Ultra, super or sloooow?

I try to keep and eye on the broadband scene and subscribe to regular email newsletters from Thinkbroadband. Their April blog looks at how Superfast and Ultrafast broadband is rolling out across urban and rural Britain.  http://blog.thinkbroadband.com/2016/04/uk-hits-90-superfast-coverage-but-what-about-rural-uk/

It shows Superfast and Ultrafast broadband moving ahead, but still a lot of pockets where much slower speeds are achievable. In Peggs Green, Leicestershire, we are able to get fibre courtesy of Superfast Leicestershire BDUK. However we’re so far from the fibre-enabled cabinet we are quoted a top speed of 12Mbps so hardly superfast, and not worth going to the hassle to upgrade from 5Mbps we get on ADSL. I guess we will go to fibre eventually as the ADSL performance is actually getting worse – more people using it for streaming TV and music – or a policy for downgrading ADSL – who knows?

It’s fairly easy for the bean-counters to cross off the exchanges and cabinets that are upgraded, but ignore the fact that even semi-rural businesses and residents are a long way from the cabinets and the distance issue over copper (or aluminium) still applies.  Despite receiving frequent mailers from Virgin offering amazing speeds, they won’t drop a cable down our lane.

It’s definitely looking like a 2-speed society, not just for businesses – and there are a lot of small and micro-businesses in rural areas – but also for ordinary people. Website developers are increasingly assuming availability of bandwidth in their design with moving “slider” banners, full-page photos in the background and pop-ups. When I started web design in 1999 we considered background images out of the question with most people on dial-up connections. (Under 30-year-olds email me for an explanation of dial-up!)

There also seems to be a move to TV delivery via the internet. Look at  BBC3. It certainly suits many people who don’t have a permanent or long-term residence and therefore have no TV-license, for commuters on public transport etc. and it’s great to be able to catch up on programmes you’ve missed, or to take control of your TV programme consumption via on-demand services like i-Player. However, people in rural areas with no or slow broadband and probably patchy mobile coverage too are going to be disadvantaged. Broadcast seems the logical delivery for a central service to many, distributed consumers rather than piping the same stuff, once for each active consumer, over a limited network. Despite the exponential increase in broadband speeds, this does come at a cost which the public / private arrangements used so far may not be able to sustain long-term.

Public policy-makers should not assume everyone has access to high-speed broadband however much it may suit their budgetary projections.




Build a community around your business

Last month I attended a course at the City Rooms in the centre of Leicester. I parked in an NCP car park at the edge of the city and walked to the venue along a mixture of busy streets and pedestrianised shopping areas. Leicester is a vibrant, multi-cultural city and the people I passed were of all ages, shapes, colours and styles. I really enjoy walking through cities and watching what goes on. But I found it quite hard too.

Back in Coleorton, the rural village where I live, when I walk to the Post Office or go for a gentle jog around the lanes every person I encounter along the way returns my smile and bids me good morning. We exchange brief comments on the weather, the flowers, their dog, whatever. But walking through a sea of people in Leicester no-one returned my smile, looked me in the eye or said “hello”. I felt very isolated and a bit sad.

It’s understandable you don’t want to spend all your welcome and energy on people you haven’t met before and with whom you have nothing much in common.

The same with business. It’s much easier, more productive and more fun, to engage with people you already know.  Standard sales practice is to concentrate efforts on existing customers where you are likely to get more business from less effort and cost. And you can extend your community a little further by keeping in touch with prospects who have made enquiries, signed up to your newsletter, visited your Facebook page, etc. Like my village community, keeping in touch is welcomed and you have something in common to talk about – their business challenges, the market and hopefully your products or services too.

So rather than spending a lot of effort and budget on cold-calling or wide, unfocussed advertising, try building a community of clients and interested people (don’t necessarily label them as prospects, it may take a while and their buying cycle might not be in step just yet) who you can send news about products, market updates and deals and expect a welcome, maybe a smile and perhaps eventually an order. And don’t forget that in a community you must listen as well. Answer enquiries promptly, take note of suggestions and respond to complaints (never quite so hard with people you know).

In any event, enjoy building your community, smile and have fun!