Saturday, 28 July 2007

The Great North-South Divide

Jim Symcox interviewed me yesterday. He asked how events that I ran (for Barclays) in the North compared with the South - a loaded question, I suspect, as he runs the Manchester Blog.

To quote from the interview:

  1. Northerners are more friendly, more chatty and more blunt, or straight forward (eg Oldham)
  2. Southerners are less accessible, they’re “lean back” people rather than “lean forward”
  3. Londoners are very much busier, everyone is time poor and has shorter attention spans

Before everyone 'flames' me, please note that these were huge generalisations!

In the full interview I also talked about the provinces - I believe that the best business networks are usually found in the smaller cities and towns (eg Truro, Newmarket), slightly off the beaten track: the business community is smaller, tighter and tends to work harder and more together.

But the fact is that doing business is different in different parts of the country. So, are you a Northern business or a Southern business? How does it affect how you do business with others? Could you be missing a trick?

Prove me wrong! Sign up to one of the forthcoming Let's Talk events and get me to eat my hat!

Newmarket Let's Talk Event : "one of the best! but why?"
North and South Divide Reveals Attitude

Sign up to
Let's Talk Bright Marketing and Let's Talk More Profit events - some 20 events across the UK - and they are FREE to attend (225 pounds is the standard price)

Friday, 27 July 2007

Whitewash - Greenwash: who cares if your business is green?

To paraphrase an article by Wendy Melillo and Steve Miller in last July's Brandweek,
  1. Consumers are growing increasingly confused over what it means to be "green"
  2. Is it about the environment, organic food or 'good-for-you' living? It could be about all of those things
  3. It is easy to say you are green, but consumers are skeptical.
  4. Because everyone wants to jump on the green bandwagon, all of a sudden it is noisy in this space, and it is hard to break through.
A study found that 64% of respondents couldn't name a "green" brand; 51% of those who considered themselves to be environmentally conscious were unable to name one.

"As much as the term has been tossed around, many people . . . are unclear as to what it means," the study reported.

What does being green mean for your business? Ask yourself the following:
  1. Do you know what being green really means for a business like yours? Does anyone else?
  2. Will having "green" credentials improve your business?
  3. Is the "green" thing just a cynical marketing ploy to get customers on your side? Isn't it all just "greenwashing"? And if so, what are you going to do? - join the bandwagon?
  4. How can you square multinationals like Nestle's, BP and Shell claiming to be green when clearly many of their activities appear to run in the face of the ethos of the "green" movement?
  5. Can you afford not to be green?

If green is the new black... what are you going to do about it?

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Homer Simpson publicity stunt - makes me smile

Pagans have pledged to perform "rain magic" to wash away a cartoon character painted next to their famous fertility symbol - the Cerne Abbas giant...! A doughnut-brandishing Homer Simpson was painted next to the giant on the hill above Cerne Abbas, Dorset, to promote the new Simpsons film - it must have been a publicity stunt this one!!!

Go to see the BBC video footage or read about it at the BBC website.
I love it! A stroke of genius - something to to talk about!

Quote of the week "I'm amazed they got permission to do something so ridiculous" Ann Bryn-Evans, Pagan Federation

Friday, 20 July 2007

How Do Venture Capitalists Evaluate Your Business Proposition?

I recently worked with some European VCs on an awards process for biotech companies etc. What I found fascinating was the set of criteria used to evaluate each company presentation.

Companies were scored out of 10 on the following criteria:
  1. General business idea
  2. Key technology
  3. Product pipeline
  4. Competitive advantage
  5. International strategy
  6. Sales & distribution channels
  7. Management team
  8. Financial situation
  9. Exit strategy
These criteria - big broad issues and criteria - are an alternative to the FiMO and RECoIL scores used in 'Kick-Start Your Business' (where you look at a business's 'performance to date' and 'potential to grow'). FiMO and RECoIL are used by several leading institutions in the banking and business support industries in the UK.

Remember, an attractive business (to an investor) has the following attributes (consistent with the list above!):
  • Underlying, repeatable, sustainable profits
  • Reference and trophy clients
  • Distinctive capabilities – things that make you unique
  • Core competences or strategic assets – what you are really good at
  • A senior team to take it to the next stage.
Do score yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is a low score and 10 is a high score... What are you going to do now, today, to improve your scores? Stop messing around at the edge of your business and start to make the tough decisions to take the business to the next stage.

RELATED ARTICLES:Getting Off To A Flying Start - article from The Director Magazine
Escape Options - buy, sell or exit? an article

Kick-Start Your Business - the book

Thursday, 19 July 2007

A Great Event in Newmarket!

I was asked, "So, when you do your Let's Talk events around the country what makes a great workshop or seminar? Why are some better than others?". A great question.

The Newmarket Let's Talk More Profit seminar sprung to mind.

I won't bother you with the detail.

100 guests arrived (only 90 had booked in!), the Barclays team who were running the event 'meeted and greeted"(?) with charm and courtesy and so we squeezed all 100 guests plus 10 Barclays hosts on to ten tables designed for seven people per table. And then the event kicked into gear and was one of the buzziest, fun, stimulating events for months.

Newmarket delegates were keen/challenging/enthusiastic/passionate/willing to talk about their businesses/honest/thoughtful; these people reacted to the 'More Profit' agenda ("how can you increase your profit? how? how?") to create a great event.

But having fun on the day is the easy bit; the real proof of the pudding is in what happened to the delegates after they left.

Feedback to date was astounding:
"I have put prices up 10% and it hasn't put anyone off."
"I went back to the office and sacked my customers from hell - I feel so much better."
"I have phoned every one of my Top Twenty clients and asked for more business - so simple, so obvious."
"Sales up 20%, profits up 25%, smile on face up, up, up!

My point is not about me but about what makes a great event. The recipe seems to be:
- A hungry audience - so give them what they want
- Content and material that works for the audience - so give them stuff they can take away and use
- a great welcome/farewell - so make sure all your meeters/greeters/hosts/hostesses are 100% 'up for it'.

And thanks once again to everyone at Newmarket for making an event that went with a zing: Dave, Anthony, Mark, Sue and the team from Barclays; and delegates from Webuseful, Uniqlooks, March, Welham, SP and too many to mention.

Let's Talk... More Profit Formulae

Let's Talk... More Profit the events and the new diary!

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

The Great Global Warming Swindle

After numerous heated debates about Global Warming and the Dispatches TV programme, The Global Warming Swindle, I suggest that you go and look at it in its entirety on the Australian version of YouTube. This programme is very provocative, especially if you believe that the end of the world is imminent.

The green movement's supporters and opponents have created what can only be described as 'Fundamentalists' on both sides - Seth Godin characterised fundamentalists by two specific traits:

- they live according to a large body of superstitions

- they are right and everyone else is wrong.

"Fundamentalists decide whether they can accept a new piece of information based on how it will affect their prior belief system, not based on whether it is actually true."

Bear this in mind as you watch!

Seth Godin
Great Global Warming Swindle

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Why I Bought the 'Mail on Sunday'

I am not a regular reader of the 'Mail on Sunday'.

However this Sunday was different -we went to four different newsagents before we could find a copy. And the reason it had sold out was its special offer of the new Prince CD. Later that day I went to a barbecue - they had a copy of it there and everyone talked about it.

What a coup for the Mail on Sunday - amidst all the noise of special/free/two-for-the-price-of-one/unique serialisations/holiday offers and all the other nonsense the news industry use to supposedly woo us to buy their papers, the MoS was head and shoulders above the rest - I wouldn't describe it as a 'once in a life-time offer' but it was pretty good (if you like Prince).

As a result, will the MoS get more people switching to buy their paper more often? I don't know...Or were they just trying to increase sales for one week?

At its simplest, to grow a business you can:

  1. Increase the size of the market - and this offer must have got more people buying the Sunday papers if only temporarily, or
  2. Take customers from your competitors - I am sure that this did that, if only temporarily.
Anyone who has been to one of my recent Let's Talk seminars will know how passionate I am about the Three Plus One ways to grow your business:
  1. Get more customers (expensive)
  2. Get existing customers to buy more (easier)
  3. Get existing customers to but more often (sometimes easy - unless you are a funeral director or divorce lawyer)
  4. Stop customers leaving.

It seems that the MoS gets ticks in all four boxes. But will this tactic improve their sales in the long run?

Chris Garrett also saw the MoS and uses it as a catalyst to ask Does Your Website Have These Friendly Features? . He asks, "Take a good look at the picture above. What do you see? Consider what the publishers have done. Can you understand how they draw us in?" Worth reading.

Boost Your Bottom Line - some simple but powerful ways to improve profitability

Bright Marketing - why should people bother to buy from you?

Monday, 16 July 2007

"Post Office - a trusted and reliable brand!!" and my wife's new hairdresser!

The Mail On Sunday reports that "PO staff tell of hard-sell tactics that threaten the trusted High Street giant's reputation".

The article goes on that "there are growing fears that Royal Mail's most precious asset - its reputation as a trusted and reliable brand - will be tarnished by management's determination to boost revenues and profitability".

Meanwhile let me tell you of a great Bright Marketer - my wife's new hairdresser!
  • He phones you up after you have had your hair done to make sure everything is OK (brilliant idea that!)!
  • He offers you big discounts if you successfully invite a friend to go to his salon (a great way to grow his business through referrals from raving fans and ambassadors!)!
  • He trains his staff in customer service by sending them all to go to the Post Office to see how NOT to treat customers (need I say more!)!

So the Mail on Sunday talks about the Post Office's "precious asset -its reputation" meanwhile this hairdresser uses the PO as the classic example of how not to do customer service.

I am with the hairdresser on this one.

10 Ways To Keep Your Customers Happy
Exceeding Customer Expectations - a seven point plan

Sunday, 15 July 2007

If Today is Sunday then Tomorrow is MoAday

Yes - I did write MoAnday - after something we had to instigate with our kids when they were younger.

Don't you sometimes get fed up with certain people moaning - nothing is right... nothing is good enough... You know the characters, they focus 95% of their energy on the 5% that isn't quite right; they find it almost impossible to offer a compliment or say "yes" or "thank you" or "that's great". Well, I might have the solution for you.

MoAnday is basically a NO-MOANING DAY, a moan-free day. We chose to create a MoAnday so that we had a day when a particular child wasn't allowed to moan - and it is not as easy to not moan all day as you might think.

  • Instigate a MoAnday in your workplace - who would you forward to be the first candidate? or should it apply to everyone - you might want to start with a one hour session!

  • What would the effect be on the others in the in office?

  • What might be different? How might things change?

  • Would your customers/clients be affected?

If it worked in our household then I am sure that it will work in your workplace!


Seize the Day - Carpe Diem by Robert Craven

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Walking in the Shadow of the Valley of Death

Will Critchlow has made a post after attending my Wednesday seminar in London. He discusses the session on growing your business while watching profits crash...

"The one piece of advice that has stuck with me and been bugging me ever since is a little chart he drew of what he called the ‘valley of death’. He said that, as a skilled sole-trader practitioner, you could (depending on your industry, of course) perhaps make £100,000 / year. As soon as you start employing a person or two, your profit tends to decline (with rising overheads, the distraction factor and the time taken for an employee to become fully productive for you).

"He said that it isn’t until somewhere over on the right that you tend to get back up to decent profitability (perhaps making £100k profit on turnover of £0.5-1 million). The number of employees where this typically happens varies depending on your industry, but is typically in the 5-10 range. His advice was that this is the absolutely critical point where most small businesses fail (once they have got past the initial hurdle of getting going and proving that they have something the market wants and that they can deliver in a profitable fashion).
"What do you do, therefore? Robert Craven says “run as fast as you can”. As soon as you start going down the route of having employees, sprint like crazy to get through the valley (watching your marketing, operations and financials like a hawk) to get to the other side to sustainable profitability from where the sky’s the limit.

"We had been gradually coming to this conclusion - having been thinking a lot about the advice contained in the e-myth recently, and wanting to have the directors spending more time on the business rather than in the business - the inevitable conclusion is that you need a bunch of people to do the work!

[In the Woody Allen Film Love and Death, Allen's Character, Boris, mentions the verse:
"I shall walk through the valley of the shadow of death... In fact, now that I think of it, I shall run through the valley of the shadow of death, cos' you get out of the valley quicker that way".]

Will then goes on to discuss my comments on hiring staff.
I am flattered that he took such detailled and accurate notes!


Friday, 6 July 2007

The FAQs of Marketing

The first Bright Marketing seminar took place in mid-2002 and since then the workshop has been delivered over 200 times to approximately 15,000 business owners, managers and directors.

Every event has started the same way, asking the question, ‘By the end of this session, what do you want to know how to do?’.
At its simplest, the main themes that the audiences wanted to know the answers to came under one of seven headings:
  • What works?
  • How to communicate? How to get heard?
  • How to focus? How to target?
  • How to measure?
  • How to stand out from the rest/how to be listened to?
  • How to get more sales with no budget?
  • How to make it happen.

In the 200 events we spoke to MDs of multi-nationals as well as owner-managers of smaller businesses and the same themes just kept coming through to us. To give you a rough idea of the top questions they were as follows:

  • How do I get into bigger businesses?
  • What works best?
  • What do people buy?
  • How can I make people buy from us?
  • How do you get the ‘biggest bang for your buck’?
  • How do we know how we are doing?
  • How can we make more money?
  • How much should we invest in marketing?
  • If there was only one thing we could do then what should it be?
  • How can I sell more?
  • How can I get more customers?
  • How can I get more profitable customers?
  • How can I get my team to understand the marketing plan?
So, how well do you score yourself - Can you answer all these questions comfortably for your business?

This was the brief for writing the Bright Marketing book!

Bright Marketing website

The Psychology of Success - an article