Business Articles

Christmas Shopping – Look and Learn

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For those of you (including me) that celebrate Christmas, this time of the year is one blessed with excitement and worry. It is truly good to give (rather than receive) but that “giving” comes at a price which usually involves trudging around stores or surfing endless sites on the internet. I have done (well, almost) everything I need to do this year but, far from being a negative experience, it has shown me some great examples of how to market goods and services.

I will start off with a brief overview of the high street store method of selling. Most stores have their “sale” which, for the UK at least, is early. Traditionally, discounting goods comes after the Christmas rush when the chances of selling products at overinflated prices is less. Now the sales have come early whilst, alternatively, some goods are being sold “3 for 2” or “2 for 1”. It sounds desperate but it isn’t.

By simply increasing baseline prices, stores can effectively attract shoppers who believe thay are canny enough to know a bargain when they see it. They are not canny and there are no bargains. There are simply adverts – no different from the methods found in traditional advertising haunts (TV, radio, newspapers). The banners proclaiming “70% off” are also working wonders for the stores simply because we forget (in our apoplexy) to see the small “up to” written (as legality requires) before the “70%”.

So, to the internet.

I have no affiliation with Amazon. But I will state – “go nowhere else”. Amazon have built their reputation not on advertising but on building a brand exemplified by good and efficient service. Check out their website(s) and you will find everything you need – a far cry from the books, CDs and DVDs that were the mainstay in the beginning. Now I can buy a freezer, some cooking equipment and a whole host of other stuff. It’s good for me (especially at Christmas) but it is the way that Amazon interacts with the user that has the learning points.

If you have ever considered social media to be little more than Facebook, YouTube and Twitter then spend 20 minutes looking – REALLY looking – on Amazon’s websties. They are brilliant.

Social media works, partly, via social proof. Amazon gives it in abundance. A quick glance will help you to see the way they illustrate what other people bought when they bought the product you are just about to pay for. Look at a product and you will see not only the official description but also reviews by real customers that have bought the product. Look again and you will see the customer rating scale. Good eh? And it is REAL social prooof. It is as powerful as your mate telling you what they thought of a product – powerful, very much so.

Amazon does more. Even looking at a product will present you with a vision of what others DID when they looked at it. A DVD I was looking at just today had, beneath it, a list telling me that 82% of people bought THAT ITEM when they arrived at that particular page. If over three quarters of people thought it was worth buying then I am likely too as well surely? The answer, in this case, was “yes”.

The whole experience at Amazon is worthy of finer discussion. Slick, professional, easy to follow. I have almost every piece of information that I require at my fingertips. I don’t need to Google a product nor do I need to come back later. It is all there and THAT will make me most likely to buy.

Amazon represents one way of using social media for the good of the company but disguised as something done for the good of the customer. Real reviews and ratings will show up the warts. Amazon allows warts – no reviews (that I know of) are censored or edited unless perhaps they contain hate or other undesirable content.

Watch Amazon and follow their lead.

I Am Appraising

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I am in my car waiting to enter the building in front of me. It is a modern and dynamic place. I cannot tell you its name or who I am about to meet for privacy reasons, but the reason for my visit is to, effectively, assess the host. Are they competent to perform their task and to recognise their limits of performance and development?

It is a charged atmosphere. I have been appraising, mentoring, training, supporting and coaching for as many professional years as I care to remember. There is something odd about putting a peer into the spotlight.

At times, the professional competencies of colleagues needs to be assessed. Those that are in the public eye or who perform critical tasks SHOULD be able to show that they are fit for the job, safe and untroubled. It makes sense.

But, just sometimes, when you are alone with a colleague in their private room, the atmosphere changes from “can you do it” to “I am here to help”. There is a fine line between assessment in its sterile form and the human tendency of putting a firm arm around someone’s shoulder and telling them everything will be just swell.

The fact remains that being competent to perform a task is as much dependent on those that you work with, party with and sleep with and it is on you as a person and the qualifications you have amassed.

Which brings me back to me in my car. I believe in what I do and get paid handsomely for it. Whether I give good value is another matter but assessing someone for a wide and public role feels slightly odd in the confines if a private office over tea and biscuits.

I Met Roger Neighbour

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Mark Clayson and Roger Neighbour

Mark Clayson and Roger Neighbour

Today was a good day. I met Roger Neighbour Рa name that will mean little to any of you, I expect. He is a best selling author of a number of books but, in particular, The Inner Apprentice.

Roger is one of those people that has a capacity for mental agility that most of can only dream of. As well as being intellectual and refined he, at the same time, is accommodating and humble. He is the sort of person that anyone could talk to. He exudes joy and contentment and makes people smile wherever he goes.

Roger has held many prestigious positions – mainly with the Royal College of General Practitioners and is known throughout the world, yet I feel he could have been not only famous but extremely rich in the process. It is a testament to him that he has kept his feet firmly nailed to the ground and spent large proportions of his professional life helping young doctors in training as well as us older farts that should really know better.

It is odd that my awe of Roger stems from something else other than his fame in the public sense. It shows, for me at least, that we can be influenced by different people doing different things at different times. It all comes down to “reception”.

Being in a receptive frame of mind opens up all sorts of possibilities. For me, Roger was the chief Examiner (officially “Convenor”) when I was a junior examiner. His presence as our “leader” and the way he dealt both with the trivialities and the enormities of the post – both with equally effortless action – made us juniors not only feel safe and comforted but also began the process of opening our minds to our own individual potentials.

Being “receptive” to change and development is a fundamental state in order for us to achieve more than we have done already. It is an active state – not one that is thrust upon us. Many things allow this “receptive state” to grow, change and metamorphose into something greater. In my case, at THAT time, it was people like Roger.

I mean nothing to Roger Neighbour. He is a self determined man that got where he did through his own mental prowess and his enormous effort.  Although I met him today, I will already be out of his mind. However, seeing him again after many years has made me realise and appreciate the power of others to help us steer our paths to our own personal greatness Рhowever we may define it. Thank you, Roger.

Social Media and Industrial Disputes 1

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Many companies have had problems with their staff. An industrial dispute can led to a strike call or other forms of industrial action whereby staff refuse to work or work “to rule.” in order to draw attention to their pay and other conditions. Companies and employers have to cope as best they can with all this. How can social media help situations like these?

Keep In Touch

Social media, for all its faults, is, after all, an interactive and immediate media. The benefits of this to a business is that they can keep pace with what is being said in the social space and can react accordingly. In fact, better than reacting, is to be proactive.

Therefore, a company or business could write things like:

– we apologise for any inconvenience

– all orders will be processed as soon as possible

– for more information, call the hotline on xxx-xxxx-xxxx

The underlying principle here is to stay in touch with your customers. If a company can be seen to be caring for the plight of, in this case passengers, then they will be forgiven, at least in part, for the predicament that each individual customer finds themselves in.

Furthermore, buy being in the social space and tracking the various conversations, Employers and businesses will be able to track comments and messages and be in a better position to anticipate problems and issues and better placed to respond to the media and angry customers.

This can be quite a revelation for customers who are used to reactive responses from businesses. Social media allows this to happen effortlessly.

Industrial Disputes? Use Social Media

Posted by | Business Articles, Social Media | No Comments

British Airways are in the middle of a dispute. Cabin staff are unhappy and have decided to have a series of strikes. This upsets us all of course – as all selfish strikes do – but more importantly gives BA a headache. How to manage such a situation.
The problem is complex and I would not presume to understand any or all of it. But I have suggestions on how to make the most of the social media at our disposal in order to take advantage of the situation.
There is a tendency to shy away from anything other than formal and orchestrated exposure. That is wrong – in these sorts of situations your clients and customers are having conversations about you and the predicament that they are in. If you are not there when they are discussing you then how can you expect people to understand your side of the argument? You can’t of course. So why rely on soundbites on the TV and radio?
A better course of action would surely be to monitor the conversations that are being had about your company and your performance. Evangelists should be identified and captured whilst detractors should be challenged and corrected. Being a part of these conversations allows you to be seen to care, take a positive stance on the relevant issues affecting your company and pre-empt likely changes to your messages.
In fact, you can usefully use your social interactions to instruct your customers, lead them to additional resources and modify your marketing stance along with the flavor and flow of the responses you receive.
BA have already started to do this with a video posted online. It’s a step in the right direction.

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