Thursday, 5 March 2009

The Online Push Marketing Era Starts to Fade

Have just posted a Spam will now die message on the Peter Jones (Dragon's Den) community website.

The jist of the message is that, as pull marketing is beginning to gain traction, and push marketing's poor success rates shows a lack of return on investment, then spammers will slowly but surely get the message. I expect to see that replicated in the physical world at some point, as the UK Royal Mail postal company realises it has started something useful, and customers get the message that a positive choice about what they are genuinely interested in could reap real benefits.

Peter Jones is a Product Development Consultant.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Adrenaline Buzz - Speed Networking & Attendee Objectives

Blue Oyster Product Development recently attended a Speed Networking meeting in London, in the CitiGroup building in Canary Wharf.

2 minutes each to describe business, objectives, possible customers, and some 20 or so businesses to present to.

What a genuine buzz this was !

We discussed providing a feedback form to organisers to help assess customer reaction, and got to thinking what attendees might reasonably hope for as objectives, and the extent to which their expectations might be managed.

We believe the following objectives are reasonable as a meeting attendee. Should you attend, you should expect a good number of the following:
  1. to be motivated.
  2. to feel comfortable inviting business associates and friends to come along to take part and enjoy the experience.
  3. meeting facilities to be supportive, and speakers to talk on relevant subjects.
  4. the meeting to be informative and managed well.
  5. to want to find out more about topics of discussion afterwards.
  6. to be interested in joining a circulation list for a periodic newsletter.
  7. to want to join a free community of attendees to get enhanced value from that day's networking.
  8. to be able to do the following:
  • Raise awareness of my business and its USPs
  • Recognise new channels to pursue for my business
  • Gain new insight into the wider business economy
  • Gain business advocates who can help spread the word
  • Get help from the networking team where needed
  • To arrange follow up meetings to explore further opportunities
If feedback is asked for, you should be happy to give it to help improve meetings in future.

Of course, it’s not realistic to expect a sale from every meeting, but hopefully it’s not completely out of the question either.

Understanding attendee needs will help attendees refine product and service offerings in a very rapid time frame. Speed networking is something Blue Oyster Product Development recommends for businesses both small and large.

Peter Jones is a Consultant for Blue Oyster Product Development, Harrow UK.

Trust in the 21st Century - 15 Characteristics

We can make the following checks today, using high visibility online networks, on people that we meet online. This can help us assess people we meet initially, to decide whether to move onto a higher-value level of connection, be that offering them help or seeking help from them.

1) Online dynamic profiles - is the person doing what they say they are doing ?
2) Activity levels - is that person busy, showing high energy levels ?
3) Original thinking - can they think outside the box and help move organisations forward ?
4) Leader qualities - does that person show leadership in their subject area ?
5) Followers - have they attracted independent historic referrals or an online following ?
6) Team leadership - can that person work with others and lead them through new tasks ?
7) Reliability - in personal "transactions" do they do what they said what they would ?
8) Accessibility - how easy is it to reach that person, how responsive are they ?
9) Two way - do they understand their Public Relations today must be two way ?
10) Customer focus - do they help you realise your objectives on behalf of your customers ?
11) Clarity - is it clear what they are doing and where they are going ?
12) Personal skills - do they understand the value of face to face meetings ?
13) Openness - do they listen to others with the intention of helping or learning ?
14) Genuine - are they honest about their skills, do they make provision for their weak spots ?
15) Planning - are their objectives visible, and do they engage on that basis ?

Of course we don't all score highly out of 10 in all areas, we are all different. We can at least hope that the people we deal with understand their own strengths and weaknesses well enough to have developed coping strategies where needed. It is on that basis we have sufficient trust to engage with people we believe can help deliver our objectives.

And this does mean more extensive use of networking sites and tools, not only to research others but also for publication to show what we are all about !

Article by Peter Jones
Consultant, Blue Oyster Product Development

Friday, 13 February 2009

Recruiting talent: how do we evolve ?

Do UK Employers Recruit Talent ?
I spoke this morning with a very well informed, amenable and approachable local recruitment agency manager, Steve Prichard of Adecco Harrow.

In the first instance I wanted to find out whether local employers had changed much in their recruitment practice. The hope is that UK plc moves away from the "I want 25 year-old dolly birds" or the "I only want people who have 10 years experience in this role" approach, to one where candidates are assessed on talent and their ability to make a significant contribution.

Employment Legislation Leads, Culture & Process Will Follow When ?
Cutting to the chase, it appears that UK law now prohibits recruitment on the basis of experience alone! This is great news, because an element of talent spotting must now take place. But as we know, corporate and high street culture can take years, decades even before change becomes real.

Testing for Talent
We've all seen the Alan Sugar high-visibility approach to talent recruitment on The Apprentice. Several weeks of in-depth testing seem a better test of a candidate than a "self-certified" CV and a silver-tongued candidate. It was fascinating to see, though, that MPs on Question Time still didn't get the reasons why people have to make claims on their CVs just to get past the gatekeepers and into contention. It is because so few companies give the opportunity for talent, hard work and commitment to shine through a lack of past experience in a particular role.

Employer Education & Change Programme
What is needed, in short order to accelerate the pace of cultural change, is government backing for an Employer Membership scheme, that showcases employers who adopt a "Talent Testing" approach to recruitment.

This can be a voluntary scheme, with self-certifiable elements, but with mandatory verification by candidates who both pass and fail employer recruitment procedures.

What "The Apprentice" highlights is the need for excellent decision making, and more often than not this is based on personal values. It is this aspect of each role that employers should test, either formally or informally.

Risk and Reward
Yes, this is a bigger overhead for recruiting processes, but are the rewards not worth it ? Recruitment satisfaction levels are, I understand, only at 42%. But it would appear that this is because employers only get what they are asking for, and it relates to the effort they put in (or don't) to finding talented staff.

The Law Has Changed, Who Will Seize the Opportunity ?
Changing the law always brings opportunities. Health & Safety personnel in this country have a product and knowledge set they can export anywhere in the world, and improve safety conditions wherever they go. Does UK plc have the talent who can seize on the opportunity to make real cultural change in employment practice, and improve the overall performance of UK plc ?

Business Innovation & Strategy Ltd plans talks with Harrow Council about the extent to which the council can adopt and support such schemes. A sister community site, Working World will shortly publish some of the guidelines that employers can sign up for.

Quiet Time is Time to Innovate, Who Will Be the Advocates ?
When turnover is quiet, it can often be a good time to decide how to bring in new practice which will take a lead in a particular market. There are opportunities here for employers and recruitment agencies to enhance their reputation, but numbers of advocates are needed to spread the word and to engage with local authorities.

Anyone who might want to be part of such a change can comment on this blog, leaving contact details. Constructive suggestions and comments are also always welcome !

Monday, 2 February 2009

21st Century Employer - 7 Key Features

How does a 21st Century employer or business person make sure they do everything they can to engage with employees, suppliers and customers in the new geographically scattered but much better connected world ?

In short, the answer is "be more open", but here are some key aspects which can help with that:
  1. Corporate Responsibility - Have a Corporate Responsibility programme which shows what the company does for the local, national and global communities and environments.
  2. Apprentice or Voluntary Schemes - Have an apprentice or voluntary scheme, allowing fresh new personnel to come in and learn about that business and that market.
  3. Promote Local Community Access - Given sufficient size, have minimum percentages for employing unskilled, part-time or older workers, to allow the local populus access to and benefit from the company.
  4. Recognise & Reward Talent - Gear recruitment towards testing skills, not looking at recent experience, and gear staff and supplier appraisal to rewarding talent, not just following role tramlines.
  5. Facilitate Supplier Engagement & Performance - Have open communication with suppliers, allowing suppliers to engage rapidly with business ethos, current development programmes and customer preferences. Focus on the ability to plan as well as deliver, and ensure planning and delivery charges are negotiable dependent on performance.
  6. Encourage Interaction - Provide managed online communities where employees can guide local community initiatives, engage with suppliers about key issues, promote best practice and get new ideas for development from customers.
  7. Encourage Customer Self Help - In a managed online community, encourage customers to share problems and help each other, this is a priceless source of feedback about aspects of performance which need improvement, and can lift customer perception substantially if the right approach is taken to resolving issues. Look at the view customers had of the old NTL, and how much better it is as Virgin Media !! Great Customer Service can attract as well as keep customers !
There are now many online tools which support the above functions, what is needed is the business leadership and vision to see the benefits that can be gained by adopting open 21st Century approaches to service provision.

Peter Jones of Blue Oyster Product Development is an innovation consultant, with over 20 years experience delivering new products and services on behalf of mostly FTSE100 clients, but also SME clients.