Is ‘On The Run’ a bit of a misnomer?

I have completely lost count of the number of people who have had a whinge to me about trying to buy petrol. About having to stand in a big long queue at the petrol station, behind a whole ton of people who seem to want to do their grocery shopping or are waiting to get their coffee made… when all THEY want to do is just PAY for their PETROL and get OUTTA there. The same thing happens to me. Regularly.

So, the last time it did, when I finally got to the front of the queue after about 5 minutes, I thought I’d mention it to the guy behind the counter. Our conversation went sorta like this…

Me: “Hi there. Now, I know you’re probably not the person who makes all the decisions around here, but is it worth thinking about having an express lane for people who only wanna buy petrol? Kinda like the supermarket’s do?”
Him: LOL. Yes, he actually, really, laughed out loud. Then he said… “That’s not part of the On The Run mantra.”
Me: “Hmmm… that’s funny. I’m not sure if that really helps those of us who are On The Run.”

Now, I understand that they make stacks of money from people who are buying all that other stuff and getting that coffee made, but when it comes at the cost of good service to others, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. But I guess when you’re one of the big boys, you can make your own rules.

 

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Is technology making our lives more complicated?

I was at my hairdresser’s the other day and noticed her system for booking appointments. A big book, the size of a Kalamazoo ledger. (ummm… if you’re under 35, perhaps Google that.) Anyway, she got out the pencil and the rubber and changed an appointment in about 10 seconds flat.

I commented on her antiquated system and told her that it reminded me of my accounting system. Green 8 and 14 Column books, pencil and rubber. Yes, yes, laugh your head off. But after years of trying different bookkeepers, losing track of what was going on, deciding to get myself better informed, going to 2 MYOB sessions, getting 2 followup visits to my office to get it bought, installed, then getting my head around it all, and still failing miserably, I gave up. And went back to basics.

The really funny thing is, I used to be an accounts clerk. I’m actually really good with numbers. But my brain just wants simplicity. So I say, yes, try things, but don’t caught up in the hype that you have to do things the new, better, improved way or feel stupid because you can’t, or you don’t want to.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the internet! It brings me business. I Google everything. What did we do before Google???!!! I even have the 3 Chinese lucky coins stuck on the front of my Mac desktop, for good Feng Shui.

Back to (phone) basics?
I have a client who creates apps and I was helping him with some editing of his copy when he started talking a bit of geek-speak to me.

So I did what I always do when this happens – I pulled out my mobile phone and showed it to him. I am Smart-Phone resistant. I have a basic Nokia 110 that I bought last year because I only want text and phone calls. Because I want a small phone. And because I drop my phone regularly. It’s got gaffer tape on it. But it works just fine, the battery stays charged for ages, and it’s all I need.

My client, Glen, didn’t laugh at me like people usually do. In fact, he said he predicts a swing back to basic phones for a reasonable-sized segment of the population. When I showed my phone to a lady in a local shop later that week, she got all excited, asked me where I got it and was going to rush down there to buy one because she didn’t want a big Smart-Phone either. So Glen may be right.

Some stressed clients
The real reason for this blog is that I’ve had quite a number of conversations lately, either with my clients or with other business people who are having tech issues and getting extremely stressed out by trying to do everything and feeling like a failure when they can’t. To add insult to injury, they are comparing themselves with the people around them who CAN use technology well and who are saying ‘what’s your problem?’

It kinda reminds me of the days back at school when you’re sweating bullets, yet frozen, pen in hand, just glazed-eyed-staring-down at the exam paper in front of you, coz you don’t know the answer and everyone around you is happily scribbling away furiously.

Our Brave New World
I say we’ve created a world where we have to do lots of different things and be good at lots of different things in order to do well. Contrast this with the world just a couple of hundred years ago, when we were specialists. You were master of one thing, like a cook, or a blacksmith or a carpenter or a teacher. That’s what you did. That’s ALL you did. Now, I’m not saying that was a better world, I’m just saying that I’m sure that our brains weren’t built for so much multi-tasking. And research seems to be proving it.

Is multi-tasking bad for us?
I’ve seen a program that showed 97% of us cannot multi-task well. Even if we think we can, we actually get LESS done because we constantly have to jump from one part of our brain to another. Which of course, takes time. And slows us down. I saw an article the other day that said multi-taskers have less grey matter in their brains! So, my pledge to me is… less multi-tasking and more staying in the present and doing one thing at a time, well. But at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s technology that’s the problem. It’s just that we don’t know how to switch off.

 

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When choosing popular talent backfires

MirandaKerrI seem to be seeing a helluva lot of Miranda Kerr lately. Not in person, just her face.
On EVERYthing. From Swarzkopf hair colour to Clear Shampoo to Royal Albert china to Swarovski crystal to her own brand of skincare, Kora, it’s all making me a bit dizzy. (Actually, I just saw her Reebok ad online, so actually, yes a bit more than her face…lol) I forgot to mention Victoria’s Secret and David Jones… anyway…

I think the main winner here is Miranda, rather than the brands. Because I’m just getting to the stage where I see her face and think ‘Now what?’ Having a brand spokesperson that is beautiful, talented, well-known or well-liked is a wonderful thing but surely, sharing them with too many other brands can only dilute the message.

 

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Choosing the right talent

We can’t all afford big TV campaigns like Optus, but even if you’re just creating a brochure or looking for a stock library photo for your website, it’s important to make sure the people you choose to represent your brand are a good fit.

The first thing to work out is the personality of your business. Is it conservative and upmarket? Is it cheap and cheerful? Is it mumsy? Child-like? Maybe a bloke talking to other blokes, like the Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee ads? Or a mature female speaking candidly, woman-to-woman?

I’m not the target audience but I reckon Optus gets it right with their most recent series of ads featuring young Aussie comic, Josh Thomas. Now, personally, I can’t stand his stand-up comedy but I reckon he’s hysterically funny in these ads. Which I reckon will work gangbusters. Check ’em out and see what you think.

On another note, it may not be obvious at first glance but if you look closely at all 3 of the Optus TV ads, the subtle use of the Optus colours for clothing, interiors, scenery etc is a great example of good branding. Here’s a link for the first ad.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXkMv7O3xg8

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Does being very graphic pay off?

Toilet cleaners. Slobbery dogs for Viva. Sanitary products. I’m sorry, but if I’m eating, which sadly I do in front of the TV (and I’m sure I’m not the only one), toilets and slobbery dogs are the last things I want to look at. As for sanitary products, I’m not a prude but I reckon the best place to advertise them is in women’s magazines. And I’m not the only one who has a problem with these TV ads. There were a lot of people who were offended enough to complain officially.

http://news.optuszoo.com.au/2014/07/01/the-ads-the-outraged-australians-this-year/

I reckon being too graphic will turn people off. Even a spider will make me turn away from the screen so whatever message the advertiser is trying to get across is completely lost. Of course, you can’t please everybody and sometimes being controversial gets ads talked about. Which the ad agency will probably justify with the saying ‘Any publicity is good publicity.’ Let’s hope the clients’ bottom line reflects that.

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Clever ads for OtterBox

Two very different ads for the same company, for two very different target audiences. Those who want design and practicality, and those who just want practicality. The first ad is for style, style, style. Cleverly, they’ve shot the ad so that you don’t see the faces of the dancers. There are two good reasons for this.

Firstly, as human beings, we are hard-wired to look at people’s faces. By not showing them, we are forced to focus more on the product. Secondly, when we look at people in ads, we ask ourselves ‘do I relate to that person?’ Most of this is subconscious, but it happens. If we don’t relate to the person in the ad, we are less likely to pay attention or purchase the product. Here’s the link for Otter’s stylish ad.

The second ad for OtterBox is for those who want practicality. Probably guys, probably tradies, so they have used a man who they can relate to. Demonstration ads work really well and they have been used for TV since the 1950s. Most of them are pretty boring, but this ad has found a great way to demonstrate just how waterproof the phone cover is.

The image on the phone cleverly relates to man’s best friend, and where the call is coming from gives him a really good reason to chuck the phone. It’s a clever use of humour that we can all relate to, which helps make it more memorable. The name of the product is easy to remember, too, because it’s relevant.

 

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Who gives a crap

Here’s a business that’s good for the planet and whose advertising is really clever. The name of the business is Who gives a crap and they make toilet paper out of 100% Recycled fibres to save on trees, water and landfill. Simple but effective, their messages make you smile. Here are just a few of them…

Good for your bum. Great for the world.
When it comes to saving the planet, we’re on a roll.
and
Together, we can make every wipe count.

You can find them at whogivesacrap.org

 

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It’s harder than ever to promote your business using Facebook

Personally, I’ve never been a big Facebook fan (too old, not my thing, I find it too distracting). I don’t use it for my personal life because I like the phone. Mum always told me that everyone flings the ‘friend’ word around when they’re really ‘acquaintances’. And that was 30 years ago, before Facebook boy was born! And I do love that quote I read somewhere that went something like ‘‘Yeah. You’ve got 600 facebook friends but who’s gonna help you move?’’ Exactly.

Being business to business (B2B) I don’t use facebook for my marketing and I have felt like a pretty lone voice in the wilderness about this. Until recently. Research seems to be popping up to support my point of view. For example, here’s an article on my SEO guy’s website that I think is really worth reading.

http://succinctideas.com.au/harder-ever-promote-business-using-facebook/

Now don’t get me wrong
I’m not saying Facebook doesn’t work for anyone. I know business owners who have used Facebook to grow their business, and one of my workshop participants a few years ago said ALL her clients come from facebook. She was an interior designer. Target audience — female, 30-45? Perfect. Because it’s all about the strategy. Here are my tips for working out what you should use for your social media marketing.

1. Is your target audience using it? (if you don’t know who your target audience is, you need to get clear on that)
2. Is it your ‘thing’? (i.e. do you love it, does it sit well with your business model)
3. Do you have the time and expertise to do a good job of it? (if not, pay someone else who knows what they’re doing, or just forget about it)

Social media panic
I’m noticing a lot of social media panic in the last couple of years. Everyone seems to be running around trying to do everything. You can’t. Who’s got the time? Not small business owners for sure. Try and choose one or 2 things that work for your business and stick to it. It’s far better to do a couple of things well than a lot of things badly.

 

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When nobody’s got your back

I was preparing for a brainstorming session with a new client of mine, who wanted to create a letterbox drop. Since he was a franchisee of a business that had been around for over a decade, I saw an opportunity for not having to reinvent the wheel. So I asked him, Could he contact the head franchise and ask them for some guidance, and get some samples of what had been done before and what worked well? He did. He got nothing. They were not interested in helping him at all.

That very same week, I was helping another client with their new website, writing content and sourcing appropriate product images. When our online search for photos came up with nothing suitable, I suggested they contact their main suppliers and ask them for some of their photos, because surely they’d have lots to choose from.

Despite the fact that they would be featuring their products on this site, with a link back to the manufacturer’s sites, those companies weren’t interested in helping either! I find this short-sightedness absolutely amazing. The very people who should have been supporting these businesses from behind the scenes, just couldn’t give a ratz. Somewhere along the line, they had completely lost sight of the fact that if these front-end businesses fail, they won’t have anyone left to sell their products.

 

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Why even negative feedback is your best friend

A friend of mine recently started work at a gym. His job title is ‘Membership Consultant’ which is really just a fancy term for ‘Salesperson’. While on the phone the other day, chatting with a prospect, he was told that she’d experienced some really full-on hard-sell from the person she’d spoken to a couple of weeks before. He took this feedback to his manager and was told ‘Oh, she’s just a trouble-maker, don’t listen to her.’ The management was just not interested in any negative feedback at all.

My mate was quite shocked because in his previous employment, he was used to taking feedback from customers and using it to help improve store layout, product offerings, signage, point of sale materials, staff training and so much more. If we can ask our clients what they think, and then give them what they want, how much more money could we be making?

As for the gym management, they obviously don’t get that this is free market research! There’s no setting up and paying mega-bucks for a questionnaire, a survey or a focus group — this is free and extremely valuable feedback from the very people they are trying to sell to. For FREEEEE!!! And I know that money is important to them because they are underpaying my friend and even making him pay for his own uniform. But that’s another story… let’s get back to the point.

In stark contrast to the example above, I was at a crash shop last week, waiting to collect my car and noticed a brochure on the counter. Its front cover read:

Did we meet our usual high standards?
Please let us know.

The brochure was produced by the RAA, who want to know whether their approved repairers are doing the right thing. And how better to find out than to ask their customers. If we look carefully at our own business, no matter how well we are doing already, perhaps there’s a question or two we could be asking our clients that would add a bit (or a lot!) both to their experience and to our bottom line.

 

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