Archives for November 2013

The cost of “fr*e”

English: Yaesu VX-6R handheld amateur radio tr...

Hand-held amateur transceiver (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all know that supermarkets are clever in their labelling, trying to make us think we see bargains where there are not. “Only £1 today” might be a special offer or it might be the usual price, or they might have made the packet smaller. We have to be wary.

Sometimes we see clever marketing which is quite admirable. One example recently was in the realm of amateur radio also known as ham radio. (Yes, I have had my licence since I was a young chap.)

There is a nice little hand-held radio transceiver available at a low price, but two organisations have teamed up to sell the radio at the same “bargain” price others do, but bundle it with some low price goodies. They still sell the radio at £70 as do others, but they include a book and a cap and a map too. The total cost of the extras is about £10, I should think, and that cuts into their profit margin per item, but the aim is clearly to sell a lot more. The smaller margin multiplied is worth a lot more than the larger margin with smaller multiple if they did not have the offer available.

You know what? I have it straight from the horse’s mouth that this ploy has worked and they are inundated with orders for the bundle. I might even join in the scramble though I do not need the cap.

Sometimes it pays to think beyond just selling your product or service. Giving more may well bring you far more business, greater turnover, and greater profit. It pays to be inventive in your marketing. Do you offer special bundles to your clientèle?

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“You do not have a problem”

Someone called to ask my advice because he was worried about a perceived problem to do with tax. This gave rise to a dilemma all professional services business owners have to deal with now and again. The caller thought he had a problem. I did not think he did.

The dilemma for some is that they could charge a fee for “professional advice” to tell the client that they had absolutely nothing to worry about. The alternative is to say in two sentences why there was not a problem and allay the concerns of the caller. The downside of the second option is that there is no fee.

As usual I took the second option and “earned” no money. Am I stupid or merely ethical? The caller was grateful anyway and said that if again he thought he needed advice he would certainly come to me.

I hope it was good marketing on my part even if I did not earn a bean for the conversation. Was I stupid? What do you think?

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Do not lie to your prospects

Being straight with your clients is essential as we all know. Being honest as to whether we can help new enquirers is also vital.

When we start in business there is a temptation to try to grab every customer who comes through the door or sign up every client who is interested ion our service. We have to be honest with ourselves. Can we deliver what they want, and can we make a good profit in doing so?

Experience tells us that some of our customers want too much for the money they are prepared to pay, or cost us too much to service them. Sometimes we know that we are not best suited to help and that another business we know would be a better fit for them. We should be honest and say so, and we will get greater respect from the prospect, who may praise us for our integrity and refer us to others.

On the other hand, sometimes a business owner will say they will help when they do not want to. Recently, my family has had two incidents where we were let down. My wife was quoted for some work on curtain tracks but the person who said she would fix them never came to see us despite several calls to her. Maybe the work was not worth doing or she was too busy, but we now think of her as unreliable and might say so if asked.

We also need some building work, but the person who quoted and whom we would have engaged then said he could not carry out the work for quite a long time as he was too busy. Why did he not say so? Again he will end up potentially damaging his reputation whereas he might have enhanced it by being honest and up-front and not wasting our time.

  • If you want the work and can deliver promptly, sign up and do it.
  • If you cannot deliver profitably or the task is not really in your niche, be honest and maybe refer a friend who can deliver.
  • Do not say you will do something and never turn up to do it.

Be honest when your new enquirer first gets in touch; can you deliver, and do you want to? If not say so, because your reputation is your most important asset.

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Learning from the great writers

There are those who believe the on-line marketers who offer us the opportunity of a large regular income for four hours work a week. The rest of us know that being successful and earning serious money involve hard work.

We can learn quite a lot from others of course. Perhaps I am not the world’s greatest marketer or the world’s greatest writer, but I do believe that in order to write my material it helps to read. It is not just a question of collecting knowledge, though in the digital age, we have the opportunity to do that (and I do). I believe it is also true to say that reading other people’s prose makes us better writers, even when we read fiction

Actually a good story helps me relax and chill out, and if there is something to admire in a writer’s style, some of which might rub off, that seems no bad thing.

Recently, because Amazon was kind enough to offer it for my Kindle, I downloaded G K Chesterton’s The Complete Father Brown Stories. I read most of the stories when I was in my early teens, which was a fair while ago, so perhaps I had not appreciated then how beautifully they are written.

Now of course I cannot plagiarise Chesterton in order to write better, and his style is of its period, which is definitely early Twentieth Century written by someone whose education was in the late Nineteenth. However, his stories are a joy to read and a reminder of how important it is to write well. If a little of his essence and that of other authors I read seeps through into my writing, it will be no bad thing.

It is like a sporty person having the chance to train with a top athlete. It can only help us to improve.

Do you enjoy fiction, and does it help when you write your own material?

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Just trying to keep my customers satisfied

Jetty & lifeboat ramp, St. Catherine's Bay, Jersey

Jetty & lifeboat ramp, St. Catherine’s Bay, Jersey

Paul Simon wrote a song with the title of this post. You and I know that if our customers are not satisfied they will take their business elsewhere, so it is important that we keep them happy.

Do our employees, and all those who work for us follow that ethos? One bad experience of a rude and unpleasant worker can send away future buyers of our products and services, and they will never return.

Recently my wife and I were accompanying my elderly parents on a short flight from our local airport to Jersey, which up to now I had thought was excellent. My father is ninety-one, and a sharp cookie, still very on the ball and knowledgeable, but he is not able to walk far without assistance, and he is rather deaf. While going through security on our outbound flight, my Dad rang the bell, which turned out to be because he had some keys in his back pocket. That is an easy mistake to make. I once turned up at an airport with a pair of kitchen scissors in my pocket I had used to open a bag of cat litter for our cat sitter on the way out of the door.

Anyway, I had passed security by the time my Dad rang the bell, and I could see he was left standing and rather confused, because he could not heat what the male security person had said to him. Dad looked very uncomfortable because his walking stick had been taken from him to be X-rayed. After a minute I could see he was unsteady and frankly bewildered and lost, so I walked back to him and asked if he was OK, and whether I could help.

At this point the security person drew himself up to his full height and puffed himself up, and barked to me in his best nightclub-bouncer-bully mode “Move away”, and when I said that Dad needed help, “Move away now”. I did because I feared we would have a major incident, but I was very worried about my Dad. After a couple more minutes he was cleared to join us.

I appreciate that security people have a job to do, but even the most dyed-in-the-wool “jobs-worth”should treat people correctly according to the circumstances and in this case:

  • Treat an elderly man with respect.
  • Take account of evident frailties.
  • Treat his well-meaning son with respect (and indeed any customer with good intentions).

An out-of-control employee can potentially drive away a large number of customers; both those who are witnesses to any incident and those who hear about it later.

I have written to Southend Airport to suggest they consider sending their employee for some suitable training.

Of course security personnel have to deal with all sorts of bad attitudes, and must adapt their behaviour accordingly. There is no excuse for treating without sympathy, compassion and understanding elderly people who have served and fought for their country

Have you seen a more effective way of damaging your market than this?


I have received a response to my complaint, the gist of which is that they apologise for having upset my family and me. There is no indication that they acknowledge that mistakes were made or that they will address their problem. It is not a response that helps customer relations as far as I am concerned.

Have you received unsatisfactory feedback when complaining to a service supplier? What did you do?

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Monday, Monday, so good to me

iStock_000011891859XSmall bored womanThe Mamas and The Papas sang:

“Monday Monday, so good to me,
Monday Monday, it was all I hoped it would be”

It seems the rest of their Monday did not work out so well, but I look forward to Monday mornings because I have my own businesses and I am in control of my destiny.

Like many I remember when I was an employee, perhaps with a long commute, to a job I did not enjoy. Sometimes the work was not satisfying, or it was boring, or I simply did not have enough to do.

When I was under-worked I was under pressure to deliver to the firm more fees when I had spare time and no money made available to do my own marketing. There were several people in the same position and I went to find a more challenging position.

Sometimes I had an unsympathetic boss. When I was with a firm that had been taken over, the new partner in charge felt lumbered with staff he did not want. He gave the quality clients to his own people. I was then supposed to report to someone who had no confidence in me and also had that same problem of not enough work.

Then there was the bully boss, the rude man who shouted and swore at his staff. Come to think of it, I had two of those a dozen years apart.

In the end I started my own businesses because I had to in the absence of employment, but if everyone knew what I know now, no one would want to report to someone else if they had any go in them.

Isn’t being in business on your own account so satisfying, and yes, so much fun?

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Keeping the business engine running

Slightly bristly but not so much to show.

Slightly bristly but not so much to show.

A personal note

Life has not been simple at On Our Bikes Towers the past few weeks. We planned a holiday, and then my wife was taken ill the day before we went away and she ended up in hospital. Thankfully she was sorted out by the doctors just about in time to go away on our re-arranged holiday two weeks later. So we have had to take time off rather unexpectedly.

While we were away there was a terrible storm at home and two trees in our garden came down, plus about half of a very large ash tree. We have had to sort out the mess and the tree people have been to tidy up and clear away all the excess wood.

Meanwhile my wife and I caught dreadful colds while we were away so have both been slowed down by being unwell. All-in-all it has been a  pretty awful month for us.

Why am I telling you this ?

To keep the business running well, I have concentrated on the core part, that which earns the best revenue, and I have relied on support from those around us, both family and my contractors and other business supporters. They were invaluable to me during my own medical treatment earlier in the year. Because we have great support all round, and because we have had contingency plans in place, business is fine and the engine is running smoothly.

Just the same I have had to turn my attention away from some of my favourite activities, which has included blogging my thoughts. That has been a pity because as well as good marketing, I find writing relaxing and recreational. However, now normal service will be resumed.


Following my treatment earlier this year, in November I am growing a moustache for charity in November as are many other men around the world, and yes, some women too. Good luck to Sarah, and I would appreciate your support myself please.

Here is my Movember page.

Thank you, and I will be in touch again soon.

View from Sorrel Point, Jersey on our holiday last week

View from Sorrel Point, Jersey on our holiday last week


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