I got back from holiday on Friday.

Grace and I took the boys to France for a fortnight, and I can honestly say that it was one of the best and most relaxing holidays I’ve ever had – if you want recommendations in the Loire Valley or the Dordogne, let me know!

It was with a heavy heart that we rolled into Calais Ferry Port on Friday morning (via a supermarket so we could do a final stock-up on wine and cheese), but it was lightened somewhat by the “marketing” on display as we waited to board the ferry.

With thousands of consumers passing through every single day, just sitting in their cars waiting to board with nothing else to do, you’d think that the multiple billboards and massive screens littered all around the port would be quite effective.

And they probably would be, if just a tiny bit of thought went into the message being broadcasted.

But sadly that sort of thought appears to be beyond the marketing team at Port Boulogne Calais.

Instead, they’d filled the billboards and the screens with two specific calls to action:

“Follow us on Instagram” and “Subscribe to our YouTube channel”.

I was intrigued to see just how well this marketing was working, so I checked both platforms to discover that they’ve managed to generate 348 Instagram followers and 17 YouTube subscribers.

Let’s face it – this is unsurprising.

No one wants to follow a ferry port on Instagram, and even fewer people will be interested in subscribing to a ferry port YouTube channel.

1. When you’ve got a captive audience, appreciate who they are and what they’re interested in.

It’s only when you do this that you can understand how best to communicate with them and bring them closer to you.

The ferry port is an example of an opportunity wasted, but businesses everywhere make the same mistake by failing to match their marketing with their prospects’ desires.

2. Don’t decide which media you want to use before considering whether it’s appropriate for your market.

No one in their right mind will be looking forward to new YouTube videos from a ferry port, but because the ferry port has selected YouTube as their media of choice, that’s where they’re putting all their energy.

It seems absurd, but it’s exactly how countless of other businesses behave – selecting a media that’s entirely wrong for their market, and then paddling against the tide in an upstream battle to try and make it work.

Market, message, media. In that order.


P.S. While I was away I forced Grace to listen to the Melt Design podcast that I recorded with Matt Eldridge a couple of weeks ago.

I’m not sure how interested she was, but given that it’s all about how to write copy that sells, I figured you might be – click HERE to give it a listen.

I was in Waterstones yesterday, browsing the books and looking for inspiration for Grace’s birthday.

It’s not often I actually wander around a bookshop – Amazon’s put paid to that – but when I do, I really enjoy it.

Ever since I was young I’ve loved the smell of books – new and old – and when you’ve got thousands of them in one place it’s even better.

Anyway, I wended my way over to the children’s books to see if I could find something for Jim.

Jim’s 22 months now, and he loves books (more than once I’ve had to go upstairs and wrestle one off him when he’s supposed to be sleeping) and I thought getting a new one would be a sensible decision – there’s only so many times you can read Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy.

Anyway, I found myself in the children’s section, and I came across this:

As you can just about see from the dodgy picture, the books are segmented into various categories, but there’s one particular category that’s a little different to all the others – the Julia Donaldson category.

If you’ve got kids, you’ll know that Donaldson is responsible for the legendary Gruffalo book, and – to be fair – her stories are outstanding.

In fact, they’re outstanding enough that she’s got her own section in Waterstones – the only author in the whole shop to have that privilege.

There’s a big lesson here – when you’re operating in your own category, and you’re not competing with anyone else, it’s MUCH easier to make sales.

Joe Calloway writes about this in Becoming a Category of One, and the point he makes is very wise.

The book explains that the less your prospects are able to compare your product to others out there, the less commoditised your product will be, the more elastic your pricing is and the easier it is to attract the right customers.

So many businesses do the opposite – they look at what their competitors are doing and try and copy it – but doing so only invites an ‘apples to apples’ comparison.

That’s exactly what Julia Donaldson has avoided, and that’s why she’s on the Sunday Times Rich List and sells £10 million worth of books every year – what can you do to create your own category?


[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 45px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]If you’ve looked at the news this week, you’ll know that holiday giant Thomas Cook has just unveiled a new scheme called “Choose Your Favourite Sunbed”, allowing you to pre-book a sunbed for your entire holiday.

It costs just £22 extra and means that for those who take advantage of the offer, there’ll be no fighting over sunbeds or getting up extra early to get your towel down and secure your spot.

It’s a super smart business decision, and there’s some good takeaways for all of us:

1. Add value without slicing margin

Thomas Cook have found a way to extract more money from their customers, as well as adding significant value to their experience, without it costing the company any additional cash – it’ll all go on the bottom line.

2. Remove your customers’ pain

Holidays are supposed to be relaxing, but getting up at 6am to secure a slot by the pool isn’t on most peoples’ lists of ‘things that make me relaxed’. By adding in this upsell, Thomas Cook have removed that pain, allowing their customers have better experiences whilst profiting from that experience.

3. Give your customers an opportunity to spend more, and some will

Just like there are people who always ‘go large’ in McDonalds, travel in first class and have premium accounts of all their favourite softwares, in most markets there’s a proportion of people who will buy the bigger, more expensive version of your product, as long as you offer it to them.

Most importantly for me, Thomas Cook have thought long and hard about how to increase profit whilst elevating the experience they deliver to customers, and that’s an exercise that’s well worth us all doing.

Is there a sun lounger reservation service hiding inside your business that could add value to your customers and make you more money?


I was out for dinner with a few of our Private Clients yesterday.

As usual, we had our roundtable meeting at Hogarths and then took them all out for a bite to eat at The Farm in Solihull.

It was a good choice – last month we ended up waiting an unreasonable amount of time for a curry, the wait only made worthwhile by seeing Keith Crockford’s face when his naan bread arrived…

But this time, Smithy nailed the restaurant, and it was a really good night.

Conversation flowed, relationships were forged and a good time was had by all.

You want to know something interesting though?

We barely talked about business.

We talked about where we’d like to go on holiday, our attitudes to children and alcohol and a whole variety of other subjects, but business barely got a look in.

When people are marketing to business owners, they tend to assume a few things:

1. They think they need to talk purely about business
2. They think they need to speak in a ‘formal’ way
3. They think business owners won’t be interested in personal things

Each of these assumptions is incorrect.

Business owners are people too, people with kids and cars and houses and relatives, just like you, and recognising this in the marketing you put together will help you get more engagement, build more relationships and bring your prospects closer to you.


Five Lessons From A Made Up Day

Do you know what day it was on Tuesday?

No, I’m not talking about the Battle of the Boyne. Or Gareth Gates’ birthday. Or even Henry the Eighth’s wedding anniversary with his final wife Catherine Parr.

On Tuesday 12th July, it was “Amazon Prime Day”. Yes, seriously.

An entire day devoted towards special deals on Amazon. Whether you’re after a TV, a beauty set, a Kindle or a box of Berol pens, Amazon Prime Day gives you an opportunity to get big discounts on a whole heap of different things.

It goes without saying that this is an incredibly smart strategy from Amazon.

Here are a few reasons why:

It Drives Revenue

First, and perhaps most obviously, it’ll make Amazon a whole load of revenue.

Whilst making the offers may result in them taking a hit on their margins, they’re smart enough to have done the numbers and realised that a rapid increase in volume will make up for the shortfall in margin.

Crucially, it drives revenue at a time when traditionally they’d be making less.

There are no major dates or events in July that drive consumer behaviour, and without Amazon Prime Day, the chances are that Amazon would be experiencing a standard month (or perhaps even quieter than that).

Around Christmas, people buy Christmas presents and decorations. Easter? Chocolate. Halloween? Costumes. November 5th? Fireworks and toffee apples.

July? In truth, there’s not much. Certainly nothing that could drive mass consumer behaviour.

But there is now. Amazon have created their own reason to drive sales, and it works really really well.

The lesson for all of us? The importance of thinking outside the box and not being ‘self limiting’ in terms of when we look to drive sales. A bit of really creative thinking and some very compelling offers will always bear fruit, whether or not we think it’s the right time for our market to buy or not.

A good example of this is Private Client and super nice guy Jon Ramm. Jon runs Vale Interiors and recently ran an email campaign celebrating the business’s birthday. He made his customers aware of the birthday and used it as an excuse to make an offer.

The result? £4,000 in sales that he never would have made if he hadn’t created an offer and a reason to send it.

(For more on excuses for making offers, we highly recommend Bill Glazer’s Outrageous Advertising – if you haven’t read it before, it’s a must)

It Brings People Into Their Ecosystem

To buy stuff from the sale, you have to be a Prime member, which costs £79 a year.

Prior to July 12th, Amazon marketed the fact that you could come in on a 30-day trial for free and benefit from the discounts on offer on Amazon Prime Day.

They won’t keep everyone who’s come in on the trial, but they’ll keep a fair few. Which means a couple of things:

1) They’ll make some more revenue from the £79 billed after the trial

2) They’ll tie those customers into them for a much longer period.

Prime membership offers you completely free delivery (plus a bunch of other stuff including music and videos), and if you buy a lot online, then you’ll understand that £79 for unlimited free delivery really is a steal. Which means that next time you order something online you’ll want to use Amazon to do it; firstly because you get free delivery, and secondly so you feel like you’re making the most of your membership.

In short, once you’re in as a Prime member, you’re part of the Amazon ecosystem and extricating yourself would cause you significant ‘pain of disconnect’. You’re their customer for life (or at least for the year that your Prime membership is initially valid for).

Asking ourselves what we can do to bring people into our own “ecosystem” and create “pain of disconnect” is a real smart thing for us all to do. What is it about what we offer that our customers really love and rely upon and how can we accentuate that? What is the pain of disconnect that our customers will experience if they stop using us or go elsewhere?

It Creates Free Publicity

A heavily marketed ‘deals day’ creates its own momentum – just look at how Black Friday has snowballed since its inception. It might have no legitimate reason to exist other than an excuse to drive sales, but it has legitimacy now because so many people participate.

I googled “Amazon Prime Day” on Tuesday and the search engine returned 36,100,000 results, 1,4800,000 of those being “news” items. In short, everyone in the media was talking about it, and that made it snowball, driving more consumers to visit Amazon.

And it’s not just the media. All of the existing Prime members were evangelising about it too; creating a picture of an exclusive club of people who were getting fantastic deals – a club that a whole bunch of other people wanted to join.

It Makes Sales That Would Never Have Happened

The thing that impresses me most about Amazon Prime Day is the fact that it drives a lot of consumer behaviour that would never have happened.

By that, I don’t mean that the consumers bought something that they were going to buy elsewhere and ended up getting it from Amazon.

Instead, I mean that consumers bought a whole load of stuff that they were NEVER planning to buy, stuff that they’d never even heard of, or stuff they had no real need of.

By marketing a “deals day” across all departments, Amazon introduced their huge customer base to new products and gave them enticing reasons to purchase those products.

They even had a “Prime Day Deals” tab, that enabled you to scroll through all of the deals, whether they were in product categories relevant to you or not. You can be sure they picked lots of sales from people who had previously had no intention of buying those specific products.

For the regular business owner, the important thing for us to learn here is that unless you show your potential customers what you have to sell, the chances are they’re not going to buy it. On numerous occasions I’ve seen business owners providing one service to a customer even though they have a number of other offerings that could benefit the client – they just haven’t made them aware of them.

It Captures (A Lot Of) Data

Looking beyond the revenue side of things, Prime Day will also have helped Amazon build their audience significantly.

Whether you bought something or not, if you visited the site on the 12th, you’ll have been pixeled, and Amazon will be able to show you ads on Facebook and the Google Display network relevant to the product(s) you viewed. By driving such a large volume of traffic to their store, Amazon will have picked up a whole load of data that’ll be worth millions in sales going forward.

The practical point for us here is simple:

Can’t get the sale? Get the email address.
Can’t get the email address? Get them pixeled.

At every stage of a prospect’s journey, we should be making certain we can contact them again, because if we don’t, we’re leaving money on the table.

So that’s that. Five lessons from Amazon Prime Day. Vanity Fair suggested that this year’s event was likely to make Jeff Bezos the third richest man in the world. Not bad for a man who started selling out of a garage in Washington…