vestryview

A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Where’s my telegram, Ma’am?

Neil Pickford marks a milestone
Last week four members of the (greater) Beverley Minster family got to meet the Queen in York– but not me, oh no.
Not that I expected to, mind you, because these were four carefully selected sober, upright citizens of impeccable character who have given years of loyal service to the church. They were recipients of Maundy money and had to be over 70. I miss out on at least one of those requirements but I did think Her Majesty (Gawd bless ‘er) might have swung by Beverley while she was in the area, just to drop off a quick OBE or something. After all, it’s not every day that a humble contributor to the highly prestigious Beverley Advertiser gets to complete 100 columns for its august readership is it? But here it is – my centenary. Surely a cup of tea and a vellum scroll, at the very least.
I’ve been a loyal subject. Worried about the costs of the 2011 Royal Wedding in Westminster Abbey I suggested that the ceremony should be hosted in Beverley Minster because, after all, the West End of that rather big building is directly modelled on our own towers. It would have saved Charles a fortune, but I didn’t even get a ‘thank-you’ letter from the Palace.
What about my suggestion to replace the uninspiring national anthem with “Hey Jude” – a truly happy-making song that epitomises the best of modern Britain and would be perfect for the Olympics. Nothing!
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Her Majesty hasn’t even heard of me. She doesn’t get the Beverley Advertiser delivered, no uniformed flunky opens the newspaper at the right page, irons the paper flat and presents it on a silver platter for her to enjoy. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
I thought long and hard about the matter and realised that, basically, I’ve been wasting my time over the last two years. I had, rather foolishly, assumed that utilising the best quality vocabulary, precisely blended intonations for each finely crafted sentence and frequent whimsical inserts to produce a weekly wonderland of words would guarantee me world fame. My efforts would soon reach the highest and humblest of our fair kingdom. Virtue brings its own reward.
Well, as a business model, it’s worked fine for my wife’s marvellous bed and breakfast enterprise, Hunter’s Hall in Beverley (currently #5 and rising up the TripAdvisor tables – very comfortable beds and excellent breakfasts, visit www.huntershall.net for further details, thank you).
Due to hard work she got a silver award for service last year and another for the quality of breakfasts and, by concentrating on these things, we have been sustained through the winter with a constant flow of repeat bookings, boosted by word-of-mouth recommendations.
Total advertising costs – £60 for a bunch of business cards, of which we still have a huge reserve. Total revenue – much higher than last year, thank you very much and, of course, it’s good to provide something that people enjoy receiving, because it makes them happier people as well and nicer towards you. Gill isn’t wearing herself out trying to reach new customers; she’s conserving her energies to concentrate on providing a super service.
But modern marketing insists that this gentle approach is the wrong way to go about things. We’re supposed to aggressively chase business.
Apparently you should regard both existing and potential customers as idiots, offering mad too-good-to-be-true incentives to tempt new ones. Then, once they’re on your books you can treat them as ‘mugs’ or, as Goldman Sachs insiders apparently have it, a ‘Muppet’.
We had this demonstrated only last week when my older son tried to renew his car insurance. He’s now over 20, he’s acquired an extra year of no claims bonus and, surprise, surprise, the premium from his existing insurer has gone up by 10 per cent. What they didn’t bother telling him, as a loyal, trouble free customer is that, if he signed up with the same provider, providing identical details, but as a first-timer, they would offer the same service for £210 less.
One of the reasons for this is that the institution spends huge amounts of effort and money thrashing around and creating lots of fuss in a pathetic attempt to look ‘proactive’ or whatever rubbish middle-management buzz-word is in vogue this year.
And, of course, this need for frantic activity has led directly to that most cursed and despised of the all tools currently used in modern marketing, the telephone call centre (against which I have ranted in Advertisers passim). However, it now seems I may have to join them.
I had hoped that my weekly warbles, using the highest quality jokes, the profoundest observations and the bestly-editated paragraphs would have built a loyal fanbase that gradually grew through recommendation, but that’s not enough. I’m considering changing my approach.
I’ll see if I can get my wife to offer a fried egg to all new readers.
While I’m working out how to do this I’ll probably be too distracted to think of a new column so I’ll just chuck in one of my old ones.
Apparently, most of you Muppets will never notice.
And if you’d like to re-read more of my columns before I dredge them up again for the Advertiser just go to www.vestry-view.blogspot.com where there are actually about 180 of them.
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