Thursday, 13 September 2012

Make me an offer I can't refuse

I watched a programme on BBC3 last night called “Be your own boss”. Having read the gubbins on the BBC website, it sounded like it could be an interesting watch. It involved entrepreneur Richard Reed looking for the next generation of start-up businesses to invest in. Because I’m a young, dynamic chap full of good ideas and keen to push Datapartners forward, this appealed to me.

Now, you may not know who Richard Reed is. I certainly didn’t. Apparently he is one of the foremost entrepreneurs in the country. This appears to be based on the fact that he founded Innocent Smoothies. If you are a regular reader of my blogs you will know that I wrote about this product last year. His advertising strategy prompted me to purchase a Queen single and download a ring tone for my mobile phone but still to this day I haven’t tried one of his products.

In hindsight, I probably should have realised any modern day “educational” programme was going to be complete toss. It was basically Dragon’s Den meets the X Factor. In other words it was rubbish and embarrassing. I watched half of it through my fingers and spent the other half shouting at my telly at the imbeciles who were getting their 15 minutes of fame.

Apart from the ridiculousness of most of the ideas being put forward, my biggest problem was with the people themselves. For a whole hour all I heard was “Yeah so like I’ve got this like, you know, really great, you know, like, idea right and like it’s, you know, errrrr, really good and like, um, you know, errrr I’d like some kind of like money to, you know, like make it.”

This is a problem because running a business involves being customer facing. It involves presenting yourself to a lot of diverse people who you’re trying to convince to spend money with you. If some snotty student came to me speaking like that I’d show them the door. Then I’d throw them through it.

So you may be expecting me to claim I wasted an hour of my life watching this drivel. Well I didn’t. I came away feeling more confident about my own ability as a businessman. As someone who was born with a stammer and has always struggled on the phone, I am still more eloquent, more personable and come across a lot better than most. I also realised that I know more about the concept of strategy, marketing, sales, finance, negotiation and project management than a lot of people. I just need Richard Reed to give me £50,000 so I can invest in better marketing. So here is my pitch to you Richard: Give me the money and I’ll try one of your smoothies. Deal?

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Making something out of a thing

Having been married for 9 months now, I think I have settled well into life as a husband. I have mastered saying “yes dear” whilst not actually listening to what beloved is telling me and I don’t leave the toilet seat up. Ever.

However, I’ve yet to fully master the language of woman. She phoned me up in a blind panic the other day and said she had forgotten to put the things in the freezer and asked if I could do it. When I asked her to elaborate on what this thing might be, I was informed they were the things she bought that morning. After more detective work, I eventually managed to get her to say “ice cream”. Ah, no problem. Despite pointing out she had purchased them some 5 hours earlier and they would almost certainly be beyond saving now, I then asked where these mystical ice creams were. She then helpfully informed me they were in the thing in front of the thing.

To cut a long and very boring story short, the thing she was referring to was a bag and the thing they were in front of was the freezer. The simple fact is that if this conversation had been between her and, say, my mum, they would have completely understood each other. Seriously, the conversation would have gone “I didn’t put the things in the thing can you get the things out of the thing and put them in the thing?” And my mum would have answered “Oh my god the ice cream! I’ll take them out of the bag and put them in the freezer now, dear.”

This is a problem often experienced in the business world. People who work in the same environment understand the jargon and will talk to their colleagues in that very bizarre language. What they don’t realise is the customers they are selling to don’t understand a word they are saying. Sometimes people use this jargon to deliberately confuse customers with bollocks and make themselves sound cleverer than they are.

To cut another long and very boring story short, we don’t do this at Datapartners. We like to make things as clear and simple as possible. Business is good; bollocks is bad.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Viral marketing of an absurd kind

I generally don’t take any interest in celebrity gossip but the recent story about Kirsten Stewart’s affair with a married film director raised an eyebrow.

Basically she was dating her co-star from the Twilight films but has recently admitted to cheating on him with the director of her new film. So let me get this straight; a couple who play a couple in a film are actually a couple in real life and she had an affair with a guy who was the director in her new film and whose wife played her mother in that film. Who says Hollywood isn’t incestuous?

The whole saga is obviously done for publicity. Actors and pop stars basically rely on the public’s peculiar need for celebrity gossip and have to keep dreaming up new and ingenious ways of keeping themselves in the public eye. Quite how the Twilight saga was so popular is something I’ll never understand but the chances of her new film being anywhere near as popular are highly unlikely. This “affair” is just a way of saying “I’m a stupid, insecure moron. Please watch my new film”.

It’s a kind of perversion of what is done in the business world. We have to do something called “marketing” which involves getting our name and brand seen in such a way that convinces people to phone us up and buy our products and services. This blog is technically marketing. Here I am basically saying “I am a grumpy individual who thinks the Twilight films are a dubious story involving a girl torn between necrophilia and bestiality. Please let us design you a website.”

Admittedly the above probably won’t generate any business at all but I know quite a few people read this drivel. It might even make some people chuckle. Either way it gets our name into the public conscious. It might also be something that people will forward to their friends. As a result, our name and brand spreads. Fair enough, comments about necrophilia might mean we spread more like a disease but viral marketing is very effective. It’s almost as effective as the celebrity virus which has now consumed 95 percent of the globe and will soon wipe out all intelligent life on this planet.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Facebook leaves a smelly floater

So Facebook took the decision to float itself on the stock market. Given it is one of the biggest and most well known brands on the planet now, you would think this was an obvious move. Well, given that it is one of the biggest and most well know brands in the world, I’d argue that it is over-valued and over-hyped.

So how has it got on in its first few days? Well, not very well seems to be the answer. As an over-valued and over-hyped brand, people paid over the odds for shares and the value has plummeted because there is no real value behind it. Of course I can’t really comment because I know nothing about the stock market. When I first read about its IPO, I just assumed it was another Facebook chat acronym like LOL and ROFL. And if anyone asked me about floating stock I’d hand them a coat hanger and tell them to break it up and try flushing the lavatory again.

It surprises me that anyone was daft enough to buy shares. After the massive dot com boom in the early noughties when companies like Lastminute.com were floated for obscene amounts and then crashed, I would have thought people would have learned that lesson. Apparently not. I mean how does one value a company like Facebook? Is it based on the number of users? Is it based on the amount it earns in revenue? Is it based on how many personal details it shares with the FBI? How do you quantify such a thing?

Twitter has apparently been valued at a Sicilian dollars as well. How does Twitter even make any money? It doesn’t offer PPC advertising. It has no obvious revenue stream. It has no real value other than to allow people to stalk their favourite celebrities and update their fake friends on the colour of their turds. Perhaps I’m naive but if a Twit offered to sell me a share of Twitter for more than 1p I’d tell them to chirp off and offer me something cheap…

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Making apple sauce out of customer service

My long-running battle with my iPhone might finally be over. Ever since I upgraded I have been plagued by constant crashing, a rubbish internet connection and the even more painful battle to quell my desire to hurl the stupid thing across the room or stick it in the new fire I’ve recently had installed in my living room.

Having taken the thing to o2, they helpfully informed me that it was a problem with Apple and I had to go and take it to my nearest Apple store (which is half an hour’s drive) and see an “Apple Genius”. Yes an Apple Genius is an actual job title; probably the stupidest job title next to “Labour Prime Minister”.

The whole experience is quite surreal. An Apple store is quite literally something out of a sci-fi move. The whole room is spotlessly clean, clinically white and there are banks of Macs stationed in millimetre-precision locations along work stations that look like they are made out of exotic materials.

At the end of the room is the “Genius Bar”. It’s quite a weird experience being informed by a cyborg to take a seat at the Genius Bar. I genuinely went up there and almost ordered a pint.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the Genius was a typical Mac user. Now, let me explain something: Mac users are like religious extremists. They are convinced that their beloved computer deity is superior to everything else and get really rather angry if you dare to argue against them. They refuse to accept anyone else’s point of view and they preach to you in that na├»ve but arrogant way and will stop at nothing to try to convert you.

The first thing the guy did was ask me what operating system I used. He gave me that smug, know-it-all expression and sagely nodded his head when I told him I run Windows on a PC. His initial response was to tell me that was the most likely cause of the crashing and informed me that this sort of thing never happens on a Mac. Using the self control garnered over recent weeks that prevented me from smashing my iPhone to pieces, I managed not to punch him to the floor but instead enquired how my computer could possibly cause my iPhone to be so rubbish and, even if that was the case, why it didn’t affect my old phone. He explained it was something to do with iTunes and suggested I reinstalled it.

Naturally I explained that I had already tried that, I had also restored the factory settings, had installed the latest software that was supposed to fix a similar glitch and also sagely pointed out that it is a bit daft to make something that doesn’t work properly on an operating system that is still used more widely than a Mac.

Taking the hint, he then did something unexpected. He offered to replace it. There and then. No questions asked. I was stunned. Normally people try to convince you it’s somehow your fault that their product is rubbish. They try to make excuses just to get you to go away and leave them alone. They insist you try meditating and pray to Allah and tell you to come back another day when there is a full moon and Venus has aligned with Jupiter.

So for all their blustering about how mighty their stuff is, you have to hand it to Apple; their customer service is superior to most.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Busy biting bits out of cookies

I am painfully aware I haven’t written any blogs or articles for a few months. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly I’ve been busy getting married and skiving off to New Zealand. Secondly I’ve been very busy promoting the new book so the idea of writing more rubbish doesn’t really appeal. Thirdly I’ve been even busier doing my actual job of designing and building websites for our wonderful customers and haven’t had time to write what’s on my mind – not that most of what is on my mind is suitable for print anyway.

Of course I’m not the only one who has been busy. Google and Facebook have continued to busy themselves with their plans for world domination and their vocal antagonists have been equally busy trying to convince everyone that these evil companies are invading our privacy by using internet mind probes to read our thoughts and violate our human rights.

On the subject of privacy, I was forwarded an email today reminding me about changes to privacy laws surrounding website cookies. As wonderful and tasty as this sounds, it’s really rather annoying. Some twat somewhere has decided that all websites are evil and have been built for the sole purpose of spying on us. As a result, we are now supposed to inform users when a cookie is placed on their computer, how it’s placed there, why it’s placed there and whether or not it is going to suck their life-force out of them and kill their families.

So how are we supposed to do this? Well it turns out we need to add privacy notices to all websites or make additions to existing privacy policies explaining this pointless and nonsensical addition just to satisfy some pen-pushing bureaucrat with small genitalia. Or, to put it another way, it looks like I’m going to be doing a lot more writing over the next few months.