Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Halloween 2012

It had to be done... A Halloween Infographic!!! $6.9Bn spending!!! That's the GNP of a small country!!!

See the original at

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Bright Marketing Launched On Kindle - hits #1 spot!!!

My book Bright Marketing has been published on Kindle this week and has created quite a stir by selling shed loads (or in this case the gigabyte load??). It is a great opportunity for you to get one of my books for a bargain price. It is usually a £10 book and is currently being sold for just £1.29.

Buy it Here

If you are not familiar with Bright Marketing, it is one of the most popular books that I have released. It is all about improving your business' marketing and increasing sales. It is full exercises that are easy to implement and work through with your sales/marketing team or on your own. You can find a full description here I have no idea how long this low price will last, but I suspect it will not last too long. All thought, comments and RTs appreciated. Robert 

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Service Firm Manifesto – A 14-Point Plan


Most growing businesses are service firms. As such you must stop yourself from looking like the mass of undifferentiated competitors that you have. Otherwise you will only be able to compete on price only. And that is a mug’s game!

It seems like a no-brainer that you need to be better than your competitors at (the word you hate), selling. Your marketing needs to be more compelling and it needs to be different from the rest. After all, why should I buy from you if you are the same as the competition?

With that in mind, and looking at our successful service firm clients over the years, we have compiled a manifesto – more than a white paper; almost an aspirational doctrine – to lead service firms away from selling on price.

The Service Firm Manifesto

We will not become a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’
- we are a specialist with specialist expertise in a specialist subject. We are not just another general practitioner with the same general set of guiding principles as our competitors. To do so would be commercial suicide.

We don’t do sales pitches
- we have far less futile and humiliating things that we can do to win business. But we will talk to you. We like to talk to people and find out what they are really looking for and what they are really like. We want to make sure that there is a real fit between how we work best and what the client is looking for. We need to understand you and what your problem really is.

We are not suppliers
- we are partners in the growth and development of our clients. Suppliers are ten-a-penny; they sell and compete on price and not on quality. That is not us.

We don’t do endless freebies and beauty parades
- while we are happy to do pro bono work for our chosen special causes, we do not and will not endlessly give away our intellectual property on a gamble that you might think we might be able to deliver some more (but in likelihood you will steal our ideas or ask us to use the ideas you have stolen from others).

We don’t get interviewed by you
- we will interview each other and make sure that the fit works for everyone. We will walk away if the chemistry and dynamics isn’t working or if we don’t believe that you believe in us. We are not whores; we will not work with anyone.

We will make no recommendations
- unless we have done the initial audit/healthcheck/diagnostics. Would you trust a heart surgeon who didn’t put you through all the diagnostic tests before making a recommendation to operate? Thought not.

We will apply all aspects of ‘The Expert’ model
- we will talk and write and deliver to a select audience with a specific set of problems. We have evidence and proof that we can address and resolve their issues. We have a proprietary point of view; we deliver wow work!

We will not compete on price
- being the cheapest is not our goal. It doesn’t help the client and it doesn’t help us if we cut corners or simply look for quick wins when fundamental, deep-seated change is required.

We will not sell time - we will deliver a value-added service and avoid charging by the hour or by the day. Clients are buying our years of experience and the originality of our ideas. How can you put a price on that?

We will talk money
- we won’t pray that no-one mentions budgets. We explicitly talk about money to make sure that we do not waste our time or theirs. We know we deliver stunning added value. We are not ashamed of our fees. They enable us to invest in delivering even better value.

We will define the overt business benefit of working with us, explicitly
- we will explain the actual numbers of working with us eg ‘our clients typically see a 30% uplift in profit within 90 days of working with us’.

We will give a real reason to believe that we can deliver – evidence, proofs, testimonials and word-of-mouth reputation.

We will be dramatically different from the competition.

We will enjoy ourselves.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Mastermind Videos - a series of five

Videos from my recent Mastermind Group. Recorded (very) live at our most recent Mastermind dinner... The wonders of the iPhone!!! Enjoy!

"Why Did You Join The Mastermind Group?"

"Did The Mastermind Represent A Return On Investment?"

"What Would You Say To A Potential Mastermind Delegate?"

"What Do You Think Of Robert Craven?"

"What Were The Key Benefits Of Joining The Mastermind Group?"

More information at the Mastermind webpage and the full blog post with all the details and links. Call +44 (0)1225 851044 for more details

Friday, 12 October 2012

Exceptional Growth Or Exceptional Reputation? Which Comes First?

The days of ‘interruption marketing’ are over. Clients have switched off. Shouting louder just irritates them. Nowadays, people trust referrals, recommendations and the word-of-mouth more than any paid-for sales campaign. In fact, most people believe that businesses lie in the adverts! Reputation management is where the action is!

There is a group of professional service firms (PSFs) that grow nine times faster than the average. They are 50% more profitable than the average. So, what’s going on?

Doing the research, it was easy to see that high-performing service firms are the ones that have clients that believe in them. The ‘positioning’ (and ‘targeting’) talks to clients in a way that the client can relate to and understand. The firm understands the client needs, hurts and wants and has a solution. That is the Grow Your Service Firm ‘ology’.

High performers have always had a particular profile, a reputation; they have always been identified as being different from the average.

So, how do they drive their growth?

High performers could just spend more on marketing and sales. But they don’t do that; they just become qualitatively better at the marketing and sales.

Frederiksen and Taylor point out that the high performers do not spend proportionately the most on marketing and sales because they are already very good at it. They are simply more effective so don’t need to compete by spending the most. Obvious really.

The high performers actually spend (slightly) less than average firms on their sales and marketing activities. Their marketing spend isn’t quantitatively higher; it is qualitatively better. They spend less and get better results.

Every firm says pretty much the same boring thing, selling similar services to similar people using similar straplines and similar people with similar qualifications to sell similar services at similar prices etc, etc. Clients have switched off.

The high performers, meanwhile, focus on client needs and priorities. They are not preoccupied with their own capabilities and expertise. They are not mesmerised by the reflection of themselves like some Greek myth. They focus their limited budgets on specific target customer groups and use a clear and easy to understand message. Simple really.

So, who is in this group of professional service firms that grow nine times faster than the average and are 50% more profitable than the average? How can you join them? What do you need to do?

The starting point I am afraid comes straight out of day one of your Marketing 101 class. You have to create and communicate a clear positioning that demonstrates how you can help your target clients… unequivocally. And deliver on it. A totally compelling proposition is seductive. That is where your reputation comes from.

As a starting point, ask yourself if you consistently communicate:

·        - Your overt business benefit
·        - The real reason you can deliver
·        - The dramatic difference between you and your competitors

I meet very few service firms who have actually done this properly. As a result, they deliver average results and have a mediocre reputation. Those that do deliver on these three points have a stunning reputation both within the industry and, more importantly, with their clients.

Your choice.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Exit Strategies

Are you holding your company back? If so then perhaps it's time to learn how to let go. . . profitably.

Three-quarters of business owners expect that the sale of their business will provide them with a big lump sum for their retirement. However, only a quarter of business owners create any kind of plan for their exit, resulting in most coming away with a couple of laptops and a few staplers to represent all their hard work. What's more, your business is not worth what you think it is. This combination of factors is a recipe for disaster.

Really great businesses are obsessed with three things:
Where are we going? (Strategy)
How are we going to sell this stuff? (Marketing)
Why don't we get on better? (Team-building)

And... really great growing businesses are obsessed with two additional items:
External finance - growing a business needs lots of cash to invest in the future and pay for things now
External advice - you simply can't do it all on your own and need help from outside advisers, as well as from your team

In essence, the thing holding back most growing businesses is fear - of letting go of financial and management control.

In a survey, we asked growing business owners what held them back. We also asked successful, sold-up, ex-business owners what they thought had held them back in their growing stages.

The business growers named external factors - customers, competitors, banks, red tape, poor advisers. In fact, they blamed everyone but themselves.

The ex-business owners said that when they were growing their businesses, the one thing holding them back was themselves, yet they blamed the outside world. They were frightened of letting go. Put another way, they were the bottleneck, spending too much time 'in' the business and not enough time 'on' it.

So, you are the problem! 

But it doesn't stop there. There's one additional item that needs to be taken into account. Most businesses believe their biggest weakness is marketing - getting hold of more, and better, clients of the right quality and character. So not only are you the problem, but you also need to work on your marketing.

To create a profitable exit, you need to create an attractive business. 
Such a business needs to demonstrate:
- Underlying repeatable, sustainable profits (now and in the future)
- References and trophy clients
- Distinctive capabilities (patents, licences or defendable intellectual property) and 
core competencies
- A senior team to take it to the next stage.

Exit planning is like writing a will - it can always be put off until next year. However, I have seen too many sad tales of friends, family and business colleagues not receiving their just rewards because they hadn't 'got their act together'. So there's no time like the present.

1. Realise that now is the time to plan the exit
2. Create plans that focus on creating an attractive business
3. Create systems and processes that can be duplicated and scaled up - a tested model that shows how every pound of investment can generate £X of output
4. Create a marketing machine that delivers a steady stream of profitable, desirable clients
5. Write yourself out of the business model 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Mastermind Strategies for the next Three Months

Here's a video recorded for Paula Macarthur's Mastermind Agency Google Plus Hangout. 

The simple question was: 

"What strategy would you recommend for the coming three months?"

The video lasts a tad over four minutes.



Monday, 1 October 2012

Welcome to Entrepreneur Country!

Julie Meyer's book Welcome to Entrepreneur Country has the subtitle 
What it is... How to find it... Why you should go there

So does it work? Does it do what it says on the tin?

Well, I think the answer is 'yes'. I hesitate slightly but that is a good thing.

I was expecting it to be another 'how to... ' or '10 steps to...' or  'I am business celebrity look at me..' or 'my life/struggle written by a ghost writer'-type book or some combination but that is not what this book is.

What it is is part-'my story...' and part-manifesto. Written by the author. 

And to be honest it is a relief to just read an honest explanation of a point of view and how Julie M arrived at it. It is quite a philosophical book in places and yet its message is very affirming and inspiring. I am probably fed up of all the other testosterone/caffeine-fuelled fantasies that claim to be business books. 

Julie M presents her view of why entrepreneurship is so important right now and how it is more accessible  than ever before. It is short at 180 short/small pages and is a good read. It is not all preaching.

So, does she deliver on the strapline What it is... How to find it... Why you should go there? The answer is 'yes'.

It is not a life-changing book but it does get you nodding and agreeing. It presents the argument for Entrepreneur Country and why you should go there. For me it affirmed by belief that entrepreneurship is a power for good (for the individual and for society). 

A breath of fresh air (in a crowded market)!