Lots Of Talk But Still No Answers

voltaireToday, the latest breakfast meeting of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle took place at the Western House Hotel in Ayr.

The guest speaker was Nosheena Mobarik OBE, owner of M Computer Technologies in Glasgow and former chair of the CBI in Scotland who put forward the case for the ‘Better Together’ campaign regarding Scottish independence.

Nosheena was a passionate and eloquent speaker and covered many topics including currency, membership of the EU, financial services, public services etc. but, I’m afraid to report, the upshot was the same as usual.

It doesn’t seem to matter which side of the divide these speakers come from, it all boils down to supposition and scaremongering with no real basis on facts. As far as I understand it, the first tangible piece of information on which to debate the issues will be the SNP white paper on independence due to be published on 26 November.

I, for one, will look forward to it and hope that the majority of my concerns will be answered in that document. Until then, I would like both sides to stop the bickering and negativity and concentrate on providing us with the real facts so we can make an informed decision when the time comes.

Please use the comments box below to let us know what you think of our blogs.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

“Eat Your Frogs For Breakfast”

frogYesterday I attended a Time and Priority Management session and one of the topics that came up for discussion was procrastination, the act of putting off, delaying or deferring an action or task to a later time or date.

I suspect many of us, in business, are guilty of this to some degree but, hopefully, not that often. I know I, for one, have procrastinated in the past. In fact, I put off a task to attend that morning’s session in the first place.

Anyway, one of the attendees shared a technique with the rest of us which she referred to as “Eating your frogs for breakfast”. It is a term I was unfamiliar with although, I now know, it is a widely accepted method for aiding your productivity.

It is actually based on a quote attributed to Mark Twain, who said,

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

So the idea is that you start your day by doing a number of the tasks you have been putting off for whatever reason. By achieving this, the day ahead seems brighter and your productivity soars. I can see the psychology behind it and will be giving it a try over the next few weeks to see how I get on.

So, pass ‘les grenouilles’ (that’s French for frogs by the way), I’m feeling hungry.

Have a great day, all.

Please use the comments box below to let us know what you think of our blogs.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

YouTube Changes – One Channel

youtube

If, like me and many other businesses, you have your own YouTube channel, you might be unaware that there are major changes afoot.

Although these changes are not compulsory (at the moment) they have been introduced in an effort to customise your branding across multiple devices.

The worrying part is that the changes may have already taken place without your knowledge. You can switch back if you want to but my recommendation would be to accept and embrace the changes. It takes a bit of work and it’s a little fiddly in places but the effort is worth it.

So what are the changes?

You can visit

http://www.youtube.com/onechannel

to get the lowdown on the whys and wherefores but here it is in a nutshell.

Channel Art

This is the graphic that will be used to display your channel on all the individual devices. There are lots of sizes to take into account and they are available using this link

://support.google.com/youtube/bin/answer.py?hl=en&topic=16630&answer=2972003

As I said previously, it is a little complicated to follow and I had a bit of ‘trial and error’ before getting it correct.

#One tip. YouTube automatically places your existing profile picture on the top left of the Channel Art, so make sure you leave space for it.

Below is a copy of my attempt at the Channel Art.

channelart

Web Links

Once your Channel Art is added and you are happy with it, you can now add your web links.

Hover your mouse over your Channel Art and a pencil icon appears on the top right-hand side of the graphic.

Hover over the pencil and click on theEdit Links option that appears.

Follow the on-screen instructions that allow you to create one customised link (maybe to your blog or other landing page) and up to four Social Media links.

While you are on this page you can also add your Channel description.

Channel Description

Tell your viewers who you are, what your channel is about, why they should subscribe to your channel and how often you add a new video.

Channel Trailer

This is a video of your choice that is automatically shown to visitors that are not already subscribers to your channel. It gives you an opportunity to ‘win them over’ and convert them to subscribers and hopefully ‘evangelists’ for your channel.

When you convert to the new one channel option, a space appears where you can add your trailer (See below).

ctscreen

That’ll do for now but do check back for additional posts in the future.

This is the end of our TouTube – One Channel blog post.

Please use the comments box below to let us know what you think of our blogs.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

Prezi Versus PowerPoint 2010 – Who Wins?

PowerPoint vs Prezi GraphicFor many years there had been nothing to challenge the domination of PowerPoint as the leading tool to assist presentations. This is no longer the case because of the introduction of a web-based application called Prezi.

Prezi’s now been around for a few years and its popularity is growing, so much so that it is widely regarded as a true and viable alternative to the Microsoft product.

First Impressions

The first time I witnessed a Prezi presentation, I admit, I was blown away. The movement around the screen and the zooming in and out was amazing.

Now, having sat through a multitude of them, the novelty has worn off and the initial excitement of the product has waned slightly.

I have also watched some amazing PowerPoint presentations, but don’t get me wrong, I have sat through squillions of others that have left me bored to tears with the “same old … same old”. I’m sure you know what I mean.

So, on first impressions, the honours go to Prezi but how do the two products compare apart from that?

Comparison

Prezi

Prezi is a web-based presentation application which means, after signing up for a free account, you can access your ‘Prezis’ anytime and anywhere (as long as you have access to the Internet). You can sign up for Prezi by clicking >>here<<.

NOTE: There are different price bands and I have only used the free version.

Once opened, Prezi uses a virtual canvas instead of slides. It is a bit like a mindmap in terms of construction and you can rotate and zoom through your content very easily.

Prezi Screen Graphic

Blank Prezi screen shown right.

Some of the good points of Prezi are:

  • it’s different
  • the transitions are really smooth
  • it works well with YouTube videos

Some of the not so good points are:

  • large files when downloaded
  • limited fonts and colour schemes
  • novelty soon wears off

PowerPoint 2010

For those of you who are not familiar with PowerPoint (and where have you been for the last 25 years), it has been the de facto standard for presentation tools for a long time. It is produced by Microsoft and is part of the Microsoft Office suite.

It uses a slideshow format and you go from slide to slide in a linear manner.

It is pretty easy to use but, judging by the amount of lousy PowerPoint presentations out there, quite difficult to master.

PowerPoint 2010 Graphic

Blank PowerPoint 2010 screen shown right.

PowerPoint’s good points:

  • greater variety of transitions
  • unlimited fonts and colours (good for branding)
  • good consistency between slides

And the bad:

  • very rigid in structure
  • too much choice (if abused)
  • familiarity (it breeds contempt, don’t you know)

Conclusion

Both these products are great at what they do. Prezi has a lot of followers who scoff at presenters that still use PowerPoint but, I believe, it is down to the individual and how innovative they can be with whichever of the products they choose.

Prezi is here to stay, but whether it overtakes PowerPoint as the number one in it’s current format, I am not so sure.

It should be remembered that, irrespective of the product you use, it is only a tool designed to augment the presentation. It is NOT the star of the show.

I know I will continue to use both products depending upon the type of presentation I am giving at the time.

VERDICT: A definite draw.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He started Real Options in 2000 and provides technology help and advice to clients in South and Central Scotland.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

Yes Scotland – What We’ve Been Waiting For?

Flags Graphic
The campaign for the Scottish referendum on independence is starting to gain momentum and hopefully, although a lot of negative messages have already circulated, no-one has made up their mind, just yet, on how they will vote.

This is probably the most important question we will be asked in our lifetimes and we owe it to ourselves and future generations to take it seriously, examine and debate the issues and, only then, make an informed decision.

As a Scottish citizen and a small business owner myself, I feel there is very little information to go on and I have lots of questions I would like answered and probably hundreds more that I haven’t even thought of yet. Until they are posed and answered it is not humanly possible for me to say just how I would vote.

On the 28 June this year, Blair Jenkins, former head of news and current affairs for both the BBC and ITV, was appointed Chief Executive of the Yes Scotland group. This is the campaign group set up to promote a Yes vote. Mr Jenkins says the group will be based in Glasgow and supported by people from across the political spectrum. He promises the campaign will not be dominated by party politics and that the guiding principle will be to provide high quality information to the vast majority of Scots.

I applaud this stance and hope that it leads to more positive campaigning from both sides of the debate. The message to all involved is to concentrate on the benefits of either staying in ‘the Union’ or of leaving and going out on our own. In other words “What’s in it for us?”.

I love the romantic notion of an independent Scotland but don’t think I am stupid enough to allow that to sway my vote. I wait along with the rest of you to find out the pro’s and con’s before I commit.

Is the Yes Scotland group what we’ve been waiting for? I am not sure but hopefully it evens the playing field and leads to a better discussion on our future and the future of our beloved country.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

He is also the Group Manager of the East Ayrshire Business Forum on LinkedIn.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

Basic Marketing – Part 2

Basic Marketing Graphic

Welcome to Part 2 of our introduction to Basic Marketing.

In Part 1 we discussed the meaning of marketing, the types of marketing and we introduced some elements of inbound marketing.

In this part we move on to outbound marketing.

>>Click here to go back to Part 1<<

Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing is a strategy where businesses try to find customers through building and developing their brand awareness. It includes branding, advertising, promotion and publicity.

     Branding

Branding is the portrayed identity of your business, product or service. It includes the name, colour scheme, fonts, logos, tagline (slogan) etc.

Successful brands can be identified purely by a single one of these items.

For example, can you name these brands solely from their logo?

Brand Logos Graphic

>>ANSWERS<<

Now can you recognise the following brands from their tagline?

“Every Little Helps”
“It Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin”
“Because I’m Worth It”
“The Best A Man Can Get”
“Just Do It”
“They’re G-r-r-r-r-eat!”
“The Future’s Bright … The Future’s …….”
“Vorsprung Durch Technik”

>>ANSWERS<<

If you were able to get the majority of the brands correct then it goes to prove how important and rewarding branding can be.

     Advertising

Advertising is the process of bringing your product or service to the attention of your existing and prospective customer bases.

Most of you will be aware of the ‘Go Compare’, ‘We Buy Any Car’ and ‘Sheila’s Wheels’ adverts from the television. Love them or loathe them, they stick in your mind.

The most popular advert of the 20th Century, as voted by the public, was the ‘Smash’ mashed potato advert of the 1970’s. It featured Martians discussing the method that humans used to make mashed potato instead of using the ‘Smash’ product.

It can still be viewed on ‘You Tube’ >>HERE<<

If you aren’t old enough to remember this advert, ask your Mum, Dad or Grandparents, I am sure they will remember it.

     Promotion

The ongoing advertising and publicity of a product or service is known as promotion. Promotion keeps your product or service in the minds of your customer bases.

Some companies use techniques such as giving trading stamps, Clubcard points, frequent-flyer miles etc.

     Publicity

Publicity is getting your product or service mentioned in the media.

This is not always a good thing because, more often than not, you have no control over what is said or written.

Some people use the quote “There is no such thing as bad publicity …” but I am sure there are others who would totally disagree.

Read this for example:

The Ratner Group was a successful chain of jewellery shops in the 1980s. Their Chief Executive, Gerald Ratner, was delivering a speech to the Institute of Directors when he said

“We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’, I say, ‘because it’s total crap’.”

After the speech the Ratner share price plummeted and the company lost around £500 million and the company almost went out of business. Ratner was forced to resign just over a year later and the company changed its name to the ‘Signet Group’.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

He is also the Group Manager of the East Ayrshire Business Forum on LinkedIn.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

Basic Marketing – Part 1

Basic Marketing Graphic

Welcome to Part 1 of our little introduction to Basic Marketing. In this first segment we discuss the meaning of marketing, the types of marketing and we talk about some elements of inbound marketing.

In Part 2 we move on to outbound marketing.

>>Click here to go direct to Part 2<<

What is Marketing?

Marketing is the term given to the wide range of activities that ensure you are meeting the needs and expectations of your current and prospective customers.

Good marketing helps you identify who your customers are, the pricing of your product or service, the location of your business (if that is a factor) and the position of your product or service in the marketplace.

It is an essential business process and should be viewed as such, however it should give a return on your investment. The return doesn’t have to be financial but results of your marketing activities can and should be measurable.

Whatever activities and methods you apply, marketing must always be a planned activity.

Types of Marketing

There are two main types of marketing:

  • Inbound
  • Outbound

Inbound marketing includes market research, competitive analysis etc.

Outbound marketing includes branding, advertising, promotion and publicity.

Inbound Marketing

     Market research

Market research is the process of getting information about your prospective customers and/or the market you are targeting, analysing the information and making qualified business decisions based on the results.

You can use a variety of different techniques to do this:

  • Internet research
  • Face-to-face
  • Group meetings
  • Telephone research
  • Questionnaires
  • Etc.

     Competitive Analysis

This is the process of finding out who your competitors are, if you have any. If you do have competitors you need to answer certain questions. For example:

  • What products and/or services are they offering?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What will you offer that is different?
  • Is your solution sustainable?

By understanding who your competitors are and how they operate it will help you to identify how you can compete and, ultimately, overtake your opposition.

Identify what you do that is different, your Unique Selling Point (USP) and develop it to give you a competitive advantage.

>>Click here to go to Part 2<<

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

He is also the Group Manager of the East Ayrshire Business Forum on LinkedIn.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options