Managing a Department Budget- why non-financial managers need to look at the figures


Financial Knowledge is a must for all Departmental Managers!

Spreadsheets, budgets and Profits & Losses are for management, accountants and finance departments. As non-financial managers, you need to focus on your team and deliverables, and let the experts worry about the numbers. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Profit margins are shrinking and companies have to find innovative ways to stay afloat. This makes budgets and profit and loss everybody’s problem – including yours!

Knowing basic accounting is no longer a ‘nice to have’ asset – it’s a must have. The ability to run your team within a budget and being able to justify your spend, will actually determine your team’s survival in the long term. So what does knowing basic accounting look like?

The first thing to do is get an understanding of the key figures that are important to your business and stakeholders. Obviously it’s profit – but what specifically? What are top line and bottom line costs that the company is monitoring?

  1. There are three main financial statements that you need to know and worry about – Balance Sheet, Profit and Loss (income) and Cash Flow. These three documents will give you an overall understanding of where the company is at and how it is performing. These numbers will also help you determine how your team can add value to the organisation.
  2. Managing a team means decision making, and this involves data and analytics. In order to make informed decisions you need numbers. These numbers should ideally include budgets as well. Any action you have taken needs to have a cost benefit analysis attached to it.

Let’s take a real life scenario. As a department head you are probably required to submit annual strategic plans and bi–annual reviews.

If you are in the process of developing your department’s strategic plan, then apart from annual business goals or KPIs you will need the following, if you want the plan to be approved:-

Revenue Projections – with projected growth that is based on the annual business goals and team KPIs.

  • Fixed Cost – employee salaries, infrastructure costs, etc. Basically recurring cost that you incur every month to keep the lights on.
  • Variable Cost – campaign management cost, over time pay, and other costs that need to be budgeted in during various times of the year.

Once you have all these details in place, you will need to play devil’s advocate with your budget. What are your department deliverables? What are the goals? What services do you offer to the organisation?

Play out a couple of ‘what if’ scenarios so that when the board queries your numbers, you have the data and analytics to back it up. A famous question that CEO’s like to ask managers of sales teams is – “If I double your budget can you double your sales projections?”

If a similar question were posed to you, what would your answer be? Once you have the analytics to back up your department budget, then it’s a matter of priorities.

What is a ‘must have’ expenditure and what is a ‘nice to have’?

Know you are almost ready. The next step is to use a simple budgeting tool (such as Excel) to present your projections, numbers and goals in a friendly manner – via charts and graphs.

Of course it is important to note that plans are not iron clad. Your budget will, from time to time, have variances. But planning will ensure that these variances are kept to a minimum within your department, and even when they do occur, they do not adversely affect the bottom line of the company.

In case you still aren’t convinced on the importance of budgeting practices as a non – financial manager; let’s look at an example close to home. Stevi Lowmass, the Founder of The Camel Soap Factory, started just six years ago from the shed of her Dubai villa. A first time entrepreneur and previously General Manager of a software company, Stevi quickly learnt the challenges of a owning a SME – especially cost vs. benefit.

This is just one example, budgeting can come in handy in any situation, even in personal financial management.

If you would like some in depth knowledge, join us at ISM for the Finance for Non Financial Managers workshop. Register today!

Whether you are the CEO, the receptionist or the guard at the gate, customer interaction is an inevitable part of our day. While the pundits stress that any interaction with a customer is a service touch point, the reality is far from it. Receptionists are not always friendly and most guards couldn’t care less.


People want to talk to real people that can help!

We are all aware of the pitfalls of poor customer service, but what are the real costs to a business? Research shows that bad customer service costs companies $338.5 billion a year, globally. But before we dive into the building blocks of bad customer service. Let’s look at the flipside – what qualifies as good customer service?

The fundamental requirement to providing good customer service is “Knowing Your Customer”. KYC is the cornerstone of any long-term client relationship. If you know your customer – you can provide personalized service and you can provide the service in a manner that is convenient to them.

If you know your customer, and the customer touch points and your employees are competent and responsive – that’s good customer service.

Unfortunately, as a survey suggests, most companies that think they provide good customer service, don’t … in the eyes of the customer.

So why do so many companies fail at providing good customer service and what are the hidden costs of poor customer service?


  1. One of the biggest pitfalls of poor customer service is that most dissatisfied customers don’t complain. You generally hear from only 4% of unsatisfied customers. As for the rest, they simply find somewhere else to go.
  2. Poor customer service also leads to loss of business – the opportunity cost of this is immeasurable. There is no magic formula that can calculate the dollar amount that you have lost to potential customers.
  3. Word gets around. Today with social media word gets around at the speed of light. This leads to a bad reputation. Your partners and affiliates may back out due to this. Take the recent Ryan Lochte Olympics robbery debacle – four of his sponsors dropped him overnight as it was affecting their brand values and integrity.
  4. Hiring top talent will prove to be challenging. Individuals are brands in their own right. They will never associate themselves with companies that have a reputation of providing poor customer service. Which means the competency required to provide good customer service is no longer available to you.

Let’s look at some numbers associated with poor customer service:


  1. 67% will never use your services again after a bad experience
  2. 49% will not recommend you to friends and family
  3. 34% will share a review online or on social media


With point #1 and #2 the fallout isn’t that great. Point #3 is the worst-case scenario, where if the review states your service is poor, this could have a colossal ripple effect on your business for months, if not years. As you know, once something is published in cyberspace, it is ridiculously difficult to erase.


You might think that your product is so unique that customers have no choice but to come to you. Wrong! Customers rarely remember the product; they remember the service they received when buying the product. Their positive or negative experience reflects on what and who you are as a business.


In Dubai for example, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s Prime Minister and Emir of Dubai recently announced that his new cabinet included its first “Minister of State for Happiness”. Why do you think this is?


Dubai is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the planet, with access to world-class infrastructure and facilities. Why should the government care about the happiness index of people? The government understands that they are not selling facilities, goods or services, they are selling experiences. The ultimate goal of any experience is happiness. If Dubai is to retain the people who move there, then they need to make them happy and keep them happy.


Would you spend money on something that makes you unhappy? Then why should your customers? The cornerstone to happy customers and customer retention is obviously good customer service.


How do you recover from bad customer service?


Whilst we can all agree that technology has made our lives easier, it has also automated many of our daily human interactions – this includes customer service. More and more customers are demanding live interaction. You can recover by providing more hands on service, by interacting with your customers via their preferred channels and by providing better content. These are easier said that done, but over a period of time, they have a positive impact on your bottom line and keep your customers happy J.

To an evolutionary biologist a meme is a behaviour, idea or action that is passed from one person to another within a culture. It’s the evolution of ideas through the spread, replication and adaptation of words. They are infective and viral and compete for your attention.

The internet meme stays pretty true to this and they are a great viral addition to the modern marketing toolkit. Your meme can be a word meme, video meme, photo/image meme, animal advice meme or something dreamt up in a marketing moment of magic. Make it familiar, topical, shareable, succinct and funny and sit back and watch it go viral.

So let’s take a look at memes that have worked , some meme creation platforms and then decide where to best position your meme for maximum effect.

Memes that work

With your brand in mind think carefully before you leap on board the meme train. Memes are fun and can be adapted to fit virtually every brand but may, and do replicate, and turn the tides of public opinion against you. What ideas do you think will resonate with your clients and their demographic? Overt marketing is a big no-no, remember that a meme is fun and interactive and think through the consequences of using culturally insensitive images or words. They could come back to bite you. Bill Cosby posted a picture of himself in 2014 inviting people to meme him and boy did they.


Social media success is within your reach…

Baby Sammy’s fist clench denoting ‘success’ or ‘frustration’ started life as an image taken by his mother and was uploaded to Flickr and Getty Images. Since then it has snowballed and captured the imagination with success memes going viral in their thousands. Virgin Mobile paid an undisclosed sum to licence the image for advertisements and it was even used by the Whitehouse for an immigration campaign. Sammy Griner maybe the most recognised baby on the internet… after North West . This meme also significantly raised money through crowdfunding for Justin Griner (Sammy’s father) when he needed a kidney transplant in 2015.


Poor Shrek will never escape the swamp

There were some great meme campaigns last year including the “Straight Outta … “meme generator which promoted the film “Straight Outta Compton” boosting ticket sales at the box office. Try it yourself here . The great thing about this campaign is the ease with which anyone can participate and share their meme. The public loved it creating hilarious memes, and no animal, politician or cartoon character was safe.

Meme Generators

There are plenty of meme generators to help you in your quest including the following:-

  • imgflip. Has a stock or established images which you can caption however there is also the option to upload your own images.
  • Dubsmash app can be downloaded and will allow users to create well known movie scenes and video lip synch to their favourite songs.
  • Meme Generator was the first online meme generator and will allow you to caption popular characters and animals like ‘grumpy cat’ and will also allow you to upload your own images and meme those or invite others to so.
  • QuickMeme

There are always more meme generators popping up on the internet so keep an eye out and do let me know if you have a favourite app or generator. If you don’t think you can summon up the right sense of humour then have a browse through KnowyourMeme and exercise your inner comedian.

Get your Meme Seen!

Now that you had created your meme and discussed its role in your marketing campaign where are you going to put it?

  • Reddit is the number one place to post your meme on the internet, look for the right subreddit and submit your meme. If it does make it to the front page then you will get a dofollow backlink. It is also a great place to have a look what is trending and in a few weeks you will see the memes trending on more conventional social media sites like Facebook. You could hijack and get on board a trending topic like the impeachment of Brasilian President Dilma Roussef before others or just use it to test out the virality of your created meme. If your meme is popular it will be adapted and go viral quickly.
  • Tumblr . This is a hybrid of social media and a blogging platform. If your content and images are liked then you can benefits from reblogs which do give backlinks. With 10 million users and rising this is the platform not to ignore, especially for great content writers.
  • Your meme can be shared, liked and commented on, driving traffic to your Facebook page and increasing your followers. Whether they are your target market is a question you should have a think about when creating your meme.
  • Supported by appropriate hashtags your meme could be picked up by influential retweeters in your region and further. Just search for the popular hashtag #firstworldproblems and you will see how effectively this hastag has gone memetastic.
  • StumbleUpon .A great place to submit your memes with millions of users it will definitely drive traffic to your website but again be aware they may not all be your target market and have a plan in placeto market additionally or gain subscribers on the landing page so visitors may turn into customers or brand advocates. The added advantage is that backlinks can be produced.
  • No handy backlinks on this site but plenty of users and a perfect fit for meme humour.

Hopefully you are not ready to produce your memes. Just remember your sense of humour.

ISM’s next Social Media Marketing Course is running from 26th to 28th April in Dubai. Please get in touch through [email protected] if you want to learn more .

In the next year, the US will have a new and perhaps radically different president, the UK may have voted to leave the EU, migration will continue to be a massive issue, the ongoing stagnation of the oil price will influence economies and the climate change imperative will drive business strategy for the next 20 years and beyond. Add to that massive leaps forward in technology which will continue to impact on all of us – 3D printing, drone technology, home networking, driverless cars and humanoid robots to name but a few – See here. It’s like the stuff of Minority Report!

The world and, consequently, the world of business is going through change at warp speed, influenced by the rapid change of economic, political, social, technological, environmental and other factors.

Thomas Freidman, in his book, The Earth is Flat, says “…there is something different about the flattening of the world that is going to be qualitatively different from other such profound changes: the speed and breadth with which it is taking hold….This flattening process is happening at warp speed and directly or indirectly touching a lot more people on the planet at once. The faster and broader this transition to a new era, the more likely is the potential of disruption.”

Businesses are having to adapt more quickly than they ever have before and in order to do so they need massive reserves of what we might call psychological capital – innovation, resourcefulness, imagination, resilience, adaptability, self-management and vision.

This calls for a new type of leadership – a leadership that is less about proven methods, implementation and compliance and more about vision, adaptability and courage. The world the we are experiencing, the ‘new normal’ as Friedman calls it, has been described as a VUCA world. Coined in the late 1990’s, the military-derived acronym stands for the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—terms that reflect an increasingly unstable and rapidly changing business world. This new VUCA environment will require HR and talent management professionals to change the focus and methods of leadership development.

A VUCA leader is one who embodies what is called the “VUCA Prime,” which flips the acronym to focus on vision, understanding, clarity, and agility – all key characteristics for navigating teams and organisations through this new landscape. The foundation stone for building these characteristics is the radical and intentional development of self-awareness and a new enthusiasm and passion for learning new skills, new approaches and new mind-sets. For those interested have a look at this article by Erika Andersen on ‘Learning how to learn’ written for Harvard Business Review March 2016 issue

The ability to acquire new leadership skills and knowledge quickly and continually is crucial to success in a world of rapid change.

When the topic of emotional intelligence comes up in conversations with people in Dubai business, it quickly becomes clear that many people are still unclear as to what it actually is! There is a fair amount of confusion around it, how can it be quantified and how to actually develop it.

It might be easier to highlight what a lack of emotional intelligence looks like. I am sure we have all, at one time or another, come across those bosses and managers who seem distracted, make decisions without taking into account how they affect other people and without clear communication, lose the plot if things aren’t done the right way, and create an atmosphere of trepidation and anxiety around them.

It is not difficult to see that a workplace characterised by this type of environment is going to struggle with morale, motivation and job satisfaction. The result of this directly affects financial performance – manifested as absenteeism, lack of co-operation with fellow workers and a lack of discretionary effort on behalf of employees, meaning that company goals are not met. That is what an absence of emotional intelligence looks like and how it affects work environments.

In a piece of research done by the Conference Board of New York in 2009, the findings indicated that how people perform at work is directly affected by how they feel about their work – and primarily how they feel about their relationship with their boss and their co-workers. This report is quoted in a book by Mark C Crowley, entitled ‘Lead from the Heart’. Mark Crowley decided to map the results of Fortunes Magazine’s’ ‘Best Places to Work’ onto the financial performance of those companies and, guess what, he discovered that the companies where people are happy outperform peer firms financially by 4%, which in real terms is a staggering amount, considering that high performing hedge funds that beat the street by just 2% are considered superstars. (P33 Lead from the Heart, M. Crowley 2011 Balboa Press).

In another study conducted by PepsiCo, they found that leaders who scored high in emotionally intelligent behaviours outperformed their peers, delivering a 10% increase in productivity, an 87% decrease in executive turnover, $3.75m added economic value and over 1000% return on investment.


Are you emotionally intelligent?

Daniel Goleman, the leading author and though leader on emotional intelligence, identified five main behaviours of the emotionally intelligent person. My descriptions below are deliberately simplified.

  1. Self-awareness – the ability to know what you are doing and why you are doing it.
  2. Self -regulation – the ability to think before acting and measure your responses appropriately.
  3. Motivation – the ability to sustain effort and attitude in spite of external circumstances.
  4. Empathy – the ability to leave your own perspective and see things from the perspective of another and,
  5. Social Skills -the ability to engage, build and sustain interpersonal relationships.

With such great outcomes evidenced, it’s clear that it’s an area worth understanding and growing it within your business.

If you are interested in becoming more emotionally intelligent, ISM Training run regular high quality training for this in Dubai. To check when the next course is visit

You have researched, invested time, energy and money into creating content for your audience but you’ve noticed a big issue. This content which you have created – is failing to make an impact and engage your audience. It’s just not happening. What could possibly have gone wrong?.

Well before we delve into looking at where it might have gone wrong, let’s take a look at what content marketing actually is – then try to get on track.

According to The Content Marketing Institute ‘Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.’

The key message for content here is ‘valuable, relevant and consistent’ – without these 3 key ingredients in your mix, – your content is going to struggle to get the attention and engagement it needs.

Times Square

Don’t be drowned out by the noise!

We live in a world bombarded with advertising messages. Dubai and the UAE is no different to the rest of the world. Just pause for a moment and think of all the different marketing messages you have received today. How many of them were valuable, relevant and consistent? And more importantly did you purchase as a result?.

Just as with offline marketing i.e. TV, Radio and Print we are competing for eyes and ears. Digital is no different. On Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even Snapchat we need to first ensure our content is valuable, relevant and consistent.

But stop a minute and ask yourself a question. Are you and the other businesses in your sector knocking out the same stuff? Is there any real difference, from your customers point of view in terms of the marketing messages?

What tends to happen is a trend of pretty similar content. Our competitor is doing it, therefore it must work? It wont. You need to take it beyond this and create content which is compelling and different. Go all out and inject stories into your content that will take it up a whole new level. Fascinate, pique your audiences curiosity, mix things up. Then you can really start to maximise your organic reach and perform better than before. By taking on board the tips below to promote your digital content you should start to see a shift for the better.

Now when it comes to promoting content most people automatically think ‘fire it up on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and that should do the trick’. Unfortunately not. While these platforms do help you cannot just rely on them to do all the work – at least not without paying for exposure. Even with that, if your content is poor and does not include the mix above you’ll burn through your budget – with little to show from the effort.

# 1 Video will be massive in 2016

Yes massive. In fact, according to Cisco, video is predicted to account for 80% of global Internet traffic by 2019. Video streaming apps such as Periscope and Meerkat allow you to stream content directly to your followers on Twitter and beyond – all you need is the app downloaded to your Smartphone device and you are good to go. Facebook Live is also coming soon. This will allow you to stream live video to your Facebook page. Live video streaming allows you to add another dimension to your content, you can find many examples of how your business can utilise video streaming, eg behind the scenes footage, product reviews and Q&A’s, all streamed in real time.

# 2 Trending Topics

Pay attention to trending topics around your business or brands sector – this is a great way to push your content out on the back of topics which are trending (be careful not to spam). If there’s a link (however tenuous) between your offerings and something which is trending, make sure you jump on it. This is a smart way to get your content in front of large audiences of users following these topics.

# 3 Twitter Chats

There are now countless dedicated Twitter chats, many of which take place on a regular basis. Find out which Twitter chat hashtags are relevant to your business and set these up on Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to monitor. If you come across a chat, which is especially relevant to your business or brands, why not get involved and actively contribute? This is one proven way to be authentic and build trust. Remember though to keep the sales tweets to a minimum – and focus on adding value.

# 4 Guest Blogging

Guest Blogging can provide an excellent way for you to indirectly promote your content. One of the massive benefits of guest blogging is that it can give you business-targeted exposure, if you are able to seek out the established blogs in your niche. They do exist – you just need to find them. The other plus with this approach is that it increases your credibility and therefore potential traffic to your website. In turn, this equals more eyeballs viewing the content which you’ve created. Whilst it’s hard work and can be very labour intensive you’ll reap the rewards.

# 5 Build Trust and Credibility

Business and Brands need to earn attention. You can’t just keep buying it.

So, if you want to stand out from the crowd remember your content needs to be valuable, relevant and consistent. With a big sprinkle of compelling and different to succeed.

Are you a Business in Dubai or the UAE who wants to learn how to create better content and promote it? Here’s how – sign up for the next ISM Dubai Digital Marketing Program.


If you are involved in Digital Marketing then you already know all about A/B testing and its role in producing higher conversion rates for your digital strategies. The goal with using A/B or split testing is to optimise your webpages so interest in them is increased e.g. more prospects clicking on a advert you have placed. This is done by creating changes in copy text, images, colours and layouts for the user interface.

The current webpage acts as the control –‘A’, and the test webpage with one of these elements changed, acts as ‘B’. The test is performed on your target audience and numbers of those responding to the call to action are compared. If the test webpage B proves to be more successful then you are going to be using this one. Simple. Perhaps though you take the testing further and try to segment your audience. Are you going to find different results with men /women and different demographics? One thing to bear in mind is your goal and to stick to it, experimenting from your control null hypothesis. This might be as in the Obama campaign, ‘less copy is better’ which was tested by removing copy from different areas.

So let’s have a brief look at the elements you may like to test.

Copy text

The copy text and call to action buttons need to convey value and momentum to the customer. They need to know what they are getting from clicking on the advert. It is not about brilliant wordsmiths waxing lyrical, it is about getting the value across to the customer…”what’s in it for me?”. Changes to copy can provide the biggest change to ROI so it is worth spending time testing this in particular.


Pronoun A/B testing from Content Verve

A simple one borrowed from Micheal Aagaard demonstrates clearly how a change in one word led to significantly less reactions.


So which button are you going to use… ‘Learn More’, ‘Join Us Now’, ‘Get started’or ‘Sign up Now’? You need to apply the Science and test!


Dinner with Obama

This image from dinner with Barack campaign was hugely successful. Photo by Pete Marovitch

Whether or not to use an image is yet another decision. Certainly if you are a shopper on Amazon or buying clothing online the conversion rates are much higher if the item is displayed. It is worth noting than when selling clothing, conversion is slightly better when the clothing is modelled by a human. Be careful of using bland or stock images especially if you overcrowd your page and push the important sign up area from centre stage. Are you going to try placing text within the image? It could bring your message into focus more quickly but bet the designers won’t like it…


What colour are you going to choose for your call to action button? The all action attention grabbing Red, the positive momentum of Green for go or the oh so colour of the moment orange? Well, as expected the red button wins out every time. Or does it? What’s important is the amount this button stands out from the other visuals in your page. Does it have some nice white space around it? Are you using a red button in a webpage that is has a predominantly red themed background , well done… you have camouflaged it nicely!


One of the areas that the Obama team worked on (naturally !) was removing the barriers to donations on their campaign website. They tweaked at the form through testing and came up with a formula that increased donations. Filling in forms is a frustrating process to all of us especially when parting with our hard earned cash. Endless fields of information, mandatory fields and errors all turn it into a painful process. The team sequenced the form to make it a stepwise process and cleverly asked for the donation amount first so you were already invested. I strongly advise you to read the account from Kyle Rush of the process.

There are many tools out there to help you perform A/B testing such as Optimizely ( used in Obama’s first campaign) , Google Website Optimiser and Clickthroo or indeed its more complex cousin Multivariate testing .

So if you would rather not leave your conversion and click through rates to chance and your design choices be based on data not esoterics then give A/B testing a go!

digitalDigital Marketing has exploded and most UAE marketeers whilst they understand the inherent opportunities it affords are racing to catch up on their knowledge and creative application , especially in Dubai where sadly we still lag behind other countries at the forefront of innovation. The increasing jargonistic nature of the digital marketing landscape doesn’t help those seeking to learn either…frankly it can be quite off putting. For as little as 100 dollars you can gain a dubious qualification in Digital Marketing but woe betide the employee who finds their latest recruit really only has one or two tricks up their sleeve and doesn’t really have a) a solid marketing background and b) little idea of the scope of tools that need to be brought into play and how, where and when.

Digital Marketing can be used ad hoc but it yields far better sustainable results when proper planning is put in place. 50 % of companies have no clearly defined digital marketing strategy and I am guessing this number is higher in Dubai. Before you implement your digital marketing plan brainstorm your key strategies for growing your online business. A well thought out goal will provide focus for your digital marketing efforts.

How to Reach Prospects and Customers

There are lots of ways to reach customers digitally through social media marketing; SEO; mobile marketing; email marketing; pay per click and content marketing to name a few. Clearly you will not be using all the channels but will select those that reach your target audience with greater return on investment. What are your competitors doing and how can you stand out?

How to achieve interaction

A dynamic dialogue with customers can give a boost to Search Engine Optimisation as well as Social Media Optimisation. Ultimately you want your business to become customer focused, so that they drive the business and traffic for you. The customer can participate by reviewing your products, requesting information or commenting and suggesting improvements or expressing interest but unless your communication channels are monitored the dialogue will quickly close. E.g. If a customer subscribes to an email newsletter or makes a first purchase a welcome to your company or products should follow to open the communication.

How to convert to leads or sales

Do you have a marketing funnel in place? When you have a lead, how can you encourage them to purchase? If a customer shows an interest you should be able to move them through the marketing funnel and convert their interest and desire to action. This can be done with lead magnets, calls to action and offers and providing them with additional relevant information to help in their decision making. In Dubai I get increasingly frustrated when I call clearly interested in a product and no-one ever calls or emails me back.

How to engage consumers through time.

You need to think in terms of fostering an active passionate online community around your product. Your customers not only form relationships with your brand but also with peers and they share their experience with your service. Provide them with intuitive tools to talk to you also, whether it is open honest feedback on social media or a live chat line on your website or the development of an app. Loyal customers account for 80% of your business. They can become staunch brand advocates and value truly good customer service.

If you would like to learn more about Digital Marketing please get in touch, ISM Training are running their first Digital Marketing programme in September in Dubai and we have an excellent UK instructor on board. You can find the brochure here /docs/Digital%20Marketing%20Essentials.pdf

Every brand has to have a good back story to attract and engage the consumer but how well are Dubai brands using this marketing tactic?

In the last blog sales through storytelling I discussed the merits of injecting some storytelling into selling so this time I turn to its traditional stomping ground of marketing.


“What’s the Dough-Boy Afraid Of?” Ben and Jerry top the ice cream world

Remember the elements of a good story:-heroes, stimulus, conflict, resolution and a good solid happy and moral ending. How are these elements being applied to entice you into a connection with brands? Stories told by brands deliver a pleasure outcome and builds on Bagozzi and Nataraajan’s ( 2000,p.10) idea that “that people need help in finding what makes them happy, and this is where marketing comes in.”

We store and retrieve a lot of information in the form of stories so it makes sense for brands to play into this for us to experience emotional investment in the brand. Successful brands use ideas of rebellion, railing against power, supporting the underdog and being part of something meaningful and bigger to entice consumers to action. Good examples of this include Nike (Just do it!), Tom’s (One for One) and Warby Parker.

The Warby Parker story is inspirational. It has all the elements of a good story. Wandering students lose their glasses backpacking and can’t afford a new pair. They decide to create an affordable and design led Eyewear Company to topple the company owning 80% of the market share who keep prices artificially high. What’s more for every pair of glasses sold they will give a pair to someone in need. Now you can shop ethically for glasses and stick it to the industry giant at the same time! If you wear glasses like me you must be frantically looking for your nearest store. They are not in Dubai yet but you can try them on, online, and get them shipped…

So which Dubai brands are excelling in the field of storytelling? There is ONE that springs to mind (pun intended). Thomas Lundgren the owner of “The One” tells us on the website pages devoted to storytelling that he set the store up because he was visited by an angel telling him to save the world from IKEA. They want to inspire their customers to be different – to change the world. They sell feelings! They give you music whilst browsing online! They ask us to be part of a meaningful community building sustainable projects in the developing world! Their story ends with the lines “are you brave enough to be with us?”. YES, of course I want to save the world, sign me up for a sofa!

So tell your own brand’s story now. What is the motivation behind your brand and what problems does it solve ? Inspire us and make it meaningful and we will tell your story to other consumers.

The skeptic in us will always questions a brand’s story – but that’s ok , in doing so we are engaging our emotions. Just don’t betray a consumer’s trust, that can have dire consequences …

Bagozzi, R. P., & Nataraajan, R. (2000). The year 2000: Looking forward. Psychology & Marketing, 17, 1–11.

People don’t buy for logical reasons they buy for emotional reasons- Zig Ziglar

1001 Arabian Nights

Are you sitting comfortably?

The art of storytelling is losing traction in the increasingly fast paced Dubai life but its sales people could still benefit from this ancient tradition. As a consumer, try to remember the last major purchase you made. What role did the salesperson play in your decision making? What persuaded you to buy that product? Successful salespeople know how to tell a good story. They appeal to your emotions using a variety of techniques. Perhaps you just haven’t met a really good salesperson in a while if you don’t agree at all?

All stories need some basic elements in order to succeed. A hero or heroine ( the customer or you!); stimulus ( a buying decision); conflict ( objections); crossroads ( when a purchase is made) and finally a good moral (satisfaction in making the right decision).

There are a number of situations a salesperson can find themselves in in which it will be appropriate to tell a story involving these elements. They may need to provide context for their product which resonates with the customer, they may be presenting their product to an audience, motivating a sales team or even selling themselves.

The benefits of storytelling are numerous. They can captivate and hold the attention of clients; build rapport and trust; add interest and relevance to a product; change minds and win loyalty. There is Science behind it too. When we are told a rich story full of relevancy, the sensory, creative and more emotional right side of our brain is stimulated. If only the left side is engaged, as experienced during a dull sales presentation, we make more logical buying decisions. A story simply put helps the customer experience your product and emphathise with the seller.

So how can this help you? Perhaps you think you are not a great storyteller. I assure you, you are better than you think. We tell stories every day to our families and friends. Sometimes we tell them stories they may have told us. You need to sit down and think about your product. Connect your story to your product, it should be personal. Your story could also be about you, your company history, a customer’s experience with your product or even how you create your product. Just don’t forget the tenants of storytelling and dispense with bullet points, they don’t engage and produce emotion. Running your story by someone won’t hurt either the best raconteurs have told their stories a few times!



Do you have to shout to attract customer attention?

Marketing campaigns are costly, so it makes sense to ensure your target market is hearing you loud and clear. But without good data you could be wasting your budget on a slick campaign focused on the Dubai market, when most of your customers are from Abu Dhabi. Here are the top reasons you campaign is falling on deaf ears.


You don’t have a CRM system

A CRM is a Customer Relationship Management system, one of the most powerful tools in marketing. Inside this system you can track purchase histories, the age of buyers, their geographical location, what they like, what they don’t like, how often they buy and where and how they buy. This is serious marketing data that can be harnessed to improve sales and improve customer relations.

Your profiling is too broad

Regardless of what you are selling (from financial services, office stationary, to designer gowns), if you only think of your customers as one homogenous block, you are missing out on sales. Used in conjunction with your CRM, you can create very specific profiles of your most/least profitable customers.

Profiling allows you to see what age groups your products and services appeal to the most and also which geographical locations are your hotspots. This is particularly important when starting a new campaign. Without this knowledge you could be spending thousands on mailshots, e-shots, billboards and mobile ads that simply aren’t going to the right districts. Which is costly, lost opportunity.

Your tailoring sucks

Are you still sending out the same message to all your customers? If you are, you’ve fallen into the trap of believing that because you sell one thing, you only need to market on a single level.

Good marketing comes from knowing that people are different. They may all be using your services as an accountant, but they’re experiences will be very different. Find the broad categories of your customers. Do you have three main different customers? For example, do you have retail companies, freelancers and restaurants using your accountancy services? If so, you can use this knowledge to develop more specific marketing materials to appeal to each group.

You don’t localise

Although you might be marketing to all of the UAE , don’t forget to spend time on maximising your local market. You may import perishable goods to sell across the region, but have you looked on your doorstep for customers?

Where’s the global element?

You may not have an overseas component to your business, yet. But if you are planning to ship your goods and services abroad, a little research goes a long way. Find the story of your business. If you’ve only been trading for a short period, focus on the start-up journey, and if you’re well established, find the landmark moments.

Create specific marketing materials for targeting foreign markets: glossy brochures, a micro-website, business cards for the person you whose job it is to be the main one point of contact for new business from abroad.

And speak to your business contact at local government. They may run schemes and workshops to help small UAE companies create marketing campaigns for foreign markets.


Look the part

People make snap judgements based on your clothes, the car you drive, your accent and how you smell. Whether their judgement is correct is down to you. As a sales person, dressing the part is essential. You can have the best product, or the most innovative money saving process for your would-be client, yet if you look wrong to them, you could easily lose the deal. So shine your shoes, wear your best clothes (this could be business attire or smart casual depending on the situation), and make sure your breath and body smell lovely.

Talk to their level

If you are talking to the technical department of a business you have to be able to talk to their knowledge standard. However, a car salesperson will temper their petrol head knowledge if the client is simply seeking a car that is fuel efficient and looks nice.

Don’t fear the phone


Get on the dog and bone…it doesn’t bite!

Even seasoned sales people dislike calling prospects. However, if you have a qualified lead that has expressed an interest, ringing them is a matter of courtesy if nothing else. They will be expecting you to call, and to not call is a wasted opportunity and could damage your reputation in the eyes of the would-be client.

Listen up

People love to be listened to. They disliked being talked at. As a rule of thumb listen as much as you can before talking. When you do talk, address the concerns, queries, and any misunderstandings about your product/service. The sales process can be far friendly and, once you know what your customer needs, you will impart more targeted knowledge to them.

Don’t bug them

When you feel you are close to a sale, don’t badger the client for a decision, but ask them questions that they need to answer. Allowing them to come back to you with the reply gives you more knowledge about what they need, but also helps cement their good opinion of you and your business.

Identify blocks to buying

With a first purchase of a car, accounting services, or a piece of software, people tend to look around before deciding on where to spend their money. Your business could be one of many they are looking at. So don’t jump in with the hard sell. Go back to the listening tip and identify what the customer’s blocks to buying are, then address them. If you know your product isn’t for them, let them know, but if you can change the product/service, make sure they know that too. If you know it’s going to be too expensive, tell them and find a solution that meets their budget.

Let them go

Make sure you qualify your leads. If your product isn’t right for them, or you know they can’t really afford it now or in the long run, be the good guy and let them go. A poor lead will cause both you and the client problems further down the line.

Close the deal

Knowing when to close a deal is essential. Some customers could prevaricate all year over a purchasing decision – wasting their time and yours. When you know they have all the information they need to make a decision, offer them a couple of options and ask them which one they feel most comfortable signing off on.


There are many ways of closing a deal, for more details on transforming your sales skills visit: /courses/transformational-sales-skills/index.php

ISM Training has plenty more sales tips for you just browse our sales category on this blog.






Red Arrows

Get all your team working to the same plan!
(photo:Tom Habibi)

Managing a project is exciting, but also fraught: employees off sick during key developments, suppliers not delivering on time, unexpected harvest failures, rises in the price of commodities, or delays in getting goods through Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, can all give a project manager a headache and cost the company money.

Which is why a Project Management Plan is the most important document for any company. Whether it’s for a major or minor project, it will become the source from which everyone in the company will draw upon to keep the project on course.

The Plan

Every big project in a company has to start with a plan. And it can’t be rushed. The planning stage is the most important part of the process. Without a standard sheet that everyone in the company can refer to at all times, your project is crippled before it’s even started.

Planning requires meetings. The first of which has to establish to end goal, the budget required (even though this can be a fairly fluffy figure at this stage), the people and departments necessary to complete the goal, and the timescale.

Once this initial plan is in place, the project manager has to bring all the departments in to give their professional opinion on how the end goal can be achieved. At this stage, you begin to understand the true scope of the project: most crucially how much it will cost, and whether your company can deliver it on time.

Understanding financial, and time, constraints is essential to the smooth management of a project. A poorly costed project can devour a company’s profits. If there isn’t the manpower available to deliver on time, you could lose employees due to the high level of stress involved.

Who’s involved in planning?

Everyone who will be part of the outcome is the simple answer: product developers, sales team, finance department, marketing, IT department, and the client/customer. If you leave out marketing to the last minute, you could find they’ve already allocated all their budget to another project. IT might need to bring in extra resources to deliver technical materials, and your sales team might not have the customers in place to sell the end product to. And if you’re developing a product for a specific client without involving them from the beginning, you could be spending a lot of time and money on something that doesn’t fit their needs.

Define the stages

A good project manager will put in place very clear stages for the project. Deadlines help focus the mind and with deadlines in place for each of the stakeholders, you can gauge how well the project is progressing. It also prevents feature creep getting out of control.

Feature Creep

Every project suffers from feature creep. As different departments get to grips with the project suggestions and ideas will begin to flood in from every direction. Some will be good, some not so good. But it can be managed and kept to a minimum.

This is why it is so vital to have a thorough initial planning stage. By involving everyone at the very beginning ideas can be thrashed out. Solid ideas can be budgeted into the plan, provision made for extra people and materials, whilst marketing can begin to get creative. It also means that bad ideas can be weeded out early in the process.

With a clearly defined plan everyone knows what is required and it’s harder to deviate from that plan. But what about those ideas that are so awe-inspiring they have to be included? Ask yourself, the team, the client, everyone in fact, if it’s really necessary in this phase, or whether it can be placed into a feature update after this project has been completed. Because deviation will cause delays and at that point you have to ensure that everyone is aware of the costs involved. And if it has to be included, a new plan has to be formulated around it with new deadlines and budget plans.

Prioritise weekly

Build into the plan a weekly meeting to established what goals are being met. This way you’ll be able to quickly identify areas that are lagging behind. If you leave out this process you could end up with one area of the project not just lagging behind, it could be dragging the whole project down: increasing costs across the whole company.

Manage expectations

From the outset, don’t promise more than can be delivered. From a sales perspective this means managing the expectations of the client. They may want a Ferrari, but only have the budget for an Audi A3. Don’t ever pretend you can deliver the Ferrari.

Know who’s on holiday

Everyone goes on holiday, so it’s essential that you know when key people are away and build that into your plan. If you want a key marketing decision to be delivered on the week the marketing manager is away, you need to know that and adjust the plan accordingly.


Things do, and can, go wrong that are outside the control of the Project management Plan. So it’s best to build in contingencies at the outset. Add time onto the plan to accommodate unfortunate events. That way, if a fire breaks out at a supplier’s warehouse, you’ve got time to find another supplier. It also means that if additional features have crept into the plan, they won’t delay the entire project. And if nothing happens, you had better ensure marketing gets the heads up that you’re delivering ahead of schedule.

ISM runs training courses for PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner in Dubai both in house and publicly. Contact us on [email protected] for more details if you wish to gain these critical Project Management qualifications

It’s a universal truth that retaining a customer is less expensive than acquiring new ones. But it’s an easy truth to forget and once you let your attention slip, customer loyalty begins to slip as well. So whether you’re selling expensive jewellery in the Dubai Souk, or ice-cream on Jumeirah Beach, keep your customers at the forefront of your mind.

Why are they loyal?

Dan Brown

It may be the same formula but that’s what Dan Brown’s fans want.

It’s really important to know what it is about your business that keeps customers coming back for more. One of the world’s best selling novelists, Dan Brown, keeps his readers buying his books by using a similar formula and the same hero in most of his books. He knows what his audience wants and gives it to them book after book.

Ask yourself, your colleagues, and most particularly your customers, what it is that keeps them returning to you. It could be you have the best delivery in the city, or the nicest staff, or the best food. And you could also find out what is turning people away – as important to know when building a profile of a loyal customer.

The positive experience

One bad experience is all it takes to lose a customer. You may feel that’s a bit harsh, but unless you have the complete monopoly on a product or service, there is always a choice for the customer to go somewhere else. If your customer feels they can get a better experience elsewhere, they will at least give it a try, and once tried, they may stay with your competition.

The old maxim that you should under-promise and over-deliver has never been so true. In the age of Trip Advisor and reviews on Amazon, customers can tell the world of their experience in minutes. With this type of instant feedback, one bad experience (or several in a row) posted online could lose your sales straight away.

Which is why consistency is important. If you run a hotel, you know that people will keep coming back if the rooms are consistently clean and comfortable, and if your staff are always courteous and helpful. However, if you price yourself too high, long standing customers will expect an even higher level of service from you – such as expensive toiletries, specialist free teas and coffee, and if you fail to live up to that, you’ll lose customers.

Loyalty Schemes

Lots of consumer businesses have loyalty schemes (where customers get points for every purchase over a certain amount) in a bid to encourage people to return to their store for repeat goods. They can be incredibly good for business, but if you don’t give people sufficient rewards (in the shape of special events, money off coupons, etc), they’ll stop using the loyalty card and drift towards other businesses.

But when a loyalty scheme is working well you not only get repeat custom, you can track what works and what doesn’t work with your customers. It’s a fantastic tool to help you tweak your reward program to make individuals feel really wanted in your stores.

Loyalty in b2b

The business world is no different from the consumer world. You are still dealing with people and they want the same levels of customer support a consumer demands. So it’s important to identify loyal business customers a reward them for their business. Whether that’s taking them out for dinner, sending them flowers, inviting them to an inclusive event or giving them a discount on their next order. Remember them and they’ll remember you next time around.



alan Sugar

Are you in the firing line?

Whether you work in Dubai’s buzzing start-up community or a large established international company, bringing out the best in employees is the leader’s mantra. But what do you do with an employee who is difficult to work with, yet does their job brilliantly?

Some people are like vampires, sucking all the joy and life out of an organisation. Whether it’s the constant flow of critical emails, the snide backchat at lunch, or insults thrown around like confetti – the effect is to bring down the morale of people around them.

But some organisations keep difficult employees around because it’s been decided they are too good at what they do. It could be the creative who always delivers winning ideas, the accountant keeping the business afloat, or the engineer effortlessly fixing technology glitches.

Yet, as a leader it’s your job to ensure the whole company is working well. Pandering to the negative whims of one employee could lead to you losing other employees. You’re feeling that one individual is too valuable can rub off on others, making them feel unappreciated, or worthless.

This low morale in other employees can lead to staff handing in their notice. And if they’d rather move to another company, is this one individual worth the time and the money to train up new people?

On the flip side, people may not leave your business, but the negative impact of working with a difficult employee can lead to lower performance. Looking at that lowered performance across the board, and your business is going to suffer.

So how do you deal with a difficult person?

Firstly, examine the issues being brought to you by the individual’s co-workers. Are they valid? Can they be backed up with facts? With technology being used so frequently for communication, any offensive behaviour committed via email or social media can be readily examined.

Once you’ve established the extent of a person’s unpleasant behaviour, it’s time to have a one-to-one with them. Outline the complaints and work out a way to help modify their behaviour to be less offensive towards others.

One way is to offer them training. Sometimes a course in emotional intelligence, or stress/anger management can have a positive effect. And it’s a more productive way for you to keep an exceptional talent.

You should also remind them of their obligation to abide by company policy – offensive or bullying behaviour cannot be tolerated in any organisation. Some businesses have a three strikes rule. Once a person has transgressed beyond three warnings they are given an official warning, then if the behaviour persists, they are fired.

After the initial meeting, you then have to allow time for your discussion to sink in. Monitor their behaviour at work more closely and see if there is an improvement.

If there is no improvement (and in some cases addressing a problem can make difficult people behaviour worsen) and they are proving toxic to the workplace, as the leader you have to make a tough decision. Keep them and get others to work around their idiosyncrasies, or jettison them from the company. If you’re going to get rid of someone, ensure you’ve lined up a replacement first!




How easy do you think it is for your customers to discover your business? If you’re an accountancy firm in Dubai, can people find you when they search online for an accountant in Dubai? If a person is walking down a street, will they easily see where your business is based? If they can’t, your business is missing out on potential customers and increased sales, and it’s time for some location marketing.

Search engines

Have you tried to search for your business online? If you are a clothes boutique, search for boutiques in your area and see if your own business details come up. Part of this will be based on your company’s website, but also on the other websites your company is listed on. For example, if you are a restaurant, any reviews on Tripadvisor will pop up in a search. At least, you’d hope so. Many people check online reviews now before making a decision on anything from where to eat, to what car sales company to use for their next big purchase.

Local / International Directories

People turn to the internet now as a first point of call to find goods and services.

So it makes sense that your company is listed in local online directories and portals. Using our boutique example, you might make a point of selling some goods on Dubizzle to gain extra exposure. If you are marketing a financial services company, you would ensure you have a listing on Yellow Pages AE, and if yours is an engineering company, industry specific websites such as Dubai Business Directory would be a good place to start.

Social media

Using the city name in all social media is a must. If someone is searching for art in Dubai, if you have a YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram account to show off your business, putting your location in the title will make it easier for search engines to pick you – and so, easier for potential customers to find you.

On Twitter, hashtags are a great way of using location to market your business. A shop with a summer sale would use #sale #dubai hashtags, an exhibiting artist could use #dubai and the gallery name hashtag along with a link to their pictures.


Using the data from mobile phone searches, search engines are able to target advertising in a more personalised way. This helps you expose your business name to people who are in your area. For example, if someone is searching for a restaurant in your area, you could set up an ad on the search engine that appears only for your area. This is becoming a common, and useful way of attracting new business.

On the Street

Can customers find your business easily ?

Can customers find your business easily ?

It may seem like common sense, but just how easy is it for people to find your business on the street? Is your business name easy to find from street level? Whether you are twenty stories up, or hidden in the depths of a mall, it’s your job to make it easy for customers to find your office.

Ensure the name plate on the side of your high rise office is clean and easy to read, put banners, flyers, even chalk marks on the pavement (if local by-laws allow) – anything and everything that gets you noticed in the right way.


Remember: If customers can’t find you, your competitors will reap the benefit.

Every entrepreneur knows that building a business from scratch is pretty similar in Dubai, Pretoria, or New York: it’s all about marketing.

1. Get the branding right

Entrepreneurs know the key to great marketing starts with a memorable name and great brand identity. Whether it takes a day or a month, spend time creating a name and a great back story to your brand. It has to be something your target market will identify with quickly.

2. Use social media wisely

Social media is now a cornerstone to marketing a business, and successful entrepreneurs research thoroughly before stepping into the social media pool. Don’t just look the big social media brands, your niche may have customers in more location based social media. And if you don’t know your Twitter from your Dribble, get yourself on a course and educate yourself.

3. Find a mentor

The best entrepreneurs know that a mentor is a key ingredient to their success. Whether for finances, boardroom tactics, or marketing, they’ll provide insightful advice to keep you on track.

Don’t expect the mentor to do all the work for you. Do your research and find out as much as you can about the market your aiming at, then go to a mentor with very precise questions you can’t find the answer to anywhere else.

4. Design the best website

Shoddy websites are an instant turn off, and good entrepreneurs know not to hire their cousin/mate/friend of a friend. Find a professional web developer who produces excellent websites that look as good on a mobile as they do on a desktop.

5. Great online content

A great looking website is only the beginning. Your site has to have ‘sticky content’. A marketing term for content that is interesting enough for your potential customers to ‘stick’ around.

Only you know what your product/service is capable of, so you have to translate this into an easy-to-use shop, great blog, fun/serious (depending on your audience) videos, tutorials, e-books: create excellent content and make that site work hard for your marketing strategy.

6. Create a mobile strategy

The use of mobile phones has soared, so harness that power and build a mobile strategy to help customers connect easily with your business. Whether it’s making it easy for they to buy your products on their phones, to reach out to them with a neat little game, order support at the touch of a button, or load up your latest fashion line: every mobile strategy is different, so research how you want to use it to market yourself effectively.

7. Be seen


Don’t be shy get your talents out into the open !

Entrepreneurs aren’t shy. They get out there and meet their customers face-to-face. Don’t hang back and let someone else sell your business for you. Get stuck in and be seen at conferences, on the street stall, in the board room, on the radio, in the papers and on TV. When it comes to marketing, entrepreneurs get stuck in.

8. Find the Free (that doesn’t break the bank)

Everyone likes a bit of free thrown into their shopping basket: free delivery over x amount, free three months support, or buy one get one free. Find what you can give for free and use it as a marketing ploy

9. Get the customers involved

Whether it’s a product or a service, the best way to get people interested is to let them experience it directly. Have you developed a new drink? Take it to the people and let them try it: demos at shows, a cart next to a popular shopping area, take into people’s homes and offices. Be imaginative. Have a new type of software to help businesses streamline their systems? Go to conferences and sponsor a coffee stand, provide free workshops, give talks, arrange to go and talk directly to businesses in their offices.

The constant hustle and bustle of a Dubai salesperson’s life can be draining and make constant stress feel normal. However, the rapidly growing Mindfulness Movement offers sales and business people a way to calm their worlds and help them make better decision in both work and home life.

Mindfulness is essentially about being in the moment, being aware of yourself and your environment. Originally a part of Buddhist practice, it has become separated from religion and is now an increasingly popular method for reducing stress in all aspects of life.

These are four of the cornerstones of how mindfulness can help you be more effective in business:

Remove distractions

Your mobile phone, a favourite website, social media: they all add up to many hours a month of distracting behaviour. Identify what are the unnecessary distractions in your working life and limit your use while at work. This is particularly effective in face-to-face meetings. Even if you’re the only one who has left their mobile in their briefcase (instead of laying on the table), you’ll be more focused during the meeting and better able to pick up on nuances than usual.

In your every day work life, limiting browsing websites, or checking your Twitter feed, will help you focus more on the job at hand – leaving you plenty of time later to find out how your football team is doing.

Feel the stress

The old adage of take a deep breath is a wise one. Whenever you feel stressed, whether in a meeting or on a call, take a moment to acknowledge the stress to yourself. You don’t have to be silent, find a phrase to pause the conversation naturally, such as ‘I’d like to write that down’, and while doing this take some deep breathes and let the tension ease away. This way you can refocus on what is really important about the conversation.

Be grateful

For salespeople, patience can be stretched during tricky negotiations. But the mindful salesperson has the knack of remaining in control. This is because they keep a gratitude diary. This is a book in which you physically write down all the things you are grateful for in your life. Research has shown that those who keep a diary, and remind themselves of the things they’re grateful for, are more patient. So when a customer is testing your patience, remember what you’re grateful for in life and you’ll find yourself making more balanced decisions.



Slow down…breathe…

Some of the world’s biggest businesses (such as Google) are leading the way in educating their employees in the power of mediating. Meditation is the mindful salesman’s keystone. Taking time out from your day for half an hour of meditation can seem like time wasted, but once you’ve found a slot for it, you’ll reap the benefits.

Meditation slows you down and focuses your mind. To begin with, do ten minutes. Mornings are usually the best time as you have less distractions, but you can meditate any time of the day, just make sure you have no distractions: turn off your mobile, switch off the computer, tell people not to disturb you.


Steve Halligan who coaches the ISM Professional Selling Skills course incorporates Meditation into his daily life…ask him all about it the next time you go on a course he is facilitating!

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a proven technique to increase sales and reduce high staff turnover, it’s even been proved to reduce aggression in schools and stress in the workplace. Which is why businesses from Dubai to Sydney are beginning to implement emotional intelligence courses for their employees. It makes great business sense, and is a beneficial investment in individual development.

If you’ve not implemented an emotional intelligence course in your business, these tips will help you and your team maximise the results of the process.

Desire to participate

Wanting to take part in a course increases the likelihood of success. Help your team understand why you are keen for them to take part in the course. Without knowing the benefit to them personally, many people will not truly engage.

Understand the major goal


Emotional Intelligence…it’s worth it !

Different companies will want a variety of outcomes from an emotional intelligence course. When L’Oreal decided to hire high scoring EI salespeople, they saw a dramatic increase in individual sales. However, when AT&T studied the impact of emotional intelligence in their organisation, they discovered it accounted for a 20% increase in productivity. Whatever your overall goal, keep it in mind during training.

Personal and company goal

Aligning training to help people on a personal level, as well as on a company level, increases their engagement. Changing how we approach different situations can be daunting, but placed in a personal context this can assist in a greater understanding of the benefits.

Ensure the course is pertinent

Scenarios that are built on unfamiliar ground can be too abstract for many people. By grounding the course in your everyday personal and business life, your team will get far more out of the course. You’ll also find that you can address specific situations that are causing problems in your business.

Clearly defined outcome

Everyone works better when they know what the desired outcome is. Before starting the course, ensure every participant is aware of the overall goal for the company and for them personally. Be very clear and don’t leave room for doubt. This way your team will get the most out of the course.

Is it working?

Keep an eye on your stats in the following months. This assessment will help you understand where emotional intelligence is making its mark on your team’s performance.

Follow up

Emotional intelligence does not have a fixed end point. Some people will take it on board faster than others, and others may forget aspects as time goes by. Have regular reviews of your team to talk about how they are implementing what they’ve learnt, and even book refresher sessions to maintain the development process.







What makes Gulf Cement so successful? Or Etisalat the leading telecommunications company in the Middle East? Well there are several layers to that question, but the true driving force in every successful company is an inspirational leader. They are the ones who inspire you to give your utmost to the job at hand, to work that little bit harder and feel your efforts are appreciated and contribute to the company as a whole. But what makes a leader truly inspirational? And how can you become one? Here are six common traits to work on.

Patience – every day some new crisis occurs, events that send other people in the business into a tailspin: egos are dented, tempers frayed. But not the leader. The leader of the company has to have the ability to sit back and take a good look at the crisis and make decisions that are measured and able to bring about a good conclusion. This is where the practice of patience is necessary on a daily basis. If the leader becomes unravelled by bad news, the already unstable elements in the firm (and wider if the company is listed on a stock exchange) feed off that to make a bad situation even worse.

Passion – a good leader has a real passion for what they do, without passion they cannot fulfill their role as captain, steering the company towards success month after month, year after year. This passion rubs off on the people around them, inspiring them to aim higher and achieve more in their own roles.

Bravery – turning a company around, making bold decisions, being a risk taker without putting the company in danger – these are the brave actions an inspirational leader must do all the time. It’s not only the board they have to argue with to make lasting changes in a company, it’s also the employees who need to be persuaded that change won’t endanger their jobs, or create a culture they can no longer work under.

Kindness – The most successful leaders in business aren’t those who rely on bullying tactics to drive through their ambitions for the company. They are people who understand how to bring out the best in people to get the job done. However, they are not a soft touch .

Clear-headed – If someone, or something, in the company isn’t working to make the business a success, it has to be dealt with. Different leaders do this in different ways. An employee who isn’t doing well in one position may be more suited to another job in the company. Where a technical aspect, such as software, that isn’t performing as it should, a good leader evaluates the costs involved in changing it with the current supplier, or finding another supplier.

Decisive – Great leaders think carefully about decisions before implementing them. That way, there are no grey areas, no wishy-washy going back on decisions because they haven’t been thought through properly.


spider web

Some days will be slow but always plan ahead…

Even the most successful sales team suffers from slow days,but instead of worrying about losing sales,use these times wisely- catch up on areas of your business that usually get ignored, or take a chance to rest and get ready for the next busy cycle

Get out of the office

Whether you’ve been hitting targets consistently, or suffering from some bad runs, getting out of the office environment is a good way to recharge everyone’s batteries. Take your team for a stroll down JBR beach or around the Miracle Garden, go to the movies at the Grand Cinecity, or if you want something to get out of the city maybe a dune buggy tour. Whatever you do, make sure the whole team gets involved. You’ll all feel revitalised, and spending time away from the office helps build connections between team members.

Review your long term plan

When things are slow you can take time to sit down and analyse how the business’ long term sales plan is working. You’ll be able to discover patterns and trends that might otherwise have gone unnoticed, such as subtle dips and spikes in hitting sales targets, bottlenecks in the sales lifecycle, or even realise there’s a disconnect between sales and delivery. Although this should be done regularly, it is often pushed back when we’re busy – especially in small businesses where you could be wearing many different hats at once.

Take time to get to know newer employees

In a busy office environment new employees can be lost in the hubbub. Take the time given to you during a slow patch to get to know the newest members of your team. They may feel they’re a little out of their depth, have some feedback they’ve not had chance to give you, or have issues which, left unsaid, could mean you lose them a few months down the line.

Touch base with established clients

When we’re busy getting in new business, old clients can sometimes take a back seat. So when you’ve a quiet day pick up the phone and get in touch with clients you’ve not spoken to for a while. It’s a great time to find out how they are getting on with your product/service. It may lead to more business, or it may simply consolidate their feeling that you care about their business – potentially leading to more business in the future. It could also raise issues they’ve not had time to discuss with you: which is incredibly useful. You’ll learn more about your own business, and how it fits with your customer’s business going forward.

Review your routine

A good working routine is essential for being more productive and calmer in the office. If you don’t have a good routine, busy periods can seem out of control. Take back control and organise yourself (and your team) to have a more efficient way of working.

Slow patches give businesses the opportunity to become stronger, so the next time you have a slow day see it as a gift, not a problem.

When nearly half of social media users purchase an item after sharing it on their social media accounts, it’s no wonder marketing departments are pumping so much money and effort into harnessing the purchasing power of a great social media campaign. Here are some of the best (and worst) to give you some inspiration for your next social media marketing move.

Rising Stars


Are you able to score highly in social media marketing?

Juventus – one of Italy’s oldest football clubs connected with fans in the modern of ways for a truly innovative social media campaign. Using a Facebook app, the club encouraged supporters from all over the world to submit a pre-match choreography for the seated fans to perform live on TV. A very impressive 3,000 choreographies were submitted, and tweets using the hashtag #LoveJu were displayed on a big screen in the stadium before the match as well.

Land Rover – it’s easy to sell an adventure when the sun is shining, but on a cold, damp, very wet winter’s day? Well that’s what the team at Land Rover decided to do with their #Hibernot campaign. Land Rover drivers have been encouraged to post their winter activities onto the Hibernot website. Supported by traditional tv ads, and some celebrity blogs on the site, this is an innovative way to tap into the rugged culture of Land Rover drivers.

Chili’s Grill and Bar – has nearly 4 million likes on Facebook where they encourage customers to leave reviews of their visits and follow-up on those reviews. One customer told the company how much she loved two servers at her local diner. The company blogged about the review, and also pictured the two servers receiving a gift card from Chili’s as a thank you from the company.

The company is all about local community and, although it is quite low key, this type of interaction gives a large international company (that has outlets in London, Dubai, Melbourne, and of course all over America) a friendlier online face to its local customers.

Blendtec – one of the oldest social media success stories, that still resonates strongly today. Blendtec hit all the right buttons with its ‘Will It Blend’ series of videos. Not only did their sales increase by a reported 700 per cent, they were featured on prime time television shows and major new outlets. The idea was to video lots of different objects being blended, the more outrageous the better. A simple concept that appealed to millions of YouTube viewers because the company wasn’t being slick, just having fun with their product.

Poor show

Reiss – sitting at the more expensive end of the high street fashion, Reiss garnered a little over 100 entries into its Pinterest competition. The prize was £1,000 to spend in one of its stores. Considering the 3,000 entries Juventus received, Reiss failed to hit the sweet spot in a choice of medium that should have done well for them – Pinterest is predominantly female and very image focussed.

Ragu – A classic social media failure from this sauce company. They created a series of videos to encourage Dad’s to cook more. Unfortunately, the videos were of wives complaining about their husband’s not cooking – which rankled the bloggers Ragu targeted to promote their videos. Although there was some social media chatter about the videos, it was predominantly negative. The lesson learnt here was not to annoy the very people you want to engage.

Whether you’re pitching to a small Dubai ad agency or an international conglomerate, these are the sales tricks to avoid if you want to land a new client.

Start with the Price

When you start with the price, people can make a very simple yes and no decision. You’ve not made the effort to engage their emotions around a product, so they can only decide on whether they feel they can afford it. From this point on the conversation is doomed. Outlining the benefits before the price is always more effective.

Start at the lowest price

Sales psychology is pretty clear on this one: start with the lowest price model and the sale will nosedive. It’s possible you’ll get the sale, but it’ll be at the low end, not the mid range or high end price. Start high and work down to a comprise that makes the customer happy.

Sticking rigidly to the script

Even seasoned pros make this mistake. They go into autopilot and drone through the sales pitch without thinking about how it should be changed to appeal to different customers. However, don’t…

Ditch the script

Some people feel the loose, informal approach is more authentic. Well, it would be if it was prepared carefully beforehand. Just rocking up to a meeting and making it up as you go along, isn’t authentic; it makes you look like you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

Talking fast


Listening is a key sales skill…

This trick may work on a market stall where you want to catch people’s attention quickly, but it doesn’t in a business environment. Customers want to have an engaging conversation, not sit and listen while you reel off the products benefits and why they should buy it.

Offer a discount during a pitch

Giving a discount, or extra benefits midway through your pitch sounds like it should clinch the deal. You have a great product and you’re offering them extras if they sign up straight away. The trouble is most people are suspicious of a deal that sounds too good. You look a little desperate and they’ll find someone who’s more interesting in their needs, rather than ticking off another sale on the monthly chart. Far better to tell them about an offer beforehand – it’s a far more credible approach than if it’s offered half way through the pitch.

Bad mouthing the competition

It’s an easy mistake to make. You’ve worked hard on finding all the reasons your product is better than the competition, so you work that into your pitch. However, the person in front of you might well be good friends with the CEO of the competition, and won’t take kindly to you rubbishing his friends. Focus on what your product can do for the customer and let them make the comparisons to the competition.

Dazzle with buzzwords

Excessive use of buzzwords during a sales pitch are a major turn off – to the extent you’ll not only lose the sale, you may discredit your company entirely. People like easy connections, a bit of banter and good hard facts they can make a clear decision on. Buzzwords should be used with extreme caution.





Apple is still one of the biggest brands out there. Is your business keeping it’s brand value?

Is your brand suffering from neglect? Or do you think it’s just not working for your business anymore? When a brand stops being a welcome sight for customers when see it, you know you are in trouble. However, the fact is many businesses don’t realise their brand has lost it’s appeal until it’s too late. Here are some classic symptoms of brands losing their shine.

The lure of the new

Your brand may have stood for something reliable and trustworthy in the past, but people have found a shiny new brand, and your business simply doesn’t cut it any more.

Because nothing stands still in business, when a new business starts muscling in on your territory you have to react intelligently before you start losing customers. The lure of something fresh is strong, and people will give it a go at least once to see if it’s for them. If they like it, they may never come back.

Keep on your toes and keep ahead of what customers want from your products and your brand.

Customer experience sucks

It’s easy to get complacent with your customers. They come back time and again, and then one day they don’t. You may never know why, but poor customer service is one of the highest ranking reasons for customers going elsewhere.

Test your customer service regularly to ensure you teams are doing their best at all times – not just for the big ticket clients, but the regular low spenders as well.

Your PR machine is boring

You may be spending a huge chunk of your budget on marketing, but is it in the right place? And does it really engage your customers’ interest. If your brand isn’t been seen, or heard, in the right places, customers may begin questioning the relevance of the products and services your brand represents, or even forget you entirely.

It’s not just getting good press, it’s about creating a buzz around your name. Get your thinking caps on and look at new marketing techniques to breathe life into your brand awareness strategy.

What’s with the logo?

It can cost a lot to update a logo, only to find customer’s preferred the old logo. Spend time and efforts getting it right in the first place to make it stick firmly in the customer’s mind.

If you have to rebrand, really consider every angle. Some customers won’t notice at all, others may be offended or turned off by it. Be careful with your logo, it’s going to be on everything you make or attached to everything you do.

Where are your cheerleaders?

Brand loyalty is something to be fostered. If you meet a really enthusiastic customer at a trade show, don’t look over their shoulder to focus on getting new customers, give them your time, be appreciative. You might even learn something about what’s so cool about your brand that makes them love it so much. And rather than ignore those nice words someone wrote on your Facebook page, thank them! These days people love connecting directly with their favourite brands, so it pays to be vigilant and not be…

Too quiet on social media

It is so easy to fall into the trap of setting up social media accounts, scheduling a few tweets, Facebook shares, or blogs. But if you don’t engage with the people you attract to your social media accounts, all that effort is wasted.

The whole point of social media is to interact with people: whether it’s to deal with a customer service problem, acknowledge someone’s made a really neat short animation using one of your products, or to shout out when someone wins a competition you’ve run, be social, not an automated robot.

Your brand is one of the most important elements of your business, so treat it well.


Every business needs to market their product. But not every business remembers that marketing communications (often shortened to marcomms) is about using different styles to meet the needs of different customers, whilst retaining brand recognition.

But many businesses fail at this first, simple hurdle. Because one approach will not suit all your customers, marketing communications needs to be tailored to different demographic groups. You might feel this will take up too much time and money, but without properly targeting customers, you’ll waste a huge chunk of your budget on communicating with the wrong people.

So how does a small business with a tight budget reach out to all the different customers, whether they are selling business to business or business to consumer?

Who are your customers?

Whether you are a high-end boutique selling designer clothes in Abu Dhabi’s Marina Mall, or an IT company in Dubai’s Al Quoz, you wouldn’t use your budget sending direct mailings to every resident and business in the UAE.

Most business owners have a fairly broad idea of who their customers are, but without finding out in detail, a chunk of your marketing efforts are likely to be targeted at the wrong audience.

To find out more about the type of customer you currently attract, and want to attract, methods range from these below. All these methods allow you to ask for people’s contact details, giving you the ability to geo-target your marcomms strategy:

  • Offer free samples of your product(s), or a free trial period of your services
  • Start a refer a friend scheme, where current customers are encouraged to refer a friend in exchange for a discount voucher
  • Attend trade shows where you show new customers what you do and ask for their details to send out further information
  • Competitions attract new customers who may not otherwise try your services

Once you have a clearer idea of who your customers are, and how to best to connect with them, it’s time to communicate your marketing message in a way that’s most likely to engage them.

Communication process


ISM offers Marcomms courses…visit to find out more

The majority of people will respond better if they read about your product or services through a third party, for example in the press or an online review. This develops credibility in people’s minds, because if a respected news source likes your product, potential customers are more likely to try it out.

For example, to establish this trust the owner of the high-end boutique will want to build relationships with the local media: newspapers, lifestyle magazines, and fashion bloggers. Depending on where the IT company wishes to export it’s knowledge to, it would develop both local and international media links.

Yet, however important media reviews are, they are only part of the marketing mix. Once you’ve established who your customers are, you have to integrate your marketing communications into your overall marketing plan and make a firm budget, broken down into different segments such as the following:

  • Advertising spend
  • Promotional product spend
  • Cost of prizes
  • Mailshot costs
  • Email shot costs
  • Website build/maintenance
  • In-store promotional material costs
  • Exhibition stand costs
  • Building media contacts

This plan will be based on how effectively your customer base will respond to the different strands and will help you spend your budget wisely.

January is the time of year for resolutions. But aside from aiming for better health and learning a new language, isn’t it time to take this opportunity to review your leadership style and find out whether you are the leader you want to be?

Each business has it’s own drivers when it comes to leadership. A franchise operation with an outlet in the Dubai Mall requires a different method of leadership to that of a start-up business on Boulevard Plaza.

Here are 5 of the main leadership styles. For some businesses, one leadership style will stand out as being the most effective. However, for many it’s about identifying the right mix of styles to become the leader your business needs you to be.


These types of leaders do not share decision-making. It is their job to give instruction and make decisions for the group without feedback or consultation.

Where needed: Where you are working to tight deadlines, need to make quick decisions, or when you are working with people who lack initiative, or are new to the business.

People Orientated

Understanding individuals is key to the people orientated leader. They need to be able to give support and provide structure within which team members will work collaboratively towards a common goal. Ultimately, decisions are made by the leader, but those decisions may occasionally be informed by team feedback.

Where needed: This is a good style for start-ups, where team members are highly motivated, intelligent people, but require strong direction to work as a cohesive, creative collective.


This leadership style relies on one person having the charisma and enthusiasm to inspire people to be the best they can be. They aren’t always the decision makers, often delegating to departmental heads, but their challenge is to help people make the right decisions and create new ways of thinking for the business.

Where needed: In businesses that require the communication of a shared vision: to help keep everyone sufficiently motivated to pull in the same direction: a direction that is often different from the previous one the company was doing in.


laissez faire

Do you take a back seat when it comes to leadership?

This type of leadership is very much about letting people get on with what they are doing with very little interference. A leader of this type is one who knows their teams will work effectively on their own initiative. Monitoring is kept to a minimum and decisions are taken without a leader’s involvement.

Where needed: When you have highly experienced teams that you can trust implicitly to work in the business’ best interests at all times. Often used in international businesses where satellite offices need their own autonomy.


A democratic leader works with teams who are highly motived, creative thinkers. The leader will often listen to the team and take on board their ideas within the decision-making process.

Where needed: With teams that have a record of making good decisions for the company. However, this only works when the leader is able to make a sound judgement on which are the ideas to go forward with.

Whether you’re a start-up in a serviced office in Dubai Marina, or an established business in Al Barsha, hiring great employees demands a well thought out hiring process. Not only do you need the best person for the job, you need to ensure your company is an attractive option for the interviewees that you’re inviting into your offices.

Although most businesses have a hiring process, not all are up-to-date or address cultural changes. So here are four important additions to your hiring strategy.

Embrace Social Media

Social media can be a brilliant place to find new employees, especially Twitter and LinkedIn. Twitter is a great hunting ground for positions that require people who are media savvy. The most well known professional site is LinkedIn (where you can find anyone from a logistics manager to a florist. It’s also worth looking at the more region-specific sites that are gaining popularity, such as Salamworld.

However, do your research as there are now many professional-specific sites cropping up. They can help you narrow down your search even more. As an example, teachers all over the world use the Times Educational Supplement site TSL Education to exchange information and look for work.

Don’t be afraid of the head-hunters

Specialist recruitment firms can make a real difference to the hiring process. Within every industry there are stars and there are also-rans. Head-hunting firms who specialise in specific areas will know who is making a good name for themselves, who is rising, and whose reputation is tarnished by poor judgements and missed targets.

Recruitment agencies will charge you for finding a new employee, but if they are good at what they do, it’s money well spent.

How attractive is your business?

It’s easy to forget that while you are judging a potential employee, they are also judging you. So when hiring, you have to be able to step outside your own business and view it from their position. Would you find your business attractive enough to want to move from your current job?

While some people are motivated purely by the pay packet, others need more. Elements you take for granted may be really attractive to a new employee. Do you offer regional or international travel? Some candidates will value this highly, while others may have personal reasons for needing to stay near home. Do you have corporate membership to a sporting venue? Is your company a lifestyle company? If the candidate is really into diving and your company sells diving equipment – that alone could prove a winner.

How long do you want to keep this person?

Almost all businesses fall for the highly experienced, skilled and personable candidate – the one who ticks all the boxes, and then some. But, you have to ask yourself, how long do you want to keep this employee? True high flyers will always be on the look out for the next big job. Do you want that? Are you looking for someone you can advance in your own company? Are you happy to use their experience while they are with you? Or do you want someone longer term? By understanding what you want before you begin the hiring process you’ll be more successful in finding the right person to fit into your business.

Giving a presentation can be daunting. However, whether you are presenting to the director of a car dealership in Sheikh Zayed Road, or talking to a roomful of delegates at a conference, if you avoid these common presentation mistakes, you’re more likely to succeed.



Are you terrified of giving a presentation? Relax you are in good company….

Mumbling is a cardinal sin when giving a presentation. If you start to mumble you will quickly lose your audience’s interest. They’ll start looking around for something else to fill their time – like their smartphone, documents, staring out of the window or looking around the auditorium. If you are speaking to a large crowd in an auditorium it is too easy for an individual to stand up and walk out. And once one person has done it, others will follow.

The trick is to keep your voice interesting and loud enough for people to hear you (but don’t shout – unless it’s to make a particular point). Whether it’s a presentation to a new client, a packed university hall, or a small conference room, your voice is the strongest ally you have in making your presentation successful. Interesting speakers don’t keep the same tone or pace when giving presentations. They mix it up to keep the audience engaged.


The opposite of mumbling is talking so quickly the audience doesn’t have time to absorb the essentials, never mind your carefully worked out nuances. Understanding how to pace yourself when talking to a group of people is a core presentation skill. If you feel yourself speeding up, take a breath, pause and then continue. Pausing is a great way of grabbing the attention of the audience. If they are beginning to lose focus, your silence will make them tune back in to what you are saying, or rather not saying. You’ll discover that pausing also gives people a moment to allow important points sink in. When practicing your presentation, consider how to use silence to drive home specific points you feel people may otherwise miss.


Don’t drift off topic, unless you’re absolutely certain you know what you’re doing: because your audience has a finite amount of patience and if you can’t bring it back to the presentation, they’ll feel you are wasting their time and don’t know what you’re talking about.

Have some notes to keep you on track and don’t deviate too far from them. However, don’t spend your entire time looking at your notes. People like to feel a connection with a speaker, and if you are always looking down, you can’t make the all-important eye contact to people in the room.

Turn around

And while we’re thinking about looking down, don’t spend your entire time looking at the PowerPoint behind you. Remember, people don’t warm to a person’s back; they warm to a person’s face. It’s fine to turn to the screen behind you to make a particular point, but for the most of the time face forward and engage with your audience.

Winging it

For some people the thought of having to practice their presentation is daunting; so they wing it. And, unless it’s something they’ve presented frequently, the audience can tell.

You’ll commit all the mistakes listed above, and then some. You’ll drift, you’ll refer to the screen behind you too much, probably mumble when you lose sight of where you should be, and most definitely wont pace yourself properly.

Even if you’ve been landed the job the day before, spend whatever time you have available to prepare a proper presentation. Remember, you are taking up people’s time and they’ll be more open to what your are talking to them about if they feel you’ve made time to make it interesting for them.

If you’ve never given a presentation before, or are naturally quiet, ask a member of your team, or someone at home, to listen to it beforehand and give you feedback. You only get one chance to shine when presenting, so practicing beforehand is essential.

If you’re unsure of how to present, or want to improve your presentation skills, book a place on our Presentation Skills workshop today: /courses/presentation-skills/index.php


burj khalifa

Dubai certainly had reason to celebrate with the EXPO 2020 win last night….great PR opportunities await…

Not all businesses have the budget of Emirates airlines to spend on their public relations. But having a little or no PR budget shouldn’t stop you from doing it yourself. PR is a key part of building awareness of your business brand and to show people how it is relevant to their personal or business life.

Get to know the press

The most important part of PR is getting to know the press very well – and letting them get to know you. PR is a people business. Creating relationships and building trust is essential to getting your story out into the world. Don’t just write up a press release, find a list of names and send the email blind. At best your story will be stacked up for a slow news day, at worst it will be dumped in the bin. This is because the reporters need to know the source is good, and the only way they’ll know it is if you take the time to talk to them personally.

So before you even write the press release, construct the survey, or begin your social media campaign, take the time to talk to the people you want to work with. Either ring them, or even better, try and meet them at a conference or industry event. Making a personal connection with people working in the media will give you a much greater chance of your story getting into the press when you want it to.

The press release

One of the biggest sources of company stories is the press release. Most of the time journalists and bloggers are very busy and if the press release has everything in it that is required for print, it will have a better chance of being printed. The press release is very traditional and it can work really well if done properly. If you have never written one before, take the time to study how a good one is written. The best press releases are often printed almost exactly as they are sent out. That’s because the writer has found out the average word count (the number of words in the article) the media outlet usually prints, has identified the news angle most likely to draw attention straight away (e.g. patients are seen quicker with a new patient logging system), and written the press release as though it were a news article, including quotes from customers or an industry spokesperson to back up any claims made.

The survey

Crime figures lowered by using a certain security business, aging lines significantly reduced by using a certain lotion, drinking this, eating that wont/will pile on the pounds: we’ve all seen the headlines in newspapers and magazines. But behind the stats and stories lies a well honed PR machine paid by big business to keep their brand profile in the public eye, or launching new products or services into the world.

Being on a tight budget means you have to cut out the expensive PR firm and learn how to do it yourself.

Firstly, take a look through the papers, magazines, blogs and websites most likely to be read by your target audience. Then identify how your business can help customers. Sometimes this is simply showing how using your products has saved people money, improved efficiency, or helped people make time for their families. And then create a survey to back up what you believe is true. You may think your new office chair will reduce back pain, but without the empirical evidence of your customers, no-one will truly believe you. It’s very easy to do online now with sites such as Survey Monkey. Load up your questions and send out an invitation (possibly with a prize attached of 10 percent off their next purchase to encourage people to take part) via email to your current mailing list. When people fill in the survey, the site allows you to view the results in a series of graphs, breaking down the demographics for you, so you can compile a story based on the results.

Surveys are a great way to gauge how your customers really feel about your company. If the results aren’t what you expected, that’s perfect for honing your products to give your customers what they really want.

Social media

Social media can be an incredibly powerful PR tool. Get it right and your business will grow as a result. But get it wrong and you’ll end up spending a lot of time and possibly money repairing the damage. Which is why, if you are trying to do your own PR, it’s really important to spend time understanding the different social media vehicles and choosing the right one for your business. If you are selling make-up and you spend all your time on LinkedIn, you aren’t going to reach your target market. Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube are much better avenues for you to pursue.


PR can be done on a small budget, but like all tightly controlled financial endeavours, if you move too early without thinking it through properly, you could end up wasting a lot of time with nothing to show for it. Better to plan thoroughly, and research carefully, before dipping your toe into the public relations arena.



Think Coca Cola and you’ll probably be thinking red and white. Starbucks and you’ll have a bit of green, whiff of coffee and young people serving you with a smile. These two are great examples of how a brand can impose itself into your psyche without you even realising it. And that’s the holy grail of branding for even the smallest of companies.

Whether you own a small boutique in the Dubai Mall, or are an accountancy practice serving the whole of EMEA, do you know what your brand stands for in the minds of your customers? Do they instantly think of your logo? Or something more intangible, like your great/poor customer service?

Getting your branding right is a key part of your marketing efforts. So the first step is to find out what your brand should stand for, and then discovering what it actually means right now to your customers. The two points could be further apart than you imagine.

A brand isn’t just your logo (although with Coca Cola that’s often the first thing people think about). It is how people perceive your business, how they feel when your business name is mentioned. If you’re a restaurant it will be the food you serve, but also the experience they have while eating in your restaurant.

Understanding how people feel about your business gives you the ability to change aspects of your customer facing business. You can enhance the positives and make necessary changes to the negatives. A little market research should bring back the answers to how your customers feel about your company. And its how they experience your business, not what you think you are doing, that matters to a customer.

The main questions you need to ask customers are:

Do you deliver on your promises?

The online society allows customers easy access to other companies who offer the same products and services that you do. This is why it’s essential a customer feels their demands are satisfied when they choose you over another provider.

Are you offering the right product/service?

Harley Perfume

Brand over extension …never really caught on. What do you think of this, would you buy it?

No industry exists in a vacuum. What was desired and needed ten years ago could be outmoded now. Do your customers feel your products and services are still relevant to their lifestyles or business needs?

Is your brand easy to understand?

Do your customers know what you stand for? You may feel saying that “accountancy services” should cover it, but do you specialise in certain areas? As a boutique do customers immediately think of you when they want a new dress, or do you offer a confusing range of clothes, jewellery, home wares and knick knacks that make them likely to visit another store instead? Understanding how your customers make decisions will help you position your company more easily in their minds.

Is your business easy to recall?

Unless you are the only company in the world selling one particular item, you have to distinguish yourself from the competition. It’s very difficult, and expensive, to become the market leader, the Coca Cola of your industry, but having a well-designed brand and a reputation for being good at what you do, will help keep your company’s name at the forefront of people’s minds when they need the product/service you sell.

Do your customer’s feel emotionally engaged?

Do they love your product/service? Is there a particular salesperson who makes their day when they get in touch, or serves them over the counter? Is your presence on social media making them happy, or annoying them? Emotional engagement can take many forms, so ask your customers what it is about your business that makes them happy. And, of course, what doesn’t!

Discovering what your customers feel about your business will help you understand what your brand stands for in the world outside. But don’t forget your employees. Ask them the same questions – their experience of working for you will help you gain a more rounded understanding of your brand.


The world of sales techniques is littered with unethical practices. Whether you’re selling ice cream on the streets of New York, or a new point of sale software package to businesses in the Dubai Mall, you will have targets to meet and commissions to strive for. However, using unethical sales practices may work for you in the short term, but will seriously undermine your reputation in the long term.

Here are three practices that you should avoid, or use carefully.

Time limits

limited time offer

Hurry up! This offer will be retracted in the next 5 minutes!

Putting a time limit on a sale is a typical technique employed by salespeople. It is a way of pushing a customer into making a fast decision – but it may not give them sufficient time to truly consider whether it’s a good deal for them or not. Many people expect this in an end of season sale, but if you are trying to build a long-term relationship with a customer, it could leave them feeling less secure in their dealings with you.

Save the time limits for when they really do apply, for example, if you have a block of stock you want to get rid of and are genuinely offering all your customers the opportunity to purchase it at a reduced rate. By being honest with everyone, you’ll show that you are a company worth staying with.

Withholding the truth

You may feel that the deal is almost done; that you’re so close you can see the commission entering your bank account. But then the customer stalls, uncertain about a certain feature of the product. Do you assure the customer that the feature fits their needs perfectly, or admit that it may not at the moment?

These are the moments that sort out the ethical salesperson from the unethical. You can go for the fast sale and happily accept the commission, but you’ll also know that at some point down the line there will be come-back on that sale. The customer might demand a refund, and you may have to lie to your boss and wriggle out of the hole you’ve made for yourself.

Telling the truth in these circumstances is hard. You may lose the sale, but there is a way to show you are a conscientious sales person. You tell the customer you don’t know, but can find out. It takes longer this way, but you may be able to come back and tell them that although it’s not possible in it’s current state, you’ve spoken to the developers and changes can be made to accommodate the customer’s needs.

This doesn’t always work. Making a change to please one customer demanding changes no other customer needs, could be expensive and not give a good return. But it’s better for you and your company to make those decisions ethically, rather than sell something that the customer ultimately cannot use.

Ease up on the upselling

Upselling is common practice, but in some circumstances it can be downright unethical. The obvious one is selling insurance when none is required, or suggesting that additional equipment is needed to make a product more productive, when it clearly doesn’t.

To build a more harmonious relationship with your client, leave out the upsell and only suggest additional products when you have discussed them in detail with the customer and you can both see the benefits.

In sales, and most particularly for small businesses, how you treat your customers at the outset will determine the long-term success of your business relationship. Which is why it’s important to insist on ethical sales techniques from your sales team.

How you handle the budget for your department can make a huge impact on the fortunes of the entire business. So why do so many companies fail to properly equip department managers? It’s a problem that stretching from Dubai to Rio de Janeiro, and here’s the main culprits.


Without proper training managers often fall into the trap of being too scared to make the decisions necessary to keep their departments on track. The fear takes over.

The best way to overcome the fear is through training. While someone may have the best skills to do their job in their sector, without the financial know-how they could turn into a massive drain on company finances.

Lack of an overall plan

Putting your everyday decisions into the context of the company finances can seem like wading through wet sand. How do the actions of one department impact another? Are there points where departments overlap?

To get around this issue requires the financial director meeting up with each department manager at least twice a year. By working with the financial director, each non-financial manager can see how their departments should be working in harmony with the whole company.

Inability to understand financial jargon

Trying to interpret a whole new set of terms can be daunting. For many the jargon itself is off-putting. Imagine you’d never heard of financial statements, overheads, working capital, profit margin, ROCE, ROI, COGS, balance sheet, cashflow, gross profits, to name just a few. Faced with a wall of unfamiliar terms can make people feel insecure and is a massive stumbling block to keeping their department’s finances in check.

It may appear cheaper to tell those fumbling around with the new terms to read a book. However, the most efficient way to help managers is to put them on a course. They can work alongside someone knowledgeable, whose job is purely to train them and their progress can be monitored.

Poor budgeting skills

Some people just don’t get a budget. They unconsciously believe that whatever they need will magically appear from the bottomless pit of company cash reserves. This attitude can come from a lack of knowledge of the business, which can be addressed by involving managers in high level discussion about where the company is heading and how much money is available to achieve the goals. More seriously is the manager who simply doesn’t understand budgets on a more basic level. Training is the key to addressing this fundamental lack in business skills.

Defending your corner


It doesn't need to come to blows if every understands financial jargon and can speak the same language !

Sometimes departments can go to war over the way the budget is portioned out. The result can be a very defensive mentality that can damage the company’s financial health.

This can be a deep-rooted, long lived battle that requires careful intervention by directors. Getting everyone around the table to discuss the causes of the conflict may be difficult and emotions can run high. However, to keep the business on track, it’s necessary. In some instances bringing in a business coach can be highly effective. By having a third party, with no affiliations to the company, brings a fresh perspective and can have a profound impact on the negative dynamics that have built up within the company.

For more information on training your non-financial managers in Dubai, please visit the ISM website: . We run finance courses regularly and can tailor in-house training sessions to your company’s particular needs.



Stress can impact your productivity profoundly. Whether you’re building up to an important business event at Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Hotel, or struggling with a down-turn in sales, how you manage stress can have a huge impact on both you and your team’s overall performance.

For many high achievers stress is part of life and they have coping strategies to ensure it doesn’t become debilitating.

Take up a hobby

cha cha cha

If cha cha cha doesn't take your mind off work, there's always the rhumba!

Too many managers take their work home with them. Although the crunch time for a big project may warrant longer hours in the office, the culture of constantly working late hours can be counterproductive and increase stress levels enormously.

By taking up a hobby, that has nothing to do with work, your mind is given a break from the day-to-day worries. It also frees your mind up to see the world from a different perspective. A new hobby requires you to think differently and your new view of the world will only benefit other aspects of your life – including work.

Be patient

Many people are impatient, they want everything and they want it now. A successful business is not built in six months, it takes time. A presentation cannot be mastered in a single night. By building patience into your mentality, your stress levels will decrease because you become planning focussed instead of being purely reactive.

Understand failure

Being afraid to fail often stops people from making decisions, and not making a decision can build up the stress levels. With the mindset that failure is possible, and creating a plan around that possibility, you can make scary decisions for yourself, and your team.


It’s the most difficult thing in the world to do for some people, but it can unlock time you really need to spend on a particular project. For example, if you are preparing for the big business conference of the year, make sure everyone is aware there are some tasks they’ll have to take on to assist you in making the event successful. And success for you and your team will lead to success for the whole company.

Share the problem

When you see sales dropping it can be a major stress inducer, especially if you try to solve the problem on your own. If you can bring together your team and analyse the drop together, you are more likely to find a solution. By drawing on their own experiences, each member can bring a new perspective to the situation. It may not be a problem with the sales team failing to sell because they aren’t trying hard enough, it could be a supply or product issue.

Know the signs of bad stress

Not all stress is a bad thing. You need a certain amount to simply turn up to work every day. But when it does get in the way, you have to be aware of the signs. Here’s four signs your stress levels are getting out of control:

  • You have trouble getting to sleep
  • You’re irritable with your work colleagues
  • You put off making even the smallest decisions
  • You have more headaches and begin to feel ill more frequently
Mona Lisa

Is your business as compelling as the Mona Lisa? Do you have an audience for your product?

Market research is the backbone of every company if it wants to maintain and grow profitability. Yet many companies ignore their market research, or don’t do any at all. However, whether you’re selling a new insurance product, or want to set up an art gallery in Bastakiya, research is the key ingredient to success.

At its core, market research is all about finding out what people love and hate about your company. If you’re founding a new business, your market research is aimed at finding out whether people actually want what you are planning to sell.

Market research gives isn’t just an exercise, it can have a powerful impact on your business, helping you make difficult decisions because you are armed with the knowledge to back up your arguments.

For those who’ve never done any market research the humble questionnaire is still considered a highly effective way to learn about your customers. There are many online tools to help you set up a detailed set of questions to help you better understand how your company is perceived by the people who buy your products.

Be honest with your questions though. Give people the opportunity to rate your business. Ask them what they like and don’t like. Where they feel there is room for improvement.What’s the best thing you’ve ever done, and the worst. Ask how your products impact on their lives. How long they’ve been a customer, and most importantly what they feel you can do to make improvements that will make their lives better.

The questionnaire is also a great way to find out what customers feel about your competition. Are they doing a better job than you? Is there something you are doing much better than they are? By asking the questions you can improve your position in the market.

You may not like all the answers you see, but you may find that the negative feedback you receive on a particular product is also being seen in the annual sales figures for that product. And if people have left comments on why they don’t like it, you can make a more informed decision on the future of that particular line in your business.

Conversely, lots of love for a particular product may give you the confidence to put more marketing budget into promoting it beyond your current customer base.

Market research doesn’t have to be something you actively go out and do. One of the most amazingly truthful, and free, market research tools is customer feedback. This can come through social media (Twitter and Facebook are great for finding out what people are saying about your brand), emails, letters, and recorded telephone calls.

Where some companies go wrong with this type of market research is that they embrace the good and ignore the bad. But they shouldn’t. Negative feedback is a fantastic opportunity to see what customers really don’t like about your products, services, or business. The comments are usually honest – although you should have a system in place to sift out the trolls. By reading what customers are saying you can develop ways to make improvements, or even set about designing a new product that serves their needs better.

To get the most out of market research, you have to be tough enough to read the answers and do something about it. Don’t leave it languishing on your hard drive – face up to the challenges it provokes.

cat in tree

All alone at the top?

The adage ‘it’s lonely at the top’ is outmoded in today’s increasingly socially connected environment. To become a more successful leader, it’s now more important to understand the people you work with than to issue orders from the comfort of your spacious office looking out over the bustle of Dubai’s business districts.

Here are five key ways to becoming a better manager of people in your company.

Know what is needed from you

Not everyone has the same hopes and dreams in life. By listening to your team and understanding how they think and feel, a good leader can begin to see how better to motivate individuals to achieve a more high achieving unit.

Act how you want your team to act

For a team to be ethical in their dealings with each other and with customers, leaders have to show the way. If they see you acting against the company code of practice, your team will feel they have the right to do so as well. This creates a situation where, very quickly, the team disintegrates into cells pulling in different directions. As Mahatma Gandhi famously said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Think creatively

A company stagnates if it ignores new ideas and modes of working. Not only are successful leaders more creative thinkers, they include their team in developing innovate ways of doing business. This type of creativity isn’t the sole preserve of the marketing and R&D and should be encouraged throughout the company, from the accounts department to the operations management team.

Put succession on the agenda

Succession planning is important for two reasons:

  1. At some point a senior figure in your company will retire, suffer ill health, or leave the company to work elsewhere.
  2. Developing talent within the company is more cost effective than head-hunting outside the company.

If you are actively ensuring talented individuals in your company are groomed for succession, you will develop a long-term strategy to encourage employees to be more involved in the company’s success.

Be inclusive and give praise

‘What are your thoughts on this?’ should be a regular phrase in your dealings with your team. Great leaders always know when to throw open their ideas to others for comment. You may have overlooked something important, or someone may come up with an idea from their personal hobby that adds huge value to a new product line.

And always acknowledge the input of others. When your team knows their work or ideas are appreciated, they are more likely to speak up with other ideas. Even if the idea doesn’t go anywhere, thank people for chipping in all the same.

From simply knowing your operations officer eats at Ravi’s to understanding how a family get together at the weekend is going to affect your secretary’s performance the following week, getting a firm grip on the dynamics of your team is key to helping your team achieve the overall goals of the company.

Dubai Frame

Is your tender in the 'frame'?

Whether you run a construction company wanting to get into the next Dubai Frame, or hope to become a preferred supplier to Al Tawam Hospital, you’ll have to create a tender with the clout to beat your competitors.

But before you begin what is a lengthy and costly exercise, the very first thing you should be asking yourself and your bid team is:

Is it worth it?

Going through a bid process can be expensive. Depending on how big the project, you have to budget for the actual creation on your tender. You may have to divert talented individuals from their day-to-day tasks to work on it. Experts may be brought in to help write, create graphics or make a video for the bid. Prototypes could be needed.

At every single stage in the process you and your team have to ask yourself if the bid is still valid. A brilliantly written bid or tender is one part of the equation here. You may discover through researching the tender that your company can’t completely fulfil the criteria: there are certain legal constraints that will cripple you how effective you can be, or you may come to the conclusion you simply don’t have the manpower needed to provide the service or products.

Far better to pull out when you see a major hurdle that can’t be overcome, than to blindly continue, swallowing your entire marketing and sale budget as you go.

Once you’ve decided that you are ready to push on with creating a tender, here’s some simple tips to help you on your way to successfully winning the contract.

It’s not about you

A big mistake made by many companies is to spend too much time in the document talking about themselves. But just like a salesman who doesn’t let the customer get a word in, a tender that doesn’t talk about how your company is going to help solve the customer’s problem, is a huge waste of everyone’s time.

How, why, what, where, when, who

Every writer follows these simple words to create a more compelling story. And a tender is exactly that: a story. You are telling the customer a tale about how your business is going to help their business be more successful in their enterprise. Tell them how you’ll do it, why your company is better, what you will do, where you’ll do it, when (timescales are very important as they show you have considered how their project will fit into your business), and who (are you going to build a new engine with the world’s top engineer? Then shout about it).

Be honest

If you are a small company bidding for a big contract, you can’t fudge the figures to look bigger. Not only will the government, big corporation, or institution find out, they’ll never accept a tender from you in the future. Better to be honest and highlight the benefits you bring as a smaller company.

Know your competition

Whether you know exactly who else is bidding or not, you should be aware of the general competition in your industry. Consider their strengths and weaknesses. You don’t reference them directly in your document, but you can show how your abilities outstrip others in your field.

Cost it properly

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the cheapest bid will win the work. They’ll be suspicious and wonder how you are going to deliver on such low margins. If you do win, you may well find you put yourself out of business fulfilling a contract that brings you no profit at best, and consumes all your capital at worst.

By costing it properly you will be showing you know the worth of your business expertise.

Successful tender writing can be daunting for the first timer. Here at ISM Dubai our expert instructors can train your team in the art of writing tenders and business proposals. Click on this link to find out more: /courses/writing-business-proposals/index.php

Done right, social media is a brilliant marketing tool for your business. But so many businesses get it wrong. They either dive right in and join Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, start a blog and think that will be enough, or are so scared and confused by social media they don’t get involved at all.

The trouble with the first approach is that by the end of the first quarter you will have wasted a huge amount of human resource and have little to show for it. Not getting involved at all is means your company will miss out on the most important evolution in marketing since television advertising was born.

Find the right vehicle(s)

As with everything else in business, research is the key to getting the most out of your marketing budget. Find out where your customers hang out online. Are you a B2B, B2C, or both? Find out which blend of social media will work for you to reach your customers.

clare ebbs

Clare from Dubai wedding planning company "The Perfect Moment" uses facebook,twitter and Pinterest

The top social media vehicles are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. But if your business is selling wedding planning services, you’ll want to be on Pinterest and Instagram to post pictures of your latest wedding plan at the Madinat complex. If your company is international, sending salesmen and executives all over the world, you may find FourSquare a brilliant way to connect with people when you land in New York or London.

Get the vehicles right and you are well on the way to building a successful online presence.

Engage your customers

Social media is a two way street. Back in the pre-internet days, companies relied on TV and print advertising, in-store promotions, conferences and business networking events to engage with customers. Now you can create a continuous dialogue with people through sharing both yours and their videos and pictures of products and events.

For example, if you run a competition the internet generation winner will often post a picture of their prize. So you share that picture. If you are running a promotion in store, finding out who people are and sharing pictures of them is almost expected. People like to share their experiences in life, and the commercial world is part of that experience.

Structure your customer service

A complaint can move quickly on the internet, which is why it’s important to get your customer service response outlined before you go online. This way, when a customer tweets they hated the way one of your shop assistants treated them, or how disappointed they are in a shoddy product, you can react quickly. Complaints aren’t a disaster. If you treat the customer fairly, find out what has gone wrong, and fix the problem quickly (and even offer a voucher as compensation), you’ll not just make them happy, they’ll be more likely to stick with you in the future. Conversely, if a customer has said something nice, do share it!

Don’t stress about going viral

Don’t worry about going viral. Your business will survive without ten million people hits on your YouTube channel. Viral videos happen two ways. One is the spontaneous one, where someone makes a video that is so funny it becomes an instant hit. The other is achieved through spending a lot of money and time working with a marketing agency.

The point of making a video or taking a photo is to spread it to your fan base. Share it around on whichever social media vehicles you use. It may not go viral, but it should be interesting to customers. Done right, you’ll get some people sharing it through their preferred social media, and that’s the goal. So don’t sweat the viral challenge, just get the basics right for your particular audience.

Find out more about how to use Social Media more effectively for your Dubai business here: /courses/digital-marketing/index.php

Sheikh Zayad road,dubai

Are your sales skills as impressive as Dubai's skyline?

Your Dubai sales team is often the face of your company. They are the first point of contact with customers and are essential for keeping the production line moving. So next time one of your sales team is presenting to a new prospect in their Sheikh Zayad offices, how do you make sure their technique doesn’t kill the sale before the first round of coffee has been sipped?

Not knowing your own business

Confidence is everything in sales and if your sales team doesn’t understand your business thoroughly, they will be poor ambassadors for your company. A thorough grounding in your business will give your newest salesperson the ability to go out and sell with confidence.

Whether you are a small start up or a major league business, it’s important to give sales people an initial training session in your business. The more they understand who your core customers are, what products you have currently, and those in development, the issues faced by customers, and how your business solves those issues, the more likely they will become a more effective salesperson for your business.

Lack of manners

People make quick decisions on whether they can trust you or not. Which is why, in any business environment, good manners are important. Close observation of business etiquette is a must, especially with international relationship building: what is accepted locally may not be internationally. A smile, a good handshake, or the right level of bow, being prompt for meetings: these all add up to create a good impression.

If you aren’t a natural at good manners, buy yourself a business etiquette book and brush up on your skills. It’ll help you win more business for your company, and probably improve your social skills outside of work as well.

Selling too hard

The days of hard selling are over. Big business is too sophisticated nowadays to fall for the pushy salesman approach. If you’ve been trained in the hard sell, it’s time to learn some new techniques. Today it’s all about relationship building. The first few meetings you have with a customer are all about learning about their business to find out how your business can really help them.

Take the time to understand both new and established customers and you’ll reap the benefits over time. Leave the hard sell to the dodgy salespeople who don’t want repeat business.

Playing the blame game

When things go wrong with a customer’s order, the easy route for the salesperson is to blame some unknown link in the business. But that doesn’t help your customer. Control your reaction to a complaint and use the experience to improve your sales process, or to identify areas in the business that need to be overhauled.

Mixing the message

If the salesperson is telling a different story to the brochure, or your website, who can the customer trust? Throughout your organisation there has to be a real understanding of your brand and what it means. This way, every time the customer speaks to anyone in your business the brand message is re-enforced. Creating trust on a daily basis should be the number one rule. It will help prevent your sales team making basic mistakes when selling to customers.

Today’s rapidly changing knowledge economy has caused a seismic shift in career development. No longer can we passively follow pre-destined career paths. We have to become active participants – developing personal, as well as commercial skills outside our original educational sphere.

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” Helen Keller

Our career choices are often based on childhood experiences. Through growing up in Africa and South America, I wanted to become a Doctor of Tropical Medicine. However, after achieving my bachelors in Microbiology, I went on to obtain a Master’s in Education.

Today I work as a marketing manager. Next year, who knows? With a career spanning 15 years in secondary and adult education, I view a working life as a dynamic, constantly evolving journey; influenced by shifting personal events, and the constantly changing economic environment.

If, like me, you have changed careers, have teenagers that have no idea what to do with their lives, or an employee who lacks direction; you may find yourself nodding in agreement.

Career development is dynamic, whether it meanders or is a clearly defined, linear progression. It concerns the whole person, not just their role, and their concepts of self, as well as changing, external factors.

Many things will influence the path of a career. Gender, family, social class, ethnicity and cultural, as well as changes in macro level policies, environment and economy. A career integrates work as well as the impact of social, familial, technological and political aspects on an individual’s life.

Interlacing between these factors is a series of coping behaviours we adopt during our career journey. The highly regarded career psychologist, Donald Super, deeply influenced the modern day approach to career development. An early proponent of lifelong learning, his behavioural theories (where he moved away from traditional career theories, which fit traits to career and are somewhat static) resonate significantly with today’s fast moving job market.

In Super’s research into young adults he found clearly defined types of behaviour: drifting (just moving with the tides), stagnating (where there’s no internal drive or external circumstances), floundering (lacking a good method to get where we want to be), exploring (having an objective with an idea of how to achieve it), systematic (taking steps to achieve a goal), and stabilising (cementing a career).

In each of our roles in life we may be in any one of these different stages. What’s important is recognising which stage we’re in, and understanding how we can move forward to the next stage.

With the constantly changing advances in technology, even the most rigid roles demand a more diverse range of skills. Employees are not necessarily looking for purely knowledge-based skills either. Literacy is obviously still relevant, but high on the employer’s list are creativity, adaptability, flexibility and an innovative mindset. After all, as a company they have to sustain their business in the future as much as you need to sustain your career and employability. Embrace learning, it’s your friend for life.

The article above appeared on the front page of the Gulf News educational section on July 14th. Since there is no online version I thought you may like to see it here too.

Big Ben

Not everyone is the best timekeeper...

Things are slowing down in Dubai as Ramadan and summer holidays beckon but are you still managing your time wisely at work?

You hear it all the time: “I want to manage my time more effectively.” Or “If I could only make more time…” Well time management isn’t that difficult, you just need to look at it from a different angle. Yes it’s about putting things in the diary and sticking to it, but it’s also about collaborating with your team and understanding your customers better. Here’s a left field view of time management to help you become less frazzled in the workplace.


It is obvious, yet many people shy away from it, that the most effective way to get a handle on managing your time more effectively is to schedule your days – and not just your days, the days of the people around you as well. Don’t just carry on with a vague idea of what needs achieving during any given week, put it down on a schedule and tick off when you’ve met every milestone during the week.

Be realistic

While you’re working on your schedule, don’t be widely optimistic about what can be achieved in a given timeframe. Some business models thrive on overstating when you can make things happen, but you should have a realistic target as well. You may want a new account signed off and delivered within three weeks, but can both you and your team actually make it happen? Although some believe a tight deadline will bring the best out in people, it may not wash with a new client. Getting too pushy to complete may make them question whether they want to work with you.

Care about the customer

You may wonder where the customer comes into great time management. Well you have to put your customer’s needs and desires into the heart of everything you do, which means looking at what your customers are doing and building your scheduling around them.

Hire the right people

Every business works only when the right people are in the team. Your time management is going to be significantly impacted if you have one member of your team who isn’t pulling in the same direction as everyone else.

Understand your goals

Time management is all about goals. You put together a schedule built around what your want to achieve in a certain timeframe. Without fine-tuning your goals expressing them clearly to your team simple won’t be possible. If you’re having trouble identifying your goals, get your team together and work on it as a group.

Make time to follow things up

Many people will make a note in their diary to attend a networking event, or a conference, or a weekly meeting, but they don’t always make another space in their diary for the follow up. If you are going to become more efficient, and manage your time more wisely, ensure you’ve blocked out some time to get in touch with people you’ve met at a conference, or while networking, or book an hour or so to create the actions needed from that meeting.


A marketing sound bite can shake us out of old ways of thinking and look at problems in a different light. The following inspirational marketing quotes are great motivators. They’re excellent for personal reflection, or to kick off a brain storming session with your marketing team.

1. “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” Steve Jobs, Apple

2. “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” Peter F. Drucker

3. “Instead of one-way interruption, web marketing is about delivering useful content at precisely the right moment when a buyer needs it.” David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR

4. “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” Seth Godin, author of Permission Marketing

5. “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.” Mark Twain

6. “If you have more money than brains you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing.” Guy Kawasaki

7. “Focus on the core problem your business solves and put out lots of content and enthusiasm, and ideas about how to solve that problem.” Laura Fitton,

8. “The aim of marketing is to get customers to know, like and trust you.” Unknown

9. “We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in & be what people are interested in.” Craig Davis, Founder of Brandkarma

10. “Affiliate marketing has made businesses millions and ordinary people millionaires.” Bo Bennett, Adgrafix

11. “In today’s information age of Marketing and Web 2.0, a company’s website is the key to their entire business.” Marcus Sheridan, author of The Sales Lion blog

12. “Transforming a brand into a socially responsible leader doesn’t happen overnight by simply writing new marketing and advertising strategies. It takes effort to identify a vision that your customers will find credible and aligned with their values.” Simon Mainwaring, founder We First

Vivienne Westwood

Her first shop was called "SEX" which certainly caught the public's attention...

13. “But, the thing is, since I always had my own little shop and direct access to the public, I’ve been able to build up a technique without marketing people ever telling me what the public wants.” Vivienne Westwood, fashion designer

14. “Pop culture is not about depth. It’s about marketing, supply and demand consumerism.” Trevor Dunn, Composer

15. “Your culture is your brand.” Tony Hsieh, CEO

16. “I avoid clients for whom advertising is only a marginal factor in their marketing mix. They have an awkward tendency to raid their advertising appropriations whenever they need cash for other purposes.” David Ogilvy

18. “No matter what, the very first piece of social media real estate I’d start with is a blog.” Chris Brogan, New Marketing Labs

19. “Increasingly, the mass marketing is turning into a mass of niches.” Chris Anderson, author of the Long Tail

20. “There are no magic wands, no hidden tricks, and no secret handshakes that can bring you immediate success, but with time, energy, and determination, you can get there.” Darren Rowse, Founder of Problogger

21. “Give them quality. That’s the best kind of advertising.” Milton Hershey, the Hershey Chocolate Company




old key

Revisit your key accounts and re-imagine them...

The essence of creating a business plan for key accounts lies in knowing what is happening to the companies you do business with. Without knowing your market, you could be wasting your resources on businesses that don’t give you the returns your business needs to survive.

It’s easy to think that the big spending companies you supply don’t need management, or that smaller businesses can’t be helped. But with a carefully designed business plan for your key accounts you can increase orders and organise your own business far more effectively.

This key account management is essential in business. It helps you define who your customer is – crucial when developing your marketing and sales plan. Without a tight definition you could be spending vast sums on chasing business that wont deliver the results your company needs to survive.

Your key accounts aren’t necessarily your biggest accounts. There could be a gateway account that has consistently led to business with other companies. They could also be accounts that are in a growth period (and need a large volume of goods from you). There could be opportunities to create strategic partnerships with them.

By identifying these points you can create a better business relationship with your customers. One that is profitable to you, or increases your standing among the companies you want to conduct business with in the future.

There are 5 basic steps when setting up a key account business plan:

Step 1 – The long hard look

Identifying which of your accounts is key, rather than just big, is your first step. You will hopefully already have customer management software in place. This makes it easier for you to track the most profitable and strategic relationships. If you don’t have it, it’s time to find some.

Remember don’t just look for the ones that are big customers now – this could have been a blip, where one company needed your product/service for a short term project that may be coming to an end. Identify those companies that are growing, or shrinking and how their current situation may affect your business.

Step 2 – Objectives

Once identified, you need to draw up a set of realistic objectives. Base these on what you know is happening in that company. Are you going to sell x number of units to this company in the next 5 years? Or is the objective to create a stronger relationship with them? What are the problems they’re facing at the moment and how can you help them? You’ll find there are a wide range of objectives for each key account.

Step 3 – Make a key account business plan

You should only write the business plan when step 1 and 2 are fully fleshed out. Poor preplanning will lead to a bad business plan. Highlight your main objectives in the plan, as well as clearly stating why they are a key account.

Step 4 – Realise the plan

Without action the plan is nothing more than an exercise. You have to fully commit to your plan and see it through. If there are changes in the key account’s business, take a step back, re-assess your original plan to build in the new information.

Step 5 – How did it go?

Everyone in your sales team needs to be involved at every stage. The end stage is the one where you all gather together to review how successful implementing the plan has been, and to learn lessons from any mistakes.

As with any successful enterprise, creating a key account business plan takes time. But with proper planning it has a big potential to boost your sales.




At its best Guerrilla marketing is a low-cost way of boosting your company profile, as well as profits. At its worst, you efforts could fall flat, or even damage your company’s reputation.

So how do you avoid the latter? Guerrilla marketing has been around since the term was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book, Guerrilla Marketing. Essentially it is an advertising strategy using unusual techniques to create a buzz around a product or company, without blowing the budget.

However, in recent times, big budget is often what is needed as large corporations and charities use it to get their message across. A recent example got LG international coverage for their television screens. Placing screens inside an elevator, when people got in the screens showed the floor falling away – scaring the elevator passengers, and getting LG the kind of viral coverage unheard of through traditional marketing.

On the face of it, this was a relatively small layout for the company considering how much attention they received from the world’s press outlets. But for small businesses this kind of financial layout isn’t possible.

It needn’t be that way. For small businesses, especially those who know the audience they want to target, guerrilla marketing can be also be effective, you just have to be more imaginative.

guerilla marketing

Even better when the cavities get exposed !

For example, a dental firm wrapped paper gums and tearaway teeth around telegraph poles. Passers-by could tear off the teeth to get the dentists details. It was fun, creative, and easy for people to interact with.

Another simple example of guerrilla marketing is to have a series of arrows, feet chalked onto the pavement, leading people to your shop front, or office. This is where you have to be careful though. There has to be a pay-off for the inquisitive person following your trail… a give-away or some money off your promotion line. Don’t leave people hanging or you’ll do more harm than good.

The trick to good guerrilla marketing is to leave people smiling, or to provoke a positive reaction. Toothpaste manufacturer Colgate used wooden stick inside an ice cream in a way that surprised and gently reminded people to clean their teeth. As the ice cream was eaten the hidden part of the stick was revealed to be a wooden toothbrush. Along the side were the words ‘don’t forget’. Simple, yet brilliant.

It’s all about surprising people. Taking an ordinary situation and turning into something that makes people stop and take notice. Wherever you find lots of people gathering is the best place to start. Yet even the traditional marketing tool, the carrier bag, can be turned on its head.

Guerrilla Marketing is an established tool, so get creative, look around the net for inspiration, and make the most of your marketing budget.


You can learn a lot about product placement in shops by looking around your local supermarket. Competition for customers is so fierce that supermarkets no longer rely on simple price comparisons to get people into their shops.

Here are nine ways supermarkets arrange their stores to maximise profit:

Front of store

There are two trends you’ll notice at the front of any store. One is usually the fresh fruit and vegetables and the other is quick items like sandwiches and flowers. The quick items are there because supermarkets understand that some people are literally only going to nip in and out and will react better to what they need being easily accessible. The fruit and vegetables look better in natural light and also the expanse of green puts shoppers in a better frame of mind. This is because green is a relaxing colour.

End of aisle

Shoppers don’t naturally go up and down every aisle in a supermarket. They dip in and out of the ones they need to go down. Which is why the end of each aisle is so valuable. Here shoppers are more likely to react positively to discounted ranges, promotions for new products, and two for one offers.

High traffic zones

In every store there are areas that shoppers pass through most frequently. These are the best places for sample stands, or to promote new products, or to sell discounted items quickly. It’s also where impulse buy products are most likely to be found.

Big no no’s

In today’s supermarkets you can buy just about anything, but you’ll never find the clothing section right next to fresh food. There is always a buffer zone of dried food, cosmetics, home accessories, or electronics. This is because research shows clothes and food don’t naturally mix in people’s minds.

Flooring and shelves

Premium products have subtly different surroundings than every day products. In some shops the flooring turns from linoleum to wood when you enter the alcohol section. Expensive and exotic ingredients are often on differently colour display units, than everyday ingredients. The surroundings encourage shoppers to feel they are making a special purchase.

Eye level shopping

 grocery store dubai

Best to ask in a neighborhood store if you want to find something as space is at a premium !

Eye level placement of products is a great method to increase sales. A product will sell significantly more if it is on the eye level of the target buyer. So products aimed at children, like soft cheeses and cheese sticks are slightly lower so the child can see them and alert their parents to put them in the trolley. A higher value product is often placed on the middle shelf so that people are more likely to see it and buy it. Those looking for value range products will usually find them down at ankle level.

Impulse buys at the till

Supermarkets know what shoppers will find most appealing dependent on the weather. On rainy days you’ll find umbrellas next to tills, on bright sunny days, it’ll be sunglasses. And as you queue up, there are usually an array of sweets, magazines, and easy to handle promotional literature to grab your attention.

Side by side

Some products are placed next to others deliberately. You’ll often find crisps and soft drinks very close because the purchase of one leads to an increase in sales of the other.

Future Research

The research behind product placement in supermarket is getting very high tech. Security cameras can now transmit behaviour data back to computers. Originally used to analyse anti-social behaviour, the software is increasingly attracting the attention of supermarkets. Shopper behaviour can be monitored and product placement changed to increase sales.