SEO through Google’s eyes.

google watching

First let it be clear that I am neither a “power-user” of the increasing suite of tools supplied by Google, or an SEO expert. What I do is approach strategy from the perspective of the potential consumer of that strategy, wether that be B2B, B2C, or in  this case, U2G, User to Google.

SEO has been a hot topic for a decade, some really smart people have made loads of money providing advice and bottles of snake oil SEO solutions, often selling it to people who should know better.

When you think about it, SEO is all about getting your content ranked highly, preferably above the fold on page 1. To do that, the SEO proponents go to considerable lengths to “game” the Google algorithms. Google, like all businesses needs to ensure that the people who pay for its services (advertising) get value, so it is in their interests to remove the opportunity to “game” their system. Therefore it seems logical that they spend lots of resources developing algorithms that eliminate any advantage the “gamers” may be able to find.

Who has more money and expertise, the Gamers or Google?

Who really has the greater motivation to remove the opportunity for gaming, Google or the Gamers?

Googles business model is not to make your website popular, they do not care in the least about your site. Nor will they willingly allow you to make your site “popular” by leveraging their algorithms for free.

Googles  objective is to find the popular websites and index and rank them to better serve those searching, and to present the searchers eyeballs to those advertising to reach them.

Trying to “out-Google” Google by staying in front of their algorithm development is a losers game. Much better to ignore them, and set about making your site popular because it deserves to be popular, and let Google find and rank you.

Having said all that, there are a few simple things that you would be negligent not to do on your site:

  1.  Focus each page of your site on a key word or phrase
  2. Ensure each page has a meta description to make indexing easier
  3. Keep media files to a minimum size to speed up loading,
  4. And the most important one, and by far the hardest to do: Create great and relevant content that your target audience is motivated to read, bookmark, comment on, and share.

It is easy to be put off by the techno babble that goes on, a lot of it trying to squeeze out the last few percent of so called performance, when in most cases, particularly for SME’s the cost of the last 5 or even 10% efficiency is not justified by the cost of securing it. A little bit of common sense and focus on the customer and the value you are delivering goes a very long way.

SEO as it is usually practiced measures how often your content gets presented to be seen, not by who sees it, and not what they do with it.


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Business of Social Media.

Tony, sausage in hand fundraiser

The business function of Social Media is to spread the message, and make sales. Each platform differs in the balance between the “Social” and “business” focus but nevertheless, they are essentially the digital equivalent of a social gathering. Some are the digital Sunday BBQ of a group of friends, while others are more like the voluntary after work drinks of the sales reps, sharing things of common interest, but usually about their successes, quotas, problem customers, and bitching about the boss.

Having fun is great, it helps the quality of the output enormously, but the objective is commercial, and so the investment of time and resources should be considered in the context  of all the other investment options a business faces.

To effectively  spread the message, there are a few seemingly simple, but in fact really hard things  that need to be determined and done.

  1. What is the message I need to spread?
  2. To whom should I spread it?
  3. What can I do for those who take the time to absorb and hopefully respond to my message in return.

This last one is really important, and often overlooked, as the “social” part of social media takes over. As in life, there is a principal that always works, “Reciprocity”.

Doing something for someone sets up a psychological “balance” of favours, and doing one for someone, is like putting a favour in the bank, when you come to make a withdrawal, there is something in the account.

Like any account, you can overdraw with prior arrangement, but sometimes the interest rates become a bit onerous, so having a positive balance is always a good idea.

Social Media is not a very good vehicle for sales, it is “Social” and sales in a social context grate, (when was the last time you knowingly asked a committed Amway rep to the friendly Sunday BBQ?), but it is a great vehicle for accruing favours, and reciprocal rights to be cashed in later.

Social Media is however, a great set of platforms for the generation, storing and sharing of information of all sorts, and if information is the lifeblood of commerce, as we all accept, it seems like a good place to be making a few investments.

When you need help sorting through the myriad of options, give me a call.

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6 imperatives for effective SME email marketing.

cold email 20140126-180535-pic-12290384

Cold emails are usually no more welcome that a cold phone call. However, For small businesses, the emergence of email marketing has transformed the opportunities they have to communicate, but so many fail to do some pretty simple things before embarking on a campaigns, so screw it up, and often give it away as ineffective.

Email marketing has become subject of some very good automation software, integrated in highly sophisticated platforms like Salesforce, and the Adobe marketing cloud, but for SME’s without the financial and management resources to make the investments these require successful, there are still very good low cost packages, like Mailchimp, which at the basic level is free, Aweber, and others at about $30/month.

However, the key to success is not the software, it is how you use it, so some simple market tactics to use.

  1. Find a connection to the recipient. You have a much better chance of not just getting the email opened, but also read, if you can establish some meaningful connection with the recipient. A common former employer, people you know, interests you share, or some project type you may be working on. This takes some time and research, but the investment pays off. LinkedIn is a wonderful tool for uncovering these connections.
  2. Nail the email subject line. If you fail to do this, the email will not be opened and read. We are all too busy to open emails that do not immediately touch some chord. The challenges is to do this in a very few words that communicate the value the email will deliver, and why it was sent to you. The subject line is in effect the headline of your story, so make it compelling to the potential reader, or they just become at best, a passing browser.
  3. Keep the email short, simple, and with a clear call to action. The recipient must understand easily what the message is all about without having to interpret blocks of text. Remember that many of them will be opened on mobile devices, making the clarity even more important. At the end of reading it, which should be a very short time, there must be no doubt about what you want them to do with the information.
  4. Be respectful. If the recipient gives their time to read, and hopefully respond, that gift needs to be respected, and even if they do not immediately respond, following up too quickly, or  too aggressively will rarely be appreciated. You are asking them for something, be respectful of their time and expertise, and the simple fact that it is you doing the asking, not them.  Disrespect is about the quickest way to turn off somebody from responding I can think of short of being rude.
  5. Never be desperate.  Desperation is not a pretty sight, and will sway most people away from responding. Desperate people have little to offer back to a time poor person with the power to say yea or nay to you.
  6. Never, never, never promise something you cannot deliver.

As a final catch all  for email marketing success, it is essential that you have a list. This is one case where bigger is actually better, the more accurately segmented and targeted the better, and the greater the level of active “opt-in” by those on the list the better.

Like all marketing activities, the better you are at it, the more targeted to the message recipients interests, problems, and situation the activity, the better your results will be. See the email you are about to send as if it was you that had just received it, and be a harsh judge.

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6 strategies to be successful, in everything


In life, and all its aspects, business, social , relationships, there are no shortcuts, just easier and simpler ways of doing things. It is just that it takes time and effort to find the easier, more productive, and value additional way.

The rules for success are the same in every context.

  1. Understand the selling process. Busiess, pleasure, social, you are always selling, a point of view, activity, feeling, yourself. Always selling!.
  2. See through the eyes of the other person. Again, customer, partner, casual acquaintance, it does  not matter, it simply is better to see yourself as others see you, rather than just as you see yourself.
  3. Have a deeper understanding of whatever it is you are talking about than those to whom you are talking. If listeners are to get any value from listening, they need to think that there may be something of value for them, and that you know something they don’t, otherwise, why would they spend their valuable time on listening. Another of my old dads pearls of wisdom: “If you can’t say anything useful or sensible, keep your trap shut.”
  4. Seek ways to simplify. Our world is increasing complicated, finding ways to simplify even small bits of it are enormously valuable. Finding a way to reduce the friction to get a better, more valuable to someone  outcome is the competitive advantage of the 21st century. Most things are done the way they are done because that is the way they have always been done. Not a good idea for the future.
  5. Start anything you do with the end in mind. This enables you to manage by compass, rather than by a map, which enables flexibility, agility, and room for the unexpected, serendipitous, and wonderful to emerge.
  6. Be nice. Nobody likes being around jerks, so be nice.

Sounds easy, but in fact it is very hard, that is why so few people are able to find the success they would like, and in many cases, deserve.

Call me for a confidential discussion about how to best leverage your opportunities.



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Barbed wire networking

barbed wire phone

Man has always found ways to communicate, Social media is not new, it is just the tools we are using today are upgrades of those we used yesterday.

Alex Bell patented the telephone in 1876, after many inventors had played with the physics of electro magnetism and its applications to voice transmission. By the 1890’s farmers were using the barbed wire fences that were strung the length and breadth of the US to communicate.  Phones in those days generated their own power by means of a crank and batteries, all you needed to do was hook up to wire, give the mail order telephonic device a crank, and bingo, a phone.

Downside was that someone had to be on the line at the other end waiting, and there was no direct dialling, so everyone was on at the same time, the ubiquitous party line, where privacy was a victim.

Sound familiar?

(Reliability was also an issue, everything from rain to the neighbours randy bull causing problems with the wire)

Point is, all this fancy new technology is no more than a new solution to an old problem: how to communicate effectively with those  to whom we have something to say, from the mundane and trivial to really life altering messages.

Small businesses need to remember this simple truth, as they are bombarded with “opportunities” to expand their reach via social media. The only useful contacts are those with whom you have something in common, and with whom you can collaborate to generate value for you both. Those sorts of “friends” are invaluable, and do not just “happen”, it takes time and effort to find them and build relationships individually. Just getting a “like” on facebook is as useful as Harold Holts flippers, particularly as the organic reach of facebook is now down around 5% as Facebook seek to financially leverage their membership base.

Fancy some barbed wire?


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5 classic marketing steps that still work.

In 1968 a seminal Book called “Consumer behaviour”  Engel, Blackwell & Kollat described the 5 steps in the marketing process that dominated marketing thinking for the next 45 years.

It is clear that they are still as valid now as they have been for all those years. It is just that the tools we now have to manage the process are at once way more sensitive, and way more complicated than they were.

The 5 steps are:

Problem recognition. Not much has changed here, although we are way more sophisticated at discovering when someone may be seeking a solution to a problem, and can step in and assist, but essentially, the recognition of a problem to be solved remains where it has always been, with the consumer. In B2B, the sophisticated sales approach has evolved to what Neil Rackham  calls “situation questions” that lead to unearthing and defining a problem, or opportunity for improvement the buyer was not immediately aware of.

Information search. Here the world has been turned upside down by the search tools available to consumers. In addition, sellers now have the opportunity to recognise an information search, and try to engage in the process with the searcher to deliver valuable information, and perhaps progress the sales process in their favour.

Alternatives evaluation. Perhaps this stage is where the greatest changes have occurred.  Pre-web, it was the sellers who had most relevant information, and they were in control of the timing, type, amount of information, and how it was given out to a prospect. Now, the power is with the consumer, and in most cases this 3rd process is well advanced before a potential supplier has any idea that the buyer is in the market.  However, it is also here that the tools available have exploded, from personalising the web site delivery of information to rapidly evolving promotional and informational mobile apps,  emerging geo location mobile promotions, product and service review websites, and more .

Purchase. Amazon and Ebay turned the retail experience on its head, aided more recently by the penetration of mobile. However, when you look at the numbers, the percentage of a consumer total purchases made on line is not more than about 5%, but  the spread is uneven across categories, and there is all sorts of research that offers a different, nuanced view. Just ask your local bookstore of music retailer if you can find one. In addition, new ways to purchase have evolved. Apple for example built an entirely new purchase eco-system with iTunes, which in itself is now being disrupted by Spotify and other subscription models.

Post purchase. The notion of the purchase transaction being the end of the game is also over. Lifetime value of a customer is now a really important consideration, as is the consumers opportunity to express their views post purchase via social media. Businesses that ignore the value and opportunity of the post purchase period, indeed the opportunity of consumers to express views on virtually anything, will probably not live long enough to fully realise their mistake.

These 5 steps still “step out” (sorry) the process, it is just that the tools being used have changed radically. It does not matter if you are the corner store, or Walmart, the steps hold true in almost every consumers approach to a purchase more significant than a box of paperclips, sometimes even paperclips.

Human behaviour is too hard wired to evolve at the speed at which the tools have evolved, so the manner in which the tools are used fits with the established behaviour,  and changes it over time, rather than radical changes in behaviour emerging as a result of the new tools. Even the most widely adopted tool set of social media is just automating existing behaviour patterns, enabling the existing behaviour to be more effective, rather than introducing new ones.

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6 ingredients for SME success


The post on the 2 tools SME’s need  in early August  led to a comment that, whilst the headlines of focus and discipline made sense, the challenge is in implementation.

Fair comment.

So, how do you build the needed focus and discipline in the face of increasing complexity and competition?

Over 40 years of doing this stuff with SME;s, there have been 6 common factors that lead to successful implementation that have emerged.

  • Ownership leads to commitment. In an increasingly complicated world, the hierarchical organisations that worked for us to date now fail, they are too rigid and process driven to be responsive to the chaotic input from a connected world. Leveraging what Clay Shirky calls “Cognitive surplus” becomes the competitive challenge to be won.
  • Prioritisation and planning. There is a fine line between prioritising and planning a set of activities, and procrastination and doing the easy stuff that does not really matter. Two  rules of thumb: 1. if it is easy, it probably does not matter, and 2. An extra minute spend planning will save an hour later on in the project.
  • Accountability. It is one thing to “make” someone accountable in a top down organisation, it is easy for some boss to just say “you are accountable” but that does not make it so. It is really only when the person takes on the accountability as their own that the motivation kicks in, that they really care beyond the protection of an income or position.
  • Outcome measurement. Do not measure the activities, just the outcomes. It is good to have the activities visible, so you can see what is being done, but only the outcomes really matter, activities do not contribute to success in any way other than they are just the means to the end, so measure for the end.
  • Failure tolerance. The “scientific method” applies to management as well as science, it spawns a fact based decision making culture, rather than one based on ego, status and hubris.The story of the most successful inventor in history, Thomas Edison, on failing for the 999th time to create light from a bulb saying: “Now I know 999 things that do not work” is a lesson for us all. The 1,000th experiment was successful, and the world was changed.
  • Persistence. Never giving up is crucial, with the proviso that you learn from your mistakes, and apply the learning.

These 6 are a great start, to which I would add “Sweat”. My dad used to reckon nothing worthwhile was achieved without some of it being shed, and I think he was right.

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Native advertising or news fraud

lipstick on a pig

Last night Media Watch on the ABC did a piece on the “news report” done on one of the 6.30 current affairs programs on a commercial station. The “report” was a 15 minute advertising free  expose on the sourcing of the fresh produce the retailer sells.

It was a prime example of so called “Native advertising”.

Native advertising is just a term dreamt up by marketers, aided and abetted by commercially desperate media owners  to make excuses for polluting the so-called news with favorable commentary. In this case, the channel concerned had a share of the retailers very substantial advertising dollars way in excess of their audience market share, and the “report” was nothing less than a glowing tribute to the quality and freshness of the produce.

Smells like advertising to me.

The “news”  already seems to have been so polluted by the populist lowest common denominator “cat up a tree” stories that seem to dominate alongside sensationalist claims about today’s brand of extremist, that why would a puff piece on how fresh a retailers produce is make a difference?

Simple answer, because it is nonsense.

The retailer concerned does do a good job, works hard to deliver produce as fresh as they can given the constraints of their mass market model, competitive pressures and profitability objectives, but to put as much lipstick on the pig as the report did is really going too far.

You can watch Media Watch’s (the segment starts at 8.45)  commentary for a while on the ABC’s iView, but if you are still confused about the line between advertising and journalism, and the chance of our institutions and enterprises being held accountable by the media, have a look at this satirical  video by John Oliver that presses the point.

We are pretty savvy consumers of media these days, question is, are we savvy enough?

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Emotion is the path to your brain.


Think of the average presentation you sit through.

If I can summarise: Boring, potentially useful information quickly forgotten.

Am I right?

Now think of  the best presentation you have ever sat through.

You remember not just the occasion, and the presenter, and probably those with you,  but also the information.

What is the difference between these two presentations?

Chances are the first was a wooden recitation of facts that were also on a powerpoint showing behind the speakers head, even worse, the speaker was reading the slides.

Chances are the best was a three dimensional “performance” by the speaker, there were moments of quiet, of passion, of visual conjuring from the verbal, of a simple point made that tied the whole thing together in a take-away message. The presence of props was limited to a very few photos, drawings or physical props that emphasised the point being made, the presentation was dominated by the physical presence of the person on stage.

The speaker brought emotion to the presentation, a physicality and personal engagement with the message being delivered far more than is possible with just the words.

Years ago before my first major public presentation, it was to an industry conference  with an expected attendance of about 1500, (the “Foodweek” conference about 1988)  I undertook a training session with a presentation coach. I do not remember much of that training, although it was well used on the day I was told, despite the almost terminal case of nerves, but I do remember the trainer saying again and again:

“it is not a presentation, it is a performance”.

That statement is as true today as it was then, perhaps more so because we are awash in messages, and increasingly those messages are visual, recognising we are a visual animal, so to be remembered, the bar is now set very high.

There are plenty of coaches out there, this session by Doug Stevenson is probably as good as it gets. My thanks to Mitch Joel for bringing it to my attention.


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12 key success factors for SME’s

Small businesses make up the vast majority of business numbers, make a huge contribution to economic activity and health, but most do not last 5 years.

Over  20 years of observing small businesses as a contractor and consultant, I have seen a modest number of factors that the successful businesses, those that last the distance and deliver good financial returns over an extended period,  set out to manage in a very deliberate way.

  1. Your time is the most valuable resource you have, and is non renewable, so outsource as much as you can to free up your time. It does not matter if you outsource to an employee, or to someone in the eastern bloc, it gives you back your time.  Always ensure you retain control of the things that are at the core of your value proposition to customers, that is where your valuable time should be spent.
  2. Make yourself redundant. When the business runs without you, it is successful, You can then do what you want, but have the income stream coming in to allow you do what your want. The old cliché of working on your business rather than in your business is a cliché for a reason.
  3. Deliver value to customers first. Most business owners earn the most from their business the day they sell it, so do not become too emotionally involved with the idea of owning the business, be in love with what it can do for you by delivering value to customers.
  4. Find a niche and own it.
  5. Leverage the talents of others, there is always someone who can do something better than you, find them, and leverage those talents. On the flip side, do not allow low performers to persist, as it not only enables under performance in their role, but it sets a low bar for the others who can see that non performance is acceptable.
  6. Automate the day to day stuff as much as possible, and it is possible to automate almost everything these days. This requires time and effort up front to ensure there are robust and repeatable processes, but pays off in  spades in very quick time.
  7. Always be curious, about what your customers are doing, and why, what your competitors are doing, why and how, and what is happening in domains outside yours that may  be applicable to your domain in some way.
  8. Be generous. It pays off. Generosity engenders a feeling of obligation, and in this day of commodities and transparency, having someone feel they owe you a favour is very valuable.
  9. Have a plan, so at the very least, you know  the point from which you have departed.
  10. Interrogate your business model routinely, as the pace of change is such that the optimum way of extracting value may not be the way your are doing it currently. The Business Model canvas is a great tool, and it is not so silly to keep drawn up on an A3 pinned to your wall to take post it notes with thought s as they occur to you, and others.
  11. Measure progress to wards objectives. Too many measures are as bad a too few, the challenge is to get the right measures, measuring the things that really measure progress, not just that something is done.
  12. Watch and manage the cash.

None of this is easy, or comfortable, but as I look around at successful SME’s, they are all employing at least 5 or 6 of these strategies.  I would recommend that you do a relatively simple assessment of each parameter, measure yourself, and use that measure to identify areas to target for improvement. Simple spider graphs are very useful as a visual tool for recording progress.

Happy to have a yarn with you about how an outside resource may be able to assist the process.

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Marketing recidivism

marketing recidivism

The word recidivism is usually heard in the context of those convicted and punished, going on to re-offend. The objective is to reduce the rate, ideally to zero.

Not in the context of marketing and sales, where the objective is to raise the rate.

Think about your own processes, and sales and marketing funnels.

Most are messy, illogical, emotional pathways with all sorts of traps along the way, very few are the orderly, and sequential progressions that are usually reflected in consultant drawn funnels.

During the process, the objective is to bring as many of the wanderers from the path back into the funnel as possible, and help them to the end point, a transaction, or at least keep them in the funnel until such time as they are ready to progress.

The “recidivism rate” is an enormously valuable measure of the effectiveness of your sales and marketing  processes, and can be applied at all points in the process, irrespective of the form of the process, from a simple spreadsheet to complicated CRM and lead generation software.

Would some help figuring this stuff out help?

If so, call me, now.

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9 tips to crafting effective headlines

daves pen

David Ogilvy said many things that have gone into the marketing lexicon, one that is particularly relevant to the ways we are communicating today:

On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar”. 

It is disturbing for me to sped several hours creating a blog post, and then to have just a few people read it, and I find that following the rules below, my readership increases markedly.


  1. Lists always work,” 6 ways to build a better backhand”
  2. “How to” headlines always work.  “How to build a better backhand” If you can actually find a way to combine a “How to” with a “list”, well, off it goes. Like “How to leverage these 6 ways to build a better backhand”
  3. Highlight the benefit, a WIFM (what’s in it for me)  headline. “Having a great backhand increases your chances in doubles”. Sometimes a  bit of innuendo or double meaning goes a long way to making a headline better “linkbait” to the body of the article or email.
  4. “Free” is good, “Free e-book on how to build a forehand Federer would love”
  5. Evoke curiosity, then deliver in the body. “How many more sets would you win with a better backhand?’
  6. Draft several headlines, and give considerable thought to which is the best to use in  the context of the audience, and what it is you are trying to convey.
  7. Length, SEO experts tell me that about 60-70 characters is the limit, as the search engines cut off the subject lines at about 70.
  8. Learn from what others are doing. About the best source of effective headline writing lessons is in the local newsagent, spend a bit of time browsing the magazine section, there are SEO killer headlines effectively selling stuff that nobody in their right mind should buy
  9. The final consideration is that while it is the headline that gets people in, it is the value you deliver through the information in the body of the message that keeps them there. There is just so much content out there, so many opportunities to spend your time, that the real value is in delivering sufficiently good information and ideas to induce people to read the whole post, then  return, again and again.  The headline is just the icing, it is the cake that people consume.

There are many formulas, that claim to make writing good headlines easy, just like those above. However, like most things that can be broken down into a formula, you end up with some degree of repetition, a “sameness” with others,  it may work, and usually has to date,  it may deliver the outcome, but it is still the outcome of the same formula your competitors  are  using. So be different, add some humanity to the message, nothing is as good as a bit of humanity to connect to your audience.

That is really hard.




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6 Really simple steps to increase the effectiveness of your website.

don't shout

The blokes I saw as a youngster who had outrageous success with the girls were not always the best looking, or the most interesting, or had the best cars (although all these assets did seem to help) they were the ones who were genuinely interested in whoever it was they happened to be talking to at that particular moment in time. They directed all their attention and empathy at their companion of the moment, casual or otherwise.

Why do we think we can be successful digitally with strategies that are second rate in the real world?

Websites are communication tools, they are a digital metaphor for the conversations you have at a party, in a pub, at the office, in private. Nothing more.

So, go to the home page of your site, (or your competitors) and look at it through the eyes of the person you are attempting to communicate with, and:

  1. Count how often you talk about yourself, using pronouns like  “we”, “our”, “us”
  2. Count how often you talk about the problems your customer has, the ways that you are referencing their needs and challenges
  3. Compare the numbers, and in most cases  be amazed at how often you talk about yourself.
  4. Repeat for every page on your site,
  5. STOP talking about yourself!!
  6. Rewrite, and reap the benefits.

Pretty simple formula really, no different to those blokes I was envious of years ago.

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6 vital elements of a marketing story that sells.


trojan horse

As everyone will tell you, (including me here) marketing is about stories, stories that resonate, are remembered, that generate empathy, and lead to an action, and hopefully if your effort is to be rewarded, a transaction.

So what are the elements that make a good marketing story?

It is instructive to look to the stories we all read, from books we read to our kids, to the fiction we read as adults. All seem to share elements of 6 common traits:

  1. They are written for an audience. Kids love stories, and reading to my kids was one of the joys of being a parent. They would have loved last years best seller, Jeremy, the story of the kookaburra chick that fell out of the nest and as reared by a family until he could look after himself. Great book for my kids, as kids, but not my choice for my personal reading.
  2. They have a hero and a villain, and the hero always wins after a seemingly unwinnable struggle, usually at the last moment, and unexpectedly.
  3. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning sets the scene, the middle tells the story, and the end does a recap, and reinforces the message of the story.
  4. They all have a message, something worthwhile taking away, and that takeaway is the point of the story. Aesop, a Greek slave had this part nailed.
  5. They all have dramatic tension coming in waves through the story. The hero is confronted, and prevails,  then is confronted again and prevails again by being smarter, more helpful, inventive, and resilient than the villain. The rhythm of the story builds to the climax, with the hero again, prevailing in some way that demonstrates the traits of ingenuity, resilience, and “goodness”.
  6. The story has a plot. Pretty obvious, but the plot is what ties it all in together, and provides the context  for the hero to beat the villain, to achieve the unachievable, and deliver the message.

A good story gets remembered, and can be retold. That is not just luck, it is the way we have evolved, storytelling is the way we related information vital for survival in the first couple of million years as we moved from caves to  the present, passing on the strategies for staying out of the way of all sorts of risks to life and limb along the way. Recently there has been a lot of sophisticated research searching for the mechanics, this post from Chris Penn includes links to several.

Point is, the sophisticated research is simply telling us the mechanics, Aesop just knew the formula, and it remains the formula today, from writing a blog post to making a presentation, you may as well use the formula to your benefit.

How did I do?

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Intersection of sales, marketing  and technology


18 years ago running an ingredient supplier to the food industry as a contractor, I sponsored a project of quantifying a range of ingredient specifications against a matrix of  organoleptic, and cost outcomes given a range of processing parameters.

Our objective was to be able to demonstrate on the spot to a customer the impact of apparently minor specification changes of the ingredient and/or processing conditions on the operational, taste and viscosity outcomes, and costs of the product. We did many hundreds of bench trials in the lab, carefully documenting progressive changes of all the parameters, their impact on the product outcomes, and recording them in a database that enabled us to call up the information at any time. This turned an ad hoc, iterative, time consuming, and inexact process requiring expensive lab time that had often taken months to complete, into one that could be done in front of the customer with a few mouse-clicks. Real time outcomes that we were confident could be replicated in a factory trial.

The impact on customers the first time they saw this capability was profound.

I was reminded of this project again recently talking to the manufacturer of extruded plastic components. His sales process involves extensive iteration on a 3-D cad/cam package following usually extensive design and problem definition discussions, and then still pretty expensive models that need to be validated before “cutting steel” for extrusion dies.

It seems to me that in the next very short time, all these processes would be able to be done in real time, in front of the customer with 3-D printed prototypes.

The intersection of sales and technology is ignored by many, for a host of reasons, but pretty clear when you think about it for just a moment. The scary part is that you no longer have to have the resources of a multinational at your fingertips, this stuff is available off the shelf at your local tech vendor, and if you are not doing it, the competitors you may not even know about probably can.

Writing this post, I also realised that we missed a really important parameter in the exercise 18 years ago, one that is the focus of my esteemed “e-mate” Howard Moscowitz‘s work. That missed parameter is what the consumer really thinks, rather than what the marketer with whom we were working thought they were thinking. This discrepancy has been made famous by Malcolm Gladwell’s celebrated TED presentation reflecting on Howards work in the development of Spaghetti sauce.

This is a whole other area where sales, marketing and technology are increasingly intersecting

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7 tips to improve your marketing.


Marketing has changed very rapidly from the mass outbound marketing upon which all the marketing theory and practice until about 2000, to what is often called “inbound” marketing, or in other words, finding ways to attract customers to you.

There is now a fundamentally changed  capability set required to be a successful marketing executive, and to manage a successful marketing function.

  1. Customers are the new focus, not because of any epiphany, but because we can now see them clearly. We need to be able create situations and experiences for them to be able to engage with the proposition we are delivering them.
  2. Marketing is leading the digital revolution, now. Marketing was late to the table abut the pace of development of marketing automation over the last 5 or 6 years has been astonishing, and marketers need to be data analysts and automation savvy.
  3. Outbound marketing required content, but no longer can you just  hire an ad agency to churn out a few ads. Now the whole marketing function, and ideally other functions in a business need to become producers of content, so that consumers have something to relate to, that tells a story. These materials become the backbone of our branding activity,
  4. Marketers need to become remarkably ambidextrous when thinking about channels of communication. Not only do we now have a few paid outbound channels, we have a huge array of owned and paid and earned media options and platforms, all have to be managed, in concert with each other, so you get a cumulative and synergistic effect.
  5. Marketing needs to engage consumes in their social spaces, and on their social platforms. No longer can we just bash messages through via paid media, the challenge of engaging has become far more difficult and the location has moved from the lounge room to wherever they are.
  6. Branding success has always had customer loyalty and retention as an end result of any activity. Now that has changed, and we are actively developing marketing techniques and tactics to target the loyalty and retention of consumers, and the huge difference  is we can now see the impact of our activities.
  7. Marketing agility based on A/B testing has become a core competence. This combines the data capability wit the imagination of the marketing  to dream up ideas, then test and constantly refine.

Marketing is becoming the core function of every enterprise. From a bit of an extra, sometimes even seen as an indulgence 20 years ago, it is rapidly becoming evident that marketing is the most important function of every business.

Competitive success now depends as much  on the quality of the marketing effort to deliver customers as it does the product and service offering. However, it is still true that no matter how great the marketing, without the product, you will not get a second chance.

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5 ways small retailers avoid failure

Things to avoid

Things to avoid

Small retailers see themselves as under siege, and many just hunker down and work harder to survive, for many, it is too hard.

For those that survive, some are doing really well, and there seems to be a few common themes. Few are doing them all, but all seems to be picking one or two and really delivering:

  1. They treat the shopping experience as an occasion, they set out to deliver to their customers fun, social acceptance, an opportunity to express themselves, deliver serendipity, information, and  advice to their customers. In short they are not there to flog product, they are there to provide a service, which happens to involve customers buying stuff.
  2. They carve out a niche, something distinctive, and set out to “own” it, at least in the local area. A friend of mine runs a small retail business, “Affordable Decor” in suburban Croydon on Sydney. It is a small store, set away from the main roads and shopping centres, but it is unique, a reflection of Maureen’s great eye and her connection to her customer base that comes from across Sydney.
  3.  Digital capability is almost table stakes, if in no function beyond inventory management, retailers need to be digital capable. My mate Maureen down the road in Affordable Decor does not have anything digital in her store, everything is still pen and paper, there is no website, (despite my pleading) but there is a really focused program of text messaging to her cohort of loyal customers.
  4. Mobile friendly is evolving as a real differentiator. A huge proportion of customers and potential customers connect using mobile, so being there is fundamental.
  5. Big data gets all the publicity, but what about Small data? Successful small retailers are in  a position to know  the details, small data, of their customers likes and dislikes, successes and failures on a personal level. It is this intimacy with customers that big data cannot hope to match, for all its great value.

For those small retailers reading this post, how are you doing?

Need someone to talk to who undestands the challenges?


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2 tools SME’s have to have


Most SME’s I see are run by a single person, without the benefit of any sort of advisory board beyond those with whom he/she has dinner sometimes, when they get the time.

The hats they wear  make Josephs coat look bland.

CEO, CMO, CTO, COO, CFO, CSO,…. The list goes on, up to and including CCO (chief cleaning officer), CBW, (chief bottle washer) and CSK (chief shit kicker)

These multiple roles have always challenged small business leaders, their primary resource beyond domain capability has always been time, and that is non renewable. Recently the explosion of the time and expertise necessary to have a chance at competing effectively in the face of commoditising and transparent markets, aggressive  competitive activity, increasing customer scale in B2B, and marketing automation,  has multiplied the size of the marketing hat enormously.

Where does the time come from?

Two places:

Focus and discipline.

  1. Focus on customers, and a niche where you can be significant. The old adage of big fish in little pools rather than the opposite hold truer than ever.
  2. Discipline to build a plan, assemble the resources to execute, then to execute with the agility necessary to respond instantly to new information, changes in the market, customer preferences, or whatever it may be, but not to be distracted from the broad objectives of  the plan. The second part of discipline is to measure progress, not just against the plan, but more importantly, towards the objectives of the plan, the better to understand the next step.

Most SME’s I see have bits of both, not enough of either, so they  are like empty drink cans bobbing around in a rough sea, unless they can keep upright, and plug the hole, eventually they sink.

Need some thoughts on how to identify and plug the holes?

Call me.



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How can you do it to yourself???


Shoot foot

I just had another of those really, really annoying phone calls from a call centre, and being a marketer, I cringed with shame and frustration.

After I answered, it took probably 5 seconds for the person on the other end to answer me (memo call centre managers: this is just crapppola!!)

He was probably a nice young man, just trying to make a living in difficult circumstances in, well, it was not Australia, so his first language was not English, it may not have been his second either, so it was challenging understanding him.

He had a script, yes, scripts are a necessary tool, but do not easily allow the flexibility to cope with anything other than an utterly “vanilla” conversation, and those would be as rare as a cat in a doghouse. He clearly was under instructions not to vary from the script, but to respond to anything other than my script predicted comments with “yes, thank you Mr Roberts” and then, back to the script without a pause.

At least he got the name right.

I could go on, but the point is, why would somebody trying to sell me something waste their money so comprehensively?

The possibility that this young man was going to actually engage me in any way with his product let alone extract any money from me, are about as good as my chances of playing Roger Federer in next years Wimbledon final.

Why would any marketer actually pay for this desecration of their brand?

Are they really that stupid?

Unfortunately, the answer must be yes, at least in some cases.

By the way, the product was Funeral insurance, a hard sell in the best circumstances, impossible if you treat the potential customer with contempt.


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7 parameters of a C21 marketing scorecard

Developing metrics to measure the impact and ROI of marketing is becoming a game of choice around competent boardroom tables. Given the level of marketing engagement around many of those tables, it seems sensible for marketers to take the initiative.

Following are seven headline parameters that make some sense and can be further broken up to match the enterprise specific strategies that should be in place. Measure yourself on a five point scale.

  1.  Do you have a clear, 360 degree understanding of the behaviors, mindset, product category usage and limitations of your primary customers?
  2. Do you create, launch and measure  the effectiveness of marketing campaigns with the deep involvement of data intelligence tools
  3. Do you” listen” for customers behavior and respond in real time?
  4. Are you engaged in all stages of the customers product usage life-cycle, from first consideration of the potential benefits to the assessment of operational performance?
  5. Can you optimise marketing investment across all channels and activity types?
  6. Are all the KPI’s across the business aligned to the desired market outcomes?
  7. Is the boardroom “on board” with all the above. (bad pun, sorry)

If you score less than 30, you need to do some work. One of the easiest ways to keep track of progress is a  simple spider graph. Making the assessments a normal part of your marketing audit processes, recording progress in a simple way, then evaluating the performance and capability gaps that emerge will make you a more competitively effective enterprise.

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