Thursday, 27 December 2007

Simplifying Business Support - a humbug/cynic's view

Call me cynical, but isn't it strange that the Government releases its response to the 'Simplifying Business Support' consultation on 20th December just as we all break up for the Christmas break - will anyone read it...? will it get reported in the papers...? does anyone care...?

And I thought that the small/independent business community was high up their agenda!!!

The paper can be seen at:
Simplifying business support: Government response to consultation (359KB)
but what does it mean...? It is pretty much indecipherable although ironically it does say:

'Government’s aim for publicly-funded business support in 2010, set out in the ‘simplifying business support’ consultation, is to reduce the number of publicly-funded business support schemes in England to no more than 100 by 2010, to ensure publicly-funded support is:
• Simple for business to understand and access;
• Good value for money; and
• has a substantial, measurable impact on public policy goals.'

Not long to wait then!!

Initial response to the consultation on simplifying business support to accompany the pre-budget report (162KB)
Additional information on the business support announced in the Pre-Budget Report
Simplifying business support: Government response to consultation (359KB)
Business support simplification programme: impact assessment (332KB)

Fifteen Ways To Raise A Million

Business XL Magazine has a great article named ‘Fifteen Ways To Raise A Million’ by Marc Barber.

And here’s the list – it’s all stuff we know already but sometimes people seem to miss out one or two:

1 Venture Capital
2 Invoice Discounting/Factoring
3 PLUS Markets
4 Venture Capital Trusts
6 Business Angels
7 Corporate Venturing
8 Cash Shells
9 Network Like Crazy
10 Regional Venture Capital Funds
11 Debt
12 Your Own Pocket
13 Commercial Finance
14 The Personal Touch
15 Enterprise Capital Fund

For more information go to BERR’s website or read the full article in the magazine..

Monday, 24 December 2007


With the New Year upon us it is time to FOCUS. Here we have two recent articles on this very subject!

Time to Focus on Brighter Marketing - If you want to succeed, you've got to be smart in today's competitive age. That means not just being better than the rest - but also being different (Better Business, December 2007/January 2008).

Get Your Focus Right - Businesses had better watch out. Customers do not feel in charge and they do not feel delighted, despite what the rhetoric might say (Better Business, November 2007).

Time to Focus on Brighter Marketing - Better Business, December 2007/January 2008.
Get Your Focus Right - Better Business, November 2007.

How Good Is Your Marketing? - Forget your marketing expenditure for a minute - its all about delivering... (Growing Business Mag, Sept 2007).

Sunday, 23 December 2007

How To Energise Your Business In 2008

2008 is already here!

Start your Business has just published this article which seems like a pretty good place to start - How to energise your business


How To Energise Your Business In 2008 - Feel like your business has lost its direction? Working hard but not getting the results you deserve? Robert Craven, entrepreneur guru leads the way! (Start Your Business Magazine, December 2007).

A Bunch of Fives - Robert Craven's New Year's Resolutions for 2006(?) - print it off and pop it on your wall. (First published in Daily Telegraph Business Club, December 2005. Also in Dealer Support and USP Magazines Jan 2006 - and on the USP Magazine website).

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Audio Logo, Elevator Pitch and so forth

Here’s a quickie – a new article of mine in 'Start Your Business' Magazine – just 200 words – How To Write An Elevator Pitch - it is a very brief summary but the other links/blogs will give you some more meat to put on the bones!

How To Write An Elevator Pitch - Marketing guru, Robert Craven, shares his top tips (Start Your Business Magazine, December, 2007).
Elevator Pitch - 30 seconds to introduce yourself - Women in Rural Enterprise blog (July 2007).
Elevator Pitch discussed in a blog on Ecademy (Nov 2006).
What Would You Say To Sir Alan? - A full-length article on the 30-second pitch. Robert Craven (Better Business Magazine, March 2006).

Monday, 17 December 2007

The Law Of Diminishing Customer returns

In Wikipedia diminishing returns is also called diminishing marginal returns or the law of diminishing returns.

When applied to marketing and sales we get an interesting (and true proposition)…

The larger your customer database… then you will find that the average value of additional customers reduces…

I will put this another way… as you grow the sales of a particular offering then additional customers are probably worth less!!!

The average new customer is more price sensitive and less valuable than earlier ones...
The newer customer also tends to be less loyal than the existing customers... Typically your earlier customers are the one ones that find your offering the most valuable and may even pay more for it…

Why am I pointing this out?
Well, most growing businesses think that the early customers are the hard ones to attract and that later on everything will be OK. The Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns (which I believe I saw in my restaurant, sound recording studio and management consultancy companies) holds good for specific product sales – earlier customers are keener to pay more than the later ones… Its another variety of the Dip or Death Valley.

In growing, medium-sized businesses we often see:
1) Turnover growing but profit slipping as costs increase disproportionately...
2) The value of new customers often slips as well so you are trying to run up the ‘down’ escalator! (The Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns)...
3) For many, what’s really going on is that the cost of acquiring each new customer is rising (see the graph above). (Marginal Cost rise!)

A triple whammy!!

No wonder its hard!


Wikipedia on The Law Of Diminishing Returns
Valley Of Death Article in Growing Business Magazine (Nov 07)
The Valley Of Death - How Many Employees Should You Have? - Will Critchlow, June 07
My Valley Of Death blog article - Robert Craven, July 07

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Green Is The New Black - Tara Struk

An article by Tara Struk for Investopedia, Green Is The New Black, concludes:

"1 As consumer attention begins to shift more toward environmental concerns, companies are increasingly "going green".

2 But despite what their public relations suggest, companies probably don't take the initiative to make these changes to their companies out of goodwill.

3 In fact, as many companies have discovered, there are solid economic incentives for reducing waste and moving toward more sustainable business measures.

4 By "going green" companies have already succeeded in reducing costs and increasing sales.

5 In the future - particularly if the dire predictions about the availability of energy resources bear out - these moves may also ensure that companies maintain market share, avoid legal repercussions for environmental damage and stay in business.

Green products score points with consumers... staying ahead of the curve is good business... going green is better than going to court... green is a flattering colour (in PR)... "

So, what's holding people back? Is it all just a lot of buffalo dust and lip-service or are people serious about going green? In which case, sell the car and cancel the plane trip! Or are people just in love with the idea of going green (or being seen to be going green)?! Or is it just a conspiracy...? Maybe you think it doesn't matter that so many businesses realise that green is licence to charge disproportionately high prices and make disproportionately high profits!? Hmmm!

Is Green The New Black? - Robert Craven explains why going green will not just benefit the environment (Start Your Business, November 2007)
Green Is The New Black article by Tara Struk at
Global Warming - No Problem - Today's London Sunday Times reports on Bjorn Lomborg's latest book, Cool It... 'Do you care about global warming? Yes? Liar.
Whitewash - Greenwash: who cares if your business is green? - It is easy to say you are green, but consumers are skeptical.

Coming Soon - "Let's Talk... Bright Green" - how green credentials can help your business: a new workshop from Robert Craven with Barclays - watch this space and The Directors' Centre homepage.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Nutrichef Wins Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Nutrichef attended the Barclays Bright Marketing event in Poole last week; so we were delighted to hear of the news that Barrbara Cox, of Nutrichef has been awarded the Entrepreneur of the Year Award by local Chambers of Commerce...

"Nutrichef delivers delicious and healthy meals to customers across the South... to thousands of customers throughout Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey, Bath and Bristol.
Meals comprise 187 different ingredients (of which 70 are fruit and vegetables) across a 30-day plan. Customers range from athletes such as six-times British Mixed Martial Arts Champion Jeff Lawson to people who simply want to lose weight, eat more healthily and feel more energised. "

Barbara has grown the business using a classic 'expert' model approach if she did but know it...

Nutrichef spread the word with a promotional campaign on a local radio station and the controller was so impressed with Barbara’s engaging way of talking about nutrition that she was invited back as a guest every day for three weeks.

“Since then I’ve been a guest on four local radio stations, I’ve given talks to a wide range of audiences from school children to doctors, I’ve written articles for a national cancer awareness publication, I’ve written a health column for the Southern Daily Echo and I’ve been appointed team nutritionist by my local professional football club, AFC Bournemouth.”


Abbreviated Expert article

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Guerilla Marketing meets Customer Is King

Guerrilla Marketing - When Less Is More - yesterday, the B2B International blog writes:
“Without vast marketing budgets to call upon and with acute time-pressure upon employees, small businesses can sometimes struggle to generate interest in their company.”

It then goes on:
“Finding the most efficacious promotional strategy possible is something of a Holy Grail for SMEs... In essence, focus is key. That’s why the notion of guerrilla marketing has become a bit of a buzzword amongst marketers in recent years.

A simplified distillation of this technique is as follows:
- Concentrate your efforts on small, focused areas of promotion that are effective; and
- Repeat them over and over again. “

I agree.

And the key themes:
- step back
- don’t do too much
- narrow your focus
- repeat it again and again

Today their blog continues with the theme of
Professional Services and Valuing the Customer and writes:
“Following on from
yesterday …we look at the poor level of service sometimes given to small companies by firms offering professional services. Everyone’s a consumer at some level, and as Robert Craven argues, SMEs should be valued customers just as much as anyone else..”

It goes on to quote the Better Business
Customer Is King article in this month’s edition.

A minor PS – anyone who knows me would know that I can’t stand the SME tag and would never use that label myself – a theme for another blog, I am sure. Still I would still like to thank the B2B International team for pointing people towards the Better Business article – all the usual copyright legals apply!

Guerrilla Marketing - When Less Is More B2Bi blog
Professional Services and Valuing the Customer B2Bi blog
The original Customer Is King article Better Business magazine

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Ritz Carlton Service Experience - part two

As you read this I should be in Athens - in my recent research I re-visited the great Ritz Carlton website and this page on the Credo, Motto, Steps of Service, etc. These give us the underlying values and principles of the Ritz Carlton success story.

My previous posting looks at the Credo, Motto, Steps of Service, Service Values. This one considers what is known as The Sixth Diamond and the Employee Promise. (All rights etc belong to Ritz Carlton)

The 6th Diamond
- Mystique
- Emotional Engagement
- Functional

The Employee Promise- At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.
- By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company.
- The Ritz-Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened.

Ritz Carlton website
Previous posting on Ritz Carlton
Exceeding Customer Expectations - A Seven Point Plan - Are customers really in charge when it comes to dealing with organisations. Here is a seven-point plan to make sure the customer is 'king' (Customer Management, July/August 2006).
Customer Is King - the book

The Ritz Carlton Service Experience

A few years back, I worked with Sandals and Ritz Carlton in Jamaica… the subject matter was customer service and the customer experience… a great time was had by all.

Next week, I am off to Athens to deliver a keynote presentation on customer experience, and in my research I revisited the great
Ritz Carlton website and this page on the Credo, Motto, Steps of Service, etc.

These give us the underlying values and principles of the Ritz Carlton success story – you must visit one of their hotels to understand the experience. (All copyright etc belongs to Ritz Carlton):

The Credo The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.
We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.
The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfils even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

At The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., "We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen." This motto exemplifies the anticipatory service provided by all staff members.

Three Steps Of Service
1 A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest's name.
2 Anticipation and fulfilment of each guest's needs.
3 Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest's name.

Service Values: I Am Proud To Be Ritz-Carlton
1 I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.
2 I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
3 I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
4 I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.
5 I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.
6 I own and immediately resolve guest problems.
7 I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
8 I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.
9 I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.
10 I am proud of my professional appearance, language and behaviour.
11 I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company's confidential information and assets.
12 I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.

Ritz Carlton Service Experience - part two
Ritz Carlton website
Exceeding Customer Expectations - A Seven Point Plan - Are customers really are in charge when it comes to dealing with organisations. Here is a seven-point plan to make sure the customer is 'king' (Customer Management, July/August 2006).
Customer Is King - the book

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

A leading business travel magazine has just asked me to write a 1500-2000 word article on “How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint”

My reply in four words:
“Travel less; phone more.”

Have I missed something?