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The Power of Free

Brilliant episode from NPR’s Planet Money podcast on the power of free. (for those without flash you can listen online here)

“Free has the power to make us do completely irrational things. It can drive us to break rules, and take risks we never thought possible. It can make us feel savvy and smug and exhilarated.”

It’s just under 20 minutes so perfect to listen to on your tea break.

Most interesting to me (11:38 mins in) was the idea of charging for something people don’t expect to pay for such as your mother charging for a family meal or an airline charging for customer service (one airline actually did this!). What would you expect to get for free?

I provide free advice so people can get a feel for our process but I used to struggle with how far that free advice would stretch, often into many follow-up emails and becoming a time suck, and it put me off offering anything for free at all which then in turn put off people who needed a little re-assurance of how we can help.

I found setting a clear boundary for what’s free and what’s not enabled me to offer the advice knowing there was a limit which was communicated upfront. Should people want only the free advice then they tended to use their time wisely.

I am now happy to offer my advice for free if I’m out networking or other similar event, either as a talk or just casual conversation or as a one off coaching taster session. After that, get your wallet out.

Are you charging for something people expect for free? Or are you not charging for something people would pay for? Let me know on Twitter @benkinnaird.

Image credit: Libre Sign by Gisela Giardino

Print Strategy and the Bacon Sandwich Interview

After receiving an intriguing promotional book called “I didn’t know they could do that” from Print Strategy I wanted to find out how well it’s been working for them so got in touch with MD Rob Newton1. We also talked about the future of print and how it’s beneficial to modern marketing.

Follow Print Strategy on Twitter @printstrategy or visit their website

Print strategy book2

1. This is my first Skype interview, I’ve love to hear what you think of it on Twitter @BenKinnaird.

Be an altruistic networker

I stand at a networking event in Cheltenham1. I’m not here to sell anything, simply to meet a few people who may or may not be useful to know. Initially I have to force myself to go say hello to unfamiliar people, but I am welcomed warmly, like an old friend into a mix of people who, like me, are there simply to socialise in a professional capacity.

I used to have this vision of networking events as disingenuous and very formal business environments, full of high flying, self-promoters who are there simply to sell their services. To stand in a room of unfamiliar people, drink in hand, forced smile on face and an equally forced interest in other people’s work, making small talk until the opportunity comes to sell, sell, sell, seemed more than a little false. I could never quite get over the feeling that I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t, trying to sell something no-one wanted to buy. It’s incredibly daunting. But I’m not alone – it seems that many of us avoid networking events for fear that we will be seen as being ‘fake’.

Don’t get me wrong; there are networkers like that. In my experience there are ‘takers’, those who are there simply to try to sell their services, who have no real interest in others; who strike up a conversation only to launch into a well-rehearsed pitch for their business. Most of us can spot a ‘taker’ from one hundred paces.

And then there are the ‘givers’; those who show a genuine interest in the lives of others, who are there to build mutually beneficial relationships, share ideas, ways of working, to find common ground or unexplored avenues. They ask questions, delve into the detail of another’s working life. They ask about work projects or industry news.

Most people like to talk about themselves. Give them the opportunity to talk about what they do and they will leave the conversation with a more favourable impression of you and will be more interested in following up, giving you the opportunity to offer some help2.

Few of us are naturals at building rapport with complete strangers, but if we want to expand our client base, develop business partnerships, find a better job or find better staff, then it is a necessity. Thankfully, it gets easier the more we do it. And, research shows that the more powerful we become in our working lives, the easier networking becomes because we have more to offer, making our interaction with others more about giving rather than taking. So, if we were to change our mindset to one that is more altruistic, to consider what we can offer rather than take, and give people the opportunity to talk then we are likely to feel more comfortable in networking situations.

Take a long-term view and show sincere interest in the other party then there is no reason to feel like a fake. If you are a naturally caring and thoughtful person, this won’t be difficult. Provided it’s authentic, a compliment is a great conversation starter that will help build initial rapport. If you’re not, you may want to cultivate this life skill, it will reap huge benefits in the form of connections, which might, one day turn into clients.

For a more in-depth look at networking and its benefits, take a look at this Harvard Business Review article.

1. The event was Laptop Friday if you’re interested
2. This advice also works for online networking in social networks

Image credit: Working hard at #LaptopFriday

Top Usability Mistakes in Web Design

A good web structure guide from Christian Vasile disguised as a rant. Many of the authors niggles reflect my own feelings, particularly the ones I’ve pulled out below. It’s from 2013 but still relevant.


You can’t expect them to search for links by hovering with the mouse on all the words until the cursor changes to a pointer.

I have a firmly held opinion that links should be underlined. Colour is less of a concern but if possible then blue works well. The most important thing is to make them clear.


I simply can’t understand why a hair saloon doesn’t show me how much does it cost[s] for me to cut my hair.

I’ve never quite understood not sharing prices either. Even if the price is complicated to calculate, it must be possible to provide a guide estimate in most cases. If we can articulate parts of the business in a way that will help people buy then it should be available online.


Make the registration forms as short as possible.

Christian goes on to explain that the more you block access to your product before people have a clear idea about whether they will like it the fewer “form fills” you will have.

I recommend you can read the full article on

Image Credit:

Periscoping, an interview with Jonathan Pollinger

I speak with Jonathan Pollinger, Social Media Expert who likes “Connecting people and watching the resulting magic”. We talk about his real world social networks, his thoughts on Periscope, a live streaming video app, and a 2 fundamental tips everyone should follow in any social interaction.

Follow Jonathan on @intranetfuture on Twitter and all other forms of social media or visit his website

  • Laptop Friday is an “informal co-working and networking event held every Friday morning in Smokey Joe’s on Bennington Street in Cheltenham”
  • Cheltenham Connect is the “fastest growing and most active initiatives in Cheltenham […] with the aim of strengthening and empowering the residential and trading community”
  • Laptop Monday is an “evening coworking and networking meeting for anyone who enjoys working out of a cool and funky coffee shop.”
  • Periscope “Explore the world through someone else’s eyes.”
  • King Shots Coffee, experimenting with video training with Chris the owner
  • “Twitter search alerts made easy”

Communication is key

Effective communication happens when a message is delivered that has the same meaning for the recipient as it does for the sender. In project management this means that you and your client have a mutual understanding of what the project is about.

As I mentioned in the recent post on flexibility, a project is likely to evolve as it progresses; our client may have a completely different vision of what they want at the beginning of a project compared to the final result because of the changes along the way. To effectively integrate these changes into the project means that we need to maintain a good level of communication with our client.

The main objective for our client Abbot’s Hill School was to make changes to their school website so that it was “much clearer, much easier to navigate, have more items of interest on the home page including the school video, links to social media and current news items.” The client “wanted to ensure that information was easy to find for both prospective and current parents, which meant a revised main navigation menu and the ability to have a range of sub pages.”

We met with Alison and Katie from Abbot’s Hill School to discover every aspect of the project as they saw it, and after the initial meeting we produced a full summary.

“RI was able to suggest various ways that [our project objective] could be achieved. They then produced a comprehensive project plan, including timescales and costs.”

We then used Basecamp, a project management tool, to update the project as it progressed, to track any changes and to ensure that throughout the lifecycle of the project all parties (the client, our team and brand designers Kilvington) had a comprehensive understanding of required tasks. This meant that all involved could see the current status of a project at any time.

“This dialogue continued throughout the process with the use of Basecamp which worked brilliantly to have a running summary of all our actions and changes to the project in one place and I felt RI really understood what I wanted to achieve.”

Communication for us means supporting the client so that they know exactly what is happening. Whether it’s a large project or many small projects, all the information in one place means that the pace of a project is sustained, all parties maintain control of the project’s progress, and those with different responsibilities and levels of involvement are better engaged in the project.

“I felt totally supported by RI throughout the project and I thought we worked really well as a team to achieve the final result.”

We acknowledge that for our clients their project with us is just one of many tasks on their to-do list. With a central system of control, such as Basecamp, every issue related to the project, whether large or small, a request or question is easy to track, with task responsibility, a full history and deadline reminders. Which means that project update emails don’t get lost in the sea of other work.

Effective central communication saves money, time and effort. Without it problems can easily arise: lost time (which means lost money), inefficient development, delays and products that don’t meet expectations. Ultimately, the reputation of the company and the client’s trust are at risk.

“The overall knowledge, skills and experience that RI has is impressive and I was delighted with the high level of customer service throughout the project from all members of the team. […] I would not hesitate to recommend RI to anyone and I am absolutely delighted with our new website.”

Be flexible for success

The success of any project will be contingent upon many different factors depending on the nature of your business. But there are some vital aspects that are universal; good communication, the alignment of the project’s objective between parties, and knowing what success means for each.

Know what success looks like

Some clients may not know exactly what the success of their project looks like initially, and we’ve found that the nature of any project may change and evolve during implementation. For this reason we believe that a degree of flexibility in our approach is required, and a successful project for us relies upon our ability to be flexible so we can meet the client’s own evolving requirements for success.

We worked with UCL Institute of education Families and Food in Hard Times Project. Their research examined the food practices of young people aged 11-15 and their families in Portugal, the UK and Norway, in a time of European austerity. The objective of the project was to provide a website with information for study participants and research beneficiaries including academics, NGO’s, the media and general public.

We set out to explore what UCL wanted from the website and discuss what a successful project looked like to them. They wanted a website that provided a source of public engagement to allow those involved with the project to both engage with participants by disseminating information relevant to them, and to serve as a touchpoint to view latest news, keep in touch and update contact details. It was also important to UCL that the website was easy to update and manage.

Be flexible

Rebecca O’ Connell, Senior Research Officer said, “[Rather Inventive] worked with us to understand the look and feel we wanted and were very flexible as our ideas evolved during development. I felt fully supported, that it was OK to make revisions and to change my mind – as someone who is not experienced in website design this was important. 

By defining what project success looks like beforehand, and reviewing progress on a regular basis to take into account any changes and revisions, each party knows exactly what they are striving for. For us this means taking the time to ensure everyone involved in the project has a chance to contribute, and to be open about what they need from the project’s completion. This involves meeting face to face, wherever possible. “[Rather Inventive] spent time understanding the project and our needs and have been incredibly responsive,” said Rebecca O’ Connell.

What does a successful project look like for your company? How can you work more flexibly with your project partners to make sure that all objectives are met? Let us know on Twitter by mentioning @RatherInventive.

A blog is your company’s shop window – use it!

There’s a shop in our local town that never changes its window display. The mannequins look faded and jaded, bored of being stood there for weeks, months and years on end. Needless to say the shop is always empty because nothing is tempting customers inside.

Like a shop window, a blog has the power to entice viewers to sample the delights your company offers, and give a taste of your company philosophy and ideas. It enables you show off new products and services and share valuable content about the industry. A regular blog shows that you care about keeping your audience informed of progress and changes, and each post you publish is an asset that helps to build your brand. Your blog should be at the heart of all of your content marketing efforts.

Add credibility

A regular blogs enables you to share your expertise and position your company as a leading authority in your subject area. If you so choose it can serve as a reliable resource for information about your industry. And you can add credibility to your blog and therefore your business by inviting external specialists, clients, and industry experts to write guest posts, which will serve to support your reputation as a company at the forefront of the industry.

Impress your influencers

Each time you publish a blog post you create another opportunity for your site to be shared and circulated on social media, getting exposure to a potential new audience. Influencers are those people who like to sing the praises of companies they have connected to and respect, and are invaluable in that they’ll shout your company name from the rooftops, (I like to imagine them as the modern equivalent as the sandwich board boys of Victorian times) Give your influencers something worthy of their valuable attention and they’ll share it with others.

Encourage interaction

A comments and feedback option on your blog effectively gives you a two-way conversation with customers, prospects and industry peers, which can give you both valuable market intelligence and support for your ideas. Always respond to these comments promptly and positively, because others will read them and know you are a company that cares for its audience.


Subscribers to your blog are a ready-made audience for your articles, newsletters and announcements on industry-relevant topics.  And you can use this to your advantage to gain an insight into your audience. Through ‘analytics’ you can track readers’ activities including click-throughs, popular topics, frequency of views, shares and comments.

Schedule regular valuable content

Giving your readers relevant and timely content is key to a successful business blog and a prime way of establishing you as a leading authority in your industry. If you’re stuck for a topic then writing about the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘how’, and ‘why’, of your business is a good place to start. Give your readers blog posts that are informative and answer any questions they might have on an industry-specific subject. Make your business the go-to guy for your industry and the solution to their problems.


Have a successful blog? Send us your comments on Twitter. Need an appraisal of your blog? We’d be happy to help. Do get in touch.

Ted Wright on Word of Mouth

Brilliant interview with Ted Wright about how to work with influencers and encourage word of mouth marketing.

“Influencers can’t be bought, they will refuse cash…”

“Influencers, it’s not a job title, it’s not a job description, it’s a personality trait…”

Ted goes on to list the 3 personality traits of an influencer:

1. Like to try new things because they are new

2. Intrinsically motivated

3. Love to share stories with their friends

“The reason they are intrinsically motivated is because they do like to share stories with their friends

I encourage you to listen to the entire interview which has a few examples of how to benefit from influencers. It’s only 34 minutes and you can even speed it up in the web player. I’ve not read his book “Fizz” yet so cannot say if it’s as good as I found the interview.

For those keen on developing word on mouth as a marketing strategy, I’d also recommend listening to Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow”. which covers some excellent concepts and ideas. Seth however likes to call “influencers”, “sneezers” that spread an “idea virus” – Cute.

Twitter noise

Once upon a time, all the Twitter experts advised us to Tweet, tweet, tweet. We need to get out into the Twittersphere, they said.

But now, for some, the incessant noise from Twitter can be somewhat overwhelming. Their feed is so busy that they cannot ascertain which tweets to take notice of. They believe that a drip feed rather than a fire hose would be more appropriate; a filter to ensure all the superfluous material doesn’t make it through to their consciousness, clogging up brainspace and interrupting what they really want to see.

This is certainly the view of Gary Vaynerchuk social media expert, author and entrepreneur who spoke at the Guardian Changing Media Summit in London and said that 5 years ago Twitter users would pay a lot more attention to what was being said on Twitter in general, and more people paid attention to them too. Since then he believes that Twitter has become too ‘noisy’.

There is such a thing as over-tweeting. But you can avoid being one of those Twitter accounts that indiscriminately spews self-promotion announcements and blatant marketing material left right and centre by being selective in what you choose to Tweet. Its true, the more you engage in discussion and information exchange on Twitter, the more exposure you will receive. But, make your Twitter updates interesting and useful. Use Twitter to engage with your audience. And build relationships by ensuring your Twitter stream promotes other people and businesses too. Share links, retweet interesting updates, join conversations and answer questions.

The shortness of a Tweet means that the information you are broadcasting must be concise. Too many companies treat Twitter like a fishing line, regularly throwing out any old rubbish and seeing who bites. Too much drivel just to get the exposure means that you may find that people avoid you, or worse, unfollow or mute you, whereas compelling Tweets with links and resources can attract followers through to your website, which might just turn them into valuable customers.

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