Archive for July, 2010

The Art of Conversation (and the jazz analogy)

Posted in social media, wisdom with tags , , , , , , on July 27, 2010 by wisdomlondon

I had been mulling over the role of listening in communications – both online and offline –  for some time, and when I went recently to the 606 Club, lots of stuff became clearer.

Ready for a jazz analogy?

I don’t know much about jazz, but I’d been to the 606 a few times and liked the sound of Brazilian musician Chico Chagas.  I wasn’t disappointed – I was in the presence of genius.  Here’s why:

Chico and his band of three others all played different instruments (piano, sax, accordion, bass, drums).  What they created was fascinating.

Jazz, I realised, is all about interplay, assertion, suggestion.  It’s the perfect conversation!

And to achieve that, you simply have to listen.

Listen to jazz and you’ll hear the bassline – the theme of the conversation.  It’s never the big news or bright idea, but without it you’d be lost.  It keeps everything on course, and allows you the freedom to explore other ideas, but to be able to come back again and find your place.

The piano is fairly opinionated. It tends to lead the conversation. Someone has to. A conversation needs something solid to get it started, a path, guidance.

So away we go, so far so good.

Now the sax may echo something the piano said, but say it in a different way, suggest another angle. Good conversation allows ideas to be validated, re-examined or turned upside down. But sometimes the sax disagrees, and tries a different angle, or tries out dischord (which can work beautifully too). That’s what conversation is all about.

What I’m getting to is this:  Imagine in jazz if no-one listened at all? Everyone doing their own thing wouldn’t equate to something relevant or rewarding, whether in jazz or in a conversation. Or worse still, what is everyone was saying the same thing and not venturing something new? Jazz musicians learned a long time ago that listening is just as important as saying your piece.  Listening is at least 50% of a conversation and without it, jazz just ain’t jazz.

Of course we know that listening is important.  But putting it into practice is hard.  And in social media in particular, if we want meaningful exchange and insightful learnings, we’ve got to put listening at the top of our priorities.  Less broadcasting, more listening.  Your online footprint will be all the more interesting for it.

PS: I liked this quote I read last week.  “Wisdom is your reward for spending a lifetime listening when you would rather have been talking”. I’ll second that.

PPS: This is an open invitation to like-minded people to come and hear a great conversation at the 606, jazz-style.  I’d love to hear what you think and this analogy and whether it stands up, or can be taken further!

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London and now a massive fan of jazz.  And trying very hard to listen more.

How can Foursquare benefit B2B?

Posted in marketing strategy, social media with tags , , , , , on July 25, 2010 by wisdomlondon

It’s pretty clear that Foursquare can be an effective marketing tool in the B2C world.

Starbucks, Whole Foods and Domino’s have harnessed a trend that seems tailor-made for retail (and food in particular) – check-ins mean prizes, and of course, greater loyalty too.

But what about the B2B environment?  Is Foursquare even relevant? Well, my take on this is, “sometimes”.  Here’s my rationale:

  • Foursquare is a location-based tool and that’s where it offers most value.  To Starbucks, location (being in or close to an outlet) is vital.  In the often-remote business world, location just isn’t such a big deal.
  • BUT Foursquare does offer is some very compelling data that can help B2Bs enhance their relationships with clients and prospects.  With over a million check-ins a day, Foursquare can tell us a lot about users’ daily movements, likes and dislikes, and behavioural trends. So if a key contact of yours is registered with Foursquare, you ought to be friends with them, and paying attention to those pesky check-in updates.
  • When location becomes important to B2Bs is when Foursquare comes into its own. So think about client meetings and events, such as trade shows.  Here is an opportunity.
  • Client meetings: Is your office listed on a venue on Foursquare? If not, sort it out! Makes it that bit quicker and easier for people to check in. If you’re expecting a visit from a client who you know is a Foursquare user, add a welcome message as a tip in the venue profile.
  • Trade shows: List your booth / suite as a Foursquare location and promote that in pre- and at-event marketing communications. Provide an incentive to check in (come and get a free report / USB / whatever).  Add any highlights as tips (“ask Paul about our latest demo – it’s very cool!” / “Don’t miss our keynote at 2.30pm in the main auditorium”). Use it to broadcast important stuff, say, if your CEO is at the booth that afternoon.  Also use for intelligence: If users you want to target are checking in to the event / show, make sure you follow up with an invitation to come and visit.

I don’t see this as a killer business app yet, but as I recall, Twitter wasn’t viewed as a particular world-changer til it gathered speed. And now, doing business without it seems almost unimaginable. It will be interesting to see the outcome of Foursquare’s talks with search engines, and just how deep the search data can go and how we analyse it.

If they get it right, Foursquare could provide brilliantly detailed location-based intelligence which, like Twitter, we will perhaps wonder how we ever managed without in a few years from now.

Kate Spiers is Founder of Wisdom London, a creative communications consultancy.  She has mixed feelings about Foursquare (but that may all change once she becomes Mayor of somewhere).

Follow Wisdom London on Twitter for more on social media, marketing, business and communications strategy.

Want to know what we’ve been up to in the last 6 months?

Posted in wisdom with tags , , , , on July 22, 2010 by wisdomlondon

Working very very hard of course, and some great client work.  Take a look – we’re very proud!

Click image

10 Ways to Beat “Blogger’s Block”

Posted in creativity, social media, wisdom with tags , , , , , , , on July 21, 2010 by wisdomlondon

Dead endBlogging doesn’t come naturally to all of us and even the most seasoned, opinionated or prolific of bloggers occasionally encounters ‘blogger’s block’.  We’ve put together some of the techniques we use here at Wisdom London, and which we regularly share with our clients.  We thought we’d share them with you, too:

1. Stop staring at a blank screen

If inspiration is not coming to you, you probably won’t find it on a blank screen.  So stop, and move away from the blank screen!  Instead, mull over your idea with colleagues, test your argument on a friend (or the cat), just find a way to articulate it for yourself first.  Then write.

2. Keep a blog ideas notebook

A cute little Moleskine notebook comes as standard issue here at WL, for the specific purpose of capturing blog ideas.  And you have to carry it with you – that’s the rule. Whether you note down words, conversations, ideas, phrases, something you heard, whatever, just use it. That blank screen is way easier to fill when you have a note of your original idea. And we now merrily roam the streets of London, safe in the knowledge that no flash of inspiration is wasted or forgotten – because its home is in the little Moleskine.

3. Not a natural writer? Try a video post

Not everyone is confident in their writing and whilst it’s always worth honing that skill, reticence should never put you off blogging.  Mac and PC cameras make it pretty easy to instantly record a brief video post.  Just rehearse what you want to say a bit, find a quiet spot and go for it.  Also a dual video post (ie, a conversation) can be great content too. Keep it short and to the point.

4. Still not sure about structuring your post?

Voice record (on your phone is often easiest) your thoughts – just as you would explain it to someone you’re chatting to about the subject in question. State your argument and then elaborate. Round up. Listen back and use the recording as the basic copy.  Tidy it up, make it grammatically correct, of course, but it doesn’t come more natural than that.

5. Have an ideas store

Everytime you have an idea for a blog post, make a note of the idea and the basic premise.  You might not have time to write the post now, but you will have a handy stash of ideas for next time you need a topic.  My own list is about 15 ideas long at any one time.  This is a good thing, because it gives me the chance to pick and choose what I feel like writing about at a given time.

6. Take  real life as an example

Real life is the greatest inspiration of all, so long as you are prepared to not be too literal.  Take an idea from real life and expand it, by relating it to the areas that concern you.  Our latest inspirations have included: a night at a jazz club, observing how people cross the road, a movie and of course, the topics of the day (like Apple and Foursquare’s growth). Go take a look around if ideas are eluding you, and see what you can take from the real world and relate to your world.

7. Don’t get hung up about knowing the answers

Don’t worry that you need to know all the answers in order to write a blog post in a given topic.  You don’t.  Your interesting take on a subject is valuable. Exploring a subject and taking the trouble to look at it from different angles is valuable. Asking interesting questions is valuable.  As is hypothesis (what if…). Try it.

8. Are you a visual thinker?

Then create a visual blog post.  Some blogs are entirely visual.  Posting images that inspire and provoke can add real colour to your blog and demand little of your audience, bar their brief attention and their open mind. The great thing about images that we all see them through a unique pair of eyes, so the scope for reinterpretation, new ideas and exchange of viewpoints is huge. Great image(s) + your take on it = a totally valid and often very enjoyable post.

9. Change the way you do it

I quite like posting from my phone (WordPress for iPhone, but a gazillion apps are available, depending on your operating system and blog platform).  Why do I like it?  The more limited options and small screen galvanise me to just get on with it.  I also do this when I’ve stared too long at a blank computer screen, and often on the move.  Just think, that blog post you’ve been putting off could be done and dusted in the space of a bus ride….

10. Promise a blog post on a certain subject

This is my own personal psychological favourite – promising a blog post in a particular subject to  client, Twitter followers, online community etc.  It’s effective!

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London and rarely at a loss for words.  This post is dedicated to wonderful Aisie, who Kate wishes would just get on with it 😉

Follow Kate on Twitter here

The Ugly Truth

Posted in brand, creativity, marketing strategy, Uncategorized, wisdom with tags , , , on July 20, 2010 by wisdomlondon

Posted by Jill Ruthenberg

Have you seen it?

I watched this movie a little while ago. It’s about a romantically challenged morning television presenter, Abby Richter being forced to work with chauvinistic, tell-it-like-it-is host of the TV segment ‘The Ugly Truth’, Mike Chadway (played by the man with the beautiful Scottish accent Gerard Butler) in an attempt to boost ratings. Oddly enough, Chadway promises to help Abby with her love life in exchange for her cooperation at work. He coaches her through some awkward and amusing situations, staying true to his way of stating the ‘ugly truth’, with some surprising results.

Two words of wisdom that Mike shared with Abby have stayed with me. I’m not going to repeat them word for word but let’s just say that the first gem went something along the lines of: ‘If you don’t want to love yourself, why would you expect anyone else to?’

And the second, a conversation between the two which I have also slightly altered:

Mike: You’re all about comfort and efficiency!
Abby: What’s wrong with comfort and efficiency?
Mike: Well nothing, except no one wants to [visit] it.

His advice is all about making yourself appealing, accessible, and relevant to the opposite sex, but I think it can be applied to the way businesses come across to their customers online.  Here are two gems:

Ugly Truth #1: People like people who like themselves.

I’m talking about your website and blog. If you don’t show your site some love, can you really expect others to?

Take a look at your site. What does it say about your brand?

The initial online experience is the single most powerful predictor of whether your prospect becomes a customer. As it is true in first impressions, in a matter of seconds your site projects your organisation’s core values, segment visitors, and initiates an online experience between you and potential customers. Ask yourself, why should people come to your site? Does it reflect the company’s unique values and benefits? What separates us from competitors? Are we telling our story and demonstrating our distinction? Are we showing expertise and delivering long-term value?

Show your site some love, work at it. Refine your message. It’s all about the perception of value, a perception that you shape.

Ugly Truth #2: People are attracted to attractive people.

This is more like Ugly Truth #1a. Visual appeal is more often than not the determining factor that keeps people coming back to your website. If you want your customers to keep coming back, you have to make your site engaging, visually pleasing, and relevant. Include some personality, have some fun. It’s like stepping into a pound store compared to stepping into Selfridges or Liberty. What sort of image do you want to portray?

Take a quick survey, get someone from your target audience or even a child (they can be oh so honest) to understand how users respond to your site as it currently is. Ask for 3 words to describe their thoughts on the company from looking at your website.

Once you have those words, encourage a brief explanation for each so you can unearth some insights. If the 3 words aren’t ideal, ask for some suggestions on how you might improve. You now have 3 ways you can tailor the online experience your site offers to the needs of your customers and potential customers.

Here are 2 of my personal favourite examples:

Effektive Design Studio

As an independent graphic design & communication company, they’ve got the best designed website I’ve seen (and designed by them of course. I’m sold).

Three words: Seamless, inspiring, and design-led.

Innocent Drinks

Seller of really tasty fruit smoothies, ‘thickies’, orange juice and veg pots this quirky organisation set the standard.

Three words: Fresh, fun and well, innocent.

Jill Ruthenberg is currently an intern at Wisdom London.

How To Get Twitter-Fitter

Posted in social media, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on July 15, 2010 by wisdomlondon

Following our post yesterday on the Balanced Twitter Diet, we were inspired to supplement it with a quick plan to help you get Twitter-fitter!

Here’s what we think will give you the equivalent of a Twitter six-pack over time:

15 minutes per day: Cardio

Actively and energetically engage on Twitter (don’t forget your balanced diet of RTs, comment and conversation!) until mildly out of breath.  If you feel like you can do a little more each day, go ahead, but don’t burn out… Rest-days are recommended.

30  minutes per week: Weights

Let’s build up some endurance: Review Twitter stats for your feed and identify where you can improve, aiming to add a little more weight each week. Proactively seek out relevant content to share, questions to ask and seek inspiration. Maybe join a Twitter chat, to add some variety to your regime and work on all of your Twitter muscle groups.

30 minutes every 2 weeks: Stretch ‘n’ tone

Streamline and stretch a little bit further at least every 2 weeks. Check who’s following you, follow back where appropriate, explore who else your followers follow and get inspiration for new people to connect with, cull follows who annoy/don’t engage/are irrelevant.

15 minutes per week: Cool down

Be sure to end your Twitter week properly with a #followfriday list of tweeps you think your followers would like. Don’t skip it!

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London and feels a strange affinity with Sue Sylvester at times like these.

The Balanced Twitter Diet

Posted in social media with tags , , , on July 14, 2010 by wisdomlondon

Lots of clients ask how to achieve a good balance in terms of what you tweet and how you do it.  Fair point.  I’m not suggesting for a moment that Wisdom London is the ultimate example of a balanced Twitter diet, but I don’t think it’s bad. So we donned our white coats and analysed five days in the life of @wisdomlondon.  Here’s what we found:

19% Carbs: RT-ed URLs with no additional WL comments

23% sustaining Protein: URLs (RT’ed or otherwise) with WL commentary

19% Luxury items (chocolate and wine in our case): Comments and observations with no linked URL or specified recipients

38% Fruit and veg: Engagement with specific people, mentions and conversations etc (very, very good for you!)

1% um, Lard?: Check-ins, in other words

A balanced diet?  We were pleasantly surprised. What do you think makes the perfect balanced Twitter diet?  Are we feeding you right?

Update: If you like this, have a look at our Twitter exercise plan too, and get Twitter-fitter!

Kate Spiers is a geek.  It’s official.  Also founder of Wisdom London, yadda yadda.

Vive La Revolution! (Bastille-inspired post on Disruption)

Posted in creativity, marketing strategy, thought leadership, wisdom with tags , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2010 by wisdomlondon

I posted on the 5 Essentials of Disruption a few months ago and I’m revisiting the subject because something brilliant is happening, which I think we’ll see more of. Several industries are seeing the potential for a revolution, through disruptive services, and ways of designing and delivering them.

Disruption is happening at the development / product / service level and it’s making the marketing world a really interesting place.  What’s more, it’s underpinning the maxim that marketing is, and should be, ingrained in the business strategy…and it’s heartening that we are seeing that.  So what’s happening?  Here are what I think are some of the most exciting examples:

Disruptive Service

The retail banking world is in for a shake-up later this month when Metro Bank launches in London.  It’s the first high-street banking brand to be launched in over 100 years and from the very outset they are disrupting the status quo.  Bucking the trend of recent years, Metro Bank wants their customers to visit their branches, and they can do that 7 days a week.  They also want their clients to have fun and aim to deliver a genuine experience on every visit. Kids will be entertained with lollipops and coin-counting machines, pens will be unchained and free, dogs even will get biscuits, apparently.

Plans are pretty ambitious too – 4 sites are due to open this year, and a further 10 in 2011.  It remains to be seen how much of a success this will be, but what’s fascinating is the ballsy ambition to act less like a bank and be, first and foremost, a service and experience provider.

Disruptive Product and Delivery

Call Britannia was launched in 2009 with the aim of creating 10, 000 jobs across Britain for the unemployed, by providing training ‘incubators’ whereby skills acquisition and personal development are put to the forefront, resulting in trained and motivated staff for on-shore call centres. Karen Darby, who founded Call Britannia, is not, by nature, one to simply accept the status quo. The proposition to businesses unashamedly challenges the trend for offshore call centre staff and combining this with the benefit of a greater social good being achieved.  It’s not for everyone – and Call Britannia know that – but their bold intentions are very much in tune with growing customer frustration at non-UK call centre service, and now the need for jobs in UK.

Disruptive Development

Probably one of the most high-profile examples of disruptive activity is Diaspora, the “privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all, open source social network”. Disruptive in 2 major ways – first, it aims to ‘decentralise the web’ by providing aggregation of information without surrendering privacy, at a time when Facebook in particular had sparked a public debate (and much negative feeling) about online privacy and ownership of information. Second, Diaspora is ‘crowdfunded’ via Kickstarter – and it clearly struck a chord.  6479 backers pledged over $200 000 (the original aim was a more modest $10 000) within the space of a few months. Taking on the big boys is a bold move, but was perfectly timed.

The “so what?”

  • What all of these examples have in common is that they have tapped into a mood – not a business trend or economic direction, but a human, consumer/user-driven mood. They are responding to people and what’s bugging them.
  • They’re originals.  They’re not following a tried-and-tested route, or adhering to conventional wisdom.
  • They have a clear mission that’s beyond a business objective and which will remain at their core. In each case, it’s to do with making people’s lives better and easier.
  • They’re bold.

The trick for all of these revolutionaries now will be to stay with the mood that they have identified and reacted to, and to ensure that they continue to connect with it as the world changes.. and as the needs and priorities of the people change too.  We’re rooting for them. Vive la revolution!

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London. Follow on Twitter for more like this, in tasty bite-sized pieces.

Not in the manual: The Scrambled Service Mindset

Posted in brand, wisdom with tags , on July 5, 2010 by wisdomlondon

We all know that customer service has never been a more important lever for competitive advantage, differentiation and building brand loyalty.  So why is it still not happening right?

Too often the mindset is scrambled, with service being viewed as something additional that can be tagged onto the product.  It’s not – it’s in the product.  It is the product. So it follows that service is not just in the delivery, it’s in the conception, design, and selling of an offer or product. And it’s not about you – it’s all about your audience.  Some thoughts on where service lives:

  • Capability: Your service should not be based on what you can and can’t do. It’s based on what your customer needs.  And if you can’t provide it, find a collaborator who can. Don’t constrain the value you pass on to your customer.
  • Your customer’s customer, and friend, and dog-sitter: There’s a danger in prioritising your existing customers so strongly that those you consider inconsequential get ignored.  Comments on your blog, non-specific email enquiries, requests to connect can feel like a diversion when focussing on a customer, but they are never inconsequential until proven so.  And if you don’t reply or acknowledge them, you’ll never know.
  • Human-ness: Good service is about treating us as humans, making us feel secure (“you’ll do what you say you will”), cherished (“I matter”) and delighted (“I’m glad I chose you”). That doesn’t come from a manual, in the form of trite down-pat lines (“Enjoy your *whatever*”). I’m amazed that many businesses are still asking their customer-facing teams to use them.  It’s about the extra mile that you can’t define in a manual, because it’s totally dependent on the situation. It’s what will make your client’s life easier at that moment in time, whether it’s a coffee, a report delivered a day early, being flexible about a meeting location, holding the door open (literally and metaphorically).

I’m going off to add value to a client now by photographing an important event for her – it’s not in our offer, it’s out of my way, but it makes her life easier, shows my support and – I hope – will bring her a little closer to the success she’s aiming for. That is service.  And it’s not in the manual.

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London, a creative communications agency with no customer service manual.

New Wisdom London Presentation!

Posted in brand, creativity, marketing strategy, social media, thought leadership, wisdom with tags , , , , , on July 2, 2010 by wisdomlondon

In a nutshell, here’s who we are and what we do!

Click here: Introduction to Wisdom London_Jul10