Monthly Archives: August 2013

Do sales matter?

Some companies really fall in love with their ‘brand’ and believe that sales sometimes hurt the perfection that their brand means to them.

They are wrong, your brand is portrayed by the value to consumers – and you need sales to substantiate that consumers care!

So as a founder, do not run blindly just after any sales, but do ensure you don’t turn them away when they knock on the door…

It’s your job to push performance to the maximum and ensure that everyone understands that customers pay their salaries, and you need to do everything to ensure that you get enough!!

Lunch at Honours

It’s my Birthday today, and I haven’t made it to The Honours since the restaurant opened.

So this return visit was a little quieter, and with the fringe festival over – relaxing!

Service is always impeccable and as soon as you walk through the door, you feel very relaxed – even though the service is attentive.

Before Martin Wishart took over this restaurant, we ate there in the 90s when it was Cosmo’s.


Claire started with a wicked ‘Honours Martini’, which looked and tasted fantastic. I stuck to a glass of chilled white wine. My slight concern is over the colour of the cushions and stools, apart from that the decor is sophisticated and classic brasserie. We sat and sipped our drinks for about 25 minutes before being lead through to the restaurant – no rush – which for me is quite important.

The set menu was a little simple for our liking and I have overloaded with Pork Belly throughout the UK and at home, so we chose a starter and main course from the brasserie menu.

Claire chose the Spelt Risotto, which was very nicely presented and complimented with the crunch of hazelnuts, softness of the mozzarella and creaminess of the spelt risotto. Personally spelt is an ingredient that is highly underrated and even Diet Chef has a killer spelt risotto on the menu. I chose the Parmesan and Potato Gnocchi which was a small starter portion – but perfect for me. Too many times in Italians you are overloaded with Gnocchi and it ruins your main course – not here – beautifully presented.


We chose a bottle of Pinot Noir, which was a little heavy for the starter but perfect for my rib eye that came next!


If there is one thing a good brasserie should get is a Josper Charcoal Grill. 650C is a kinda hot temperature but it works perfectly. Finished with a Madeira glaze and classically garnished with some tomatoes. The only sides to go with this – French Fries and creamed spinach!


Claire chose the Rabbit, nicely presented, it was finished with a mustard sauce.


Service was excellent, I finished with a espresso and Claire asked for the bits of the steak I had left for Bertie – what a lucky dog!

We will be back soon, I am sure!

Send me email!

© Yang Yu |

You have acquired lots of customers, spent ages getting feedback from them and delivered a first class fast delivery service.

You then move on and say – “let’s get more customers”, fantastic, but don’t forget the customers you acquired yesterday, last week or a few months ago.

If nothing else, send them news, it doesn’t have to be an offer email with a discount but at least communicate with them.

It is amazing that even a very generic email with updated products, reviews or updates from the company can boost sales. They remind me as a consumer that you care about me, and sometimes they outperform emails with offers, so add them to your mix.

If nothing else, send email saying you care, its amazing what you will get back in return – usually a nice boost in sales!

Automate or die

© Julius Kielaitis |

Consumer e-commerce businesses still mainly treat their online businesses as either an additional channel (another shop!) or a whole new way or selling. This is just not true.

Again and again I see compromises of their online strategy. Amazon has yet to open any stores, so why should you.

The major benefit online gives you is the cost of servicing a consumers demand. That is why it is so compelling, it gives you a cost effective way to make the consumer happy, that’s what you should care about.

When supermarkets took hold in the UK, the high street as we know it was destroyed – not overnight, but it did happen. The out of town/big box retailers feel just like my local greengrocer – who can’t cope with the efficiencies that scale brought.

So get over it, for the consumer it is great to have competition and even better to have an alternative. Taxation isn’t the solution – you should automate your business and reduce costs of servicing your customer – or die!

This is just as relevant if you are offline (take Lidl or Aldi as great examples in the grocery retail space).

Why I blog?


© Bjørn Hovdal |

There are lots of reasons to put fingers to keyboard and write a blog.

For me it isn’t about sharing this with anyone, it is actually for me. Selfish I know, but recording and writing a blog helps you clarify issues, recording them for the future or helps you debate things with other people.

I really don’t care if people agree with what I say, and put comments on the blog for no reason – I don’t care about your opinion – only mine (joking!)

Seriously, if you are starting a company, it can be very lonely. Even if there are a few of you in the company it is sometimes difficult to remember why you did things. Blogs help with that.

At Diet Chef when we started I lived in Nethybridge (anyone need a holiday home?) so communication was very important with my co-founders. It brought the use of email, phone and blogging to the fore. Andrew used a blog to communicate his marketing decisions or just document what he is thinking (he still does this now in his new startup).

So if for no other purpose but to document your entrepreneurial journey, start a blog. You can password protect it if you like. Start over at and share your blog on here to get others to view it.

Go on, you can write as badly as me too!

Bad things happen for those that wait!

All e-commerce companies send email, either transactional or offer related. Most get very excited about the technology to deliver email, create automated conversion processes and manage communications journeys.

At Diet Chef I had the honour for the first 12 months of creating most of the emails. We used an off the shelf email package called Vertical response that forced us to upload a list at that stage to email. That was pretty simple, I could manage that but I spent most of the time thinking about what I was going to communicate with the prospect, not the delivery mechanism.

We have subsequently moved around a bit for email provision and have had some pretty bad experiences along the way (we are pretty happy with where we are now!!).

So what are the things you should try and get over when using email? My experience of partnering with QVC really helped me think about the holy grail of direct marketing. A very wise head of merchandising said to me “Bad things happen to those that wait”. The principle of TV shopping is around creating urgency, we all watch TV, but why should we order NOW! That is what you are trying to create in the QVC show format. A really well selected product, well presented and limited availability. If I don’t buy now – bad things will happen!!

Every time I sit down to write an offer email, I think of this. In addition I always want to hit the customer between the eyes, from the subject line to the creative. You will take hours over creating your email but the prospect will only glance at it for seconds, get them hooked (QVC is very, very good at that!)

Since it’s the bank holiday weekend in the UK (a key period for retail) I thought it would be worth looking at some creative I like and hate!

Here is my wife’s Claire’s promotions tab in gmail, just for today! So which email do I open – even before I look at the offer?


Most of these offer a limited time offer, the ones that don’t I am going to ignore. FREE P&P isn’t enough for most consumers so for me BrandAlley missed a trick by not putting that last. I would have put Fendi Bags, Juicy Couture CLEARANCE + FREE P&P this weekend only. So I am now down to a few emails Cocosa and M&S, so here are their respective creatives:

Firstly most images don’t load automatically, so this is what I saw:


With the images loaded:


For me Cocosa is the hands down winner, simpler clearer image, using the text subject line more effectively.

So think about your creative often and test and change too!

Fast or right?

Sometimes startups can’t work out should they do things right or quickly.

There is always a balance around this to ensure that you don’t compromise too much, but if you want to do things quickly this usually requires compromises. In my opinion things go wrong when you don’t recognise the compromises you have made or try to remain committed to a deadline that is unrealistic (based on the compromises you agreed) and then move the goal posts.

So it is really important in the startup (especially launch phase) to make sure that you list and agree the compromises you are going to make.

I have made lots of mistakes in this area in the past, so know that the balance between fast and right is a fine one.

But again, opinion ends up clouding our thoughts and the more we discuss things with colleagues the more unsure we get. So if you want to do something fast, make sure the team is lean, you have set a goal and you understand the compromises you are willing to make before you start!

Fanduel on TV

What feels like a long time ago I met a fantastic team who had recently finished at Edinburgh University computing science department. They had yet to completely find a plan or product, but I just knew that these guys would do something great! It’s not often that you meet a team that you think that, but along with a few angels I know we invested a small amount of seed money, supported them by offering advice (that they mainly ignored!) and introduced them to a few VC’s.

They were focused on the US market and launched at Demo 2008, a product called Hubdub, a prediction news market. Nigel, the founder had spent quite a long time in markets, and saw the power of these at Betfair and Flutter, where he was a product manager.

The technical team was agile, fast and focused on detail (led by Tom and Chris) and by Rob, who is a great designer. All supported by the lovely Lesley who managed marketing.

How could we fail – well unfortunately although the product was popular with users, it didn’t have the level of traction to show any likelihood of being a home run. They pivoted, which I was sceptical about – but guess what I was wrong (not the first time)

They have now been running for a few years and it is most definitely the leading daily fantasy game in the US. They recently launched on TV and their new ad is below.

I think there are a few things they could do to clean up the response devices on their website – but I have to say, they ROCK!

Donald Russell

I was lucky enough to get a delivery from Donald Russell today.

I thought I would share some of the experiences of the delivery. I am yet to try the product, but really like the customer experience.

The first thing I saw once I had opened the box is a lovely signed thank you card, this instantly makes me feel good about my purchase and what is inside. I haven’t even eaten anything yet, but I feel great. A nice touch to sign each card!


In the envelope below is a mix of money off coupons (for their brand and a few partners), a guide on how to cook meat to perfection and a catalogue. The great thing about all these items is they feel valuable, so will hang around my house for ages (a key trick of direct marketing).

The partner offer (from Naked Wines) is relevant and of high value I like the idea that it doesn’t look like money but seems to be a ‘credit card’, again this will hang around.


The only area that I am not a big fan of is the website, it is quite cluttered and guess what it has a Carousel on the home page so it doesn’t get the high marks for the customer experience post purchase.

I will follow up once I have actually eaten something – may well push a steak into my Sous Vide Supreme.