Examples of simplicity in business

Simplicity is so hard.

I spend hours convincing clients that less is more.

Videos need to be shorter not longer.

Corporate messages need to be one sentence, not one paragraph.

It’s not about how much detail you can add, it’s about how much you can take away.

Thermomostats can be made simpler… who’d have thought it? Proves a point.

Blogs can be simple too – 37 Signals are the masters of clearing away clutter.

Even Sky, the giant corporate, have done a great job of keeping things simple on their ‘kit’ page.

We’ve worked hard at it too – our customer satisfaction survey web application, Customer Thermometer asks just one question.

As opposed to 20.

We’re constantly told, do one thing and do it well … keep things simple … walk before you can run

We so often ignore this advice, because it’s the easy way out to make things more complex.

Life has become very complicated. Too many choices and too much clutter.

How refreshing it is when a business does make things simple, removes that clutter.

As a result, you get drawn in, you become engaged. You’ve less to process.

It takes huge amount of effort to get good at it.

Some businesses manage it.

If you can find a better example of simplicity in business than the video below – let me know.

I bet you can’t.

I have a vague idea of the effort involved in making this. It would have taken a lot longer than you think.

Inspiring. Thank you Apple.

The best sales tool I've ever seen

It doesn’t how much you dress up your product literature, your sales patter, your claims of brilliance… actually, there’s only one thing that truly matters to a prospect… and that is whether someone else has bought from you before. Once a prospect has turned into a customer – testimonials pale into insignificance, compared to your ability to deliver.

Getting that customer in the first place is the hardest bit. Delivery is ‘easy’ because it’s within your control.

Social proof through reviews, (think Tripadvisor) recommendations (think Linkedin) or Likes (think Facebook) are becoming an essential part of any business’s sales pitch and toolkit.

If you’re selling your own consulting services, then testimonials, case studies and quotes from happy customers are the most important thing on your website.

The graphic below is quite literally the best piece of social proof I’ve ever seen.

Why would you not use these guys?! I thought it’s something we could all learn from and adapt to your business…

(click the link to see the live map).

the-best-sales-tool-ive-seen

Why I say "It's not a rehearsal"

I was invited to a conference in New York this coming weekend, which is a lovely thing – however just not practical for me at this moment…

The conference is the first of its kind dedicated to patients and doctors dealing with a disease I’m rather close to – something called Hairy Cell Leukaemia.

Because I was unable to attend, I offered to put together a video of my story – after all, it is what we do most days of the week, except for me, I’m normally the one asking the questions. Last week, I swapped roles and gave some answers.

A big public thank you to my colleague Richard Spindler for putting this together for me.

I thought it might be interesting to share:

How to set up a toll free number for your website

When it comes to technology – the answer to “Can you do this…?” is always yes – it’s simply a case of how long or how much.

It’s only Tuesday and I’ve had an amazing week when it comes to technology research. I will save some of my research for another day – but today I’ve cracked something I’m extremely proud of – and I appear to have come full circle.

Back in 1996, I worked for the UK’s largest telco – BT. It’s even possible some of you reading this will have worked with me back then! One of my roles was as an International voice networking specialist – working with our global division to provide sales support to the likes of Hertz (memories of Oklahoma City) and advising on the latest and greatest call centre technology to distribute calls around the world to different call centres.

100’s if not 1000’s of engineers were involved in running our global network and switching voice calls around the world back then, according to time of day or menu options was hard and complicated and BT charged a lot of money for it.

Reason #1278 to love the Internet: Yesterday, I set up the equivalent network in about an hour for $20/month.

I have two businesses and until recently, our web application, Customer Thermometer has email support only. We’ve had a number of ‘complaints’ we aren’t easy to get hold of – many of our US customers like to pick up the phone and talk to a real person (even if they’re British!) and one of our US colleagues decided it was time to implement a toll free ‘1800’ type number.

It’s not something I’d ever researched – yet I knew what I wanted – a number in the UK and a number in the US which would arrive at the same place – press ‘1’ for sales and ‘2’ for tech support… depending on which of the team were awake and on duty – the system should then route the call seamlessly… if no one was able to take a call – voicemail kicks in. I of course wanted to control all of that from some kind of web control panel and have complete flexibility.

Too much to ask?

What I wanted is wanted by hundreds of businesses around the world every day I would imagine – and I guess it sounds simple on paper – however when you stop to think about it – have you any idea how complicated that set up is!

It was time to Google: how to set up a toll free number.

Approximately an hour of research later, I hit the jackpot and want to recommend this company to you.

www.Tollfreeforwarding.com provide an online virtual control panel for setting up your toll free numbers.

You select a US toll free number and start your 1 month free trial. Inbound calls are then routed to your cell/mobile or chosen landline depending on how you set them up. You can then add in a UK toll free (or any other number for that matter).

Once set up, there are then multiple options available:

You can switch in a voice menu (which I recorded in my best voiceover voice – available on request) to distribute those calls, depending on the expertise around and available:

toll-free-interactive-voice-menu

Voicemail is amazing – if someone leaves a message – you can hit play in your control panel to hear it … PLUS it emails you the voicemail as a wav file.

Calls are fully itemised:

toll-free-call-itemisation

Calls can be routed, depending on time of day / day of week:

time-of-day-toll-free-routing

Pricing

You pay a line rental every month for the service and each toll free number of $20 (starter) and then pay for routed calls separately. To route a call from a US toll free to a UK mobile is just 10c/minute… very reasonable. All features etc are fully inclusive.

You should know – I’m not on commission – this isn’t an affiliate sale – I just like to promote what works, is great value and could well answer many consultant’s questions…

Main image credit.

17 things I've learnt between Christmas and Easter 2013

Since 7th January 2013 when I started back at work after Christmas, a LOT has happened. Not all of it good, but mostly. I’ve learnt, rediscovered and been reminded of a lot of things. 79 days is a very long time in business these days – at a guess I’d reckon it’s the equivalent of about 300 days in 1995. The pace of life and business is relentless and it’s not slowing any time soon.

I run two businesses – a video production business and a customer satisfaction application as well as blogging for fun here. The old adage of focusing on one thing has passed me by. Instead, I’ve actively chosen ‘variation’, which means I jump out of bed in the morning – for me the ultimate test of happiness. One day I’m driving clients around Milan, coming face to face with trams. Other days I’m working with programmers to add new functionality to Customer Thermometer. Other days I’m actively managing the cashflow.

I have two children, a house which needs constant attention and an amazing group of friends with an active social life. Life is not dull. I rarely spend time collapsed in a heap watching TV in the evening – there’s always something to do.

As a result of this madness, I’m exposed to a lot of situations and I find myself constantly learning, which I love. This post is pure self-indulgence. It’s a reminder to me of what’s happened in this last quarter and I’m going to tweak what I’m doing based on what I now know.

I hope you pick out a couple of things from it and I hope you disagree with some too.

1)    People buy from people, not ‘salespeople’.

2)    Having read WOMBAT selling (free download here), it was great to able to ratify that people cannot be sold to, nor ‘closed’. Prospects will move at their pace. All you can do is to help them to buy.

3)    One bad day or week doesn’t mean you don’t have a business and you should be throwing in the towel.

4)    I am constantly reminded of the effects of implementing Newton’s 3rd Law. If you take action, stuff happens. The great thing about life in business is that you don’t always know what the ‘stuff’ will turn out to be. If you sit around waiting for ‘stuff’ to happen, it won’t.

5)    It’s amazing to hear someone telling you how your web application has changed their business. Makes the late nights all worthwhile.

6)    Victory boards are cool… write down a list of week’s achievements at the end of the week, and consider what you’re going to be adding to it during the week. They give you focus.

7)    If you don’t have a plan, you’ve no idea where you are heading.

8)    Plans can be changed.

9)    If you’re in a services business, go beyond the call of duty for your clients. It pays off. ‘Over deliver and under promise’ is a cliché, but it’s one of the best ones out there.

10)   Writing a book is hard and I’m currently failing at it, because it’s not a priority. I’ll be back though.

11)   Patience can be a virtue, but know when to give up and know when someone is wasting your time, or is never going to deliver – stop kidding yourself.

12)   Celebrate success. Curry and Champagne on a Wednesday night is totally acceptable.

13)   ‘Networking’ isn’t something you do once a month with a warm glass of white wine in a room full of strangers. The ability to connect, communicate and introduce people I’m starting to think is a naturally occurring phenomenon. I’m not convinced it can be taught, but I’m sure some would disagree. Whatever your take, it’s an essential part of business and I strive to get better at it, daily.

14)   Never, ever, ever, ever, ever ignore a gut feeling. Act on it, or you’ll regret it.

15)   Trust your instincts.

16)   Always be testing.

17)   Be honest and say ‘no’ when the deal isn’t right. You’ll be thanked for your honesty and you’ll be remembered when the time is right.

The inspirational pinboard #8 – Walt Disney

“The way to get started is to quit talking, and get doing.”

An inspirational Walt Disney quote.

It’s so easy to talk about ‘doing’ stuff. We all do it.

Ideas are easy, talk is cheap. Execution, discipline and focus is what sets out the men from the boys.

There is a balance – ‘talk’ is important, with peers, mentors and employees – hiding behind email is a terrible trait… however there comes a point where getting on with it has to be the focus.

What will you stop procrastinating on today?

Click here to download the A4 pinboard poster.

Original photograph and words by Mark Copeman

It's OK to stay small

Last week, I arranged a few drinks with some friends. In a brewery. Yes, we went to the absolute source of the beer and tasted it, whilst new batches were being fermented all around us. Of course, it was a great night – we learnt a huge amount about how to make beer, agreed and disagreed on the various tastes and all in all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, as you might expect.

What I hadn’t banked on however, was a lesson in business alongside the fun and frolics.

The Windsor and Eton brewery was set up 3 years ago. It’s one of over 1,000 microbreweries here in the UK now – and so it’s a competitive business. It was set up by 4 partners, and interestingly, one of them, Bob Morrison, is a marketing expert. It’s interesting – because, whilst of course you need to be able to brew great tasting beer, with competition all around, it’s how you differentiate, which gets you noticed and is one of the reasons they chose Windsor as its base – and leveraged its already amazing brand.

The Windsor and Eton brewery's beersThey set up their brewery from scratch in 7 weeks, without borrowings and their ambition is simple:

“to make Windsor famous again as a brewer of some of the finest and most talked about beers in the country.”

Note they use the word ‘ambition’ and there is no mention of growth by 10% year on year within that phrase.

I spent a while talking with Bob and became fascinated.

They’ve grown tremendously in the last 3 years – have doubled their brewing capacity and are bursting the seams of their backstreet warehouse, nestled amongst the terraced houses of Windsor. When we talked about their plans for the coming years, it was simple –

“we want to stay small”.

How refreshing.

How great to hear that a thriving business has an ambition to stay small, to keep niche, to retain quality, to excel at customer service, to not borrow and to stay true to their core values.

The conversation continued.

Staying small doesn’t mean you can’t grow of course. You can still grow (because, if you don’t grow, you die) – but in different ways, to keep their own personal interests high and to challenge them individually. In my world – it’s adding new features. In their world, they’d like to bottle their own beer and they’d like to move to kegs as well as barrels (oh yes – I know all the lingo now).

I related to this concept and it gave me great confidence. My video production business is going really well. I have a great team of people around me – but I made a conscious decision last year that I don’t want to walk into an office full of people (again) and feel the pressure of paying multiple salaries and mortgages. I want to stay small, but develop an amazing trusted virtual team who experience other projects, outside of my business, to keep them fully rounded and the pressure off all of us.

I want to say thanks to The Windsor and Eton brewery guys who have helped me to ratify my vision.

It really is OK to stay small, but please, be perfectly formed.

If you’re in the area – book on a tour will you?!

How I earned £300 cashback in 6 months (without trying)

[For UK readers only.]

I buy a lot of ‘stuff’ online, mainly because it’s a) cheaper and b) saves me time and c) why leave the house when I don’t have to?! I have huge sympathy for the UK High St, however, as I’m often told, business is business.

About a year ago I was told about the TopCashback site by a friend of mine. He runs his own IT business, buys IT equipment on behalf of his clients regularly, and had made thousands just by buying the ‘stuff’ via a cashback site.

Before you take a look – let me describe it.

1) You need to buy something online and either already know which website to buy from OR you’d like some help in finding somewhere.

2) You visit the TopCashback site.

3) Type in the name of the retailer or item you’re looking for. (Examples include Apple, Insurance, ISAs, Sky, Vodafone, Ebuyer, Dell, PC World…) It’s brilliant when you’re looking to change car / house insurance for example.

TopCashback search

4) It’ll list the retailer (they have 100’s) and make some recommendations too.

5) Next to each one, they’ll then list the amount of cashback you’ll receive if you click their link. PC World is currently at 7%, Vodafone currently offering £151 cashback on a 12 month contract. Legal and General – £60 cashback on home insurance.

TopCashback - Apple cashback

6) You’ll then be taken to that retailer to search and buy what you’re after

7) Days, weeks or sometimes months later – you will receive that %age back in cold, hard cash or topped up Amazon vouchers.

Hotels.com cashback

There are no catches, it truly is that simple and frankly, if you don’t use it when you buy online, you are losing money.

How does it work?

When things sound too good to be true, they often are – so let me explain their business model.

I’m sure you’re aware of the concept of affiliate marketing. If you click on a banner or link which eventually leads you to make a purchase from that advertiser, the person hosting that banner or link gets a %age payment. This cashback site is an affiliate and has affiliate relationships with 100’s of retailers. Here’s the clever bit. Rather than collecting the affiliate revenue themselves, they pass it back to the ‘clicker’ – ie you. They make their money through the advertising on their site. They are currently Alexa ranked 9,166 and so get thousands of visitors/day – making their business model viable.

So – it’s a no brainer isn’t it?

Go take a look. It has genuinely made me £300 in Amazon vouchers in the last few months – simply by remembering to click their bookmark first AND it’s also given me some great retailers I wouldn’t have visited without their help.

It’s good to be transparent – and so if you do visit the site, sign up and make your first purchase through them – I will be ‘thanked’ by them and £10 will be added to my account. It’s called viral marketing – and you could do the same with your friends.

Hopefully if you like what I’ve been up to on this site over the last few years – you’ll be happy to see me earning 3.21 tall,skinny, decaf mochaccinos.

 

Philippe Dubost interview – how to get 1 million web visits in 8 days

Chances are you’ve possibly heard of Philippe Dubost. A couple of weeks ago, he was taking the Internet by storm, pretty much from nowhere.

Philippe was looking for a job, was sick of having to fire off his CV and be another ‘number’ on someone’s desk, and so he decided to go about things differently… got a little creative… thought outside the box.

And boy, has it paid off.

I’m personally fascinated by the concept of things going viral. A colleague of mine, David Meerman Scott, got me hooked on the concept a few years ago, thanks to his (now free) book, World Wide Rave – well worth a read.

When I heard about Philippe’s achievements, I got in touch and asked him for an interview and he was all too happy to give me some time.

I asked Philippe about his situation late last year,  what drove him to coming up with this idea, the sequence of events on how it went viral, about some of the incredible metrics over the course of the mad couple of weeks… and, of course, the question on everyone’s mind – has he got himself a new role yet?

Click here to see his online CV which has turned him into an overnight star. It’s simplicity personified – which for me, is why it has worked so well for him.

Get the full Philippe Dubost interview in the video below. He was a delight to talk to and gives some great insight.

When you’ve seen it – why not take a moment to figure out how you might think a little differently to get noticed by your next client?

Stop worrying about what other people might think

A colleague of mine, Ian Brodie, writes a good email story. I’d thoroughly recommend checking him out. He sent an email out late last week telling a story which really hit home.

I care passionately about what people think about me and the things I’m associated with, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. However, I think you can worry too much – which is Ian’s story:

So, about 20 minutes or so into a webinar I was running for Momentum Club members yesterday on “How To Win High End Clients” and our doorbell rings…

It’s my parents. They’ve been visiting and have just come back from a vist to the shops. The doorbell rings again. The kids are supposed to answer the door but they don’t. Probably up in the loft on the Xbox. The doorbell rings again. I can’t leave my parents out in the cold so I have to apologise to the webinar attendees and head off to let them in.

A rather quiet 10 seconds later and I’m back on the webinar feeling rather embarrassed.

The idea that you could be perceived as ever so slightly unprofessional, don’t have a butler to answer the door on your behalf or hadn’t arranged for your parents to be more organised would have hurt me too. But guess what, you’re human…So, how did Ian respond?

I quickly realised that nothing bad actually happened. I’m pretty certain that no one on the webinar suddenly started thinking “well, Ian was talking sense about winning high end clients. But now he’s answered the door he doesn’t seem quite so credible”.

Like most people, I worry rather too much about my “image”.  About looking professional. Not having any hiccups. Sometimes caring about our image holds us back. We never finish that great article about a topic we think is important because we’re worried what other people might think.

Ian closes his email with some sage advice.

The truth is that if people like you, you have useful insights to share, and you do your very best to help them; then they won’t really care if you have the odd hiccup. In fact it kind of adds to your appeal. You’re fallible like them. Don’t let wanting to “look professional” hold you back.

My take?

Your Personal Brand is everything – how people perceive you, how they describe you when you’re not there will eventually determine your success as a coach or consultant. However, you can take this to extremes. Being human, is also important. No one likes to work with a robot.

It’s actually OK to tell people, “no – I’m picking my children up from school then”… or “no – I’m afraid I don’t work weekends” or “no – I can’t fit that in (you should have been more organised) I’ve other clients ahead in the queue…” Chances are they will respect you more for being human and for being honest.

It’s good to remind yourself once in a while that you can’t and shouldn’t be looking to please everyone all the time.

Thanks for that reminder Ian.