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BUSINESS

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We’re never in the middle of nowhere. Obviously. We’re always in the middle of somewhere. And when we remind ourselves of this; tasks, days, businesses and lives really can feel easier.

I help businesses get noticed remembered and chosen. Businesses tell me the milestones they want to aim for and achieve. Deliverables. Events. Targets. And that’s super! But if all they look at is the next milestone, that’s disconcerting. Unsettling. Desperate even. They can feel lost because they are neither here (where they came from) nor there (where they’re going).

That’s why I remind business owners that – today and every day – they are in a phase, and that each phase has a name.

It’s OK to feel unprepared in a phase called Preparation. It’s natural to feel uncertain in a phase called Uncertainty. It’s fine to have grown pain in a Growth Phase.

That kind of thing.

We’re never in the middle of nowhere. Obviously. We’re always in the middle of somewhere. And when we remind ourselves of this; tasks, days, businesses and lives really can feel easier.

Next time you’re in California, go to Peet’s Coffee.

Because they’re stupid.

Peet’s is the stupid coffeeshop that, to get and keep more customers, developed a really stupid loyalty scheme.

It wasn’t like everybody else’s professional ‘card-stamp’ loyalty scheme. It was stupid because it ignored the competition completely.  In fact, it was so stupid, Peet’s scheme was the exact opposite of their scheme.

They called it, ‘Peet’s Coffee Disloyalty Scheme’. Idiots.

Basically, ‘Peet’s Coffee Disloyalty Scheme’ would take and stamp ANY coffee shops loyalty card.

Four words from me. Simple. Utter. Blibbing. Genius.

One lesson. Think stupid. There’s magic there.

There’s Marketing.

And there’s Mehketing.

Everywhere.

Mehketing is Marketing that feels comfortable, familiar, safe, obvious, OK and like-what-they-did.

And it’s a strangely dichotomous phenomenon because whilst Mehketing is everywhere.

You rarely actually see it.

Really see it, I mean.

Mehketing.

Mehketing examples:

  1. Get a client to say you’re perfect in a quote you wrote for them, and asked them to sign it off (yes, it really is that obvious).
  2. Take photos of your product, so they look like photos of their product, but with your logo on.
  3. Use words that blend in and don’t mean anything. Words like ‘leading’ or ‘best’ or ‘solutions’.
  4. Write a slogan that means nothing to anyone. And that could appear on any business like yours. Something like, ‘Growing Together’ or ‘For the Future’ or ‘Consultancy You Can Believe In’ or ‘Your Ambition is Our Ambition’ or ‘Innovation for Tomorrow’ or ‘Mehmoh Mnh uhhh’ or ‘Strnmh Pppppppppphhh Thhhhhhh’.
  5. Use lots of, but don’t prioritise or provide uniquely powerful credentials for, any of the ‘business bingo’ words (established, innovative, well trained, experienced, quality, extensive selection, trusted, cost-effective, fast…). So I don’t know what you want me to remember. So I don’t remember any.
  6. Speak like a politician by framing lots of statements with things like, ‘We are committed to,’ and ‘Dedicated to,’ and ‘We are delighted to announce’. (We don’t believe politicians either).
  7. Say ‘we specialise in,’ then write a long list of thing you specialise in, thus confirming you’re not a specialist, you’re a generalist.
  8. Take a photo of your people with them looking down the lens, at a slight angle, doing that smile they don’t do.

Look, I know it’s hard.

We all slip.

But it’s meant to be hard.

Let’s at least try to do better.

Let’s choose Marketing – not Mehketing.

In business, people generally treat you how you treat them.

But what’s not so obvious is that, in business, people treat you how you treat yourself, too.

Old Post Office. 

Old Post Office is our two little holiday homes in Northumberland.

Both are so very carefully and precisely considered.

We treat the rooms and the whole experience with a lovely big helping of care and creativity.

And this has a very pleasant side effect.

Apologise.

Sometimes, when guests leave us, they apologise.

They apologise because they have not been able to return their little temporary home back to exactly how they found it.

This, of course, is not our expectation.

But how nice it is that many people seem to care as much about this thing created as we do.

Treat Yourself.

So it would seem that, in business, if you want customers to treat you with care and respect.

All you have to do is to treat them, and yourself that way – first.

Running a brand that makes things is interesting.

Because even after you conceived, designed, made and sold your thing.

The thing is still yours.

It’s Still Yours. 

What I mean is, you’re still responsible for it.

And it for you.

Because right after you sell the thing you conceived, designed and made.

People experience and talk about your thing.

They talk about whether it faltered, failed and disappointed.

Or whether it surprised, delighted and flew.

And whatever it is they say impacts your brand.

And you feel that as if you really do still own the thing.

After all, it’s your thing they’re talking about.

The impact and the influence never leaves.

Pick The Best.

So because the thing you made it’s still yours even after you conceived, designed, made and sold it.

Pick the best materials you can.

Pick the best makers.

Hone the design.

Then hone it again.

And you might even do something weird like I did with Always Wear Red.

Weird.

Once the Always Wear Red hand knit collection was complete.

I invited the best hand knitter we had to stay at AWR HQ for three days.

And all I asked Eleanor to do was to imagine where all 20 sweaters, years down the line, were most likely to fail first.

Then, to do some ‘Predictive Darning.’*

It looked amazing!

More interesting.

The product as tougher.

And I was more comfortable with the truth that, even after the hand knits were sold.

They were still mine.

They were still saying something – about me.

Something personal.

And that’s why I really do think you own that thing you made forever.

Even after you sold it.

*Made Up Term.

I’ve long had a hatred of being interrupted by rude, lazy marketers.

Marketers telling me to use Grammarly or whatever-it’s-called because my writing is crap.

Interrupting Max Richter when he’s working on calming me down after a long day.

It’s rude.

And it’s lazy.

And that’s one of the reasons why it was so nice to meet Adrian.

Meet Adrian.

I met Adrian from Da Vinci Creative whilst on a David Hieatt / Do Lectures writing course.

In Wales.

In June.

Adrian is the kind of guy that, when you’re talking to him, he first of all breathes in very deeply.

Just the once.

Before enthusing about his passion for about an hour-and-a-half without breathing in again once.

Thankfully, what Adrian says is all great.

And thankfully, Adrian’s passion is a passion of mine too.

Print.

Adrian Loves Print.

Adrian is a cheerleader for really great print.

I reckon Adrian snaps open and sniffs a freshly printed brochure each morning.

I reckon Adrian whispers ‘goodnight’ to the last glorious piece of print he’s created each night.

Stroking the cover.

Running a forefinger lovingly over the perfectly perfect bound spine.

Before laying it flat.

And giving it a little kiss.

But back to Adrian’s enthusing…

Adrian’s Brilliant Monologue.

All I wanted to say is this.

In amongst Adrian’s brilliant monologue about print.

He at one point paused slightly and asserted, slowly but sincerely, these three words:

“Print.

Is.

Polite.”

I immediately interrupted him.

“Adrian”

I said.

“That, ‘Print is Polite’ thing.

Where’s that from?

Have you said that before?”

I asked.

“No.”

Said Adrian.

Before continuing his print love story.

And I actually don’t think, even now, that Adrian realises just how lovely what he said was.

I think that ‘Print is Polite’ is A Beautiful Truth.

Whilst so much ugly, noisy, interruptive digital nonsense is just, well; not.

So I wanted to say to Adrian that, I think, the essence of who he is as a professional might just be captured in these three lovely words.

‘Print. Is. Polite.’

Listen to Your Business Owner Friends.

And as a sign-off I also wanted to say to you – listen to your business owner friends.

Listen to their passion and help them to find their Beautiful Truth too.

Because it’s very hard for business owners to distill who and what they are, and what they believe in, into a few emotionally connecting words.

All it might take is for someone like you to listen.

Properly.

And point it out.

The book I am about to start writing will change me straight away.

Because when I do start.

It won’t be me, writing.

That’s just ‘doing’.

I’ll become a writer.

That’s different.

That’s ‘being’.

The Idea.

I’ve found the book I want to write.

My idea makes me smile.

And I am intrigued to find out what happens.

So early in September 2023.

I’ll shuffle my life about a bit to make room.

Sit down.

And off I’ll go.

Sometimes.

Thinking is not all it’s cracked up to be.

And you shouldn’t bother.

Beautiful Magazine.

I was chatting a beautiful magazine today.

And they wanted me to tell them about Always Wear Red.

Quickly.

And because I (mostly, not always) know how my brain works from a brand or business communications perspective.

I know I have two choices when I talk about any of my businesses.

(As do you, by the way).

  1. The functional descriptor response. This, in the most part, requires me to think.
  2. What’s really fucking going on.  This, in the most part, requires me not to think.

I chose the latter.

Always Wear Red.

Here’s what I told them was really fucking going on with Always Wear Red.

1. Just as we mastered creating the best hand knits in the world, we stopped making them. Completely. We’ll only ever make 50. Because they will last long enough to wear, share and repair for generations. 50 is enough.

2. The business can’t make money, it can only (just!) cover costs and deliver one message… If you are going to make anything (a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g) you should have a fucking good reason for doing so. We don’t want to encourage people to make things. We want to encourage them to STOP making things just because they can.

3. Our hand knits are for your downtime. Because downtime is not something to shoehorn into life. Down time IS life. So do downtime properly.

And that was that.

Response.

Their response… wow!

Weird.

Interesting!

Different.

Which is far better than if I’d have gone for the functional descriptor option.

And blathered on about the world’s best 100% Italian merino… Britain’s best hand knitters… taking 4 years to make etc.

Don’t Think. 

Sometimes.

Thinking is not all it’s cracked up to be.

And you shouldn’t bother.

When you run a business.

If you give them nothing more than what they asked for.

Don’t be surprised when they never use you again.

Because, arguably, that’s nothing more than you deserve.

ASDA.

So here you are.

In ASDA.

You’ve got the list your partner gave you and there’s this thing on it you’ve never heard of.

Ketjap Manis.

You don’t know what the fuck it is.

What it’s for.

Or why they want it.

Nevertheless.

Ketjap Manis is what you need.

Ketjap Manis.

So there you stand.

Feet anchored.

Shopping list dangling at chest-height.

Head rotating right-then-left like a human lighthouse.

Mouth wide open.

Looking for the ‘Happy to Help’ bebadged, shelf-shuffler whose very purpose it is to save you from confusion.

And eventually, there they are.

Crouching and balanced on their haunches like a large, busy-handed frog.

Restocking and straightening the Head and Shoulders on a low, far-off shelf.

Aisle 6.

“Excuse me.”

You quietly say as you approach.

“Excuse me.

Ketjap Manis.

Do you have it please?

It’s on my list you see and…”

“Aisle 6.”

The large, busy-handed frog interrupts.

“Sorry?”

You reply.

And again, without looking up…

“Aisle 6.”

The still-crouching busy-handed frog repeats.

So off you go.

Your quest for one thing you don’t have a fucking clue what it is or looks like.

(Ketjap Manis).

Replaced with another.

(Aisle 6).

Me too.

Now, before we start the ‘me too’ mutterings about any supermarket’s large, lazy, busy-handed frogs.

And before we start the, ‘My business would never treat anyone like that,’ mutterings.

We should pause.

And take a good look at our own businesses.

Your Business.

If someone orders a jumper from your online store.

And all you do is send it to them when they expect it, in the condition they expect.

Then honestly, how is that any bloody different than a lazy “Aisle 6” response?

It’s entry level.

It’s boring.

And it’s lazy.

The Busy-Handed Frog.

I already know what you want ASDA’s large busy-handed frog to do.

I know you want the large busy-handed frog to spring up as you approach, smile, call you sir or madam, ask how they can help, then once they find out, walk purposefully to Aisle 6 alongside you, actually looking at you as they do, asking how your day is going as they do, then explaining how there are in fact two kinds of Ketjap Manis, but the one that’s 40p more expensive really is much better because it’s more concentrated.

So it lasts longer.

And tastes better, too.

But you didn’t ask for any of that did you?

You just wanted to know where the Ketjap Manis was.

And in scenario one… they told you.

So I’ll repeat.

If you are the e-commerce store owner that just sends me the jumper.

Or the coffee store owner that just plops the coffee down in front of me.

Or the plumber that mends my radiator and leaves.

Or the car MOT mechanic that says ‘it passed’.

Then you’re no better than the ‘Aisle 6’ frog.

Because you were asked for ordinary.

And that’s what you delivered.

Do Better. 

So here’s an idea.

Be the e-commerce store owner that sends me a Cashmere Comb with my jumper, and a hand-signed note that helps me understand that by combing my jumper every 3 months it’ll stay looking better for longer.

Be the coffee store owner that slips me a teeny, individually wrapped biscuit embossed with the words, ‘As Sweet as You’ – for me to munch or gift.

Be the plumber that calls me 7 days after the radiator repair to see if all is well.

Be the MOT mechanic that smiles and hands me a lemony fresh ‘Travel Safe (and see you next time)’ air freshener with my MOT certificate.

Because when you run a business.

If you give them nothing more than what they asked for.

Don’t be surprised when they never use you again.

Because, arguably, that’s nothing more than you deserve.