BWI Video: Why Consistency is Essential in Your Marketing

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 2, Issue 1 - Play time 3m 2s

In previous BWI videos I stressed why consistency should be incorporated into every aspect of your business. So it might not surprise you, that when it comes to marketing, I once again urge you to be consistent.

One of my biggest marketing lessons came from a humble ball-cock valve - the same valve that regulates the water level in your heating system. In the UK we pay for the amount of water we use, just like gas and electricity supplies. A while back I was staggered to discover that my 6 month water bill was double the amount it normally is. I assumed there must be a leak somewhere, and after a thorough search I discovered a ball-cock valve that wasn't closing fully - allowing a small, consistent drip. 

This small, consistent drip, 24 hours a day, for six months, was enough to double my bill. What's the lesson here? If you deploy this same consistency in your marketing you're more likely to see a return on your investment. Your efforts and expenses don't need to be huge, but, like the drip, they do need to be consistent. 

Posted on January 9, 2015 and filed under BWI.

BWI Video: If It Isn't Tested, It Doesn't Work!

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 27 - Play time 2m 36s

When I worked at IBM's research laboratory in Southern France, I used to work closely with a team of software developers. They were really clever people and their job was creating a software tool that could be used to test the quality of other programs, produced by other development teams. It sounds just as complex as it was.

Here's the punch line. The teams I worked with all used to wear tee-shirts with this saying printed on the back:

"If it isn't tested, it doesn't work"

A simple enough statement, but how many times have you seen this rule side-stepped? I challenge people all the time with this - my colleagues are sick and tired of hearing me say it. 

Many people dislike the process of testing their work, whether it's proof reading a document or finding bugs in software. Who would you rather find the errors: you or your customer?

The message is: don't skimp on testing. Find the resources to do the job properly. Work to a consistent and high standard. You've heard me banging on about the importance of consistency in other videos - and testing is an important aspect of ensuring consistency.

Next time you produce something, test it. Because until you do, it doesn't work.

Posted on December 12, 2014 and filed under BWI.

Great Communicators: Alistair Cooke

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 26 - Play time 2m 05s

Lots of people gathered around their radios every week to listen to Alistair Cooke's 'Letter from America'. The longest running radio show to date, for 58 years each was as articulate and as well scripted as the previous. Although on many different topics - like these videos - each fitted a common format.

Alistair Cooke started 'London Letter' when he lived in England. Initially it was a weekly broadcast for NBC. He moved to America in 1937 and established a relationship with the BBC overseas. A forerunner of 'Letter from America' was broadcast intermittently from 1938 until interrupted by the outbreak of World War Two. The programme we recognise as 'Letter from America' started post hostilities, and 2,869 episodes later, Cooke's 15 minute weekly broadcasts have left a lasting impression on many.  

Alistair Cooke's 'Letter from America' was remarkable in many ways, however, consistency was one of its hallmarks. Mark LeBlanc, is a fellow speaker and highly respected business colleague of mine, and he puts it like this:

"Consistency is the card that out-trumps every other card in the deck."

I'm sure you've heard, "start now, use what you have, do the best you can". Do that. Then do it again, and again, and again.

Enough said. 

Posted on December 5, 2014 and filed under Great Communicators.

BWI Video: Ensure You Take Action - NOW!

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 25 - Play time 2m 11s

Too often in business meetings, the ideas and plans being discussed end up being postponed. Sometimes this is due to valid reasons, such as lack of resources and sometimes it's just procrastination. Test this by asking, "So what are we going to do now?".

Huge amounts of time and resources go into business meetings, so it makes sense to get something useful from every single on of them. If the meeting is important enough to be called in the first instance, then make some decisions and follow through on them.

So the next time you find yourself in a business meeting that's going nowhere, jump in and give it some direction. See what you can achieve with the people that you have in the room at the time. As Arthur Ashe said:

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
Posted on November 28, 2014 and filed under BWI.

BWI Video: How to be Successful

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 24 - Play time 3m 13s 

Achieving success can a difficult concept to grasp. Some people seem to achieve it, while others spend their lives in search of it. Coming up with with what "it" actually means to you is an important part of the answer.

There is one immutable truth regarding success and it applies whatever your personal definition of success happens to be.

One of my heroes, as far as success goes is Albert E N Gray. I keep a copy of his speech - 'The Common Denominator of Success' - on my desk. It's compulsory reading for staff and it stands up well to being re-read every now and then, should the spirit weaken.

Albert Gray was a successful insurance sales executive in the USA. He delivered his speech iPhiladelphia to the 1940 convention of the National Association of Life Underwriters, and it's been freely available ever since. Although written for its intended audience of insurance professionals, Gray's speech is a relevant today as it was in 1940.  Here's a short passage:

The common denominator of success - the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful - lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don't like to do. 

Successful people don't enjoy doing the hard stuff - they just recognise it as a route to a desired result - and it's the result upon which they focus. By contrast, people who fail tend to focus on applying a certain method (regardless of any result).

Albert Gray's speech can be easily found on the internet. I urge you to print it out, read it and develop some success habits.

Posted on November 21, 2014 and filed under BWI.

BWI Video: Why Rosetta and Faith are Important to You

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 23 - Play time 3m 35s 

I'll certainly remember the excitement of the Rosetta mission reaching its climax this week for many years to come, and I'm many of you will too. It's amazing to think of a space mission launched a decade ago reaching its destination safely. What a triumph of human endeavour for the many engineers and scientists involved - some of whom will have spent their entire professional lives dedicated to this 25 year old project.

So excitement aside, what's this got to do with you and you business?

It's true to say that there are many projects that last a long time and leave a long-lasting legacy - think of the many public infrastructure projects undertaken by the Victorians - all the railway bridges, viaducts and tunnels we still use to this day. Modern examples also exist: the London's Crossrail project and the Channel Tunnel being prime examples.

Big companies tend to dominate the 'big project' league tables. It's easier for them to marshal the necessary resources. From a human perspective though, the people involved still need to have enormous faith to see such projects through to fruition.

It's this concept of 'faith' that I believe is particularly important and it's something that I'd like to see more of in the SME sector. The small and medium sized businesses really are the engine of our economies and I believe a bit more self-belief would do us all a lot of good.

Be amazed at the engineering and science by all means - but admire the faith of those at the heart of the Rosetta project, and put some of it into your own efforts.

Posted on November 14, 2014 .

BWI Video: Are You Being Ambitious Enough?

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 22 - Play time 2m 26s 

Ambition: easy to recognise, difficult to measure.

Although ambition is critical to success, there doesn't seem to be enough of it to go around. All too often, it seems, one comes across evidence of a lack of ambition, "That's too difficult", "We don't have enough people", "We haven't the budget". You know the story - and it's a pretty dispiriting one too.

Active Presence has recently concluded a project for client, who - most unusually - formally reviews all their new projects to see whether they are being ambitious enough! Wow - what a refreshing approach and what an unusual organisation with whom to engage.

Give it a go - ask yourself, "Are we being ambitious enough?"

Posted on November 9, 2014 .

Great Communicators: Ernest Hemingway

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 21 - Play time 2m 21s 

Sixty years ago this week (October) Ernest Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His sparse style is best illustrated by a short story.

Over lunch with several writing friends he suggested he could write a story in six words and suggested a wager to that effect. Sure that they would win, his friends took up his wager. Hemingway duly wrote the following on a napkin and collected $10 from each of them:

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

Six words that pack a great punch. 

Each word counts in this minimalist style - but what's it got to do with your business?

It is often said that our attention spans are becoming shorter - and the widespread use of many different communication technologies is often blamed. The world appears to be moving at an ever faster pace – thousands upon thousands of websites are available at your fingertips, and people are browsing more and more pages to find the information they seek.

Imagine the impact if you were able to explain what your business did in just six words.

Here's what we came up with for my company, Active Presence:

PowerPoint doesn't kill audiences. Bullets do.

Time to put your thinking cap on.

Posted on October 31, 2014 .

BWI Video: "Yes, and..." the secret to progress!

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 20 - Play time 3m 34s 

Sadly, in the world of business “yes” is often the most difficult word to say. You may have experienced this when suggesting new ideas and having your boss turn them down without so much of a thought. Saying, "yes" is challenging. Who knows what might happen?

The inability to say “yes” is ingrained behaviour. People raised in western societies tend to be surrounded by negative language from an early age; “don’t speak to strangers”, "don't cross the road without looking". 

This negativity is often carried forward into adult life. When people have good ideas the easiest thing for a decision maker to do is to hold back and hesitate, rather than taking action and going with it. This lack of initiative is holding back many businesses.

Those of you who have come across ‘improv theatre’ will know it to be the refreshing opposite of the rather negative picture described above. You have no option to say "no" - instead you have to quickly adapt to the evolving story. Improv theatre is characterised by there being the bare bones of a story and no real script. Participants learn to quickly adapt to what they are faced with and move on.

John Cremer is one of the UK's leading exponents of improv theatre and its application to business. John's published several books on the subject and helped countless business people break away from that reflex action of saying "no". I hope you'll take a look at John's website and find the courage to say, "Yes, and now we're going to...". 

Posted on October 24, 2014 .

BWI Video: How to Define Your Niche

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 19 - Play time 2m 42s 

The vast majority of successful businesses serve well-defined market niches. Such businesses have a clear idea as to who their customers are. Of course, you can serve multiple niches too. For example, BMW knows the differences between customers who buy a BMW Series 1 and a BMW X5. Both cars serve different market niches.

Clearly defining your niche prior to embarking on extensive marketing will yield better results. As the saying goes:

"If you try to be everything to everyone, you won't be anything to anyone!"

Too many people either:

  • spend huge amounts of time and resources identifying a niche, but then service it inadequately. or...
  • do the reverse and expend the same effort in a diffuse manner, rather than on one niche.

Spend time finding your niche and having done so drive your message home consistently - similar to splitting a log with a wedge. Imagine the grain in the log is your niche, first locate where your wedge fits best, then aim the thin end of the wedge and put all of your effort into driving it home. 

To find your niche first identify your strengths - these will become part of your wedge. The sharp edge of your wedge is a simple clear benefit statement. Aim this at your target market and focus your energy into driving the message home. 

In this edition of Beach Walk Insights Chris shares how the simplest of tools can help clarify your business strategy and help you create defined wedges for your niche.

Posted on October 17, 2014 .

Great Communicators: Leonard Cohen

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 18 - Play time 2m 35s 

Your ability to communicate will have played a large role in your success in life, in a similar way that it has played a crucial role throughout our history. In celebration of his 80th birthday, we’d like to call out Leonard Cohen as one of the world’s ace communicators – with a nod towards how his writing might help you in business.

While his music might be an acquired taste, his poetry probably has wider appeal. His ability to get a message, concept or emotion across in the most minimalist way makes his writing a joy to read. He demonstrates a skill few people possess.

This minimalist approach is something which isn't commonly seen in business. Too often business presentations, brochures or even websites bury their key messages in copious quantities of irrelevant material.

This dilution of messages has a negative impact on businesses. Clients neither know nor understand what’s on offer. If you carefully craft your message in a concentrated form, you will see an improved return on your time and effort.

In this ‘Great Communicators’ episode of Beach Walk Insights, Chris explores how Leonard Cohen’s minimalist approach is a perfect model for you in your business communications.

 

Your Action Plan

  •  Look at previous examples of your writing, seeking out words or phrases that don’t add value.
  • Prior to writing new material, spend time clarifying the objective and write to that objective using as few words as you can.  
Posted on October 10, 2014 and filed under BWI, Great Communicators.

BWI Video: How to Run an Effective Brainstorming Session

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 17 - Play time 3m 50s 

Brainstorming is particularly useful if you're attempting to generate a large volume of ideas in a short space of time. Usually performed in a large group, it is an effective and creative way to begin many business projects.

You will have likely participated in a brainstorming session where you called out your ideas the moment you thought of them. This is the most commonly practised method, although it's sometimes ineffective as biggest voice in the room can dominate proceedings.

To allow all the participants in your group to have an equal chance to put forward their ideas, try using the following method:

  1. Define a time for the session, as normal.
  2. Run the session silently - have group members write their ideas on pieces of paper...
  3. ...and post them on the wall - where everyone else can see them.

This allows each person the opportunity to put forward their ideas without competing in a potentially intimidating environment. 

In this edition of Beach Walk Insights Chris explores various methods you can use to ensure your brainstorming sessions are both fair and productive.

Posted on October 3, 2014 .

BWI Video: A Better Method to Get Your Product to Market

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 16 - Play time 3m 15s 

You were probably told when you were young that it's not about how badly you fall, but rather how you pick yourself back up after that fall. The same rule applies throughout life and in business - and it's exactly how you should be developing your products.

Key to the following method is getting your product to market as quickly as possible, and then refining and improving it from there onwards. To get your product 'market ready', identify niche industry experts to complete sections of your product. This speeds up the process as their particular expertise is directly relevant to your product.

Once your product has been launched, you must continue the development process creating new and improved versions - this is referred to as incremental progress. Fundamentally, behind this process, is the idea that learning from your mistakes is the fastest way of improving.

In this edition of Beach Walk Insights Chris explores how a fast product launch, followed by incremental progress, is the most efficient  and quickest way of getting your products developed.

 

Your Action Plan:

  • Identify niche experts who are relevant to your products
  • Implement a plan to develop your product post product launch
Posted on September 26, 2014 .

BWI Video: How Many Points Can Your Audience Remember?

Beach Walk Insights, Volume 1, Issue 15 - Play time 2m 38s 

Like many business professionals, you'll have probably witnessed the classic 'Top Ten Strategic Initiatives' , in which you were expected to remember way more than was reasonable. It wouldn't be surprising if you struggled to remember just half of those key points immediately after the presentation.

When creating the narrative of your presentation the numbers 'three' and 'five' are key to your audience's memory retention. Your primary reason for presenting in the first place is to convey a memorable message to your audience, and if that isn't achieved then you're simply wasting time.

You may have heard of the 'Rule of Three', and if you haven't, you're bound to recognise it: 'Stop, Look, Listen' is a phase many children were taught to help them cross the road safely. It's no coincidence the way it is written - three short memorable messages which have a natural flow in their delivery.

People have a tendency to remember three points as it's a manageable amount of information to retain. Five is also a good number of points for your audience to remember, so when you are creating your presentation attempt to have three or five key messages which you want your audience to take away.

In this edition of Beach Walk Insights Chris explores the importance of these two numbers and why you should be incorporating them in all of your presentations.

 

Your Action Plan:

  • Develop your narrative around three or five clear sections, with each section being one of your key messages.
  • If you're creating a slide deck experiment with designing a central theme containing all the points you're discussing. You can refer back to the central theme throughout your presentation.
Posted on September 19, 2014 .

BWI Video: What Makes a Good Facilitator?

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 14 - Play time 4m 46s 

Like many people in business, you've most probably sat through meetings that haven't really worked. You may well have come across meetings that have been facilitated, although, the truth is many people don't understand what the facilitator's role actually is.

Being a facilitator is a lot like being a referee in a football match; he or she is a neutral third party whose only agenda is to ensure that the meeting adheres to a clear set of rules so every participant has an equal opportunity of success.

In this edition of Beach Walk Insights Chris discusses what a good facilitator does and how using one could help you run more effective meetings.

Posted on September 12, 2014 .

BWI Video: How to Grab Your Audience's Attention

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 13 - Play time 3m 2s 

You've built your presentation, rehearsed your script and are ready to deliver. Regardless of how good your slides are, or how much time you have spent preparing, you will have just 90 seconds to grab your audience's attention. 

At the average speaking pace, 90s amounts to approximately 250 words. You might think that 250 words aren't enough to grab people's attention. On the other hand, 250 words can be memorised - and this is the point. If those words are scripted and well rehearsed, you'll stand a much better chance of engaging your audience.

In this edition of Beach Walk Insights Chris explores various methods you can use to grab attention at the start of your presentations. 

Posted on September 5, 2014 .

BWI Video: How to Increase Your Website Traffic

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 12 - Play time 3m 52s 

Since the birth of the internet millions of people across the globe have browsed millions of different websites. The rapid development of mobile devices means that browsing experience is no longer restricted to the office or home computer, but can now be on a street corner, in a airport or at a railway station. The information you're looking for is just a thumb click away on your smart phone or tablet.

When browsing sites on these devices the chances are that you will have encountered websites that don't display efficiently or correctly - consequently your experience of that site was probably short lived.

On this Beach Walk Insight Chris explains how you can increase the traffic to your websites by creating 'mobile-friendly' sites.

Posted on August 29, 2014 and filed under BWI.

BWI Video: How to Make Good Presentation Handouts

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 11 - Play time 3m 31s 

As a presenter, you will often be asked for a copy of your presentation slides, so they can be given to your audience as a handout. However, slides and handouts are two very different items even though many people don't recognise this.

The main purpose of a slide is to help the audience remember your message. To keep the audience focus on you, make sure your slides don't contain much text and certainly no bullet point lists. Your handouts, on the other hand, need to be useful to the audience when you're no longer there to explain your message. For this reason, your handouts should contain much more detail than your slides. 

On this edition of Beach Walk Insights Chris explores the difference between slides and handouts, and explains how you best use each of them to help your audience remember your message.

Posted on August 22, 2014 and filed under BWI.

BWI Video: What Makes a Good Presentation?

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 10 - Play time 3m 4s 

A previous edition of Beach Walk Insights illustrated three critical questions you need to answer in order to build a successful presentation - this BWI focuses on one of those questions: 

What do you want the audience to do?

A 'good' business presentation is one that generates the results you want, while still being of value to your audience.

This video reveals how the secret of a 'good' presentation lies within the word 'good' - so join Chris and discover how you can make a 'good' presentation that will increase your sales conversion ratio.

Posted on August 15, 2014 and filed under BWI.

BWI Video: The Value of Story Telling

Beach Walk Insights - Volume 1, Issue 9 - Play time 3m 3s 

You learned the most important lessons in life come from the stories you were told as a youngster. For generations this has been a crucial aspect to learning. Sadly, stories and the values they hold seem to reduce in value when people grow up and enter corporate life.

In business many people believe that by telling a story they are undermining the message they are trying to convey. In this edition of Beach Walk Insights Chris explains why story telling may be the key ingredient for you to win more business.

Posted on August 8, 2014 and filed under BWI.