What’s your story arc?

With the nights drawing in a new TV season is upon us. There have been some great new series released; The Crown, Andor and of course, the finale of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here (don’t ask… ).

Yet with this new raft of entertainment also comes the specter of binge-watching TV.

Getting sucked in

It is all too easy to lose an evening watching a TV series. They seem to have really mastered the formula for compelling viewing… just one more episode, you say, only to turn around at 12:30 am to wonder just where the evening has gone and what exactly has been achieved (apart from learning more about N-S9 Starpath Units!).

It is a problem.

On sitting down you are of course looking forward to the episode, wondering what will happen and how will they resolve the situation from the end of the last episode… for it to be only set up again with a new cliffhanger… you are compelled to keep watching… go on just one more.. this is how you lose an entire evening!

A solution

But, I have a strategy! It is my 50-50 watching strategy, a solution to regain back control.

The realization was that you really do not have to watch an entire episode to the end… I can actually stop halfway through… it will be there tomorrow as it is not live TV (yes, it was a real thing, pre-VHS in the ’70s and ’80s and clearly engrained in my brain)!

By watching midpoint to midpoint, I found I can break the cycle. It means you get to watch both story cliffhanger and resolution each time, finish satisfied and avoid the next episode setup. If they have very episodic stories, for the most part, it works a treat.

Story arcs – for TV

All of this got me thinking about series, plots, and in particular their story arcs. Most series, it seems, are written with multiple arcs;

  • One within the episode itself – it has a start, an end, fulfilling in itself
  • One across multiple episodes – this is what compels us to watch the next episode
  • One across the season – An underlying story that keeps us engaged across the season
  • One across the entire series – a wider story arc tying it all together into a bigger narrative.

We all know of shows which have been wildly popular, yet run out of road, yet others just keep on going.

A series can survive episode to episode, or even for a season, without a longer story arc. But to be really successful all elements are needed, to keep you engaged and coming back for more.

Story arcs – for life and work

And, much of this is an analogy for our own lives, careers and businesses too. We all have our narratives and story arcs ourselves…

  • Short ones: the mystery of what’s for lunch, taking a break and how to relax
  • Medium ones: looking forward to events and conferences, holidays, striving to meet your annual goals or targets
  • Long-term: Completing qualifications, buying a house, building a family, owning a business, international expansion
  • Longest term: Lifetime achievements

And, we all play leading, A-lister, roles in these stories too.

Why this is important

Yet with the end of the pandemic, changes to the economy, the energy market, and international unrest, it does feel as if we are at a moment where multi-story arcs are finishing.

Of course, there are still things to look forward to, but they are short or medium-term, long term is seemingly harder at the moment, in such an uncertain world.

Yet, as we have seen from the world of TV, having those longer-term plans is so important. They keep us engaged, interested and motivated, striving to do more. We need to create a compelling series for our lives and businesses, not just to survive for another season, but to thrive to the end of the entire series.

So, despite the uncertainty, it feels like maybe it is time to put pen to paper to create some new storylines, plot new ways of doing things and refresh the longer-term outlook… after all what is the wider story you want to tell and your business achieve?

And, the good news… this is something you can do in front of TV…!

Have a good week everyone.

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Think Tank round up

Last week was the Credit Connect Think Tank, now live again in Manchester.

It is always great to be at these events and is especially refreshing when there are new topics to cover.

This year was no different and being the day of the autumn statement there was definitely some nervous anticipation about what it may bring.

In the end, the chancellor’s statement was well-briefed and largely as expected. Both the market and industry reaction, therefore, seemed relatively calm… and somewhat predictable… it was all very reassuring I thought, which was positive (especially in comparison to what happened last time in the mini-budget).

It’s not raining, but economic clouds are building

Industry-wise there was however not much reassurance mind you.

Everyone still seems to be expecting hard times ahead… energy prices, mortgage payment increases, inflation and food inflation… it is all doom and gloom… with the odd shaft of light such as low unemployment rates.

However, and this is the surprise, across the sector we are still not seeing increased levels of arrears…and reportedly no-one is really seeing these to any great degree yet. Banking, Credit Cards, Motor Finance and also in areas such as debt collections and utilities, are all seeing a similar pattern.

Customers are clearly worried thought (and calling providers in customer care), but, by and large it appears we are still waiting for this to hit the collections process… The question now is whether pressure building, like pressure behind a damn and pressure that can break at once… a scary thought indeed… something we need to get ready for…

Where will we see impacts?

Obviously, there is already focus on those that are struggling, younger and older alike. However much of the discussion on the day focused on what is expected to be a new cohort of customers entering collections.

Many of these customers may have been managing just fine last year, but now with energy, mortgage, car payments, and food prices all increasing will be starting to find it hard to stay ahead financially, and this will be a new experience… many will never have been in Collections before.

Engaging these customers need to be a priority too.

With many still habouring preconceptions of the collections industry, this group, in particular, may need special attention (strategies) to help them get comfortable with getting support when they need it. (there is also a wider discussion around a wider branding and marketing for the collections sector… but for another time). Something to think through.

Pre-arrears

One solution proposed was to focus on pre-arrears volumes. Building relationships with customers now will be invaluable for all parties should they fall into arrears later.

To do this borrowing strategies from marketing can be effective. Contact priming, testing and learning can all be helpful in getting in contact.

And, once in contact… what you say then is also important… to help them take action to make things better.

Make sure any message is relatable, in language and terms the customer understands can be critica and ensuring you have a diverse workforce, with backgrounds that reflect your customer base was a really good suggestion to help here.

New ways of working coming up?

So with 2023 expecting to be a troubled year, we also wanted to look forward, more optimistically, to the future and what comes next.

Of course, in any adversity also comes the need for new ways of working, and with that need comes opportunity and new solutions. It is likely that this will happen too, so eyes and ears open.

Looking forward

In the short term – Data, segmentation, Open Banking were new technologies and methodologies that are around today and can be leveraged more to help now.

Longer term the discussion was around the meta-verse. Now, to date, this has been largely dismissed in common discussion and it was interesting to now see this start to gain some traction… it may be one to watch.!

All in all a great event last week, lots to think about.

Many thanks to Colin White and the team at Credit Connect for the privilege to chair the event again this year… thanks to all who took part, attended, and got involved

Enjoy the rest of this week everyone.

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Drinking from the firehose – of information

I have always been a bit of a news fiend. Originally with extensive periodical/magazine subscriptions, I then started reading news online particularly via RSS feeds. I then had to mourn their loss as these were largely culled in favour of social media… and as a result, I now have now become glued to Twitter.

Twitter has undoubtedly become indispensable and a firehose of information.

Constantly checking the latest developments, often a day before being reported in mainstream media and 2 days before anything in print, I find it somewhat addictive.

This is all part of this accelerating feedback cycle we also see in business. More data, more opinions, all the time. We have become to expect a level in recency of data, that was only available previously via very expensive Bloomberg or Reuters terminals… and as a result, I have been watching Elon Musk’s takeover with some interest.

Just a blue tick?

Now I admitted don’t have a lot of Twitter followers and I also don’t have a blue tick.
Would I like one, probably, would I pay $8 a month for one, probably not.

However, the whole debate about the ‘blue tick’ and its value is interesting, not just because of the tick itself, but also what it says about customers/suppliers and products/users. Essentially there appear to be two points of view.

  • On one hand. Those with a blue tick, already verified and with benefits, are saying… “why should I pay for something I have already… I have worked hard to get a wide following, and it reflects my status… don’t want to be impersonated”. I would feel the same.
  • On the other. For those without a blue tick… “I also don’t want to be impersonated. I don’t have any benefits because and feel like a second-class citizen, just because I am not famous enough to have one and I would be quite happy to be verified”… (not bitter here btw, no not at all! lol 🙂 )

I suspect most of both groups would be quite happy to pay for verification, although $8 a month does seem expensive for what appears after all as a news feed.

Just a news feed?

However, underlying this seemingly straighforward adjustment is a wider change and approach to the business model. It has clarified thinking around suppliers, customers, products, and users.

  • Those with a blue tick are now suppliers/customers – supplying information/posts, and for a fee getting extra visibility
  • Those without, now users, those whom the blue tick group are looking to engage, and therefore also the product.

Much of this was blurred before. We muddled through. But, it is now clear and as a result, by extension, we can now expect the following

  • More major corporate and media companies dominating on Twitter, feeding information and links to drive people to their sites and products (and measurable click-throughs to measure any return)
  • More reporting on user demographics, and targeting, for posts
  • Payment for these products, within the Twitter ecosystem(?)
  • Non-blue tick users – now more restricted to commenting and sharing, all as a measure of engagement with those suppliers (with blue ticks).

For much of my interaction with the platform, all of this is fine. I mainly comment, share and read posts anyway.

However, there is an issue and it will not be with news posts from major media outlets, but from those people on the ground, in the know.

These are the source of much of my accelerated news and most are without huge followings or resources. Like me, they are unlikely to pay $8 a month, but without them it could undermine some of the most valuable content on the platform, making Twitter less unique and less useful. We will have to wait and see.

A lesson for the rest of us?

Yet, there is a lesson for us in watching all of this unfold.

  • Despite growing to a huge size, maybe Twitter did not understand fully who its suppliers, users, customers, and products were clearly enough. This is important, do this early, before this becomes too hard.
  • Clarifying the model, making it much simpler, allows you to see more clearly into the future and what needs to be done.
  • However, making this too simplistic, may also mean you undermine your core business proposition. Understand inter-related moving parts and be honest about what your product is really used for, why and by whom.

The end of Twitter… the end of an era?

Of course, all of this may also be a moot point… the mood music last week was that Twitter may not be around much longer… even Elon Musk was talking about bankruptcy.

With both Twitter (and Facebook) making layoffs, it feels, in some ways, the end of another era… Dot.com_v2, if you will. Is this another bubble is bursting and will we see a return to normality for working environments and salaries in the sector (and by extension influencing other sectors too)? Maybe, this could be a sign.

These companies started in an era where there was unbridled optimism in digital technology, openly sharing ideas, and data, building products quickly, and failing faster.

We may be returning to a more mature, risk-averse, if not slightly inward-looking, approach… it certainly matches the current economic mood.

For one, I hope not, as it has given us such amazing change and it will be hard to go back. This, however, may be upon us, we will just have to wait and see.

For now, I am being forced to contemplate life without Twitter, and a return to an earlier time. Where I will get my news updates… maybe I will get my RSS feeds back… or even better, maybe even the return of the tea trolley, but that is a story for another day!

Have a good week everyone.

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