My First Club Run!

I've just got back from a relaxing week away in the Lake District but before I left I ventured out on my first ever club run.

A number of people, from Dave Hinde to cyclists on my training runs, have always said that looking at my sportive times I would benefit from a joining a club. My local club is Weaver Valley who have a fantastic reputation around Northwich, they produce a number of big road races and their riders are always visible every weekend. Although they are well known to be a competitive club they are also very well known for being friendly and welcoming to new riders.

I've always said that I would join the club when I felt my fitness was ready, I didn't want to go in half heartedly, I wanted to prove I'm up for it and I'm committed. Training has been going well recently, putting in some nice miles so I holding my breath I went down to Hartford Social Club to join in on the weekly Sunday run. There would be a choice of a long and short route, what could go wrong?!

I turned up half an hour early hoping to get to know a couple of people before the ride. As it happened I befriended a young guy called Dylan who had been riding for a few months before everyone else arrived.

There was about 30 of us and the guy who usually takes the rides was away on holiday. It was decided we were going to Wrexham (gulp!!), well at this point I couldn't say no thanks could I?! Fancy whimping out already on my first run and we hadn't even pulled out of the car park!!

So off we went, the route taking us past Beeston Castle and winding through beautiful quiet country lanes, the scenery was just incredible. The warm breeze felt amazing. On the way there the route took up a couple of climbs, the first couple I managed no problem and felt confident at the front.

Then we came to a tough climb. It was about a mile in length, the beginning easy enough in the big ring but it had you peeling back to the small ring in the last half before really ramping during the last quarter.

I was overtaken and the last quarter it was just me. I kept my eye on the last man who was about 10 seconds ahead of me and tried to keep up my pace. My eyes were bulging out my sockets, my heart was pounding but eventually I got to the top.

I was sure I had been dropped and they would have gone on without me but as I looked up there was a rider at the top waiting. I didn't know whether to feel happier to have made it to the top or that someone had bothered to wait for a newbie like me. As I turned the corner I couldn't believe it, they were all there waiting for me. I whimpered out a "sorry for holding you up guys" and kept going on. Everyone was really nice about it but I didn't want to stop, I wanted to show determination but it took a good 15 minutes of hanging off the back for me to recover.

The ride there had been good and when we stopped at the Garden Centre cafe I took the opportunity to introduce myself to a few people. I found a spare seat at a table with Jed, Malcolm and John. They weregreat. I think they were quite taken back that this was my first ever club run. Supposedly a club run would never have been this hard for a cycling club novice "we definitely wouldn't have done that hill for starters"!

The ride was flat all the way back and I took the time to talk to more people. I spoke to one guy who had been with the club for a few months who said "don't worry it's not normally this tough, the rides are normally shorter, this is the longest, hardest and fastest we've done in ages". Great!! So the first ride I decide to do it's one of the tough ones!!

The tempo was good all the way home and I managed to keep with the group until about 5 miles from home when I got detached up a drag. I think word had spread that this was my first club run and as everyone peeled off I got a pat on the back and "great ride mate" which did wonders for my confidence, it was great to know I hadn't let anyone down.

I loved the ride. It was great to talk to like minded cyclists, it was great to feel part of a team, everyone was really friendly, loads of great advice and can't wait for the next one. If anyone is reading this from Weaver Valley from that ride - thanks very much for your help, much appreciated.

My membership is definitely in the post and can't wait for the next one after Blackpool.

For anyone worried about joining a club, just make sure you're fit, doing 40 miles non-stop and at a good pace. Once you're doing that get involved, dig deep and you'll make some great friends.

My Advert Of The Year

Just fabulous, brilliantly executed by Specsavers Creatives Simon Bougourd and Neil Brush, and I think it was directed by Darren Walsh.

Makes me smile everytime.

Are you checking out??

Just been passed a really interesting article on the Checkout Abandonment on websites.

The article is an introduction into the Checkout Authorisation Guide by Dr Mike Baxter, which I'm yet to read. It explains that the main reason for customers not committing to purchases in their website shopping baskets is due to high hidden costs such as postage. This is the same result from two separate surveys where around 40% of people questionned said that high costs at the end of the shopping experience put them off buying.

So retailers need to be more open about charges. It's an age old tactic that retailers make a lot of profit on marking up postage costs. I don't know of anyone who has charged the exact amount for postage when selling personal items on e-bay.

If you're clever about being upfront with customers you could look at selling more goods. Remembering Behavioural Economics, people look at the most ethical option for them. For example if the postal options are laid out £5 for up to 2 items and £7 for up to 4 items. People may be encouraged to buy a couple more items because it is only an extra £2 in postage.

Look at your sales figures, what are your average items per purchase? Again using Behavioural Economics you can look to increase sales by illustrating the high postage cost for multiple items. So for example, if you know you normally sell on average 3 items per sale, why don't you illustrate the high postage cost of buying 10+ items, so it then makes buying 3 items seem a bargain.

Look now, buy later

Another interesting aspect from the Checkout Abandonment research saw 65% of people not purchase as they weren't ready and saving for later. (The article does mention that 41% were not ready and 24% were saving for later - personally I would put "not ready" and "saving for later" together).

This brings the need for Wishlists to be added to e-commerce sites rather than just a shopping basket, this is a nice technique allowing people to put a side a couple of items for another day and concentrate on items that matter most. The Wishlist gives an escape route if the total amount is getting too heavy for the customer.

Imagine it like when you've walked up to the checkout in HMV with 6 DVDs, you've debated long and hard about spending £20 on 6 DVDs and is it worth it. You've decided it is but as you stand in the queue in those final moments you decide just to go for the 3 for £10 and you leave the other 3 on a nearby shelf. I'm sure we've all been there.

You will see a similar thing happening in a lot in stores like Primark. Primark is crammed full of items, the shopping baskets are designed to hold large volume of items and is set up for compulsive buying. People throw in item after item into the shopping basket, tempted by the relatively low cost of the items available. What you will see though, as you approach the checkouts, are people around the edge of the room checking through shopping baskets and putting unwanted items on random rails before making their purchases.

I bet you can name a time where you've wanted to buy an item, decided against it but hidden it away from other buyers at the back of a random rail for you to come back later should you still be interested. The hold or wish list works in a same way.

These are big decisions. We work twice as hard to keep an item than we do to gain one. I can relate to that when buying music, I can create a list of music in 15 minutes but it can take me up to an hour to decide which ones to buy to meet my budget. Those that I decide not to buy I will put in my holdlist for future reference.

The wish or hold list helps people out, it gives them the option. The important thing is to then focus on targeted mailings from those items that are left in Wishlist to make sure they do come back.

Behavioural Economics

Work is part of the IPA (Institute of Practitioners of Advertising). Only 270 agencies are part of the IPA, however those agencies that are part of the IPA are the real deal handling to 85% + of the whole UK advertising spend.

It is quite a tough process to be accepted and once you're in it is hard work to stay there as the targets of hitting CPD can be quite strenuous in a busy advertising agency. That said it is a fantastic industry body which provides a huge amount of resources to aid with improving business/marketing knowledge. A lot of major brands will only consider agencies part of the IPA as they know the level of Personal Development learning involving in being a member.

One piece of knowledge the IPA have been sharing recently is Behavioural Economics. Although the Theorem is decades old, notably coming about in the 1950s, it is relatively new in study. You know when people are winning Noble awards based on their research into Behavioural Economics that it is something to be taking notice of!

Behavioural Economics is a challenge on Classical Economics where the methodology was based on all human beings thinking and acting the same when it comes to decisions. A methodology I didn't agree with in the first place. Behavioural Economics looks at psychological decisions people make when making a purchase.

This new study is vital to the growth of marketing, where marketing has been considered simply ideology in the past and brand value not taken into account on the boardroom spreadsheet, Behavioural Economics gives fresh science to how the customer behaves and how important developing brands and marketing strategies needs to be.

A good example of this is an area of Behavioural Economics called "Price Perception". It looks at how a well developed brand can charge more to a product than a competitor. In mental acuity tests, those that chose the more expensive energy drink believed they performed better than the cheaper competitor when in fact is the cheaper energy drink had exactly the same ingredients. The same with medication, people spent more on over-the-counter drugs believing they were better when in fact the only variable was price.

Price Perception is a huge area in the health and pharmaceutical sector and always commented on by my girlfriend Becky. A cough medicine will be advertised on TV, and the next day people will be immediately buying the product despite the Dispensers advice that their current medication is cheaper and better.

With better marketing companies can create powerful brands which in effect can create them more profit. Hopefully the tables will turn and advertising agencies will invited into the boardroom to discuss company growth away from current alternatives of redundancies, outsourcing etc etc.

There are numerous other areas to discuss in behavioural decision making - ever notice that rarely does someone buy the most expensive bottle of wine or meal from the menu? Due to Choice Architecture people choose relative to what they can have, not absolutely what they want thus the most expensive items on the menu rarely have a great deal of profit attached to them compared to other items but create gravitas. It is the same reason why Rolls Royce sells cars at Yacht shows. A £200,000 Rolls Royce looks great value next to £5 million pounds worth of yacht.

It is why Audi spends millions advertising the Audi R8. How many people are going to be able to afford the Audi R8? Not many. How many can afford the A3 & A4? Millions. Because people think relative, they buy into dream of the R8, they can't afford that but buy into the model they can to be part of the experience.

Virgin are fantastic at building a brand. Their Virgin Mobile business is a Virtual Mobile Network Operator which basically piggybacks an existing mobile network(T-Mobile). It is the brand which you buy into, the tariff and customer service - the network is exactly the same as you would get if you joined T-Mobile direct.

Did you know that when in a telephone holding queue rather than telling the customer that "their call will be answered in x minutes", actually telling them to callback later makes people not hang up and hold on. This is because people work twice as hard to keep something than they do to obtain something.

With better marketing, companies can create powerful brands which in effect can create them more profit. Hopefully the tables will turn and advertising agencies will invited into the boardroom to discuss company growth away from current alternatives of redundancies, outsourcing etc etc.