Smoke and Mirrors

Enron is a name that is synonymous with scandal, corruption, greed and arrogance. Its collapse in 2001 left 20,000 employees out of work and $1.2 billion missing from their retirement funds.

In its heyday Enron was the poster-child of Wall Street. A true stock-market darling, reporting revenues of $100 billion and shares trading at an eye-watering 55 times earnings. It was America’s 7th largest corporation and valued in excess of $70 billion.

Analysts everywhere praised the organisation for its game-changing approaches. Fortune magazine named it “Most Innovative Company” six years in a row. Its trading floors were packed full of the smartest and brightest minds. Enron was a force to be reckoned with.
Read more

Selling a Lie

Tiger Woods was once the epitome of the all-round American good guy. He was a devoted family man, uber-successful sports star, and brand figurehead for the likes of Nike, Accenture and TAG Heuer. He’d won a total of 71 official PGA Tour events, including 14 majors, and was hailed as the world’s most marketable athlete.

But in 2009 things changed. Tiger crashed his Cadillac into a fire hydrant, yards from his Florida home. The crash set in motion a chain of revelations, in which fans learnt that Tiger had been a very naughty boy; cheating on his wife with over a dozen women, ranging from porn stars to cocktail waitresses.
Read more

Purpose or the Paycheck?

In 2010, Kirsty Henshaw appeared on the popular TV series “Dragons Den”. She had invented a healthy alternative to ice-cream, and was looking for a £65K investment in exchange for 15% of her company.

Kirsty successfully secured dragons Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne as her new partners. Granted, her product is innovative. At a feature level, it’s bang-on trend by being low fat, and low calorie. It’s also free of dairy, sugar, gluten, additives, soya, cholesterol and nuts. But watch the clip and you’ll realise it’s not just Kirsty’s product that catches the interest of the multi-millionaire investors, it’s her story. This exemplifies branding through storytelling. Read more

Steve Jobs and my Dad

I’ll never forget the day Steve Jobs died. As one of the true visionaries and personal heroes in my lifetime, I’d followed him with unfaltering admiration for his passion, attention to detail, and ability to inspire. In fact I’d followed him for so long, I almost felt like I knew him personally. Like many others on the day he died, I learnt of his passing on the actual device that he had invented.
Read more

Theme without the Park

A good friend once told me that to be effective, any marketing message should be written in a way that an intelligent 12 year old can understand.

Spending the majority of my working life in the software world, it’s common for me to witness technologists promoting products in techno geek speak – language which nobody understands but them.

Think about how you market your product or service. Can you summarise it within 20 seconds? Is it clear enough for your young niece or nephew to understand? Do you promote it in a creative manner, or are using the same tired techniques all your competitors are?
Read more

Front of House

Nowadays it’s very rare that I will call a hotel to make a reservation – most reputable hotels allow you to take care of everything on-line. The process remains faceless until you turn up and check-in. The service you receive on the front-desk sets the tone for your stay.

In our business, the salesperson was the face of our brand until the sale was made. The IT solutions we sold were complex, and often involved numerous consultants on-site to get the system live. I used to refer to this team as our “Front of House”.

After a sale is made, the next interaction a client has with your organisation is likely to be with your “Front of House”. You can employ the best sales team in the world, but if the follow-up contact is a negative one (inappropriate dress, poor attitude, bad timekeeping) then the whole thing is out of kilter.

All too often, in a business where a customer-driven culture isn’t instilled from the top down – or where freelance staff are used to supplement skills gaps, the customer can witness a radically different level of service from one team to the next. Your business appears inconsistent. Promises are broken.

The best organisations understand where their core business lies and work hard to build a company-wide team which adopt the same level of service, approach and commitment to client care; mission statements aren’t just some stuffy words on a website, they are the company mantra.