Show up, sit down and write

This, Seth Godin’s 6,000th blog post reminds me of Steven Pressfield’s exhortation to…

Put your ass where your heart wants to be.


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Advice to students – @execupundit

Sound advice from Michael Wade, applicable to students of all ages and intensities:

2.  Don’t just take notes. You are a student, not a stenographer. Try to boil down the concepts into plain language. Pretend that you are teaching the subject to a friend.

4.  Remember that you are learning a subject, not dictating its scope or content.

The full list, here.

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The power of proper paper #writing

Messy, unwieldy, noisy, and yet …

Kurt Harden hits on the unique delight in reading an actual, paper, newspaper.

I love reading the Economist or (London) Times on my iPad, but real paper is different. You see different things, the format allows for greater serendipity.  It’s more tactile, too.

And, of course, paper is lower risk if you tend to fall asleep over a particularly fascinating article on a warm, post-lunch, Sunday afternoon.

Lessons for persuasion and content marketing?

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The cost of dumbing down – @thisissethsblog #contentmarketing

Seth Godin on the hidden cost of chasing that last 2% of understanding.

“When you find yourself overwriting, embracing redundancy and overwhelming people with fine print, you’re probably protecting yourself against the 2%, at the expense of everyone else.”

Read the full post, here.

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Thoughts on Ad-blockers

Ad-blocking software has been big news over the last couple of weeks.  This week, even The Times devoted a leader to it (Ad Armageddon, firewalled, though it should be accessible via my Tweet).

That increasing numbers of people now choose to avoid intrusive, irrelevant and increasingly annoying ads is no surprise.  I research a wide variety of topics for work and my web-history follows me around like the lingering smell of last night’s curry.  Today, it’s upmarket men’s clothing.  A couple of month’s ago it was women’s stockings and food additives.

Greater minds have offered some relevant perspective:

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Hunter-Gatherer: the full list

50.  Never let the fire go out.

For the hunter-gather of the 21st century, the full list from Nicholas Bate, here.

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Casual contempt for the customer #Volkswagen

The discovery that Volkswagen’s US models were fitted with a device that automatically cheated environmental tests will cause huge damage to the firm.

Already, facing fines that could reach $18bn, the company’s shares have plunged 23%.  However, fines may only be the most concrete issue; a company that has long traded on its reputation – remember “If Only Everything in Life was as Reliable as a Volkswagen”? – has been caught misleading its customers and breaking the law on environmental emissions.  The damage to its reputation could cost the firm significantly more than the fines.

This seems symptomatic of a broader issue.  An attitude of casual contempt for the customer appears to have taken hold in large, out of touch businesses.

Retail banks are struggling to rebuild trust after a generation of treating their customers as a captive market for often inappropriate products.  As a consequence, new entrants with seemingly straight-talking products, like PayPal’s Working Capital offering that gives merchants instant, short-term loans against the future value of their trading history, are being greeted as a breath of fresh air.

The major supermarket chains are in a similar state.  A decade or more of declining quality, shrinking quantities, deceitful packaging and dodgy pricing has left customers feeling fleeced.

Casual contempt goes beyond pricing.  It is betrayed in the way an organisation responds to everyday issues.  For example, supermarket shoppers are used to buying relatively small, high-value items in outsized plastic security boxes that only check-out staff can unlock.  While inconveniencing the majority of honest customers, this has been inadequate in deterring shoplifters.  In their arms-race against the minority, Tesco now hangs the plastic boxes on a security spiral.  This requires shoppers to stand and unwind the product from its hateful helix before then taking it for approval at the check-out.  It’s a relatively minor issue (though sufficient for this author to find an online razor supplier of blades at two-thirds the price) but a disproportionate response that betrays a disregard for genuine customers.




Little wonder then, that new entrants like Lidl and Aldi are growing so rapidly.  The High Street incumbents appear to view the competition as winning purely on price.  This misses the point almost entirely.  Yes, Lidl is (often surprisingly) cheap, but the quality is often surprisingly good, too.  There are trade-offs of course – the product range is smaller, Lidl seems to suffer long check-out queues – but the finished offering has an integrity that big name supermarkets in the UK have traded away.

For too long, big business has been in relentless and myopic pursuit of short-term results.  It’s time to realise that long-term profits come from customer loyalty, from trust and integrity – a reputation that takes, in Volkswagen’s case, nearly 80 years to build but maybe just one bad news cycle to destroy.

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