Friday, 20 March 2009

Back in my day

A hundred years ago life was so much simpler, steadier and less competitive. In 1909 if you had a job or any occupation that allowed you to feed your family you were to consider yourself lucky. There were no fall backs and no social services; so what little you had was a blessing. Obviously the mind set of the rich (much like their love of port) wasn't so different from today, being ‘the more the merrier’. Imagine people being happy just buying what they can afford today!

The world has changed more in the last two centuries than in the previous five millennia. People are so much more aware of the way others live. My Grandfather was explaining to me recently that as a child in a mining village; they thought everyone was struggling to make ends meet. The main priority was survival and with a job they could manage that. They didn’t have many opportunities, because the infrastructure wasn’t in place to provide them. Fast forward to the present and the possibilities available are almost endless. Even the poorest families can make the most of public education and go on to achieve in their desired field.

Everybody agrees that equal opportunities are a great thing; but the consequence is fierce competition. Every area of modern life is competitive, be it trying to land a multi-million pound contract or just getting through the checkout in the local supermarket. So, what point am I trying to make? Well, let’s avoid trying to beat the competition at their game. Companies and professionals alike have refined their craft to such an extent that unless you invent a successor to the wheel, you’re in danger of falling into obscurity. Something that distinguishes you from the crowd is a ‘unique selling proposition’. 

What do you have to offer that’s unique? It doesn’t have to be a product; it can be a service that people really appreciate. Putting yourself in the customers’ shoes is an easy way to think of your ‘USP’. What would you like if you needed the service or product? There’s no shame in listing the basics, after all it may be one or all of those things that you can do better than anybody else... 

Want some advice from me? Respect people's time! If you can deliver a great product, stick to your quote and look after the customers time; then you’re going places.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Selling an idea

Today’s society is drowning in information. Everywhere we go we’re hounded by it. Seemingly everybody wants to influence everyone else, usually in a minor way; like placing something in front of them at some point in their daily life that will catch their attention. The reasons for this are usually to sell them something but not always. 

To simply sell a product by merit seems to be getting old fashioned. Modern advertising campaigns frequently turn towards the use of subtle influence. An advert may attempt to drop some scene or identity into the consciousness of the general public. This product will cause them to be ‘accepted’ or get them noticed. Playing on peoples’ insecurities is by no means a new idea. However, the very same industry often manufactures the problems that it offers to solve. Indeed the modern media know how to press our buttons,  this is largely because they've worked hard to create them.

These techniques can be used in positive, harmless ways. Creating ‘positive association’ is a powerful tool, ultimately what ever it is that you offer customers, they need to associate it with the right things. For example, most people associate the ipod with music, even though it has no such connotations in its name. This is because of a successful advertising campaign that brought about their popularity, as well as an aesthetically appealing design and perceived ease of use.

If you can effectively cause people to link your brand name with the products or services that you provide then you’re already on your way to being a winner. To create a product of real substance and longevity that will sell solely by merit; this ‘association’ needs to be backed up with solidarity and customer care. Sadly that's why it's becoming less popular.

Friday, 6 March 2009

A new identity shifts our horizons.

Finding your face, your image for the rest of the world is like stepping into the cosmos. Until this point you have ceased to exist in the vast world of business. The concept is intriguing and holds within it almost endless opportunity. This is the chance to do things properly, the chance to put into practice all principles that were longed for as a small cog in a large business.

This weeks’ task is promotional. The internet is obviously an immense portal to use, but this is precisely why it must be approached wisely. There are so many ways to waste an advert for your website or services. Working together we have put a lot of time into finding our target audience, making it easy for people to find us and understand what we have to offer. Obviously there are always ways to improve this but my advice to anyone wanting to be found on the internet is to make sure you understand Google. There are good reasons why they lead in their field, looking at the data that is available using some of their web based tools, it quickly becomes clear that their infrastructure is astonishing.

I always take inspiration from the organisations that have really pushed the boat out. I think that how you respond to other people’s success is down to your individual character or psychological disposition (if I may?) Love it or hate it if someone else has done something right surely it’s foolish to disregard their approach. Working on this principle our website has been optimised for Google, at least to the best of our current ability. There is an awful lot of reading available for search engine optimisation, (SEO) as its importance becomes more apparent to modern web users. If you are thinking about making your site more accessible to the casual web user I would recommend using Google Analytics, Google Trends & Google Insights. Seems to lean slightly towards one company doesn’t it? Someone must have got something right...

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

A revolution begins!

A snowy week brings incredible opportunity. 

We gather in the office for the first time after discussing the opportunity to work on our own terms. It seems too good to be true; two of us have been made redundant from a business hit hard in the current financial climate. The other is a commercial pilot with a lot of time available between flights. Seems like a pretty strange mix right? Well, odd as it sounds; we all share the same interest and passion for great design.

First things first, we need a name. Everybody takes the best names; you can jump out of your seat with what seems (to you) to be the best thing since the suns warm rays hit this green planet, except some Joe has registered that domain already. Often it’s just a squatter waiting expectantly for someone to empty a treasure chest of richest in their lap. We tried everything from looking at our ethos to ogling at the instructions on a fire extinguisher. Then there’s what people associate with the name that you want to use. This is a deadly mine field of misinterpretation. What is known to you and your peers as something cool is understood to be a medical condition by someone else. It becomes all too easy to start considering the ideas in the ‘not so good’ list but that is when we checked ourselves and took a break from the anguish that is; choosing your own branding! Roll on next week, that's what I say...