Sunday, 28 December 2014

Marketing's a Doddle but are People the weakest link in the marketing mix ? Broken chain at City Link

This ad by Doddle keys in on Customer frustration
 on being out when a courier delivers

City Link the parcel delivery business called in administrators Ernst and Young (EY) on 24 December, but an announcement was not made to the media until Christmas Day.

Allegedly a number of employees found out first through the media. Some received their email from the company on Christmas Day.
Company's often boast how people are the most important resource in a business. Yet in these circumstances it appears to not have been played that way.
As for the people known as customers, they  were naturally concerned about the goods that City Link were due to deliver for them.


The Independent Newspaper quoted   Mr Sumner-Rivers the founder of Parcel Hero who broker between businesses
  "no further deliveries will be made" but "depots will open again on Monday for customers to collect the estimated one million parcels stuck in its network".

He said City Link’s  closure could have a major impact on the UK parcel market. They suggest that there were now "serious concerns as to how the carriers left in the market are going to be able to absorb the estimated 76 million additional parcels City Link delivered each year".

"The companies will all require immediate service, which will put a huge burden on every carrier's infrastructure, from the sales department right through the network to the delivery couriers at the other end," Mr Sumner-Rivers added.
This seems to contradict comments made by the administrators of an" over crowded market"
Pick Up and collect service 

The administrators have advised  customers who had handed over parcels to City Link on Christmas Eve should go to a depot to retrieve them on or after December 29.

More to this than meets the eye

Rivals Royal Mail and DX had been approached about a rescue of City Link.

Royal Mail were apparently interested in the John Lewis and Mothercare contracts, DX were after a more comprehensive deal involving City Link’s assets and are tipped to be active in parts of the company in administration.

On City Link's website they also quote clients such as
Rochford Garden Machinery, Van Duuren Districentres Footlocker,  IMG distribution,  and MDA

Beware the perils of the “SEND” button

In a Sky News report Saturday 27th Dec 2014 “sources close to the situation” pointed to an email sent by one RMT official to members on Christmas Eve which said - inaccurately - that the company had already called in administrators that morning.

"This led to increasing pressure on the business and given the level of rumour [there was a] risk of creditor action and thus the company [had to be placed] into administration to give it protection," said an insider

Despite the recent explosion in the growth of online shopping, the delivery sector is beset by excess capacity, with companies such as Amazon developing their own delivery services

are one of the 7 Ps of a modern marketing mix . They are your employees that execute your service. From a marketing perspective this largely concerns the manner and skill in which they do so. Where a service is perceived as a commodity the People who perform the service offer are the differentiator.

Worthy as this is in theory PEOPLE can be looked over in the toughest times of a business . The news of how City Link apparently broke the news of there going into administration seems to indicate this. Although the message was apparently inaccurately relayed by an RMT member.

Certainly the breaking of the news on Christmas Eve seems to raise questions of the decision from an emotional as well as rational standpoint. The request by the RMT Union for talks with Business Minister Vince cable will ensure that the whole business will become prominent on the news pages for a few more days.

Clearly the business has assets like its properties but what of the human assets it has? Are there lessons for us in the Sales and Marketing discipline?

Let’s just review the significance of PEOPLE in the marketing mix

Anyone who comes into contact with your customers will make an impression. This can have a deep effect; which can be positive or negative on customer satisfaction.

The reputation of your brand rests in your people’s hands from top to bottom. They must be appropriately trained, well motivated and the right mental attitude.

Not all are suited to this kind of work. ( both at the customer front line as well as in the boardroom)

Many customers e.g. customers or end user parcel recipients don't really separate in their mind the product from the service provided by your staff. Even for City link for example subcontractor van driver will be seen as the service even though to the business they may view sub contractors as a money saving outsource solution. This shows the importance of your people in a business.

The level of aftercare support and advice provided by your business is also one way of adding value to your offer which can become important as people use your service more and more.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing CIM suggests that we should regularly look at the products that render the highest percentage of sales and consider whether the relationship has become complacent. They ask whether there are opportunities for enhanced support that could be employed without too much cost.
In the parcels’ market one of the frustrations of recipients is the delivery of a note explaining an attempt to deliver and asking the recipient to come and collect from a depot or request a new time to deliver.


Doddle's promotion at Waterloo Station December 2014
Doddle have seen an opportunity here where deliveries can be sent to a more convenient location such as a railway station where a commuter recipient can say pick up their parcel after work.

Time will tell

The City Link story will run for a few days up to the new year 2015

I noticed on the website under the announcement of the appointment of the EY administrators some sentences in very very small print.  This might interest those concerned about Data Protection and Personal information. I have printed the words in a larger and more readable font

The affairs, business and property of City Link Limited are being managed by the Joint Administrators, R H Kelly, C G J King and T Lukic, who act as agents of City Link Limited only and without personal liability.

We may collect, use, transfer, store or otherwise process (collectively, “Process”) information that can be linked to specific individuals (“Personal Data”). We may Process Personal Data in various jurisdictions in accordance with applicable law and professional regulations including (without limitation) the Data Protection Act 1998.
This is probably legalise but to ordinary mortals the use of "may" has ambiguous overtones

May can mean

a)      Have permission to  i..e. can , can, could , might

b)      Possibly   i.e . could , might

c)       In subjunctive I..e. might

There is a pecking order in insolvency  some people ( creditors) are more equal than others as George Orwel said of the animals of Animal Farm.

Related Links
Marketing mix consequences of City Link December 2014

Friday, 26 December 2014

No more Boxing Days for City Link Parcels

The parcels business is a tough market to sell in. Earlier this December Yodel was suffering from overload of orders creating a backlog for Christmas delivering parcels

Boxing Day is a holiday traditionally celebrated in the UK the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradespeople would receive gifts, known as a "Christmas box", from their bosses or employers.  The tradition is mentioned in Samuel Pepys' diary entry for 19 December 1663.

 The ‘box’ received by those who work for and on behalf  of City link  the express delivery parcels service ,was the shock of an “ empty box” for  Boxing Day of 2014

Parcel delivery company City Link, which employs 2,727 people, has gone into administration.

Founded in 1969, City Link said had annual revenues of approximately £300m, a fleet of 1,700 vehicles and delivered 60 million items across the UK and worldwide each year.

Hunter Kelly, of Ernst and Young, said: "City Link Limited has incurred substantial losses over several years.

"These losses reflect a combination of intense competition in the sector, changing customer and parcel recipient preferences, and difficulties for the company in reducing its cost base.

"The strain of these losses became too great and all but used up Better Capital's £40m investment, which was made in 2013 and intended to help to turn around the company."

City Link has been loss-making for many years, suffering from poor systems and intense competition from rivals buoyed by the explosion in online shopping.

A rival was quoted:

"This shows the immense pressure couriers are placed under further outlining the need for retailers to have alternative delivery solutions available at all times should one of their providers fail."

A widely accepted definition of marketing is

“The management process responsible for identifying,

anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

This definition describes it as more of a company philosophy than simply a departmental activity.

So to be effective in marketing management you not only need to understand marketing concepts, you also need to understand business as a whole and to be an effective implementer.  In practise the formula is:-


Successful Marketing Management


Marketing Knowledge


Financial Understanding


Executive Skills


Decision Making




Some key marketing decisions and the most important decision influences are summarised in these Marketing Models .  However theory is simpler than practice as City Link  found over the last few years.
Related Links:

Posts on this blog on Marketing

Monday, 22 December 2014

15 ailments your Sales team or department can suffer from - by Pope Francis of SALES ?*

15 ailments your Sales team or department can suffer from - Pope Francis of SALES ?*
You may try to live a life of faith or be someone  of no faith, but maybe this  controversial  address to the Curia  by Pope Francis this Monday before Christmas Day has something for all of us to learn from and reflect upon.

For companies looking to rebuild trust, establish a better business culture or  develop genuine social responsibility , these 15 'ailments' may resonate.

The Curia of the Roman Catholic Church  assists the Roman Pontiff in conducting the business of the Church.  A curia is an assembly, council, or court, in which public, official, or religious issues are discussed and decisions made.

By simply replacing the 'Curia' word in these 15 ailments with Sales Team, Sales department,  Sales Office,  Business development Department  etc  you see what I am driving at.  Similarly replacing the word ‘Apostle’  with sales manager, sales leader , sales director etc these 15 ailments my well ring a note with you.

Pope Francis listed 15 “ailments” of the Vatican Curia during his annual Christmas greetings to the cardinals, bishops, and priests who run the central administration of the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church.  Yet he could be speaking to any business team , you and me.
Here’s the list. See what you reckon

1) Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable. “A  Curia that doesn’t criticize itself, that doesn’t update itself, that doesn’t seek to improve itself is a sick body.”

2) Working too hard. “Rest for those who have done their work is necessary, good and should be taken seriously.”

3) Becoming spiritually and mentally hardened. “It’s dangerous to lose that human sensibility that lets you cry with those who are crying, and celebrate those who are joyful.”

4) Planning too much. “Preparing things well is necessary, but don’t fall into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is bigger and more generous than any human plan.”

5) Working without coordination, like an orchestra that produces noise. “When the foot tells the hand, ‘I don’t need you’ or the hand tells the head, ‘I’m in charge.’”

6) Having ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s.’ “We see it in the people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord … in those who depend completely on their here and now, on their passions, whims and manias, in those who build walls around themselves and become enslaved to the idols that they have built with their own hands.”

7) Being rivals or boastful. “When one’s appearance, the colour of one’s vestments or honorific titles become the primary objective of life.”

8) Suffering from ‘existential schizophrenia.’ “It’s the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy that is typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that academic degrees cannot fill. It’s a sickness that often affects those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic work, losing contact with reality and concrete people.”

9) Committing the ‘terrorism of gossip.’ “It’s the sickness of cowardly people who, not having the courage to speak directly, talk behind people’s backs.”

10) Glorifying one’s bosses. “It’s the sickness of those who court their superiors, hoping for their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, they honour people who aren’t God.”

11) Being indifferent to others. “When, out of jealousy or cunning, one finds joy in seeing another fall rather than helping him up and encouraging him.”

12) Having a ‘funereal face.’ “In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity. The apostle must be polite, serene, enthusiastic and happy and transmit joy wherever he goes.”

13) Wanting more. “When the apostle tries to fill an existential emptiness in his heart by accumulating material goods, not because he needs them but because he’ll feel more secure.”

14) Forming ‘closed circles’ that seek to be stronger than the whole. “This sickness always starts with good intentions but as time goes by, it enslaves its members by becoming a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body and causes so much bad — scandals — especially to our younger brothers.”

15) Seeking worldly profit and showing off. “It’s the sickness of those who insatiably try to multiply their powers and to do so are capable of calumny, defamation and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally to show themselves as being more capable than
Perhaps the Business schools around the world will be including these 15 ailments on their reading list !

* The real Saint Francis of Sales Francis de Sales was born on 21 August 1567 in the Château de Sales into the noble Sales family of the Duchy of Savoy, in what is today Thorens-Glières, Haute-Savoie, France. bishop of Geneva and Doctor  of the Church.

Feast day 23 or 24th January He is Patron saint of educators , writers and journalists – maybe bloggers count  as well !

Related links

Balance Sheet of Human relations

Articles on Business Ethics

Friday, 19 December 2014

Selling lessons from Central London's Christmas 2014 Attracting Attention
Marks and Spencer


Strikingly lit frontage of Selfridges
 in Oxford Street 2014
The displays in the west end at Christmas have much to teach us in the skills of attracting attention


Fenwicks in New Bond Street
There are four principal methods of attracting attention, plus a fifth for repeat calls only:

Here at Piccadilly Circus
Coca Cola Zero state a fact of Zero Sugar 

        ·         Factual attention getter: In your selling state an interesting fact which relates to either the client personally or his business; the fact will also usually relate to your product/service, either directly or indirectly.



 Austin Reed , 100 Regent Street , London 
 get across a simple factual attention getter
 with demonstration of tailoring stages

·         Question attention getter: ask a question which is relevant to the client’s business and also to the purpose of your call.

LG were on show at Waterloo Station visually asking us
 to compare LED and OLED with a twitter campaign
 #DISCOVEROLED   The coloured dots were real flowers

·         Reference opening: build confidence and interest by referring to the experience and satisfaction of another client; either a well respected client (confidence) or a client in a related business (interest).


Shackhal of Sakare 2014  in 93 New Bond Street 
 on a freezing cold night working the
 street 7.45 pm. 'Try before you buy' Sakare
produce high quality soaps

·         Visual aid opening: involve as many of the client’s five senses as possible - visual is particularly powerful e.g. using a brochure, photograph, working model, sample etc.




 Smythson 40 New Bond Street. their diaries
 and leather goods used in this
 eye catching globe display


Remember that the purpose of the four attention getters listed above for we in selling is to create a conversational vehicle that takes you directly to your real goal - investigation of the customer’s needs.  You can’t begin a sales presentation of the benefits of your offer until you have identified their needs and wants.


·         Link or story hook : link this call back to a previous one by summarising where you left off last time.



Selfridges' windows  2014 tell the fairy story of Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty tableau

Sleeping beauty tableau

Best of all use the product to attract attention

Down in Covent Garden there is a fantastic Lego display

Eye catching display in Covent Garden Piazza using the product
700, 000
Lego®  bricks

Eye catching display in Covent Garden Piazza using the product
700, 000 
Lego® bricks

Eye catching display in Covent Garden Piazza using the product
700, 000 
Lego® bricks

Santa's 18 ways to be a better listener over Christmas 2014 and throughout 2015

Father Christmas in the window
 at  Hamley's , Regent Street London  2014
Apart from his jovial demeanour what picture do you conjure up in your mind if you ever went to see Father Christmas in the Stores or if he came to a children’s party?

 The modern portrayal of Santa Claus frequently depicts him listening to the Christmas wishes of children.

He makes a good model to renew our listening skills
Here are 18 ways to be a good listener like Santa (You might like to start and scroll first to No 18 and work up the list backwards)

1.        Don’t talk too much yourself - let your contacts  talk more.

2.        Think like the clients you’re talking to.

3.        Ask questions to ensure you understand what was said.

4.        Don’t pounce or interrupt their ideas - let them finish.

5.        Concentrate on what you’re saying.

6.        Think about what your contacts are saying.

7.        Take notes while you’re listening.

Santa reads and listens.
Window at Hamley's   2014
8.        Tune into your prospect’s ideas, concerns, attitudes - not just the words.
 9.        Use brief affirmations to let them know you’re listening.

10.     Put your own personal problems on the back burner when you are listening.
 11.     Respond to their behaviour, not their personality.
 12.     Keep calm and avoid being irritated by their opinion.

13.     Keep your mind  open.

14.     Don’t jump to a  conclusion before hearing them out.

15.     Look for something interesting in what your contacts express.

16.     Blank out  visual distractions around you.

17.     Have everything to hand before you call.

18.     Practise the above over your Christmas break on family and friends!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Dot Complicated by Randi Zuckerberg #BookReview

A great stocking filler for this Christmas
Title of Book:            DOT COMPLICATED

Subtitle: How to make it through life online in one piece

Author : Randi Zuckerberg

Publisher Corgi ( Random House)

ISBN  978-0-552-17070-3

Genre:            Part autobiography, part guide to balancing our  tech with our  lives

Style: Sassy, ‘American’ and direct. + she writes with a sense of energetic fun

Contents page: Basic   

Index: No Index - Should the book go for second edition this would be handy

Flick through eye appeal: No pictures, cartoons, diagrams, and tables.

‘Time for a breather’ stops : Useful shaded chapter summaries.

Golden Nuggets:  Diamond in the rough projects, hackathons, the turducken of.. etc of American-jargon / slang at its very best, the concept of a Tech Sabbath , the importance of intimacy not always being shared with everyone else online.

Topic Summary:  “Modern life is complicated.” Zandi’s mission is to”  untangle all our wired and wonderful lives.”

War Stories: 'A plenty but of our time e.g. President Obama,   Davos World Economic Forum ..... Relationship with conventional TV etc.

Illustration: None

Quotes: “ But hey, sometimes it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission, right?”

 Randi’s Golden Rule  “Repost unto others as you would repost unto you”

Zuk’s Law “ The amount of information we share in the world doubles every two years

“ There are more pieces of digital content in the world today than grains of sand in every beach on earth .Wow”

Short Review

Agenda Item: Building an Online Brand
It should be a mandatory requirement for
 every board or  management team to read pages 208 -211
whatever their view on social media in their market sector.
Daily use of tech can lead us to feeling  overwhelmed and insecure. It matches with what others have describe as a world that is volatile, uncertain, confusing and ambiguous. VUCA.

 If you are a parent wanting to find out what your children are doing online; a worker concerned about your job security being superseded by a younger person who is more tech savvy; if you are looking to improve your online personal brand or someone looking  for ways to stop your partner using their I-pad in bed ! -   This is a ‘ must have ‘ book for you.

The main thrust of Randi’s mission is for us to develop a better balance between our connected lives and  our lives in the present.

In an online Public space which is also documented, our Professional , Social and Personal lives  will increasingly overlap. The Internet , social networking and mobile tech present us with new ( (additional) ways to communicate , collaborate and live.

Randi also explores the challenging grey areas we are all concerned about namely, relationships, etiquette, Identity  and sharing.  She gives some useful tips on how to unfriend, what to consider when photo tagging and how to know the importance of teaching kids (and OURSELVES) to be more tech savvy.

As someone who was directly involved in the formative years of Facebook and is now at the forefront of the tech savvy media, Randi Zuckerberg is worth learning from.

If you are looking for a stocking filler this Christmas I would definitely recommend this book for both personal and work ( career) reasons to everyone.