Develop for the customer, not for yourself

I’ve recently taken on the role of ‘Technology Ambassador’ for the CIM North East of England Regional Board – a voluntary role to represent the interests of the tech community at a regional and national level whilst helping to increase membership of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

The CIM celebrated its 100th anniversary last year which is a fantastic achievement and testament to its ability to adapt and evolve as an organisation. Having been a member since 2006, I’ve always been thoroughly impressed by the quality and range of their events and training courses, particularly the one day workshops which use industry experts, not just trainers, to deliver sessions on the latest trends in digital marketing. Their free member magazine, ‘The Marketer’ magazine for members is also a must-read for me and a great source of ideas and inspiration for the work that I do.

Apart from the training and qualifications it provides, the CIM also provides its members with a solid grounding in the founding principles of marketing and promotion which I think are relevant to every type of business, not just tech. Some people still think of marketing as selling things to people that they don’t really want, but really it’s about satisfying customer needs by presenting them with products and services that are going to make their lives easier, happier and more fulfilling. To this end, the greatest marketer of recent years has got to be Steve Jobs who not only turned around the fortunes of Apple, but revolutionised the computer (Mac/iPad), phone (iPhone), music (iPod/iTunes) and film (Pixar) industries too!

Where I see organisations like the CIM playing a vital role, is by encouraging more businesses and individuals to adopt a truly customer-centric approach to the development of new products and services. Far too much time, money and effort is wasted on developing things that no-one really wants just because the team behind it thinks it is cool or clever without involving real-life users in the design process.

A customer-focused mindset is absolutely fundamental to the principles laid out in the fantastic book ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries which I recommend that you read. (You can also listen to a 25min telephone interview I did with Eric on 31st Jan 2012 below:

With its foundations in the 50yr old Toyota Production System, San Franciscan entrepreneur and author Eric is a leading figure in a global movement of ‘Lean thinking’ which is all about minimising waste and maximising value for both the customer and business. If you’ve ever worked on a project or in a business that failed, you should read this book and think about how the ideas can be used in your work. Companies like Facebook and Amazon have already built ‘lean’ into their business so if they can do it why can’t you?

If you’d like to know more about CIM membership or training and how it can help you or your business, email me at plandigital@live.co.uk or call 07734722716.

Riverside: Essential reading for music lovers everywhere!

Riverside: Newcastle’s Legendary Alternative Music Venue‘ is a must-read for anyone who has ever been to a gig, been in a band (or dreamt of being in one) or has any interest, love or passion for the music industry.

Lovingly compiled by former employee Hazel Plater and fanzine writer/avid gig-goer Carl Taylor, the book takes you through the entire history of the club from inception to closure and is filled with first hand accounts and anecdotes from the people who worked there, the punters and the fantastic bands and DJs who played there too.

Riverside: Newcastle's Legendary Alternative Music Venue

Until the Riverside opened its doors in 1985, Newcastle was usually overlooked by touring bands, but it soon established itself as one of Britain’s best live music venues with practically every great band and DJ from the 80’s through to the late 90’s playing there, including Nirvana in their first ever European gig!

Not only was the Riverside a great live music venue, but it was also the home of the legendary house night ‘Shindig’ which attracted global fame to the club. For 20yrs, the Riverside WAS the epicentre of the music industry in the region and locals (including myself) owe a great debt to those who came together and made it all happen.

Apart from being a fantastic slice of nostalgia for anyone that walked through the doors, this book provides wonderful inspiration for anyone, of any walk of life, demonstrating what incredible things can happen when you dare to think big.

Buy this book now! You need it on your shelf!

The Domino Project: Start. Now!

Slides from my 5min Ignite presentation first delivered at the Codeworks Connect ‘Think and a Drink’ event at the Vermont Hotel, Newcastle upon Tyne on Thursday 29th September 2011.

Barriers to 'Great Work'

‘Barriers’ stopping people from producing ‘Great Work’ and achieving their dreams in Newcastle. (I got people to write them down on a piece of paper, scrunch them up into a ball, and throw them at a target on stage during my ‘Ignite’ presentation at the Codeworks Connect ‘Think and a Drink’ on 29th September 2011.

Contact me via @plandigitaluk, @lordlancaster, plandigital@live.co.uk or call +44(0)7734 722 716 if you’d like to know more or get me to deliver this presentation again for you.

‘End Malaria Day’ – help save lives by helping yourself

If you’re a fan of Seth Godin and other motivational, inspirational writers then you will find the new book from The Domino Project ‘End Malaria‘ a real treat.

Packed full of short essays, tips and insights from over 60 of the world’s leading thinkers and business brains, the purpose of this book is not only to inspire and engage the reader to bigger and better things in their own life but to actually participate in a much higher purpose by saving the lives of others.

Released on 7th September 2011 as part of ‘End Malaria Day‘ – $20 dollars (around £12 GBP) from each physical copy sold (and the full amount of each Kindle version) will be donated to ‘Malaria No More‘, an international advocacy organisation on a mission to end malaria-related deaths by 2015.

The money raised will be used to pay for mosquito nets which are proven to be one of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce deaths and increase life expectancy in malaria-ridden countries. (Watch Bill Gates’ legendary TED talk from 2009 below in which he announced his campaign to end malaria).

Please buy this book and play your part in saving lives today. To find out more about the project and people behind ‘End Malaria Day’ watch the video below and visit: http://endmalariaday.com

‘Read This Before Our Next Meeting’ by Al Pittampalli

How many meetings do you have at work where you leave thinking ‘what a complete waste of time and effort’?

If the answer is ‘a lot’ or ‘most of them’ then you really must read Al Pittampalli’s excellent new book ‘Read This Before Our Next Meeting‘.

Read This Before Our Next Meeting

The latest title from The Domino Project, Al’s book highlights all that is wrong with the ‘traditional meeting’ and suggests a better, more productive way to do business through the ‘Modern Meeting‘.

Describing Microsoft Office email Appointments as ‘weapons of mass interruption’, Al hits the nail on the head when he says that it’s far too easy for people to call team meetings with little care or thought for the impact they might have on the recipients that have to sit through ‘another bad meeting’.

Furthermore, he points out how meetings have become stalling tactics and havens for complacency and collective indecision in too many organisations around the world. Too many meetings with too many people (or the wrong ones) leads to inaction, compromise and mediocrity. ‘Less talk, more action’ should be the new mantra.

Some of the key themes and ideas I took from the book which I will be trying to implement in future include;

  • Thinking really, really carefully before calling a meeting and who you should invite. (Sounds obvious but is a very important point to make).
  • Taking your time to circulate reading materials before the meeting and INSISTING that all attendees read them beforehand. If they turn up for the meeting without reading, then you are perfectly within your rights to ask them to leave. Time is precious and you certainly don’t have time to go through the background info at the beginning. These types of ‘informaional meetings’ are a big waste of your and everyone else’s time.
  • Simply turning up for a meeting isn’t enough. All attendees should be expected to ‘turn up’ in mind and spirit and contribute something to the meeting. Make it clear that they must add some value to proceedings (asking questions, sharing insight, offering to take on tasks) otherwise they aren’t welcome or necessary and won’t be invited to future meetings.
  • Make sure that all meetings have a clear purpose, clear objective(s) and end on time. Put a big visual countdown timer on display so people know that you mean business.
  • Ensure that someone makes good and proper notes from the meeting which are circulated soon after with clear action points for all attendees. I would actually suggest that if it’s important, the person calling the meeting should also take their own notes and follow things up personally. Ideally, all attendees should be making their own notes too and taking responsibility for actions in the actual meeting (far too many do neither and then can’t remember what was agreed to).

Like all Domino Project titles, this highly useful book is deliberately fast-paced and designed to be read in around 1hr (I read mine via Kindle App on my Windows Phone on the bus journey home from work).

So, if you’re sick of feeling like your time is being wasted by pointless meetings or are simply looking for ways to improve your professional capacity and productivity at work, then I highly recommend you grab hold of a copy. Even better if you can share it with your colleagues too so they can understand where you are coming from.

Perhaps you could even hold a ‘Modern Meeting’ to discuss how to roll them out across the organisation?

Buy it from Amazon
Kindle version here or
Hardcover version here

‘Pick Four’ by Zig Ziglar – great to read, even better to share

The latest Domino Project book ‘Pick Four’ by legendary US salesman Zig Ziglar is out today http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1936719215

Coming as a 4-pack of spiral bound books which are designed to be written in and shared, Pick Four is an updated version of Zig Ziglar’s legendary goal-setting program, The Performance Planner.

A handy way to follow Twitter discussions about this book is via the excellent Book#Hashtags website at: http://www.bookhashtags.com/book?id=176

Pick Four (4 Pack – Designed to Share)

Updated, simplified and introduced by Seth Godin, Pick Four, is designed to help anyone achieve his or her goals. This edition includes four copies of Pick Four, ideal for sharing with friends or stretching your goals out over the year. Using Ziglar’s philosophy that the key to success is directed action, this book challenges the reader to reach outside his or her comfort zone and take the necessary steps to achieve success. Known for his genuine and authentic approach, Ziglar imparts decade’s worth of strategies. Pick Four is an important tool for anyone looking to create positive change; guaranteed to put you on your path to success.

Why are you in business?

My personal review of ‘Anything You Want (40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur)’ by Derek Sivers.

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

Another fantastic book from Seth Godin’s The Domino Project, ‘Anything You Want‘ tells how Derek Sivers (Founder of CD Baby) almost accidentally turned a hobby into a hugely successful business (deliberately slowly) over 10yrs which he then sold for $22 Million when it outgrew him and stopped being fun.

However, it’s much more than that. It’s an insight into the mindset and philosophy of a truly enlightened entrepreneur who instead of seeking to make his business as big as possible, tried to keep it as small as possible with a total focus on customer service and ‘making dreams come true for others and for himself’.

Full of great anecdotes and mottos like using ‘Hell Yeah, or No‘ to decide whether to proceed with an idea, reading this book will inspire you and help you think completely differently about your motivation and purpose in both business and life.

Here’s a flavour of Derek’s wonderfully refreshing way of thinking about business;

  • Business is not about money, it’s about making dreams come true for others and for yourself.
  • Making a company is a great way to improve the world while improving yourself.
  • When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world.
  • Never do anything just for the money.
  • Don’t pursue business just for your own gain. Only answer the calls for help.
  • Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what’s not working.
  • Your business plan is moot. You don’t know what people really want until you start doing it.
  • Starting with no money is an advantage. You don’t need money to start helping people.
  • You can’t please everyone, so proudly exclude people.
  • Make yourself unnecessary to the running of your business (if you’re the founder).
  • The real point of doing anything is to be happy, so do only what makes you happy.

Whether you’re thinking of starting a new business, already up and running or just looking for more meaning to your life I highly recommend you get it here!

Also, read more about The Domino Project and Derek Sivers.