A morning coffee with some fellow freelancers kicked off the generalist versus specialist debate. Which is best and does it matter? Should one be more expensive than the other?

On reflection both attributes carry equal weight and we all need to balance the generalist and specialist elements of what we do for the companies and products we represent.

Generalists because
  • everyone needs a level of education to make sure you're not assuming anything e.g. top of the funnel* marketing messages designed to set the ground rules 
  • customers want value for money, knowing about lots of different areas, how they interact, what to consider, where to prioritise etc. before making further investment. Think wikipedia versus squidoo pages
  • wisdom is gained from experience and generalists tend to have a wealth of experience to draw from, earned from a number of years of 'doing' 
*in the spirit of not assuming anything, top of the funnel refers to the lead generation or sales funnel where lots of potential customers start the sales process and the aim is to retain as many of these as possible through to actual sales.

Specialists because
  • audiences like 'boxes'. She's a social media expert, he's a copywriter etc. Putting a label on who you are and what you do is essential to finding and retaining your audience 
  • the devil is in the detail. Specialism drives differentiation (giving your customers a reason to buy your product/services over the available competition) 
  • narrowing your focus ensures you can keep up with the latest developments in your field, spotting the opportunities, increasing your usefulness in a particular area and as a result the likely success of the endeavour. 
As to whether one should be more expensive than the other, I think your customers will ultimately decide.

The Excitement of new

The above came from Santa. A present for my 7 year old, who was delighted with the box but disheartened when an hour later all he had was a pile of bricks and a seemingly endless instruction booklet. Trying to restore the joy, 5 further hours of parental input had the dream model complete. Waking up to success is not as fulfilling as taking the time to get there yourself though and I fear this model will now be just another thing to dust.

The lesson? I'd like to think we all start the New Year with a sense of excitement. Even if you haven't made any resolutions, hope is renewed by the possibilities ahead and how we might do things differently in the next 12 months. Trouble is our focus tends to be on the outcome and not how we get there. Doing, is a huge part of the initial excitement and eventual satisfaction. It's the learning along the way that actually changes our outlook, pushes us forward and renews our passion.

This is my first day back at work post Christmas holidays and I'm going to use the excitement to set myself some SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time sensitive) goals to help me enjoy the journey. Some may call this stalling. I see it as breaking myself in gently ......

Happy New Year.

Kill your customer service with social media

Most of my marketing experience has come from B2B (business to business) scenarios, but recently the distinction between B2B and B2C (business to customer) has become really blurred. Afterall, marketing is ultimately human to human and we're all customers.

Those who think of themselves at B2C have been quick to adopt social media, as a natural extension of their customer service. They get the chance to engage and showcase their brand. A great way to position themselves and demonstrate their companies personality. All well and good, until it bites them.

I was the customer on two occasions this week, with very different outcomes. Firstly I ordered some christmas cards from the little known but rather lovely They shipped as I ordered, but parcelforce failed to deliver. As the days went past, I emailed postcarden and their customer service couldn't have been better. They chased parcelforce on my behalf, proactively emailed me to tell me what was happening every step of the way and offered to send someone round to personally deliver my cards if the lost package couldn't be found. They tweeted what was happening too. I was very impressed.

Contast this, with big brand Waterstones. Inspired by Mary Portas to support the High Street, I went in store and bought 3 books. So far, so good. On return home I checked the site and discovered to my horror that had I purchased on line, the same books would have been £40 cheaper! I tweeted to Waterstones. No response. I took my complaint to their Facebook wall. This time I got a reply, which basically said, it was standard practice to charge more in store, as online they had to stay competitive!!!!

I wonder which brand I'll be telling all my friends about for all the right reasons, and which brand I will be boycotting in the future?!

In a world were perception is 99% reality, it doesn't matter how big brands are anymore, or whether they're B2B or B2C, your customers will judge you on how you treat them on or offline.

Organic rags to community riches

Every small business I work with started as a leap of faith.  For some, that leap is bigger than others and for my newest friends at Clear Sky Communities, it was the grand canyon.

CSC turn organic waste into biochar, which is a compost like product which makes your soil extra great for growing.  The profits made are then given back to the communities who provided the waste in the first place, to support local initiatives.  In CSCs words 'if the project helps the community, then this is the chance for the community to help that project'.  Sounds like a no brainer right?

So, while I always tell my clients that blogs are designed to inform rather than to pitch, this is a direct plug, for some lovely people saving the planet one community at a time. And even if you don't care about the environment, I know there are some gardeners out there .......

P.S.  You can also find them on twitter @1ClearSky and on facebook - tell your friends.
P.P.S. I promise not to make a habit of plugging my clients but 'tis the season of goodwill to all and that's the excuse I'm sticking with.

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