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Big Data: do you control it or does it control you?

Online paymentThe last few years of marketing press has been about Big Data, it’s impact and effect of every one of us. We are surrounded by data noise but we continue to feed the data baby with social media, instant messaging, purchase transactions, GPS signals, mobile phone usage etc. It is insatiable.

Famously, IBM recently stated that we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, so much so that 90% of the data in the world has been generated in the last two years alone. Does this mean that we are becoming more enlightened and sophisticated in the sharing and use of information? Much of the time we are responsible for creating data without even realising, which is a frightening thought. Servers record our every move / opinion / image posted, building a massive footprint for every one of us.

When we are in control of the information we generate it can have a huge impact on our lives, enabling us to make informed decisions about our spending, the products we use, travel, health issues, investments etc. Social media has transformed the lives of many creating a wide network of ‘friends’ to share thoughts, create ideas, post images and videos, and stream media. When it is out of our control it we can simply feel disconnected at best, or it can inflict serious damage to our reputation at worst.

Companies perceptions of why consumers use social mediaBusinesses on the other hand have only scratched the surface of Big Data. Too often it is seen as a CRM tool, as a means to capture prospects, to broadcast their brand message across the net. Many companies still do not have a social media marketing policy. They generate the same content across Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter et al without understanding the different platforms, audiences, usage patterns etc. Multi media advertising is seen as a great opportunity for many advertisers, but it risks alienating customers: consumers can find it ‘annoying’, ‘intrusive’, or skip it as soon as it appears on their screen.

Companies can benefit from getting to know their customer beyond the CRM metrics. Engaging with them on social media creates a greater opportunity to manage what is being said about the brand, and identifying advocates creates a mouthpiece for positive marketing. Crowd sourcing and co-creation treats customers as part of the team and engages with them in a way that was hitherto seen as risky by marketing teams.

Big Data has so many more applications for business it is almost unfathomable. Detailed knowledge of suppliers, supply chain and prices can deliver efficiencies and greater control over the costs and timescales impacting the business. As for consumers, we are benefiting from the impact of information through greater choice of products and services, more intelligent pricing, and a broader knowledge of the world around us.

Like it or loathe it, like the universe Big Data can only expand.




Falling in and out of love with your clients

I am sure you have been there: one minute your relationship works, you are both happy and you have invested a lot of time in each other; the next minute it all goes eerily quiet, he doesn’t call or answer your emails and you begin to realise that it may be all over. Then you hear that someone else is on the scene and you start to question why. What did you do that was so wrong?

Clients can be very fickle folk – I’ve been there and I know. As an ex-client I can say with hand on heart that it is not always the agency’s fault when a relationship comes to an end. Often it has simply run its course and the client wants to try out other suppliers. Budget influences the continuation of a relationship, and no agency worth their mettle wants to regard themselves as cheap. Internal politics may change the structure of the client department or restrict the process of appointing external suppliers. All of which is frustrating for the agency that has developed a deep understanding of the company, its products and services, its interface with customers, and its employees.

Even more frustrating for the supplier is when a client contact moves on. This is the primary point of communication with the company and once it is lost it knocks the relationship with the company back quite significantly. He or she may inform their suppliers and pass on the details of the new incumbent but this happens as much as it doesn’t. Finding out on LinkedIn is not ideal, but at least it is a place to reconnect and be referred to the contact’s replacement.

When you are in the middle of a good relationship it is easy to forget what it took to get there; the emails and phone calls, the numerous small projects and presentations that finally won the client over. Like any relationship it has to add value to both parties. From the suppliers perspective having a developing knowledge about the company is not sufficient, it has to introduce fresh ideas for the client to think about, recommendations that move the business forward, and be prepared to challenge the client when needed. A good client should be transparent with the supplier in a long term relationship: be up front with budgets, honest with timings, and prepared to share the intended outcome of each project. A good client should not take advantage of the relationship expecting ‘freebies’ or impossible timings, or even usurping the supplier’s time with other clients.

And when it comes to the end of the road, be honest. Tell them and explain why. Nobody likes to be dumped without a good reason.

The YouTube video pokes fun at clients. I apologise, but as an ex-client and agency researcher it is very funny


You busy person, marketing your small business 24/7

POSTED ON October 19th  - POSTED IN Brand Marketing, Networking, Personal Branding, SME Marketing

You may not realise this but you could be marketing your small business at this very moment. Are you sitting at your laptop in an office or on a train, or are you reading this on a mobile device in a public space? Wherever you are you create an impression of yourself to the outside world, and there are times when this impression matters to you and your business.

For instance, when you meet new people each of you is assessing one another for all sorts of cues (how old, interesting, funny, intelligent, wealthy, single, married ….). In a business environment you may be looking for integrity, common values, knowledge, experience etc. People can generally see through insincerity, and more often than not are tuned in to blaggers. The visual cues are constant and even when you think people aren’t noticing you – they are.

Standing at the edge of a rugby/football/hockey pitch on Sunday mornings cheering on little Oscar/Wayne/Pippa may not be the obvious place where you are marketing your business, but just think of the conversations you have with other spectators/parents. Initially the chat is casual, bantery and overall convivial. Simply by shooting the chilly breeze with a fellow you inevitably market yourself, and by extension what you do. Eventually – perhaps not on the first meeting – you mention your business or what it is that you do. This is when what you do and who you are should have some positive congruence in the mind of the listener (“I like this person, she comes across as intelligent and switched on and is good company on a cold day. Interesting, she says she is an accountant, I bet she’s not lazy/unconscientious…”). Next time his accountant gives him grief you will be on his list of replacements.

The clothes you wear are also part of your marketing kit bag. Some businesses have uniforms or logo’d sweatshirts, or a colour preference. Your personal marketing effort has to be in line with the company’s positioning or it can be a truly disappointing experience for everyone else. The miserable and indifferent airline rep at the check-in desk can create a bad experience for the customer even if the airline is known for delivering a first class customer experience. The uniform that represents all the brand values that the customer has come to expect is totally incongruent with the service.

Dress for success is a seasoned adage used by stylists which doesn’t necessarily mean suited and booted. Wearing clothes that suit you, are comfortable, stylish and get you noticed are far more likely to create a confident impression. Even if your business requires overalls or a hard hat, dressing smartly when making a first contact with clients is always a favourable move.

Social media is another place where we need to take care how we present ourselves – it is becoming increasingly important as a marketing tool. Remember to stay true to yourself and not follow the crowd for added popularity – it often backfires and at the very least you end up with 00’s of followers who you would prefer not to have. Blogs, photo files, profiles all reflect an image of you so make sure its the image you want people to see.

I do a lot of formal networking and have run networking meetings. What you say and how you behave at such events will affect how people perceive you and your company. Many people just don’t ‘get it’ and within minutes of arriving are delivering non verbal negatives. In such environments focus on being you and show an interest in others. Be the touchline buddy who can engage in conversation, be authentic and impress your fellow networkers with your integrity. You may be surprised how many good networkers regard contacts as business buddies because they know about each other and have shared values in business. They refer business opportunities to one another and work in association because they know that this will enhance their business. Networking success doesn’t happen overnight but it can deliver the sweetest business in the long term.

In a perfect world we should all be marketing ourselves with the same open authentic approach, but while there are still plenty of people who remain oblivious to this need there are opportunites for you to make it work to your advantage. Focus on your subliminal marketing activity so that you always send out the message you want. Get followers who follow you because your message resonates with them and remember (without paranoia) that people notice you when you are least aware. When they meet you, they should get a feel for what a great business you run.

Lets Focus on Leadership!

POSTED ON October 4th  - POSTED IN Business Leadership, General Stuff, Personal Branding

Shakespeare’s Malvolio in Twelfth Night was a gullible fool of a man, not a leader by any stretch of the imagination, but he was motivated to believe he could achieve greater things by the words of another. Though in this case the words were contained in a letter that was intended as a prank, but he believed it was a message from his employer: “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”.
Clever old Shakespeare showed how easy it is to inspire another by being positive. And these words, though originally intended merely to inflate an ego, resound in today’s desire for strong leadership in guiding the country through the recession.
I suspect few leaders are born with a complete skillset, but have innate abilities that help them along the way, such as good communication skills. A good leader is not just someone who can explain their ideas clearly, but who knows how to talk to different groups of people and gain their trust and co-operation. Ascension to the level of trust is also based on placing trust in others and being dedicated to the people around them and with whom they work.
Strong leadership is important across all areas of society not just in government, business and religion, and it needs to be accessible, if only to demonstrate that everyone has the opportunity to become a good leader in their chosen field. And a good leader is a non-egoist, leading by example and building confidence amongst her team through reward, praise and recognition.
My hope is that leadership skills become a subject of value in our primary and secondary education system. The media would have us believe that leadership is not a positive thing but is for an elite set of people who are out of touch with everyday lives, that it can be easily corruptible or vacuous. We are being sent a dangerous message that I feel can only be changed by positive example and education. Britain has an extensive catalogue of strong leaders from which to draw examples.
Arguably the greatest British leader in the last 100 years was Winston Churchill. He became Prime Minister in 1941 when the country was demoralized by a succession of setbacks in the second World War. He realised that he needed to raise morale and re-motivate the population, the military and his war cabinet. He delivered the first of his now famous inspirational speeches to his cabinet and to the people reminding them how great and long a history our island has and that we would not surrender. Churchill knew that to motivate the nation he had to focus on our positive qualities, he had the communication acumen to achieve just that – a lesson in how great leaders inspire greatness. His speeches revived Britain’s sagging spirits and the rest is history…

Customer Loyalty – does it exist?

The golden chalice of any business is having raving fans who return time after time to enjoy the great experience of a good service or product. More than that, these customers exude positive messages to their contacts about their experience thereby inviting more customers and hopefully more raving fans.

But how many businesses enjoy customer loyalty and how much effort goes into winning and protecting this loyalty.

As the title of this article implies I question the existence of  customer loyalty on the basis of no matter how generic or specialist a product or service is the user has unique associations with it. These associations can be belief-led, historic, cultural, aesthetic, indeed anything that motivates the individual to become a consumer/customer. Overlay these associations with individual experiences of the product or service and the result is a myriad of reasons to buy and sensitivity to change.

The marketers role in trying to hold this loyal audience is understanding the equity of the product. Tampering with the marketing mix can be a costly business; inevitably this is as likely to break the positive product associations amongst consumers as it is to give others the motivation to buy.

At WDG we have used Customer Experience days and Customer Journey models with clients as varied as high street banks to the automotive industry to demonstrate the importance in understanding the many associations customers have with their brands and products.  Marketing to customer segments is often a far less risky strategy than developing a catch-all campaign which alienates the would-be loyal.

For more information on Customer Experience or Customer Journey contact

Are you your own brand?

Having a strong brand in marketing terms means that it has a positive and consistent image amongst its customers.

However, the growth in social and business networking on-line and face to face has given the marketing game a new twist and an important new role: the personal brand.  This is hailed as the new marketing phenomenon and is reinforced by the emergence of a wave of personal brand agencies and workshops on the subject. People now see how important they are in representing their business, and the networking mantra of people buy from people has finally sunk in….

Definition of personal branding: the art of attracting and keeping more customers by actively shaping public perception of the benefits of associating with ME, but at its basic level it is everything about you that  makes you YOU.

But it isn’t new: Alexander the Great would have been just another forgotten Greek warlord had he not surrounded himself with scribes and followers who would broadcast his successes.

More recently Simon Cowell would be just another A & R executive, Madonna another female singer from the eighties who we can barely remember. They are the architects of their own unique Personal Brands.

It represents the individual’s values, strengths and experiences, it’s the difference they make and the value they add in their business and personal life.  So to be a strong contender in business today our most important job is to be marketing director of brand ME.

Why would I want to create a PB? Why is it important?

What people think and say about you will dictate the level of influence you have both within and without your network.

People will rely on your Personal Brand whenever they meet you. What makes you different is not what you do but how you do it. It’s the HOW that differentiates you and your business – your USP. You are the X-factor that determines why people become your customers – they are buying into you.

Similarly, successfully employing staff or engaging businesses to collaborate with is influenced by your Personal Brand. The impact and impression you create in communicating your vision will be the deciding factor for others. People want their careers to flourish surrounded by like-minded people. And a great business is built on a great team of people.

Investors also have to be convinced by your Personal Brand. A great business model needs the right individual to make it succeed. As with the Dragons Den, banks, venture capital, and angel investors frequently say that it is the person they invest in.

Finally, we are in the digital age. People will have checked you out online long before they meet you and have formed an opinion based on what they see. So, be aware of what you put on the internet, You Tube, social networking sites – a lack of consistency can lead to confusion in what you are about.

How to create a strong Personal Brand

Most important: don’t just do it for the sake of it. Having an authentic and well constructed Personal Brand will shape the way people perceive you, will draw the business you want towards you, and will carry you throughout your life.

  1. Think of your personal goals in life, create a mission statement for Brand Me; what am I passionate about; what do I want for the rest of my life
  2. Think of yourself as your own personal asset; what do I do that most brings value to my company;  what am I most proud of
  3. Be honest about who you are, your attributes and qualities. If you know yourself you can promote an honest brand
  4. Learn from the Big Brands – what is it about you that makes you stand out vis a vis the competition. What do your customers say is your greatest strength
  5. Learn from Personal Brand masters. During Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign his competitors took a traditional approach to raising funds with celebrity hosted gala dinners and appeals. But he built the biggest war horse campaign ever using the internet and encouraging small donations from individuals – and won.
  6. Use words wisely. Research shows that communication skills are one of the top determinants to professional success. To have a strong Personal Brand you need to be a good communicator. Join organisations like Toastmasters or hire a professional coach to make sure your verbal and written skills are at their best.
  7. Realise that your network, your boss, colleagues and clients can be your most powerful ally – or enemy. Never speak ill of them, their perceptions of your abilities and accomplishments can make or break you.
  8. Be ubiquitous. Attend as many networking events as time allows, get on the speaker circuit, volunteer to run or chair events, run workshops; build your profile on relevant networking sites and use a consistent profile with a consistent ‘handshake’. Don’t forget a decent photograph

What if they can’t find you, read about you, or perhaps they have never heard about you? Not having an online presence is almost as bad as having an inconsistent profile. Actively managing your digital presence and ensuring it reflects accurately who you are is key to having a strong Personal Brand.

Your brand = your reputation, and your reputation is what people are saying about you so try to monitor this. Set up Google alerts ( and search Twitter at

But what happens when your actions are incongruent with your Personal Brand: take Barack Obama, for example. He spent time and effort on the campaign trail  promoting a winning personal brand. The decisions he has had to take in his presidency, the biting recession, the ongoing problems with Afghanistan and Iraq have made a second term look less of a possibility. In politics a strong personal brand is a must-have, because everything else aside, it gives Obama’s supporters a reason to trust him as a person.

We may not be running for a second term presidency but this demonstrates the importance of protecting our Personal Brand in all aspects of our lives. We may not be a celebrity but if our crown slips so does our credibility.  Nobody is perfect and we all accept this as a fact of life, so let your Personal Brand reflect the real you.

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