Monday, 26 September 2011


It’s easy to talk oneself into a state of despondency. Read any economist today on sovereign debt and you’ll reduce your forecasts and plan to dine on gruel two nights a week.  Lose your confidence and your expectation of success reduces too. Barack Obama said “always act confident”. If we acted on what we are reading currently we’d all be doomed.

But there is a side effect of the prognoses these economic gurus are having. They are dispiriting most of our competitors and giving the rest of us huge opportunities. Strategically we should be embarked upon a share-gain plan, ruthlessly selling the benefits of our products and services at the expense of our more pessimistic competitors.

This is the age of the salesman…they crop up every decade or so …where confidence, can-do and enthusiasm will win friends and sales.

The world has changed. Countries like Greece and Portugal, we’re told, are structurally doomed and being targeted by those who make their money by selling things short. But none of this makes a scrap of difference to someone selling industrial flooring, pesto sauce or who’s running a restaurant. We may live in a global economy but on a day to day basis we live in our own worlds, world’s a lot simpler and more driven by practical needs than those of macro-economists.

In planning for 2012 you’ll be told to expect downturn to which your answer must be “not necessarily”.
The answer to most things will be to retain good, cheerful, smart people in the front line, to focus on existing customers encouraging and incentivising them to do more with you, to invest in programmes of positive coaching for all your sales people and to be much more creative in your presentations and your solutions to problems.

This is the age of creative confidence when ingenuity and the ability to talk things up rather than be down in the mouth will pay dividends.

And in the end with low interest rates and an increasing pressure on people to work harder 2012 could be quite spectacular in terms of share growth and productivity for some of us.

To put it in perspective here’s what one-time US President Calvin Coolidge said about the prospects of doom:

“If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.”

Monday, 19 September 2011


Fresh from doing battle to stop marketing exploitation with Pure and with some self-delusion about painting myself as a 21st century Ralph Nader I’ve come a cropper.

Enter Abel and Cole on their organic steed and their neo classical marketing techniques. The door-to-door upmarket canvasser of their gastronomic delights came to call. And sold me on signing up there and then for a weekly fruit and veg box, size small, cost £12.

They were right about the first bit. About it’s being small.

It contained 1 broccoli, half a dozen plums, 3 bananas, 4 apples, some deep red carrots (a small bunch), 2 courgettes, 2 onions and a bag of leaf beet. It was very small and £12.

So I fired them.

Courteously but firmly.

E-mail one came back immediately. This is terrible they said. How can we have let you down so badly. You’re not paying. We are very, very, very sorry.

E-mail two followed. It was much longer than this blog and contained these lines near the end of a well written note which was a passionate essay about their value system and their relationship with their farmers:

I hope I have managed to convince you, even just a little bit, that we are different from a large number of grocers, not just in the produce we supply but in the ethics we uphold as a company.  I do completely understand that we may not be for you, but I wanted to explain the background as I would hate you to think that we intentionally charged you more than you felt the items were worth.

My wife sniffed she’d never seen such self-flagellation . Me? I was in tears and feeling awful.

So I had a plum...And then an apple...And the bloody leaf beet and courgettes with my supper...And a banana for breakfast.

And they all tasted wonderful. They taste of…plum, apple, banana, spinach, courgettes and (this is frightening) I’d completely forgotten what those tasted like. As far as I’d seen it vegetables tasted of green crunchy stuff on the side of the plate and fruit was either unripe or overripe and most apples were kind of fossilised.

Tonight it’s carrots and broccoli.

And tomorrow it’s sackcloth and ashes and an e-mail from me to them which says: “Sorry. You are small but you are very, very nice.”

Monday, 12 September 2011


Some time ago I seem to remember Toyota had some quality problems which involved accelerators in their cars remaining depressed and the vehicles speeding out of control and impossible to stop. Nothing could be more frightening.

Now imagine writing a document in pen and ink (hard to do unless you are old fashioned like me) and imagine the pen suddenly starts spurting ink and writing “fuck, bugger, shit and bollocks” over and over again in capitals.

I think that would be even worse.

Well it’s my PC that’s got Tourette’s Syndrome and it’s much, much worse.

I’m revising one of my books, Brilliant Marketing, for the 2nd Edition and decided that a fairly substantial rewrite was needed given the pace of change in the recent marketing world. All was going swimmingly until this morning when something somewhere went mad and now I can only get one paragraph a page which given I’m prone to use short paragraphs looks pretty silly.

In fact, very silly.

And then all the fonts change to large bold and Ariel when they should be small not bold and Times New Roman and then as I watch everything turn to shaded blue. By now I’m going at 80 mph and the steering wheel has come off in my hand. I’m told it isn’t my PC at all but the printers’ word files I‘m using in which there are embedded templates so as I achieve my peak of brilliance in my changes some Dorset gremlin, because that’s where my printers live, decides to restrict the changes and makes me go mad by mucking it all up and in a west country burr says “how’d you enjoy that my dear?”

I don’t.

This sort of thing didn’t happen to Dickens or TS Eliot. I am a victim of 21st century technology or worse, a 21st century disease. Some mischievous editor virus that is sitting in the in the machine at random taking things out and putting things in?  Bugger. Bugger. It’s all very, very disconcerting.

Cars that never go wrong and brilliant computers are all very well until they do and when they do you are f……the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog…..bugger, bugger.

Monday, 5 September 2011


Pure delight leads to penury!

First the good news.

Last week I took Pure the cashmere people to task for favouring conquest potential customers over loyal ones.

During the week something strange and rather nice happened. They sent my wife a new catalogue giving her the discount previously reserved for non-customers plus free postage.

Well done Pure.

And now the bad news.

She promptly spent £200 saying now she was, in fact, saving money.
I wish I’d never got involved. Let sleeping dogs of customer relationship malpractice lie in future. 


My wife loves cashmere so she was cheered to discover that Pure, the mail order cashmere people, were offering a 25% discount. Given the eye watering cost of cashmere this was a welcome piece of news.

But hang on. She was told she wasn’t eligible as she was already a good customer of the company. It was only for people who weren’t Pure loyalists.

I e-mailed them: “My wife just called to talk about a 25% discount she’d heard about to be told this only applied to “new” customers not “existing (loyal)” ones. Surely this is mistake”.

They replied: “Thank you for your email. You wife has been given the correct information with regard to eligibility of the 25% discount. This is an introductory discount for new customers placing their first ever order with Pure.

If we can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.

Not good enough so I remonstrated:  “I’m intrigued. Do you believe it’s sensible to treat non customers better than loyal ones? I think you’ve rather disenchanted my wife – check out how much she’s spent with you.

By now a senior officer, Trevor,  was involved who started digging furiously in the hole Pure had created for themselves:

Unfortunately, the 25% discount booklet your wife found inside a magazine is a recruitment offer that we have to run in the media to attract new business, so we’re unable to use this offer for existing customers. I do realise that this may be disappointing, (how about outraged Trevor?) but I hope you’ll understand that only by expanding the customer base will Pure be able to continue giving good prices to all customers throughout the season, like the 10% discount offer we’re currently offering everybody for the new collection.

The media booklet you have there does also explain that the offer is for your first order with us as a new Pure customer, on the inside cover, so we apologise if this was not clear enough.

However, as we appreciate this may be disappointing for existing customers, we would be happy to honour free postage on your order for you, as well as the 10% discount that is already available for you.

Absurd. It pays to be disloyal as a cashmere customer.

And Pure, bizarrely seem to think it’s important to understand that their customer recruitment strategy is of interest to its disadvantaged loyal (till now) customers.

Actually, yes Trevor, it’s all very disappointing, bemusing marketing and a case of pure stupidity.