Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Blog moved

I've moved this blog to http://www.mihcentre.co.uk/blog - and I've updated it.

Friday, October 08, 2010

So How's it Going Tim?

An update from Taste Tideswell- see www.tastetideswell.co.uk

I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve been asked that question, on and off camera. It’s great to have the support and interest of so many villagers in Tideswell, and indeed friends in my “home” village of Easton on the Hill and beyond. I know lots of my professional colleagues and clients are taking an active interest too, so I hope the recent furious “blogging in bullet points” below gives some idea of the work that’s going on, and this gives you a feel for the job I’m doing.

It’s busy- that’s an understatement. It’s not only the volume of work that has to be done , but the diversity of it. I’m not complaining, and I’m certainly not the only busy body around. I’m amazed how so many committed villagers on the “core team” are managing to hold down a day job while putting in many hours of discussion and delivering on the project.

Personally I constantly bounce between tasks that are in my comfort zone and those that aren’t.

The briefing and selection of an agency (“Peter and Paul”- seen here visiting for a briefing) and working with them to develop the clear thinking behind the brand and the great designs they have produced in double quick time is familiar ground, but it’s what I’m primarily expected to deliver, so the pressure to get it right is pretty obvious. This week we had a massive turning point on the branding, when we presented to the Marketing Group and the Board, and we came away with the right decision on a really striking but simple logo. I confess to going into “sales mode” in the meeting and when we got the right result, I further confess to celebrating a little too hard at the George afterwards.

It’s the experience of things outside my norm of Corporate Marketing Consultancy and NPD that make this job even more rewarding though. I can walk out of my cottage front door on the High St to buy a loaf from Tindalls, some mince from Gibbs the Butchers, some apples from Peaches, or maybe a saddo’s ready meal from the Co-Op. Some days that can take a couple of hours! Talking to people in the real life setting of their own retail businesses, with real customers there deciding on whether or not to part with real hard earned cash- that’s real marketing. I hope that the principles of marketing can be applied to Tideswell and show how real marketing can benefit communities as well as companies.

Even further away from my comfort zone I’ve been on cookery courses, helped to select granite worktops and kitchen equipment, (although Juliet Waugh has made the important decisions), puzzled over architects drawings, looked for brewing expertise and equipment, choosen phone systems and computers (almost), begged for help from suppliers, friends, and business contacts (thanks to all!) written job descriptions and advertisements, discussed many new business ideas, and pushed newsletters through several doors. All of this gets punctuated by the arrival of our good friends from the BBC, Jane and Mandy, (or Hinge and Bracket as they are better known) and the opportunity to try and say the simplest things correctly on camera. I do ramble on, and there’s going to be quite a bit of me on the cutting room floor before we’re done. Why do I always think of the clever phrase just after they’ve left?

Hope that paints a picture for you- watch this space for developments!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Taste Tideswell

I'm working on an exciting project for a great village; Tideswell in Derbyshire-it's called Taste Tideswell, and we are bidding for £400k of lottery funding next Wednesday. If we are one of the 6 lucky villages out of 24 left in the project, we will launch a brand, a cookery school and a community growing programme. The winning villages also get filmed for a BBC1 programme in 2011 charting the development of the project. I'm the "Village Champion" and if we win, I'll be baseing myself in Tideswell for a year. There's a great 3 min video that describes what we are doing.http://bit.ly/cG42cy. Wish us luck and even if we don't win, we think we've developed a great model for developing a local food economy and the community.
See www.tastetideswell.co.uk

Random Advice on starting a consultancy or services business

I'm often asked for advice on how to set up an independent consultancy business. Here's my views. It works for me but it might not for you.

Networking- essential
-Help others
-Write to magazines
-Go to seminars
-Get on Conference platforms
-Befriend expert networkers

-Small companies are specialists, big ones are generalists
-Big company clients expect small companies to have some really special point of difference
-Develop and take good care of your reputation, that’s your only asset
-Be prepared to work 1 level down from what you are used to (esp interim)
-If you don’t like “doing it yourself” you are in the wrong game
-Beware 50/50 partnerships; only marriages work like that and not all of them
-Limited Company status says you are serious, gives you protection, and is not difficult or expensive
-Have a close goup of complementary associated consultants who you can talk to and refer work to, and who might one day refere work back to you.
-Ask for referral/intro fees. 10% is not unreasonable.
-Understand the differences between Consultancy, Services, and Interim. They are different- not to say you can’t do more than one but recognise what you are and what you do.
-Trademark and copyright anything you can as quick as you can
-Name your company after yourself if that’s what you are selling. If it’s a service product, give it a name but not too tricksy

-Have a server
-Backup, backup
-Take key files on a memory stick as well
-Get the latest whatever
-Find a good local support guy and pay him well and on time.

-Don’t overplan, but have a P&L and approx targets
-Watch cashflow and don’t forget to save money for tax payments
-Get a good pragmatic accountant
-Use a book keeper- up to you if it’s your spouse but I wouldn’t recommend it.
-Pay your associates on time or early- you may want them to “drop everything” one day

Business Development
-Build loyalty and repeats-look after clients
-Underpromise and over deliver
-Cold calling is a waste of time
-Get referrals and recommendations
-Define your proposition and stick to it
-Decide if you are a one man bundle of skills and experience for hire to anyone or you are running a company that delivers a solution to a problem that you understand better than others.
-Private Sector or Public Sector? You decide. You can’t make money on both at the same time.
-Websites work; check the url carefully. Spell it out loud, you’ll have to. Then type it.
-Search Engine Optimisation is key.
-Google Ads can work in the early days but watch the costs
-Email campaigns don’t work
-Newsletters can work
-Capture every email address and phone number

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Is the recession ending? Will we have a “double dip” or “W Shaped” recession? No-one knows for sure. So what do we do now? The best guess for 2010 is that markets will remain broadly flat and so growth will only come from share gains and NPD. Inflation will only help if you are a retailer it seems, but few producer prices will have any headroom. Budgets and resources are of course under pressure, so Marketers need to innovate efficiently, and get back to basics. In doing so there is an opportunity for the marketing function to resurrect its reputation. I heard my ex-Mars colleague Martin Glenn (now Birds Eye Iglo CEO) speak at the Marketing Week Live conference in July and he talked about how Marketing doesn’t get internal or external respect, and we have to earn it back. He advocates a “back to the future” common sense approach, based on long term trends like provenance, healthy eating, and convenience, but balanced with “Thrift” – both as a consumer trend and a corporate behaviour. We have the opportunity as marketers to design, develop, and communicate more worthwhile products, and to earn back some trust from the wider community. As I’ve said before, consumers don’t just go for cheaper products in a recession-premium and economy segments are both growing; Martin confirmed this with news of Bird’s Eye growth in both “Baked to Perfection” (£3.99) and “Arctic Roll” (99p). It’s clarity of value that we need to deliver to consumers, and they will scrutinise every offer and communications claim more carefully than ever. Prices may be low but the bar is higher than ever.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

What is an insight? Discuss...

"Insight" is a word that is widely mis-used. At the same time, the need to discover real, new, genuine insights has never been greater. The marketing community needs to provide consumers with (a few) bigger, better ideas based on genuine need and less wasteful line extensions and weak attempts at NPD based on lazy observation. It would help if marketers and their research suppliers focussed on what a real insight is.
Here's some definitions of Insight that might help. (I'm not claiming I thought these up). Insight is...
  • Penetrating understanding of consumers
  • An undiscovered truth that suggests an unmet need
  • Something that makes you go- "AHA!"

It would be great if this forum could be used to add definitions and even examples. The classic example I have come across is:

  • "People don't want quarter-inch drills. They want quarter-inch holes."-Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business School.

I'd be interested to hear other examples and definitions.

I have started this discussion on LinkedIn- see the Consumer Insights Group, or go to:


Monday, February 02, 2009

Planning to Beat the 2009 Forecast

· Markets are flat or declining- to grow you need to win share from competitors.
· Understand where your business capabilities are superior to competition and make the most of them. Challenge your business but don’t go off piste if you’ve never tried it before.
· Consumers won’t just buy on price. They will scrutinise each purchase more minutely and choose the best value based on a rational, cost/benefit decision. Still too many senior managers seem to know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
· Don’t behave like a retailer and just drop prices. It’s frightening to see how retailers react to the downturn. They just cut prices and then expect suppliers to pick up the tab. It’s as if they are playing golf with one (borrowed) club- it may be a driver, but it doesn’t get you a winning score if you use it all the time and just keep trying to hit it harder. (Believe me, I know….)
· Stick with your brand equity and play to your strengths. There’s no need to change the vision and long term direction of the business. I may be wrong, but I think Tesco are severely wounding their own brand by calling themselves “Britain’s Biggest Discounter”. It pays their discounter competitors a great compliment to see great swathes of red and yellow signage and stacks of tertiary brands at suspiciously low prices. Not the behaviour of a brand leader. Complete this well known phrase or saying: Cheap and ………
· Change the commercial agenda. Once a branded or own label supplier gets to the “pay up or else” stage in a retailer relationship, it’s a lost cause. Business growth comes from investment in NPD, advertising, and product performance- these are the topics that should dominate the conversations between retailer and supplier, not just haggling over a donation to the retailers’ shareholders.
· Protect the budgets and make them work harder. The IPA Bellweather report for Q3 2008 reported the steepest fall in budgets for 9 years. Many companies will pass the hat round internally for contributions to the bottom line. Few will resolve to maintain investment in advertising and NPD. It will be those few that win in the longer term, by cutting waste elsewhere and making the marketing pound work harder. The Marketing Services industry is hugely competitive and there are new capable agencies with low overheads and a practical, results focused ethos out there that can deliver a higher return on investment than some of the bigger players. Try www.mihcentre.co.uk for example…

Friday, April 18, 2008

Recession Avoidance

Bad economic news is everywhere-UK retail sales fell in March, consumer confidence is low, and inflation is the only indicator above target. Is decline inevitable for you? It depends on whether you are a spectator or a player.

There is an undoubted impact on us all from the 3 main “circumstances beyond our control”; the collapse in irresponsible lending, the decline of the US dollar, and the feverish speculation in commodities. In response to these circumstances, some businesses will “circle the wagons” and wait for it all to blow over, thereby exacerbating the recession. The winners will innovate their way through and succeed by gaining share.

Nestlé, P&G, and General Mills sales are all up 9%. All of them put their success down to innovation.
As Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman and CEO of Nestlé, puts it; “Our success is now driven …by our capacity to innovate and use our R&D pipeline to launch new, added-value products and services”.

Innovation is THE growth driver, and growth is THE imperative when recession threatens. Macro-economic forecasts are not looking great, but now is the time to buck the trend and invest in innovation, albeit with more discrimination. No longer can we afford the “spray and pray” approach to innovation and the self indulgent directionless creativity that goes with it, but fortunately you don’t have to. You can do it our way.

Innovation in a recession demands that companies identify fewer, bigger, better, new product ideas earlier in the process and bring them to market as fast as possible.