How Do You Know You’re In The Right Place For You?


Friday, 7.46pm

Sheffield, U.K.

We are the only species on Earth that observe “Shark Week”. Sharks don’t even observe “Shark Week”, but we do. For the same reason I can pick this pencil, tell you its name is Steve and go like this (breaks pencil) and part of you dies just a little bit on the inside, because people can connect with anything. We can sympathize with a pencil, we can forgive a shark, and we can give Ben Affleck an academy award for Screenwriting. – Jeff Winger in Community

A few things haven’t gone the way I would have liked today.

I don’t usually worry much about things not going right – but when they don’t it’s still stings a little.

It will pass – it always does.

But, it gets me thinking about a few things – but I don’t know if the pieces will come together in any coherent way.

But let us have a go.

We start with a book called Bureaucracy: What government organisations do and why they do it by James Q. Wilson.

Wilson makes an unpromising start by quoting James G. March and Herbert A. Simon as writing that “not a great deal has been said about organizations, but it has been said over and over in a variety of languages.”

Theory, this implies, is a waste of time but it is unlikely to be of any practical use.

Well – that’s it for this blog then.

Luckily, there is more, and it is useful.

First, there is a distillation of concepts one can use to understand bureaucracies – and organisations in general.

Ask yourself what tasks the organisation does – not goals, but the critical tasks it must carry out.

Then ask what gives the organisation its sense of mission – is it pride in what people do, a religious calling, a sense of honour and duty?

And then ask how autonomous the organisation is – how well it can make decisions.

Then, if we skip to the end Wilson quotes James Colvard on how to run organisations better – have “a bias towards action, small staffs, and a high level of delegation based on trust.”

And here we get to a central point – management is not about tools and it is not about systems.

It is about delivering something – a mission – what a customer needs – something that makes things better.

From this, we can jump to Federalist Paper No. 51 which has some hope for people wondering what is happening in the world right now – especially when it comes to people and governments.

James Madison argues, in his paper that:

“The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

In other words you need institutions – independent centres of power that balance and check each other to maintain freedom and democracy in a society.

And you need the same in an organisation – excessive centralisation leads to ossification, excessive decentralisation leads to dissipation – and you need a balance of loose and tight to keep the system together.

So, what about the broken pencil?

The point, I suppose, is that organisations act in ways that don’t always make sense.

What wins in one situation loses in another – and we often make the mistake of thinking that it’s the systems and processes that are the organisation rather than the people.

But the people are also the system.

As humans we can connect to anything – we can take a bunch of shapes, add facial features and emotions and give them personalities and feel like we relate to them in some way.

And as humans we are impossibly complex.

Something that seems right to one person is completely wrong to another.

When I fail, it is often less because what I did was a failure but because what I did was wrong in the eyes of others.

Or maybe it was just wrong – it’s hard to tell.

But the thing is to keep going – because what else is there to do?

We have the ability, it seems, to project human nature onto everything around us.

When we understand our own – then perhaps we will find the right place for us.


Karthik Suresh

What Mistake Do Most People Make When They Decide What To Do?


Wednesday, 9.23pm

Sheffield, U.K.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation – Henry David Thoreau

We all know people who go to work and then come home and do what they really want to do.

They make furniture, work on home improvement projects, sell things on Ebay.

Others find ways to pass the time – TV, sports.

And along the way we have ideas – ideas for businesses that we might like to start.

And, of course, some of those ideas might be at work.

Now, think about how one might think when trying to decide what to work on?

Some people focus on the importance of market research – going out and talking to consumers.

That might work – although you must keep in mind that Henry Ford aphorism that his customers would have told him they wanted faster horses.

Others believe that they have something that people will definitely want – and they pour time and money and significant chunks of their lives into the project.

And sometimes that works out and often it doesn’t.

The mistake we’re making, perhaps, is looking outside ourselves.

Consider this – how well do you know yourself?

If you were to ask yourself what you liked, what you disliked, what you really wanted out of life – how many of those things do you really know clearly, completely?

Most of the time we find it hard to know what we want.

So, when we get out of our own heads and try to understand what other people want – surely it’s going to be harder?

And if we take one more step – going from thinking about what people want from the things they can have right now to thinking about the things they would want that they don’t already have – surely we’re simply stumbling around in the dark?

When you really think about it what are the chances that you’ll come up with something that the majority of people will embrace wholeheartedly?

Well – judging from the proportion of startups that make it big – fairly small.

Which is why it makes sense to turn the approach around.

Why do you go on holiday?

Because you’d like to visit the place you’re going to and believe you’re going to have a good time.

Why do you work on your house – build an extension or put in a new kitchen?

Probably because you believe you’ll use the space or find that you really like having those self-closing doors.

In these everyday situations you’re doing something because you want to have the benefits of doing the activity – the experience, the space, the stuff.

And so that leads us to a principle, articulated by Eric Allman – the inventor of sendmail.

“One general principle of software engineering is that you should be writing a program that you want to use.”

And in that statement I think lies the secret what we should work on.

If you’re a manager looking to get the best out of people you should design systems and processes that you want to work on yourself.

A manager who reluctantly gives up the fun of doing the work to engaged and motivated staff has created a different system to one that needs bullying and threats to get anything done.

If you work in the knowledge business you know that it’s overrun by people who think they need to do things because it is what other people want.

From trying to create new apps to learning how to spam people better – it’s all about perfecting some kind of interruption based selling process.

But, if you work on something you really want yourself – then there is a good chance that other people will want it as well.

And if you’re an engineer the fun is in taking things apart and building them – really understanding the internals rather than just using some shiny thing that someone else has made.

And you might avoid making the mistake of building for an anonymous “market” and instead create something of real value to yourself and others.


Karthik Suresh

p.s Some of the ideas in this post were inspired by links in Arnold Robbin’s site – the maintainer of Gnu Awk.

He links to a few interesting articles but they’re broken, so see links below.

The dumbing down of programming Part 1

and here is

part 2

What Will You Do In A World Where Anyone Can Rip Off What You Make?


Tuesday, 7.34pm

Sheffield, U.K.

They say the secret of success is being at the right place at the right time, but since you never know when the right time is going to be, I figure the trick is to find the right place and just hang around.” – Bill Waterson

It’s not often when some of my favourite concepts find themselves travelling towards each other and, unlike physical objects that find it hard to occupy the same space at the same time, combine to create something greater – something more lasting.

Let me explain.

If you are familiar with Bill Waterson’s cartoons of Calvin and Hobbes – the boy with the tiger – you may remember that he once invented a transmogrifier – something that would change you into something else.

Later, he modified the transmogrifier, turning it on its side creating a duplicator – where you could make copies of anything.

The one in the image above is the perfected version…

A duplicator, coincidentally, is the subject of a story that Neil Gaiman remembers in his book The view from the cheap seats – a story that changed how he looked at things.

And it has to do with theft.

When someone steals from you they take something you have, something you can’t get back.

Like your watch or some gold or a car.

But when you steal music or a book or a movie, Gaiman points out, it’s something different – what you’re doing is using a duplicator – making a copy.

In doing that the original hasn’t been taken, but an exact copy has.

What this means for creators is that the value of stuff that can be duplicated is going to go down.

If you create a song now you sell it for less than a dollar.

Books are cheap – not many people can get away with selling books that have a three figure price tag.

The entire industry that goes into policing intellectual property – making sure that copies are not passed around may keep prices high but reduces value as well due to the cost of policing.

In this new world the things that will hold and gain in value are the things that cannot be reproduced.

Gaiman suggests these are things like live shows and personal contact.

And we’re all probably finding that to be the case – which is why events and get-togethers are one of the fastest growing segments of society and activity.

Gaiman then talks about his friend Cory Doctorow who has an analogy about mammals and dandelions that starts to explain this changing world.

Mammals invest a huge amount of time protecting and nurturing their young.

Dandelions let their seeds drift away with the wind and don’t worry about which ones make it or not.

People who treat their intellectual property like mammals treat their young – protective and nurturing to ensure their profits will find the whole thing pretty hard going and pretty depressing.

The thing for creators now is to create – that’s the first thing.

As the quote that starts this post suggests find something you like doing and then go about doing it.

Don’t worry about profits and protection and property – such things are from the old days.

Just create and set your creations free to drift with the wind – fly along the Internet.

And find things to do to help you make a living that are hard to duplicate – consulting, events, support, maintenance – the kinds of things that will pay for food and shelter and some luxuries.

Because the thing is you might find that the duplicator works for you and the things you do that are hard to duplicate work for you.

The only question is when?

Until then, hang around creating stuff you enjoy making.


Karthik Suresh

How Are We Going To Get This Climate Change Thing Right?


Monday, 9.18pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Now I see that going out into the testing ground of men it is the tongue and not the deed that wins the day. – Sophocles

Maybe it’s just the way the news media permeates everything we do but it’s hard to ignore the noise around climate change.

Not that you should – but it’s really quite clear that people are worried about it and want someone to do something at some time.

Preferably sooner rather than later.

The thing is that no one really knows what to do – whether we should all stop driving or flying or whether we should buy new cars as long as they’re electric.

And all along the way there is noise – noise from prophets of doom and noise from purveyors of snake oil or the latest best thing – it’s hard to tell.

What’s going to save us?

Is is the technology?

Is it abstinence – stopping consumption?

Is it ending capitalism as we know it?

This is something one might call a “wicked” problem, characterised by feedback loops that are impossible to predict.

For example, you would probably argue that solar panels and batteries are a good thing.

But, in a few decades when we send the remains of shattered glass and silicon to recycling plants and moan about the poisoning of land by dumped and leaking batteries will we still feel the same way?

All these are questions for other people.

If you really want to make change we need to focus on the data – how to use data better to understand what our impact is and what we can do about it.

I wonder if we are all getting too exercised about creating participative and inclusive ways to make a difference – focusing on dashboards and reports rather than actually doing stuff.

If you create a factory these days you want as much as possible to be done automatically.

People are there to look after the machines, to make sure they keep working.

They’re not there to do stuff by hand themselves – hammer steel in a mill or blow glass in a bottle factory.

But we seem to think that we have to insert people into processes that use data in a way that we never would into processes that do physical work.

People are good at thinking up new ideas and creating new ways to do things.

They to the first two steps in Deming’s PDSA cycle – plan and do rather well.

Then we come to Study – which really is about learning from what is going on.

Or you have the modern form of Check – which sounds a little like inspection.

I’m not sure we’re getting it right at these steps – especially the check part.

I wonder if an alternative from the world of software development might help.

In software, people are getting used to the idea of running tests – and good tests, when they run correctly, say nothing.

If you are familiar with the Unix command environment you’ll know of a program called “test” that simply returns an exit status.

Either things are ok or they are not.

What does this have to do with climate change?

We need to figure out how to act when it’s necessary – how to act on the things that need our attention.

We don’t need to spend a whole lot of time flailing around trying to do lots of things.

Instead, we need to get the data flows right – figure out what needs to happen, put tests in place to check if we’re on track and act when we’re not.

In other words we need to stop thinking in terms of interactive ways to fix stuff and instead focus on test driven ways to manage the right things.

We’re at a point where it looks like people really want to make things happen – they really want change.

But it’s a lot of talk – lots of hot air.

Change happens in the ditches, in the mud, and for this particular change – the ditches and mud contain the data we need to really understand what we use, how much we need to reduce and how we’re doing along the way.

The worrying thing is that not many people know how to do that.

And that needs to change.


Karthik Suresh

The Biggest Mistake We Make When Trying To Advertise Ourselves


Sunday, 9.19pm

Sheffield, U.K.

The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad. – Howard Luck Gossage

Like most of you, I suspect, I’ve tried writing a blog at various points – and most of them fell by the wayside.

I drew the picture above for one of these attempts in April 2016 to talk about The Man in the Chair.

In 1958 McGraw-Hill, a publisher of business titles, came up with an ad – The Man in the Chair – which then ran for the next three or four decades.

The point of the ad was that a buyer knows almost nothing about you when they first become aware of you – so why do you think they should buy from you?

Now, you probably don’t think that – but it’s a lesson many of us learn over time, often too late.

For example, when you send off your CV for a job do you assume that everything the reviewer needs to know is in there?

Do you not mention something when you’re talking to someone because you assume they must already know?

Most people are much less informed about you, your product or your service than you might think.

I was browsing through Great advertising campaigns by Nicholas Ind, and he points out in the book that it’s easy for those involved with a brand – those who spend much of their time thinking and working and trying to figure out how to tell others about their brand – to assume that it’s just as important to the consumer.

In reality, it’s probably inconsequential – or at least nowhere near as important as you think it might be.

For example in the utility industries – those dealing with electricity, gas, water and telecoms – there is a huge amount of complexity.

There is regulation, change, investment, billing – all kinds of arcane things that keep people employed.

Most consumers, however, are interested in two things at most.

Do they have to do something – are they obliged to comply?

What does it mean for their budgets?

Other than that they want you to sort out all the complexity.

So, at the sharp end, the bit that points at the consumer you need a very simple message.

In the book Nicholas tells you about Absolut Vodka – how Geoff Hayes, an Art Director, came up with the idea of showing the vodka bottle with words like “It’s absolutely perfect.”

His writer pointed out that you could trim that to “Absolut Perfection.”

Two words – and it captures something.

But, the book points out, is that the reason the team thought they had something was because from those two words they had ten ideas for how to present things – which is what made it a campaign.

It takes time to get a sense of what something is – what it means.

And even if that something is you – you might find that it takes time to figure that out – and it takes time to figure out what your business is all about.

And it’s probably worth remembering that if it takes us so long to work it out – it must be even harder for someone else.

The mistake we make is trying to sell – to close – too early in the process.

What we really need to learn when trying to advertise is that, as the McGraw-Hill ad says, “sales start before your salesman calls.”

So design your advertising to help your customer get to know you in a way that works for them.

And then the sales seem to just happen.


Karthik Suresh

What Kind Of Professional Do You Need To Be To Succeed In The World Today?


Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune. – Jim Rohn

Saturday, 9.35pm

Sheffield, U.K.

If there’s one thing that matters to you it’s probably your career – whether you’re an employee or run your own business.

What you do to make a living is right up there on a list of the most important things in your life.

So, do you have a plan for how to build and develop your career?

When I look around one kind of approach is very “Rah Rah”.

This is the kind of talk where someone is on a ladder and they’re going to get to the very top – they believe and they want you to know that they’re unstoppable.

It’s the approach that’s drilled into us – maybe not literally but at least it’s the image that we have from popular culture – which after all is mostly American.

It’s sort of summed up in that quote from the football coach Vince Lombardi that “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

Now that’s all very well if you really believe that personal performance – grit, hard work, perseverance – is what leads to success.

But is that really the case?

I came across the book Globality: Competing with everyone from everywhere for everything by Harold L. Sirkin, James W. Hemerling and Arindam K. Bhattacharya and it makes for interesting, even eye opening reading.

Here’s the (recent) history of the world in a nutshell.

In the middle of the last millennium China and India were the world’s largest economies.

In the second half of the millennium Europe started to emerge – it had an industrial revolution and set the foundations for a modern world.

Then in the last century Europe blew itself to pieces and America found itself with a large population, abundant resources and no competition.

And it prospered.

And then the rest of the world started doing business again, picking itself up from the aftermath of war – hungry to learn and develop and grow and modernise.

And we’re here now – with developed economies and developing ones – more people living longer with better healthcare and more stuff and trying to figure out how we can all live on the planet without ruining it in the process.

And, of course, trying to find jobs – do something useful.

Now what you will know if you read this blog or are generally interested in the topic is that success is often down to the environment more than the people.

Success has moved from continent to continent over the last thousand years.

Is it possible that people were successful because they were lucky enough to be born on the particular continent that was taking its turn at being successful?

Now clearly we don’t know – and to some extent we don’t care.

We don’t care about all those other people – we care about us and where we are right now.

And it’s probably fair to say that you are competing with more people in more places than anyone before you.

Now, hidden in the book on page 101 is perhaps the secret of career success you need for this new world – a secret set out in the image that starts this post.

Established companies are led by what the book calls operators – people who keep things going and make small improvements.

But when it comes to challenging the status quo you need individuals who are builders – part entrepreneur and part team captain.

These people look for opportunities and take risks to go after them – personal risks.

And they are good at finding people to get on their team, developing and training them and inspiring them to act.

They’re also good at finding partners to work with.

This kind of individual doesn’t need a ladder – they’ll get wood and nails and make one themselves – or find something else like a rope or cannon to get them where they need to be.

That skill – being a builder – is not one you’ll find easily.

And because that’s the case perhaps developing it will help you get ahead in your own career.

After all waiting for someone to get out of your way so you can get ahead is a strategy from the past – a “dead man’s shoes” approach.

It doesn’t work so well in a world where we’re all living longer.

You need to make your own shoes.


Karthik Suresh

What Kind Of Work Is Worth Doing?


Friday 5.35pm

Sheffield, U.K.

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every once in a while I wonder why people do what they do – whether it’s because they have no choice – or what kind of decisions did they take along the way.

Maybe they tried something just for some spare cash and then found themselves twenty years later working in an industry.

What’s the story behind the lady stood outside Marks and Spencers, wrapped up against the cold, shouting “Merry Christmas, Big Issue?”

There’s an election due to take place and one of the parties wants to nationalise certain industries.

When that happens what of the jobs that go extinct – in a nationalised business where there is no market, no negotiation – do certain jobs just disappear?

Are different jobs created as a result?

There is an industry in jobs for people who check things – auditors and inspectors.

Does creating these roles make things better?

People would argue that they do – for example modern health and safety is no doubt much better because of the regime of inspections and punishments that are in place.

Maybe I’m asking the wrong question – or perhaps I’m looking at it the wrong way.

Maybe the point is in the word “worth”.

One kind of worth has to do with money – what is the value of the work?

The other kind of worth has to do with how important or useful or interesting or meaningful it is.

Should this work be done at all?

These are not easy questions to answer.

Is the person sending you marketing mail spamming you or trying to make you aware of a useful product?

Or are they trying to scam you?

And is it ok if that’s the only way they can feed their family in the corner of the world they inhabit?

I suppose you know what work is worth doing when you see what work is being done.

There is dignity in manual labour, dignity in the Big Issue seller – and perhaps much less dignity in the drug pusher and con artist.

For most of us these concerns never really come up.

We do what we do for the reasons we do.

But if it uplifts humanity – yours or that of the people around you – it should be placed in a position of importance.

Because the choice you make of what work you do gives meaning to everything else you do as well.


Karthik Suresh

How Different People Think About System Design


Thursday, 7.08pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. – Steve Jobs

I’ve spent a few days happily messing with data – not in Excel and fancy visual tools but on the command line – that place that existed from the beginning.

Now the thing with this other world of computing that most people don’t really know about is that people with names wrote the software I use now.

For example the Unix utilities cut and paste were written by David M. Ihnat, David MacKenzie, and Jim Meyering – names in the documentation that make it more real.

Talking about Unix, as I do every once in a while, I came across this paper by Donald A. Norman written in 1981 which damns the system as “a disaster for the casual user.”

Norman lists all the things that are wrong about the system and rails at how the simplest concessions to making things easy for people are not there.

It’s not consistent, he says, the functions are weird, it refuses to talk to you and it taxes your brain too much.

And then he has a pop at the venerable Unix utility cat – saying that it fails to do the simple task of showing you what’s in a file.

Now, if you are unaware of the history of these things and the views on the other side – we are treading on a battleground.

The Unix folk pointed out that people like Norman just didn’t get it.

The reasons why can wait for another day – because I doubt you’re really all that interested.

The point I want to come to is at the end of Norman’s paper.

He says that the three most important concepts for system design are to be consistent, have an explicit model for how to interact with the system and make it easy for the user – don’t tax their brains too much.

This kind of thinking inevitably comes up with a box.

It’s consistent.

You have a model for it – put stuff in the box and carry them around.

And it’s simple – it’s not too hard to work out how to use a box.

And then, by doing so you miss the point – a point that’s captured beautifully in the world of Calvin and Hobbes – the boy with his tiger.

A box, in his world, can be anything.

It can be a transmogrifier – you go into it and come out transformed into a dinosaur.

Children will show you what a box can be used for – not what it’s designed to be used for.

It’s a racecar, a spaceship, a den.

It can be anything you want it to be.

And that wasn’t designed into the model.

Systems like Unix that don’t tell you how to live your life help bigger things to emerge.

Like a tree.

No one designed a tree – but you can’t live without them.

They weren’t designed for you to climb – but you did that anyway.

The point about design – as Steve Jobs got – is not really about the control you have – but what it does for the user.

How it liberates them and empowers them.

And that is something a system like Unix – well – GNU/Linux now – does better than anything else out there.

Because it gives you your freedom back.


Karthik Suresh

How Healthy Is Your Business?


Wednesday, 7.58pm

Sheffield, U.K.

A man is as old as his arteries. – Thomas Sydenham

Some principles refuse to die – perhaps that’s why they became principles in the first case.

Winning companies, for example, tend to keep winning and eventually get so big that they tower over everyone else.

The Google and Apples and Microsofts of the world along with the GEs and Gazproms are huge, lumbering beasts – unstoppable and invincible.

And then you have everyone else.

The small businesses, the charities bigger businesses and the entire public sector.

The ones who employ everyone else and do everything else.

How can you tell whether they’re in good health or not?

I’ve been wondering whether how they use data could act as a measure.

It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the flow of data through an organisation is like the flow of blood through an organism.

The thing that keeps the organisation going is that steady data flow, pumped out hourly, daily, monthly according to a cadence – a heartbeat.

What we do is pulled, pushed, driven by flows of data – emails in, emails out, spreadsheets, files, presentations, meetings – a never ending series of rolling waves of data that break on our desks.

And if you listen to the sound of that data flow – you’ll hear the wailing of anguished souls.

People don’t understand what to do.

They haven’t got the skills to clean and transform data.

The stuff they send out is incomplete and messy and plain wrong.

It’s always someone’s fault – if only they could just work harder and do a better job.

It’s going to take days to work through every line of this spreadsheet and check it off.

It feels to me like in such situations we have something clogging up the pipes that transport that data.

With the human heart and arteries it’s plaque that causes the damage – deposits of crud that narrow and constrict the vessels and stop the flow of blood.

With organisations the plaque is the people – as they try and deal with what’s in front of them but end up getting stuck and causing a blockage that eventually causes a failure of the whole system.

It’s not their fault just like heart disease is not the fault of the bacon you ate yesterday.

You can’t explain why the system behaves the way it does by pointing to the parts.

It’s the human making choices about what to eat that causes heart disease.

And it’s the organisation – the senior managers that make decisions – that are responsible for the deposits and blockage in their organisation.

And it doesn’t need to be that way.

It sometimes feels like technology solutions, especially those from the big vendors and anyone who tries to sell software as a service have the same effect as fast food on an organisation.

If you want to be healthy as a person you have to eat right and exercise – try and stay lean.

If you want to be healthy as an organisation – the same principles apply.

Looking to technology for the latest miracle cure or plaque busting pill will not help you get better.

Looking inside – looking at your behaviour and changing it – doing less of the bad stuff and more of the good stuff is the way to improve anything.

But again – do you know how to do this?

Sometimes, just like in real life, we need a doctor to help – someone who knows what to look for and what to prescribe.

The information is out there – in books, in open source software and in people who can help.

But you have to want to be healthy in the first place.

And then decide to do the hard work that’s involved in getting there.


Karthik Suresh

How To Market And Sell Professional Services


Tuesday, 8.31pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Professional services industries like finance, consulting, and legal services are, by definition, meta-industries. That is, they serve to help large companies raise money, buy and sell each other, reorganize, implement new systems, conduct complex transactions, and so forth. – Andrew Yang

I’ve been thinking about the service sector and how to market it for the last few days.

Which is why the book How to advertise by Kenneth Roman and Jane Maas caught my eye.

Published in 1976, it’s a short book and the two authors worked at Ogilvy and Mather.

The book is a quick read and effectively a bunch of rules – but there are a few interesting things that still resonate with us now.

First – what does it take to be a good advertiser?

The answer, according to the authors is hard work, knowing the rules and creative brilliance.

When you start thinking of marketing your product the first thing you need is to understand how you are going to position your product

Where is it going to sit in the mind of the consumer?

That positioning decision sets your strategy – one part of which is the creative bit – the actual advertising.

And the book lists five questions it’s worth asking about your creative strategy.

  1. The Objective: What should the advertising do?
  2. The Audience: Who is your target consumer?
  3. Key Consumer Benefit: Why should they buy from you?
  4. Support: A reason to believe in that benefit
  5. Tone and Manner: What is the product’s “personality”?

Getting the strategy right needs work – you need to do your research, understand the facts, really get a good picture of what is going on so that the strategy you come up with is grounded in the data.

This paper, for example, sets out how I go about doing this.

And then they say something in the book that really fits how I see things working.

Getting the strategy done is half the work. The other half is the advertising itself – the execution.

Now, if you look back at the points above you’ll have a very quick overview of what you need to do delivering any kind of professional service.

Whether you’re an accountant, lawyer or management consultant the first part of your work is all about coming up with the right strategy.

The second part is executing – delivering on that strategy.

But why should someone trust you enough to hire you?

And that’s summed up in one tiny paragraph on page 149 – something that I think could easily be expanded into a whole paper or book all by itself – a message that’s laid out in the image that starts this post.

“Look for a business philosophy, stable management, a professional staff, technical expertise, and a past, present and future.”

Read that again and tell me it isn’t one of the most elegant and densely packed sentences you’ve seen.

And then tell me if you can honestly say that your agency ticks every one of those criteria?

And if it doesn’t – isn’t it obvious what you need to do?


Karthik Suresh

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