New Business Live Conference

I’m speaking at a conference tomorrow (29th jan) at Nottingham’s Trent FM Arena.

It’s called New Business Live and is designed to help new businesses, entrepreneurs and other small businesses to be inspired and improve what they do.

I’ll be talking about branding (surprisingly!!) and how to build a brilliant brand from scratch – even if you are on a very tight budget.

There’s some good speakers overall. Have a look here

Have a look and if its not too late, why not come along and heckle. I seem to have a bit of a graveyard slot and if anyone sits through a talk about legal aspects of setting a franchise up then hopefully my subject area should be a bit more light hearted.

Hope to see you there. I’ll be Twittering for much of the day about what the speakers are like, so have a look here if you’re interested.



You don’t decide – your customers do

For years, we have been saying that it is not you that decides whether your brand is any good, it’s your customers.

That may seem like a bold or even an odd claim, but the growth of feedback websites is proving it.

We are just starting to work with one of the best called Feefo

They are delivering feedback to their clients customers that is transforming their businesses. It has been amazing for BeWILDerwood in that it has helped them learn what they are doing right and wrong and really helped focus some decisions about where to invest in improvements.

For Charles Tywhritt it has been what they have built their entire business model on and 99% of their customers seem to love them – which is an amazing figure for any retailer, let alone an online one.

Gartner inc forecasted some years ago that by 2010 there would be 1 billion camera phones in the market place. Add to that the fact that they are now mostly web enabled and you have a very powerful customer voice indeed.

Richard Branson of Virgin fame, who runs a brand that is properly loved was forced to actually ring a customer who not only wrote him a complaint letter but took pictures of what he was unhappy about and then posted it all over the web. It is one of the funniest letters you will ever see.

Have a look at it here. It’s brilliant and well worth reading.

but here are some of the beautiful camera phone pics he took!

Makes you want to tuck straight in, doesn’t it Richard, tuck straight in.

What this shows you is that with any brand you have to really listen to your customers

If they decide that your brand is offering them rubbish, they will tell the world. What you need to encourage them to do by tapping into the power of User generated Content and the likes of Feefo, is harness the power of their compliments too.

Bye for now


Branding in a recession

Few of us can be in any doubt that times are tough for most sectors of business and all of us will have to adjust our business models to survive and maybe even thrive.

Having started our own business in a recession, we know all about how to trade in these times. There are two key choices:

1. You hide and panic and hope it gets better

2. You stride out confidently knowing it is as bad or worse for your peers and take the opportunity to grab their market share.

Too many businesses drift into receivership by quietly fading away with a whimper, but the best of us use it to adapt and possibly expand and help redefine what we do to make it far easier for our customers to connect with our businesses.

Only if you truly connect with your customers will they continue to trade with you.

There are three ways that we believe we act as customers.

1. Customers want real value.
This does not mean a cheap price, but a sensible price for a good quality product. We would say that it is more likely that people will buy fewer higher quality staples than lots of cheap poor quality products.

So with clothing it would be the likes of Primark who would see a negative effect as they are so dependent on high volumes. Those who concentrate on really looking after their customers and listening and acting on what they want, such as John Lewis and Next will almost certainly do very well in the long run.

They can even offer value ranges for those who wish to trade down without totally compromising on quality.

2. Customers are nervous about commitment.
Again, what this means to us is that the answer is NOT huge great lead times for when you have to pay for things. An ad on TV yesterday was claiming that you paid nothing until 2010 and then took interest free credit. That is just ludicrous and I’m sure it will not be what people want when they are nervous about what their future holds.

Make yourself easy to buy from and offer sensible value and your customers will remain loyal.

3. Customers only trust those they know.
If you have bought from someone before and you know they did a great job or provided a great product, it is more likely you will come back to them as a customer.

Therefore, use PR and advertising to show potential customers other satisfied customers and be loyal to them. Don’t go offering massive incentives to new customers and neglect the ones you have. It is far, far more sensible to build a business based on the ones you have already than always chasing after the next new exciting one on the horizon.

In summary, you have to be clearly differentiated in a way that is not just different for the sake of it but that offers a real and desired point of difference. This point of difference may be as simple as being consistently better in service than others (which is in itself harder to achieve than it sounds) – but whatever it is, you need to tell everyone about it in everything you do.

The days of mass branding are over. We do not want to be the same as everyone else, even if we do buy the same brands.

Branding is not rocket science, it is not just good design, it is a collaboration of clearly thought through common sense delivered through exceptional customer service and a product or service that matches and makes people feel good about their decision.

Treating every single customer as though they are important and valued individuals will ensure your business will not just survive, it will thrive and grow in this recession.

You can see this release on Pressbox by clicking here