Posted in AT Your Service, Business thoughts & my marketing services, opinion on June 27th, 2013 by John Coxon





Dear readers I actually hate most unsolicited attention of  any kind and especially from unknown people selling things via my phone line , door-stepping or spamming my  in  box and I resent most such intrusions  whether it is some suited self- righteous holy pimp at my door on a mission from Salt Lake City  to convert me , (offering  me answers from their book of things to questions I did not even ask) , a “gypsy” selling pegs or “lucky” heather  or someone phoning me about getting my loft or wall insulated for free when here ,everything  is sorted and insulated and I can seriously do without this bullshit on my phone or at my doorstep !


If I have it right, the job of being a phone based  marketeer, so called Telemarketing  “cold caller” is not for the thin-skinned , feint-hearted or pessimist and, OK ,  with the Recession and jobs so hard to find , the cold call centre must be the pits in terms of a career move but these people have to earn a living, yes, but no way at my expense! I’d be disappointed if one of my kids,  on a downward spiral, lapsed into cold calling.

“Cold Calling” is , for me,  such bad practice . It seems  a cheap-skate  random and abusive culture thing and any success it has is actually an abuse of the culture of manners that exists in the UK . Here  so many people are approached and asked questions and actually give away so much.

Out of politeness, actually we often  reveal tub loads of personal information that is priceless to so many industries and yet to which they have no actual rights, and of course will never pay for it ,  so why should we tolerate this practice ? (Whatever you tell them will no doubt be added to some data base somewhere and later sold on so by being polite and engaging them you thereby ensure that you will be thereafter ever spammed and harassed .( If you get one of those mobile text spam messages from a business and respond , that is foolish as it confirms that your number is active and that info will be sold on so the whole techie based scam thing is perpetuated. )

I wonder just how successful this hit and miss “cold call “ marketing ploy really is?

The strategy isn’t rocket science. You hire people, set them up, probably in an office full of young hopefuls, probably  under enormous pressure to hit targets and probably daily  group victims to some over cheerful, hyperactive  slave master enforcing slave group hugs and motivational exercises to keep their spirits up . Tt’s all a bit like the Roman joke  – Caesar now wants to do some water ski-ing so the galleon is going to have to be rowed very much faster. They are probably equipped with headphones and a mike and required  to sit in front of a monitor throughout their shift  with their brand script flow chart on one side and the telephone directory or the electoral register down the other and off they go. It’s computer based percentage tennis.

I have to admit that I am virtually immune to advertising of any kind.

I like to make my own choices and I’ll always simply research any product or service I actually need beyond everyday shopping and also I jealously guard my personal data.  So, a random and anonymous phone call from a cold calling brand , (or more likely a service working on its behalf)  is on a hiding to nothing for starters calling me.  Indeed, these intrusive cold calls are becoming so frequent that I get a kind of guilty pleasure seeing how many seconds it takes me to leave the caller stuttering  and with  no choice but to terminate the faux conversation and be forced to give up and then pester  the next person on that day’s list of unknown people to call!

Alarmingly I would not have to wait long to give you another example and it always starts the same way. I am busy, working from home, doing business admin or on line marketing, gardening , decorating or doing mundane chores. The phone goes, my landline ( although my mobile isn’t immune from such intrusions of privacy) and some irritating chirpy unknown asks me “Is that Mr Hanson?”


Now actually Mr Hanson has never lived here and yet Mrs Hanson, his ex, (with whom I have the honour to share both the mortgage and more importantly my life!) does and it is her name which appears in the land line directory as the householder so clearly publicly available bare-bones information is what this company are using to target its cold call public.

So , politely , I say “No” and wait. “Oh sorry – Are you the householder “ the unwanted caller asks.  (The presumption here is that I am about to confirm who I am and my status and thus provide information that is private and yet  none of this individual’s business.)

As I am getting quite good at dealing with this sort of intrusion now with so much practice and a tad irritated as I have rushed from the garden to the land line thinking it is something or someone actually important to me or my family I am keen to end this politely but quickly.

Cutting to the quick I ask , “ Are you selling something, going to save me money or want me to take part is a survey at my own expense? She replies” No we are not selling anything or trying to save you money “ but “thank you” ,she adds, and hangs up !  Job done and back to work. Maybe I should ask “who are you ?”” Where do you live ?” “Where did you get this number from ?” “Why are you picking on me “ and see how much personal data the  coldcaller is prepared to reveal !

The point is of course she was selling something but her company’s strategy was based on the misapprehension that she could simply call a number and the person picking up has time and the inclination to converse with a total stranger when it isn’t ever convenient and when that person doesn’t even actually know who they are talking to, their consumer wants and needs, like going into a shopping mall with a scatter gun and shooting it off randomly with the hope of a percentage killing.

Cold calling is desperate low grade marketing but must be effective and like door-stepping there must be a high percentage of refuseniks and door in the face slamming but the actually uptake, hooking, must be enough to make this vile practice pay its way. But simply do not call me.


A basic of PR and marketing is understand, know and respect your market and its customers and find appropriate ways to contact them  and present what you have on offer in ways that encourage dialogue , direct or indirect .  Don’t intrude or presume, spam or cold call and do not put anyone’s back up as they have friends who have friends who have friends and maybe they are also active on social media so word of mouth , the brand’s best friend,  could come back and seriously bite you on the butt.

Don’t call me . I’ll call you- end of story!



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Dyson says our attitude to engineering sucks

Posted in Business thoughts & my marketing services, opinion on January 8th, 2013 by John Coxon

– But  do job such jobs  prospects  exist in a vacuum?

Dyson Vac detail


In a report today from BBC News , published here ( TECHNOLOGY NEWS )British industrial designer and inventor, Sir James Dyson  speaks out and asks the government to do something  about  the haemorrhaging of  practical inventive talent with engineering graduates leaving Britain in large numbers for jobs abroad. He says too that many are  using their qualifications to go into non-engineering careers in areas where opportunities are more attractive. He claims that we are looking at a shortfall of some 60,000 qualified  engineers in the future. A significant percentage of undergraduates on engineering courses here actually come from overseas and surely return home after qualifying taking their talent and competencies with them.  

Dyson goes on to lament  that engineering research here is grossly undervalued and often very poorly paid.  He calls on the government to affect changes that would  raise the status of engineering and make it more rewarding in the hope of  reversing this worrying exodus. When you look through the list of the top British Inventions produced from a survey by the BBC, and published here , a while back in the RADIO TIMES  the list is impressive, we clearly have had the talent and a great pedigree and so many things on  that list  have impacted so positively on our daily lives and on other all over the world.  

How many everyday products in British homes are not actually British made any more ?

How many everyday products in British homes are not actually British made any more ?

But are we , if the present climate goes unchecked, likely to add  much to the list ? These days you will struggle to find evidence  of significant manufacturing industry in the UK  and also a decline in the number of people who have the requisite practical skills to drive what production there is. As more and more production moves to the East, most notably China to save on production and skilled labour costs, the market for engineers and skilled workers will continue to diminish and injecting cash into engineering  here is unlikely to cure that ill. Never before has the market place been so competitive on cost. Made in Britain products once had a global reputation when quality mattered more than cost  but even some of the most iconic British brands  are now produced oversees and some no longer even British owned.

iconic British brands like Cadbury are no longer British owned.

iconic British brands like Cadbury are no longer British owned.



Dyson is probably the most high profile entrepreneur / designer/inventor in recent years and fair enough he should use his celebrity and authority to draw attention to this issue and express his concern. But  he must know  himself that there are harsh market realities at play, basic supply and demand issues and issues of ever increasing labour and production costs which , he cannot have forgotten, had his own company move production from Malmesbury in Wiltshire  to Malaysia at the cost of some 800 jobs back in 2002. At the time they retained the Research and Development workforce at home but again that work force was rationalised in 2008 and more jobs lost but   currently,  the brand’s Research and Development base still employs 650 engineers and Scientists.

my son at work

my son at work

One of my sons  was always hand’s on , inventive , intellectually more gifted than me and a born engineer. He used my cellar workshops from an early age at first dismantling and then being able to repair things, get motorbikes working again and, for example aged just fourteen adapted a petrol driven motor mower engine and mounted it on an old motor bike to get it back and running ! He dropped out of six form, bored with Pure Maths and Physics then went  to do a motor engineering course at a local college and  eventually he was signed up to do a university motor racing engineering degree.  In the end, rashly or not, he declined the place because of his dismay at the way computer aided designed dominated the course and he wanted to remain more hands on.

motor manufacture is almost all out of our hands these days twelve  makers are foreign owned inclduing Bentley (VW) and rolls oyce (BMW)  and only four companies are still British owned and those are aimed at the  specialist.

motor manufacture is almost all out of our hands these days twelve makers are foreign owned including Bentley (VW) and Rolls Royce (BMW) and only four companies are still British owned and those are aimed at the specialist.

I am acquainted with two engineering based business’s CEOs, both for whom I have been privileged to supply with images of their stuff in action being used by international champion athletes.  One is a based in New Zealand and global brand leader in a sector of the highly competitive sport protective gear market. Like the other he is hand’s on, a serial social media poster, always happy to interact and engage with others  and both are very likeable one offs who think out of the box. The proud native Kiwi sources all materials from NZ , does all the research and development in house and only uses natives in his  work force. The other, an ex-pat Brit, lives and works now in Taiwan and drives an impressive business producing state of the art racing bikes and wheels using high tech materials but crucially everything is made by hand.  As I understand it, the move to that part of the world was purely driven by the need for a dedicated workforce that had the requisite high quality skills which he couldn’t find here. Both businesses have sound ethics and both have products which do not compromise quality for costs in the manner that made British made goods in such demand in former time even though more expensive than standard goods.  

Footnote :

My father as a boy soldier when he was an armourer

My father as a boy soldier when he was an armourer

Looking back over my own life, in the last sixty years  I have witnessed the decline of the manufacturing sector and the advance of technology at a rate which you just find hard to comprehend.

Smart phone - wireless miniaturised high tech instant access to the world wide web and instant  communications.

Smart phone – wireless miniaturised high tech instant access to the world wide web and instant communications.

I had a dad who was an engineer, both electrical and mechanical and who was a one off and did some amazing stuff first in the Army and later working as a draughtsman for the Admiralty .  He was often sent on courses by the Army to do highly specialist roles and for example worked on refrigeration and installing iron lungs in hospitals in India. My dad also had a strong code of honour – when he had finished installing the iron lungs he refused sign them over without first testing. At considerable risk, with what was then stat of the art stuff , he actually got into the things to make sure they were working safely . He was one  who made stuff, never got someone in  and repaired anything at home and my home was surrounded by hand tools. I saw that, played with mechano, messed with bikes and cars etc  as a kid and to this day I can do most stuff around the home myself even though some  of the stuff is no longer designed to be  repaired  , merely thrown away and replaced.  

I keep a tool box nearby and pride myself in being hands on and pretty self reliant

I keep a tool box nearby and pride myself in being hands on and pretty self reliant but is thaat increasingly rare ?


You wonder now where  the engineers are going to come in the future from when you look at the over sophisticated, often high tech  easy result toys kids  play with now and how fewer and fewer people , for example, will have learned practical skills from early years play let alone  how to use tools or mend things. Surely kids are more passive learners now?

Edwardian "not so smart "phone using the materials ( bakerlite and earlyu form of plastic ) & technology of the day , the telephone a British invention.

Edwardian “not so smart “phone using the materials ( bakerlite and earlyu form of plastic ) & technology of the day , the telephone a British invention.

 Then  you look overseas, particularly in countries  east of us, where many people live on so much less,  and so, many  still have artisan skills to make do and mend because it is tougher to be able  to replace stuff. They are likely to be more resourceful and able to improvise. If necessity is the mother of invention – how can new things come about when everything is there on a plate for you ? If I am right in this respect , it appears to me,  that the lack of opportunities for engineering graduates in the UK , and how here we perhaps tend to under value the profession , while we  are impressed by people like Dyson and their products,  we won’t invest in the futures of  the more inventive among us.  That is part of the global economic climate , simple supply and demand , a down side of  the modern western world economy where we are so much more price not quality led consume to doom rather than the actual makers of stuff these days.  Jobs and appointments are market led- and perhaps the reason why graduates leave and take their engineering qualifications with them is purely because the requisite jobs just aren’t here any more and very probably unlikely ever to be again.        

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