Word of Mouth – Marketing that Works

There are at least three major challenges in marketing our enterprise services:

  1. More than 90% of the population does not see what we do as relevant to them – when it comes to enterprise they are pre-contemplators
  2. Getting our messages through – what are our key messages and how to we get them where they can be heard – by the people that matter?
  3. Giving people the confidence, conviction and commitment to act on the messages – to give us a call, to come to a workshop, to make an appointment, to have a conversation

Now the default setting for the VAST majority of enterprise projects are these:

We won’t worry about the pre-contemplators – we will target those who already have ideas they want to act on or already have the belief and the conviction that they can make progress.  This makes it easier for us to hit our numbers.

Our core messages will be:

1.  we can help turn your dreams into reality (if you don’t have dreams don’t call us)

2.  We can turn your business ideas into reality (ignore the fact that the ‘Dragons’ mash up and humiliate most of the poor saps that go to them – with our help you can’t fail)

3. It is quick – and relatively easy – (if you haven’t got the skills we can teach them to you) – you can be up and running in just weeks or months.  10 000 hours to master a field – forget it – who is Malcolm Gladwell anyway? 3 half day workshops and a bit of one to one on the business plan will “see you ‘reet”. (Glad no-one is measuring survival rates on our projects!)

4.  To get people to take action we will lure them in by hinting at the availability of money, childcare, bouncy castles and food.  We will even pay them the bus fare (yes, it costs a lot to administer but – what are we to do…?)

5.  We will spend a lot of money on marketing collateral, leaflets, web sites and e-mail marketing campaigns (digital exclusion! – you mean some poor people don’t have e-mail accounts – never mind they could never become proper business people anyway – they are not our target group).

6. We will attend every possible event and push our services hard – just like those guys who sell SKY TV and Credit Cards in the Merrion Centre – “You mean we shouldn’t be selling enterprise like any other commodity?  Why not?”

We know that these approaches:

  • are expensive
  • have very low hit rates
  • attract a whole load of people who just want to get the money without putting in the work
  • attract people easily seduced by the idea of a quick fix – rather than composing a life and a livelihood
  • elicit more suspicion, frustration and cynicism than enthusiasm and engagement
  • provide us with very high customer acquisition costs.  (interesting that most entrepreneurs are very interested in this number – yet most projects funded to support entrepreneurs don’t worry about their own cost per customer acquisition at all – ‘We are below targets – lets throw some more money at marketing then!’).

What about looking at marketing approaches that work.

Word of mouth.

Reputation building, seeking referrals and recommendations – based on the fact that we are bloody good!  That we do inspire, transform, care and coach.  That we are more than interested in people and their passions.  That we are with them for the long haul.

Worrying more about what every customer says about us to their mates, in the pub, in the clubs and on the streets, rather than some abstract and easily manipulated percentage that represents ‘customer satisfaction’ – YUK!

Being the kind of people and the type of service that our customers can’t wait to recommend to their friends.

Once we start to spend time and money on developing marketing and enagement strategies  based on:

  • reputation management
  • referrals
  • introductions
  • social networking
  • gatekeepers, and
  • the needs, interests, cultures and values of the communities we serve (rather than policy goals and outcomes)

we would start to see the basics of our own businesses transformed.

  • 10% of customers influence the purchasing decisions of the other 90%
  • 91% of customers are “likely” to buy off of a recommendation
  • 92% of customers “prefer” a word of mouth recommendation

People Are Our Greatest Cost – Honest Banker Shock!

You know when you hear a Chief Exec say,

“People are our greatest…”

and you are thinking yeah, yeah I know – ‘ASSET’.

Except on the Today programme I heard the CEO of RBS (rumoured to be looking at 20000 redundancies) say,

‘People are our greatest cost’.

Cognitive Dissonance or what!

Life is complicated though.  Most of us are BOTH great assets and great costs in weird and dynamic combinations.

Outstanding managers have systematic and effective processes (121s, feedback, coaching, delegation etc) for developing both the asset part of the equation AND the cost.  Yes, outstanding managers do want good people to cost more, and more, and more – because they recognise that what matters is the value that they create – not how much they cost.

How are you doing with your systematic and effective processes for asset development?

Powerful Question or Cliche?

Interesting post over at SAMBA blog about the power of the:

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

question.

Does it make you a powerful life transformer – or just another cliche ridden life coach?

There is no doubt IMHO  that this is potentially a life changing question.

It IS also a cliche.

What makes the difference is the nature of the relationship that you have with the person who you are asking.

If you have respect, credibility and trust – then the question will be taken on board.

Ask it too early though and you will be just another cliche ridden life coach.

For me, enterprise and entrepreneurship are great processes through which people can ‘find themselves’ and allow their true identity to emerge.

Done well this is a thing of beauty.

I have written more about this topic at http://tinyurl.com/djxwsx and http://tinyurl.com/aqgweq

The art of ‘enterprise coaching’ is not just about having great questions – it is also about having the relationship that permits you to ask them.

And we should never be afraid of asking the BIG, SCARY questions – but we must have the right relationship first.

Helping People to Exist or Become?

I have been banging on about enterprise as being a process for the emergence of identity for a long time now.  Enterprise provides the (nearly) perfect vehicle for us to explore our talents and passions and have the results of our efforts judged in real time by real people.  When you are enterprising honest feedback is always available.

But I have been nowhere near strong enough on this.

Enterprise is a process for creating and shaping lifes – NOT for increasing the start up rate.

This was brought home to me again last night listening to Frazer Irving at the Leeds College of Art.  Frazer told us the story of his journey from schoolboy geek reading (and loving) comics to becoming a professional illustrator and artist working on some of the top comics in the world and providing artwork to support advertising campaigns for blue chips.

Key elements in his journey were:

  • lots of study – school, college – taking every opportunity to develop his talent and passion – and having the strength to survive crass and damaging teachers – “Frazer – don’t waste your time on comics – when I was editing Women’s Weekly we sold 4 million copies every week – how many copies do comics sell?”
  • lots of ‘suffering’ – crap jobs, dole, survival – but still developing the passion
  • persisting long enough to ‘get lucky’ with some breaks – (funny how years of practice and development of his craft finally got him the ‘luck’ he needed…)
  • a real and enduring passion for his work – talking about the importance of ‘the muse’

Now just imagine Frazer had come to you as a young graduate (2:2), currently holding down a string of temporary jobs (selling sex toys, security guard, office work etc) and told you that he wanted to become a freelance illustrator, not just working for top comics like 2000AD, but providing his own innovative style of illustrations.  Doing HIS stuff – that at the time no-one was publishing.

Would you have the type of service that could really help him with what is inevitably going to be a long journey?

Could you support a journey measured in years, possibly decades, rather then weeks or months?  Will your funders let you?  Do you have the ability to support that kind of relationship?

Could your service help him to persist, survive and develop as he worked his way around Europe developing his experience, style and technique?

Would your relationship have had the strength, compassion and faith in his potential to endure while he became something TRULY excellent?

While he served a REAL apprenticeship (this was no government scheme designed by employers – this was real self discovery) that gave him a platform to become excellent – could you have maintained your support?

Or, in a possibly unconscious pursuit of quick fixes dictated by funding streams and service design, would you have tried to persuade him that his passion was OK as a hobby- but never really going to turn into a lucrative career?

“Do you know how many illustrators send their portfolios to 2000AD every week?”.  “Now let’s talk about how we can increase your sales of rampant rabbits.  Have you ever thought of setting up an e-bay shop?  We have a one day workshop….”

Frazer was lucky.  He knew what he wanted to become and he held onto that dream for long enough for it to become a reality.  Many of our clients stopped dreaming a long time ago.

So my questions are:

  • Should enterprise services be designed to provide short cuts to economic survival, or, to help support the long term development of human potential?
  • Which of these will create greater value in the long term?
  • What are you trained, and your services designed, to achieve – REALLY?

Time for a policy, strategy and service redesign anyone?

People really are our greatest assets and we are often not investing in them well.

Management Lessons from Frazer Irving

Had the privilege of attending my first Creative Networks event at Leeds College of Art.  Frazer Irving – a wonderful illustrator talked about his career – from which I took the following:

  1. the seeds of your future are often sown early
  2. just because it sells does not mean it is good – heroin is not better than tofu – even if it does shift more units
  3. provoke, invoke, evoke
  4. 5 years of crappy jobs and being on the dole – being on the dole were the ‘happy days’
  5. ideas burning on the inside
  6. managers/editors can leave you with tears streaming down your face and your soul ripped out and thrown on the floor
  7. the bad times provide the fuel and drive to allow the good
  8. an incessant streak of optimism helps – on being rejected by judges in a portrait competition Frazer chose to believe it was because he wasn’t important – although it might have been because I wasn’t very good
  9. it takes a lot of time, training, passion and life experience to really master your subject
  10. great technology combined with great passion and skills produce remarkable, beautiful and important results
  11. sometimes you need someone to say ‘chin up – you will be alright’
  12. sometimes when your art is ripped off it gets you great new gigs – life-changing breaks…
  13. be a slave to the muse – let the story dictate the style
  14. it is really about finding out who you are and what you can become
  15. treat me as a ‘pencil monkey’ and you will get mediocrity
  16. in the comic world a lot of bad product is there because of poor management – comics and every other industry on the planet – management is perfectly evolved to get the results it gets
  17. if it is bad it is (nearly always) because the managers/editors have put the wrong people on the job
  18. if you have recruited the wrong people then forcing them to compromise WILL lead to mediocrity
  19. recruit great talent carefully and then trust it do deliver on its own terms – not yours
  20. when your hobby becomes your job – you get another hobby
  21. musicians jam and sometimes the results are great – what is the jamming equivalent for you?
  22. be careful about your reputation – one person saying you migh tnot hit a deadline in a public forum can be a killer
  23. sometimes it is best not to claim the credit for all your ideas
  24. it really is full of ups and downs – but you come out of the downs with even more resources – psychological and technical if not financial

This was a great networking event – convival atmosphere – great facilities – good food – great speakers and good managment.

If only all networking opportunities were this good!

Enterprise Lessons from Frazer Irving

Had the privilege of attending my first Creative Networks event at Leeds College of Art.  Frazer Irving – a wonderful illustrator talked about his career – from which I took the following:

  1. the seeds of your (your clients) future are often sown early – go back to the early years to see if the basis for an enterprise were sown then
  2. just because it sells does not mean it is good – heroin is not better than tofu – even if it does shift more units – selling stuff is not the be all and all – truth and beauty matter too
  3. provoke, invoke, evoke – apparently John Lennon said that – not a bad JD for an enterprise coach either
  4. 5 years of crappy jobs and being on the dole – being on the dole were the ‘happy days’
  5. ‘ideas burning on the inside’
  6. managers/editors can leave you with tears streaming down your face and your soul ripped out and thrown on the floor
  7. the bad times provide the fuel and drive to allow the good
  8. an incessant streak of optimism helps – on being rejected by judges in a portrait competition Frazer chose to believe it was because he wasn’t important – ‘although it might have been because, then, I wasn’t very good’
  9. it takes a lot of time, training, passion and life experience to really master your subject
  10. great technology combined with great passion and skills produce remarkable, beautiful and important results
  11. sometimes you need someone to say ‘chin up – you will be alright’
  12. sometimes when your art is ripped off it gets you great new gigs – life-changing breaks…
  13. be a slave to the muse – let the story dictate the style – if the story is trivial don’t expect to get great results
  14. it is really about finding out who you are and what you can become – enterprise is about the emergence of identity – the process of becoming…
  15. treat me as a ‘pencil monkey’ and you will get mediocrity
  16. in the comic world a lot of bad product is there because of poor management – comics and every other industry on the planet – management is perfectly designed to get the results it gets
  17. if it is bad it is (nearly always) because the managers/editors have put the wrong people on the job
  18. if you have recruited the wrong people then forcing them to compromise WILL lead to mediocrity
  19. recruit great talent carefully and then trust it to deliver on its own terms – not yours
  20. when your hobby becomes your job – you get another hobby
  21. musicians jam and sometimes the results are great – what is the jamming equivalent for you?
  22. be careful about your reputation – one person saying you might not hit a deadline in a public forum can be a killer
  23. sometimes it is best not to claim the credit for all your ideas
  24. it really is full of ups and downs – but you come out of the downs with even more resources – psychological and technical if not financial

This was a great networking event – convivial atmosphere – great facilities – good food – great speakers and good management.

If only all networking opportunities were this good!

Free Start Up Space!

If you are trying to engage start-ups then this is what you are up against.

Free start up space for 6 months and then cheap rates.

Plus specialist niche equipment that you won’t find in a Vanilla Workspace!

Here in Leeds we have lots of empty work spaces at a range of prices and I believe that there is more planned to come on-stream soon.

If we are trying to develop an enterprise culture ‘premises’ are rarely, if EVER the barrier – though they are often the excuse.

The barriers are more likely to be lack of aspiration, vision and self belief.  Once we have developed these then premises will ALWAYS be found.

Twitter and the Progressive Manager

Why should progressive managers engage with twitter?

Well this post and video pretty quickly summed it up for me.

http://tinyurl.com/b4enb5

Early days for me using twitter – but so far it looks promising!

I am going to twittering some management tips and twitter about community based enterprise and how to develop it!

Any of you twittering?  What works and what doesn’t?

If you want to you can follow my twitters at:

http://twitter.com/mikechitty

Twitter for Enterprise?

Why should small business engage with twitter?

Well this post and video pretty quickly summed it up for me.

http://tinyurl.com/b4enb5

Early days for me using twitter – but so far it looks promising!

I am going to twittering some tips and twitter about community based enterprise and how to develop it!

Any of you twittering?  What works and what doesn’t?

If you want to you can follow my twitters at:

http://twitter.com/mikechitty

Fighting the Recession – ‘Buildings and Others’ or Social Capital?

So Dundee is looking to get an outpost of the V&A museum, housed in a  new £42 million building – with a business plan that suggests it could feature local strengths in illustration, comics, animation, interactive media and computer gaming.  So much for  jam, jute and journalism.

It appears to be part of a longer term strategy that the city has been following based on the thinking of Richard Florida (The Rise of the Creative Class).

Florida suggests that urban regeneration depends on a city attracting enough of the right kind of people – the creative class – to create businesses and jobs.  And the way to attract the right kind of people is to have the right kind of buildings – good housing stock, excellent public parks and other amenities. At its hearts appears to be a belief that if a city is failing it is because it does not have enough of the right kind of people.

This is an expensive strategy, and there is a real risk that it widens the gap between the haves and the have nots.  There is a reliance on trickle down and a hope that some of the magic pixie dust of these creatives will rub off on the locals.  And even if it doesn’t? Well they constitute a ready made supply of willing labour for the creatives – its better than nothing

I got to visit Dundee several times in recent years as I helped the Sirolli Institute to set up an Enterprise Facilitation Project in the City.  The project had a relatively modest investment requirement.   The investment was in building social capital, a group of local people who believe in the potential of local people and the power of enterprise as a process and a discipline to help them to transform their lives.  They recruit and manage a person centred coach whose sole job is to facilitate the hopes and dreams of local people.  To hep them make progress on their projects on their own terms.  It is based on a belief that the City already has all of the resources that it needed to manage its own regeneration.  It is an approach that recognises that the best hope for a good economic and social future lies in the long term development of local people – not in attracting outsiders and depending on them to deliver a better future.

Yesterday I got the chance to visit UrbanBiz in Leeds.  They have a small, poky office on the main road through Chapeltown.  Poorly designed and basically equipped; it is hardly a ‘signature building’.

Yet it was jumping!

People waiting to use computers, to talk with advisers to make something happen for themselves.  The centre may not win any design awards – but it is convivial.  It is ‘of the people’.

Regeneration does not depend on buildings to attract outsiders.  It depends on the engagement and sensitive but powerful facilitation and co-ordination of local people. On the development of social capital.

Losing the fixation with buildings and others – and knocking a couple of noughts of regeneration budgets (the people focused approach is so much cheaper) might just be the way forward.