11 things Social Media will not do.

Social media is not free

courtesy: Hugh McLeod Gaping void

Social media presents enormous opportunities for small businesses to connect with their customers in ways not imaginable just a few years ago.

However, like every new tool that comes along, it can be misused and certainly abused, and is certain to be touted by carpetbaggers. Considering the following list may save you some heartache.

  • It will not address failings in your band positioning and execution. Get those right, and Social media can be a great addition, but it will not backfill the failures of creative, customer and problem focused strategic thinking.
  • It will not make your brand interesting to potential customers who are not interested in what you have to offer.
  • It cannot help you when all you talk about is yourself.  People are more interested in themselves than in you, and unless you grapple with and answer the “What’s in it for me” question, you will end up talking to yourself.
  • It cannot guarantee to go viral. Very few things go viral, it is like winning the lottery, the more tickets, the greater the chance, but each ticket has the same chance as all the others.
  • It will not make up for poor content. In fact, poor content can kill any potential success your strategy may have, stone dead.
  • It does not operate in an objectiveless world, so cannot deliver on objectives you have failed to articulate and plan for.
  • It will not compensate for poor customer service. In fact, one of the great things is that those with poor customer service will be exposed quicker than ever, and go broke, reducing the ‘noise’ in the market.
  • It rarely seems to ignore the things you may rather have it ignore, like lousy customer service.
  • It will not change the world, although there is evidence that it can make a major contribution in that direction.
  • It is not free. Posting of social platforms may be free, but there is considerable effort and many challenges before you will have any chance of   being noticed. That effort will incur at least opportunity cost if you do it yourself, or professional costs if you outsource.
  • It does not just happen. Being good at leveraging the opportunities of Social media is like anything else, you can only get out after you have put in. Success always takes take considerable effort.

The message is that social media is not the panacea for anything, not a silver bullet for any problem, it is just a tool in the marketing toolbox. It might be new and shiny, and seemingly changing daily, and being touted as the next big thing, which to some extent it is, but it remains just a means to an end, not the end itself.




The HUGE downside of “Free”

Free draws no committmentd

“Free” is a really powerful word, it gets used often to gain attention, and put urgency into a call to action, particularly if the “free” period is short.

How many of us have not reacted at some time to the siren song of “Free?”

However, “free” has a huge downside.

Everyone has heard the old saying, “you get what you pay for” and it holds true.

Free also means no risk, and no commitment.

Take it, but if you do not use it, there are no consequences.

As a young bloke I worked for what is now Meadow Lea Foods in the time we were building Meadow Lea into one of the great Australian brands. A lot of time was spent in stores, demonstrating the product, giving supermarket shoppers a taste of Meadow Lea on a square of bread.

Pretty boring, but it worked.

When we actually got somebody to try a free sample, that was not the end, we sought to convert that trial to a sale by actively selling the product, which meant the consumer had to make a choice, sometimes change the choice they had already made about margarine brand, a commitment, and that commitment cost them a bit of money.

Meadow Lea ended up market leader by a country mile, 4 times the market share of the number 2 brand in a crowded and competitive market. It was more than great advertising that delivered that outcome.

Some advice. Superficial engagement such as downloading a free e-book  is better than nothing, and it does get you an email address, but it falls a long way short of any real engagement and importantly, commitment.



How to calculate Share of Wallet.

defining share of wallet

Share of wallet

The calculation is easy, sales over total wallet, the problem is in defining the denominator, or what is in/out of  your wallet.

The definition of the wallet is the really hard bit, the debate however, can be extraordinarily useful in terms of focussing the attention of the enterprise on the immediate and longer term priorities, and how those priorities are to be addressed.

Markets can be broken up in as many ways as imagination allows, but often for me it has been useful to break it into three.

Target market. The immediate markets where you need success in order to pay the bills.

Adjacent markets. Those market segments around you that would benefit from your solution, in the event that you were able to create and deliver that solution.

Generic market. The wider market that many consider as ‘The market’.

Lets take the insurance market as an example, as there are plenty of current examples around.

The generic market is, pretty obviously, ‘Insurance’.

Insurance companies are seeking to deliver services in increasingly specific niches, and are often creating apparently separate businesses to do so, although they are really just brands.

NRMA for example started with car insurance, and under that brand also deliver, home, contents, and other types, obviously leveraging their marketing reach to homeowners. Under different brands, CGU, SGIC, and others they also deliver competitive personal products as well as more specialised ones. Similarly, Suncorp delivers a range of products under a host of brands, AAMI, APIA, Bingle, Shannon’s, GIO, and others, many of them overlapping and directly competitive.

If you happen to be the marketing manager of “Shannon’s” car insurance for car buffs, does your wallet include the adjacent market of home insurance for said car buffs?

The arguments for and against are obvious, the temptation to lose focus on the primary target market equally obvious.

For many small businesses there is also a geographic component.

One of my mates runs a café in Burwood, and having this debate with him is instructive.

How does he define his wallet between coffee consumers in Burwood and the adjacent suburb of Croydon, and between individual consumers in those suburbs Vs businesses to whom he offers simple “sandwich catering” to order. The manner in which he spends his limited marketing budget, the sort of offers he makes, and the staffing he employees are defined by the answers to the questions.

Defining your wallet is a fundamentally important process, give it due care and attention.



Beginners guide to small business blogging

small business blogs

Blogging is a journey


Writing a blog can be confronting, and often small  business owners shy away for the commitment. Make no mistake it is a commitment, but so is anything worth doing.

After 6 years and 1400 posts, and a lot of reading of posts by others, I have learned a bit, I hope, and assembled a few tips:

Be selective. Starting out you cannot do everything, so pick the platforms that suit you. Logically this follows some thought about where your target market hangs out digitally. This particularly relates to  those in your field who are influencers.

Create an engaging profile.  Every platform offers the opportunity to create a profile. Do it thoughtfully, considering the things that your preferred readers might like to see. Too often I see profiles that are incomplete or look like resumes, in the latter case, unless you are actively looking for a job, it is not of much interest to anyone but your Mum.

Upload a photo that does you justice. Your profile photo is like the headline photo in the front page of a newspaper, and you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Background images. Again, most offer the opportunity for a background image, this is the opportunity to confirm your expertise, or the thing you want to be remembered for. Unless, you are a Vet, no cats allowed.

Understand the platform. Whichever platform(s) you choose to start with, spend a bit of time understanding how they work, the features, and how you might be able to use them. Just having a profile up is useless, you need to be able to actively engage in the features of the platform to be noticed.

Follow and comment. Engagement starts somewhere, in most cases following those with whom you feel you would like to share a coffee with in real life is a good start. Once following, make comments on their posts, refer to other things they may be interested in, link to your posts, and create debates, offer an alternative point of view.

 Learn from others. Social media has been exploding for the last 15 years. There are some real gurus out there along with all the wannabe’s. By watching and listening you will figure out quickly who they are, learn from them, model your digital behaviour on theirs, without copying, as you  need your own ‘voice”. One of the gurus I have watched is Jeff Bullas, a true guru who lives almost around the corner in Sydney. By simply watching what he does, I have leant a lot.

Endorse and share. Sharing is an endorsement, if you feel something, is worthwhile, share it amongst your networks with a short note. These days it is easy to share on all platforms, but taking the time to write and endorse a post makes a lot of difference. Just clicking the ‘like’ button really means little any more.

 Join groups. This is a great way to come to know those in a market who are the opinion leaders, and make a thoughtful contribution. I much prefer the closed groups, firstly because the rules can be set and you are less likely to be bombarded by irrelevant advertising messages,  but more importantly because there is a common reason to be a member of a group, and if the reason is at  the core of your businesses, it is clearly a good place to be.

Consistency.  This all takes time and effort, but you have to be in the game to win. Those who find you worth following will get used to a rhythm, so once that is established, do your best to keep it up. Consistency in tone of ‘voice’ is also important. A blog is  a personal thing, that is why people have followed in many cases, so outsourcing it can be a mistake. By contrast, having guest bloggers can be a great way to add value to your readers, and for your it offers the opportunity to attract new readers, point is that the guest post is explicitly written by a guest. I guest post regularly in a food industry magazine, it helps them with original and relevant articles and thoughts, and drives traffic for me.

Don’t pitch. When you use blog posts to pitch, if you do it too hard, you will lose readers. By all means offer access to landing pages that do pitch products or events, but they should be elsewhere beyond a soft invitation to readers who may be interested to click and go  there. Hard selling on a blog post is the quickest way to put off readers other than being irrelevant or committing the sin of bad writing, I have seen.

Be visual. Human beings are visual animals, we respond to visual stimuli. Look at the reaction around the world to the photo of the little drowned Syrian boy being lifted out of the water. Drowned Syrian He is not the first to have been reported to have drowned, this was not the first story, it probably ranks at a number well over a million in the words written, but it grabbed the attention of the world like nothing that has gone before.


Be visible. Use social icons at every opportunity giving people as many opportunities to sample and connect as possible. It is a numbers game after all, and getting them to the front door counts.

Extend courtesy to others. Digital interaction is no different to face to face, apart for the obvious . People like to be thanked, acknowledged for their contributions,  and have their efforts reciprocated. However, being selective in the reciprocity can be useful. There are many tools out there that just automatically do stuff, like follow or like. Following back an automated system is not the same as following back a person, so be selective and be careful who you like.

Start. Always the hardest thing, to make the commitment to yourself, and get on with it, dismiss the voice in your ear that tell you  that you do not know enough, it is too hard, or that nobody will come. As we all know, the journey stats with the first step.





How to stand out on social platforms. The 9 ways.

Stand out on social media
My small business clients ask me this all the time.
They know they have to stand out on Social Media, but the question is how?
The necessary steps and supporting processes are now pretty well understood, but not easy to execute.


1. Find a niche and own it.

This is about the most common piece of advice out there, because it is right, yet so few small businesses do it well. They are seduced by the numbers. ‘there are a billion people on India, if we could sell a widget to .0000015% of them we would be right.’ In contrast, success comes to those who find a niche that fits their expertise, and offer a product that is both differentiated and the best around in some way for the very specific target market. A friend of mine has a potential very deep niche in highly specialised light bulbs. He has access to the products from specialist producers around the world and combined with the specialist technical knowledge he has necessary to understand the best combination of characteristics for a particular use. However, he keeps on being distracted by the opportunity of selling a box of common bulbs available in a suburban lighting shop.

2. Understand the market intimately.

This follows from the point above. People are being bombarded by all sorts of messages, you need to know the ones that will cut through because they promise to deliver a unique benefit of some sort to the target specialised audience. A message about a “light bulb for printers” will not get through the mental defenses of a professional printer, but offering an “Ultra Vitalux lamp with double the normal lamp-life” almost certainly would.

3. Identify and connect with influencers.

In every market, there those who lead, who experiment, and are not afraid to take a shot, and there are the rest. If you can identify and connect with those thought leaders, their endorsement will influence the views and behaviour of the rest.

4. Create a “tribe”.

Seth Godin and Clay Shirky brought the notion of “Tribes” into the vernacular. If you can build one around your particular expertise, those in the tribe will become advocates for your product and expertise. The mistake most make at this point is that they take the opportunity to turn the group or tribe into something that is about them. It has to be about the group, any step beyond a hint of commercialism will kill it dead.

5. Build a brand.

A brand in this context is not the sort of investment exercise necessary in a mass B2C market, it can be done on very small budgets, with a bit of imagination, and a genuine and unique story. Brands are at their core stories about the products, so tell yours.

6. Have a point of view.

Being different makes you stand out, but different just for the sake of being different is flimsy. Stake out a position that is a key part of your brand story that will not resonate with everyone, and be the advocate for that position, defend it against the naysayers and the status quo.

7. Communicate consistently.

In this instance, consistently means communicating not just regularly, but with a consistent message and tone of voice across all the digital platforms and media you use. Digital marketing is a content hungry channel, so the trick is to pick which combination of platforms and media generate the best returns and stick to them, while perhaps experimenting on the fringes. To try and use all the options just a bit is a sure road to failure, much better to pick a small number that are relevant to your prospects and do them really well.

8. Engage with your audience.

Success in digital media is all about the level of engagement you can build with your audience , and subsequently their relevant networks, and those interested in the topic. This takes work, particularly as engagement evolves towards a transaction. Generally it becomes harder to automate the closer you get to a transaction, depending on the products being sold. For many B2B products, the close is face to face.

9. Be opportunistic as appropriate.

None of the above should remove the motivation to use circumstances as they occur to your advantage. Digital media offers great opportunities to become part of a trend, even initiators of trends by the use of hashtags, particularly in Twitter. The downside is that the opportunity must be empathetic with your niche, brand, and everything else you are doing or it may depreciate what your other efforts are delivering.

The huge advance that digital has made that makes the effort necessary to compete is that you can now see clearly what works and what does not, almost in real time.

15 rules for dealing with supermarket buyers


supermarket buyers hold the power

supermarket buyers hold the power

Respected Australian Food industry journal Australian Food News published a terrific rewrite of a presentation I gave some weeks ago to a group of food industry CEO’s reflecting on the years I have spent in the industry.

After 40 years, I thought there may be something of value to pass on those following, and it was a great opportunity to have some fun.

A copy of the original presentation has been put up on Slideshare. AFN changed the order around,  improving what was in effect a brain-dump set of slides accompanying a casual presentation.


Know your business and theirs


  1. Know more about your business than the buyer does. This seems pretty obvious now, but in an early (late 70’s I guess) encounter with one of the doyens of the industry, Eric Bender of Franklins, he demonstrated what can happen if you are underprepared. Eric took pity, and let me off lightly that day, and I never forgot the lesson.


  1. In a power imbalance, negotiation is challenging. Whether we like it or not, the buyer has all the power, even the biggest companies have little power to influence them in any way that is inconsistent with their best interests. I remember many years ago Coke had a blue with Coles (I think) believing that Coles needed them on shelf, so they hung tough, for a while. After a period which was a golden age for Pepsi, Coke relented.


  1. Don’t put your eggs in their basket. People often say that you should never put all your eggs in the one basket, but from time to time, when you control destiny of the basket, it is OK. However, putting all your eggs in the buyers basket has proved fatal for many, particularly small businesses that simply do not have the wherewithal to service the relationship at the margins on offer. Besides, depending on whose numbers you believe, there is somewhere north of $45 billion of sales outside supermarkets, so why do you need to covet the buyers basket.


Know your customer and control your message


  1. Buyers are lousy at marketing. Over the 40 years this has been proved over and over again. They are good at being retailers, they understand the dynamics of their floor and shelf space, customer traffic, negotiation, and copying quickly, but very little about customer behaviour outside their stores, and the importance of branding and communication that contains a promise other than price, then delivering on it.


  1. Know the rules well enough to play in the grey areas. There are the written rules, there are the unwritten rules, and between them is a grey area of interpretation. Knowing the rules well enough, and knowing the administrator of the rules well enough to identify the grey areas and play to them is a rare skill learnt over time, with deep experience. I used to work with a field sales manager affectionately known as “Cookie”. She was the best I ever saw in a store, had the planograms in her head, knew all the personnel, what they were like, what they wanted, and how to turn them inside out. She and her team destroyed all our opposition in NSW.


Experience counts


  1. Dealing with Buyers is a job for your “A Players” The smart people in your businesses should be the ones taking up  the challenge of dealing with buyers, as it can be a make or break activity. Many seem to think it is a place to train future product managers, or hide the boss’s nephew. Wrong, nobody should be a product manager without having had the chance to be mauled a few times, but that should not mean buyer training is a pathway. Only allow your smartest, best, most motivated people in front of your biggest customers, who also is paid to extract the maximum from the piece of real estate you covet. I always found professionally trained introverts were best. They instinctively over prepared, and had data driven logical and sequential minds, and were generally smarter than the buyers they faced. Ask yourself “what is someone who looks after 40% of my sales really worth?” and pay them appropriately.


  1. Corporate memory is absolutely invaluable. Don’t re-learn from your new experience, it is really, really expensive, learn from the past. Learn from others, learn from the experience that the business has had in the past so you avoid repeating mistakes.


  1. Beware new buyer syndrome. We have all been faced with a new buyer, recently promoted from the baked beans aisle of the store in West Bullamakanka, who is suddenly given the power of “No” over you, and found the feeling seductive. You have little choice but to work with them, so put your best people on them, and there is a chance that when a bit older and wiser, they will remember the effort, and it will pay dividends.


When it’s over it’s over               


  1. Let the horse die. No amount of flogging will get a dead horse to move, no matter how encouraging the vet may be, and you know he has a vested interest to keep you flogging. You must know when to give up and walk. In this case, the Vet needs your promotional money, so keeps encouraging you to stick at it, but you know the product has eroded so it only sells on price discount, which is below your floor, and the buyers keep buying it from promo period to the next, never at full tote. In the end it costs less to lead the horse out to a humane death while it still walks, rather than leave it to suffer, keeping up the strong and expensive medication, then suddenly finding it has died, and you have a warehouse full of horse food to write off.


  1. Innovation is more than changing the pack colour. Innovation is when you do something that makes the pie bigger, not just add something similar and slice it up in a different way. Besides, flagging “new and improved” leads consumers to conclude you have been selling them second rate stuff up to now. What retailers are selling to you is shelf space, and as such are going to get as much for it as they can, and they do not care if they sell your product or somebody else’s from it. You go in with your whizz bang new pack colour, they will take the promo money, and line fees, and all the rest, their business is selling you retail real estate, and if you offer a good enough price, you get the chocolates, this week.


Work with them not against them


  1. Be nice to buyers. There is little value in annoying buyers unnecessarily, although it is sometimes pretty easy to do. Remember that buyers like to be liked, just like anyone else, so get them to like you, store up the brownie points when you can, you may need them some day.


  1. Ensure the Buyer knows you are not afraid. You need to be serious, informed, appropriately acknowledging the power imbalance by being creative, but never afraid. Even when the buyer beats up on you, if you are prepared to push back, they will respect you in the morning, but if you cower and beg, well, there will never be any respect, and there will be no coming back.


  1. Buyers do not care about you. Retailers are in business to satisfy shareholders, and the individuals buyers have targets to meet that do not have anything to do with you. They care about themselves, and the challenges they are facing, so getting them to do something you want them to do revolves around you solving their problems, not them yours.


  1. Buyers need you or someone like you. When it comes down to it the shelf space needs to be filled. So if you can articulate the need, they will give you back a bit of the power imbalance that exists.


  1. Beware the armchair experts. Many of those who claim expertise haven’t actually got any. So listen to all the sensible advice you can find, but make up your own mind, and implement with focus, agility and passion. There really is no better way of knowing about buyer behaviour than by working with them.


So, there it is, almost 40 years of pain and experience in the time it took you to read this article.




Personalise  to turn cold emails warm

cold email success


So, you managed to get that cold email opened by the recipient.

Well done, past the first hurdle.

The next is to create an environment where the opener does something  you want as a result of the opening,  your next step in the process of engaging towards a transaction.

If you do not have one, why bother in the first place?

A couple of weeks ago I opened a cold email, simply because the headline promised something I had been actively seeking. A  simple CRM system designed for small B2B businesses looking at the opportunities offered by sales and marketing automation to scale their businesses. Exactly the thing I had been looking for to assist one of my clients.

In addition, I could see from the auto-preview that it was directed at me, and that there was a logical connection.

I have reproduced it below:


A review of CRM options for SME’s contemplating a first step.

Dear Allen,

I was in the audience at the recent presentation you gave to small business CEO’s in the AFGC forum. I fully agreed with most of the points you made, and you raised a few I had not considered.

One of them was the difficulty many SME’s have taking that first step into marketing automation, usually a simple CRM implementation. I see from your Linkedin profile and significant number of blog posts that this is the sort of thing you run into regularly.

Attached is a review of a number of systems I completed a short time ago, which I thought might be of value to you.

I will ring you at 8.50 am next Thursday, and if you are available, hopefully take 5 minutes to see what you thought of the systems reviewed.

Kind regards



He did ring at 8.50 the following Thursday, we did have a conversation, way longer than 5 minutes, my choice, and it is likely that we will do some business.

Lets look at what he did right:

  • The headline of the email promised to deliver a benefit, something that may make my life easier.
  • The email had been highly personalised,  and was complementary of the work I had done.
  • The CTA was crystal clear. He would ring me at a specified time, for a chat that almost required me to have read the attachment to participate. It would almost have been rude of me to have been unavailable and unprepared.
  • He promised to take up only 5 minutes. How could I not give 5 minutes to someone who had gone to all that trouble, and who possibly had a solution to a problem in front of me.

  Are your email campaigns as targeted?

Do you do the work up front to give yourself the best chance of creating a qualified lead?

Facebook ads for small business beginners.

facebook advertising for SME's

So, you have a small business and your neighbour tells you Facebook is the place to be, that you can get heaps of likes and sales out of a few dollars.

Not all true, but it can be.

Facebook can be a great way to build a small business into a bigger one, for many types of business, primarily B2C rather than B2B. There are however, some pretty simple hurdles.

Have a clear objective. Facebook visitors do not normally buy off the site, gaining their attention and trust is a process that takes a while. If your objective is to get visitors to click a link in your ad that takes them to your website, the ad copy is likely to be different than one where the objective is to collect likes.

Know your market. Know as much as possible about those you want to attract. Facebook has some really cool filters that allow you to determine who sees your ads, so there is no point in paying for someone who is never going to buy your product seeing an ad. The options cover behavioural, demographic and geographic options.

Don’t boost, promote. Every page has a ‘boost” button on it, which offers a quick and easy way to put your ad in front of eyeballs, but no way to determine which eyeballs. You need to use the Facebook Ads Manager to target your ads, making your dollars work much harder.

Custom audiences. People on Facebook are not generally there to buy, they are there to be social, exchange information, dates, photos, and all the rest. Therefore they may not be interested in your ad, even if it is highly relevant. Facebook addresses that problem by allowing you to upload your own data for use in the campaigns.

Variation. Ads work differently for everyone, so it makes sense to trial a number of versions of your ads, looking for the combinations that work best. You can do this on a small scale if you choose, just to keep the ads fresh for those who see them several times, or if you are spending more, you can systematically split test the differing ads to identify the best options. Some closed groups allow ads only at specific times, and have other criteria that suit the group. In these cases, I usually suggest that the ads change every time. One of my clients places ads in a group that allow them only to be posted on a Thursday, so every Thursday she posts a different ad, carefully targeted at the niche that is a small part of the group membership. Works well.

Be personal. Facebook is at the social end of ‘social media continuum’ so behave accordingly, and choose a tone in the ads that is social rather than  sales.

The genius of social media generally, is that it enables a small business to act like a big one, so don’t miss the opportunity.

There is plenty of help out  there that will assist you with the detail, Kim Garst, various posts on Social Media Examiner, and many others less well known. Use them.

5 planning principals for the major long term sale.

5 principals

Planning to engage a major potential customer is much more than finding the phone number on the web site and ringing reception to ask who is the right person to speak to.

Chances are, even if they know who the right person is they will connect you to the intern.

For years I have been teaching and running workshops with the eye-raising acronym of SKAM.

Strategic Key Account Management.

The underlying logic is that there are only 3 ways to engage with a customer that leads to a transaction that is of a significant size:

You can help them increase their sales

You can help them increase their productivity

You can help them reduce their costs


On another level, there are some questions that you can ask yourself, and in the answering, arrive at a number of possible approaches, as it is rare that the first you try will work, but learning from the experience will help you with the second.

  1. How to I add value to what they are doing
    • How do I demonstrate knowledge that I can make available to them that they will benefit from
    • What trends or technologies can I bring to their attention that at will impact on their future profitability
    • What insights can I bring to them
    • What specific knowledge can I share

2. How do I go about building trust.

    • What about their internal culture can I tap into and make a contribution
    • What do the need or want that I have, and can give them

3. What can I do to be pro active and demonstrate my ability to work with them and help them achieve their goals

    • What insights can I bring to them that will be of benefit?

4. How am I accountable for optimum results.

    • Sales do not stop with the payment cheque. After sales service, warranties, ongoing advice, and so on all demonstrate that you are accountable for the promises made before the cheque was cashed.

5. How am I going to continue the engagement after the first transaction

    • Once a customer has bought from you, if you do the right thing, you will have them as a customer again, and again. It is very useful to measure your “share of wallet
    • Would they recommend your services to their networks? Asking for referrals is a powerful marketing tool when you have satisfied customers, as there is no more powerful toll that word of mouth advertising.

Success in B2B sales of significant products, not just paperclips, takes patience and planning. It almost never evolves the way you expect, and almost never as quickly as you would like,  hang in there.

Is FMCG Private label able to continue to grow?

private label

Australia’s Grocery retailers continue the march towards private label range dominance, basing their strategic decision making on two foundations, it would seem to me.

  1. By controlling a large section of their sales via PL, they manage to both increase their margins at the same time they reduce their transaction costs. Good trick if you can get away with it, and in the short term they certainly can, but in the long term?? Who knows.
  2. What works in Europe, and particularly the UK will work here. Over 40 years in this industry, this has certainly held true, what works there generally becomes translated here at some point, in some form.

However, when considering the future of PL as a part of the landscape in Australia there are a few other considerations not present in the UK, and elsewhere in Europe.

  • We have large distances, and  a smaller population, making the economies of scale in manufacturing  and distribution that much more elusive, and less attractive. In western Europe you have 350 million, or thereabouts living is far less space than Australia occupies, with a multiplicity of manufacturing options. Just the UK has 65 million in about the space as Victoria.
  • Over the last decade, the number of middle sized  Australian owned FMCG manufactures has been decimated by a combination of the high $A, the GFC, and the power of the two major retailers, so there is little left. Now the $A is lower, and the opportunities emerging, they are not coming back. Imported private label products now have to carry the added cost burden as well as the substantial costs and risks of the extended supply chain.
  • Where is the innovation going to come from? Medium sized suppliers have been the source of much of  the innovation that has driven category growth over the last 25 years. While it is relatively easy these days to pick new stuff off the shelves in Europe and set out to copy  it, the retailers still need to have the products manufactured, and often massaged to suit local tastes, not so easy any more.
  • Retailers in taking their ideas from European retailers, seem hell-bent on  segmenting the PL share. No longer the cheap and cheerful substitute, European PL now  offers under a range of house brand labels that cover the market from ‘top’ to ‘bottom’ as well as emerging segments like organic and halal are being pushed, further eroding the power of the proprietary brand. As a marketer I ask “for whose benefit?” certainly not the consumer.
  • The Private label business model that demands minimum transaction costs on both sides does not sit comfortably with the proprietary model, with its complex trading terms. In most cases, suppliers of PL also supply proprietary products, adding to the complexity of the paperwork and relationships.
  • Produce is a bit of an anomaly, as there are almost no proprietary brands. Producers and their representatives have comprehensively failed over 30 years to do any sort of branding job, so consumers do not miss what  they never had. However, increasingly consumers seem to be reluctant to buy anything much beyond robust commodity products from supermarkets, believing after 25 years of cricket balls masquerading as peaches, that the specialists do a much better job.
  • This last point is really anecdotal. There appears to me to be a backlash coming from consumers. A typical comment made  to me last week was ‘if I do not want any choice, I will go to Aldi, but when Woolies denies me a choice, I wonder why I pay the premium over Aldi’. The two majors had better be careful, they do not ‘own’ consumers, who will make their choices independent of a retailers profit considerations.

Private label is now irrevocably a part of our lives, but  I doubt if there is too much more room in dry goods for share growth without  compromising retailer margins, but I guess they will be very wise with hindsight.  Meanwhile, the pressure on the few medium sized manufacturers left intensifies.


How to build a small business brand from scratch.

Alt="brand building"

Small businesses have great opportunities to leverage their skills, but now more than ever, they need a brand as the digital spot on which to double down their marketing investment, to create a wall from which to defend their territory.

Most do  not have the skills, and become bogged in the jargon and options, so following are 6 simple guidelines:

Simplicity. You cannot be all things to all people, even in a local area and pretty specific market space. The more targeted the market segment, the simpler the communication and the need to provide more and more to attract clients. One of my clients is a personal trainer, but not one of the toned, buffed 25 year olds we normally see, she is an amazingly fit, middle aged mother of two who specialises in helping immediately post natal women get their pre natal bodies back.   Her journey from young Mum with a desk job to successful trainer is a story her clients all relate to exactly.

Differentiation. Even in a narrowly defined niche, there has to be something other than price that makes you different, and the difference must be relevant to the target market. Continuing the story above, a young Mum can come along to the classes, exercise and relax in a very social way with others in the same boat, while their babies are being looked after in a crèche in easy eye-line.

Originality. Being different is great, being original in the manner in which you express your value propositionn is even better, then delivering that value in a differentiated manner  is the core of brand building. The value proposition of a business is remarkably important, and remarkably challenging for most to get right.

Disruptive. Doing things in an entirely different way to everyone else gets you noticed, and when the disruption favours your target market, you can be way ahead, although those outside your target will probably not “get it”. My elderly mother lives in a regional town, and has her fair share of medication and mobility challenges, but still lives alone in a terrific spot for an old girl. One of the pharmacists in town packages up her medications into a card that puts each of the meds to be taken at a specific time in the one blister, then delivers the card weekly. Any change in med is immediately reflected in the updated card that will be delivered the day she tells them, and any remainder from the previous card taken away. On top of that, the pharmacist is one of the few licensed to mix his own meds from ingredient, so rather than taking a handful of pills, Mum takes just one or two that have the actives combined in one pill where they are compatible. As another bonus, they are generally smaller than many of the throat stuffers that come from “big pharma” Guess who has the market for the elderly in that town tied up!

Symbolism. Humans are visual animals, we value and put meaning into symbols that come to mean way more than just the illustration, or expression. Think about the Nike logo, Nikea powerful symbol of sporting aspiration and achievement, or the  Apple logo, a symbol of beautiful, functional original design, or in Australia where I live, Aboriginal flagthe Aboriginal flag, that has come to express the need for our aboriginal people to express themselves as part of, but different to the rest of Australians.

Meaning. I struggled here for the right word, a word to convey more than just relevance, more than just delivering on a value proposition, something that has a deeper humanity in it than just a brand. Several businesses have made a commitment of “one for you, one for Africa” as a way of adding meaning to their brand, and it works.   My personal trainer mate above achieves this by genuinely caring, and demonstrating that care in a variety of ways,  about the health of happiness of her clients, even when they are no longer clients, usually because they go back to work in much better shape than would have otherwise been the case.

Let me know what you have done to build your brand.


How to make cold emails 90% effective

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cold calling


Almost everybody I know hates cold phone calling, there is something in the psychology that prevents us putting ourselves in a position where absolute strangers can reject us 99% of the time.

“Cold email calling” is the less confronting and can be a hugely effective option, but unless you follow some simple rules, will still be 99% ineffective. It is just that the email will go to the trash, and you will not have to put up with someone rejecting you verbally.

If you follow these rules, and optimise your emails, their effectiveness will explode.


1. Research the prospect list.


It is easier today than ever before to create and segment your prospect list into finely drawn groups, each having a persona that is likely to respond to specific messaging. Sending an email to a professional chef outlining your Aunt Mabel’s favourite cup cake recipe is unlikely to be read.

Ensure you have a strong value proposition for each persona that you draw, one that feeds into their motivations, problems and fears.


2. Have a compelling subject line.


Your subject line is like a headline in a newspaper, or the cover of a magazine in the newsagent. In a very few words it needs to capture attention and lead you to the next action.

Ask yourself, “would I open this email”

Have a compelling “sub head”

Your first sentence is like the sub headline on that same magazine cover. If you watch what works in your local newsagent, it is often piquing curiosity that works best. Writers of these covers are the cream of direct response writers, so model your emails on the pattern that works for them.


3. It is not about you.


If your email opens with “my name is Fred Nurk from ABC Corp, and we provide the worlds best   Blah Blah product” you have probably already lost them. Instead, you need to spell out exactly how you can help them do their job better.

Be conversational. Write like a peer, someone who understand the challenges and opportunities of your target, and who relates to them. Being “needy” is the best way to lose a reader, even if you think your cause is the best in the world. Avoid weak  terms like “I hope..” and “I just ….”


4. Establish credibility.


Without credibility, you chances of converting are minimal. Providing social proof, data, of some sort is essential. A testimonial from an existing customer can be very effective, but these days, they have to be video, and the individual has to be clearly identified, and identifiable, otherwise you will be suspected of writing it yourself or getting one of your mates to do a video.


5. Create a process.


A cold email rarely creates a sale, at best it can create a warm reception to the follow up. This is the entry to your sales funnel.

There are three parts to a successful email process that recognise the “moments of truth” that occur. First you need the finely drawn persona noted above, second, you need to map the buying journey to be able to identify the points at which you can create interest, and third, you should have a schedule. It is easier to map out a series of posts around a topic, then write them, than it is to sit facing a blank screen trying to think of something to write today. Believe me, I have tried both.

None of this is easy, and it takes time and expertise, but does work. There is never any substitute for experienced, professional writing. It is not the case that everyone who can write a letter and ensure the spelling and grammar is OK can write a good sales letter, it is an art, so you are probably better off getting an artist.

Are FMCG marketers failing with digital?

geo location

It seems to me that in the tsunami of digital marketing going on, FMCG is being left behind.

For brands largely dependent on consumer sales via supermarkets, you would think that they would be at  the forefront of finding ways to engage with consumers as a means to loosen the choke hold the retailers have on every day purchases through their scale of operations.

When in store, consumers are driven by the environment to “commoditise” their shopping, constantly bombarded by price activity that has over time eroded the impact that a brand can have, giving retailers greater control of the shoppers purse. Price has become such a central driver in FMCG that I suspect many have forgotten how to really build a brand and market value to consumers, rather than just price and availability.

On the other hand, marketers kid themselves with the notion flogged by the snake oil bunch that people want a “relationship” with your brand, and spending mega bucks on building such a relationship will delver returns. Truth is that most supermarket shoppers, confined by a finite budget give their brand “relationships” little thought when in store. They tend to have a pool of acceptable products in a category, and buy from that pool based on an almost instantaneous response to their previous experiences. Marketers really only  get the chance in to get a considered response when a product is being considered for the first time, or there is some other powerful outside stimulus. It is here that an ability to deliver highly targeted messages to consumers via digital means can have a real impact.

So how do we cut through the haze?.

The old rules of marketing still apply, just digitally.

Years ago I worked for a dairy company, we had a great long life custard product, and the simple co-location of a floor stack of custard next to the bananas when they were in season and a value price, with a bit of POS material, saw the sales of both soar. I have done this time and time again, with different product combinations, and the results have been consistent, problem is finding you way through the planograms and rules imposed by central head offices bent on selling floor space to suppliers and maintaining a discipline at store level, often at the expense of  innovating to sell products to consumers.

How could digital work to enable this proven technique?

Apples iBeacon technology is one of several systems that use location sensitive smart phones to deliver brand messages. Unilever appears to be successfully trialling it with a Magnum promotion in the UK in collaboration with Tesco, who have a bit of history of innovation in the digital space. Retailers also have the building blocks of truly innovative co-location and collaborative activity housed in their loyalty card data. Combine that with geo-location and opportunities really open up.

Young consumers, heavy users of digital are not their mothers, they are distinctly different, and see brands and digital through different eyes. Relying on them to accept a commoditised selection on supermarket shelves is probably going to end in pain, as they select the products and brands they want to interact with digitally, and have a whole range of considerations their  mothers would never consider.

I know this digital stuff is going to work when marketers manage to crack the code, and have the grunt to either collaborate constructively with retailers, or go around them. I have written about the cottage cheese club previously, an analogue version of what is possible, now simple and highly extendable with digital tools.

For heavens sake, get on with it!

The water-bucket method of networking.

goodwill & trust

goodwill and trust first

Networking has always been a great way to build a business, and nothing will ever change that.  Most small business owners go to networking meetings, register on linkedin and all the rest for a simple reason: they want to find more business.

Why is it than that when you go to these places, physically or digitally that it takes so much effort, and traction often seem really hard to build for most?


Most people approach it the wrong way, they go along, hand out business cards, have a chat, and move on to the next prospect.

We all do tend to it.

But, remember, most people are there to gain more clients, not become somebody else’s client, so many times we are approaching it the wrong way around.

You have to put water into the bucket before there is any  in here to take out again.

Pretty simple formula, be prepared to put in before you even think about taking out.

Takes a while, takes effort, and that  is why most fail at it as they want to have immediate results, for no effort beyond going along and participating.

6 foundations of digital marketing for beginners

digital marketing basics

I am constantly surprised at the lack of understanding that many small businesses have of the greatest boon to small business in 100 years, digital marketing.

Last week I had the opportunity to do a short presentation to a network group, and took it by outlining the foundations of digital marketing.

For some in the group, it was yawn time, but for many, it was useful explanation.

Foundation 1. To explain some of the basic terms used in relation to websites, I used the metaphor of a house.

  • The house is the website
  • The land the house is on is the hosting
  • The address is the domain

When you have the house, it needs to be connected to the world, the electricity, gas, and water or it is useless to anyone.

Then you need people to come, to make it a home, but to come they need a reason, in this case the content you can offer them.

Foundation 2. Continuing the house analogy, the notion of the three types of digital media as owned, earned and rented, was discussed.

  • Owned media is your website. You own it, you determine what goes up, and who is able to access what. Just like your own home.
  • Rented media are the various social platforms and forums that we inhabit. We do not own them, so are subject too the rules and behaviour of others, we have no control
  • Earned media is the most valuable, and is when somebody shares in some way content you have posted. It matters little if that post was on your site, a social platform, or somebody else’s site, the fact that it was shared gives it credibility and value. I do not count “likes” in this context, as they are too easy, too automated to be a reasonable indicator of value.

Foundation 3. Traffic sources to your website. In summary there are four:

  • Social traffic from social media platforms
  • Search traffic, which is why having SEO optimises is important
  • Content traffic, coming from content you post, and is shared around
  • Advertising driven traffic.

Clearly there are overlaps and cause and effect at play, but the principal remains. The first three are often classed together as “organic” traffic, while advertising is obviously purchased traffic and as such is less valuable, but usually much quicker to generate.

Foundation 4. Digital marketing is a two edged sword. It enables you to target exactly an extremely specifically defined audience, and address them with very specific offers and information. This is the great strength of digital marketing. The flip side is that you must be able to say No, to a lot of seemingly potential customers, because unless your communication is very specific, it will not get read and acted on. This is very difficult for most. In the event you have several ideal customers, you will need to keep the marketing activity entirely separate.

Foundation 5. The fifth foundation is  the foundation of all marketing, but now way more transparent and obvious; “fish where the fish are”

Foundation 6. Again, not exclusive to digital marketing, but now way more able to be automated and in control of the seller is the sales funnel. Every sales training process I have seen in 35 years in one way or another uses the funnel analogy, and it is equally valid with digital marketing. Difference now is that progress through the funnel can be tracked exactly, and managed pro-actively by the seller using data.


As a final note, there are thousands of tools to make your digital life easier, and more productive. Each person will evolve a way of working that best suits their skills and circumstances. There are many free tools that the beginner can use to cut their teeth, which can then be upgraded or substituted for more productive paid ones. The free tools I use are

Google analytics, Canva.com, Picmonkey.com, Mailchimp.com, Surveymonkey.com, Paint.net, Google keyword planner, Flikr.com and One-note.


The short deck I used I posted on Slideshare

10 lead generating tactics for small business.

lead generation

Small businesses selling B2B always struggle to generate sales leads. Survey after survey confirms it as one of the biggest challenges they have.

There are plenty of tools out there that supposedly make it easy, and certainly they do make it easier than it has been in the past to generate many contacts, but it is still hard to generate a warm lead, and then to convert to a sale.

None of the tools are any good unless you have a crystal clear picture in your minds of the value you can deliver, being “wishy washy” and peppering the conversations with adjectives (particularly “awesome” my latest hate word) no longer works.

Following is a list of options that have worked over the years for my clients. Most are pretty obvious, when they are pointed out.

1. Referrals. Being referred is the best sales lead you could ever have. Someone who is familiar with your work saying “Bill is great at …. you should talk to him”  to a colleague would be wonderful. Yet, so few of us explicitly ask for referrals.  When you have done good work, ask who else your client knows who could benefit from your expertise, not expecting to be referred to their competitors.

2. Testimonials. Perhaps second to referrals are testimonials, people with whom you have worked who are prepared to say in the record how great you are. Video is the only way to go with testimonials. Nobody believes any more that the written ones on your website from “Monica X from Parramatta” are real, they believe you have written them. It takes Monica to front a camera, identify herself and say how great you are for it to be effective, then is very effective.

3. Personal networking. A lot of small business people join network groups, in the expectation that this will lead to referrals and work. It can, but almost always takes time and effort. Others in the group need to understand what you do, and how that is relevant to their problems, then they have to be convinced that you offer the best value solution to them. Being in such a group can be rewarding for small businesses in more ways that just generating leads, as it get them out of the office, and forces them to speak publicly about the value they can deliver, which almost always acts to sharpen the elevator pitch. These skills come in very useful when actually in elevators.

4. Digital networking. LinkedIn is the obvious tool here, too often misused by those who just see you there and immediately start selling. LinkedIn like any social platform requires that you demonstrate your bona fides first, and the best way to do that is to identify the groups, preferably closed ones, where your prospect hang out, and start to engage in the debates and conversations that occur. You  can then follow up privately with some, and have a more focussed conversation about their needs and after a rapport is established, your solutions.

5. Seminars, webinars & e-books. In most cases, our clients buy from us because we have something, or know something that they cannot  get elsewhere. Demonstrating your mastery of a topic by running seminars on them, producing webinars, and writing e-books demonstrates your mastery. The secondary benefit of this type of content is that it can be used, reused, repurposed, and  reused again, and again.

6. Platform cross-posting. Many people blog on their own site, hoping people will stumble over the posts, but there are many other platforms now that can provide a shopfront for your products and services. LinkedIn recently introduced a blogging platform which works very well, you can open up a YouTube channel and post instructive videos, or put great information up on slideshare. Then there is guest blogging, a great way to leverage the lists of others, by adding value to their audience, a win win both ways.

7. Lead magnets. These are things that visitors can gain access to by exchanging their email address. It is a great way to reuse the content you produced in a webinar or e-book. Here the challenge is that you need to attract the eyeballs to the lead magnet before it has a chance of being magnetic.

8. Direct mail. Yes, snail mail does work in this day of digital everything. Now we get so few things in the mail that is not either bills or junk, that a handwritten envelope with a stamp, will always get opened and read. This requires that a modicum of research into your prospects is done, as a wrong spelling or title means immediate filing in the round-file. Best done in small batches, that way you can also test the response to the sales letter you send.

9. Warm cold calling. Bit of an oxymoron there, but a deliberate one. If you do  not know the name and position of the person you are preparing to call, do  to waste your time. However, if you do know  their name, there is a reason they might be interested in hearing from you, and you can articulate that reason in 20 seconds or less, then that implies you have done sufficient research to make a cold call a warm one.

10. Advertising. The last and perhaps most obvious tactic to generate leads. All social platforms survive by taking advertising, they are the newspapers of the 21st century in that regard. You give them your profile and preferences, inadvertently or otherwise, and they sell that to advertisers to whom your profile fits their target. Having said that, the tools available on the platforms are terrific. Both Facebook and Google in particular set about making it increasingly easy to spend ad money with them with features like Facebooks lookalike audiences explained here by Jon Loomer, easy and AdWords strategies outlined by Wordstream.


Most businesses use a mixture of the above, too often randomly rather than as a deliberate strategy. The old marketing communication “rule of 3” still applies: Know what you want to say, know and articulate why it is relevant to the receiver, listen to the response.

7 basic measures of email marketing success.

market digitally

Email marketing is the stuff of small business dreams.

For the first time they can communicate with their markets, being able to measure the effectiveness of their efforts. Unlike the days of broadcast media where the return on any set of marketing activies was extremely hard to calculate, and therefore out of  the bounds of possibility for those without a lot of money to risk,  knowing the return and being able to experience for a modest outlay is fantastic.

There are myths, legends and piles of horseshit proclaimed about digital marketing, and SEO and email marketing key amongst the fodder.

I thought I would try and dispel some of the myths by offering some views of the basics.

This one is about email marketing, SEO will come in a few days.

There are piles of data available from email marketing providers, from the freebie version of Mailchimp to the really sophisticated providers like Infusionsoft, and everything in between. Each provider does things a bit differently, and charges for the levels of sophistication and integration that can be delivered. But all deliver metrics that will help you better target your email communication.

Following are the common, and probably most useful ones.

1. Bounce rate.

Simply the percentage of emails that could not be delivered to a recipients inbox, they “bounce”. Usually this is because the email as written is incorrect, or the email account has been closed, often because an employee has moved on. From time to time, you will get a bounce from an address due to a temporary problem, or closure such as a maintenance closure of a recipients server. Generally these will be delivered when the problem is removed, but those undeliverable where there is no temporary problem should be “cleaned” out of your list immediately. ISP’s regard high bounce rates as an indication of spamming, and so are likely to take action against such accounts.

2. Delivery rate.

As implied, it is the percentage of emails successfully delivered. Simply the converse of the bounce rate.

3. Open rate.

The percentage of your emails that were opened, pretty obvious. These days, we get so many emails that often we just skim those that appear important and delete or leave the rest, and most of us have our spam filters turned on, so that emails from suspect sources or with suspect subject lines are dropped automatically into the bin. This can easily happen to your marketing email. The best way to avoid it is to have personalised emails, “Dear Fred” rather than just “Hi”, and ask those joining your list to put your email address into their “safe” list in their email account.

4. Click Through Rate.

Often shortened to CTR, this is the number who clicked on one or more of the links in an email message. This measure is one of the foundations of successful digital marketing. When a target or prospect gets something, but does nothing with it, generally the communication will be deemed to have failed. Depending on what you are doing, an expected CTR will vary widely. You could reasonably expect a higher open rate and CTR on a newsletter  that has been subscribed to, than an overtly promotional message, even from a trusted source. There are various techniques used too increase CTR rates, the best ones being an offer of something for free, which is the most common, but surveys work very well, asking for 2 minutes to gather general market or product information generates good click through rates as people like being asked for help when it is anonymous, and simple contests, like ” Which of  these three is out of context” questions also can deliver excellent CTR rates.

5. Sharing rate.

The percentage of recipients who click on the “share this” button to share on one of more of their own platforms, or forward to others. Digital marketers often talk about “engagement”, the necessity to get some level of engagement before anything useful can happen, and sharing is one very useful measure of engagement. Equally, if you get a shared email post or message from a trusted colleague, you are highly likely to open and read it, it is a referral of the message.

6. Conversion rate.

The percentage of recipients who clicked on a link in your email to complete a desired action. It may be signing up to a list to receive more posts, or a move to the next level of a sales funnel, or even straight to  a shopping cart. The conversion rate is the key measure of success of any communication, the recipient has done the action that was the objective of the email.

7. Email ROI.

Pretty self explanatory, but vital measure, and can become complicated when you start feeding in variables. In its most simple form it is the revenue generated by a campaign divided by the number of emails sent. Email marketing is not free, it consumes time and resources, so measuring the return you get on the investment is a crucial activity, and is the one that makes this type of marketing so effective.

Most will have heard the cliché “the money is in the list” from email marketing people, and it is half true. To my mind, the money is only in the list when those in the list take some action as a result of the communication they receive. However, growing your list of engaged and responsive receivers, waiting for your next communication or offer is a building block of ongoing email marketing success.

Need assistance, there are plenty more posts on digital marketing on this site, and there are many others around, mostly trying one of the techniques to get you into their sales funnel. Mine is really simple, call me if a chat would help.


8 Myths of social media marketing that trap small business

social media myths

Myth 1. Fans, followers, and likes are valuable.

Reality.  What you need to attract to your site is people who for one reason or another are willing to part with their money in exchange for what you have, or at least move towards that decision point. There are only two reasons for a website,  the first is as a hobby, the second is commercial. Assuming yours is for the latter, act accordingly.

Myth 2. I have too do it all myself to be “authentic”.

Reality. Only partly  true. If you are selling personalised services, there is some expectation that the voice of the person and the “voice” of the written words and other forms of content are the same, then you need to be involved in the editing, not necessarily the writing.  However, my experience is that in the small business space, authenticity is very valuable, not so much in the corporate space.

Myth 3. You need to be on every platform.

Reality. Bunkum. Every platform is different, with a different user profile, user objective and type of response. Even for big corporations, diminishing returns kick in, and for small businesses, the task is simply overwhelming. I usually recommend to my small business clients 2, at most three, but do them properly.

Myth 4. Social media is not all that important, it is just where he kids go.

Reality. Aren’t kids your current and future customers? Social Media is the greatest competitive  tool ever offered to small businesses, but like any tool, it can be used well and deliver huge value, or it can bite you in the arse.

Myth 5. I can wing it.

Reality. Some can, but they are very organised, have a strategy, and business objectives against which they measure themselves, but this is rare in my experience. Usually  “winging it” means putting a post on Facebook at some point convenient, or tweeting a picture of yourself when at the pub. Both rarely work.

Myth 6. Social media is dangerous and unmanageable.

Reality. Social media can be dangerous when left to itself, it has the capacity to trash your biggest asset, your brand, almost overnight. On the other hand, like most dangerous things, it can be tamed and used to your advantage with knowledge, commitment, and skill.

Myth 7. Social media is all smoke and mirrors

Reality. Social media is now highly quantitative, able to give accurate and repeatable quantitative outcomes very quickly and cheaply. It can be reliable and accurate market research on the run, but it is also the first marketing tool to offer an ROI calculation on the investments made.

Myth 8. Social media is just too hard, I have too much else to do.

Reality. You cannot afford not to be engaged with Social media, it opens up the possibility of talking directly to your customers, and their friends, marketing nirvana. It is however, a consumer of considerable resources, and is not free. Many small  business owners do not have the skills so they shy away, but the skills are readily available to either teach you, or as outsourced resources. Digital technology has opened up huge opportunities to free up our time, why not spend some of it talking to customers?


The simple fact is that Social Media is part of our marketing environment, it currently attracts almost half the advertising dollar, is now pretty much the only way to effectively reach large sections of consumers and customers, and for small businesses, is marketing manna from a digital heaven.

How do you  describe your brand?

brands are like friends

image courtesy brandonsteiner.com


People in market research always describe brands in human terms, they are tough, or easy to live with, or friendly, cold, and so on.

It is the easiest way to describe them.

It follows then that when thinking about the dimensions of your brand, you would do it  using “the brand as a friend” as the guiding metaphor.

Ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • What do your customers expect from your brand?
  • What changes would customers accept from your brand?
  • What will customers reward your brand for delivering?

When you can answer them accurately and confidently, you will have a very good picture of your brand.

A while ago I was yarning to the Mum of one of my oldest friends, we met at University, 40 years ago. She was expressing delight that after 40 years Dave and I were still mates. May not see each other for quite a while, but it made no difference at all when we met up again, it is as if it was yesterday we last shared a coffee. (more often a beer)

My response was that old mates are the best mates, because there were few expectations, few surprises, and when they did show up, there were insignificant in the context of the long relationship.

Same with brands.

How would you describe yours?

Self-induced brand catastrophe


All those brand stories: gone.

All those brand stories: gone.


Every now and again I see something so stupid, so irrational, and so destructive of a valuable brand, that I think that perhaps the loonies really do have the keys to the asylum.

One of them happened yesterday.

There was a radio news report that Akubra would cease to buy any of the raw material required for their hats, rabbit skins, from Australian suppliers.

From here on they would be using 100% imported skins.

One of the honchos from Akubra was interviewed, and he was blathering about looking after all stakeholders, that sacrificing 4-5 jobs in Kempsey where the hats are made was worth it to ensure the business remained viable, and that the 5,000 retailers around Australia needed to be assured of continuous supply, or they would be in trouble.

Blimey, stone the crows, 5,000 retailers rioting because there is uncertainty about the viability of a supplier of .00000001% of their sales.

Then it turned out that just 10% of current skin supplies were local anyway, as the khaleesi virus has cut a swathe through rabbit numbers, for which we are all thankful. Then a supplier was interviewed. He breeds rabbits for the table, the skins to Akubra are a very useful addition to his cash flow, important even, but not make or break, so now the skins will go to landfill.

How much better it would have been to set about supporting the Australian industry, modernising their equipment, working with their suppliers, so that this Australian icon could continue  to grow, particularly as wild rabbit numbers seem to be increasing as the virus becomes less effective.

What a positive brand story they could have created and spread, reinforcing the existing position, telling the stories that are the foundation of their brand, but instead they chose to trash their brand, built up over 100 years plus.

Your brand is an amalgam of all the stories told about you, your products, the situations encountered, and the experiences users have with the products. The stories Akubra could tell are legion, but instead they choose to self-destruct their most valuable asset.

Next thing you know, a global brand like Coke will replace itself. Oh, poop, they already did.


Let the loonies go free.