Monthly Archives: October 2014

WOM in small companies:
Pass the word and they will boost your business

By Catherine Bernales


Language is the essence of human nature and words are the beats of our world. Human history only started off when people learned to communicate and to create small communities. In order to survive, humans built different kind of commercial social networks. It was in that moment when the first manifestations of marketing emerged. Among them, word of mouth was the most common. Today, this ancient marketing tool has come back into fashion and it is changing the way in which companies market themselves.

In ancient times, Romans or Chinese people commercialised their goods via WOM. Based on simple recommendations, people verbally transmitted their impressions from one person to another. As simple as that, the power of WOM helped link the world. It clearly influenced in the discovery of new lands and continents.

Take the example of Christopher Columbus and the colonisation of America. It was in part, the strong influence of recommendations that encouraged adventurers to set off to new lands.

These days, something similar occurs with WOM. The advent of social media has enabled companies to pass the word online and offline too. This has helped organisations to grow their presence and to advertise their products and services. Particularly, small businesses are taking the best advantage of the WOM to expand their sales and to cover new audiences.

The five truths about WOM

Regarding a survey conducted by Verizon in conjunction with Small Business Trends, 85% of small businesses get customers through word of mouth. For instance, Jessie Hunt, marketing manager at the British Museum, explained in the AMA Conference 2012 that WOM represents the main source for the reason why people decide to come to the British Museum’s exhibitions. “It’s not only a powerful tool, but also unpaid, and therefore credible”.

But how can organisations implement this simple, but successful marketing tool in their promotional strategy?

Andy Sernovitz, the New York Times bestselling author of Word of Mouth Marketing and current CEO at explains that the Five Truths of WOM can allow companies to earn the respect and recommendations of customers.

  • Fist Truth, Talkers. Find people who will talk about you. Think about fans, volunteers, bloggers and influencers.
  • Second Truth, Topics. Give people a reason to talk. Introduce some subjects such as great services, new features, especial offer or cool product.
  • Third Truth, Helps the message spreads further and faster. You can use many resources like “tell-a-friend-form”, blogs, viral emails, handouts, online discussions and coupons.
  • Forth True, Taking part. Join the conversation, be interactive. It is important to reply feedback, join discussion and to use social media as an essential tool.
  • Fifth True, Tracking. It is crucial to measure and to comprehend what people are saying. For this, don’t hesitate to search blogs, read online discussions, listen feedback and use some tracking tools.

Some case studies to share

Currently, a wide variety of small companies are doing great use of WOM. Let’s have a look at some inspiring cases and find out how some of the 5 truths of WOM have been successfully used.

Got what it cakes: Facebook, friends and social media

In 2009 Mandy Miller quit her job as an on-air traffic reporter in North California and decided to set up her own business. At first, she started baking cakes for friends but it was an expensive hobby. Lately she put up a website, but it was not until she came up to social media that her business begun to grow.

Her sister created her a Facebook page Got what it cakes and at the end of her second year her revenues were circa $40,000. Through this social media platform, word of mouth could express virally. She said in a Huffingtonpost interview that “Facebook was a real tipping point for my business. My cakes were already very popular, but Facebook exposed me to the world, to friends of friends and family, to bloggers, party planners, etc. I couldn’t believe that something this powerful, this widespread, could be free! I use my business page as my store-front”.

Stormhoek Vineyards:  Blogging, tracking and listening to feedback


Japie Swanepoel, the author of The E of Marketing, highlighted the case of Stormhoek Vineyards. He considered it as an example of how word of mouth via blogging can grow any business. This small South African winery wanted to increase its presence in the English and French market, and to stay ahead from the competition.

The company decided to contact Hugh Macleod, an influential blogger to market their product in his Gapingvoid blog. Macleod offered to the first 100 bloggers to contact him a free bottle of Stormhoek in exchange of nothing, but to post. They were not required to talk about the wine.

The results were outstanding. Blogger, indeed, posted about the wine and a huge buzz was spread in the industry. That increased sales which were doubled within a year.

Taxi Oviedo: Interactivity, discounts and innovation

taxi oviedo

When Rixar García, from Taxi Oviedo began posting on Twitter, he realised that he could boost his taxi services through word of mouth. He was the first successful taxi driver in Spain who begun to provide his services via social media.

By the end of 2009, he was clear that he wanted to increase his customer portfolio and sales. “You need to spend months and years to make things right. What people see as success is a word of mouth that reflects the steady and continuous work in the right direction” he said in an interview on the ABC Newspaper, Spain.

In a country where only 10% of SME use Twitter, Rixar believes that it is crucial for entrepreneurs to know their business well as Twitter only provides 140 characters, what means that information must be planned.

Foursquare and geo-localisation also helped Taxi Oviedo to became a media boom. He offered discounts to all customers who book and check in his taxi, gaining a major impact in his business.

Remember WOM requires time, a strategic thinking and a planned schedule if you want to build a strong brand. If you master and monitor these 5 recommendations you will definitely increase the number of people talking about your company offline and online.

And don’t forget “When people trust you, they are willing to put their words on the line for you. Please them, inspire them, and they’ll bring their friends to you” (Andy Sernovitz).


The importance of Ethics in Sales: the opinion of Nick Lee, Honorary Professor at Aston University, Birmingham

The importance of Ethics in Sales: the opinion of Nick Lee, Honorary Professor at Aston University, Birmingham

by Antonia Di Lorenzo

nick lee 2009

As water and oil for some companies or bread and butter for other ones, Ethics and Sales is one of the thorny problems which involves the new frontier of the business.

As if I were one of his students, Nick Lee, Honorary Professor at Aston University, Birmingham, explained me in an interview the importance of “being ethics” and how to connect this aspect to the main aim of making profit.

Author of Journal of Management, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, Dr. Lee’s work has also featured in popular outlets such as The Times, The Financial Times and BBC Breakfast.


  • Dr Lee, what relevance does ethics have in business and why?

I think it depends, there are a lot of ways you can say it is relevant. It depends on what you mean by ethics.

  • What does ethics mean for you?

I think you talk about behaving in a fair manner. Essentially not taking advantage of the organization or customers in sales. In sales I think this is a very important thing. We have to be realistic. In sales the main objective is to make profit but automatically I think the important thing is to talk about long-term profit.

If we behave in an unethical way we tend to focus on the short-term. If we see companies having problems this is because they don’t have very good long-term prospects on relationships. Some of the reasons for the financial crisis was that there was too much short-term focus on making profit. If you think about long-term continuing relationships and continuing business, then  ethical behavior is the natural thing to do.

  • How would you recognize an ethical business? What characteristics do ethical business have in your opinion?

There isn’t a model that you can look at a business and you can say that it is ethical. You don’t have to say “we are an ethical business”. I guess what ethical organizations have in common is that they have good ethical role models, that is people who behave ethically and show you can be successful by being ethical. A lot of problems with ethics is that people make bad decisions. But they don’t make bad decisions because they are bad people, but because they don’t have experience or a knowledge what the right decision can be or they feel under pressure.

  • What do you mean for “bad decisions”?

Defining what makes a behavior ethical or unethical is actually a difficult task. Everyone knows you are wrong if you go to a customer meeting and you hit your customer with a baseball bat. But what about if you are in a customer meeting, you have to make a target by the end of the week and the customer maybe is thinking he wants to delay the decision for two weeks. What do you do? Do you lie to the customer? You can say if he orders after the end of the week, his order will be not quick enough because many factory facilities are overstressed, so he has to order quickly. And it is lying to the customer.

Lying is unethical in a philosophy point of view, but you can look at a practical one. Is anybody really being hurt by unethical behavior? Do you just think of unethical because of the behavior or the consequences? This is one of the questions we always have to think when we talk about ethics. But also why people behave like that. One reason may be they are under pressure or they don’t realize the importance of behaving in a truthful manner or they don’t have a good role model as sales manager.

  • What about Trust and Credibility? Firstly, how is possible to get the customer’s trust? How long does it take to develop a strong relationship with a customer?

If you have ethical behavior you can build trust. Sometimes people behave unethically because they are afraid. According to an economic theory, if you think someone is harming you also feel you can advantage of them. Building trust from the customer is always a difficult task.  As every relationship, it takes a long time to build a good relationship but it doesn’t take very long to break the relationship. Usually in a long term is always an ineffective strategy to be unethical, but in a short term you can relate to a great performance.

  • How much can the reputation influence a customer?

Company reputation can play an important role at the beginning of the relationship. It can help a lot to build trust.

  • If credibility comes from performance and professional reputation, what is the role of the social media? How much can they influence what people think about you?

Social media plays an important role. I think it is easier to influence people in a bad way rather than in a good way. I think it takes more to build a positive reputation. A lot of campaigns were wrong because people who were running them didn’t expect how consumers will take that. A lot of companies don’t know what it is going to happen when you put something online.

  • Can spending time together and sharing the same interests be a way to get the customer’s trust? If yes, which is the borderline?

Yes, it can. Psychologically we know that sharing interests can help to build a relationship together. But the important thing is to avoid to pass the “borderline” and be genuine. The company has to look genuine, in terms that you have to look real, not just an act.

  • Do you believe there are many organizations currently adopting an ethical approach in terms of engagement?

I think it is hard to say. It is hard to really place ethical frameworks around what people are doing. There are a couple of things to be worried about: one is how important you think being authentic is unethical or to be presenting an image to the world that is not true. But companies do that as part of their job. But probably the image ethical concerning everybody, consumers and staff, related online, is the data collection and data protection.

  • At the recent London conference by Ethisphere on ethics and governance one attendee suggested “sales trump ethics every time.” This was asserting that for most companies if it’s a choice between ethics and sales, the latter always wins. What do you think about that? Do you believe that sales always trumps ethics?

It is a kind of false choice. It is easy to say things like that, but we don’t have any reference. If you face people with the right choice you can always influence what they choose. But the problem is between Ethics and Sales on a long term prospective. On a short term basis perhaps that’s the case, for individual salespersons sometimes the choice can concern choosing the easier and the more beneficial outcome for themselves. What we have to do is showing very clearly the benefits.

People always choose the benefit over no benefit. That’s the truth. We have to present the ethical choice as long term benefit, rather than a short term benefit. The problem we had in the past concerns that there were a lot companies focused on short term performances and influenced by unethical behavior. Ethical behavior is more about long term relationships generation.

If you think about your personal life, for example, if you married with somebody you have a long term prospective or if you have a long term relationship, it is in your benefit to place wider criterion of your decision rather than your short term benefit when you are out on an evening or in a night club. Business is not different to life. If we have long-term prospective the ethical choice is always the highest performance choice. The problem is when we motivate people with short-term prospective.

If we have effective long terms wider intensive motivational programs, people will be motivated to behave more ethically. Our job is saving the long-term prospective as preference.


Why choosing a multicultural environment for your business

Why choosing a multicultural environment for your business

by Antonia Di Lorenzo

                                                 group of young ecologists                                                                  

When I hear the adjective “multicultural”, I always think of an international dinner.

Imagine a long table at the centre of a huge living room, packed by people from different cultures. Everyone brings their own traditional food from their country: sushi from Japan, Mexican tacos, Spanish paella, French crepes, Indian rice, pasta.

By the end of the evening, probably full and drunk, you would have tried new dishes, which you may like or dislike. You would have had a new experience that allows you to explore foreign cultures, expanding your horizons towards worlds that you didn’t know, meeting people with different backgrounds who can teach you something.

Your dining experience resembles a community where each one gives their own contribution, in order to grow up together and improve themselves.

The result will be engagement, knowledge, open-mindedness, in one word: satisfaction.



Now let’s see the advantages of using an “international-dinner approach” to increase your business.

  •  Improvement of the problem-solving. As Jared Lewis explained in The Advantages of Multiculturalism in the workplace, being exposed to different points of view helps to create a sense of cultural awareness and to think outside the box when the employee will face a problem. Getting in touch with foreign cultures can allow you to realise how your mind is limited and how it influences negatively your way to solve the problems.
  • Team work. The employees who will work in a multicultural environment will be more inclined to respect diversity, collaborating and finding a compromise in face of adversities.
  • Knowledge. Discovering new cultures can widen your horizons. Firstly, when different backgrounds and experiences come together, you can expect a huge increase of possibilities. It can be also beneficial to stimulate creativity. Irina Chirileasa, Media Assistant, has examined in depth this topic through the eyes of GRSC Renewals Team members. This company has leaders from all Europe, who confirms working in an international environment can stimulate your hungry for knowledge and leading to excellent results. Cristiana Lupu, East Europe and CIS Regional Manager, Support Renewal Sales, GRSC, says: “Coordinating a team made up by members who come from different parts of the world is amazing! You learn a lot about what it means to live in a global society. Working across cultures tests your general knowledge, adaptability, contextual leadership and, of course, patience. There are tough aspects as well, for example balancing out the extreme cold drive for results with keeping the people motivated and driving each of them to the next step in their personal development.”
  • New contacts. Having employees from different countries means also passing the frontiers. Your new contacts network’s name is world.
  • Global Interactions. Having a high degree of understanding how other cultures do business leads the company to an international level. Global interactions take shape through different beliefs, philosophies and various ways of conceiving the marketplace.
  • Flexibility. The workplace always demands flexibility, but in a multicultural environment you need to be ready to adapt yourself to different cultures. This often means getting in touch with different approaches which, potentially, can affect positively your projects. Maria Avram, Germany Senior Manager, Support Renewal Sales, GRSC, explains that in a multicultural environment there is a wonderful exchange: “Along the way, my team learned from me to be more organised, disciplined, confident. I also learned from them to be more flexible and communicative, to be more tolerant and also that people change, not completely, but partially.”

Grow3 puts a lot of effort into creating the right conditions to build a multicultural environment, in order to realise these beneficial effects. Caitlin Doherty, Marketing Manager of Grow3, says: “ I think that multicultural is synonymous of global. To be global it is essential to feel global, creating an international community. It is an added value as well as a priority. This is one of the main values of our company.”

Multiculturalism means evaluating people firstly as ideas producers, without taking into consideration any background or origins. It can drive the business to progress and social innovation.

Ideas are the priority. They don’t have any colour or ethnicity. They belong to people who with their ideas are able to create a community.



General Engagement: THE POWER OF VIDI

General Engagement:


By Catherine Bernales


Susan L. and Emma S. are both marketing consultants. They live in the same city, studied in the same university, but work in different companies. While their jobs seem to be very similar, the truth is that they are quite far from having the same levels of engagement at work.

Susan works in an international company and earns a competitive salary. Her organisation provides her regular training opportunities and promotion prospects. On the contrary, Emma is part of a small team in a young company. She earns an average salary, has low training opportunities and her office is old and a bit cramped. However, her organisation owns a strong corporate culture.

Although Susan’s levels of job satisfaction are apparently much higher than Emma’s, the truth is that they are not. She’s completely discouraged and self-perpetuated in a cycle of low morale. Nevertheless, her lack of motivation represents nothing new these days. In fact, she’s part of the 87% of people who express low workplace engagement at work. Even worth, only 13% of employees in the world are engaged according to the State of the Global Workplace Survey (2013) from Gallup World, a management consultancy.

Conversely, the case of Emma is rather different. She feels completely engaged, with a great disposition to support the company’s culture and enough confident to self-manage. In a nutshell, Emma is totally VIDI.

But what does VIDI means? According to Andrew Leigh, the author of Ethical Leadership Creating and sustaining and ethical business culture, VIDI is a useful approach that affects the levels of general engagement. When employees feel Valued, Involved, Developed and Inspired they are more likely to stay in their organisations and become fully engaged with ethical issues.

Whist it is undeniable that it is hard for leaders to maintain high levels of engagement in their teams, the concept of VIDI offers some practical guidelines for leaders.

Being Valued: Make your employees feel worthwhile and wanted

good job and well done

Showing that you VALUE people means that you understand them. In other words, leaders must learn to convey the message that makes employees valued.

“When I started running my own company I discovered that paying attention to what people says and actively listen to their ideas, reinforce the message that you care about them”, said M. Paz M. Marketing Manager at Webit Communications. She also thought that as she was usually involved in time-consuming tasks, she didn’t have the time to contact her employees frequently. She decided to set up some scheduled visits to her staff. “Not only I saw them more regularly, but I also started to encourage them to contact me for their concerns. In response, I tried to give them positive answers and public credit for contributions”, she said.

But even the simple “how are you feeling today” or using a positive language like “that was really useful”, can make your staff feel needed.

Being involved: Let your employees voice their views

When it comes to make your employees feel INVOLVED don’t hesitate to let them express their views and ideas. They need to feel part of their organisations. For instance, the retailer M&S has a network called the Business Involvement Group (BIG) in which people can communicate their ideas and get feedback. Through this programme, the company informs, involves and have the chance to consults its employees on the issues that affect them.

Similarly, the global communications company, BT, runs a programme which reduces CO2 emissions and protect the environment. They have set up a framework for “Carbon Clubs”, a creative space that give employees the opportunity to brainstorm thoughts and innovative projects. Currently, BT has 130 clubs around the world.

Being developed: Help your employees to fulfil their values

The opportunity to be developed directly influences engagement levels. Leaders should create a personal development plan for their workforce that can emerge from evolved discussions with them. In this line, it is interesting to motivate your employees to follow their own schedules, rather than imposing targets. However, try to make sure that these goes in accordance to your aims and values.

A research from Blessing White has showed that development can certainly reduce the turnover rates. The study named Navigating Ambiguity: Career Research Report 2014, has concluded that employees “need to make the most of their skills, fulfil their values and over time build a career journey that gets them to where they want to be — and where the organization needs them to be. Such skills and experience are developed through on-the-job experience and formal or informal learning”.

 Being inspired: Feel passion of what you really love

These days, unfortunately the majority of employees feel disengaged. Take the example of the UK, in which only 17% of the people are engaged, 57% are not and 26% is actively disengaged (Gallup Survey, 2013).

Based on this, it is clear that the roles of leaders and inspiration have become a crucial matter. Before inspiring others, leaders have to be sincere and recognise how inspired they are. A passionate leader can drive engagement and positively affect people in an emotional way. Thus, it is essential for them to refine their inspiring skills and renew their energy. Although it can be complex, sharing uninspired feelings with close colleagues or taking up outside coaching might be more than helpful. Check these excellent inspiring tips of the founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson of how to energise your employees and remember: Find what you love…

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle…” (Steve Jobs)

Ethical Leadership: Women do better!

Ethical Leadership: Women do better!


Today, I opened door n° 68 at 9:15 am. I took a seat and made a coffee.

There were ten people working this morning, eight of them were women. Mothers, wives or girlfriends. But it seemed everyone had something in common: a potential for ethical leadership.

According to a study at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, women are less ready to compromise their ethical values for money and social status.

It sounds good, but let’s try to understand why and how.

Firstly, ethical leadership is about understanding your core values and having the courage to express them in all parts of your life, in service of the common good.

It starts with an inner journey, in search of values which define one’s own identity, developing a vision as a frame to articulate one’s actions, and finally, finding the voice with which to express it, in order to lead the whole community.

It sounds like this person would be organised, with a deep commitment to her priorities, able to juggle work and everyday life, never once taking their eyes off their goals, always ready to serve others, following a moral code. It looks almost like a portrait of a mother.

Supporting this thesis, Liz Earle, British entrepreneur, but foremost a mother of five children, reveals that the working mothers’ approach is the key to success in an interview released in the Irish Times on 30th September 2014.

She told the Irish Times: “I always say if you want something done well ask a woman, but if you want something done really well and fast, ask a busy woman.”

According to Liz, women are able to think faster than men, because they naturally have to do so. She co-founded the Liz Earle Beauty Company in 1995 when she was a young, working mother, sold it fifteen years later to Avon. Today, it is a global brand with 600 employees.

Jessica Kennedy, the paper’s lead researcher and a post-doctoral fellow in Legal Studies and Business Ethics at Wharton, said: “It is the very need of ethics that is driving many of us to talk about bringing the ‘feminine’ relational characteristics to the masculine ‘wield power’ characteristics of the workplace.”

Nevertheless, the headline of a global development article on the Guardian, entitled “Women are better off today, but still far from being equal with men”, explains that, despite the improvement in women’s role, in both industry and government, the faces remain stubbornly male. According to the statistics, the number of women owning a small and medium-sized business is estimated to be between 8 and 10 million.

An article in The Independent published on of the 28th September reports the initiative of one of the world’s leading executive headhunters, Egon Zehnder, to end the male dominance in the boardrooms of the UK’s top firms. Under the guidance of Miranda Pode, the managing director, Egon Zehnder has promised to re-organise the male-dominated executive roles, to push women to the top of the UK’s FTSE 100 companies.

Currently, there are just five women covering the big boss role, such as Carolyn McCall of Easyjet, Véronique Laury of Kingfisher and Olivia Garfield of Severn Trent.

It seems women cover support roles but are far from the leadership of a company.

You could ask me why. I could reply to you with another question that could be useful for reflection. If it is true that women are potential ethical leaders, following core values in their actions in the business more than men, the lack of female faces at the top of companies leaves open some questions:

  • Is ethics still a taboo in developing business topics?
  • Considering the wish to renovate the male-dominated executive positions, can ethics and business work together to innovate the old view of business?
  • Can following a moral code save the business or is it just blocking the interests of other parties?
  • Can core values and showing the emotional side of a company create an engaging environment in the office and transmit it to the clients?
  • Can clients be more engaged, feel like a part of a community, be more mindful of their real necessities?

If the answer to all the questions above is yes, it means you are ready to start the change. Put the business in the hands of a woman, she will make sure it is successful.