Category Archives: Marketing Efficiency

The Business Face

Camouflage is one of nature’s basic techniques for ensuring the survival of species. Flatfish have the same colouring as the seabed where they dwell. Females of bird species which nest in vulnerable places tend to have less colourful plumage then their male counterparts, to conceal them from predators while they incubate their eggs. The pheasant is a good example of this. Stick insects resemble the foliage of the plants on which they live. There are hundreds, thousands of similar examples. Some animals and birds actually change colour depending on their surroundings. The Artic Fox is brown in summer and white in winter, to match the snow. The Ptarmigan, a type of grouse that inhabits the snowy arctic tundra, does the same. It is not only the famed Chameleon which changes colour to camouflage itself. To stand a chance of seeing a camouflaged creature, you have to look carefully, in the right places.

How is this reflected in the business world? Who uses camouflage techniques to conceal themselves? Many people at work put on their camouflaged ‘business face’. The face that nods agreement sometimes when they should really be shaking their head to disagree. The face that agrees with you when in the same room, but who spreads discontent, rumour and innuendo amongst friends and colleagues behind your back. The face that tells you what they think you want to hear.

This is especially true in times of change within the company. When processes are reviewed, waste of one form or another is almost always uncovered. This ‘waste’ will be all or part of some people’s daily roles within the company and they will become very uncomfortable if they think that their job is in jeopardy. When told of impending changes in their department they may smile and nod agreement with the proposals. Underneath, they may be very worried and can react in a number of ways:

  • They can decide that it is time they found a new job with a new company and so will start job hunting. The organisation may or may not wish to keep the employee and the follow up action will depend on this position. Ultimately, the employee’s actions will have a fairly ‘passive’ effect on the proposed changes.
  • The employee may seek clarification from their line manager –’how will the changes affect me?’; ‘if my job goes, will I find another position within the company?’; ‘How much redundancy pay can I expect to get if my job goes?’, etc. If there is a likely to be a positive outcome and the employee finds a new position, this too will have a ‘passive’ effect on the proposed changes.
  • Alternatively, the employee may be a ‘blocker’, someone who reacts negatively to any change. They may start off with a camouflaged face but quickly come out in to the open. They may still nod in agreement in public, but will spread negative (and usually exaggerated) rumours about the implications of the changes amongst the other members of staff. These people have very ‘active’ (and negative) effect on the proposed changes and they can change the overall opinion of the workforce unless they are managed correctly and speedily.

The important point is to recognise that many people wear a disguise when at work. Understand this and its implications. Key to this is Communication, the topic covered in the next instalment of ‘Natural Processes’.

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Rob Horlock specialises in part time project management and in helping the commercial side of businesses to review processes and implement new IT Applications. If you would like to find out more, see www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: info@ef-ef.co.uk If you’re looking for a new job – advice here: www.mynextrole.co.uk


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Change in the Workplace

Camouflage is one of nature’s basic techniques for ensuring the survival of species. Flatfish have the same colouring as the seabed where they dwell. Females of bird species which nest in vulnerable places tend to have less colourful plumage then their male counterparts, to conceal them from predators while they incubate their eggs. The pheasant is a good example of this. Stick insects resemble the foliage of the plants on which they live. There are hundreds, thousands of similar examples. Some animals and birds actually change colour depending on their surroundings. The Artic Fox is brown in summer and white in winter, to match the snow. The Ptarmigan, a type of grouse that inhabits the snowy arctic tundra, does the same. It is not only the famed Chameleon which changes colour to camouflage itself. To stand a chance of seeing a camouflaged creature, you have to look carefully, in the right places.

How is this reflected in the business world? Who uses camouflage techniques to conceal themselves? Many people at work put on their camouflaged ‘business face’. The face that nods agreement sometimes when they should really be shaking their head to disagree. The face that agrees with you when in the same room, but who spreads discontent, rumour and innuendo amongst friends and colleagues behind your back. The face that tells you what they think you want to hear.

This is especially true in times of change within the company. When processes are reviewed, waste of one form or another is almost always uncovered. This ‘waste’ will be all or part of some people’s daily roles within the company and they will become very uncomfortable if they think that their job is in jeopardy. When told of impending changes in their department they may smile and nod agreement with the proposals. Underneath, they may be very worried and can react in a number of ways:

  • They can decide that it is time they found a new job with a new company and so will start job hunting. The organisation may or may not wish to keep the employee and the follow up action will depend on this position. Ultimately, the employee’s actions will have a fairly ‘passive’ effect on the proposed changes.
  • The employee may seek clarification from their line manager –‘how will the changes affect me?’; ‘if my job goes, will I find another position within the company?’; ‘How much redundancy pay can I expect to get if my job goes?’, etc. If there is a likely to be a positive outcome and the employee finds a new position, this too will have a ‘passive’ effect on the proposed changes.
  • Alternatively, the employee may be a ‘blocker’, someone who reacts negatively to any change. They may start off with a camouflaged face but quickly come out in to the open. They may still nod in agreement in public, but will spread negative (and usually exaggerated) rumours about the implications of the changes amongst the other members of staff. These people have very ‘active’ (and negative) effect on the proposed changes and they can change the overall opinion of the workforce unless they are managed correctly and speedily.

The important point is to recognise that some people wear a disguise when at work. Understand this and its implications. Key to this is Communication, the topic covered in the next instalment of ‘Natural Processes’.

=========================================================================================================

Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to manage projects ands improve individual and team working efficiencies. If you would like to find out more, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: info@ef-ef.co.uk

Eight Jays

Spring has definitely arrived in The New Forest. Two days a go I heard the first cuckoo of the year (two, actually). Today I saw the first swallow. One swallow may not make a summer but if definitely points in the right direction.

This morning I took Lucy for an early morning walk up to Stagbury Hill, in The New Forest. Stagbury is surrounded by gorse covered open countryside dotted with trees and even though it has a trig point at the top, it is not terribly high. It is, though, high enough to look down on to the tops of the trees. As I looked out across the sea of yellow flowered gorse I noticed a pair of Jays fly in front and below me, landing in a nearby tree. Then a saw another flying to the same tree from a different direction, then another and another. In all, eight Jays flew to the same tree. Jays are very distinctive birds and are easily recognisable. Seen from above, they are very distinguishable by a white lower back which is not normally seen when in flight as the watcher is normally looking up at the flying bird, not down.

Seeing eight Jays together is quite a sight. Seeing them from above was very unusual and made me think about the way we view other aspects of our lives.

At work, how often do we get lost in the detail of what we’re doing and don’t take the time to stand outside of the project and view it from a more objective viewpoint? How would a third party observe our work? What would they see in ten seconds that we’ve missed, because we’re too close to it? (both figuratively and actually).

Do you take the time to take the ‘helicopter view’ of your work or are you continually fighting to hit the next deadline? Do you review your work from the standpoint of anything other than ‘did it meet its objectives?’ You may well have hit your objectives (or not … ) but was it the right piece of work to be doing in the first place? Could your time have been better spent elsewhere?

Make an effort to stand back and look at your work (and your home life) from a different angle – you might be surprised what you see!

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Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses with part time project management, review and map processes and improve individual and team working efficiencies. If you would like to find out more, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk

 

Marketing Projects

Many pieces of work carried out in a typical marketing dept can be classified as projects.

·         A new product launch

·         A sales promotion

·         A new ad campaign

·         A brand extension

·         A packaging update

All are discrete pieces of work which could be defined as ‘projects’. Except that in a typical marketing department, they aren’t classified as projects. They are pieces of work which need to be done as part of the marketing manager’s job description – it’s just the day job.

That’s fine, but perhaps this leads to a less rigorous approach to the piece of work than would be the case if it was managed as a formal project.

One view that is commonly held by marketers is that ‘a project management approach will stifle my creativity and spontaneity’.  That may or may not be true, depending on your definition of project management. A ‘project’ is a piece of work with a discrete start and a discrete end and this can obviously vary in size. At one end of the scale, a project might be ‘build a new Football Stadium’. At the other end a small project might consist of a departmental reorganisation.  Both have beginnings and ends, so are both projects but the approach to each will be markedly different. There is much that marketers can learn from the world of project management, without stifling their creative juices.

·         Write a Project Plan – this doesn’t need to be overcomplicated, an excel spreadsheet is fine with tasks and responsibilities down the side and a timeline along the top. This gives a view of the tasks which need to be done, who is responsible for doing them and by when.

o   TOP TIP 1: Share the plan with everyone who is involved with the project tasks. Sounds obvious, but doesn’t always happen.

o   TOP TIP 2: Keep the plan up to date. When something changes, update the plan and re-circulate it. You don’t need to become a slave to the plan, just spend a few minutes every week reviewing it to keep it current

·         Monitor the project:

o   Understand the Risks involved in running the project. What changes will it involve? Who will be affected? How likely is it that the identified risks will actually occur? How serious is each risk? Have a proactive plan to deal with each risk (even if the plan says ‘we see x as a risk but will take the chance that it doesn’t happen’. This is an acceptable risk response, providing everyone involved understands that this is the decision that has been made).

o   Monitor the budget. Keep on top of cost, particularly costs incurred by third parties.

o   Measure progress against the plan

o   Update the plan when necessary, but don’t become a slave to it!

·         When the project reaches its end, have a ‘wrap up’ review. What went well, what lessons were learned?

o   TOP TIP 1: Document these learnings and save them in a central repository which is accessible to anyone who may run a similar project in the future.

None of this is rocket science but much of it is ignored by marketing execs who are keen ‘to get things moving’. Time spent thinking about the piece of work up front, planning and anticipating the potential issues, will free up time later on – guaranteed!

Sayings:

I don’t feel old. I don’t feel anything until noon. Then it’s time for my nap. 
– Bob Hope 
We could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to work its way through Congress. 
– Will Rogers 
Don’t worry about avoiding temptation. As you grow older, it will avoid you. 
– Winston Churchill 
Maybe it’s true that life begins at fifty .. But everything else starts to wear out, fall out, or spread out. 
– Phyllis Diller 
By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he’s too old to go anywhere. 
– Billy Crystal 

Rob Horlock specialises in part time project management and helping the commercial side of organisations to manage projects. If you would like to find out more about documenting processes or project management, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: info@ef-ef.co.uk

 

To process or not to process?

Business ProcessesAre you process driven? If you’re a sales manager or marketer reading this then you’ve probably gone cold and shivery at the thought. You may feel the need to press the ‘back’ button and look for something more interesting, like your LinkedIn or Facebook updates. Please don’t go…
The majority of sales and marketing professionals are results driven – quite rightly. The end is everything and the means of getting there is far less important. Which is fine up to a point. You may know what is going on in your world but unless you communicate regularly with your colleagues, they won’t know where you’re at. Importantly for them, they won’t know the status of the work that you’re doing which affects their world.
Those of you that have been reading past posts on this blog might be wondering where the link to nature comes in. Simplistically, I guess we could say ‘everywhere’. Nature follows its predefined natural processes – the seasons, the passing of the days, the hierarchy within the food chain, the evolution of species, the natural movement of energy deep within the Earth which brings chaos and disaster to those in its path when it breaks through the surface crust. The process is predetermined; the reaction to changes in the process or unexpected outcomes is not. The natural world adapts, moves on and the cycle continues. The world of business (and your department head in particular) tends to be less forgiving of surprises and unexpected change is not welcomed – in fact it’s positively discouraged! The change itself shouldn’t be the issue, the fact that it has appeared unannounced will always start an inquest!
Documented processes, plans, briefings and status updates will head off most surprises. They will be in the public domain throughout the lifecycle of the project so everyone concerned knows the status of the project and contingencies can be put in place if changes occur. It is worth putting in a bit of effort at the beginning of the process to agree the plan, document it and think about potential Risks. Put a process in place to head off these risks before they have a chance to occur. Keep your colleagues up to date with your status, as they must do for you. Agreeing the process up front, documenting a plan and anticipating potential pitfalls will save you a lot of time during the course of the project.
Surprise tsunamis in the business world are just as unpopular as they are in nature. They may not cause as much death and destruction, it’ll just seem that way to you if it’s all your fault and you forgot to warn people in time!

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The following is supposedly an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid-term. The answer by one student was so “profound”
that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well.

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle’s Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant. One
student, however, wrote the following: First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are
moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore,
no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let’s look at the different Religions that exist in the world today. Most of these
religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do
not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of
souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle’s Law states that in order for the
temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added. This gives two possibilities:
1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.
So which is it? If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, ‘it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you’ and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number 2 must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct…leaving only Heaven thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting “Oh my God.”

THIS STUDENT RECEIVED THE ONLY “A”

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Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects and improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly in the areas of turning prospects into customers and working with digital agencies. If you would like to find out more, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk

Millions lost by companies that ignore the internet

Small businesses are losing millions of pounds in potential sales because they are wary of using the internet to sell products or services. 

Six out of ten do not sell online, though they use the internet to buy goods, according to a study by BT to be published this week. 

The Voice of Small Business report, which surveyed more than 400 firms employing up to 50 people, found that they were failing to take advantage of consumer demand for online shopping. 

Read the full article here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/article-1145503/Millions-lost-firms-ignore-net.html

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Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects ands improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly in the area of turning prospects into customers. If you would like to find out more, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk

Marketing Projects – what are they?

What is a Marketing Project? ‘We don’t do ‘projects‘ in Marketing’, I hear you say. ‘We do strategy and conceptualisation; we uncover insight and manage brand equities, etc.’ Yes, that’s true. Ultimately, though, the purpose of Marketing is to sell more of your goods and services by giving the consumer (and the trade) more reasons to purchase your products rather than the competition’s offerings.

So, you develop New Products, you Repackage existing products, you develop Line Extensions and invest in various Branding techniques. You develop Advertising campaigns, Promotions, Sponsorships, Memberships Clubs and send out Email Newsletters. You’ll almost certainly set up a Website, you might highlight your Green Credentials to your target audience, you’ll definitely want to gain as much visibility as possible, whether that’s by Merchandising products in store or gaining Testimonials for your services. All great initiatives and all could be described as discrete pieces of work, or ‘projects’! Each piece of work has a defined beginning and end and it has constraints – Time, Quality and Budget – all of which sound very much like a project.

So, if marketers manage ‘projects’ on a day to day basis, then there are lots of helpful tools that can be used to improve the likelihood of success:

  • Write a Project Plan, keep an Issues Log, anticipate the Risks and (very importantly), capture the Learnings at the end of the project
  • There are several software applications to help you to manage your marketing projects, some very complex, some much simpler to use

To many marketers, this all smacks of process‘, a dirty word which ‘stifles creativity’. This mindset should be questioned, particularly with the growth of Web2.0 technologies and Social Networking. You need to collaborate with your colleagues and this means that you all need to understand where you’re at with the project, which will not be the case if all of the details are logged firmly in your head!

Our society enables us all to specialise and work together. If we hadn’t evolved this way we’d still all be hunter-gatherers, struggling for our own survival each year. So why, when we get to work, do we often revert back to working for ourselves? We keep our own spreadsheets, manage our own work in our own ways and often do little to collaborate effectively. Why not share more and reduce the burden on ourselves? That’s how Facebook has grown into the phenomenon that’s it’s become – they encourage anyone to develop their own software to share with other Facebook members.

There is no doubt that a more ‘process driven’ approach to marketing projects will grow the bottom line of your business – less duplication of effort, fewer misunderstandings and smarter team working are obvious benefits. There are many more. A bit of process will not stifle creativity, quite the reverse. If you’re more organised, you’ll have more time for thinking. If you can’t stand the thought of increasing your own admin, maybe it can be centralised within the department – there will be staff members who enjoy it! Why have brands such as AudiCadbury, Heinz, Hovis and Persil and a host of others thrived? Apart from all the other things that they do so well, they believe in the benefit of using processes to manage their brands.

How much duplication of effort goes on in your business? (a ‘best guess’ will suffice). If you applied a more process driven approach, how much less time would be wasted? Worth pondering?

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Quotations:

I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: – ‘No good in a bed, but fine against a wall.’

Eleanor Roosevelt 

The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible.

George Burns 

Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year.

Victor Borge 

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. 

Mark Twain 

I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.

Groucho Marx 

My wife has a slight impediment in her speech. Every now and then she stops to breathe. 

Jimmy Durante

I have never hated a man enough to give his diamonds back.

Zsa Zsa Gabor 

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Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects ands improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly in the area of turning prospects into customers. If you would like to find out more, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk