Remote working tips

Some time ago I wrote a post on working from home. It was a change for for me at the time, one I struggled with initially, however I found once I had established a routine it was a less scary prospect and one which, if managed and thought about, can be highly efficient.

I am back working across multiple office locations again but this topic is worth revisiting as there is an imminent prospect many of us might find ourselves working from home in the next few weeks thanks to the worrying escalation to a pandemic of the Corona Virus / Covid-19.

You can find the post here: REMOTE WORKING TIPS I hope you find it helpful or at the very least reassuring.

At the same time I found myself looking at how a change in my work pattern and environment could reduce my carbon footprint through printing less, a complimentary post I hope you enjoy. You can find the post here: PAPERLESS OFFICE REALITY.

I hope you find the posts helpful, or at the very least they provoke some thoughts on how you could optimise remote working for you, your business and even the environment.

Please let me know if you have any comments.

Paul Hemingway
12 March 2020

Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

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Types of Client-side Marketers – Part Three

Brand Marketers
In Financial Services terms, in a client-side sense, this is a pivotal role which supports the other Marketing functions.  The breadth of this role is considerable and is likely to include the following areas:

  • Defining the brand story – including its values, tone of voice and creative execution guidelines.
  • Defining (non sales/lead) campaigning to tell that story to the target audience.  This will include delivery of creative, typically only above the line.
  • Holding the delivery lines (Marketing Comms and Operations) to account as regards alignment to the brand story and values externally and, in a best in breed structure, running internal comms.
  • Proposition development ensuring an outside in approach.  This is an important function to separate out when the Comms function is acting in a Marketing Services role.  It will harness Product thinking alongside Customer need thinking rather than falling into the trap of clever people building clever products that customers do not need, demand or even understand. 
  • On this point, and in line with my constant desire to promote outside in thinking, research and tracking of brand level metrics should sit in this function.

    Public Relations and Public Affairs are often in this role holders remit – this is my preferred position and whilst in larger organisations this can be a separate department, it works best in my opinion when it reports in to the Brand Marketers.

In my experience this role also provides a bridge into HR as the internal proposition and branding is as important as the external one.  Its manifestation may be basic (templates, branding internal documents etc) and/or more profound in synergising the values for colleagues with the external values.

Purpose of this role

It is quite easy to define the purpose in marketing theory terms but my interpretation is as follows;

“The purpose of the role is to build awareness, trust and advocacy of the brand with target customers in a manner that makes the direct campaigning and sales activity more effective.  In short it is the conduit between your business, its commercial offer, what the business (brand) stands for and its Customers.”

Is it really that simple?

No, certainly not, the breadth of this role aside, the role will be managing a natural tension with the Comms function as regards guidelines and with internal teams whose inventiveness in attaching clip art, stretching and distorting logos and images is quite remarkable and extensive!

It is a role that demands great stakeholder management skills and to be successful demands a substantial budget which may well include mainstream TV channels, outdoor and press as well as digital. 

I have worked with some great people in these roles and the common ability they have in abundance is to be able to ‘think up’ strategically and juggle the multiple, different, demands and critical success factors.

Critical success factors

This is hard to be specific on as I can only talk in general terms, each brand being very different, but consistently the following have enabled great decision making in my experience;

  • Brand tracking of advocacyNPS at a non transactional level if you like – possibly expressed as a customer engagement score 
  • Brand tracking of awareness
  • Customer growth trajectories going in the right direction – overall or in target sectors, there is no shame in supporting the non retention of non-attractive customers, if it does not knock on to your target customers 
  • Customer cross holdings as a proxy for growth in value terms.  Your category may discount this as a solus metric – if the business is only offering long term investment policies it may have a different feel than if you are offering annually renewable commodities such as Travel Insurance.
  • Campaign metrics will be relevant, not just RoI but specifically reach in TV is crucial alongside detailed measures such as Gross Rating Points and CPM by audience segment.

As you can see this is a varied role and the breadth of skills required explains why this is a separate role in most Financial Services organisations. Click the links below to look further;

Product Marketers
Marcomms Marketers

So do you agree?  Let me have any comments when you get a moment.

Paul Hemingway
04 March 2020

Image: Courtesy of Ian Schneider on Unsplash

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Types of Client-side Marketers – Part Two

In Financial Services, and many other categories in fairness, there are typically two models followed as regards Comms Marketers.  If the overall sales / leads target is owned by the Product Marketers then there is a clear option to create a Marketing Operations or Marketing Services function – where the Comms Marketers ‘do to order’.  That works well for many large financial organisations where the complexity of products drives a significant investment in skilled and insightful Product Marketers. In these circumstances the business is in essence using their expertise to carry out the forecasting activity.  For more information see my earlier post on this subject.

The second option is to develop bottom up marketing plans based on the expertise and resources available to the purer ‘Comms Marketer’.  There is a realism and level of tension with the Product Marketers which, for me, works well based on this approach. In practice it works best in direct marketing terms, be that digital or traditional media.  I’ve successfully added ATL into this mix, but I benefited from support from external media planners/buyers to really make it sing.

Following the approach I took in my previous post – I will look at accountability first;

Marcomms Accountability variances.
Copyright: Paul Hemingway. Feb 2020

Picking out a few of the differences before looking at the critical success factors (CSFs) is, I hope, helpful.

  • Bottom up planning of marketing is, in my experience, more realistic.  Comms Marketers can pull on a deep understanding of the responsiveness of the database to different media.  Having attention to the creative triggers and nudges helps frame the plan with RoI at its heart, but crucially based on ‘outside in’ thinking. The approach to forecasting by Product Marketers will often focus on market share and where ‘we should be’ rather than where we can get to in the context of, customer base size, the brand spend, the direct spend and the ATL spend.   In both role types though the management task is to ensure compromise and understanding in negotiation, rather than to entrench in positional terms based on a perceived greater knowledge and expertise.
  • In budgetary terms there is a significant benefit to empowerment, especially if there is a corresponding ownership of gap closure actions.  For the Marketing Services Manager there is less flexibility in terms of rephasing spend, switching media and even product focus.  
  • The single biggest obstacle to making a Marketing Services approach working  brilliantly is often a myopic approach to Product Marketing. If Product Marketer A has a budget to spend on product A then in all likelihood they will insist on spending it, the same with Product Marketer B on Product B and so on.  The real benefit of empowering the Comms Marketing function is to remove this bias and to enable the most effective deployment of resources, be that time, money or people.

I am straying into CSFs, so let’s get into those:

  1. For a Marketing Services Marketer; Having the right balance in the team is crucial – there is less need for planners and more need for campaign delivery support.
  2. For a Marketing Services Marketer; Speed of delivery is crucial, being accountable to a separate team/function places stress on the model and having a team able to deploy tactically to order is essential. A SWAT team is always a good option, something I have deployed in the past.
  3. In both functions a consistent and strong understanding of the Business’s compliance and risk appetite is crucial, alongside a common brand understanding.
  4. For the purer Comms Marketer there is a need for a planning function or planning skills alongside the delivery of creative assets – without it the relationship with capacity planners suffers and flexing the plans becomes difficult.
  5. Great creative is a given, but there is a need not to think creative is the only, or first, solution.  Check out my post on when to change creative for more information.

This is my top 5 CSFs, I know it’s not exhaustive, so let me know your views and opinions if you have a moment.

My next post will be on Brand Marketers.

Paul Hemingway
19 February 2020
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Types of Client-side Marketers – Part One

Client-side Marketers, in my experience, fall into a number of natural roles.  In Financial Services the impact is amplified by the presence of an unusually specific role relating to product management.

So, what are the role types?

  • Product Marketers
  • Comms Marketers – broken down into Marketing Services/Operations and (pure) Marcomms
  • Brand Marketers
  • Commercial Marketers

Product Marketers
In FMCG this is not a role you will see commonly, it is a role that has a specific focus and resonance to the complexities of financial services and particularly to the regulated nature of the products.  The core accountabilities for these marketers typically include;

  • Product build and management – by this I mean design and build of the product from concept to live status to archival as an historic product
  • Pricing – all aspects, be it cost or return, fees or charges.  In some complex products this is in harmony with Actuarial support and in the case of Investment businesses the Product Marketer might be a Marketing actuary
  • Delivery of the sales, engagement and retention targets (when the Comms Marketers are operating as a marketing services function)
  • Technical and regulatory expertise.

It is a fascinating role, one I have carried out with full commercial accountability in some cases and in other brands acted as an SME whilst the Comms Marketers have held accountability for delivery of sales, retention and other metrics.

Experience tells me the following 6 aspects of the role are the critical success factors:

  1. Really understanding the product is crucial from a  technical and regulatory standpoint – it helps hugely with the second CSF…
  2. Understand what makes your customer buy/cancel/avoid the product

    These two areas may seem obvious, my point is the depth of skill and understanding is really important, you can’t ‘blag it’.

  3. Understand the value engineering of the product i.e. know and use what value your customers place on all elements of the product versus your cost to build.  I wrote a post on this topic some time ago, you can read it here. Without this your pricing decisions run a significant risk of simply being hit and hope
  4. Understand the channels of delivery available to you.  There is a holy trinity in most businesses that you would do well to note:  Product Marketers & Comms Marketers & Operational/Channel capacity planners.  The multiplicity of levers you can pull across these three dimensions to establish your price elasticity and deliver your plan is considerable 
  5. Measurement.  Product Marketers generally have Excel open permanently on their screens and are likely to be the only people other than your data team that prefer to use pivot tables!  Joking aside a good Product Marketer understands the measurement across the key areas of new business and stock. The really great ones work further down the value chain and understand the impact of how changes in the product dynamics can be used to improve profitability, customer satisfaction, retention and so on.  This is one area where ‘geekiness’ is a highly valued commodity.
  6. Product Marketers hold the keys to many an armoury.  They will be able to deploy any number of tools to improve product design, attractiveness, beating the competition and so on.  It is possible to design great products and services from the gut, but the weight of P&L accountability usually weighs heavy enough in risk management terms to ensure that a more scientific approach is applied in Financial Services. 

    Here are some links you might find useful in this specific area

Tool 1 – Analysing the marketplace and your place within it

Tool 2 – Strategy sizing and assessment of profitability

Tool 3 – Product Strength scoring

Tool 4 – Value engineering & Good Better Best Product assessments

Tool 5 – Product Pricing

You will note that I have not discussed propostion build in this role. My strong belief is this sits in the brand space and I will cover it later in this series.

If you have any thoughts on my post, then please spare a moment to comment, I would love to hear your opinions.

Paul Hemingway
13th Feb 2020
Photo by Lukas from Pexels

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Client-side marketing

There are many blogs, posts and books devoted to the art and science of marketing but the area of marketing I choose for my career over the last 30 odd years has been client-side marketing.  Specifically B2C, and specifically Financial Services, and there are many fewer guides to marketing in these areas.  

Whilst marketing principles and theory have a huge part to play naturally, the nuances of my area of specialism are, I think worthy of comment and a little exploration.

As regards my own qualification to make such observations I can only ask that you read the posts to come and let me know your own views and experiences.  

For myself over the last 30+ years I have been lucky to work alongside some great marketers from whom I have always been able to learn.  The brands I have worked on are many and varied, some still exist, others have been subsumed into other brands, all have been different and rewarding in equal measure.

Where to start then?  I will sketch out a broad outline below on the key topics I plan to cover.  They should, I hope fit neatly with the series of posts on strategy development I made some time ago. Click here to read the first of my 7 steps.

Topics:

  • The key types of client-side marketing
  • Product led vs.proposition led
  • Structures
  • Customer closeness
  • Marketing communications
  • Focus (on the task in hand)
  • Financial Services vs. the World!
  • Stakeholder management and governance
  • Measurement and Review

That is my starting point for a series of posts which I hope will be interesting, informative and, just maybe, a little help to those embarking on their own marketing career.  I have been doing this for some time so where appropriate I will compare and contrast changing approaches, but my starting point will always be to stay as current as possible.

Please let me have your thoughts and observations as I go!

Paul Hemingway 
03 February 2020

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When to change marketing creative

As a client-side marketer this has been a constant balancing act for me over the last 30 years.

It is easy, on the one hand, to suggest the only time to change creative is when you have evidence it is no longer working as you would expect … or is it as it once did … or is it as it did last year … or even the year before.  I hope you see my point, context as well as rational argument is required.

At this point I will say that I am steering clear of brand identity creative, iconography and logotype in this post.  After all where would we be without those brands who have been so consistent since the birth of modern advertising such as Pears, Coca Cola and so on? 

I will assume the brand is in rude health and that the consistency of its delivery is at the heart of why the brand is successful.

Over the years I’ve seen a number of drivers of change, but the timing of when to ‘press the change button’ is perhaps just as important as the drivers of change themselves.

In direct marketing terms your key goal will be to generate a lead, a sale or some other form of conversion, so the key driver of change is likely to be ineffectiveness or at the very least declining effectiveness.

This can however take many forms, I hope my check list below may be helpful in establishing whether you should indeed change creative;

  • Increased Cost of Acquisition in the sense that it is no longer on plan – this likely to be your most important internal measure.  There is a tipping point where the marketing pound can be better spent elsewhere either in a different channel or on a different line.  Your task is to determine what is driving the downturn of course, the answer may not drive a creative change, it may drive a channel change or a targeting change that is more appropriate, at least in the short term.
  • Response rate falls – in a pure math sense this still may be giving you an acceptable cost of acquisition.  In a mature business with a longstanding creative, or one with integrated high cost assets alongside such as TV, this is a complex challenge because you may not be getting the volume to support your business plan.  Looking at targeting and channel is crucial because if one element is not working to plan but other channels or targeting are, there may be a compromise to be had with creative, or your cost of acquisition target.
  • Customer feedback – a difficult one as this is very subjective.  Complaints about creative (over time) are most often driven by external changes in my experience.  There may be an emerging risk around climate change and sustainability for any advertising which does not reflect the current societal view/mood as I write this post.  In my experience customer feedback driving creative change is infrequent and rare in practice.

    This could of course be related to the answer you give to the question “Do you ask your target customers what they think?”  I have done this consistently in the past on only one of the brands I worked on, with a dual objective of looking at TCF ‘compliance’ (note small c) as well as being driven by a desire to demonstrate “outside in” thinking.  It was refreshing and drove change, but came at a cost of course.
  • In some cases creative change will be driven by a need to express the proposition differently, this is most common where either a product changes for the better internally or there is a market shift which necessitates a refresh of the positioning of the product or what element of the proposition you are highlighting.
  • I did say earlier I would ignore brand, but if there is a change in branding or brand standards then of course your direct creative will need to be sense checked.  If it jars in any way then you should invest in a refresh that can leverage your fresh new brand assets and/or design.

So, there are my five checkpoints for positive creative change, but it is worth looking at what drivers of creative change are (likely to be) inappropriate or at the very least less valid;

  1. Executive whim/new broom – usually a new ‘Head of’ or New CMO and often a symbolic act and usually not grounded in the metrics but based on their last brand.
  2. Silo’d working – where a solus asset stops working as expected and drives wholesale change. Your risk here is of being backed into a ‘consistency corner’.
  3. New Year new challenge – there is a temptation to make a change just because you think it’s time. That’s dangerous unless it is backed up by hard metrics that show a decline in effectiveness.
  4. Old creative. This could also be called ‘New Agency New Creative’. There are many reasons to change creative agency and many reasons to review creative that has been around for a while, but please, if you are going for the shiny new agency pitch creative, remember they will in all likelihood know less about you than you’d like (so make sure you immerse them in the business before changing the creative … in this instance pitching can be dreadfully misleading). If a creative is old but still hitting your effectiveness measures then save yourself the extra time, cost and effort of changing it.

As ever if you have any comments on my post I would love to hear them.

Paul Hemingway
27 January 2020

Image courtesy of @bamagal via https://unsplash.com/@bamagal

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Personalised Marketing

Marketing as a discipline thrives on buzzwords, how many times have you heard or seen ‘Content is King’? ‘Big Data’? or even ‘nano-influencer’ or ‘geofencing’?

One term though has been consistent for a number of years and remains the Holy Grail for many a Marketer: Personalisation.

The body of evidence is clear, the more personalised marketing is, the more responsive it is, be that driving sales, enquiries or some other form of conversion.

This post is not about how to personalise per se, maybe that will be a later post, but it is about providing inspiration as there is growing ubiquity for meaningful and engaging personalisation in very simple, straightforward ways, often using nudge theory or our natural bias to make the ‘point’.

Let’s look at some examples;

NIKE
Nike set the tone in 2014, a full 5 years ago now, but the benchmark it set has long lasting reach.  Nike are always a brand on the edge, one which concentrates on engaging its audience with quality marketing across the mix.

Their fitness app, and running monitoring / mapping have become a staple for Nike over the years but their use of personalisation in 2014 was ground breaking.  It ticked many a marketing box, but at its heart it is great creative execution harnessed to great data insight.

Simply, they crunched everyone’s training data from the year and created a personalised video, and then shared it with their users – easy and devastatingly simple. 

The personalisation aside – I liked the element of challenge added by Nike – a real life example of a well located ‘nudge’ and one where the context matches the theory neatly.

Have a look…

SPOTIFY
Spotify have been doing something similar and extended their idea in 2019 with some great engagement driven marketing that had two plays really … they created ‘my playlist for the year’ (see Nike inspiration) and then gave subscribers the opportunity to share their most listened to tracks and artists.

This is powerful and simple, and it was designed to enable everyone to share their own lists, and so support the bands and artists they love, the trick to success was making it very easy to download the visuals and then click to share.

This facilitated a broad engaging conversation between the artists and their fan base … and no doubt pushed streaming up at the same time.

Check out the detail here it is a great leveraging of the story bias … ignoring the cost of the subscription and crafting a story that you can share, and it plays a little, in the sharing element, to the confirmation bias we love as Marketers. This was noticeable to me as one of my top played artists in 2019 was Honeyblood, who shared lots of insta screen shots of people’s top 5s with them in it. This made me feel closer to the band and made me think I am listening to the ‘right’ band (they are great by the way, trust me).

M&S
The prompt for this post was the simple email shown below ..

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How good did this make me feel! Yep, pretty smug as you can imagine.
It ignores the actual cost of my spend but focuses down simply on the amount I saved using their 20% off vouchers (whenever they come through).

I feel £97.30 richer, so it’s worked. On another level the Sparks card needs greater relevancy, something M&S have been open about. This use of data and the improved ‘birthday bonus discount’ are steps in the right direction in my view.

McDONALDS
Perhaps the cutest personalisation I have seen for a while is from McDonalds. A simple app let you film your own living room and superimpose a reindeer – a lovely extension of the TV advertising running at the time featuring the carrot hungry reindeer. The idea being you can then share with your children as definitive proof Santa does exist!

This is a long term play; parents will think better of the brand and children will love it and, I would suggest, remember it as well.

As always please feel free to leave any comments on my post.

Paul Hemingway
20 January 2020

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Single Customer View post GDPR

The new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) have led most companies to review not only their marketing consents and processes, but, based not least on the veritable explosion of requests in my email inbox just before, on and indeed after, May 25th 2018, to more fundamentally consider the state and value of data as an asset.

This is the real positive of the regulation in my opinion. I wonder if it may, in time, lead to a balance sheet thought around data equity in the same way as ‘Brand Equity’ was considered in the 90s as something that had a tangible and quantifiable GBP value.

The challenge facing marketers post GDPR strikes me as being initially straightforward, but time will tell if the impact of the changes makes this more complex.

In my view the single view of a customer (SCV) is becoming paramount in ensuring the valuable asset that is personal data, works for the benefit of the business concerned post GDPR, and does not adversely jar with customers. It is trying to create the dreaded ‘win win’ scenario in a landscape where the value paradigm has shifted significantly, and that is never an easy balance to strike.

In my view the twin and very simple benefits of a SCV of customers are:

the customer enjoys a consistent experience with the company concerned that they attach a value to, and
a ‘knowing’ personalisation level is possible and can be expressed in communication which the business can attach a value to (relating to relationship or sales and so on). The key word here for me is knowing.

The SCV should demonstrate the company knows the customer in a positive and unobtrusive manner. GDPR empowers the customer to manage their relationships more proactively and transparently. The value of an individual’s data to any company is more visible and obvious post regulation to the customer. For some the value of their data may be surprise, but the volume of email and white mail will have fuelled that understanding (or at least awareness) in a way that if not acknowledged is a risk for business success.

The emails, direct mail, calls and texts we have all received have created a long-term impact in changing the dynamic of the relationship, the paradigm shift is that SCV should now be read as Single Company View not single customer view: The dominant partner is now the more educated customer or prospect, one who will recognise on some level the value of their personal data.

To not recognise this shift is a high risk strategy for any data led business.  Customers are choosing to ‘freely’ interact with a company and this choice can be reversed easily and quickly if the company forgets the customer is dealing with a single company in that moment. If the SCV acronym we know and love as marketers is to stand, it must recognise the power shift to customers and be read as both single customer and single company view.

My thoughts on some post GDPR imperatives are below:

Seek to acknowledge the value of data
reassure the customer or prospect by dint of action, value offered and by not overusing the data. Thinking of the data as fragile and easily damaged is more likely to be a winning formula.

Make sure the personalisation is appropriate
a fine balance to strike and however good the marketing asset the best way to monitor this is likely to be opt out rates within the campaign decay curve and customer feedback. Thinking of the data as an asset to be retained for longer term value becomes more important, cherish it!

Make sure the personalisation has a test (and then test some more)
and use a control cell, this will give a quicker read on the level of personalisation that resonates and will protect the single view of the company by the customer (but make sure it is statistically significant).

Make the content rich and relevant and balance sales to service
Post GDPR service contacts can be an opportunity to drive marketing consent, but be careful, it is possible to damage consent levels if legitimate interest is abused for the sake of a quick sale. Remembering the customer may not have freely volunteered marketing consent for a reason …making the service contacts valuable may reverse that.

Remember the data has a value and that can be eroded
This mind-set change here is as important as thinking SCV is a single view of the company (in the moment) for the customer or prospect. Thinking of data like this should ensure the business considers its actions more deeply post GDPR and not lose long-term value by short termism.  Remember a chipped china cup might still function but it’s value is much less than the perfect version.

These thoughts are my own, and I would love to know yours, if you get chance send me a comment or two and thanks for reading.

Paul Hemingway
01 June 2018

Image courtesy of Pexels.com

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Disruption


Disruption is an often used term in marketing but it is rarely seen in reality.  For many, in the hurly burly of marketing communications, it remains talked about and revered, but not delivered.

When it is seen it is rarely from a ‘smaller’ brand, but where budgets are bigger and the Agency voice may be more compelling and passionate it does show itself more frequently.

Disruption as a technique for me has a number of elements to it, a good disruptive execution will combine these rather than rely on just one factor;

  • Breaking the norm … if the world is beige then paint your comms or idea bright red, make it stand out.
  • Intensity … make your creativity stand out through intensity or through a ‘laser’ focus on your target audience
  • A novel delivery … make the delivery stand out through exaggeration or media choice or even solely by design, make the audience curious to find out more about you or the offer you are making

The aim of such disruption, for me, is always only appropriate if you have an end game that is  driven by a desire for an increase or a reinforcement; disruption should not be an end in itself.

Increased sales and/or revenue are the obvious objectives of disruptive activity in marketing, but consider also increased curiosity and memorability as well as overall awareness.  These latter elements may be a precursor to the increases in financial returns which are your ultimate aim and can be used to reinforce the brand image or values which may be necessary in some cases.

If the offer itself, be it a product or a service, is truly innovative that may itself be disruptive enough. If, however, your task is to disrupt your audience through the communication then the process of disrupting may take more time as you establish the brand credibility through communications designed for memorability and cut through.

This reinforcement is required in my opinion to ‘mask’ the ‘me-tooness’ or ordinariness of the actual offer in many cases.  This is a strategy with a higher risk but the advertisement I saw recently, and which prompted this post, is really interesting and I think falls into this category.

It is interesting enough to drive me to post again, having been quiet for a long while on my blog.

The category:​  Car sales

The offer:  No different to any other car dealer, albeit I am sure they are a good company with a good offer

Disruptive comms? Hell yeah !

The ad is from Trade Centre UK, its disruption … silence !

TV Ad for Trade Centre UK

The silence is incredibly disturbing, the TV going quiet in an ad break is so unusual and the result initially, and repeatedly, is to watch TV while checking it’s not on mute.  The result being you watch the ad itself. The disruption is complete.

This is clever, low cost, disruption and my out-take … they have good prices.  Job done I expect.

Paul Hemingway

03 May 2018

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Paperless office reality

The paperless office was a phrase I first heard in anger when I was working at the Halifax in about 1989. Email was being rolled out to the great and the good in the business. Up to that point we were still issuing Memo’s and I fondly remember the Manilla reusable envelopes with a string and cardboard circle lock. The army of Internal Post workers did a great job of shifting paper around the business supporting the vast amount of memos generated.

The internal training confidently predicted the end of paper in short order. I instantly embraced this new cutting edge technology and found myself typing memos and then attaching them to these new-fangled emails so the recipients could print them out. I did the same when I received them. I think at that point I realised the sunny upland of the paperless office may take some time to achieve.

As you will know from my last post on this blog, I now work from home. This gave me a fresh opportunity to see if I could work in a way that removed or at least reduced the volume of paper I use to achieve my work outcomes. I came up with four very good reasons to do just that:

  • Space – selfishly, I did not want to add a second printer into my study and clutter things up – I like a clean organised workspace, and was trying to minimise the need for a filing cabinet and drawers
  • Cost reduction – if I could save the business some money by not having a printer and not supplying me with ink and paper etc that would have to be a good thing
  • Security – I am mindful that the security of work documents in my home, despite the alarm system, is less than a document held on our office IT filing systems
  • Collaboration – my team and I work remotely from each other and it’s quite hard to efficiently and effectively share pieces of paper: electronic files are much easier to ship around, update and share.

In the scheme of things I know that I am only making a small dent here, I still use my Filofax classic for notes, having tried Moleskine notepads and School Exercise books in recent years (actually very good and very cheap! and a reaction to everyone else using Moleskine books). So paper has not been completely eradicated. I’m also fond of a flip chart as my team know only too well.

I’m doing pretty well though. In the first 6 weeks of working at home I printed 6 pages of A3 paper on my weekly visit to Lichfield Head office. I am pretty proud of that.

I have found the experience liberating and it has given me a really good feeling, this is a good thing to do; for me, my business and the environment. For example I know that I used to print emails off and read them later, but that often included pages and pages of footers, and as much as I recycled this paper securely it was still using energy for the printing, costing the business money and was often stored in drawers until a convenient reading slot opened up … sadly the email had often been updated by then, so rendering it useless, or in need of a reprint. So all in all not a very environmentally friendly activity.

I have found the following invaluable in achieving and managing my own paperless environment:

  • My slightly larger than normal (24 inch screen) makes life a lot easier if reading long documents or in fact any document at my desk
  • Use the zoom sliders/facilities actively – it is so simple to increase the scale, and of course it retains the kerning on screen, it does help considerably
  • If reading web pages on your laptop or desktop why not save it as “Web Page, NAME” somewhere in your document folders (I created a folder called reading). You’ll get an HTML file and a folder full of images and other data contained within it don’t delete this. When you want to see the web page, just double-click on the HTML file and you should be able to see it just as it was when you saved it, whether you have a connection or not. Simples.
  • I make notes as I go to inform any response that is needed – I use a Sticky attached to my desktop (called scribble pad) or my Filofax. Tracking changes on a document is helpful too … just add your comments and save it down as your version in the correct folder will keep your thoughts front of mind even if you don’t need to send a tracked document back.
  • I have the advantage of a laptop… so I use it as such … I take it off the dock, sit down and read. That really helps me focus too, I wrote in my last post about the need to ‘change state’ and manage your mindset, this is another good example of how I find this can be achieved.

There are some traps to avoid however:

  1. There is a temptation to skim read and jump ahead, slow this down or you’ll miss things, I find I’m more prone to this on screen than with a hard copy for some reason
  2. There is no margin to scribble in so think how you want to make notes – I use tracking comments in the main at the moment for words and paper for calculations
  3. Think about when and where you want to read, you have to be a bit organized if you’re reading on a laptop… it’s bulkier than a sheet of A4
  4. Don’t be afraid to print, remember all the times you aren’t printing and for my ‘on a page A3 Marketing calendar’ it’s a must really
  5. Think about your filing – and then keep that folder clean, don’t replicate an over flowing filing cabinet – the IT team won’t thank you!

I would welcome any comments on your own ‘paper’ challenges, thank you for reading.

Paul
04 May 2017

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