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All Posts by Dale Darley

We love our competitors

Business takes place in a highly competitive, volatile environment, so it is important to understand the competition. Questions like these can help:

  • Who are your five nearest direct competitors?
  • Who are your indirect competitors?
  • Is their business growing, steady, or declining?
  • What can you learn from their operations or from their advertising?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • How does their product or service differ from yours?
  • And here’s something I think is really important how can you collaborate so that you can both create a win win?

Start a file on each of your competitors including information gleaned from the web, advertising, promotional materials, pricing strategies and conversations with customers or suppliers. Review these files periodically, looking at their sales strategies, profitability, PR etc.

What to address in your competitor analysis

  • Names of competitors – List all of your current competitors and research any that you think might enter the market during the next year.
  • Summary of each competitor’s products – This should include location, quality, advertising, staff, distribution methods, promotional strategies, customer service, etc.
  • Competitors’ strengths and weaknesses – List their strengths and weaknesses from the customer’s viewpoint. State how you will capitalize on their weaknesses and meet the challenges represented by their strengths.
  • Competitors’ strategies and objectives – This information might be easily obtained by getting a copy of their annual report. It might take analysis of many information sources to understand competitors’ strategies and objectives.
  • Strength of the market – Is the market for your product growing sufficiently so there are enough customers for all market players?

Ideas for gathering competitive information

  • Internet, no one will no you have been snooping
  • Personal visits – go on have a 121……
  • Talk to customers/prospects – Your sales staff are in regular contact with customers and prospects, as is your competition. Learn what your customers and prospects are saying about your competitors.
  • Competitors’ ads – Analyze competitors’ ads, flyers, brochures to learn about their target audience, market position, product features, and benefits, prices, etc.
  • Speeches or presentations – Attend speeches or presentations made by representatives of your competitors.
  • Trade show displays – View your competitor’s display from a potential customer’s point of view. What does their display say about the company? Observing which specific trade shows or industry events competitors attend provides information on their marketing strategy and target market.
  • Undertake a value analysis with your customers, understand what they value in you and others, how can you improve?

Written sources:

  • General business publications
  • Marketing and advertising publications
  • Local newspapers and business journals
  • Industry and trade association publications
  • Industry research and surveys
  • Computer databases e.g. OneSource
  • Customers, prospects, suppliers

When I meet people or companies who do it better, I use that inspiration and try to make myself better.

There are two reasons for doing it:

  • I get better at something.
  • I could eventually collaborate with them.

There will of course be times when you are both competing for the same piece of work and you may not win, but how you lose, and I am sure that is with grace, will say so much more about you, and guess what, you may still get a slice of the cake.

Competition is a game of balance and collaboration.  It’s about win:win and you can “win” beyond your wildest dreams, if you do it right.

If you would like a 121 with me, I would be delighted to see how we can collaborate for success

Quick confidence review

Towards a more confident you

The lack of trust in our own abilities can be damaging to our potential, as it can stop us from doing the things that we are really capable of doing.

What does confidence mean to you? Take this quick confidence review, it will, I promise be quite revealing.  Get out your journal and just start writing.  Come back and review in a few days.  What are your next steps?

Complete the following sentences:

CONFIDENCE to me means…

When I see someone who has LOW CONFIDENCE levels they:

  • Talk like
  • Use words like
  • Walk like
  • Their body language is

When I see someone who has HIGH CONFIDENCE levels they:

  • Talk like
  • Use words like
  • Walk like
  • Their body language is
  1. I want to specifically improve my confidence because…
  2. When it comes to my confidence I want to be able to…
  3. Having more confidence will mean…

My confident self:-

  • Talks like
  • Use words like
  • Walks like
  • My body language is
  • Thinks like

When other people see me, they see….

When faced with problems this person (your new confident self) thinks….

Now sit and visualise yourself with all of the new confident traits and abilities that you have.  Guess what you had them all the time, you just kept them hidden.

Congratulations.  What will you do next?

8 Ways to invigorate your learning & knowledge management

Technology and IT systems make it easy to get information flowing, getting us to a point where we are so swamped by information and finding the time to share knowledge effectively is often overlooked.  Knowledge management in organisations  is usually implemented and managed by IT or project management or business services, when it should really be a collaboration of  HR and IT and other relevant stakeholders.  If part of HR’s role to change the culture and find people who are willing to share knowledge and keen to build on others’ knowledge are engaged, surely there could be ways to make it fun to share knowledge?

Here’s just a few ideas you can implement to invigorate the learning and knowledge sharing.

  1. Using your internal forum or blog, pick a video from YouTube, TED or an interesting site and send out an invitation to your teams to watch and then discuss. Remembering to add some stimulating and thought provoking questions.
  2. Create Pecha Kucha events, where people are invited to prepare and deliver short presentations of 20 slides, with only 20 seconds per slide (that’s 6 minutes per speaker).  Have a theme with prizes.  Video the events.  Blog about them later.
  3. Use storytelling circles to develop the stories about what you do around here.  What is the most effective way to record these stories – case studies, blogs, books, videos?
  4. Start a book club and encourage teams to collaborate on developing business books which demonstrate your expertise.  Build your own business library.
  5. Video interviews and training sessions, turn them into blogs and relate the information back to key business activities. Build a video library.
  6. Encourage journaling so that people can record and reflect on their working life.  Encourage them to post blogs about findings and encourage discussions.
  7. Have a corporate internal blog for management communications and ask for feedback.
  8. Implement social networking tools such as Wiki’s (e.g, Yammer ( (Twitter for corporates)

When people feel connected to the company, knowledge and sharing will flow.

I am sure you can think of more than 8 great ways to engage your teams.

Sales & marketing process re-alignment improves profitability


This customer is a manufacturer of cable assemblies and associated services.  As the company began its business strategy review process they identified that they needed to put a simple and effective marketing action plan into place which would help them to move into new markets and grow the business.


  • Having previously engaged an external marketing team, they rebranded to position themselves within their most profitable market.  It soon became apparent that the new branding and website deselected them from entering any new markets.
  • They also invested in a CRM system that was being used as a filing cabinet for quotations which were not being followed up.
  • No sales processes were in place to build the sales funnel.
  • None of the customer facing collateral was branded and aligned.
  • Whilst they had successfully identified new markets to enter, they were not set up to exploit them.

In undergoing a full review it was it identified that a cohesive sales & marketing strategy needed to be implemented.


After reviewing the setup, sales processes and what had been achieved to date a few quick wins were generated and a simple but effective strategy put in place.  Just some of the achievements made in the first 8 weeks:-

  • New company name and allied strap line developed which would enable them to enter any market.
  • New corporate colours and a logo refinement to bring the brand alive.
  • New corporate collateral which included; proposal, presentation, case studies * 3, whitepaper, capability statement
  • Within 6 weeks of 50fives engagement a new website was designed with new content, which went live in timescale.
  • Marketing action plan and budget created.
  • New sales processes identified , implemented and staff trained.
  • External telemarketer employed on a 5 day trial to generate appointments, with 3 key ones made in the first 3 days.
  • A new business opportunity profile was created highlighting the ‘ideal’ customer profile which was used to target new opportunities.
  • All of the disparate data was collated, de-duped, cleaned up and checked for relevance and imported into Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Future plans include:-

  • A series of workshops will be run with key partners to demonstrate innovation in design.
  • Email marketing to raise awareness amongst customers and prospects alike
  • Staff trained (and coached) to use the new systems and processes ensuring that key company information was always to hand.


The new branding, website and collateral which forms the sales toolkit went live in 6 weeks meaning that the business development team could promote the companies capabilities with pride and prospects from new market sectors could fully understand their capabilities.

The telemarketer kick started the lead generation process delivering qualified appointments back into the team enabling them to work towards the company’s turnover goals.

The CRM system data was cleaned up and new processes implemented meaning that the system is now strategic to the order creation process, has up to date data and quotations are being followed up in a timely manner.

By June 2011 they had over £5m worth of prospects in their pipeline, which they were converting.

Social Media for employee personal branding

Why social media is great for improving the personal branding messages of your employee

There is often a fuss made in the media about organisations not allowing staff to use the internet at work due to potential abuse.  Of course it will get abused, we are mere mortals after all and if you leave a door open with a bag of swag available to be taken what can you expect?

I come from the school of giving team members freedom and if they abuse my trust, they lose my respect and their privileges. It made sense to me that, rather than block it completely to allow it at certain times of the day, giving us the best of both worlds.

I once had what I thought would be a promising team member who used Facebook more than she used our internal systems and would confidently lie about her activities, unfortunately for her, we were not only able to see her Internet usage, we could actively monitor her usage of other internal systems.

In 2009 Robert Half Technology reported that 54% of employers had banned workers from using social networking sites and only 19% allowed it for business purposes.   Whilst another more recent report from Mobiledia suggests that e-breaks make for better and more productive employees. I like the idea of e-breaks giving employees the opportunity to stay in touch with their friends in a ‘controlled’ way.

I wanted to raise the issue further and look at the use of social media as a branding tool for employees.

Organisations pay millions to brand themselves and often forget to pay the same attention to their people.  Yes they train and develop them, but what about the picture that is painted to the outside world of your employees blogs, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts?

Whilst you may argue that employers are not responsible for how their staff are portrayed to the outside world and that they have no rights over how an employee presents themselves, I think organisations are missing a trick.

Personal branding that falls within corporate branding guidelines can only be good for the organisation.  Many organisations now looking to do business with you, will research not only you, but your employees.  If then, your employees are demonstrating expertise and professionalism through the way that they communicate on social media, it can only be good for you, can’t it?

For example one of my clients recently put a social media strategy together which included asking employees to register on LinkedIn and set up the company information to the branding guidelines we had set down.  Each were tasked with obtaining testimonials and to link to the company pages.  There has been a great up take.  The next step is to maximise the opportunities that LinkedIn provides by making connections at all levels within key organisations and start a conversation and relationship.  A group has been created which links to a trade body and is tied into an extremely important supply chain initiative.

From being reluctant to step onto the social media stage, we now have a well populated blog featuring case studies, news and updates from the MD.  These are now Tweeted and the Twitter strategy is starting to take shape.

We haven’t broached the idea of a private Facebook page as a company portal for feedback and non sensitive news, but it is only a matter of time.  Or maybe that’s a step too far.

Imagine if your company website was supplemented by the combined knowledge and insight of teams members at all levels of the business.  What could your potential customers, funders, suppliers think?  They would, I am sure be impressed by such an innovative modern approach, not forgetting how much Google loves backlinks.

There is always a downside and by enabling and empowering employees to interact with the outside world in this way leaves the way open to them being poached by others.  We know that organisations are turning to the Internet to find employees.  All I can say is, if you work hard to keep your passionate employees motivated and well rewarded why would they want to leave?

Using social media for employees is just part of the whole personal branding agenda, for personalised personal branding coaching or workshops for your organisation contact Jacqui Malpass.


From sales process improvements to sales in the pipeline


This customer is a manufacturer of printed circuit boards and associated services.  Having grown significantly since migrating from being an OEM to an outsourced contract manufacturer they now needed to capitalize on the investments made in people, processes and technology.

The company wished to grow from £17m to £40m over the next 5 years attracting 5-10 new customers spending approx. £1m – £5m per annum.  The sales cycle was typically 12-18 months.

[box] Jacqui really understood our issues helped us with some quick wins and then just ploughed on through the rest of the marketing activities for us with amazing energy![/box]


The company had made huge investment in all areas of the business including their sales and marketing; however the strategies employed were not delivering as anticipated.

  • They were seriously over spending with no measurement on ROI and very few quality leads being generated.
  • The outsourced companies that they were using for design, web, telemarketing and PR hadn’t been managed effectively and therefore were also not delivering what was needed to drive the marketing strategy forward.
  • A new website had been procured in 2006 and was still not live by spring 2007, causing them to be deselected from companies in new markets that they want to do business with.
  • The prospect data was held in disjointed places including several Excel spreadsheets, on bits of paper filed away and in various employees Outlook systems.
  • The presentation, proposal and sales letters were all using different fonts, layouts and styles.
  • The proposal and quote were unstructured and did not sell the proposition
  • Whilst they had successfully identified new markets to enter, they were not set up to exploit them.
  • They had not mapped there sales and marketing processes effectively and the resulting documents did not reflect how they did what they do.

The overall result was that they recognized that they needed to seriously overhaul the whole strategy or continue to stagnate.


After reviewing the sales and marketing process and what had been achieved to date, a few quick wins were generated and a simple but effective strategy put in place.  Just some of the achievements:-

  • Within 3 weeks of Jacqui Malpasses engagement the website went live, with new relevant content.
  • Marketing action plan and budget created.
  • All processes reviewed and redeveloped removing wasteful activities and identifying errors in various places including the pricing spreadsheets.
  • A new business opportunity profile was created highlighting the ‘ideal’ customer profile which was used to target new opportunities.
  • All of the disparate data was collated into an Access database, de-duped, cleaned up and checked for relevance, this was used for campaign management whilst other processes were put in place.
  • A set of processes were set up for order creation from lead generation and managing opportunities to order, which included implementing a Sage CRM system and using it to manage the end to end activity.
  • An external telemarketer was engaged to call from qualified data resulting in 4 quality appointments per month and a sales funnel of 250 opportunities at any one time.
  • Case studies and whitepapers were produced to demonstrate their excellence in all areas.
  • The (frustrated) PR Company was re-engaged to raise the brand which resulted in at least 2 articles being placed in relevant journals every month and the company becoming well known and leading the way from its competitors.
  • A series of seminars were run resulting in key organizations coming in to better understand the capabilities resulting in new orders being won and invitation to present to the MOD.
  • Key exhibitions attended resulted in the win of a significant order.
  • Email marketing implemented raising awareness amongst customers and prospects alike.
  • Internal newsletters created to raise awareness internally and to highlight employee achievements.
  • Staff trained (and coached) to use the new systems and processes ensuring that key company information was always to hand.


Once the key systems and processes were implemented and a simple approach to the marketing strategy put in place this company reduced their overall marketing spend, raised its brand awareness, built a fantastic sales funnel and were winning new orders.

During 2009 the marketing management was handed back to the company.

When others talk (and listen) in another language

Everyone has an optimum way of learning new information.  A person’s learning style is a combination of how they perceive, then organise and process information. When you’re familiar with your learning style, you can take important steps to help yourself learn faster and more easily. Plus, learning how to decipher the learning styles of others – like your colleagues – can help you strengthen your rapport and influence with them.

Each of us has something called a (preferred) representational system (visual, auditory, kinesthetic or auditory digital).  There are two more which are gustatory and olfactory.

Despite having one preferred system you may combine two.  E.g. you may be listening to a piece of music which sparks your imagination and you see pictures in your mind, or you may see a picture of cake and begin to imagine what it tastes like.

People use language based in their 5 senses (representational system). By matching their sensory words, you can establish a deep level of trust and rapport.

Understanding these will help you to frame or ask questions  in a more relevant way and of course help you to understand your preferences and why you may find it difficult working with others who do not learn or speak in the same way as you.

One system is not better than another, it is simply your preferred way.  However, if you can develop your language so that you can cover each, you will find it more effective when working others.


  • Your thinking process involves creating pictures in your mind.
  • You understand things best when you can ‘get the picture’ in your mind’s eye.
  • You represent ideas and memories as mental images so you learn best when there are diagrams that represent ideas.
  • Your note-taking can be made more effective by using colours and shapes
  • Mind-mapping can be helpful in organising your thoughts.
  • You talk rather fast and, because you’ve got the picture in your head of what you’re talking about,
  • You may skim over the details.
  • Other people may notice your tendency to use your hands a lot when talking; that’s your way of describing the pictures in your mind.

Example of language to use

You have shown me of a way to proceed that looks good and I would like to see more of it

Thinking Points

  • They pay attention to how they, their surroundings and others look.
  • They need space to see their internal pictures – you can interrupt their thinking by being in their “picture place”.
  • They can also find it difficult to concentrate with lots of visual activity.
  • They talk quickly, breathe higher and often develop upper body tension. There is a lot more information in a picture than a verbal description.
  • They use visual information for planning, remembering and decision-making.
  • Need to see a picture of what you are saying.
  • They are better at remembering faces than names.
  • They prefer to meet you to see your facial reactions rather than use the phone to understand what you are saying.

Continue reading

Setting goals & objectives, the SMART way

Goals & objectives


Goals are the large statements of what you hope to accomplish but usually aren’t very measurable. Goals are more vague and focus on the longer term. They create the setting for what you are proposing.

The overall goal should define the long-term communications aspirations:-

  •  Increase turnover to £1 million in 3 years


Under the goal, you set specific objectives. Objectives differ from goals in their specificity and ability to be evaluated and measured

Marketing objectives develop out of your business goals and objectives. And they should be driving your marketing strategy. Meeting marketing objectives should lead to sales – if they don’t, then you probably have established the wrong objectives, or you aren’t executing them effectively.

Objectives should seek to answer the question ‘Where do we want to go?’. And ‘how do we get there?’

What are your marketing / financial objectives?

The purposes of objectives include:

  • to enable a company to control its marketing plan.
  • to help to motivate individuals and teams to reach a common goal.
  • to provide an agreed, consistent focus for all functions of an organisation.
Goals are broad Objectives are narrow
Goals are general intentions Objectives are precise
Goals are intangible Objectives are tangible
Goals are abstract Objectives are concrete
Goals can’t be validated as is Objectives can be validated

Your goals/objectives should include financial elements, such as revenue, gross profit, sales, and so on.

However, they should also include non-financial elements such as units sold, contracts signed, clients acquired, and articles published.

Sales levels

  • Number of Customers
  • Market share
  • Target market
  • Products and services

SMART Objectives

There are a number of business objectives, which an organisation can set:

  • Market share objectives: Obtain 3% market share of the [your industry] by 2015.
  • Profit objectives: To increase sales by 10% from 2011 – 2015.
  • Growth objectives: To grow by 15% year on year for the next five years.
  • Brand awareness objectives: To increase brand awareness over a specified period of time

However, whenever your set your objectives you need to remember SMART

S Specific
M Measurable
A Achievable
R Relevant
T Time bound

Set objectives that you can really do something with:-

From theory to reality

What you need?

  • Scrap book or a blank wall, post it notes and pens and don’t forget to smile.
  • You have 20 minutes.
  • Write down as many goals and objectives that you can think of on the post it notes and put them on your journal/wall.

How do they look?

Now choose a blank page in your journal for different areas of your marketing and categorise your post it notes.

E.g. brochures, flyers, branding, website, sales

You can come back at any time and add or remove any of these.

Write down 3 objectives for your marketing

Objective Long / Medium / Short Term

How will you meet your goals and objectives?

  • First you will have undertaken some analysis of your business and perform some market research to ensure that these are realistic and relevant.
  • Now take your objectives and break them down into bite sized chunks
  • What are your bite sized chunks?
  • What questions do you need to ask yourself?
Question Answer

The Plan

Now that the objectives are set, and have been broken down into bitesized chunks, you can now begin to pull together a plan to meet them.

In order to obtain information about the wants, needs, preferences, beliefs and likely behaviour of potential consumers of your products and services you need to conduct some market research.

The Planning Process overview

1)      Define your goals

2)      Determine the major components or objectives of the plan

3)      Make sure that your objectives support the overall purpose (goal)

4)      Break the objectives down into bite sized chunks.

5)      Collect and evaluate the data you will need to determine what it will take to complete each component of the plan

6)      Create a forecast

7)      Determine action steps

8)      Develop contingency plans

9)      Implement your plan

10)  Check the progress of your plan frequently and measure constantly, feedback, feedback, feedback

11)   Make any amendments

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