Walking back to health one step at a time with my EvenUp

Evenup LogoRuptured Achilles tendon is a phrase redolent with pain and anguish. In my case it occurred at the end of my regular Sunday evening friendly football match.

As I stepped forward to engage with an opponent, I heard an ominous tearing sound, much like when ripping up old tshirts for rags. I looked round to see where the sound was coming from, and discovered there was no one there. At the same moment my brain registered pain in my lower leg and I hit the deck. After struggling to my feet  and limping towards the touch line, my fellow team mates asked if I could cover the goal until the end of the match. I ruefully shook my head and slumped down at the side of the pitch.

hospital bootNearly a week later (thanks my local hospital losing my phone number) I was looking at an ultrasound scan of my leg. When I pointed my foot down, all looked well. But when I lifted it up, a gap was clearly visible. Fortunately the rupture was at the point where the tendon joins onto the leg muscle. So an operation was not deemed necessary. Just eight weeks of my leg being strapped into an orthopedic walking boot, night and day.

This was not good timing as we had a camping and walking holiday to the Scottish island of Mull planned for the following week. I soon discovered that I could not drive my car. My left foot was hitting the brake and the clutch at the same time with this clunking great boot on. I also found walking with my hospital loaned crutch difficult. The main problem was caused by the two inch difference in height between my two legs.

After some internet research I found out that although the ‘boot’ would fix my tendon, it could also result in long term problems with knees, hips and backs caused by limping. Further exploring uncovered a solution in the form of the EvenUp shoe lift. I immediately ordered one to arrive in time for my holiday.

evenup-shoe-balancer_2

As you can see above, the EvenUp is not a thing of great beauty, but it has transformed my ability to get around during the long recovery period.

I would definitely recommend it for anyone unlucky enough to be forced to wear hospital boot for any length of time.

Top Tips on Social Media from 20 Industry Experts – Summarised

As well as providing an excellent event booking platform, Eventbrite also have some great advice on their Blog on Social Media Marketing.

A recent post gives some Top Tips on Social Media from 20 Industry Experts. But to save you the bother of having to read the lengthy article, I have summarised each point below:

  1. Use hashtags, because “they allow you to gain the greatest opportunity to draw in your followers creating a social media buzz!”
  2. Spend a little on Facebook because organic posts currently “average between 1%-5% reach, which means without a little budget, your authentic story might never be heard.”
  3. Participate in Twitter chats as often as you can…”
  4. Post more often on Twitter. “…you have to experiment for you and your sector but I find for me it’s not one a day but one an hour.”
  5. Focus. “…we think it is better to be great on one social media platform rather than being weak on five social media platforms.”
  6. Collaborate on Pinterest. “On becoming a collaborator, our pins received much higher visibility”
  7. Target your customers at conferences and events using hashtags. “Targeting hashtags on Twitter is particularly powerful, because everyone at the conference is going to be following and posting with that hashtag, and if you can pay to get your tweet in front of all of those eyeballs, you’re one step closer to connecting with your target audience!”
  8. Brand your presence. “Make sure your name, bio, cover art, profile pic and URL look amazing. This seems like a basic tip, but for those just starting, it is the most important tip. If your profile page doesn’t look good, you already lost.”
  9. Give stuff away. “Giveaways are a great way to build followers across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as well as filling out an email list.”
  10. Blog! “Business owners have to stop saying that they don’t have time to blog.”
  11. Use ‘micro-influencers’. “Engagement decreases as the number of followers of an influencer increases. A recent study found out that Instagram influencers that have less than 1,000 followers had an engagement rate of 8%, while those with more than 1 million followers had an engagement rate of 1.7% from their audiences.”
  12. Use Hootsuite. “It helps me plan and schedule most of the content for all our social media platforms for the week ahead.  I leave a post open each day for something that is trending on that day and jump on the # in order to display ourselves to a wider audience.”
  13. Ask questions. “One of the most successful Facebook strategies we have used is to ask our 110k followers intriguing questions. We also pair this with a timely blog post to ensure we remain a high authority on the subject as well.”
  14. Us a call to action. “Getting people to engage in the social media space is like herding cats and they have the attention span of a goldfish so if you don’t tell them what you want them to do by using a call to action most people won’t do anything at all.”
  15. Be personal. “If you have a local business and you have customers or clients who get to know you or members of your team through the service you provide, don’t forget to share photos of your team and some of the things they are up to. This strengthens trust and their engagement.
  16. Be unselfishActively engage. The only way to build a reputation as an expert and thought-leader is to continuously serve your community without expecting anything in return. Say hello, answer questions and tag people in posts you think are relevant or interesting to them.”
  17. Co-create content. “Rather than trying to generate a high volume of quality content — which is a very daunting prospect — design a platform where your customers can serve as ambassadors for your brand and generate organic content on your behalf, uploading their own videos and photos.”
  18. Quality over quantity. “Don’t underestimate the power of online tools and NEVER skip a social group, even if it has 200 or fewer members – go for quality, not quantity.”
  19. Do your research. “Researching your competitors can be extremely beneficial before you start implementing your Social Media Strategy. You can find valuable information on what kind of content is well accepted by the audience, which social media channel is the most relevant one, how often you should post and so on.”
  20. Have a strategy.  “I create social media strategies for companies I work for. I like to use one technique that does not require much budget or effort…”

Saving the planet one coffee at a time with my Keep Cup

Keep Cup logoSeven years ago I bought my first re-usable coffee cup for work. I was full of optimism and enthusiasm at the time Looking forward to a greener New Year with my Keep Cup December 2010. But sadly the reality did not live up to the expectation.

The main problem was the plastic which became increasingly tainted by coffee. I cleaned it rigorously and regularly, but to no avail. So after a few months I returned to using wasteful paper cups.

I diligently put the empty cups into our office recycling bin. But was shocked to discover that hardly any of them were actually being recycled. In fact out of the astonishing 2.5 billion paper coffee cups thrown away every year in the UK, a tiny proportion – just one in 400 cups is recycled. Apparently it is too difficult to separate the plastic coating from the rest of the cup.

Recently an Origin Coffee branch opened in the entrance hall of The British Library. In addition to their wonderful coffee and friendly staff, I noticed they also sell Keep Cups. But as well as the plastic version,  they also had the rather attractive glass and cork model below. After a few weeks of seeing it while  on the shelf my resistance crumbled and I handed over the £15 required to purchase.

Origin Coffee British Library

Origin Coffee British Library

I was glad to hear that many organisations are now working hard to find a solution to this wasteful situation. The race for coffee cup recycling solutions. But until they become widely available, a reusable cup remains the best approach.

I’m now a month into my Keep Cup, and it is remains crystal clear with no tainted coffee taste. So now I can enjoy my daily coffee, and feel good about it too.

KeepCup_Espresso_Small

The best and worst names for your business… are sometimes the same

I just love business names. And I seem to come across new ones every day at work. Almost all the start-ups I meet want to have the perfect one to describe their business activity. But this is often impossible due to the UKIPO’s rules, and even when allowed can be a mistake.

For instance Carphone Warehouse chose a name that accurately described their business when it started in 1989. They were on the cutting edge of the new mobile-phone technology, and sold those marvels of miniaturisation known as car phones, through their first store located in – you guessed it – a warehouse.

First_Store_Marylebone_mediumfirst car phone

The first Carphone Warehouse and an example of an early mobile phone

It wasn’t long before the company expanded into the high-street, and their products shrank to the pocket-sized phones of today. So their wonderfully accurate name became doubly redundant. But by then they were a household name and were stuck with it. They did however learn from this mistake and use the brand PhoneHouse in the rest of Europe.

So that was an example of a good name which went bad thanks to the market moving. But some brands who started out with really bad names still managed to have great success. I covered Smeg in my blog post How to name your brand and get it trademarked. So I won’t dwell on the uncomfortable associations for that word again. But they certainly haven’t held their business back.

Or how about Soylent, the company that claims to have created the future of food?

Soylent products

It certainly look futuristic enough, although maybe not a appealing as my favourite Amelia Rope chocolate. But what I don’t understand is why the founder Rob Rhinehart chose to name the food after the 1973 science fiction film Soylent Green. It starred Charlton Heston and was set in a dystopian future, where the only food left on our dying planet is a green wafer known as Soylent Green. The movie ends with the shocking discovery that this staple is manufactured from humans. Or, as the final scene whispers; “Soylent Green is People!”

Here again, what on paper would appear to be a truly awful name, has not stopped the company from becoming very successful.

Sweaty-BettyCloser to home we have the very popular fashion brands Fat-Face and Sweaty Betty. More proof that a horrible name is no barrier to success.

Possibly the worst idea of all is to be nameless, but search Google for Nameless and you will find plenty of brands. Such as a ‘tech’ fashion brand in Moscow, and a digital marketing company in Bristol.

Returning to the world of science fiction we have SkyNet. An express courier network founded in 1972 that has grown to be the world’s largest. They can deliver “from a postcard to grand piano, to or from almost every country on the planet”.

Skynet logoBut type ‘skynet’ into Google image search you willterminator robot see this logo closely followed by the infamous terminator robot:

 

 

Let’s get back to some great names. On my cycle to work I have recently spotted vans sporting the memorable Magicman registered trade mark. Who wouldn’t want to employ the services of a “technician  trained to deliver incredible repairs to wood, stone, marble,uPVC, veneers, laminates, granite, ceramic tiles, stainless steel and even glass. We rectify chips, dents, scratches, burns, holes and so much more on site, nationwide”?

Magicman LOGO
Robert-Andrews-Magicman-landscape-webuse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think we should end with a couple of brands that follow the Ronseal approach to naming. In other words, they do what they say on the tin.

sticks like shFirst we have Sticks Like Sh*t. For those in the building trade the name effectively, if rather bluntly, explains what the product does.

Although I was intrigued to discover that on the manufacturers website the name has been bowlerised to Sticks Like Adhesive.

Perhaps they don’t want to upset the more sensitive home DIY brigade? The owners Bostik have registered the name with the UK IPO, so don’t think about copying it!

 

 

DoomFinally we have my favourite brand name of all time. Strong, simple and memorable, with a cleardoom south africa indication of its purpose. I first came across Doom on safari in Kenya in 1982. I still remember clearly the moment a can was produced and liberally sprayed onto a very large and scary insect which happened to be walking across the entrance hall of our lodge. It didn’t take long for the creature to cease to be a threat.

Sadly the brand is now more closely associated with the computer game of the same name. Although I was glad to find a less dramatically packaged version still for sale in South Africa.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Touring

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle MaintenanceThe recent death of Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance reminded me of my epic motorcycle trip around the USA and Canada in the summer of 1980. I was travelling light, so it was my only reading matter, read in instalments along the way.

I still remember the parts of the book about motorcycle maintenance reflecting my own limited mechanical experience. Particularly the advice about not rushing any work on the bike. The philosophical sections were a more challenging read, and I really struggled with them.

So this is the perfect excuse for a rather self-indulgent blog post consisting of a selection of slides from my trip across USA and Canada. I have also added a few photos from a family trip to the southern states 37 years later.

Neil - USA and Canada by bike - 1980 (7)

A slightly blurry 1980 version of me, grinning from ear to ear, just before setting off around the USA and Canada on my newly acquired second hand Suzuki GS750

Neil - USA and Canada by bike - 1980 (16)

My first camp site with my trusty one-man tent near Kitty Hawk (the home of powered flight)

Camping in the sultry heat of Charleston South Carolina

Neil - USA and Canada by bike - 1980 (75)

Heading towards the Pacific coast, over the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Neil - USA and Canada by bike - 1980 (88c)

In parts of the USA you really need to watch your gas. I think this is somewhere near Durango

Neil - USA and Canada by bike - 1980 (121)

I had no problem getting my big bike through Chandelier Tree in northern California

USA trip Aug 2016 (210)

Looking older, but just as enthusiastic about our Minnie Winnie, which turned out to be quite a handful to drive compared to the Suzuki of 1980

USA trip Aug 2016 (255)

This time we camped in comfort with a shower, two double beds, an oven, a hob, a microwave and widescreen TV. But I still hankered after a tent, which we bought along the way

USA trip Aug 2016 (286b)

The open road circa summer of 2016, heading west towards Las Vegas on route 66. Actually not very different from how it looked in 1980.

USA trip Aug 2016 (102)

I literally rode around Las Vegas to avoid it on my 1980 trip. This time we went twice! And revelled in the absurdity of the place. Especially Old Las Vegas, known as the Fremont Street Experience

Thanks to a frustrating limit in Google My Maps, I have had to create four separate maps to plot my 1980 route.




The shoelace knot that never comes undone

Today there was an item on the BBC news about a scientific breakthrough in understanding why shoelaces come undone – Mystery of why shoelaces come undone unravelled by science.

FinishedSecureKnotHa! I thought. My shoelaces never come undone, thanks to a discovery I made about 15 years ago. The knot is called Ian’s Secure Shoelace Knot after the inventor Ian Fieggen, now known as Professor Shoelace.

As you will discover from his website, Ian is obsessed with shoelace knots. But it is the Secure Shoelace Knot (also known as the Seaman’s Shoelace Knot) that stands out for me, as it simply never come undone. It also prevents wear on the laces giving much longer life. So it saves annoying undone laces and having to buy regular replacements.

I strongly suggest you try this wonderful life-hack, and let me know how you get on. Here is a video with Professor Ian demonstrating how to tie it.

Wrapsody has Christmas all wrapped up

Wrapsody presentYou have left it a bit late now, if you wanted to pay someone to do your Christmas wrapping. But if you really hate it that much you could always book up Wraposdy and employ one of their ‘wrapologists’ for next year.

Apart from having a great name, they also “believe that there is no gift unwrappable, no theme unworkable and no deadline too tight”. I love their sense of humour too, illustrated below.

Wrapsody text

Below is an example of the kind Christmas present wrapping they can produce.

Wrapsody presents

Like all good businesses, Wrapsody have a blog so they can share their activities with potential customers. Below you can see the team in action Christmas gift wrapping at Liberty of  London.

Wrapsody at Liberty

Wrapsody have the whole presents thing nicely ‘wrapped’ up (sorry couldn’t resist that pun). But I have found a couple of rivals elswhere in the country.

In Kent, “Wonder Wrap offer a unique and fabulous gift wrapping service for all occasions.

Your presents and gifts are beautifully wrapped and can even be grouped together to ensure you can easily present them to the lucky recipient.”

And in Wales, “Eclipse provides a professional gift wrapping service comprising high quality demonstrations, ‘hands-on’ workshops and professional gift wrapping services for businesses and individuals.”

Below Eclipse founder Alison Westwood gives some expert wrapping tips.

monkey-light-pro

How to be seen on the dark streets of London town

winter sun

Source LibreStock.com

The shortest day of the year is rapidly approaching. Winter Solstice is on 21 December to be precise. That means both my morning and evening cycle rides are in darkness or gloom.

I have taken several measures to improve my visibility to other road users, particularly car and lorry drivers, and of course those suicidal pedestrians with eyes glued to their smartphone screens.

altura-night-vision-safety-vest-cycling-giletI have recently replaced my Altura Night Vision Safety Vest Cycling Gilet, after leaving one behind on a cancelled train. And I’m confident it takes less time to be noticed than to say it’s name. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have seen people about to cross in front of me, stop, and do a double-take as the bright orange and yellow of my Gilet sears into their consciousness.

I have upgraded my rear visibility by adding a Blaze Burner light to the standard Brompton one. I’m still really happy with it despite some initial production problems. In fact I’m still running on my first battery charge after three months, which is pretty impressive.

 

fwe-20-lumen-front-tlight-black-ev244783-8500-2More recently I have added an additional front light which is designed for being seen, and not for showing the way ahead. In fact Evans describe the FWE 20 Lumen front light as the “definitive bright back-up safety light, taking up very little space on your bars but making sure you’re seen at night”. The 20 lumens is surprisingly bright, but the small form factor means it has run out of puff after just one week.

A couple of weeks ago I also replaced my reflective spoke clips, as the old ones were starting to lose their shine.

brompton-spokes-at-night

I think they look pretty good on my Brompton, and help when crossing T junctions.

Should I be doing more?

When I am out on the mean and dark streets of London, I wonder if I am doing enough to draw attention to myself. I have seen quite a few fellow cyclists who are outdoing my humble effort by a quite a margin.

Here are four examples:
The Lumos helmet means you carry all your lights on your head, instead of scattered around your bike. So you don’t have to worry about them being stolen or the hassle of taking them off to charge or the change the batteries. It also includes left and right indicators with a handlebar controller. Yours for just 179 US dollars.

Lumos helmet

And if you just want to let people where you are going next the the Cyndicate system is for you.

cyndicate

 

But by far the most impressive sight I have seen are Revolights.

revolights

They look pretty spectacular in the photo above, and even more so in the video below.

But when you actually see them on the road they are truly stunning. Sadly they don’t currently make a size to fit my bike, and they cost 199 US dollars. A tad more than my admittedly less awe inspiring reflector spokes above, but maybe I should start saving.

Monkey Light Pro Wheels

I haven’t actually seen any Monkey Light Pro wheels from Monkeylectric on my rides, but they do take attention seeking to the next level.

monkey-light-pro

Have you seen anything brighter on your travels?

Pen and ink and paper for high impact marketing

penI just love the way that old ways of doing things can survive the onslaught of new technologies. I previously wrote about how Books are back up – and so are vinyl records. And now I see that letter writing is coming back too.

Scribble is a handwritten letter service which helps businesses send a personal message, in a human way.

Here is their ‘blurb‘:

Each letter is handwritten in real ink, by a real person and in your preferred style. Simply send us your text and we create thoughtful messages that help you stand out.

You can customise your letter by using luxury paper, supplying us with your logo or including business cards & gifts. We can supply branded boxes (your logo) to hold your letter & promotional merchandise.

All letters are handwritten on high-quality paper and sent with a First Class stamp as standard. To ensure the utmost quality all letters are photographed and certified prior to being posted.

WHO ARE SCRIBBLE?

Scribble is operated by a team of creative, sales & marketing professionals that have a combined experience of over 40 years. We enjoy finding new ways to help our clients win customers and opening post that’s not bills.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY…

  • What’s not to love? 50x return per letter sent and fantastic feedback from my clients.
  • Scribble have been a joy to work with; I now use them for all of my written correspondence with prospects & clients.

letter-writing

Maybe I need to add a slide to my Social Media workshop on letter writing as a high effort, but high response marketing approach. Although I have to admit I am so out of practice in writing, I often can’t read something I wrote earlier. Maybe it’s time to sign up for a calligraphy course.

Images from librestock.com

The Internet in Real Time

social-media-logosSocial media is such an amazing development. Who knew it would have such an impact on our lives? I really enjoy talking about the benefits it can bring to start-up business in my monthly workshop at the Library.

The sheer numbers involved are mind boggling. With over 2.2 billion users across the many platforms.

The current leader-board (in millions of users) looks likes this:

social-media-usage

Source https://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/

But I find the slide that makes the most impact in my workshop is The Internet in Real-Time. Just click on the image below and spend a few seconds watching the various counters as they race upwards. I find it truly astonishing just how much content is being generated every single minute of the day.

The Internet In Real Time

From Visually.