My eight year-old asked me this a few days ago, and it gave me a great analogy that I have used to good effect in workshops and seminars. It’s a nice illustration of the Gazing Principle that underpins my Performance Improvement work with customers. I love it when kids ask these profound questions.
The simple answer is that like most drivers, I look in a number of places: the dials on the dashboard, the mirrors, either side of the road (to look out for pedestrians, animals, branches etc) and sometimes at the sky to see weather conditions. But most of the time of course, it’s at the road or vehicle in front. I imagine most of us would answer similarly.
But the important thing here is that consciously or sub-consciously we choose where we put our gaze (or, you could say, where we focus our attention). And when the pressure is on, if for example we need to brake or take urgent action, our gaze becomes all the more focused on the particular thing in hand. Good drivers (and in extreme cases, racing drivers) have become expert at this control of attention.
Focusing on the day-to-day
How does this help us in business? Well, if we want to perform effectively in business, or any other walk of life, our ability to control our attention is paramount. Just like the driver whose attention is more on the road ahead than anywhere else, so our attention in the world of work is probably generally focused on the day-to-day tasks in hand.
And quite right too. And if we can avoid distractions and truly focus on those tasks then the chances are we will deal with them more efficiently. (The flip side is being interrupted every time our mail box pings.)
But equally, if we solely focus on those tasks, we become the equivalent of the driver hogging the middle lane of the motorway — glued to the road ahead and unaware of the traffic building up behind them, or perhaps the ambulance trying to get past.
Top performers choose where and when to focus their attention, stepping back to see the big picture, taking stock, planning what the next few months look like, and then returning to the task in hand. For them it’s a deliberate choice, especially when the heat is on.
For many newbies to China, one of the great frustrations is the internet. Most of the old favourites are blocked — YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Google Docs; even Google searches can be painfully slow.
At first sight, China’s Great Firewall could fool you into believing that China’s internet is a backwater where anything interesting is deemed as a threat by the state-controlled censors. But you couldn’t be further from the truth.
The internet is booming in China and, in many cases, is more influential than in Britain. It is one of the most important and cost-effective marketing channels for cash-tight small businesses targeting China, if you get it right. Here’s why:
1. China’s internet-using population is big
With 513 million internet users, China has a larger online population than the next three top countries combined. And it’s growing fast. China’s internet base is expected to reach 700 million by 2015. Although less than half of China’s population use the web, those online are the consumers with disposable income most likely to buy imported goods and services.
2. Smartphones are everywhere
In China, you can pick up an Android smartphone for less than £50. That has opened up the smartphone market to much of the population. More Chinese people now access the internet from mobiles than PCs.
3. The Chinese use the internet a lot
Those who live in cities have longer commutes and spend more nights in than most British people do. During that time, many are online — for an average of 2.7 hours every day; more than any country except Japan.
4. Chinese people make purchasing decisions based on websites
Online content about your brand and products will have a direct impact on both awareness and intent for Chinese consumers. Ipsos China research found 37.6% of Chinese consumers regularly increase their brand awareness through websites, more than any other medium. 47.5% increased their purchase intent from what they read on websites, whereas newspaper, TV and radio were all less than 32%.
5. Chinese consumers talk about brands online
McKinsey research discovered 91% of online Chinese visited a social media site in the past six months. 53.5% of Brits have. Chinese consumers are less likely to trust state-controlled TV, newspapers and radio, and tend to believe content on social media such as Sina Weibo. 95% of Chinese consumers trust a brand more if they’ve seen it on Weibo.
In conclusion, if you’re investing in the Chinese market, make sure your website and social media are a key part of your strategy.
Key things to remember
Mark Tanner is the founder of China Skinny, a service helping western businesses better understand Chinese consumers.
It’s Global Entrepreneurship Week and there have been hundreds of events taking place to bring together new and existing entrepreneurs.
It has only been just over two years since we launched our own business — WhipCar.com — a neighbour to neighbour car rental service and car club. During that time, we have learned a lot about the importance of marketing.
When we started up, we were excited to transform an existing industry that we believed to be inefficient. The average new car costs upwards of £6,600 per year to own and maintain (source: RAC), but it’s only used for an average of one hour a day. We felt this was a real waste, and wanted to create a service where cars could be made to pay for themselves.
Tough marketing challenges
One of the toughest lessons we learnt early on was how difficult it is to change user behaviour and how much time it takes. As we were a “world’s first” business, we were interviewed by The Economist and Wired magazine before we even launched. We thought our publicity would quickly make converts out of everyone. We were wrong.
This is one of the reasons we wanted to get involved with Global Entrepreneurship Week 2012. Hosted by Youth Business International in partnership with Barclays, the week is all about people with knowledge about setting up a successful business passing it on to others who could follow in their footsteps. So here’s what we wished we’d known about marketing then, and how we’re going about changing things.
People need to be engaged via multiple touch points over time in order to gradually gain comfort with something new. Reassuringly, when people convert they become huge fans of the service and tell other people about it. We've gained a nationwide presence because of the power of word-of-mouth.
This reinforced the fact that success in a start up environment typically takes many years to pan out. We’re delighted with what we’ve achieved already in a short time — at the moment 90% of Londoners are within a ten-minute walk of a WhipCar. But our goal is halve this to a five-minute walk, as well as continuing to expand across the UK.
We launched our first advertising campaign in Spring 2012. As we’re establishing a brand new behaviour, and creating a market, it was important to keep the message simple. We boiled everything WhipCar stands for — the service, benefits and community spirit — into a simple slogan: Love thy neighbour, drive their car.
We ran a series of poster ads across London, concentrating on the Underground network, which was supported by online banners. That generated a big burst of awareness, and we continue to rely on media relations to amplify the word of mouth that WhipCar generates.
Vinay Gupta is the co-founder of WhipCar.com. WhipCar.com is one of many small businesses supporting Global Entrepreneurship Week 2012, hosted by Youth Business International in partnership with Barclays.
Barely a day goes by without someone talking about the importance of gathering customer feedback. By learning what your customers think of the service you provide, it’s much easier to find out where you’re going wrong and what you’re doing right.
But even more important than gathering this feedback is what you actually do with it, and what your customers expect you to do. Do you view it once then file it away in a dusty cupboard? Do you put it in an envelope marked “Top Secret” and send it to the management team? Or do you have a slick system in place to deal with every piece of feedback and tell the customer what you’ve done? (Now that would be impressive).
There are some valuable things you can do to improve your customer service using feedback.
If customer service truly is a thing of value, then why are we hiding it away from those that would get most use out of it — your staff? If everyone in the company can see in the customers’ own words what they like and dislike about dealing with you then everyone has the chance to continuously improve.
Now that you know what your customers like and dislike about your service, take a look at the problem areas and see how you can fix them. The more problems you fix, the happier your customers will be; and since happier customers are likely to stay loyal, spend more, and recommend you to others, your business will be more successful!
And while you’re at it, consider rewarding those members of staff who your customers believe went above and beyond what was required of them to provide tip-top customer service.
Customer comments need to be stored and organised in order to get maximum value from them. Keep it all in one place so that it can be found and referred to easily. Organising it into topics or actions can also help you understand the impact of a particular issue by looking at the number of people who have fed-back on it; it also makes it easier to see what action needs to be taken.
Customers are individuals and you should treat them as such, however reporting and analytics can give you a quick snapshot of how the company is faring according to your customers. It might be useful to analyse the proportion of your customers that would score you 10/10, what are the most costly causes of problems, and how quickly people are responding to the issues raised by customers.
Your customers have just given you something of great value, why not reciprocate? Thank them for their feedback and tell them what action will be (or has been) taken as a result. Keep them up to date on any changes or improvements made and encourage them to give their opinion on new ideas and developments the company is working on.
With an increasingly competitive marketplace and an unstable economic climate, many established companies are using research to ensure they are meeting their clients’ needs — often in the form of a survey or questionnaire.
Research can now be done very cheaply thanks to free or almost free online survey tools. With marketing budget cuts, managers often take on this task without the help of market research expertise.
But is this wise? Although customer service research can be helpful when establishing the level of satisfaction within the business, it may not be robust enough for other areas — for instance when an established business decides to launch a new product or service. With any new launch, businesses need to canvas the opinions of potential customers as well as existing ones.
There are several reasons why established businesses often neglect to conduct viable market research when launching new products — cost, time restraints, lack of knowledge about the importance of objective research and the belief that existing customers are the most suitable respondents all contribute.
Good quality market research must meet the following criteria:
Market research can bring new insight into your company and foster innovation. By approaching respondents that are not your clients you can get new ideas and insight into competitors’ operations — something you may not be able to discover by speaking to your current client base.
Ensuring there is a lucrative potential market for your new products and services has never been so important.
For many entrepreneurs and small business owners, performance metrics can be a bit of detail that feels like it gets in the way. But without metrics there is no way of knowing whether performance can be improved, repeated or discarded.
For the first time, including the internet in your marketing mix, measurement is easy and doesn’t need lots of technical experience.
Here are five easy performance metrics for measuring marketing activity:
Use vanity URLs
These can be short URLs used for specific reasons. You can buy short domain names for campaigns or add a short code after your normal name. For example, www.HaveMoreClients.co.uk goes to the Facebook fan page of Have More Clients.
Alternatively, there are the subscription based shortener URL services where you can assign a URL and the service tracks the number of clicks and where they came from. There are several services – budurl.com, cli.gs and bit.ly, for example.
Web and email analytics
Google offers free web analytics where you can monitor every page, as well as campaigns. There are other companies offering paid-for analytics and you would be best to review the different offerings.
Also, by using a good email marketing system, you will know who clicks on links and where they go. This information gives your sales team, whether that’s you or your marketing VA/assistant, something very specific to contact that person about.
Sign up for Google Alerts and add in the keywords you wish to have information on. It's a good idea to include your company name and the names of key staff members so you can be contacted if something is going awry. Of course, then you need to take action – head in the sand is not the appropriate action.
Subscriptions to your blog feed, newsletter and downloads
If you have a blog, then linking the feed to Feedburner.com will mean people can subscribe to the blog and receive posts as they are published without ever going to the site.
Having subscriptions is just the start of the story; it's monitoring what happens to these people as a result of your activity that is important. This is linked to web analytics: for example, by tracking the behaviour of people and making appropriate adjustments, your headings improve, the content improves and the calls to action have more action straight to the bottom line!
This may seem a bit old fashioned and off the wall against the hi-tech solutions, but the simplest methods can still be very effective. You can add a question to all the engagement points asking where they heard about you. This gives you feedback on which channel is working for you and which needs attention!
Adding a survey to encourage responses is helpful not only for the information gained, but it is an opportunity for your client and prospect list to engage – moving them from the passive to the active.
Once you have the measurements, set aside time to respond to this information and make changes to your marketing campaigns. Re-evaluate what is and isn’t working and improve. These techniques work whether you are tracking your social media, online activities or offline, too.