Be a visionary




In 1971 a seemingly ordinary man named Darwin E Smith became CEO of Kimberly Clark, an old fashioned paper company who was steadily losing the market share against Procter and Gamble and Scott paper  with  a forward looking way he  transformed the company over 20 years  to outperform companies such as Coca Cola, HP 3M and General Electric. What he actually did was sell off all his paper mills and forest land. At the time his main product was coated paper and the market for this was declining. He then went and invested the money into Kleenex Tissues and Huggies Diapers. At the time the move was ridiculed in Wall street and his shares dropped but his foresight proved correct and he went on to buy his competitor Scott Paper and form the World’s largest tissue manufacturer.


People remember him as a man of great ethic and personal integrity. He was the type of leader who gave credit for success to the employees, the managers his predecessors, and the customer.
Darwin E Smith didn’t appear the most likely candidate to be CEO of his company and one of the directors even told him that shortly after his appointment, but he was the type of man who could look ahead and see the potential of his business and lead his company in the right path to achieve the goals he set.


The tendency of many business owners is to be locked into the day to day running of the business and not to look at the overall picture.
In order to be an effective leader you need to understand your product or service and periodically step back and see if you like the direction it is taken, or if there opportunities you might have missed.


Good business leaders  also put effort into  external and internal communication.


External communication is the way you portray the company to the outside world using communication methods such as web, advertising , packaging and marketing. Internal communication is with your staff.  All the people within the company should be clear on the values of the company and the virtues of the product and service.


Very often the business owner is the best person to be the salesman as he has got the clearest vision and greatest enthusiasm about what he has to offer,  but it is important not to get emotionally involved. Fear of failure or rejection is one of the primary things that stop growth within a company. If you have conviction in your product and you can look ahead and keep a positive attitude you can succeed .


Bill gates is a visionary who most of us agree is one of the most successful businessmen in the 20th Century. In 25 years he built a 2 man business in a multi billion dollar corporation. He started off tinkering with computers when he was a student in Harvard together with a fellow student called Paul Allen and when Allen showed him an article about the  world’s first microcomputer, the Altair 8800. He realised the potential for personal computers and knew that a language had to be written to make them usable and user friendly. He called up the manufacturer MITS and told them he had written a language for it called Basic. The truth was he had not perfected the language but he spent many days and nights afterwards getting there. MITS collapsed but he went on to write software for the other PC makers and that’s how he started off Microsoft.


His vision is summed up in a statement he made:
“Ultimately, the PC will be a window to everything people are interested in-and everything we need to know.”


The lessons from big multinationals can be used on a smaller scale for our companies too. As the leader of your company your vision, mission statement  and  positive leadership will be the inspiration for your staff, investors and customers. The quality of your leadership is magnified by the clarity of your communication.


Winston Churchill famously said “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

Google increasing mobile friendly ranking factor in May


Google SEO

Is your site not mobile friendly yet?
Worried about losing ranking?
Well maybe you should be…


Last year in April Google made an announcement that was termed Mobilegeddon! in the press. This year we have more of that happening as Google wants to help people find results when searching on their mobiles.

Google have announced that in May, they are starting to rolling out an update to mobile search results that increases the effect of the ranking signal to help our users find even more pages that are relevant and mobile-friendly.


They have reassured users that if their site has good content that they will still be ranked well but as the percentage of mobile user searches creeps up now would be a wise time to invest in updating your site.


Posted by: Darren Strom, Marketing Advisor and Branding Expert (more…)

Making your Ecommerce site work – Part1


e-commercePeople often have the impetus to start an online store, around January time when there is a big buzz about online sales, especially over the period when physical shops are closed.

Last years online winter sales in the UK were at £ 74 billion. This is reflection of the practicalities to the consumer of shopping online. As online stores do not have overheads such as rent, salespeople and utilities they can afford to offer products at more competitive prices.  In addition to this, the shopper can purchase items in the comfort of his own home rather than braving the elements to travel into town, to cram himself into a crowded shop and possibly leave empty handed.

If you have a physical store, you will be looking at the online statistics and imagine how many sales you must be missing out on, by not having an online store.

An alternative to building your own ecommerce site is selling your products in a ready self-contained marketplace such as Amazon or Ebay.

So which should you choose, Amazon, Ebay or create your own site? and what are the considerations?

First of all consider what your goals are. Will you be opening an online store as a full time business or as a part time business to earn some money on the side?


Building your own Ecommerce Site is the more expensive option. Also one shouldn’t forget that websites need to be marketed like physical stores do and marketing can cost real money. All websites particularly ecommerce sites need brand recognition and  marketing to build credibility get users to pick them out of the already overcrowded online market.

Successful ecommerce sites rely on  Search Engine Marketing otherwise known as SEO as the main source of customers. SEO, whilst producing results if done properly, can cost at least a few hundred pounds a month. One should not dismiss the fact that websites can be marketed using  conventional marketing methods too such as newspaper, billboard or radio advertising. Sometimes all that is needed is a regular placing of a small advert with the web address in a popular newspaper.

One thing you will need to invest in whatever route you take, is the actual stock to populate the site so that items are available and ready for shipping .

Besides investing money the other commodity you will need is time. Time to upload your products, time to create images for the site, write descriptions and  time to manage the delivery process.

Ebay and Amazon Stores are easier to set up as most things are already in place for you to start trading. If you are working full time and you don’t have the time to put into your site then Ebay or Amazon are better choices that having your own site, and Ebay is the easier one to start off.

The downside of Ebay and Amazon is the large percentage fee that they take on each transaction. 15% for Ebay and Amazon have different fees for different products from 7% to 25% and other fixed fees.
Ebay in particular have many rules and one can transgress unwittingly and with that you can lose your whole business you have invested time in. Amazon is actually even stricter and easier to ban your account.

You might consider to go for all three, An Ebay, Amazon and online store so that you can spread your risks and tap into 3 markets.

A consideration to opt for your own site rather than Ebay or Amazon could be because you are building a brand and today an online version of your offline presence is a must for brand recognition . You might also choose to you’re your own site because your product is a high end product and the pricing model does not lend itself to be sold on Amazon or Ebay.

Whatever your reason to create an online store, don’t just go or the cheapest provider, select a provider you trust. Your provider will hopefully guide you through the range of options and then build a solution that works and loads fast , as well as a comeback

Time Manage your business and work less hours!


Before we discuss time management within your business we should discuss the larger picture referred to as  “work/life balance”
Pulling yourself away from the gravitational pull of work is extremely difficult. Whether you are making lots money or struggling with your workflow, the one thing that people tend to sacrifice is their personal life.
We can be equally as successful if we work less hours but that can only work well if we work “smart”, to maximise the time we have.
Working “Smart” means managing time.
Time management should be simple to implement but  to most of us sounds like a theory that doesn’t work in practice.
So why does it not seem to work?

The answer is that we all know that time management has all got to do with prioritising, and one can’t proritise effectively without rules and disciplines that we always keep to. What   inevitably happens is that while we are getting important things done we get interrupted by others or we interrupt our own workflow with something that is more immediately pressing and the result is that work does not get finished.
Every business type and every individual will have a discipline that works for him.
Most of us have some sort of rule system by default. For instance; when we schedule or get an appointment, we write the appointments in a diary or our phone to-do list or calendar.
If we are more organised we will list the items in order of priority. These are very important basics but why then do tasks not get fulfilled?
Here are some answers that can help :
Email management is big issue. A study by Adobe in August of this year found that on average people spend as much as 6 hours a day on average checking their email.
Emails have become much more than just another commutation method. Many of us work off our emails.
The problem with that is as highlighted by the Adbove study just checking emails wastes a massive amount of time but also reading irrelevant emails take up time and distracts us.
There are two ways to deal with that issue: Firstly don’t repeatedly check your email try to discipline yourself to only check your emails at 2 or 3 set times in the day. Secondly unsubscribe immediacy from emails that are of no use to use and delete ones that are not useful to you.
You can then label your email or organise them into folders so that they can be found afterwards.
Besides emails, a big time waster in business is looking for things. Project files could be stored  inside 3 levels of folders in the D drive, or worse still; everything is simply dropped into the  “my documents” folder. In these cases you are bound to spend a lot of time simply finding your files when you need them, and a small interruption in the middle will throw you off and require you to do the same process again.


Some thasks will be things that have to be done but don’t necessarily have any connection to making money or they are simply not important to be done today.


So try to list all your tasks are with two priority labels “urgent” and “non urgent”
and closer to making money. That was the things that matter with get done at the expense of the less urgent or less important tasks.


A task that is nor urgent and doesn’t vene pay so well but could be a first job for an important clisnt who can recommend you further clients could be classed as being close to money

Another issue is multitasking. If it takes you fifteen minutes to get orientated to a new task if you try to do the second task in parallel to it, you can be sure that that fifteen minutes will become 30 minutes


Lastly If your process works even if it is seems old fashioned don’t discard it for a piece of software just because it is a more “modern system”.


Sometimes people fall into the trap of doing things like upgrading computer systems or a new piece of software and they think that this is what is going to improve their business when in actual fact the best thing to do is stick with disciplines that work for you and organise your processes and files


Cost effective E-Marketing



The biggest issue for many businesses is that they have a great product or service and they would be very successful, if only people knew they existed!  They are in a “catch 22 “ situation because due to the lack of their success they don’t have the hundreds or thousands of pounds needed to market themselves.

Appearing at the top of Web search results using SEO can be an expensive prospect and it is something that cannot be attempted without the expertise of a marketing agency. However there are a number of alternative E-Marketing methods that are free or low cost that are worth exploring.

Because Search engine rankings can be hard to achieve and Google themselves whilst improving the quality of their search results are making it (deliberately) harder for the average site to rank high, the most viable option is to pay for adverts within the search results. Google calls their product Adwords
You will notice these ads by the small ad tag on the bottom left of the listing but otherwise they look  like the other results.

The cost per click is measured by how popular that search result is. When a user clicks on the ad, you could be paying anything from a few pence to over a pound for that click but you can fix a maximum budget. These ads should  be treated the same way as a print advert with compelling wording  and a clear “call to action”

A primary E-marketing marketing method  that has proven to achieve real results, is much simpler and is totally free is Social Media..
The term social media includes Social networks, Blogs, Wikis , Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram. Simply defined, it is user generated content .

This is a different marketing method to SEO – it is not about using keywords to attract people to your website rather a direct method to interact with and update your clients much the same way as greeting them when they come into your physical store.
The style of writing is usually conversational i.e “ have you seen our latest product”?”

Social Media can be used to strengthen your brand by both connecting with your clients and listening to their needs and adapting in the process.
It is widely accepted that in 2008  Barak Obama gained most of his votes using Social Media. He used it to connect to and inform his voters every step of the way and make them feel connected to his cause and attract others.

Blogs are also defined as social media but can be an integrated into your website and help your search engine rankings. For a business blogs to be successful the subject matter should tie on as close as possible with what you are offering and follow a theme rather than just be a repository of irrelevant industry news or general things that might interest your clients.

Email marketing is another method that if used properly can achieve results.  To do  email marketing professionally you will need to use a  third party email service provider, many of who offer a basic package for free and provide the tools to automate the process and with the built-in facility for a user to opt out.

If you have an E-Commerce site, connecting to your client via email is a must. Emails should not only be used to reconnect with people who have made past purchases but the language you use in the automatic emails that you send out post purchase can be what might encourage your customer to return.

The destination you arrive at after clicking  a google ad, ( link in an) email or targeted search engine result should be a product specific “landing page” or “microsite”. This type of page helps keep the focus on the offer rather than other elements present on a home page. What this means is that instead of the clicking on an Adword and getting to the front page of the website take them to a new page or microsite that contains similar wording to the ad text and a short contact form or phone number as the “call to action”.

Brand You



You have a brand name, a logo, a well designed website and are attracting interest in your product or service.

So far so good, as long as you remember that the marketing and branding is not only about what you are
offering but also includes you and your employees.
Nothing is more important than the people your clients interact with namely you and your staff – People buy
from people and this is something that is very often overlooked.
Be selective who you take on as employees, as the staff will set the tone of your business. You can have a great
business but if people think you are difficult to deal with, for example, even with the best product in the world
they could be driven to go elsewhere.

Very often when starting a business a small business owner will wear a few hats, that of the accountant,
salesman and manager but at some point in order to grow, one has to be able to delegate tasks and that
means taking on new staff. People sometimes resist taking on more staff because they worry that they won’t
do a particular task as good as they could. If that is really the case and it is important then keep that element
in your own role and give out other jobs.

As an example – let say you need more business, so you takes steps to employ a salesman? Have you
considered that just maybe you are most suited to do the sales ? It is you who really knows the product or
service and you would be the most enthusiastic about it.
Yes, there are people who are natural salesman. They are the type of people who can “sell ice to Eskimos”,
these people just have the touch , they are what people call “born salesmen”… and maybe you feel you don’t
have it in you.

Let me tell you a secret – you can learn to be salesman. Being enthusiastic about your product is possibly the
first key to being a salesman. and if you are outgoing or at least not an introvert then you might be the person
best suited for the job.

A good salesman can be outgoing but it is not about being pushy. I once came across someone in a networking
event who wanted to sell me Aloe Vera health products. He was gushing about the product. It came across as
pushy and did not inspire me to buy. Guess what, his tactics did not seem to have got him clients as the next
time I met him he had abandoned the first company who he had claimed was so fantastic ( or they had
dropped him) and was actually trying selling me another health product range.

So if being pushy will not help sell, what will? The answer in short is “honesty”, if you are not pushy but
positive, confident and can fill a real need that the client has, then you can sell, but the client has to trust
you.That is a key thing to look for in an employee too: honesty and trust, namely; Is he genuine?
One just has to look at the recent fiasco with Volkswagen. The German car brands they are collectively the
strongest Brands in the automotive industry.

Well recently Volkswagen lied about emissions, or as they would like us to believe, their employee lied. The
issue was not so much about the emissions but the broken trust.
As a result not only did Volkswagen suffer large losses but the share prices of all the German car brands dropped.
Trust means more and more to customers nowadays as they are attuned to buying from companies with values
similar to their own.

Another thing to look for in an employee is, is he looking for a job or a career. Does he just want a job as means to
make money or does he have an affinity for the business market that you are in.
Last and but not least; a happy disposition can go a long way to bring you business.

I was involved in branding a new local Bakery café and as much as people love the design they are even more
encouraged to shop there because of the friendliness of proprietor, greeting his customers with a warm smile
and making them feel like a valued customer.

The new Google logo


Google by vmal

The new Google logo.


First of all just let me say this – I love it- its great!

I love the new G that has all the Google colours in it and the 4 dots that just represent the Google colours that have not changed since its inception. They have upgraded their look and at the same time not lost anything of the past Brand.

At VMAL we have used Google apps to power our business with its various apps and are familiar with the various permutation of the Google colours used in sub-brands. And now we have this – a very clean look, understated and timeless …

 The old font was a serif font and that was always a bit too traditional looking for this fast paced innovative company.

In this day and age of brand recognition and marketing, a strong logo is becoming more and more important to the success of a company. A logo is the personality of your business.

Logos are everywhere, on cars in stores on products in mailings coming to your door or emails but not all logos are good or hit the mark.

Logo design usually conjures up an image in most people’s mind of a designer doodling on a piece of paper trying to juxtapose the 2 initials of the company name and then adding a nice font to match
but it takes much more than that to create a good logo.

Recently two partners came to me with the following request: “We have launched a new business and we need a logo”
Why? I asked them. To which they replied  “to put on letterheads and business cards”
Not the answer I was expecting and they were not entirely wrong because that the function of a logo is to give a professional impression. The real purpose of a logo however, is not just a pretty way to layout the letters of your brand name but rather to make the brand memorable.

For a logo; otherwise known as corporate or brand identity, to be effective, it should portray what the company stands for in the use of typography and maybe a graphic element. Studies have shown that people recognise and relate to images faster than text and an image stays longer in peoples memory.

A logo is an element of branding, probably one of the most important element but it still remains an element of branding. Other elements are the colouring and the graphic shapes you use in your packaging or other applications.

A good example of this is British Airways.
In 1997 they decided to rebrand using a softer  blue and red ribbon symbol to replace the sharp angled red strip in use since 1982, and the new font used was similar to the old one but softer. The ribbon was emblazoned across the plane and also used to adorn the tail.
The thinking behind it was to turn it from being perceived as a stiff, British only company into a world friendly airline. The look especially on the tail fin was quite different to other airlines at the time and really helped boost its image. It has stood the test of time and still looks up to date today.

This is an example of a graphic element working in harmony with the logo and together they form the recognisable  BA brand.

Another example is Rolls Royce, The Rolls Royce Grill and The Spirit of Ecstasy  is as much part of the recognisable brand as the interlocking R’s of the logo.

These companies who have successfully used a group of elements in their Brands are now joined By Google with a 3 part Brand incorporating a G that will now be a universal Google Logo symbol, the four dots that work to compliment the logo much like the BA ribbon and Google written it its entirety.

Great work!

It is a shame they didn’t contract VMAL – who knows, maybe we would have come up with exactly the same solution and they could have saved themselves a fortune!

What a ride!




The finishing line at Cambridge to London Bikeathon!

Thanks to all my sponsors! without you I wouldn’t be riding!

What a day ! The camaraderie was amazing and raising money for such a worthy cause was worth all the aches and pains I have now!

All the Best ,



Cambridge to London 100km bikeathon





I have committed to participating in the Bike4Kef bikeathon on 4th May 2015, riding 100km from Cambridge back to London to raise much-needed funds for Kef, and I would really appreciate your support!

Kef is a London-based non-profit, voluntary organisation dedicated to offering friendship and fun to children, teens, and young adults with special needs and disabilities throughout the UK.  Kef was founded in 2006 and has grown from four children to over 50!   Kef offers after-school and Sunday activities, residential weekends and summer and winter camps.

As Kef grows and develops, so does its budget!  Last year, the Bike4Kef bikeathon was launched, with 72 riders who raised just under £150,000.00, which enabled Kef to secure a state-of-the-art, purpose-built, disabled-accessible campus for its summer camp.  It has also been able to further develop the programmes it runs during the year, with major development of its Sunday programme, and the launch of a weekly swimming club, all heavily subsidised.  All monies raised through this exciting, essential venture will help enormously towards covering the rising costs that Kef is facing.

To find out more about Kef, please visit its website at, and for more information about the bikeathon, please visit our newly launched, dedicated website at

Please visit my personal fundraising page at  and help me to reach my personal fundraising target of £1000.00.

Thank you!



Mobilegeddon!! in a nutshell.


Google s Mobilegeddon


Today – 21st April 2015 the date that can make all the difference to your Google rankings – but will it?

As announced by Google and reported on the news channels today – if your website is not responsive your rankings will be drastically affected.

First of all you can check your site here to see if it complies

Secondly it is not as bad as it seems because only mobile searches are affected not tablet or desktop searches.

But do bear in mind that mobile searches make up half of all Googles searches and are increasing –

Thirdly thankfully you don’t have to make the changes today – if your rankings are effected, unlike previous Google updates you can update your site whenever you like to upgrade your Google Friendliness.