It’s August, the weather is glorious (mostly) and right now life is all about being outdoors as much as possible. And that means that magazine pages are crammed full of this season’s ‘must have’ outdoor products and warn of your total humiliation if you don’t have a huge water feature in your garden by the end of the week! Thankfully, I’m here with 5 top tips to cut through the codswallop and ensure you make sensible and sensational al fresco decisions this summer. Continue reading
Mention Trend Forecasting to most people and the majority are unsure what it’s about; and those that have heard of it, well they mostly associate it simply with pattern and colour.
But, to use it so, is to almost completely waste the true value a good consumer & interiors product Trend Forecaster can add to a company’s success. There are very few business tools available that, if used well, are guaranteed to improve business performance, no matter how you measure that. The more broadly the Trend research information is integrated into a company’s activities, the greater the performance improvement will be. A results and performance uplift might be seen in production as design costs reduce, PR success increases as content marketing is improved, product ranges can be smaller and the number of ‘slow-moving lines’ reduced; sales will increase as product & service offers better match the wants, needs & desires of your customers. The story telling and content meets the same degree of success in both B2C and B2B sectors. All of this ultimately leads to better profits.
Yes, our Trend Forecasting for the interiors market will do all of that!
The biggest, most valuable resource that Scarlet Opus Trend forecasting gives to a product development team, manufacturer, retailer, interior designer or marketing strategy is…. ‘TIME’. The pressure on all of the business teams in any company, is significantly reduced because our trend research extends the time in which the total business cycle has, to be completed. No need to ‘spot trends’ at an exhibition(s), hope you’re right & then rush to bring your version of a product/service to market before the trend diminishes; engage with Trend Forecasting which will provide you with the same inspiration 12 – 18 months ahead of that exhibition being visited. You’ll gain more as you’ll also gain trend/consumer back stories to build your content marketing; you’ll get specific material, pattern, texture, shape & colour guidance as well as being able to explain ‘why’ this will all match with future consumer desires.
Trend Forecasting for interiors will give you a detailed view of those consumer desires up to 2 years in advance of the point at which your product should be brought to market. 2 YEARS! As a general view this could be increased to 5 years.
Imagine knowing the detail of what your customers will desire in 2 years’ time and knowing with certainty.
Research shows that company employees work more efficiently when they are relaxed & confident. Designers are more creative, salespeople convert more sales & PR events run more smoothly. If the risk associated with New Product Development or Services development is significantly reduced; your staff can focus on creating the best PR, producing excellent content marketing, targeted marketing support materials and preparing, rehearsing and enacting sales presentations that will demonstrate to buyers how well your company understands what consumers want and will pay to get.
Dr. Robert Passikoff (Founder of Brand Keys) says of 2014:
Consumers Expect More: Over the past five years, consumer expectations have increased on average by 20%. But brands have kept up only by 5% annually, a big gap between what’s desired and what’s delivered. The ability to accurately measure real, unarticulated expectations will provide significant advantages to brands that can engage and delight.
This describes beautifully, the gap that consumer, business & design Trend Forecasting will fill for any company. Why then aren’t more companies engaging with Trend Forecasting? The answer might lie in these 2 thoughts:
- It requires taking, quite a’ leap of faith’ to engage with someone who tells you that they can ‘see your future in detail & with certainty’!
- It’s possible that Creatives see Trend Forecasting agencies as an external design source; instead of an external design resource.
Trend analysts, spotters, reporters, colour & trend consultants all play valuable roles; but only a Trend Forecaster can create so much time and:
- Inspire design teams to create products in materials with textures, patterns & colours that the consumer will want to buy. It’s global social, political, cultural & natural events that influence how humans behave & want to surround themselves with.
- Inform sales teams how to support product presentations with trend information that will help buyers to choose their products to meet consumer demand.
- Give Marketing teams an understanding of what caused a trend to emerge & how the consumer will feel as a result. Excellent content marketing will follow and help to leverage consumer marketing by suppliers of complimentary products.
- Identify which trends specifically suit a company and its product offer/sector; enabling a more focused product offer to be developed. A trend forecaster will identify which trend next year is best suited to ‘Bathroom’, or ‘Dining’?
- It’s crucial to identify trends for interiors that have longevity giving manufacturing/sourcing teams the opportunity to optimise production planning.
- Produce inspirational PR events especially for the trade press always hungry for future trend information. ‘Expert’ endorsement is gaining traction with consumers over ‘celebrity’ endorsement.
- Design exhibition stands reflecting ‘future trend themes’ making them stand out and provide a unique ‘visitor experience’.
- Design retail showrooms to deliver a shopping experience the consumer wants. Men & Women shop differently.
- Assist buyers translate Trend research into design briefs for manufacturing partners; or buying guidance for retailers.
There is so much value that Trend Forecasting adds to a company’s activities in all areas that it needn’t actually, even include the obvious product development. A business with a ‘fixed’ product design can still be more successful marketing it’s products within the framework of consumer wants, needs and desires.
It’s realistic to engage a good Trend Forecaster with the expectation that sales revenues will increase by double digit percentages, with a similar reduction in relative costs.
They’re Humans, Yes – “But not as we know them”!
Are we about to witness a ‘generation gap’ that’s just too big to bridge?
There’s a generation in the workplace that’s been there for quite a while. Let’s call it the Over 40’s club, or maybe the ‘Over 45’s Club’, whichever is right, the group are around that age. Now this large group of people has an awful lot of experience of business, they have gained a huge depth of knowledge about business and developed high skill levels.
They’ve all been trained, conditioned or educated (I’m not sure which and maybe it’s a mix of all 3) to do things in a certain way. This has come from the fact that the vast majority of this group of people have been through the corporate mill. The older they are (45+, 50+, 60+) then the higher their degree of formality in business (maybe life) and the stronger their belief in ‘the right way’. They’ve all picked up the ‘right way to do things’, the right language to use. Now, time to reveal, that I am in this club (Even if you chose to call it the ‘0ver 45 Club!) and I too went through corporate life experience.
However, in my view, business methodologies & processes haven’t really changed since the 1970’s. Technology has made everything faster, go to a few more decimal places, and facilitate deeper analysis. I guess, doing more efficiently and to a higher degree of complexity all the things that were done in the 70’s and 80’s, but not significantly different; not much genuinely new. Whenever I read yet another business book on ‘How to…..’ it’s nearly always possible to say “good luck to the author I hope they make some money from this, but you know, putting aside the fancy words, we used to do that at (in my case Mars) back in the ‘whatevers‘ but we called it xyz!”
Recently I came across a discussion, on a social network for business, that in one guise or another, I’ve seen a number of times in different discussion groups. But, always started by someone who is a member of the above club! It’s usually about spelling, grammar, planning etc.
Do you believe that ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ or do you think spontaneity creates more opportunity?
Now my first response was gentle enough I merely wanted to point out that the UK has become a nation of micro-business owners. Primarily driven by the fact that many people have lost their work and many young people haven’t ever been able to find any. So starting up your own and finding your own way has to a large degree been forced upon thousands. I contributed this to the discussion……
I believe that there are times when ‘getting on with things’ is best and times when a detailed activity plan assessing risks and result projections is necessary.
For many micro-business owners, it’s best to just get going, get a little experience, and get a customer or two before you plan too much. After all, if you don’t have a customer, surely you don’t yet have a business? Unfortunately, our tired, traditional and out-dated Banks still think they know best (if it ever did) and forces ‘start-ups’ to produce a detail business plan (that most will never refer to again) in order to gain financial support. One issue with this, is that if nothing else, they drive out of the people they think they’re helping, a lot of respect for the benefits of producing a plan.
Of course, I understand and agree that if we’d been talking about Small to Medium Enterprises and/or larger companies, planning is essential; it ensures good communication, along with a common understanding & purpose in the company.
The first response to my comment was this…..
I see the government start-up loan scheme for young people attracting budding entrepreneurs in to business who have not thought beyond ‘I set out my stall and I will make lots of money’. Even for start-ups there are some benefits to business plan if only to get them to think about cash flow, resource planning, costing, etc. They don’t listen or bother.
Can you see how, whilst being correct as a statement looking through the eyes of the group we’ve been discussing; it may not be correct if looking through the eyes of ‘young people’?
There is a change coming. Not an evolvement, not ‘a development of’ and not a shift.
There is a significant change coming.
It’s taking longer than we trend forecasters thought it might, because the ‘over 45 club’, the banks, the corporate world is resisting it well and more strongly than we expected them to. This club is insisting on trying to re-educate, re-shape ‘the change’ into the way it should be, has always been and even the ‘right way’.
That change is being driven by the under 25’s, in fact it is the under 25’s. Things will change even more rapidly and more radical when the current under 18’s come through. You see they think differently, I mean, radically differently. Their values are very different to anything we’ve experienced before; for the first time we have a generation coming through that is REALLY something new. They won’t be forced to do things ‘the right way’, they will do things their way because it fits their ethics, values and desires.
This group of young people value ‘owning things’ very little; they share and support each other significantly more than we ever did, or do. They consider the virtual world as real as the offline world. They ‘do’ things, review things, change and then ‘do’. Their style of communication frustrates the hell out of the ‘over 45’s club’ I’ve watched this happen in discussion groups time and time again. They speak, write & spell differently and don’t worry about things they don’t consider important.
I won’t go on; but ‘Business Planning’ as we know it is on its way out because …….. so is that ‘older persons club’! Business financing, ideas sharing/protection, work methods are all being completely re-invented. We just haven’t seen enough of it yet to realise it. But it’s happening and the over 30’s need to be aware of it and adapt to it – otherwise the market of the near future (the under 25’s now) won’t be trading with us, they’ll simply trade with each other………………….
Let me know your thoughts on this subject, your experiences and how your business is handling the prospect leave a comment. If you have any specific questions you can email me directly and now.
BRING KINDNESS INTO YOUR BUSINESS AND INTO YOUR LIFE
Image found on soulaction.org
I’ve been thinking about how we behave toward each other a lot over the past few months. And I realised that we are ‘different’ when in the ‘formal confines’ of our business & workplace to how we are outside that arena – or dare I say ‘in general life’. Why? There is no reason to be. Work isn’t some alien planet, there’s no law against being ‘you’ in work, it won’t make you a bad person. The stark reality is that in our ‘Business Body’ we are less kind to others than we have a natural tendency to be. We show less emotion in this place.
Ricky Gervais recently had aired his new TV show Derek, a show that drew mixed reaction; but in an interview Ricky explained that Derek was what you had when everything is stripped away from a person except Kindness. I was taken by the character from the first word and it was then I realised I had to begin my campaign/crusade/mission to encourage everyone who worked to be considerate and to BE KIND AT WORK. Kind to colleagues, customers, suppliers who are after all, just people. Derek said “Kindness is Magic” and you know what; he’s right. It has a magical effect on the people receiving a kindness and a magical effect on the person performing the kindness. Go On, give it a go.
There is no distinction between ‘in business’ and ‘in life’, if you are kind to others then eventually someone is kind to you.
Being kind however, means that you have no expectation of a return. Being kind to customers, colleagues, associates, and other business contacts is no different to being kind to your mother. If it is, you have misunderstood what being kind is.
Image found on dandelionmuse.wordpress.com
We are talking about a ‘feeling’. I am kind to others (I hope) not because I want something in return, but because it makes me feel good afterwards and it is enough just for me to know that. I don’t need, or want to tell the world about it.
The level of cynicism in some business is disheartening and indicates that genuine kindness and sharing is n’t really happening in lots of people’s lives.
The young people of today (millennials as they are known) share as a natural act. They don’t have the same need to ‘own’ things as previous generations. It is they who have begun the ‘sharing for free’ rave, only they did n’t feel a need to label it (perhaps they knew that we old gits in business would eventually do that for them).
I urge everyone to be kind to every person they meet for a day.
Image found on demoinwords.blogspot.com
If at the end of it you don’t feel good, indeed better than you ever did, then clearly there will never be a need to read anything I write ever again so you benefit anyway!
But I fully expect lots of you lovely readers to email me (email@example.com) with great stories of how you felt, what happened, and that you have indeed been more successful in business as a direct result of actively seeking opportunities for you to be kind to suppliers, colleagues, employees, collaboratives, customers, and anyone coming into contact with you and your work.
To reassure the cynics, I am not a person of any religion, cult, or ‘do-gooding’ group. My work at Scarlet Opus gives me an awareness of many global issues, innovations, creativity, and learning to a level and degree that I’ve never enjoyed before. In this business I ‘found’ sharing content in my work. I liked what I read, so I tried sharing what I knew. I liked it even more, and the accompanying feeling, and so endeavoured to keep it going.
And you know what? I’ve given a lot of time to networking over the past 2 years – a lot. I’ve helped lots of people find and gain new business by giving advice that aided them, or making an introduction. BUT, I have NEVER in those 2 years of networking efficiently and according to all of the teachings, ever gained one order or new client as a result of it. But I would n’t change a thing.
So share for free and without expectation, it is the way forward in life.
Image found on freedigitalphotos.net
Be kind in business especially and see what that does to your own popularity, career progression, and standing in the company community. You won’t intend for anything to happen because you’ll simply be enjoying sharing and getting ‘that feeling’ (you’ll know what it is when you get it) after you’ve been kind to someone and the impact on that person is visible to you. That statement above said ‘life’, which includes business and is not separate from it.
If you’d like some help exploring how Kindness can be introduced into your workplace (no matter how large or small it is) please call or text me (+44 7896 088 996), email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), tweet me whichever you like… Speak to you soon, don’t leave it too long I’m looking forward to it!
Your business, maybe even your life; and if you are going to review your business you might also be tempted to ‘survey’ your customers. After all they are the key to your success, why did they deal with you, did they enjoy it, would they again???
It’s what your customers think that really matters as they will influence many more future customers than you could ever hope to.
There are so many free-to-use tools on the internet enabling each of us to quickly and easily set-up a customer (or supplier) survey and I am sure that, like me, you’ve received more than your fair share of surveys to complete. Herein lies a problem:
Although all of us can now devise a survey, very few of us know how to be so disciplined that we can avoid subconsciously phrasing questions in such a way as to get the answer ‘WE KNOW’ is correct.
Now, I can hear lots of you saying, “Rubbish! You’re wrong, I would never do that! It’s crucial to get an honest view from my customers”. Well I urge you to look again. Questioning and the phrasing of questions is a specific skill and not one easily acquired; even TV/Radio presenters often ask multiple questions, leading questions, and questions in which they suggest the answer. And they’re supposed to be the professionals!
In trying to craft some good advice about how to put together a customer survey I came across the advice below, I liked it and thought that I couldn’t do better – so I haven’t tried to! For the sake of honesty I‘ve added a couple of views, but essentially left Mr Abbott’s work as I found it.
Every business recognises the importance of understanding their customers. Many make a concerted effort to gather data through customer research, asking questions about what their customers’ preferences are so that they can improve their products or services. But, how can you be sure that it is safe to act on the results of that research?
A famous example of research going wrong was Coke’s change to its formula. In blind tasting, customers preferred the new formulation, so new Coke was launched with a huge fanfare and tremendous confidence… it crashed and burned! Six weeks later traditional Coke was back on the shelves.
More recently Walmart surveyed its customers and asked them if they would like less cluttered aisles, customers said yes. Millions of dollars were spent on altering existing store layouts, clearer aisles and shortened shelves were introduced. The result was completely unexpected: sales went down. Walmart estimated that they lost more than a billion dollars.
How could such ‘blue-chip’ companies, with as much money to spend on customer research as Coke and Walmart, get it so wrong? The answer lay in another example:
Researchers (Nolan, Schultz, Cialdini, Goldstein and Griskevicius) surveyed householders in California asking them what would make them change their environmental behaviour. Would it be because they believed that they were:
- Helping the environment?
- Benefitting society?
- Saving money?
- Because their neighbours were doing it?
Without exception all of the surveyed householders said that the last thing that would make them change their behaviour was what their neighbors do. But guess what, when their actual behaviour was measured ‘what their neighbors did’ was the very thing that influenced them the most.
It seems that when you ask a customer a survey question, they do two things:
They use their rational mind and intellect to assess what they would do, but don’t engage their emotions.
They rationalise their assumed actions to conform to their views of themselves.
What do we mean?
Let’s go back to our Coke example. You’ll remember that when ‘tested’, customers preferred the new flavour. But, when they actually stood in front of the shelves at retail outlets, all of their emotions around the brand came into play – memories of childhood, Coke being a piece of American culture, whether they identify themselves as ‘Coke drinkers’ etc. – and this prevented them from buying the ‘new formula’ that tests actually proved they preferred.
Intellectually (what they thought), Walmart customers want less cluttered aisles. But in practice, they shop for a bargain and associate a certain ambiance with low-cost shopping. The new de-cluttered stores destroyed that ‘feeling’ and so emotionally, the shoppers wanted the clutter back.
We all think as the Californian householders thought: it would be shallow to be swayed by what our neighbours do or don’t do. But conforming to social norms is an overpowering instinct that we simply can’t resist.
Asking customers survey questions is treating them like animals in a zoo: your survey is an artificial environment. Sure you can learn a lot, but unless you are careful with the data and analyse carefully what it says, you can wildly misjudge what you are being told. This type of research is best for gathering Hard Data (Did you go on holiday last year?) rather than Opinion Data (Why did you go on holiday last year?).
The key, whenever possible, is to measure customers’ actual behaviour – watch them in the wild.
If you are testing something new and it’s impossible to watch real behaviour, at least set up scenarios where something approaching real behaviour can be assessed. Think of this as a safari park!
I hope this helps but feel free to get in touch with any questions or comments you have, or if you’d like us to assist you set up a survey for your business:
+44 1482 870360
Text or call +44 7896 088996
It’s as if seminars, speeches and conferences are the ‘in way’ to attract new business today and that must be inducing a lot of stress in a lot of people.
Are there a mass of us in the wings, just waiting to be given the chance to stand at the podium, on the stage, or just ‘at the front’ with a ready-made, captive audience at whom we can now speak about ‘something’?
Some years ago, as I was just starting my time with the Mars group, it terrified me to learn that each month I’d be expected to make a presentation to the area management team about my own team’s results and forecast.
There were only 10/13 people in the room, I knew all of them really well, they had to do it too, they felt nervous as well. The only one of us that didn’t, was the ‘smug one’ who for that month was top of the sales league. It wasn’t that he/she had acquired excellent public speaking & presentation skills along with the sales result – just that they could at this time get away with murder, wearing their protective coat of ‘achievement’!
In the years that have followed I’ve been given lots of advice about ‘How to Present/Speak Publicly’, attended perhaps 15 courses on the subject (each one run by a world expert of course), and see the same advice/training all over the web even now.
What surprises me then, is the general standard of presentations and public speakers that I now go to see and listen to. Who am I to talk you ask? Well, I am not putting myself forward as the world’s best in this area, but I can still read, and do, all of the advice, notes, training books, and web content at my disposal. It’s easy to then evaluate the offerings against all of this.
Have you experienced any of these presentation/public speaking gaffes:
The presenter stands in front of the screen on which is displayed information I should see
- The text on the slides is so detailed I can’t read it.
- The colours used make it tough to read, they clash, are weak, don’t match the context.
- I don’t believe it – he/she is reading the slide to me!
- “Well, 10 minutes in and I haven’t a clue what it’s about.”
- Should I take notes or will there be hand outs?
- When should I ask my question?
- Crikey, 30 mins gone, how long is it going on for? I wish he/she’d said, I’ve got to go.
- This presenter didn’t have a clear idea of what they wanted me to take away from this.
- Please. Please don’t hop around like that, stay still…just for a bit.
Too many people it seems to me, are placing themselves in front of audiences as the expert in their field without having given much thought to what expertise they have in the actual subject of making a presentation. It might just be me but I then can’t help but focus on what is not good about the presentation itself rather than focusing on learning something of value from a person who most likely really knows their stuff.
What a waste for us both!
Now, before you switch off thinking that I will now preach the ‘Dreamweaver’s Guide to the Perfect Presentation’, don’t, because I’m not. There are some really good tips and training documents on the subject available for free via Google. And as usual, there are already lots of people out there who can’t actually do it, but will sell you some training for you to be good at it.
What I will move onto is to express some more ‘views of an audience member’ as I have masses of experience as one. But before I do, let me say that if you want any tips on how to prepare, deliver, and then improve your skills in this area, for goodness sake send Victoria or Shelley an email requesting as such (email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org). They have delivered dozens of seminars around the world (literally), never have a spare seat in the house, and always get excellent feedback. Of course, they did have the opportunity to learn from an excellent trainer!
Now, consider this when you are in the position of delivering a presentation or speech next time…firstly, all the points I mentioned above, they are very annoying habits and will detract from your event. Now from the stalls I say this:
“Are we in the right room? I haven’t heard a single word about how to effectively sell to women … have you?”
- Did you need to wear that? It’s all I can concentrate on.
- If all you have to say is word for word what’s on the slide, please be quiet, I’m reading!
- Is this presentation delivering what it promised, or am I in the wrong room?
- Why is the presenter looking at the screen instead of us, doesn’t he/she know what’s coming up either!?
- That must be industry jargon, I’ve no idea what it meant; am I the only one?
- LOL I bet they wish they’d checked all the equipment before now!
Public speaking can be such a powerful way in which to engage with prospective clients, or entertain existing clients; they are a great way in which to establish credentials as an industry expert – the ‘go to’ industry expert; they can significantly increase your profile, confidence, and popularity.
Public speaking can also make you the last person that people go to listen to in less time than your speech takes to make.
If you go to the trouble of seeing & hearing your presentation / speech as your audience will, then you stand a great chance of it, and you, being a success.
…and, if you have any time & coffee left, here is a double ‘Dreamweaver Bonus’ for you. A brilliant video of how to make a great presentation, and excellent advice on how to be creative; starring John Cleese.
This brilliant example was brought to my attention by my US buddy ‘Whittemore’! Also a tower of knowledge for anyone. Follow her on Twitter @CBWhittemore & check out her website www.simplemarketingnow.com