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The Importance of Setting Expectations

The Importance of Setting Expectations

One of the biggest mistakes you can make at the start of any business transaction is failing to set expectations. Very often, customers don’t know exactly what they want, or what they are going to get from you.

It pays to be as clear as possible up front, so that everyone knows what is going to happen and when.

This is something I’ve been doing in business for years. The only time I come unstuck is at weekends when my wife’s spontaneous ideas and desires get thrown into the equation. This sets up the kind of scenario you really don’t want to encounter in business.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

It’s a Saturday lunchtime. I have a plan for later in the afternoon which involves going to the pub to watch the Six Nations rugby. My wife is usually happy to come too, so this is all planned out nicely in my head. Everything’s fine. But then my wife walks into the room.

“I thought we’d go and do a bit of shopping this afternoon”.

I start to get that sinking feeling combined with a slight inner panic. Two thoughts dominate my mind. These are the two things I need to resolve and negotiate:

How much is this going to cost?

How quickly can we get this done?

What I don’t want her to know at this stage is that the time factor is more critical, because I don’t want to miss the kick off.

Now, I realise this example is open to the accusation of being a sexist stereotype. I know this works both ways and there are men who like shopping and women who love rugby. But this really happened!

So here’s where I am: my wife wants to buy clothes, she wants me to come with her so I can say whether her choice of outfit suits her or not, and I am far more concerned about getting it all over with as soon as possible.

I start thinking strategically. I begin asking her questions to try and narrow down the search and make the whole process more expeditious.

“What outfit are you looking for – it is for work or pleasure?”

“Have you identified a supplier? (This could save us from having to visit several shops.)

Unfortunately, my attempt to approach this rationally falls on deaf ears. My wife ignores me completely and off we go to the local retail park.

There is no plan in place. No one knows what to expect – and most frustratingly, I have NO IDEA of exactly what we are trying to find, or how long this is all going to take.

After over an hour in TK Maxx and nothing yet purchased, I am starting to get exasperated. Now she is suggesting taking a break to go and have a coffee. At this point I start to become irritable and a disagreement ensues.

I win the argument.

(You didn’t really believe that, did you?)

Of course I didn’t win!

Needless to say, it all worked out fine in the end. My lovely wife purchased a very nice outfit and found a handbag to go with it, and somehow I managed to get to the pub before the rugby kicked off.

I don’t know why I bother trying to negotiate with my wife: I would be much better off just going along with what she wants to do. She places no limits on spending and has a view of delivery timing that is very different to mine.

Such an approach might give me a quiet life at home, but under absolutely no circumstances would I allow this to happen in business. Planning from the outset and setting expectations is the most important thing you can do at the start of any business relationship or contract. Without it, you are just storing up problems that will become evident later.

A key thing to remember is that your client will almost always have a different view of reality than you do. Unless you go through these things with them early on, you might find they have unrealistic expectations.

Whether it is commercial terms or technical deliverables, make sure that you document everything: even the things you are not going to be doing.

In short, here are my 5 top tips for project delivery:

Step 1: Help the customer to understand what they need. This can differ from what they think they want.

Step 2: Make sure your solution can deliver against their requirements.

Step 3: Where there is difference, spell this out. Make sure you remember to state what will not be delivered, as well as what will be.

Step 4: Do the same for costs and timing. If there are things not covered in your price for which the client may incur additional costs, make sure this is stated.

Step 5: Last but not least, keep a close relationship with your customer. Make sure you communicate and be constantly checking that their expectations are still on track.

If you stick to these guidelines, neither you nor your customer should ever have to end up feeling as exasperated as I did in TK Maxx!

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CC Ltd

3 Fern Close
Rugby
Warwickshire
CV23 0UQ

T: 01788 334696
Email Us

Tony Clarke

Tony Clarke

Manging Director

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Can pizza repair potholes in the road? Apparently so. Here’s how.

Can pizza repair potholes in the road? Apparently so. Here’s how.

I don’t know about you, but as a rule, I steadfastly try to avoid using corporate speak, clichés and management jargon.

You know what I’m talking about. When people start discussing concepts that are customer-centric, a strategic fit – the sort of blue sky thinking that results in a game plan that provides a quick win, often by going after low-hanging fruit.

Corporate speak often seems to be a no brainer for many people, all of whom appear to be on the same page and singing from the same hymn sheet. They all like to be in the driving seat, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, using clichés all day long until the close of play.

For many people, the use of jargon represents best practice and they have no intention of going back to the drawing board, reinventing the wheel and finding other ways to say things. In fact, the thought of doing so isn’t even on their radar.

OK, I’m being silly now. But you know what I mean. If I’m being honest, I do sometimes use many of these phrases, but I tend to make it very clear I’m being ironic.

I must make a confession though. There is one of these phrases that I quite like, and that is “thinking outside the box”. I know, I know… you may well be cringing and in surveys it is consistently voted one of the most annoying phrases. I have sympathy with that view, although I can’t believe that some people profess to hate it more than ‘touch base’ or ‘going forward’.

But I do still quite like “outside the box” because it does touch upon something that is very true: it is so easy for us to limit our thinking and to be effectively confined. We get into certain ways of doing things and don’t see the bigger pict… Aarrrgh! Sorry! But I think you know what I am trying to say.

In marketing, it can be really important to have ideas that are a bit crazy and off the wall. Sometimes these ideas can be good in themselves. Even if not, they can help trigger a thought process that leads to proposals that are indeed viable.

The other day I was reading about how Domino’s Pizza in the United States came up with an PR stunt that is truly outside the box. (In their world of course, a box is made from corrugated cardboard, measures up to about 16 inches diameter and comes complete with a little white tripod in the middle.)

Someone definitely deserved a free pizza for lunch, because they came up with the notion of fixing potholes in roads.

Essentially, they approached a number of local authorities in US cities, usually smaller ones with limited budgets, and asked if they could fund the repair of road surfaces. The deal being that the trucks and equipment would be temporarily emblazoned with Domino’s branding and the whole exercise filmed and photographed as part of the promotion.

After doing a few repairs in states such as Texas, Delaware and Georgia, Domino’s then stepped up the campaign, tying it in with their social media. They asked people to nominate potholes in their local neighbourhoods that needed filling in.

The good-humoured publicity says that they are doing it in order to make sure pizzas reach customers intact and don’t get “damaged in transit”.

It’s not the first time Domino’s have embraced unusual ideas to help promote their brand by gaining media coverage and getting talked about. In 2015, they launched “pizza cars” in America. These modified hatchbacks were able to carry 80 pizzas and even included an “oven” to keep them warm.

The following year, Domino’s claimed to be the first company in the world to make a commercial food delivery by drone when they dropped off a couple of pizzas in the back garden of a couple in New Zealand.

In 2018, Domino’s attained record sales in the UK. On the Friday before Christmas, they sold an unprecedented 535,000 pizzas in a day – equivalent to 12 every second.

They have however had one or two issues on a global scale, with worldwide sales slightly down for the same year. They attribute this to poorer performance than expected in their new market region of Norway.

If they keep having good ideas though, there is no reason why such an established brand can’t turn things around stay on a successful course.

When it comes to having ideas, how are things in your business? Are you full of new initiatives, or are you a stuck in a box and starting to cool off?

It might be an idea to talk to us at CC Limited. If you decide like us and want to work with us, we should able to come up with some new approaches. The thing about us is, although we have all sorts of ideas, our creativity is grounded by solid commercial experience and a focus on what works, rather than showing off.

Give us a call, or send us a message.

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CC Ltd

3 Fern Close
Rugby
Warwickshire
CV23 0UQ

T: 01788 334696
Email Us

Phil Smith

Phil Smith

Wordsmith

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Top 10 tips for cooking up an investment pitch

Top 10 tips for cooking up an investment pitch

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I am something of a foodie. After living in Italy for a few years I came to love the way they approach family mealtimes and we do the same at home. It’s a time for conversation and debates and friends are always welcome.

As well as doing a lot of cooking, I also find myself drawn inescapably to culinary programmes on television.

The other night I was watching My Million Pound Menu on BBC 2. I suppose you could say it contains elements of Masterchef, Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice. Hosted by top maître d’hôtel Fred Sirieix, the show is billed as “a battle for investment between new restaurant ideas”.

The budding chefs are asked to cook their signature dish, pitch their concept and say how much of an investment they are looking for. Many of them are already in business in real life, something that usually consists of delighting a loyal bunch of followers from a street food van. By coming on this show, they are hoping to find a fast way to scale up.

The team of investors sample their dishes and collectively decide which has the most potential. The lucky winner gets to go to Manchester and run a 40-seater pop-up restaurant for a three-day trial and see if they can make a profit.

Obviously, being a marketing strategist as well as a foodie, this really appeals to me.

For most of the contestants, doing what they do best is the easier part. They usually make a good job of cooking and serving delicious food to appreciative diners. The problems arrive when they have to attend a meeting with their investors to go through their business plan.

As is often the case for people who have set up a business based around their talent or passion, they have no problem focusing on delivering to customers, sourcing ingredients and planning the next dish. Working in the business is the relatively easy and fun bit. What doesn’t come so naturally is working on the business.

It amazes me that the chefs, despite their lack of business knowledge and experience, often compile their own numbers and projections without consulting someone who can assist them in getting to the next level. They may be great at creating food, but it’s not so clever for them to be cooking up figures.

Are you planning to upscale your own business? If you are hoping to gain investment, are you taking the time to consult someone who has done this sort of thing before?

An outside view can be very valuable. Understanding where your weaknesses and gaps are will help in your expansion.

There are cases where an entrepreneur has asked for a million pounds for an idea on a back of a Post-It note and been successful. But such stories are few and far between and the odds are stacked against you.

The exercise can become expensive. But this doesn’t have to be the case if you focus on the important aspects.

Here are my top ten ingredients for putting together a delicious investment pitch:

  1. Think of this from a business objective. Create a team that are not just operational.
  2. Define your market and your differentiating characteristic.
  3. Make a plan of what “good” looks like.
  4. Define your perfect customer (this will change).
  5. Avoid the temptation to be over ambitious with your first step.
  6. Plan key milestones and costs
  7. Make sure everyone inside the business knows your elevator pitch. They should be able to explain the company they work for and why it is exceptional.
  8. Focus on no more than 3 entry points to market.
  9. Put together a budget with your projections.
  10. Create a communication plan aligned to your proposed brand and don’t be afraid to call for help.

Just remember: we’ve all had our disasters but having it planned out certainly makes it easier and reduces the risk of errors.

If you have a business and are serious about making a pitch for the investment in your next stage, it is worth talking to us at CC Limited. We have experience of this sort of thing, having helped put together successful plans in a number of different sectors. Plus, we have the commercial and creative talent in house to help with every aspect of your planning and communication.

Give me a call or send me a message. We can have a chat, perhaps set up a meeting. You might even end up being invited to one of our family dinners. There’s always a space free.

Opt-In Marketing

CC Ltd

3 Fern Close
Rugby
Warwickshire
CV23 0UQ

T: 01788 334696
Email Us

Mickey Clarke

Mickey Clarke

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A ‘Go To Market’ plan is essential. Here’s an example of a recent one we created.

A ‘Go To Market’ plan is essential. Here’s an example of a recent one we created.

When you work with CC, you don’t just get a regular marketing agency. Commercial awareness is one of our key strengths and this is reflected in how we work with clients in order to grow sales.

The most important first step in any project is to make sure it is worth undertaking. You can’t do this without first having market knowledge, doing the research and establishing a clear, thought-out strategy.

Here’s an example of one of our latest ‘Go To Market’ planning processes undertaken with a client. Prodose are experts in everything to do with disinfection of water and monitoring and control of water systems – be it for drinking water in buildings, use in food production etc.

In a nutshell, Prodose are special because of their high level of expertise. Not only are they able to supply all the technical equipment and provide practical support: they are able to recommend the very best system for each project because they have specialist knowledge in chemical engineering.

When they got in touch with us, they were wanting to move into new sectors and establish themselves amongst new types of client. They had worked with businesses who do salad and produce washing and wanted more of this, but also aspired to do more with the food-to-go sector.

Another key area into which Prodose wished to gain more business is building services – providing water treatment and monitoring systems for commercial buildings, apartment blocks, stadiums, etc.

This involved both research and strategic planning. Here are the key steps we undertook.

Creating value proposition

Here we defined Prodose as “The Disinfection Experts” and clarified their values, unique proposition etc.

 

 

Set out objectives

Worked out exactly who they wanted to approach and why.

 

 

 

Created strategic planning map

Visual representation of the market, sectors, services and how it all fits together. We present this in the form of a ‘mind map’.

 

 

Define active sales pipeline

Research and create list of qualified prospects

 

 

 

Competitor analysis

Product pricing — looked at competitor pricing and developed strategy

 

 

 

Industry trends and statistics

We look into what is happening in the industry and related sectors and find information and figures that can be of use in defining priorities and shaping future direction.

 

 

Existing and perfect customer profiles

Define ideal client companies in terms of size, sectors served, current situation etc.

 

 

 

Action plan

Bring everything together in an easy to follow plan that can be understood by everyone in the business and marketing team who needs to follow it.

 

 

 

All of the above has been presented in graphical form, with tables, diagrams and mind maps that make it easy for everyone who is invested in the project to focus on what needs to be done and where the business is headed.

If you want to make sure your next project has clarity, direction and focus on results, talk to us. We’ll be pleased to have an initial conversation, where you can decide how much the CC approach can help you.

Opt-In Marketing

CC Ltd

3 Fern Close
Rugby
Warwickshire
CV23 0UQ

T: 01788 334696
Email Us

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I’m no longer a virgin!

I’m no longer a virgin!

Well, that’s what I was told at the weekend! I was declared a “birthday virgin” when I arrived in Stratford-upon-Avon to take part in my first ever Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations.

I was in the Bard’s birthplace as the guest of an incredibly talented lady called Melissa Mailer-Yates, with whom I’ve been doing a bit of work recently.

Melissa is the CEO of Shakespuss & Co Ltd. Shakespuss is a concept based around a cartoon cat and is designed to bring Shakespeare to a pre-school and early school years generation.

Melissa was thrilled to be given such a prominent position in the town for the Shakespeare’s Birthday Parade, with her own corporate emblem and flag. The Shakespuss flag was unfurled by actor Robert Lister, better known as Lewis from The Archers on BBC Radio 4.

The parade was followed by a boat ride and then lunch at the Crowne Plaza. We were in fine company and I found myself chatting to the lovely Mayor of Royal Leamington Spa, Councillor Caroline Evetts.

As part of the luncheon we saw the presentation of this year’s Pragnell Award, which is given to those who have extended the appreciation and enjoyment of the works of Shakespeare.

Many prominent actors have received the award in the past, including Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench. This year the recipient was Jane Lapotaire and her acceptance speech was genuinely inspiring.

I’d like to thank Melissa for inviting me. The CC team are really looking forward to working with her on the next round of investment for Shakepuss, which we believe has the potential for global success.

Opt-In Marketing

CC Ltd

3 Fern Close
Rugby
Warwickshire
CV23 0UQ

T: 01788 334696
Email Us

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