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Richard Branson and Helen

Helen and Richard Branson (Image Enigma Magazine via LinkedIn)

I have nothing against Richard Branson.

I even find some of the insights he shares quite useful at times (see Don’t listen to me about social media marketing, listen to Richard Branson).

However, his latest piece as part of the Things I Carry series on LinkedIn shows why it is important for small to medium business people to be cynical and selective in who they latch on to in the area of mentors, advice and role modelling. And why there are lessons to be learned here.

My preoccupation with today’s topic is strictly from a marketing communication viewpoint.

By the way, if you are wondering what the one thing is that Mr Branson carries with him at all times, it is an Assistant.

And when he says ‘carries with him’, he means it, almost literally.

Mr Branson’s current assistant is Helen.

As you’ll discover, for Helen to be as invaluable as Sir Richard claims, she has more overhead costs than most assistants.

What Sir Richard means by ‘assistant’

Not only is Helen charged with being Sir Richard’s external brain, she lives a life as dynamic as his, as he reveals:

  • She travels the world with me, is delightful to have around, and is extremely adaptable and sociable wherever we find ourselves
  • People often ask how I am able to keep on top of businesses in dozens of different countries and industries. Well, having an assistant who is on the ball 24/7 is one of the main ways it is possible
  • We do an awful lot of traveling and my assistant can smooth the journeys through, helping with the nitty-gritty details and logistics that would otherwise be a distraction.
  • Business travel can be pretty mundane sometimes and having company is very good for people

While I am not debating the wonderful benefits Helen must surely deliver to Sir Richard, from an SME perspective, I am not sure that many could afford to be paying double all travel costs for the luxury of someone like Helen duplicating their life.

And my argument does not centre on wages alone, but on the high risk of becoming reliant on someone else.

For a small operator, investing in the high overheads of such a jet setting assistant is one thing. Having to screech to a halt and take time to find and train a replacement when the unfortunate happens is quite another thing altogether.

From ‘virgin’ idea to useful marketing content

Was Sir Richard writing for a market of micro and SME business owners? Most likely not.

When you head up an international group that affords you wealth and an unfaltering revenue stream, you can practice your eccentricities, excesses and ‘best-practice’ principles to the full.

I, however, was reading it within the micro and SME context, which is why the advice stuck in my mind like an unexpected chicken bone in a salad served on Sir Richard’s Necker Island.

But just like some chicken bones can be considered wishbones, heralding opportunity, so too was this article.

If you felt for a moment that Sir Richard was NOT talking to you, you have just experienced what many consumers feel when they encounter poorly planned or placed marketing content.

Even though Sir Richard’s insights are valid, if you lack the resources to put them into practice the article becomes nothing other than words on a page and a few wasted moments.

Perhaps, this week, a valuable thing to do would be to choose a brochure, web page or sales spiel at random from your own marketing and investigate it deeply, from your target market’s perspective.

Does it address the questions, needs and wants that you believe drive your prospective customers to visit your website, store or search engine? Does it use questions and examples your prospects would actually care about?

Or have you gone off on a tangent, based in your own world of expertise and assumption, leaving a newcomer cold?

Of course, you could always have your assistant review them for you!

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