Learning the hard way

If you learn from your mistakes, the Churchill Club’s meeting program has been one long learning experience.

Learning the hard way

Brendan Lewis

A while ago I wrote about Tactical Marketing Management. But I have recently had another insight about the Strategic Marketing of the Churchill Club.

In fact, I just realised what my product actually was. Sounds dumb, but it’s true.

When I first set up the Churchill Club, it was going to mirror the activities of the original Churchill Club in San Francisco. However, I soon discovered that most globally influential technology executives don’t live in Australia, the venture capital community here is fairly risk-averse and our technology entrepreneurs are too busy to talk.

So for the past two years or so, the Churchill Club has been running a wide variety of programs to determine what kind of content and format could actually work. We ran public events at hotels, morning, noon and night.

We ran private dinners at restaurants and out of our offices. We covered IT, nanotechnology, sport, entrepreneurship, innovation policy, venture capital, governance and town planning. We had guests of honour, keynote speakers and panels, day-long programs and two-hour events.

The problem was that almost every time we ran an event we were marketing to a new audience, because our topics were so diverse. What’s more, we could never really plan ahead because we didn’t know who we had available to speak, or what our topic was going to be.

Of course I got lot of advice; advice that I should just focus on venture capital / technology / innovation / leadership. Advice that I should get high-profile speakers / panels. Advice that I should run more / fewer events. Advice that I should market to real entrepreneurs / armchair entrepreneurs / public servants / CEOs.

Terrific. Lots of advice, most contradictory. And sometimes when I ran suggested events, they were successful, sometimes, spectacularly unsuccessful. The advice giver normally expressed surprise that people didn’t flock to their suggested event in droves. I, of course, had to put my hand in my pocket, which made me more and more risk-averse.

Mostly I struggled to get more than 50 people to turn up. Sometimes we made money, sometimes we lost. The Churchill Club may be a not-for-profit, but that doesn’t mean we can make losses.

The story is probably not unfamiliar to you. Change the names and products and you have a regular startup story.

Next Week: My three insights.

To read more Brendan Lewis blogs, click here.



Luke writes: Customer Learns The Hard Way! Unable to get PA product for my ADHD. I have just been diagnosed with ADHD, I am 35 and struggling to hold my life together. I was told by many Nokia N95 users that many 3rd party features available on it would help me make a new start. Many people have had them for months now in Australia. There is no excuse. Use your consumer powers people, and help bring Telstra to its knees. If we do it before another company turns up who actually thinks about and listens to what their customers really need and want, we will miss all the fun!

I wonder if Telstra shareholders know that you can’t get a Nokia N95 in Australia if you have a Telstra contract? They blame Nokia’s earlier products, but isn’t it interesting that Telstra will have them (at an unknown future time) but with Telstra chips in them? Mmmmm, me wonder, what do the chips do? Let me guess, help Telstra customers by fixing all existing and future glitches and a complete faulty product warranty? No. Telstra won’t do that because they couldn’t give a toss about their customers.

There is no other way to say it, and no excuse for it. Telstra decision makers: if your colleagues can, I hope they boot you out before my three weeks waiting for your N95-Telstra Chip version. Then I’ll have a bigger smile as I sign up with a customer service focused phone company and deliberately avoid every one of your products until you fall. Totally annoyed, sorry!


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