Leading customer service trainers partner with The 8.45 Club

Today, we are proud to announce that after an extensive search, Mary Gober International (MGI), a world-leading customer service training organisation has selected The 8.45 Club (part of the Being Smarter group of companies) to provide custom ‘sustainability training’ to its customers.

For some time, MGI, like many training organisations used traditional methods to reinforce training messages taught during face to face during a campaign.

“MGI has been looking for new, cost-effective and innovative ways to enable organisations to embed and sustain skills learnt on our Seminars – to complement the sustainability activities we currently use” said Shona Cooper, Managing Director, MGI. “We are delighted to be partnering with The 8.45 Club to offer engaging, practical video training, delivered to inboxes in bite-sized chunks over weeks or months as a way of reinforcing our face to face Seminars.”

In addition to providing bespoke learning for its clients, The 8.45 Club also plan to be producing a public courses throughout 2010 in conjunction with the Mary Gober team.

Shona Cooper added, “One of the initiatives we will undertake together is to host an innovation session with learning professionals to show examples and discuss the potential of this bite-sized video training. From there we are looking to trial these techniques with some launch customers. It’s an exciting time in MGI’s evolution.”

Mark Copeman, founder of The 8.45 Club said, “We’re delighted to be working with Shona and the team at Mary Gober International. After seeing their trainers in action, it became clear to us that their methodology naturally lends itself to video training, because what they do is so visual and so engaging. We hope that this partnership will enable more and more customers to take advantage of their excellent coaching and that lessons taught will now be reinforced even more successfully.”

If you are interested in learning more about the innovation session Shona discusses above, please contact us using the link at the top of the page.


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Creating your very own World Wide Rave

I don’t get a huge amount of time to read, and so when I do read, I like to make it count. One of my favourite business authors is a guy called David Meerman Scott.

It’s a strange name don’t you think? Well actually, no… one of the reasons for David’s success on the speaker circuit and beyond is because he set out from the outset to stand out from the crowd. How many ‘David Scotts’ do you think there are when you search for that name in Google? On the other hand – how many ‘David Meerman Scott’s do you think there are? Clever huh?

David is an expert in all things viral. He’s researched viral campaigns (if you should really call them that) for years and argues a simple point. ANYONE in ANY SIZED BUSINESS in ANY MARKET SEGMENT can create hype and a buzz, hence revenue online. It doesn’t matter what you do… YOU can create you very own World Wide Rave… a phrase he’s coined as well as the title of the book he’s written. He cites dozens of examples of people who’ve done this successfully including a Dentist…!

I listened to a webinar given by David last night (REPLAY HERE) and whilst I’ve read all of his books and knew a lot of the material – it was SO good to be reminded of some of his common sense thinking. There’s three key points below for you to consider below…

Nobody cares about your product.

Think about that for a moment. How much time and energy do we spend pushing our products on our market places. People don’t care about your stuff… they care about their stuff… the problems that they need to solve. Help them to solve them and they will buy from you.

The back button is the third most used web feature.

I’ve no idea how this was researched – however it doesn’t matter – you can just imagine it being true. How easy is it to use the back button when a page doesn’t deliver what you are wanting it to? Think about making your pages and site stickier. Reduce your bounce rate. Make it easy for people to buy your ‘stuff’. And finally…

Figure out your buyer personas.

This is a massive subject and the third book below is dedicated to it… Simply put – write down today a detailed profile of one of your buyer types… where do they hang out, what are their likes and dislikes, who do they interact with. Do the same for all of your other types and then have a serious think about how you market your products and services. Are you hitting them between the eyes?!

David’s books are insightful and pragmatic and will benefit both you and your business. The three I’ve read and recommend are listed below. Click for more details and if you buy one, you should know I will reap the rewards equivalent to a can of Coke…

World Wide Rave

The New Rules of Marketing and PR

Tuned in


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Advice is for listening to, but not necessarily taking

Ian Mash of Yeoman Consulting helps us to continue the theme of ‘practical ways to help your business life” by sharing some of his experiences of working at the coalface as a senior manager in one of the UK’s largest companies – BT.


When I’ve been looking at new product development or moving into new markets, I’ve always been struck by how quickly folk want to get down to the design phase. Frequently I’ve noticed that the main design input has been personal bias or copying the competition. An old marketing guru of mine tore me off a strip for just such a view when he asked me why I had chosen a particular design. When I answered that it was what I would have wanted had I been in the market he used the phrase

‘Beware the sample of one’.

Given the cost of new product development and the cost of failure if you don’t get it right, a little time and effort at the front end using proper customer segmentation and needs analysis will save a lot of red faces later on. It’s our job as management or marketing professionals to do this spadework up front.  It doesn’t have to be rocket science.

Personally I like Kotler’s (Marketing Management, Analysis, planning and control) views of perhaps 3 axis segmentation e.g. gender, hair colour shoe size so that you can get to the segment of fair haired women who wear size 6 shoes for your better mousetrap. There are of course many others who write on segmentation, it’s up to you to choose.

This brings me onto my next thought. Often we are deluged with huge amounts of information or views from colleagues. As a manager it’s not easy to cut our way through, but I’ve seen an increasing trend from people of not wanting to listen to counter views and arguments because it takes up their time. This is a dangerous course and the time saved will be wasted in spades later when you re-appraise the position.

None of us are that good we can work in isolation.

I’ve always felt that advice is for listening to, but not necessarily taking

Consider the idea of writing a mail but not sending it until later, it’s useful to give yourself just a little time to consider what you know and what you don’t know. Sometimes this can be overnight, but if time is pressing, and it often is, it can be a walk to the coffee machine, just to get that processing time to make your own decision. You’ll find that decision is both easier to make and easier to communicate when you’ve taken this approach.

Ian Mash will be back with more pearls of wisdom in the next couple of weeks and can be contacted on +44 7860 621976 and via email at ian dot mash1 at btinternet.com

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Complaint handling – how would your company rate?

This is a follow up article to one I made last month entitled – Smart email marketing – NOT! It was my first rant on this site about a company definitely not being smart. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that they were being quite the opposite… so much so I voted with my feet and unsubscribed from their marketing database, despite me really rating their product. That’s a strange combination I know.

In case you haven’t got time to read this original rant, in a nutshell, I bought a holiday to Cyprus to be taken in October, from Sovereign holidays back in August. They then proceeded to send me emails selling me holidays and special offers for holidays in October, despite the fact I’d just bought one. Terrible, appalling, rubbish marketing. I unsubscribed before I went away, and had a wonderful holiday.

This annoyed me, as it’s simple to fix, so I had Tweeted @ them, I had written the rant article and I had written to their customer relations team. Surprise, surprise, I thought I’d been swallowed up again by the corporate black hole of complaint handling.

Well, I was wrong. Well sort of. When we arrived in our hotel room in Cyprus a couple of weeks back, we had a huge bouquet of flowers and a bottle of champagne waiting for us in our room, with a card welcoming us to the hotel, and signed from a lady at Sovereign. No mention of the reason for sending however…

At first I assumed they greeted everyone like this… but after investigation it turns out we were special – so I was even more intrigued. After much detective work, I got hold of the relevant email address and wrote to them on my return, thanking them, but also asking why it was sent.

This was their response:

Dear Mr Copeman

Thanks for your letter and I’m pleased you got our small apology in resort.

We have recently changed email marketing companies to prevent the problem you experienced happening, We have also just recently changed our customer database management system with the plan of implementing some serious changes to our customer contact strategy to make it much more customer centric and more engaging.

I hope this clarifies the problem and I hope you continue to travel with Sovereign. Please let me know if you have any further questions I would be happy to help.

Best regards


1) They had gone to the efforts of marrying my name from my email to their customer relations address,  to a booking and bothered to send flowers and champagne to the room on our arrival – very nice touch. Quite delightful in fact.

2) It was slightly marred however, by the fact we actually thought they did it for everyone – and there was no mention of the email I had sent. If I hadn’t have followed up, I would have assumed that my email had gone unresponded to and would have spread bad news about Sovereign.

3) The explanation in the email response was impressive… I have to assume I’m not completely responsible for this change of strategy, however, it’s great that someone has listened and is reacting to customer opinion.

So, how do you deal with complaint handling? Would you have done better? Do your customers’ emails go into the corporate email blackhole?


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Five ways to test your marketing messages

Last week was interesting for lots of reasons – but one of the most common themes which came up was how often marketing and sales organisations are brilliant at devising strategies for their clients, yet struggle to do it for themselves.

I’m sure many of you can relate to this issue – you spend so much time working on your business, you can’t see the wood from the trees when it comes to devising the right words for describing what you do.

There’s no hard and fast rules about how to come up with the right words when it comes to marketing your own organisation, although getting a basic understanding of what value propositions are all about will help you along the way. Once you think you have something – here are five good ways to check you are on the money…

  1. Give your materials to an ‘average’ 13 year old and let them unprompted tell you what they think. They will be an excellent barometer of the language you are using.
  2. Even if you messages make sense – it’s always worth a back of an envelope test to see whether people are actually searching for the phrases you use. Use the planet’s best market research tool to test out your keyphrases. If no one’s searching for what you’ve written, rewrite it or you will always be running uphill.
  3. For every 10 people you discuss branding/marketing with, you will always get at least 11 opinions, so bearing that in mind, send your materials to 5 people you are close to and respect and then to 5 acquaintances for feedback. Ask each group three specific questions about your materials – DON’T just ask for feedback – that’s too hard.
  4. Get brave – head off to a local networking group and make a real effort to meet 10 people in the room. This is the perfect place to test your elevator pitch, which forms part of these messages. Get good at refining it in front of people. A great test for success is whether you get a follow up question after the initial “So what do you do?” one. When people start to offer you names of people you should talk to – you know you’re onto a winner.
  5. Finally, whilst it’s not scientific, NEVER ignore your gut feelings (or your team’s gut feelings) about what it is you’ve produced. If you aren’t comfortable and proud to be using the materials and messaging you’ve produced, then make changes immediately. The best marketing won’t work, without the belief of a team behind it. Confidence and passion definitely breeds success.

Now – go and test!

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10 lessons from James Caan’s Real deal book

One of the many ways to ‘Get better at business’ – Being Smarter’s mantra – is to be inspired and emulate people who have been there and bought the t-shirt. Thanks to the BBC’s Dragon’s Den, James Caan is now a household name here in the UK. His relaxed style and friendly nature towards nervous entrepreneurs in the Den has made him one of the favourite dragons to do business with.

I was intrigued by him and wanted to learn more. James Caan’s autobiography tells quite a story. It is of course rags to riches – as with all good inspirational reads, however he has got there not through being all ‘Alan Sugar’, banging the desk and trampling over others to get to the top of his game, he’s got there through gritty determination, smart thinking (that bit I really like) and with a smile on his face as he inspires others around him.

It’s an excellent read and tells a good story. I’ve picked out the ten lessons I learnt from James’s story below:

  1. James encourages everyone to “Observe the masses and do the opposite” – it’s the only way to make it big, keep ahead of curves and stand out from the crowd.
  2. “Successful businesses are about successful relationships, not about successful transactions.” He actually asks partners and suppliers whether the deal they’ve just struck works for them… he doesn’t want to see them going away unhappy, as he argues it won’t work in the long run. Smart advice.
  3. “There is little point in hard work if you can’t take time to enjoy the rewards…” learnt from his father. Do you enjoy the rewards?
  4. “I would have nothing but cornflakes until pay day” is not a great lesson as such – But shows you how far you can come when armed with nothing but tenacity and passion for what you are doing.
  5. “If you’ve got nothing to lose, it’s amazing what you can get away with”. Think about that – always ask yourself what do you have to lose…
  6. “If you don’t have a Unique Selling Point – you’re dead in the water” – simple, sound advice anyone reading this should ask themselves.
  7. Constantly “put yourself in your customers’ shoes.” Make yourself feel what they are feeling and react accordingly. He did this, changed his strategy and literally created a (multimillion pound)business from nothing. Page 106 is inspirational.
  8. “It’s amazing how changing your state of mind can change everything else.” Positive mental attitude and thinking outside the box are so key to running a successful business.
  9. The 1992 recession taught James not to put all of his eggs in the same basket – he became close to being wiped out and promised he’d never do that again.
  10. Throughout the book, James talks about asking questions… he’s asked lots of them and by asking the right ones has found angles and opportunities to exploit.

If you’ve got some time – it’s a great way to spend £5…

5 must have professional skills

Ian Mash of Yeoman Consulting helps us to continue the theme of ‘practical ways to help your business life” by sharing some of his experiences of working at the coalface as a senior manager in one of the UK’s largest companies – BT.


I’ve had time recently to contemplate things I’ve observed which really don’t do business people justice on a day to day basis. Having the right professional skills is such a simple concept – we only have limited interaction with most people and certainly in new situations people tend to make up their mind in the first 10 seconds. Once that has happened it takes a while to change that view.

1) Returning calls

Many of us have answering messages on the phone or mobile which say that we’ll call back. Or indeed, when it’s not convenient at that exact point to talk we say “I’ll call you back at 4.o0, is that ok?”, and then don’t.  We’re all busy people and respecting other peoples time will result in them respecting yours. If you make a commitment, put it in your calendar and deliver on it.

Mark McCormack in his book  ‘What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School’ said that he didn’t trust managers who couldn’t take their holiday. In his view, if they couldn’t manage to take their holiday, what else couldn’t they manage to do? I think calling back comes into the same category. If you don’t deliver on that commitment, what else won’t you deliver on?

2) Control your emotion

One of the key professional skills in a close knit office environment is controlling your emotions. When I first stated work an old and wise manager who was my boss sat opposite me. One day I had a run in with a peer and wrote a great letter saying what I really thought of him. I felt a lot better. I showed it to my boss and he said “What a great letter, he’ll really know what you think of him after that!” He also said “I tell you what, put the letter in your drawer and then when you come in tomorrow, if you still feel the same way, send it”.

Naturally when I came in the next day I looked at what I had written, put myself in the other person’s shoes for a moment, then ripped it up and threw it away.  The same applies for e-mails, but it’s tragically easy to press send too quickly. Take my old manager’s advice, save it as a draft until tomorrow, it might save you a lot of humble pie eating.

3) Take pride

I see many, many e-mails these days where basic spelling and grammar have been ignored. It’s to the detriment of the writer I’m afraid, and I bet you notice it when it’s done to you. Whether its lack of knowledge or lack of effort I’m not sure, but the time pressure on us and the proximity of the send button doesn’t help. Use spell check and if you’re not too hot on grammar, then look at Lynne Truss’s book “Eats shoots and leaves” which is great. I’m not suggesting at all that I am perfect and I’m confident that there are plenty of errors in this piece, but it’s something to think about.

4) Bother to follow up

I guess this is very closely linked to my thoughts above. I’m constantly frustrated by people promising in a meeting to send me something or to complete an action and then seeing that promise unfulfilled. Is it me or are people starting to get slightly surprised when people actually do what they say they are going to? This certainly applies in the faceless call centre. I’ve had a couple of experiences recently where an email has been sent to me as promised from a call centre and there was a small part of me which was shocked.

Clearly this isn’t a great reflection on society – but don’t fall into that trap! A tip for you – bother to write down the action, however trivial in your to do list and then actually do it as soon as you are able. You will delight people.

5)  Be helpful

There’s a school of thought which suggests if you constantly go out of your way to help others, then you will be set for life. In the time I’ve had to observe some of these business people traits – I don’t see this helpful behaviour happening too often.

I’m a big believer in what goes around comes around. Go and make an effort to help a colleague today – and I mean really help – spend a couple of hours doing something for them that they aren’t able to do. It will make you feel good if nothing else and over time, it will pay back.

Ian Mash will be back with more pearls of wisdom in the next couple of weeks and can be contacted on +44 7860 621976 and via email at ian dot mash1 at btinternet.com

Create an org chart for a one person startup. Are you serious?

The Being Smarter team has a lot on its plate at the moment and we would all love to read more, but fail dismally. There’s one book however that the whole team has read – it’s almost like our induction course and it’s called the E-Myth. If you are starting or running a small business – it’s a must read.

Today, I wanted to pull one of the key concepts from that book and show how it really can work. It features as #26 in the popular 51 lessons learnt in year 1 as an entrepreneur post.

The book addresses the age old problem of going from startup to 50 person company. How do you as an entrepreneur keep the ethos and style of the business alive whilst expanding? How do you as an entrepreneur let go of responsibility and trust others? How do you as an entrepreneur ensure that letting go does not affect quality of the final output?

Michael E Gerber is a bit of a genius. He’s been there and bought the t-shirt. One of the many excellent tips I’ve taken from this book, which has stayed with me is to create an org chart from the outset. That’s exactly what I’ve done as the founder of Being Smarter Ltd which now has two other businesses under it’s umbrella – The 8.45 Club and TargetstoProspects. I have a very clear idea of how the organisation needs to look and with a £0.5m worth of investment I could fill every position tomorrow and move the company on at great speed, but…

Clearly that’s not a practical solution – and so the second part of his advice is to put YOURSELF into every position in that org chart. Write the manual for every job – document everything – and become expert in every position. Pin it on your wall and stare at it every day.

Your key to success then is slowly back filling those positions using smart recruitment techniques once the cash starts to flow and you can afford to employ people.

At the moment, I’ve got three people on my org chart and about 15 positions with my name on it. That would explain why I don’t sleep a lot – but at least I can see a way forward. Can you?

Smart email marketing – NOT!

We all get frustrated by poorly written emails and poorly executed email marketing. I felt compelled to write about a company which sadly just isn’t joined up. My hope is that they do read this and maybe sort out the left hand and right hand.

Sovereign holidays are a good company. They are part of the TUI Group. They offer luxury holidays, have good customer service staff, who actually answer your tricky hotel questions by email – they actually don’t go into the standard corporate blackhole mailbox. I have no complaints about that side of the business.

Their marketing department however is a different story. They should know they’ve lost a subscriber, due to blanket email blasting like so many other companies.

We booked a holiday on 2nd August and head off later in October. Why then would I receive emails as follows:

  • 21st August – Offer of exception value to Turkey

I’ve just booked a holiday with you – would I really be considering another already?

  • 28th August – Great sale weekend and exclusive offers

Once again – I’m really not in the buying mood – I’m looking forward to my holiday in October with you.

  • 4th September – Luxury All-inclusive etc

Ahem – now I’m getting annoyed – I’ve just parted with a substantial sum of money to travel with you – I don’t want to spend any more money at the moment and you’re annoying me now.

  • 11th September – Enjoy October for less

Err – I’m already going away in October – for goodness sake, how on earth would I take two holidays in October? Do you not know what my schedule is like? You’re now selling double glazing to house which has just had triple glazing installed.

(I’m skipping a couple)

  • 1st October – Book now and save over £2,000!

I’m going away in three weeks’ time with you. UNSUBSCRIBE.

Smart advice

Sovereign holidays – add two fields in your email marketing database which says date of booking and date of travel. Be smart about when people are sent emails. Set a flag to email someone two weeks on their return with relevant, compelling offers.

  • 13th November – Thanks for travelling with Sovereign – special offer inside to loyal customers

It’s not hard.

To get even more sophisticated, personalised emails which are timely and relevant work. 100% click through is possible.

When did you last go the extra mile?

This is just a short post – but hopefully a thought provoking one, based on an experience of mine today.

I had a really great lunch today with a colleague/friend who I have huge amounts in common with. She sorted out the venue – and I’m pleased to announce it here – The Golden Pot, in Hampshire, UK.

It’s a lovely, traditional English Pub, as you’ll see from the photos. My friend goes there a lot – and I could see why.

The owner, who served us went out of his way to help us have an enjoyable meal. He actually asked a question I’ve never heard before in a restaurant when he was seating us – “What time do you need to be away?”.  He knew it was a business lunch – we must have looked busy, and so he wanted to ensure his timings fitted around us. He could hurry things along, or keep things relaxed, depending on the timescales we gave him. Brilliant.

He was a smart guy and I bet he also knew he could maximise the revenue earned from us if he got dessert and coffee served in time. If he delayed – we’d spend less – but I also bet that wasn’t why he was doing it.

Whilst ordering, I mentioned I had to catch a train to London from a small station nearby. I didn’t know the area and he told me I should allow 30 minutes. When we got up to leave (on time) – he was there WITH A MAP – so that he could best direct me to the station.

No one does this stuff… no one. And it’s so simple.

There – go ponder. When did you last go the extra mile?