Category Archives: Marketing

10 Tips for doing business in India

At Party - Copy   I am about to travel to India later this month, and it occurred to me to share some tips on doing business in and with that country.

1. Business is conducted at a slow pace. Be prepared for a good deal of discussion, followed by a long wait for final decision
2. A handshake signals an agreement; but business contracts will be scrutinized and this can take weeks or months.
3. A direct ‘No’ is never possible; Indians will say many things that sound like ‘Yes’ but aren’t!
4. Phrase questions carefully, i.e. “Where does this road lead?” not “Does this road go to Mombai?” Indian responses can be ambiguous or they’ll tell you what they think you want to hear so as not to upset you.
5. Always budget for “commissions”; you will be expected to pay for any introductions or favours. These payments are the oil that greases the wheel.
6. Indians are often seen as the best negotiators; they’ll drive a hard bargain, and then drive it some more! Negotiating teams are led by management and supported by technical experts. High-level management make the decisions but they may not be represented on the team. Try to make contacts at the highest levels and provide incentives for middle managers and assistants to help make your case.
7. Relationships are important, along with good contacts for business. Building trust is vital.
8. A win/win approach is aimed at, though compromise is acceptable, but trust makes everyone flexible.
9. Don’t expect people to use their initiative and make things happen; strong fatalism and predestiny play a large part in people’s thinking
10. Don’t give criticism as Indians easily take offence; be sensitive to, and respectful of, the concept of Face. Harmony is extremely important.

Above all, remember that Indians are proud. They have their own way of doing things, and that may not be the same as yours. Stand alongside them rather than head to head and you’ll go much further.

I shall be posting more tips of this ind on

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And what do you do?

handshake4  In this age of Networking, there are many versions of how a person should introduce themselves.

Some Networking groups (Breakfast meetings, typically) start with a round robin, with everyone given between 60 and 120 seconds to make what they call their “Elevator Pitch.”

This is fundamentally flawed thinking for two reasons. First, when someone asks the standard question, “What do you do?” they are unlikely to be prepared to listen to such a long answer.

Secondly, the word “pitch” implies asking for business – even before getting to know the other person. And that is unpopular anywhere east of the Atlantic ocean.

The correct term is “Elevator Speech”.  It’s a mini (persuasive) speech.

The name derives from the hypothetical situation in which you meet a potential business contact in a lift, and s/he asks you, “What do you do?”

You have as long as it takes for the lift to go from the ground floor to the first floor (15-20 seconds) to say something that prompts the other person to say, “Tell me more.”

Most people reply with a label: I’m a Surveyor / Marketing Manager / Shipping Clerk / Sales Consultant / whatever.

Wrong! And a wasted opportunity. Your job title is unlikely to encourage anyone to say, “Tell me more.”

The other day I went on a discussion forum where an American was guiding his readers in how to construct and deliver an Elevator Speech. He got it badly wrong.

He recommended saying, “People hire me to …” in order to communicate that you are only interested in those who would pay you.

He advised against saying, “I help people to …” because that does not signal the need to pay for your expertise. In his opinion.

My response was to say, “The Elevator Speech needs to follow the rules of selling”, so the model I follow is:

  1. Establish a need
  2. Explain the consequence
  3. Offer a solution

Here’s one of my Elevator Speeches:

  • You know how some people are scared stiff of public speaking? (Did you nod?)
  • And others make presentations that are really boring? (Did you nod?)
  • Which means that they don’t make the impact they would like to make. (Consequence)
  • Well, what I do is to help them speak in public without fear, and in a way that makes others want to listen. (Solution)

Try constructing your own Elevator Speech, along those lines. It will help you to focus on your own added value, and what you bring to the table.

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Deliver what it says on your tin

I was looking for inspiration.  I have been running public speaking programmes for many years and wondered if I was missing a trick. Perhaps I could still learn from others in the business. So I turned to a book written by a highly-acclaimed ‘expert’, only to be disappointed.

My expectations were high, and I was ready to be impressed. But 100 pages into the book I still have not found a single insight worth adding to what I already know. Worse, the author (who is English) has done what I find more common among Americans – he talks ‘about’ the topic rather than the topic itself.

He talks about certain typical situations in which the communication fails, but he doesn’t explain the dynamics, and takes forever to provide the solution. Moreover, when the answer arrives, it’s pretty ordinary.

That’s the word! Ordinary. This famous expert’s flagship work is just plain ordinary.

I turned to another book, this one written by an American. The title was attractive, saying exactly what I was looking for. The author has won awards for speechwriting.

Then I came across this: “Try some Self-Depreciating Humour”.

It should, of course, have been “self-deprecating”, and it was not a typo. The fault lay with the author. It’s quite a common error among Americans.

I closed the book. And as I did so, I recalled the time I spoke at the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, and told of the rivalry between two orators in ancient Greece: Demosthenes and Aeschines.

An American speaker approached me later and said he sometimes told that same story himself, but related it to Demosthenes and Cicero. I gently pointed out that they were born nearly 300 years apart, so they could hardly have been rivals. If I were ever in his audience, I would have a problem with his credibility.

If you are going to stick your head above the parapet, as author or speaker, you’ve got to get it right, you’ve got to check your facts, you’ve got to deliver what it says on your tin. How quickly we can lose a following, just by failing to meet expectations

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The Naive Customer

Vulture small

I believe people.

That makes me a sucker for sales pitches and confidence tricksters, many of whom infest the internet.

I am also an early adopter. When something new comes along, I’ll take it up. And when I come across a good deal, I want it NOW.

Such tendencies have repeatedly got me into trouble. For example, this week I came across an American (of course) offer to show me how to use Twitter to build a large and responsive list. All for $17. It turned out to be a $17 ticket to receive a $197 pitch, with barely a nod in the direction of the original offer.

Numbers of times I have signed up for some mouth-watering guide to something or other, only to receive links to 10 downloads, all of which I would have to read, and none of which I would have the time to manage.

It’s a safe ploy to over-deliver by orders of magnitude, knowing that the customer has only himself to blame if he does not carry out the full programme. It’s like the small print that no one can be bothered to read before ticking the box – with similar dangers!

Another ploy that catches me out is to make me jump through several hoops between paying for the product and receiving the download, so that I lose track of what I’ve ordered. My download folder is full of items that I haven’t had time to open or activate.

When I say I want it now, it means I’ve seen something I’d like to have, the solution to some problem or other, but I want to get it now and use it later, when I have more time. I want to download it, and place it where I can see it, preferably not in the Download folder, where I’m likely to forget about it.

I admit I have only myself to blame, but I’m certain those internet marketers have the measure of me and others like me. They know that some of us can’t be bothered to chase them for a refund of the $17 (or other small amount), even if we could locate them again.

Another interesting development has been the email thanking me for an order I did not place. Or for registering for something I did not request, asking me to activate my account. It all seems plausible

I see myself as an opportunity for unscrupulous internet marketers, and a warning for other naïve customers.

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Added value will get your price

It was raining on Bromley High Street this Saturday morning, a light shower wetting the market stalls, sending shoppers scurrying for shelter. A long line of people pressed up against two sides of a corner shop in Market Square, extending out into the open. The final dozen places in the queue were unprotected from the rain, so clearly they were not just aiming to keep dry.

“Why are you queuing?” I asked the lady who joined the end of the line.

“That jewellery shop is closing down,” she said, implying that there would be bargains.

People who might not normally buy jewellery from that shop were lining up to pay less than the regular price. The original asking price is the starting point, so any discount represents a gain for the buyer, who considers the item’s value to be at least as much as the original price, and possibly higher.

We all have two prices in our heads for any item of value: the price we’d set if we were selling (the true value) and the price we’d be willing to pay (the tipping point). In a closing down sale, you get both, the tipping point price that gets your wallet out, and the verified true value, represented by the original price.

In business, the gap between the two prices is the added value. It can be an actual figure or a perception. The perception can be enhanced by adding more items of value. That’s why US sales letters pile on bonuses, each with a stated cash value (worth $750).

Now imagine your product or offering can be placed in one pan of a pair of scales. The other pan contains the amount of your client’s money represented by your price. Initially, the client will feel that his pile of money weighs more than your offering, so no deal.

Now add as much (perceived) value as you can to your pan. When your pan weighs more than his pile of money, he’ll be glad to make the exchange. Recently I bought a camera in Singapore. I was prepared to pay £500, but the salesman wanted me to pay a little more. Not much more, just enough to feel he’d pushed me beyond my self-imposed limit.

So he added an extra SIM card, then a spare battery, then a battery charger, and something else. We reached the tipping point. I said I wanted one more incentive, so he added a lightweight tripod. I bought the camera. Win-win.

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Other cultures are different. Fact.

If you are doing business with people from other cultures, you need to understand (and accept) that they are different, they behave differently, their values and norms are not the same as yours. And that’s a fact.

Some years ago, a central African country obtained a large cash injection from the EU for a project that was never implemented. A couple of years later they applied to the EU again for aid for a different project.

On that occasion, the rotating Presidency of the EU rested with a certain northern European country, who asked the Africans, “Where is the money we gave you for the last project?” No answer.

The Africans repeated their appeal for aid, but made no reference to the previous grant. In frustration, the EU President said, “We are happy to give you the aid for the new project, but if you didn’t use the last grant, show us the money and we will top it up for the new project.” No answer.

The Europeans then closed down their diplomatic mission and pulled out of the African country. They saw things in black and white and could not understand why the Africans were unable to show them the money or explain where it was.

I was reminded of that incident when I sent a sum of money to India in support of a good cause. Even allowing for variable conversion rates, the sum that arrived was 15-20% lower than I expected. I asked for a paper trail, but nothing happened, but I gather that the money had travelled through two or three banks.

Pandit Nehru once said that cash transactions in India (as in government spending) were like passing a block of ice from hand to hand: it would inevitably be smaller on arrival than when it started out.

It is, of course, easy to condemn. However, I as explained in my book, “Communicating Across Cultures”, different nations have different values and different ways of doing things. In the book I defined culture as “the way we do things around here”. And, of course, each nation has its own way of doing things, which will often be very different from your own.

Accepting that is the way to cross-cultural understanding. It’s the starting point.

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Over-exposure is a nuisance

On the timeline of one of my social media networks, one person has 30 (almost consecutive) posts, each with that person’s photograph. Another person has 11 such posts on the same page. Scrolling down the page I am faced with seemingly endless exposure to those two people.

My initial two reactions were (a) too much and (b) not the best choice of photos.

I’ve noticed a number of people adopting the strategy of multiple posts to bring themselves to the notice of their contacts. The fundamental weakness in this approach is that each post carries a link to a website elsewhere. Effectively they are saying, “Go somewhere else and read what someone else has written.”

But will that gain them the reputation as a source of interesting material? Hardly. Who has the time or the inclination to explore 30 suggested sites just to find an article of interest?

It actually diminishes the person’s credibility. He or she is seen as someone who is simply spraying out a random collection of links for the sake of attention. He or she has no obvious connection with the recommended articles. The term ‘content farmer’ springs to mind.

Let me now turn to the photographs. I’m not sure how some people choose their profile pics. Do they ever get feedback from trusted friends? Every headshot makes a statement – ask John Cassidy. There’s strong body language in the pose. And we are not always the best judges of our own photographs.

The two in question are OK as single images, which serve merely as identifiers. But when there are 11 or 30 of the same images in a row, you start to form an opinion about the people themselves. That’s when the choice of photo becomes relevant, and when it’s advisable to get feedback from trusted friends.

Once you alienate people through over-exposure of this kind, they will automatically dismiss anything you post in future. It’s overkill.

It amounts to being a nuisance.

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Long copy or short copy?

 Depends on how you see it.

The debate in direct marketing circles is a long-standing and on-going one. Which works better – long letters or short ones? The answer may surprise you. It arises out of a significant shift in our reading habits.

I experienced it at first hand this week, when I found myself reading a number of blogs in a hurry.

I read them because they were discussions on topics that interested me, and had attracted quite a few comments from well-informed people. However, I struggled with them

The reason I found them hard going was this: the paragraphs were too long.

And there were too many paragraphs.

In some blogs, for example, the text is set in 10 point, with a line length of about 110 characters. That’s hard to skim read, and you have to move your head as you read each line. Too much work.

Easy on the eye

In contrast, some online sales letters from the USA run to many pages, but the paragraphs usually consist of a single sentence and are almost NEVER more than four lines long. The line length is short too.

Some paragraphs are one-liners like this.

They also have subheads like the one above, to segment the subject matter and break up the grey text.

Why that works

We all suffer from Attention Deficit. It may not be a Disorder (yet!) but it gets in the way when we are at work.

Every day, we are all assailed by huge numbers of messages and calls for our attention: radio, TV, emails, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, posters, tannoy announcements, traffic, phone calls, conversations, meetings …

We cannot cope with more than one thing at a time, so we have developed the ability to switch off. In fact, it’s a reflex that kicks in very quickly.

So what’s the answer?

The answer is to deliver your information in small bites. Like this blog. Make it easy for the reader to take in each new idea or piece of information, and it will increase your chances of being read all the way down the page. Page after page.

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What is your brand proposition?

Every business presentation must reinforce the brand. The brand is the way your company is perceived in the market place. If your presentation is about yourself, if you are a consultant, for example, then it’s about how you are known.

The brand is about your values, your place in the market, the quality of what you offer, and the instinctive reaction it brings about when you or your company is mentioned. Everyone is a brand. It’s just that some are better known than others.

What’s your favourite car, washing machine, soft drink? What is it you like about them, and where do they stand (in your mind) against the alternatives? Now think about famous politicians, footballers, business leaders. What do you think about them? You probably have a clear impression of them, and opinions about them, even if you have never actually met them. That’s branding.

In simple terms, reinforcing your brand means telling your audience more than what you can do. It’s saying, “We can do this for you because …” That “because” is your brand, it’s what distinguishes you from alternatives, and your product or solution must always be related to that.

In these competitive times, it is increasingly important for us all to distinguish ourselves from our competitors. To help you focus your mind on your own brand values, here’s a 6-point plan:

1. Know what you do – for others. Yes, it is important to know what you do, but don’t focus inward. I say a bit more about this under Point 6, but your starting position is to consider what your market wants, and how you can be of commercial benefit to others.

2. Identify a pain that you can remove. Is there a weakness that your listeners encounter, to which you have the solution. Focus your ‘offering’ on magnifying the pain and then showing how you can remove it. You then become the long-awaited Solution.

3. Do something right. Apart from removing a pain, there could be something positive that you could do, something that adds to the collective good, something that no one else has thought of doing.

4. Mix with the right people. We all need reinforcement, and we get that from like-minded people, whose own thinking reassures us that we are on the right track. If you network, be selective and don’t commit to regular meetings that lead nowhere. If you don’t feel uplifted after spending time with certain people, and if they don’t understand the things you say, it may be time to move on. Remember, too, that we are judged by the company we keep.

5. Drop the toxic folk. Some people are just plain bad for you. Maybe they are chronically negative, maybe they don’t respond well to your enthusiasms, maybe they drag you down in other ways. Leave them to the professional therapists and move along. Don’t let them infect your mind or use up your energy.

6. Project your one defining benefit. What’s the ONE thing that defines you and distinguishes you from the following pack? Spend time finding out. Get feedback from those you trust. Challenge your first thoughts about it. Then make it the core of your business offerings and everything you say about yourself.

Finally, why not add your own thoughts about branding in a comment below?

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Filed under Direct Marketing, Marketing, Presentations

Not another sales call !

I get quite a number of calls from call centres, all scoring high on the annoying scale. As you know, if you have ever been afflicted by that menace, the callers suffer from poor training and impossibly bad scripts.

They tax my patience and exhaust my tolerance. And I will confess to being less than polite on occasion. All right, every occasion.

This morning I had a call that started suspiciously like a call centre approach. “Sorry,” I said, “you’re calling from where?”

The caller repeated the company’s name, but it meant nothing to me so, still in call-centre-response mode, I asked, “Why are you calling me?”

Fortunately my tone had not quite turned hostile, because the caller said I had been recommended as a sales trainer, and would I do some training for them?


You get my point, don’t you? Dangerous to leap to conclusions or make your mind up before you have all the facts …that’s fairly obvious. But there’s something else besides.

I had allowed those call centre agents to change my attitude to unknown callers. Through their irritating ways they had created the wrong automatic response in me, and that was the greater danger.

It reminded me to act in accordance with my own norms.

As Polonius said to his son, “This above all, to thine own self be true.” You never know, but the next person to cross your path may be trying to do you some good.

So let me do just that for you.  I’ve written an e-Book called The Voice of Leadership, and I’d like to send it to you with my compliments. To get it, just go to and click on the image at the bottom right hand corner of the page.

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