Business development Work life

Why marketing muscle matters for going virtual-only

An article in Marketing Week flags up the tendency in the online world for the larger players to edge out smaller competitors, resulting in a ‘concentration of power among a small number of brands.’

Over the last months we have all learned to participate in events online – online meetings, fitness classes, teaching, virtual pilates, etc. The list goes on.

As we emerge from lockdown, many of those who used to provide an in-person service, fitness coaches for example, are thinking of staying virtual. This promises the advantage of potentially serving more clients, in more places, more of the time. With none of the extra hassle and costs of travel, venues, and so on.

However, going virtual-only also has the effect of drastically lowering the barriers to entry. No longer are you one of a few local providers in your niche, providing your service to a fairly captive local market. 

You can provide your service to anyone, anywhere – but so can the big guys, with their ability to ruthlessly cut costs and amp up their marketing.

In short, the move online suddenly introduces a ‘drastic and permanent increase in competition from bigger, less expensive, more famous alternative suppliers.’


To make the long tail work for the local supplier – in other words, to leverage the potential of a small niche – will require developing and nurturing a strong brand: Good marketing will be critical for survival.

There are some who are smashing it. For example, take a look at for example. Though Lynsey combines virtual with in-person sessions, which I think is probably a better, more sustainable model that going totally virtual. 

You can read the full Marketing Week post here.

Thank you Mark Masters of You Are The Media for drawing my attention to this article. Top image by Scott Beck on Unsplash

Photography Work life

Brilliant Disorder


Laura at her leaving party, in Laura mask. Brilliant Disorder in response to Paula’s Thursday Special word challenge.

Elusive profusion – 4 Lauras (reclining)

4 Lauras

Business development Life Work life

How to Give a Good Handshake


Getting out and about in the New Year has got me thinking about handshakes. We all know how important first impressions are – so how can you make the best first impression with your handshake?

It’s seems the subject is fraught with insecurity – according to a survey for Chevrolet (quoted by The Daily Mail) some 70% of people said they lacked confidence about their ability to give a good handshake.

So, gathering together some advice (including from etiquette international) – How to shake hands with aplomb:

First things first

  • Use the right hand
  • Keep the fingers together with the thumb open and up
  • Extend your hand forward to the other person’s so that thumb and forefingers meet

Proper character

  • Squeeze firmly, but not bone-crushingly (!). The object is to convey trust and reassurance, not overbearing dominance
  • If the other person offers a very limp hand, consider giving a gentle squeeze; he/she may take this as a cue to grip more firmly
  • If you are sitting down, stand up before extending your hand (unless you are both sitting at a table)
  • Leave your left hand open by your side; don’t leave it in your pocket – a clear signal of lack of interest

How long should a handshake last?

  • Shake hands by creating and up and down motion by raising your hand from the elbow a couple of times so that the handshake lasts about 3 seconds.
  • Release after the shake, even if you are continuing to introduce yourselves. More than three ‘shakes’ begins to suggest ‘psycho’; or extreme nervousness.
  • Do not pump the hand (‘unless the other person is insistent on just that. Then pump the hell out of their hand” – Tom Chiarella)

Whilst you are shaking hands

  • Smile
  • Maintain eye contact with the other person
  • Offer an appropriate verbal greeting e.g. ‘Very pleased to meet you.” [Sidebar: classically, the correct answer to the question ‘How do you do?’ is to repeat the question. However, I find this a bit formal for most purpose and prefer a “Very well thank you; And yourself..?” or something along those lines. Naturally I say ‘Very well’ even if feeling at death’s door.]

Handshaking turn-offs

  • Sweaty palms
  • Limp-wristed grip
  • Extending fingers only

Handshaking tips

To prevent clammy hands:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water beforehand
  • Consider applying a spray of antiperspirant once or more a day, and/or using alcohol-based wipes
  • Drink plenty of water

If you are at an event with drinks, hold the drink in the left hand to avoid giving a cold, wet handshake

A caution

“You can tell the character of a person by their handshake.” Kathy Magliato. But beware: giving a proper handshake can also be learned and deployed by the bounder — “I have twice met Jeffrey Archer, and on both occasions was struck by the firmness of his handshake – and the way he looked me straight in the eye, too.” Craig Brown

And finally

Thank you kindly for stopping by, and If you have enjoyed this post please share it on your preferred social networks. 

Design Work life

Offline and Online Convergence

Moleskine Smart NotebookThe partnership between Moleskine and Adobe on a new Creative Cloud Moleskine notebook promises to be a notable step forward in the convergence of the offline and online worlds.

The notebook and accompanying app enable you to turn hand-drawn sketches directly into fully workable digital files.

How does it work ?

You draw in the notebook, take a photo using the cloud-connected Moleskine app on your iPhone, and a vector version (SVG file) of your sketch is automatically transferred to your Adobe Creative Cloud account, where it can be edited in Photoshop or Illustrator.

Whilst the app can be used on any paper, the dot markings on the pages of the Moleskine notebook provide a frame of reference to help remove distortion (from paper or lens) and optimise the image.

This partnership is the latest step in Moleskine’s digital journey, and perhaps the most significant yet to seek to bridge the gap between paper and screen.

As a quintessentially analogue product, Moleskine’s investment in developing products to link real to virtual is obviously a strategic move to remain relevant in an increasingly digital world. It promises to offer the tactile, satisfying feel of sketching with pen or pencil on paper with the convenience and versatility (in terms of sharing and editing) of digital.

In short, enabling us to have our cake and eat it.

Earlier Moleskine efforts to link analogue to digital are nowhere near as flexible or neat. For example, The Moleskine Livescribe Notebook enables editable digital text, but you have to use the Livescribe ‘Smartpen’ which does not really offer the same feel as writing with a pen or pencil (leaving aside the cost of the pens and decidedly mixed reviews regarding how well they work).

The Evernote Business notebook enables easy incorporation of hand-written notes into Evernote (and has some nifty features so that you can separate parts of the page and add tags) but the text is not editable.

Does the  Creative Cloud Moleskine work? – I haven’t had a chance to try it out, but it is available in Europe from December 15.

blogging Books Business development Work life

Penelope Trunk homage

Penelope Trunk

I read this paragraph. Then I read it again. It’s so wonderful and perfect I’m co-opting it here until I can write one this good:

The books were late, but of all the people who bought books, I only got one really angry note. Unfortunately she put the note in my comments section on the blog, for everyone to see. Fortunately, it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want, so I deleted the comment. I sent her a nice response, though. I did not tell her that she is outside the US and because I am a mail-order rube, I gave all international orders free shipping. But at least now I can say I’ve got experience in the export business.

I’m about two years late bringing this post to your attention (even later than her books!). But I think it’s a gem. if you haven’t read the whole thing, go straight there now. Enjoy.

Life Work life

Rituals to Reach Your Potential Every Day

Though we start off with the best of intentions, especially at this time of the year, all too soon – and all too often – things can unravel.

I came across these six rituals in a fast company article early in December and am finding they actually work – and are fairly easy to keep to on a daily basis. They are simple, but powerful:

1. Drink a glass of water when you wake up

This helps to rehydrate your body after a night’s sleep and prepare you for the fresh day ahead

2. Define your top 3

Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise! Decide the three most important things you need to get done each day, and don’t finish for the day until you’ve got them done!

3. The 50/10 rule

Taking a short break every hour helps keep your mind fresh and gives you the space to re-frame and re-focus your thinking about a project

4. Move and sweat daily

Exercise relives stress and helps keep you alert and healthy.

5. Express gratitude

First thing you do every morning, write out in a journal at least five things you’re grateful for. Helps to balance the mind for the day ahead.

If you use a Mac and/or iPhone I can recommend Day One, a brilliant little app which makes journaling very quick and easy.

6. Reflect daily

Last thing – reflect on what went well during the day and what can you do better

Read more here in Amber Rae’s article on Mike Del Ponte’s top tips for keeping yourself in shape and ready for anything. And let me know how you get on.

To your success in 2013!


blogging Business development Work life

Getting it done

Like many (most?) of us, I am rarely short of a good reason not to get something done – thinking more about it / trying to perfect it / waiting for the right moment etc. etc.

But there’s always a better reason to get it done. Because otherwise projects drag on, lose momentum and, in the end, often don’t get done at all.

So the latest post from Leo Babauta at zen habits that dropped into my email inbox – 4 Simple Principles of Getting to Completion – hit home. And in fact I applied the principles to make this post now, instead of thinking about it and (probably) not doing it (ever so much better and more polished) in a day or two.

In short, the four principles are:
1. Keep the scope as simple as possible.
2. Practice ‘Good Enough’. Perfectionism is the enemy of completion.
3. Kill extra features.
4. Make it public, quick.

Read them in more detail here.

That said, I am pleased that I didn’t immediately adopt one of his suggestions for email sanity that arrived last Monday – unsubscribe to every newsletter.

Business development technical writing Work life

Adding value through technical communications

Those within technical communications have long argued that product documentation provides significant value in terms of customer satisfaction and ongoing savings in customer support and service.

A new investigation, by leading US business researchers The Aberdeen Group, gives strong support to this view, and those who tend to view documentation simply as a cost centre are likely to be losing out to competitors.

Aberdeen’s analysis of data gathered from 165 participating companies demonstrates that the contribution of good product documentation and technical communications to enterprise profitability is far more significant than many realise and, when leveraged effectively, stands to contribute as much as a 42% increase in customer satisfaction and an associated 45% increase in product revenue.

Aberdeen’s research found that as a result of their simultaneous focus on operational efficiency and documentation quality, Best-in-Class companies were able to realize significant customer-facing value through technical communications, including:

  • 41% decrease in volume of inbound calls to customer support
  • 42% decrease in time to resolution with customer support
  • 41% increase in customer satisfaction score

Aberdeen’s data clearly indicates that Best-in-Class performers have found the means to leverage technical communications to influence customers’ experiences with a marked impact on business profitability, and that whilst all too often regarded as a cost centre, technical communications and documentation are actually key profit generators.

The report identifies key factors used by the ‘Best-in-Class’ companies to maximise the performance of technical communications, such as:

  • Commit to reusing content
  • Measure the operational performance of technical communications
  • Capture customer feedback
  • Increase the personalization of documentation, customizing documentation to specific customer orders and needs
  • Engage and educate customers with rich media – for example, interactivity to enable the customer to control progress through training or documentation

Factors which I suspect this blog will be returning to in the future.

‘Technical Communications as a Profit Center’, David Houlihan, The Aberdeen Group, September 2009, Boston, Ma.

Free access to the report is available via this link to Technical Communications as a Profit Center (until 27 November 2009).

blogging Life Work life

On being remarkable

Well I told you this blog is bang up to the minute. Following various links (now a tangled web of forgotten steps floating in cyberspace) I came upon – ‘found’ wouldn’t be the right word; I wasn’t looking for it – a blog post from Seth Godin on ‘Why bother having a resume?

Topical in the current climate, but actually written back in March 2008, so almost a year ago. How some things endure. Even today. Actually, his words have become ever more relevant.

A resume, he argues, de facto defines you as unremarkable. It positions you as ‘just more fodder for the corporate behemoth. That might be fine for average folks looking for an average job, but is that what you deserve?’

If you need a resume, you don’t have a reputation that precedes you; or extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows and respects; or … ‘a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up.’

Ah, so I’ll be OK after all!

In her comment on Seth’s post (yes, me and Seth go way back; or should that be Seth and I?) eSoup takes up the challenge and raises the bar just that bit higher, translating his comments into a list of things to do:

1) Create a blog that is so captivating, so ingenious, so clever, so compelling and so insightful that your potential clients feel a thrill of anticipation at the thought of meeting the person behind the blog.

Dear Reader, feel the thrill and do it anyway. Do get in touch; I know you want to.

PS I’ve just read Seth’s post for today, February 24th, where he celebrates his 3,000th blog post. That is a mighty achievement, especially given the frequency of posting and consistent quality. Seth Godin, this new blogger salutes you.

Life Work life

If we do not change direction …

… we are likely to end up where we are headed.

I like this quote, a Chinese proverb brought to my inbox in David Allen’s ‘Productivity Principles Newsletter.’ Gives a different angle on (and is probably the source of, come to think of it) the now too familiar ‘if you keep on doing the same thing, you’ll keep on getting the same results.’ And also throws a side glance on the also now very familiar exhortation beloved of business gurus and coaches – never give up.

But what if one is headed in the wrong direction? Change tack, must be the answer. And how do you know if you are headed up a blind alley or just about to turn a corner? That’s the 64,000 dollar question, especially in these times of crunch. But, to be sure, the first thing you (by which I mean, of course, I …) need to do is to take stock of the situation; get a hold on where you are …

David Allen, productivity guru of GTD (Getting Things Done), has good stuff to say on this too:

Capture. Get the data. Acknowledge what’s true. (We have ____ in the bank. Our expenses are ______ . I feel insecure and apprehensive. There are no debtors’ prisons.) And clean up. This is when it’s super-important to identify and get a handle on all the open loops pulling on your attention.

Clarify. Identify the outcomes and projects you now need to focus toward, and of course, what actions you need to take. (Re-do personal budget; talk to partner re: asset inventory.) Get all your attention-grabbers processed. And leverage the heck out of the two-minute rule. Being an instant executive is the best cure for transcending a funk.

Organize. Get your lists and systems current and complete. Your psyche needs the freedom that affords to concentrate and direct your thinking.

Reflect. You may need to do Weekly Reviews daily. You must keep situational awareness vital and present to be able to trust your intuitive responses, which you will be calling on frequently. Regularly engage in forest management (instead of tree-hugging), so you can see smoke from a distance.

Engage. Keep moving. Pick an action and do it. Don’t get hung up on priorities. It’s much easier to control a boat that’s got way (momentum through the water) than one simply at the effect of the currents. It’s easier to know your priorities by taking an action that’s not so important than by stressing about them.

This is where getting control morphs into gaining perspective, and the Horizons of Focus come into play. Obviously goals and plans and job descriptions may need a recalibration. But, in addition, give yourself permission to acknowledge and take advantage of the deeper conversations with yourself and other key people in your life that will undoubtedly come closer to the surface in rough seas. …

The point is to make what you’re doing conscious and directed, instead of reactive and contracted. I’m not an advocate of a Pollyanna positive-thinking philosophy. Pretending that life is rosy when that’s not your experience is self-delusional and counter-productive. Rather, GTD is a positive-directional approach. Certainly being able to maintain a positive vision amidst the challenging and often messy day-to-day stuff is a wonderful life skill to hone. But you may need to be judicious and pick your battles. Though the storm you’re in is probably going to make you stronger and wiser, right now you might not like it. Your choice is how you get through it – as victim, or as captain/commander. In other words: life’s a bitch, and what’s the next action?

Pick the right battle.

You can sign up to the GTD newsletter at

Books Landscape Life Poetry Work life

Be drunk

‘You have to be always drunk’ wrote Baudelaire, and how right he was. Right now, I’m drunk on this frozen landscape, and drunk on trying to capture its beauty and the play of light in the crisp, rosy dawn.

Drink in the moment. Cold pastoral!

Be Drunk

You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”

by Charles Baudelaire
Translated by Louis Simpson

Cold stream

Work life


Having made the mistake last week of allowing myself to be persuaded by my doctor that, because I had a virus, anti-biotics would be no help, this week I simply phoned, stated in no uncertain terms that I felt no better, and a script was left ready for me to collect.

Now the question is – do I keep to the stated dose, or if I double it might I recover twice as quickly? Whilst I think about this I’ll have to get on with the bit of copy editing and typesetting I need to get finished, despite the pounding headache etc., and consider whether I should say anything further to the publisher and author about the comment currently included in the text about strict muslim societies. I want it to be left in, so don’t want to be persuading others to take it out. And, after all, it’s not my decision. But, then again …

Work life

Fun, work and success

There was an interesting article in the Guardian last Saturday the 8th (Nov) on what the net generation expects in terms of work. The net generation is defined as those in the 20s now entering the workforce, in other words, those who have grown up in the digital age.

Author Don Tapscott writes that ‘Net-geners feel that working and having fun can and should be the same thing. And that ‘Net-geners like to get things done through collaboration. He refers to observations by Tamara Erickson, a widely respected expert on organisations and the changing workforce,

…this generation is not turned on by status or hierarchy. They want to do challenging work, but they don’t necessarily want organisational responsibility. Their dream job, she says, is something like this: a job with a problem or dilemma no one knows how to solve and lots of great people to work with.

Isn’t that the ideal work situation? In fact, isn’t this 60s culture re-defined; a more corporate take, with the focus on work as opposed to dropping out? Bring it on, I say, and hopefully there’s room for an oldie in there somewhere.

Where I might show my age is in the net-geners apparent desire to hear from their managers constantly, on a daily basis preferably. I think I could do without that kind of scrutiny – or even praise. But one note in the article did grate: ‘To be sure … They [organisations] need to compensate people so they’ll be encouraged to work effectively…’

Where did that ‘compensate’ come from, presumably meaning (in the U.S. mould) pay. What are you making amends for, or recompensing? It’s an entirely individualist approach that sees work as taking something away from the individual, as opposed to an opportunity for the individual to contribute. Especially inappropriate in this context (of work as collaboration) and in light of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book on the nature of success – ‘Outliers, The Story of Success’ – as featured in the Guardian and Observer yesterday. (Ah. Topicality at last!)

Gladwell, a good example of someone who has put the fun (as well as hard work) back into work, in his new book debunks the idea of the solitary genius:

Gladwell’s contention is not only that success is the result of a complicated mix of social advantages but also that the insistence that some individuals have extra-special gifts and talents, are geniuses in particular fields, or pull themselves up by their bootstraps, is incredibly destructive to society’s idea of itself. ‘No one,’ he says, ‘not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses – ever makes it alone.’ (from Tim Adams’s cover story in the Observer 16.11.08).

It’s time to embrace the era of collaboration.

‘Outliers, The Story of Success’ by Malcolm Gladwell, published by Allen Lane on 27 Nov.