Inventory (SPI). Theory is that by asking people about 70 questions you can find out their strengths.

This is hardly new – things like the Highlands Ability Battery and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator do these psychographic/aptitude testing things and map out your skills and deficiencies well.

Irrespective of its ubiquity few teams set aside time to understand their dynamics and plug the holes, which in my view is a massive shortcoming in industry.

Do it. It’s hugely inspiring.

Like a belisha beacon my designation throbbed off the page. Plant.

The good

They tended to be highly creative and good at solving problems in unconventional ways.

The bad

Plants could be unorthodox or forgetful (explains why I’m joined at the virtual hip with any.do, my current to do list of choice).

The worse

But there was something nagging at me about being defined.

I sat there, dazed. All my life I believed I was in some way unique – my parents chuckling in a good-hearted way I was that or mentally defective.

Here I am, pigeonholed. A shadow of my former exclusive self.

And half glad. It’s nice to know you have likeminded consorts in civilisation.

But the other half sits there, frustrated. I used to be me, and now I’m a face in the crowd.

When it’s all said and done, we are all one.

I was reminded of that moment of enlightenment sat with my fellow crowd residents at NUX3, a user experience gathering at Manchester’s seat of sonic studies, the Royal National College of Music.

Here I was, with 447 other people, learning about the seven sins of user testing, how to apply every aspect of The Hero’s Journey to the minutiae of your website, and how to get away with providing the lowest quality buffet possible.

Which incidentally was half-eaten by staff before any of us paying people managed to get to the tables leaden with the kind of sandwich fillings favoured by brickies when they run out mortar.

We had a chap there talking about how they’d reinvented the way people apply for the Carer’s Allowance online. Reinvented to a point where it should have been at the beginning, when another government department was paying about £122m for a business website that despite costing half the GDP of many small countries, spectacularly failed.

There was a nice chap from Salesforce who danced his way through an excerpt from Pulp Fiction and told us to use better typography. And some guy who used an animated flame to skip between his presentations, possibly to infer if we didn’t take heed we’d all be consumed by the seventh circle of damnation.

I didn’t recognise much in the way of logic to the keynote presentation. What I do know is he did a long walk round a lake, and we might get larval cysts on our brains if we didn’t pay attention.

All this stuff served its purpose. It was Be, the girl who told us that UX specialists can earn £120,000 a year in London, drove the stake home – that businesses pay over the odds for people who laser focus on making stuff work better for users.

Wake up call

Hang on. We had to create a breed of ‘experts’ who know what we want?

We had to create a conference dedicated to helping us understand better how to figuratively talk the language of our customers?

Shouldn’t we be doing this already?

Cautioning us we don’t test enough. That we need to eliminate focus groups from the repertoire of acts we perform to gauge what we need to do better.

Here’s my take: businesses driven by a sound vision, that care not only about growth in profit terms but in a societal context, don’t need to find £120,000 every year to invest on developing sound methodologies on user experience and testing.

They need to listen to their customers like businesses used to listen to their customers. Intimately. With two ears, and one mouth.

I’d happily take your £0.12m and go have coffee with your customers, show your website to a bunch of people, and ask them the questions which, when answered truthfully, are one half of the holy grail you’re seeking for organisational success.

Go round in circles. Ride the

Because, as Belbin puts it, though we have many unique aspects to our personalities and drive, we are all inherently human.

You are a customer as much as I. And if you love what you do, there’s a very high likelihood millions will want the same KoolAid.

Your market is one.

The market is one.

Digital Marketing 2014: Thacked

Digital marketing in 2014

Find out what’s been happening this year – and what’s to come in the next – for digital marketing

 

Like a bolt from the blue a pleasing, non-spam message popped into my box on LinkedIn (connect with me) the other day.

It was from an old buddy I used to work with at RCI, when I edited travel magazines but dogsbodied at the altar of ethics.

Today’s sermon

Amanda was a big influence on me. She taught me much about modern marketing, so it was nice to repay her with some of my experience in digital marketing spheres.

She asked me for my thoughts on what were 2014’s key challenges and opportunities in digital marketing.

I’ve presented at several conference on this precise topic. I like to think I can hold my own both as a realist and futurist. And so I wanted to provide Amanda with a look at the state of the nation today, and also a glimpse of where we’re headed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Possibly through lethargy in coding, or maybe because others do it and I like giving you a choice, you can comment either in the standard WordPress box or if you’re logged in to Facebook, using the Facebook alternative right at the bottom of this article.

In true Buzzfeed style I’ve turned my essay into bullet points with lots of bold text so take off your prescription specs and enjoy the pixels!

Threats

  • Fragmented audience across many communications channels. Segmenting, targeting and positioning becomes ever more complicated and time consuming with the dawn of every new social network. Android is another great example of digital fragmentation – developers struggle to create a one-size-fits-all app when many millions of users aren’t able to use the latest version of the mobile operating system. This leads to dilution of effectiveness.
  • Ignoring relationship-building benefits of social networks in favour of pure sales focus. At the moment internet marketers are giving social networks a bad name with their $97 sales antics.
  • Authenticity of customer identity. Think about TripAdvisor. I work with many clients in the hospitality industry and a high percentage have been victims of attempted blackmail by users threatening bad reviews unless they receive payment. Until all such social networks use a secure authentication system – Facebook Connect being the most ubiquitous, but not necessarily the best – this will continue to blight digital marketing
  • 110% confusion among the majority of vendors. Digital is new. Digital is raw. Thus many, many businesses fall victim to predators, otherwise known as internet marketers, who capitalise on their rampant naivety by selling entirely unuseful and incompatible products and services that give digital marketing a bad name.

Opportunities

  • Peerless customer service. The secret of successful digital marketing is not in sales but in the AIDA model. And being there when your customers are. And helping when they need you to (great read here is Youtility by Jay Baer)
  • #FastData. Everyone talks about Big Data but it’s doing the best with what you got. Resources and people. The vast majority of business can garner incredible intel from Google Analytics. There are an increasing range of cost-effective solutions helping even luddites get to grips with the data generated by their organisations – and quickly.
  • Comprehension. There needs to be a great deal more training on the simple side of digital marketing to get businesses savvy. Thankfully Google is taking the lead by producing a varied range of training tools ranging from AdWords tutorials through to a mobile app focusing simply on the basics of digital marketing (Primer – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/primer-marketing-lessons-for/id918628107?mt=8).
  • Standardised set of solutions. Even just a couple of years ago it was difficult to find the right things to use to complete simple digital marketing strategies online. eCommerce was a costly business. But now we are reaching a point where with a small amount of education the business owner can get up and running in a few hours. Tools like Shopify and Stripe combined can get any bricks and mortar store into the digital realms; Squarespace is another great provider of transactional websites ready in moments.
  • The right fit. You are correct in saying it’s difficult to see how digital marketing integrates into a business when you’re accustomed to doing things the old ways. But you can teach old dogs new tricks when it comes to digital – we’re not doing anything differently, just swapping pens for pixels.

Over to you

What do you think are the key challenges and opportunities in digital marketing this year? Do you think there will be a new set in 2015 or am I just being a regular pain in the arse with a follow-up question that really has now right to be here with less than seven weeks until the year’s close?

WIIFM?

I’m a firm believer if the writing is good enough, you can dispense of the overt linkbait.

So I have.

Today’s lesson – separated from the last by roughly three months – is unpacking the acronym WIIFM. With a question mark at the end.

What’s In It For Me?

Imagine you’re a customer. Try harder.

Get started

You can buy Widget A from a million different places.

You ask around, and your pals all have wildly differing opinions.

So you do some surfing. And because of the magic of the internet and your Search Engine Optimisation nous (it’s not hard – write good content and use the words and phrases your customers use on Google to find what you sell), they’ve arrived at your site.

You’ve produced a wealth of high quality content, and it’s all about the customer. That’s the magic of WIIFM – from the customer’s standpoint. And it’s usually enough to turn a cold prospect into a warm one, before you convert them to a client by fascinating them with the content of your newsletter, and into a fan, by creating regular bursts of informative and entertaining content shared on the social networks they inhabit.

Don’t be confused by the logical nature of WIIFM. It’s not for the YOU in ME. Otherwise it would be WIIFY. Don’t be misled: if you create content, write it to appeal to your customer, not yourself. The M in WIIFM is the customer, since that is your focus. Clear?

WIIFM is part of the grander ambition to focus on AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Along with the infamous 7Ps, AIDA is one of the marketer’s favourite things. Because it helps you to focus on what’s important to your business – The Funnel.

Yesterday I hosted one of my regular half-day social media workshops. I don’t like to do a day because it’s amazing what you can achieve in three hours, even with lots of practical exercises and dressing up as a nun.

We started with some bone dry content and social media updates. Selling the sausage, not the sizzle. And gradually as we discussed the merits of walking in the customer’s shoes, talking as they do, uncovering the factors that make them tick and go all gooey, we started to grasp the nuances of WIIFM.

You can do this with any piece of information.

How to do WIIFM

Organising a car boot sale?

  1. “Come to our car boot sale. Starts 12pm on Friday. Book tables by calling 0blah.”
  2. “Christmas is costly. Have yours for free by selling all your tat for a fortune at our car boot sale.”
  3. “Last week someone bought a million-pound painting at a car boot sale. This week, it could be you. Ours starts noon on blah at bleh. See you there.”

1 is sterile. 2 appeals to everyone’s cost-conscious nature. 3 is that plus gamification – the purest way to lure people into committing a new action.

In summary

People want to live longer, weigh less, save more, get more, smile more. I remember back in the day I summed it all up as speedier, smarter, smilier. They’re heart desires. Emotional needs.

And once you’ve figured out which heart desire drives your target audience best, appeal to their emotions. Use humour. Inspiration. Expectation. Excitement. Urgency. They all work.

All the so-called marketing experts spout BS about this system or that tool. Invariably what they sell has a price that ends in 97.

But when it’s all said and done, we don’t need their stuff. We just need to think WIIFM.

If you want to find out more, or for a free one-hour marketing analysis of your business guaranteed to deliver some wow moments, email or Tweet me.

Social media and the police

Officers of the law have got themselves into a spot of bother.

Officer - you're nicked!

Hello, hello, hello… what have we here, then? .v1ctor Casale. via Compfight cc

Freedom of Information requests – these are things that anyone can request as part of the government and its agencies’ bid to be seen as transparent and fully accountable – revealed over the past five years, police officers and civvies had crossed the line 828 times on social media.

While we see them as the law, evidently some see themselves above it.

I joined Tony Snell on BBC Radio Merseyside this morning to discuss in some detail these hundreds of breaches of policy and trust.

Police are us

Let’s be realistic here. We all have rules to follow. We all get policies and codes of ethics and sometimes we tread the line. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we have the sense to break the rules in private. And sometimes we don’t realise how wide we throw the net when we amplify our thoughts on social networks.

Yet noone is immune from the power of social media to ‘do a Carlsberg’ and reach parts unimaginable.

Out of control

I’ve long argued and railed hard against this idea, but I finally and wistfully concede social media is out of control. It has to be. We’re not mature enough, and nor is it, for a convergence of rational expression and platform to perform.

I’d riffed on this a long time ago – desperate to deny we weren’t ready and could handle it. In the time before I junked everything on my website and now the only way I can read stuff I once wrote is to look on partner websites.

We can’t handle ourselves. We can’t handle the truth. And we sure as hell can’t handle forever.

Permanence versus impermanence

Look back at your life in recent terms and rebuff the idea we are all looking for quick wins and instant gratification. Things that once seemed to last forever now expire in the blink of an eye. It’s the standard for how we live our lives and how many important things never stay the same to a certain degree influences how society ebbs and flows.

But social media, though it gives the impression by presenting users with a constantly changing river of updates, is in fact the close we come in any walk of life to producing something that will long outlast us. You can’t fight the Google, and the internet is going precisely nowhere.

What should we do?

So now the penny finally drops that as publishers via the mechanics of social media we can’t go shouting our mouths off without risking swift and life-changing retribution.

You can defame, be guilty of contempt of court, get charged for a tip scam, among other stuff. All on Twitter, or Facebook, or if there were enough people using it, Google+. There are eyes everywhere. And it is the eyes that will see you sent down or significantly lighter in the wallet depending on the crime you commit.

It doesn’t seem right the police are in the spotlight for harassing people or showing off their arms on social media. We look to them as our guardians, when some of their number are nothing more than little boys playing in a strange sandpit.

As we all do, with smaller weapons that we inadvertently wield from time to time to cause societal impact.

Wrong time, wrong place

Police haven’t done themselves any favours at late elsewhere in our global village. The horrors of #Ferguson – not only the incidents themselves but how innocents trying to capture the moment to share with their fellow virtual denizens have been threatened with death by upholders of ‘law’ – and a recent revelation that more bullets were fired in a single traffic incident in 2010 America than were shot by the entire German police force that year, paint a very bleak picture of a force seemingly in crisis.

As a kid I looked up to plod among the pantheon of superheroes also occupied by sorcerors and wizards (we didn’t have Harry Potter back then). Today as a full-grown adult I’ve come to realise, much as I have with scientists and butchers, that we are all the same but for the tools we choose to use.

It’s not just some police officials who have discovered new tools and ways to break rules. It’s every one of us.

What governs the police using social media