Don’t turn your back on your hits!

I was delighted to find out that media expert Alan Stevens broadcasted one of my songs in his radio show this week. I knew it was a possibility as he’d announced that he’d feature an artist every week and had a batch of my songs. But which one would he choose? He chose ‘Suzy in the Sun’ from my band’s first EP. Perhaps it was because the song just feels lovely and ‘sunny’ with the sixties style arrangement, backing harmonies and 12-string Rickenbacker. It’s not the best song we ever did. It’s got possibly the simplest lyric. But it was by far the biggest selling.

John Lennon said he didn’t want to be playing ‘She Loves You’ when he was 30. Supergrass were heard to moan about their biggest hit ‘Alright’ and dropped it from their set. Oasis stopped playing ‘Wonderwall’. Actors often moan about becoming famous for playing a certain role. Leonard Nimoy’s autobiography was entitled, ‘I Am Not Spock.’ There always seems to be something that we become best known for, our ‘hit’.

I think it’s safe to say that without exception, we never choose our ‘hits’. I have hundred of songs that have cleverer lyrics, more impressive solos or more original grooves. But I didn’t choose my hits, my audiences did.

We set up and proliferate our brands, products and services in business – but that is only ever half the story. The other half is provided by our audience/customers. A brand is a two-way creation What they see may not be quite what we intended them to see – but if they like it, and buy it – who are we to tell them they’re wrong.

If you get a good reputation for something, or people start explaining to others who you are using different language than you’d use for yourself, listen to what they have to say. They may have spotted the hit making potential that you might just have otherwise overlooked.

Leonard Nimoy published a followup to his autobiography. It was called ‘I Am Spock’.

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If you’re going to offer free Wi-Fi in your hotel, cafe or facility, just have it open and easy to get on. No-one is going to steal it. If anyone is going to abuse it they’ll do so whether or not they’ve had to tick a box pretending to have read pages of regulations. Just make it easy.

If I have to go through a tedious registration process and then have to sign in with yet another login and password which I may never need again, only to get a slower service than my iPhone will do without Wi-Fi… If I have a few minutes of inactivity (while I read the email or web page it’s taken me so long to get to) and I’m logged out… If the signal is so weak in the quiet corner of the building where I’m sat… If I need to enter my long membership number and digits from my membership card (if I’m able to use the Wi-Fi, I’m already in the building)… If that’s how you’re going to offer Wi-Fi, please don’t bother and take down the signs that say so outside.

Any service that wastes my time is not free. My patience is very very expensive. Beware. If something annoys customers they will make the effort to find somewhere else that doesn’t. The tiniest little annoyance, even one that appears to be such a small detail that is not even a core part of your service, can cause customers to vote with their feet.

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Return on Connections

There’s a phrase that’s common in business, ‘return on investment’. It usually means that any money or time spent on research or marketing should be made back with interest. It underlies a passive investment, that throwing money at a problem, say, marketing, should produce results or it’s just not worth bothering with.

The fixation is often solely on the money to be spent. In the changing world of business interactions that we’re living in today we perhaps need to broaden this definition of investment to cover more active investments such as online and offline networking. An expert in marketing will tell us that the power or success of a marketing message relies on the return on connections that the message has made. It really is ‘who you know’ or rather ‘who knows and trusts you’. The more and more high quality connections we have in business the more likely we’ll have to have that greater return.

People buy from people they like. People like people who talk to them and to whom they can talk with. It’s this two-way connection that is defining the new era (if you’ve ever heard of Web 2.0 then that essentially is what it means – two way conversations). The business model of large faceless monolithic corporation serving faceless plebs has run out of acceptance by newer generations. They want to buy from cool people who are just like them, or how they aspire to be.

Nowadays we have more ‘friends’ than any previous generation due in part to the contact management systems available to us such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. They allow us to be far more active in keeping those contacts familiar, with ongoing dialogues, than the address book of old which only ever prompted the annual Christmas card.

Business, like large ships, take so much longer to turn and respond to new ways of doing things. But it’s likely that increased connections and increasingly clever ways of managing them in a personable way will define new business. Soon we will all be asking the question, “how can I increase my return on my connections?”.

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A Pinch of Salt

Another high profile British celebrity figure has upset all and sundry by saying something rude. Jeremy Clarkson expressed his own opinion about the economic crisis and prime minister Gordon Brown’s handling of the situation by saying “we’ve got this one-eyed Scottish idiot.” What he said was clearly a bit rude and he has since apologised. But like the Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross incidents, the context seems to have been misread by other groups making a bigger crisis than was necessary.

The only person who should really have taken offence to the comment should have been Gordon Brown (by all accounts he didn’t, having more important things to concern him). And he should only really been offended by being called an idiot (and only if he felt he wasn’t one). He is Scottish and he is blind in one eye, those are true descriptions. So why the Royal Institute for the Blind need to make a fuss or why Scottish people need to be offended is untenable. I don’t make a fuss when Chris Evans is described as ‘ginger’.

The worst bit is so called ‘public figures’ such as Labour MP Gordon Banks saying what Clarkson said was “unforgivable”. No. If anything is “unforgivable” then we need to reserve such damnation for the holocaust or the abuse of children. This attitude of being so quick to be offended, especially when it doesn’t concern us, contributes to the reason that we will never have peace in the world. As Obama said “unclench your fist”. It doesn’t just apply to dictators but to us all. We’re all so quick to judge, so prickly and jumpy. And we wonder why our youth are involved in street crime and violence.

Well I’m ‘offended’ by that MP not being prepared to forgive such a minor, irrelevant incident. He and the media that percolates this offended attitude not only counters the ‘sticks and stone may beak my bones but names will never hurt me’ stiff upper lip and firm resolve to be able to control one’s own emotions in the face of aggression but also continues to spread the message that it’s ok to demand ‘an eye for an eye’ and that a lack of respect should be met with anger and violence instead of understanding. It perpetrates the notion that society is ruled by retribution (which it isn’t) and that there isn’t room for freedom of speech or freedom of thought, forgiveness, or turning the other cheek.

People seem to forget that Clarkson made the comment in his irreverent show, Top Gear where he is famed for his particular style of brash and rude entertaining humour. Comedians are still reeling from the backlash from the Brand-Ross incidents: is it safe to make jokes anymore in case someone is offended on someone else’s behalf? Are we entering a 1984-style thought policed world where creativity is stifled?

I find it deeply offensive that these people can’t laugh it off or simply ignore it and I demand an apology from all the soft-headed weasels that can’t take a joke or an insult and hold them entirely responsible for holding back humanity from its advancement into a higher plane of consciousness and from preventing world peace. (I apologise in advance to the weasel species for any pain or loss of earnings incurred by comparing them to scum).

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Are you doing all you can?

The media has been full of doom and gloom stories about the economic situation with phrases like ‘global recession’ being bandied about. I’ve spoken to a hundred small to medium businesses this year already and a fair proportion of them have caught some sort of scarcity lurgy that has made them believe that the outside world situation is causing an uncontrollable loss of sales for them. perhaps it is to some extent but you can only be certain and blame the outside world when you know for a fact that you are doing all you can.

Most businesses are running with sloppy sales and marketing, don’t follow ideas through and don’t have excellent customer service. They’re very good at hosting their own little pity parties (Zig Ziglar said “I feel like bring some cheese to make it a cheese and whine party”).

One excuse is that “people aren’t buying”. Then why are ASDA creating 7,000 new jobs in 14 new stores and the extension of 15 existing ones? “Oh, but that’s food etc, our service is a non-essential one”. If that’s true then why is BSkB creating 1000 new job?

“Yes, but we are a real luxury, quality, high end product/service”. Yes, and so is Apple Inc. No-one really needs to by a Mac – there are much cheaper PCs on the market yet they sold 2.5 million in the last 3 months (up 9% on last year). No-one needs an iPod but they sold 23 million in the last 3 months (up 3% on last year). No-one really needs an iPhone but they sold 4.4 million in 3 months (up 88% on last year). Apple made their best ever profit in the last 3 months of $1.61 billion. Read that again a PROFIT of £1.61 BILLION!. Turnover was $10.7bn.

How did they do it? Read more here.

Are you doing all you can?

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