Posted in Marketing, Words of Wisdom

12 commandments for social media engagement (guru version)


  1. If you have to ask to be followed, then you are not much of a leader.
  2. If you have to be asked to be liked, you are not like-worthy.
  3. If you are re-tweeted, then it is not cool to re-tweet that under the guise of saying thank you when all you really want to do is re-tweet yourself.
  4. It is OK to tweet your blog posts – even a few times. Just don’t automate it ad nauseum.
  5. It is NOT cool to cross-update everything every time on every platform.
  6. It is really much better if you actually explore the links BEFORE your re-tweet them, otherwise it is obvious that you are just sucking up.
  7. If you can’t see the difference between Twitter and LinkedIn and Foursquare and you want everyone one to follow you and every platform imaginable, then you can’t really advise anyone else on the ‘strategic’ use of said platforms, right?
  8. It is not cool to NOT follow people back. You might want to act like a celebrity but you are probably not really one. (And claiming that you have talked to Kim Kardashian doesn’t count.)
  9. It is OK to ignore the bots and companies of no relevance just out there drumming up business.)
  10. It is proper to say thank you when your posts are picked up in a Paper.Li issue – but a bit ‘try-hard’ if is just a tweet being re-streamed.
  11. Just because there is no filter between your brain and your keyboard, does not mean there shouldn’t be one: if you wouldn’t say it face-to-face, then don’t say it.
  12. It is super-uncool to post/tweet about a trending topic and add nothing more than an opinion, especially when it is a topic you know nothing about – like someone who died or had an affair.


Posted in Marketing, Personal Development, Words of Wisdom

Unashamed self-promotion

Just back from a short break to New Zealand. (If you have never been, you haven’t lived…)

Not quite ready to start posting, but got a lovely email this morning:

I greatly appreciate your support and I hope to have your involvement in Retail 2012 (which conveniently will be in Sydney 24-26 Sept).

 There was some fantastic feedback regarding your presentation from delegates on the online survey and I have copied their comments for you below – congratulations.

  • Great
  • Awesome.
  • Good
  • Enthusiasm, very endearing
  • Clear and concise

I look forward to working with you again.



Whilst only 5 people specifically commented, and it is probably a biased sample, I thought that in the absence of anything worthwhile to say, I will just take that and share it 🙂 in an act of unashamed self-promotion.

But there is a ‘lesson’ in all of this. 



The presentation at Melbourne Retail Expo and Conference 2011 came about because someone found my blog, hooked up via twitter (and vice versa) and eventually ended up recommending me to the conference organisers.

From this conference further enquiries have already flowed, so it just goes to show the exponential power of using social media.



PS: Of course credit is due to Moonyeen for helping to make a good presentation great. And that is another lesson. Don’t be too proud to take advice and don’t think you know it all.



Posted in Marketing, Words of Wisdom

10 things I wonder about social media and the internet…

  1. I wonder why some people accumulate connections on LinkedIn like notches on the doorpost?
  2. I wonder why some people upload photos to a photo-sharing site and then set the setting so that you can’t share it?
  3. I wonder why some people feel that every tweet they post is so important that it has to be broadcast on LinkedIn and Facebook?
  4. I wonder if people don’t know that it is obvious that it is too late start connecting on LinkedIn when you lose your job?
  5. I wonder why people cannot anticipate that it is a bit naff to hop on a social media site as a Johnny-come-lately and start dishing out ‘how-to’ advice?
  6. I wonder if the people who brag how many gazillion people are on Facebook or whatever, also realise that a gazillion plus one people are not?
  7. I wonder if people realise that nobody seriously thinks they are ‘successful’ if they spend 8 hours a day on Twitter?
  8. I wonder if internet gurus understand that because a lot of people repeat what they said or believe what they what they said or agree with what they said merely means they are popular or common or both – but not influential.
  9. I wonder why people still send money to Nigeria?
  10. I wonder if people seriously believe that posting a motivational quote motivates someone?


I wonder, I really do…


Posted in Branding, eTailing, Future, Management

A really QR butt, and it is ok to look

QR codes (Quick Response codes) are growing rapidly in terms of adoption for marketing purposes.

QR codes use proprietary technology (a Toyota subsidiary) but they have elected not exercise copyright. Microsoft has created an equivalent product.

Just like barcodes contain information about a product, the QR code can contain information. But because the Barcodes are one dimensional and QR codes are two dimensional, the type and amount of information is vastly increased.

There are various types of equipment that can scan a QR code, but its growth is fuelled by a range of apps that can be downloaded to your smart phone.

Typically it can be printed on anything:

Marketing collateral, posters, dockets, products and even on bums.

(In the image above, the ladies are sponsored by Betfair, and by snapping the QR code on their bums, you will be directed to the sponsor’s website. Sourced from


QR Codes could link to:

  • Installation instructions
  • Competition entry forms
  • Directions to your business
  • Recommendations for complementary products and services
  • Free mp3 or video downloads
  • Customer feedback forms


Why don’t you try it?

You need to download a QR app to your smart phone.

I use Red Laser (on Android) which is actually a scanner that also compares prices on the fly. (For a video that shows how Red Laser works – and it is a bit scary for retailers – have a look at this video.)


You will note that it actually takes you to a mobile-optimised version of the website.

There is a new service that optimises your site for free (and there is a premium version available too).

To create your own QR code, you can use (the url shortener) or simply search for QR code generators.

Ok, that should keep you busy for the next 30 minutes…


(And let me know what you think in the comments below.)



PS: I am thinking I might do a special feature on QR codes in the next issue of my newsletter. If you think it will be useful let me know (and cast your vote by subscribing in the meantime.)

Posted in Marketing, Research

A simple research solution

In a previous post, a commenter wrote about how hard it is to solicit customer feedback. Here is a quick and dirty solution. It works well when asking one question at a time.

If you ran a pizza restaurant and you are thinking about changing the menu to add a new product and must choose between Ribs or Pasta or Sandwiches.

Simply put 3 or 4 jars on the counter – labelled according to the 3 options, with a bowl of beans (or whatever) that customers can drop in the jar. (Or one jar with differently coloured beans.)

A small sign behind the jars may read something like this:

We are thinking of expanding the menu.

Tell us which item you would like us to add by dropping a bean in the jar.

Empty the jars daily – because the psychological principle of ‘social proof’ may influence the outcome as people vote for the more popular item because it appears popular with other people.

A critical, ongoing requirement for success in business is that you are solving someone’s needs/ problems. If you insist on selling pizzas because you like pizzas or because you’ve always sold pizzas, you are set on the road to ruin –

and THIS is the bigger issue to be aware of

Posted in Management, Marketing, Newsletter

A new way of doing business

[This is an extract from the ReadThinkLearnLaugh Newsletter Archive.]

It’s a buzz: S-Commerce and you have heard about it, right?

It’s not just eCommerce or internet retailing; it is now about social commerce. (Meaning it’s all happening at the social networks – probably Facebook if you want to be realistic.)

The so-called gurus are mostly talking rubbish, to be straightforward. They claim that:

  • Internet shopping is growing at such a rate that traditional retail will be redundant soon
  • Customers can always find the lowest price on the net, and they are now trained to look for the lowest price
  • There is no way a traditional store can compete
  • The market is changing and it is irrevocable
  • Traditional media is not effective at reaching new customers.
  • Customers do not want to be interrupted, they now want to be treated with respect, and you must be prepared to have a conversation with them.

There is more, but when I have explained these, you will get the point.

Internet shopping is growing at such a rate that traditional retail will be redundant soon

ECommerce makes up about 4% of total retail sales.

The internet is changing the way we are shopping, but not THAT we shop. As long as people still buy stuff, retailers can come up with a strategy to succeed.

Customers can always find the lowest price on the net, and they are now trained to look for the lowest price

Customers have always (and still do) want to get value for money. Nobody has ever wanted to be ripped off. The internet makes it easier, sure, but it does not change the fundamentals. If you have not figured out how to provide value for money, then you should. But it is not new; maybe just a bit more urgent.

There is no way a traditional store can compete

Of course they would say that. They want your money.

The market is changing and it is irrevocable

What’s new? Change is the only constant as the cliche goes.

Traditional media is not effective at reaching new customers.

When was the last time YOU clicked on a Facebook Ad – or even on Google Adwords?

  • 99.9% of people who are served an online display ad do not click on it.
  • TV viewership is now at its highest point ever

Customers do not want to be interrupted, they now want to be treated with respect, and you must be prepared to have a conversation with them.

Hey, next they will tell us customers are people with real feelings. Whoopeedoo. They mean that the conversation you must have with the customers should happen via whatever channel (read website) they happen to masters of.

SO what to do?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not a Luddite.

I was on Twitter Feb 2009 – 2 years ago, and on Facebook July 2007. (How does that compare with your resident guru?)

As a centre manager in 1999, I argued that we should be planning our retail mix to assume that Sanity won’t be around. (Sanity being a chain of music stores for international readers.)

I launched my first internet start-up in 1997, an online tool allowing brokers to market office space when was a twinkle in someone’s eye.

I am currently involved in another internet start-up with a friend and colleague who, if you don’t use his services, you should.

I say this so that you will believe what I tell you.

The internet is just technology. We change behaviours to adapt to it. (Just like video technology changes how meetings are held.)

But it does not change the fundamental needs or attributes of humans. It does not change what people value.

The rules of a successful commercial enterprise are not different.

Just like we had to learn to accept EFTPOS at the cash desk, we have to learn about all the new channels and technologies. But the rules are no different, even if the technology is.

We still have to go to where our customers are. You still have to be respectful, you still have to add value, you still have to figure out what the customers want and provide that at a profit.


So there is nothing to fear.

Don’t get left behind as technology is being introduced – make time to experiment and try a few things.

Here are three sites you can try.

  • SHOPTAB starting from $10 per month
  • STORENVY which is free
  • PAYVMENT – apparently the hottest start-up in this space, also free

I am NOT offering my services to help you with this. You don’t need help. You don’t need a guru/consultant.

What you do need is a kick up the arse to just go and do it.

Posted in General, Marketing


I found a snippet about the history of the 4-5-4 cycle on the NRF website a while ago. I thought some readers may be interested. (This is lifted from their website…)

When and why was the 4-5-4 Calendar created?
The 4-5-4 Calendar, which is widely followed by retailers today, was derived in the 1930’s during an informal inter-industry discussion. Prior to and during the 1930’s, retailers used a straight calendar to report monthly sales. This calendar became problematic as Saturdays and Sundays became an increasingly large percentage of sales, since the number of weekends in a month varied year to year. A calendar that maintained the same number of weekends in comparable months was desired and the 4-5-4 Calendar was developed. Many stores began using the 4-5-4 Calendar in the 1940’s.

What is the purpose of the 4-5-4 Calendar?
The 4-5-4 Calendar serves as a voluntary guide for the retail industry and ensures sales comparability between years by dividing the year into months based on a 4 weeks – 5 weeks – 4 weeks format. The layout of the calendar lines up holidays and ensures the same number of Saturdays and Sundays in comparable months. Hence, like days are compared to like days for sales reporting purposes. The 4-5-4 Calendar also establishes Sales Release dates, which have historically been on the first Thursday following the month’s end. In recent years, however, as the flow of information has improved, more companies are releasing sales data earlier in the week.

What is a 53-week year?
Due to the layout of the 4-5-4 Calendar (52 weeks x 7 days = 364 days), which results in one remaining day each year, and the occurrence of Leap Year, it is sometimes necessary to add a 53rd week to the end of the calendar for sales reporting purposes only. This occurs approximately every five to six years, though this is not always the case. 1995, 2000, 2006, and 2012 are all 53-week years.



Posted in Marketing, Research

Seduced by statistics

As a manager or an owner of a business, you are likely focussed on metrics, right?

My favourite demonstration of the stupidity of statistics is to ask people to imagine standing with one foot in a bucket of boiling water and the other in a bucket of ice water.

ON AVERAGE you would be very comfortable…

People are easily seduced by numbers.

  • Do you think research works?
  • Do you think strategic planning works?
  • Do you think business plans will ensure the right outcomes?
  • Do you believe in the power of the rational mind and a diligent approach will ensure success?

Consider Marketing for a moment:

  • Nielsen reports a 95% new product failure rate.
  • The University of Michigan discovered that the average cross-industry customer satisfaction score has fallen below 75%.
  • The Marketing Science Institute determined that a 100% increase in advertising expenditures yields just a 1% increase in sales.
  • ROI measurement firm Marketing Management Analytics found that major media advertising for consumer packaged goods brands returns 54 cents on the dollar and campaigns for non-consumer packaged goods brands, 87 cents on the dollar—two losing propositions.
  • A Deutsche Bank study of packaged goods brands found that just 18% of television ad campaigns generated a positive ROI in the short-term; less than half (45%) saw any ROI payoff over the long run.
  • Copernicus (the company) observed that brand equity is in decline in 48 of 51 categories where buyers perceive the leading brands as more similar than different

This is not a new symptom.

Lord Lever said:  “I know half my advertising isn’t working, I just don’t know which half.” It was true then. It is truer now.

Does this mean we don’t do marketing any more? Of course not. It simply means that we need to keep things in perspective. Not get seduced by the apparent certainty offered by a set of numbers.

In this brave new world of business, there is no certainty. There is only effort. Not diligent planning, but diligent application.

In a world where information increases exponentially and the rate of change is mind-numbingly fast, there is no time to plan. Fail(ing) forward – a term probably coined by John Maxwell – is the new business plan.

I will say that again: Fail forward is your business plan.