Monday, February 13, 2012

Are we REALLY green?

Some of you may know that I have an interest in older large BMW's. Once they are over 10 years old their value plummets and they are fantastic, super luxury value. Not without issues of course as some repairs can be un-viable.

There has always been debate on the BMW forums about green issues with these cars as yes, they do drink a lot of fuel. But the discussion is much deeper on 'built to last'. Here's a recent post from me on the wider subject:

Although there is a ground swell requirement for longevity. I think it is currently still over ridden by a much larger element of materialism.

Our very materialistic and status driven lifestyles create a burning desire to have the 'latest' even if it's not really 'better'. An iPhone4 is just so last week. Sometimes that 'desire' is to be seen as 'going' green. Wind turbines in back gardens was a classic example just a few years back. A complete waste of time and money but looked good.

In the short to medium outlook I don't see that's going to change without major outside inflences - economy meltdown (even more than the current one) or god forbid, world conflict. Those scenarios rapidly change our focus to more fundamental needs.

As things stand our basic requirements as defined by Maslow's hierarchy of needs are fulfilled sufficiently for us not to worry and our 'needs' are channelled into the 'desire' sectors.

I see the current short term build quality being hidden by a smoke and mirrors exercise to make us feel we are being green by buying products that have more effiecient running costs without consideration to the real energy cost of manufacture, distribution or end of (short) life disposal. It's far more profitable for companies to work this way. It is well documented that the most cost effective method of car ownership is to purchase from new and keep, well maintained, until it's natural and extended end of life.

Big business is no longer owned, run and controlled by individuals who are proud and take responsibility. Todays businesses are run simply to provide profit for investment funds rather than interested and involved shareholders.

I don't have a real answer to this other than to resist for as long as possible. Keep our older cars on the road and enjoy them whilst we can and laugh in the face of those who bought them in their first years of life for massive amounts of money to improve their personal status and threw that money into the hands of the main dealer network when they sold it back in a couple of years.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Riotous Thoughts.....

Lots of talk about disenfranchised kids, no job prospects and increased tuition fees. All used as an excuse for appalling anti-social behaviour against what is really their own community.
Where has it all gone wrong?

My personal perception is that of a change in culture generally to one of 'mine by right' rather than the one I grew up in which was more 'work hard to achieve what you want'.

Our obsession with Celebrity, and apparent Instant Celebrity, has fuelled a desire to go from zero to hero overnight with what appears to be little effort, undermining that core value of hard work.

In reality, most of those 'instant' celebrities - music, theatre, business or sport - have a much different back story. Many of them have worked hard since they were little kids to achieve their current fame. Most have given up much of what would be considered a normal childhood in the pursuit of their goal. They may have had difficult times in their family life and upbringing but it's their strength and goal that has allowed them to overcome adversity and achieve greatness. We need those celebrities to get that message across loud and clear so there can be no misconceptions.

So what of our current crop of looters, arsonists and gangland thugs?

Yes, they have probably had difficult upbringings too. Sadly though, through the last handful of successive generations there has been a steady move to remove the need to work hard to achieve or even survive. It's too easy now to just sit back and let the state provide a mediocre existence . I have heard stories from people I know where it's actually better financially for them to be out of work than in. Where's the incentive in that?

If their family culture is now one of not working, it has to be a strong and committed kid that breaks away and fights through. The possibility that they are concerned over uni tuition fees is remote. That goal was removed from them at an early age.

Add to that our pussy-footing politically correct systems where responsibility seems now to be in everybody else's hands rather than our own and it's no wonder we are in the state we are.

How do I feel about our rioting thugs?

If they choose to go onto the streets with intent to cause chaos, ruin peoples lives, property, homes and businesses then expect to get hurt - or worse. When they are caught, expect to be punished - hard. I hope that any self respecting solicitor out there won't be trying to get them off either. If they do they are no better than the thugs themselves.

I'm sorry, but they have to be taught that, for most of us, if you want something in life you have to work for it, not have it handed to us on a plate. Even if they are out of work, there are still plenty of ways they can make a difference to their community whilst still receiving benefits. Maybe that could help them understand the potential value that they have to others and within themselves. That just might make them employable or give them the courage to start up a business themselves.

Here's hoping....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Are you complacent about your business and your customers?

Are you complacent about your business and your customers?

A recent new venture of mine has highlighted that many businesses do just that.

I identified a niche - that Holy Grail of business ideas.

The niche was created when one business, that had gone part way to fulfilling that niche, ceased on the death of the owner. For 12 months I looked at the void that was left and fully expected one of the remaining providers to snap up the opportunity.

But no, they just carried on doing what they've always done, happy with the extra market share that fell into their hands as they were the only alternatives.

Just under a year ago I said 'enough is enough'. If no one else is going to do it, then I will.

So the planning started.

The venture was launched at the back of 2010 and the formula, as I predicted, has proved very successful.

Now at that point, if I was one of the existing businesses, I would have at last woken up to the fact that I needed to re-think my offering by working hard to change, and update so that I could compete at the same level.

The bizarre thing is that they're not! All they are doing is trying to make it difficult for me to continue and, you might not believe this, bullying their current customers into boycotting me (both totally unsuccessful I might add).

What can you learn from this?

Every business MUST avoid sitting back on it's laurels.
It's all too easy to be complacent and believe that the status quo will continue. Reality is that there is always someone looking at your success, trying to work out how they can improve or modify what you do and carve themselves sufficient market share to make a decent profit.

You MUST constantly look at ways to improve your product or service to retain your customers.

Businesses either decline or grow. They very rarely stand still for long.

Friday, January 14, 2011

We live in an age of instant response. If we want something, we want it NOW - not next week.

We live in an age of instant response. If we want something, we want it NOW - not next week.

My work with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) over the last 15 years has taught me the importance of a fast response to enquiries to ensure that prospects turn into customers.

I'm the first to hold up my hands and say that I don't always do it right, but I try my best!

I remember, back in 2000, listening to a presentation by one of the key global specialist in CRM. She described how mystery shopping was one of the roles they undertook on behalf of major corporate clients and laid out some of the results.

Now remember that this was in 2000 when the use of the Internet was substantially lower than it is now.

Her company ran an exercise responding to advertising that actively encouraged potential customers to contact them via their website by really making a big thing of their web address.

Back then the results were pretty appalling, with plenty of no-replies or replies that took more than 7 days. Both of which would have probably driven the potential customer to seek out an alternative supplier.

Things changed dramatically in the following 10 years and the value of web enquiries and an understanding of the need for rapid response has been understood. The value has even filtered down to micro businesses with a poor response being a rarity now.

10 years on and new ways of attracting customer response has emerged with the likes of Social Networking.

Many businesses, large and small, have clearly identified the potential provided by access to the communities created within networks like FaceBook and Twitter.

They have been building their pages and creating content, all of which generates interest and possibly enquiries too.

So if you, as a potential customer, read interesting stuff on FaceBook and would like to talk more about it, what would you do?

Would you go and find their website and fill in a contact form, call them or email them direct?

Or would you send them a FaceBook Message?

It's the last option that I took recently with a major business in Norwich - simply because it was so convenient within FaceBook at the time.

Did I get a response? Well, 2 weeks on and I still haven't heard from them and I've moved on.

10 years on and we haven't really progressed, it's just that the problem lays in a different contact area - oh dear....

If you actively market your business through social networking do you have a solid response mechanism to react quickly before you loose a sale?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Has Google changed the way it ranks websites?

There has been an email going around the last few days scaremongering that Google has radically changed it's natural listing ranking format by including 'Google Places Pages'.

Google Places Pages are what we have know for a long time as Google Business Listings.

They have been a useful long term SEO tactic for local businesses such as trades and B2B suppliers. Not many people had latched on to the fact that Google has, for a long time, shown listings and a small local map with markers when a geographic qualifier was included in the search term.

Like any SEO activity, the 'secret' to success to being shown in that map is relevance. A good description, keywords and choice of categories is more likely to bring a listing higher. Add to that a few reviews and the always important external inbound links to the website from influential sites, and you have a top listing when someone types in 'Plumber Gorleston' for example. The more refined the geographic term - the better chance you have of success.

So is this new?

No not really. All that's happened is that Google have decided to give it a little more relevance than they had done previously.

Any web designer worth his salt would have organised a Google Business Listing for you anyway and encouraged you to get your customers to login and leave a good review. Plus, of course, look for good directories and sites to gain links from. Inbound links are good for your website and your Business Listing too.

Google Places Pages are covered in my email Website Marketing Course which all my clients receive now, once their site is up and running.

So looking at this email, it's more about trying to sell you a link on their directories rather than 'new' news. But a useful reminder of it's importance all the same.
Need help setting up a Google Places Page, or Google Business Listing if you prefer it in old money, then just call or email me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Be Careful With Your Web Content

One of my FaceBook friends re-posted this article today (you can click past the popup advert).
It's important that everyone with a website should read it and follow the results as they unfold.

Creating content for your website MUST be from you and your business, not pinched from someone else's site. That's an infringement of copyright. The Internet is NOT in a copyright free bubble and writers have as much ownership over their words (and images) as if they were in a printed publication.

That doesn't mean to say you can never use others text and articles.

There are plenty of resources where writers are happy for you to use their work provided that you credit them accordingly and include any web links that they ask for.

Try this one for example
And for images
So there is no excuse.

The other side of this is that you must protect your own work online by ensuring that it clearly says the content of your web site or blog is your copyright. That way you have at least a fighting chance of protecting it.

What makes some people so obnoxious?

The bloke in front of me in the gastro pub queue that we go to most weeks, to meet up with our daughter, came back and moaned that his wine was short measured. It was one of those multi size glasses with lines to show 125ml and 175ml.

He didn't do it politely, he was positively aggressive.

It was pointed out to him that it was small wine (125ml) and that's what he'd been charged for but he started to accuse the barman of giving him a drink not listed on the wall mounted drinks menu (in fact it was shown on there).

I felt I couldn't just stand back and see the barman, who has always been pleasant and helpful to me, be treated in this way. I suggested that, as the drink wasn't short measured and neither had he been over charged, he shouldn't worry about it.

Then it was my turn to get the verbal abuse. I was told it had nothing to do with me and maintained that the staff were unhelpful and useless.

I pointed out that I go there most weeks and the staff are great. He reckons he goes there every week too.

But he's not any more apparently, because they've banned him and his family.

It's amazing the difference in attitude you see and receive depending upon your own towards them isn't it.