If your business has not woken up to the smell of strong coffee in the digital consumer age and grabbed the opportunities it offers, then you may be missing the boat; that’s the message from Nicholas Lovell in The Curve.

The Curve

It’s been a while since I’ve read a business book as well crafted, illustrated, informative and easy to read as The Tipping Point, but this one certainly ranks alongside Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller in my opinion.

Lovell, a man who knows a thing or two about being successful in the digital business world, espouses his well backed up theory of The Curve – the concept that to in order win and keep customers in the economy of shrinking costs, rising value expectations and fluid customer bases, business owners need to focus on high value customers and not high volumes.  He also wants to free you from the tyranny of the physical to embrace all that the digital world of the web and social media can offer you.

For years businesses have tried giving things away as loss leaders, Lovell argues the case for giving more away (it’s so much easier in the Internet age of cheap duplication) to engage with customers, get them liking your products/services and ultimately spending as much as they like on what they value the most. He dares you to ask your customers what they like best and then let them pay what they want for it – you will be surprised at the results.

To some this may seem anathema to all they have done before, to those that see it as a radical opportunity to be grasped I suspect Lovell will tip his hat in admiration.

The book is illustrated with examples of how the Curve has worked in the music, gaming and leisure industries but to Lovell’s credit he extends the strategy to a host of others; and even provides template examples for everything from Premiership football to accountancy.

Lovell writes in a welcomed refreshing style with candour and humour, something you don’t find too often. This is truly reflective book written for its time – read it now or miss the boat.

This morning was filled with joy and delight for me; no I did not win the lottery, no one gave me a Lamborghini and I did not sign a fantastic new client. As good as any of those would have been my life was brightened by the postman delivering this year's seed order for the allotment.

I love this time of year in the gardening calendar as it's full of promise of unexpected delights. Those 20 packets of seed could produce a wealth of wonderful vegetables for me and my family to enjoy from June till next April.
All this planning for harvest got me thinking. I'd spent a long time looking at the wide range of different tomatoes, cabbages and carrots that I could sow. I considered what had worked before, what my family did not enjoy eating and which plants were a waste of time for us to grow. In other words, I'd spent time doing my market research in the hope of getting my choice of seed right. With any crop it's almost impossible to determine which will come good and which won't – the variables are quite considerable. Take for instance carrots. My neighbour cannot grow them for toffee but I have regular success. The seeds are the same, the difference is I prepare my ground a little better and use companion planting to keep the carrot fly away. This year I've chosen a seed that is resistant to carrot fly to improve my chances even more.

Choosing your seed and preparing your ground is just the same as getting your marketing strategy right. You have to know what makes people respond positively to your offer, you have to have all the things necessary in place so that your offer bears fruit and your marketing message has to be right in order for the seed you sow in people's minds to germinate.

If you are planning your future business harvest, make sure you pick the right seed, tender the marketing seedlings and feed your market well with good messages – that way you can look forward to a great harvest festival.

I’m not a complete technophobe and appreciate the need to communicate in ways which connect with our important audiences but I can’t help wondering if Twitter is becoming a victim of its own success.

I use Twitter to inform people about events, business tips, news and stuff that my clients are up to on a daily basis and have found it valuable in greater and lesser degrees. I have never gone in for the idea of monitoring everything on my account but this week I’ve kept a little track record of events, which I think tells an interesting story.

I quite often retweet people in a random manner, even folk I don’t know. If I think the information is interesting, valuable or beneficial to my followers or is just a “good cause” I’ll happily RT it – after all, what does it cost to hit a button? I’ve done about 12 of these this week and not one Tweeter has bothered to say thanks. Now I’m not looking for huge bags of praise, I don’t do it for return as I prefer to believe in giving – but it seems to me that this communication is only going one way when this happens; it’s very poor public relations and I’m certainly less inclined to RT these people again.

I’m also wondering if I’m the only one getting frustrated with people that post things and then ignore you after you reply. I’ve tried to have conversations with over ten different people this week that have not replied to direct questions/comments about their tweets. Some of them are big name journalist but others are commentators or business gurus and sole operators – so I see no excuse for not responding? I’ve had replies from a DJ in Ibiza, an accountant in Lincoln and a number of medium sized businesses that I’ve never spoken to before, but my requests for engagement have fallen on deaf ears among people I suspect of setting up auto-tweets to which they have no intention of responding. I’ve read other comments that the big names on Twitter don’t have the time to reply to people because they are so popular, in which case they are not communicating but engaging in propaganda.

If BBC Six Music presenter Gideon Coe can take the time to reply, how come so many others cannot? I believe it’s because Twitter’s information pipe is so full to bursting with automated stuff that half the time there is actually no one there to talk back to you. If you aren’t going to fully engage in communication you really should not bother in the first place #justsaying. 

As a PR professional I’m well aware of the value of social media. I make use of twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest to assist my clients. I’m also well aware of the dangers of misusing it when promoting a company, organisation, event or place. There is a litany of case studies showing us all how not to do social media and learn the lessons of others’ mistakes. Of late I’ve become more concerned about a wider danger that social media seems to encourage – the malaise of negativity and apathy and the possibility that it is eating away at the community spirit.

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter give people the opportunity to sit behind a PC or laptop and take pops at anything and everything. It seems that the relative anonymity of a social media account encourages people to want to pull things down instead of making positive contributions to our communities. Time and again I log on to see comment after comment taking a side swipe at anything related to my home town of Mansfield, its people and the surrounding area to the point where it almost becomes a feeding frenzy for negativity. There is plenty that could be better in our town, equally there is plenty that could be a hell of a lot worse, but it’s the downside that many of the social media commentators seem to not only focus on but actively encourage others to see as well; blinkering them to the positives at the same time.

Recently a friend of mine put a post on Facebook asking for help in locating a piano tutor in Ipswich, a request that got me thinking; which social media platform is the best for getting a quick response?

So, having little to do that Sunday afternoon I decided to put it to the test. Logging on to Twitter I looked up 20 different accounts that were based in or connected to Ipswich. I followed all of them and liked their last posts in order to make a connection. I then posted to their Twitter page asking for help in finding a piano tutor in the area and if they could please retweet in order to spread the word.

The first response took three hours, when one of the twitters retweeted. The next day someone responded suggesting a name and Twitter account – I was thinking I was making headway now, even if it was a little less than the instant response the media and social gurus tell us Twitter is famed for. After three days I’d had two more retweets (one from the Local Authority and one from the local radio station) and one more suggestion. Interestingly not one of the 20 decided to keep in touch or follow me back. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some amazing responses on Twitter, only last week LG replied to one of my tweets in minutes with advice and the number of a helpline to sort out my TV problems, but I was less than impressed with the reactive use of Twitter accounts in this little experiment.

O, and to run salt into Twitters’ wounds, my friend had a reply on Facebook with a name and telephone number inside five minutes. It’s not scientific evidence and maybe it’s case of being in the right place at the right time, but if social media is about building relationships and conversations then I reckon some folk may need some help with their communication skills!