Preston 266001

Preston 266001.

That’s the phone number for Chorley Nissan.

If you live in Lancashire and are presently on the lookout for a new Micra, you’re probably freaking out right about now.

Feel free to join my church and hand me all your life savings…

… just make sure you don’t read the rest of this email before doing so, as you’re about to be in for one hell of a disappointment.

OK, so Chorley Nissan…

I’ll tell you why this is relevant in a second, but first, you need to know two facts about me. The first is that I’m a magician. The second? Well, about twenty years ago, I used to be a radio presenter.

Feel free to forget both of these facts immediately after reading this. There will not be a test and, unless your local pub quiz is run by the man living at the bottom of my garden, they will not prove useful.

Let’s start with the “radio presenter” bit. 

Most radio presenters are anoraks. I would be polite and call them “devoted enthusiasts”, but that seriously downplays the level of broadcast stalking they do.

Radio presenters know absolutely everything about what’s going on at every local radio station.

When I wanted to get into radio, I used to scour my local paper, checking the listings for all the local stations. It was the first thing I did, every day, when the paper landed on the doormat.

Honestly. If the headline read, “Melinda Messenger* seeks Northern wannabee DJ and Poirot fanatic for lust-filled, energetic romps”, I’d have missed it in my rush to see who was covering overnights on Rock FM.

*Sod off, it was twenty years ago. Also, I think the word “energetic” would have put me off a bit.

So, I’d check the paper…

“Oh, Craig Beck is doing the weekday late show…”

“I see Jordan got the boot from breakfast!”

“Look at the imbecile they’ve got doing Thursday nights at Blackpool Hospital Radio?”**

**Yep. Me.

This level of anorakism (probably not a real word) extended well beyond checking the local paper.

I used to listen to the radio all the time. What competition is Radio Wave running on the breakfast show? How often are they doing traffic bulletins on drive? Maybe this is why I’m alone, miserable and failing my A-Levels?

A side effect of this behaviour meant that I was also exposed to massive amounts of adverts. Fortunately – unlike having your lacklustre coffee table repaired to look glossy and new by Jim’s French Polishing – you’d never be able to notice.

Yep, listening to radio ads had no impact on me whatsoever.

So, if you’re coffee table has lost its sparkle, sit back and “Shellacs” with Jim’s French Polishing. Call Wigan 65 55 45 now, that’s Wigan 65 55 45. Terms and condition apply.

Anyway, this is where “Preston 266001” comes in. Or, more correctly, *singing the jingle* “Preston two double six… doooouble oh oneeeee”…

A few months ago, I got a magic gig performing at Chorley Nissan for the launch of their new car, the “[if I haven’t written it in here, you’ll know I couldn’t be arsed to go back and check]”.

As soon as I read the words, “Chorley Nissan”, I was singing the phone number.


Twenty bloody years!

But I still remembered the phone number.

Let’s talk about familiarity.

They say that familiarity breeds contempt.

I guess we’ll find out whether that’s true or not over the coming weeks, but, for now, let’s focus on what happens BEFORE we start ordering pins on Amazon and Googling “how to make a voodoo doll”.

We know from smarter people than me (Daniel Kahneman, Amon Tversky and former CBBC presenter Andi Peters to name just three) that we humans have a bias for the familiar – we naturally opt for things, people, places, dogging location and foods that we recognise and understand. 

We find safety and solace in the familiar.

It might be the one face we recognise in the crowd at a local pensioner cage fighting match, the personalised “ding” of your mistresses text alert, or the gentle touch of Gary, the well-muscled – yet sensitive – masseur who knows his way around your carpal tunnel syndrome like the back of your hands.

There’s a lot of comfort in being able to say, “I know what that is!”

Customers will choose/pay/go with things that they recognise.

We can tap into this as business owners by being consistent – both in who we are and how often we show up.

‘John sends an email every Monday and Thursday, so I know I better refresh my skills on using the “delete without reading” feature the night before.’

‘I’d recognise that image layout anywhere. Mum’s on Canva again… Get her carers on the phone!’

‘Yay! It’s Friday – pizza night!’

To be familiar, you need to give people a pattern that they can identify, follow and predict.

“I’ve seen this before, so this means that…”

“This movie looks great… hang on, it’s got Nicolas Cage in it…”

As entrepreneurs, we’re told to do everything we can to be different and stand out from the crowd, and, while we should totally do this, we should be a “reliable constant” too. 

Customers need to be able to get a good “feel” for what we’re about. We need to give them something to grab onto.

You can’t be a friendly and familiar face if people have no idea what you’re going to do next, so starting being consistent in WHAT you say, HOW you say it, WHEN you say it and WHERE you say it.

And, if you can’t do that with your words, at least outsource it to a weird chap in Cheshire!