Thursday, 31 January 2013

Articles worth reading

Hopes for rebound rest with the ‘gazelles’ - from the FT
How Great Entrepreneurs Think - from Inc
or see How Great Entrepreneurs Think

and also see
What Separates the Extremely Successful from the Pack? HBR

How Many Successful Entrepreneurs Would Fail an IQ Test? from Psychology Today Top 1% of entrepreneurs create 40% of new jobs from the BBC and in Management Today - The World Economic Forum

10 Things I learned from failure - Scott Gerber

All of which is surprisingly familiar to anyone who has followed me over the years ("don't invest in start-ups", "invest in the top 10% of business growth companies who generate 50% of jobs in a ten year period" etc etc.)

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Social Media To Do List

 Check out Social Media Musings by Robert Craven to see a whole series of articles and postings – and add your comments

The common themes:
  • Define and clarify a Social Media strategy – so you know what success looks like and what your message is
  • Make sure your social media message is consistent with the bigger marketing strategy – so make sure you are on message – why should people buy form you? What makes you different form the rest
  • Other people check you out by looking at your online presence - so make sure it is all up to date and looks good
  • Google searches for people who are active online and gives them preferential ranking – so make sure you play the Google game sign up for G+ and Gplaces
  • Schedule your tweets or emails – so use software that runs a schedule for you
  • Use Social Media to follow potential clients – so get stalking!!!
  • Use different techniques: curate, share, ask for help, top tops/lists
  • It is called social media and the emphasis is on the social – so don’t be too pushy
  • It is all a bit random but your success rate increases exponentially as you know more people – so accept the synchronicity of it all
  • Measure so use tools like Klout to measure your progress
  • Be careful with your time – playing about is not the same as doing work – so be clear about what you are trying to achieve

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

How To Make The Sale Promotion Work

I have a reputation for the phrase "Put up your prices, now!"

It makes me cringe when people slash prices to get more sales. (On that point the slashing of my Kindle book prices did prove me wrong - see When Lowering Your Prices Actually Works!)

However, there is such a thing as a 'reverse sale' - well, that's what we call it. My point is that it works well for you and for the customers... as long as you don't do it too often.

So, here's how it works. I will use the online Directors' Centre Business Club as a live example.

Currently the price is a ridiculous £200pa (Ridiculous because of the benefits... ridiculous because of the work that goes into finding the content.) 

We have decided to set a new price at £400pa - still excellent value but then I would say that.

So, we are offering new subscribers the opportunity to join at the old £200 price  This is a bit of a squeeze and that makes us feel a little uncomfortable (because we normally sell high value premium product where such tactics are not appropriate or effective).

So, we announce the price rise date: "1st February will see prices rise 100%" and we offer/push/promote the old price to potential new subscribers at the old rate.

Clearly, the offer is time-sensitive. 

We send a series of emails, when the drop dead date is 14 days, 7 days, 3 days and 1 day away. Almost all the sales come on the last day. We sometimes extend the 'sale' by a further few days and this will generate even more sales: "Sale/Special/Promotional price extended by a further 48 hours..." This tactic also works.

The result is that potential subscribers who have been dithering will make a decision to sign up or not bother. If they do sign up they get it at a great price.

For us we get a rush of new subscribers. And we are able to put our prices up in the knowledge that we have given an opportunity to a selection of people to buy at the old price.

I wouldn't quite describe this as a 'win-win' but the 'reverse sale' forces people's hands (a good thing) and it enables us to pursue our long-term goal of charging premium prices and delivering premium value for money.

Monday, 21 January 2013

When lowering your prices actually works!

I have developed a reputation, I am told, as Mr. Robert ‘put your prices up’ Craven. 
I cannot deny that I endlessly encourage audiences to put up prices and sell on the added value that they offer. One of my favourite lines is “competing on price is a mug’s game”. So, imagine my horror to see that a recent book of mine is available on Kindle at £1.29 (including delivery)!
Bright Marketing for Small Business has a retail price of £12.99 (excluding delivery) for the standard paperback edition. At that price is has sold very nicely. A big flourish at the start and then consistent but not remarkable sales. And if I was true to my “put your prices up” tagline then really the price should have been nearer £25. That way I would make a few less sales but the profit would be greater.
So, what of Kindle? Well, the price of manufacture and distribution is a tad more than zero but what people are buying isn’t simply an electronic version of the paper version. They are also buying access to my IP (intellectual property). What they get is “a book that will change how you do business, now and in the future” as one reviewer has written.
On its Kindle launch the book was available at £7.71 and sold a steady handful per day. I ranked around the 120/130 mark for marketing and sales books. Nothing to be ashamed of but not exactly world-class or cutting edge.

Lower prices and increased sales

And then the book was entered into a price promotion.  The price was dropped to £1.29. You could buy all that hard work, wisdom, experience, worksheets, thought pieces and exercises for just £1.29!
However, I don’t feel totally miffed. Quite miffed, but not totally!
The stupid/insulting/ridiculous/bonkers/mad/crazy/lunatic price has made a number of things happen. First and foremost, the book has bounded from number 127 to number 17 to number one in all marketing and sales books in the space of 12 hours. I repeat, number one! In other words, when people go to the Kindle shop and look for business books they see mine on the front page (= more sales). When looking for sales and marketing books on Kindle they see mine on the front page (= more sales).
I reckon that sales have increased at least tenfold, (price has reduced less). So if you assume that my royalty is say 25% then I am in credit financially. But the real benefit is the exposure to so many more people (even if they are cheapskates) and, even more importantly, my ideas and ‘ologies’ are getting exposed, shared and discussed - by people who may never have come across the work without its ridiculous price tag.

Finding new customers

So, maybe I need to eat my hat about always putting your prices up. Already we have seen new enquiries about our other services as a direct result of the  exposure. Not only that, but we are also seeing increased sales of my print books.
The £1.29 price tag has exposed me and the book to a brand new audience. As a result, the up-sales and cross-sales continue. And I have lost nothing in the process. Meanwhile, having the accolade of being a number one bestseller reassures future buyers that they should hit the ‘buy’ button. What we achieve now is a positive, self-reinforcing virtuous cycle. High sales create the bestseller tag which creates high sales and on it goes.
So, what can I say? In this instance the low price has paid dividends. And as I write I am aware that I have just been asked to deliver a highly-paid keynote presentation (based on the book) and I have also been asked to apply the book’s principles in another business. Time to go and eat my hat!
P.S. The £1.29 price tag is including the VAT (Kindle sales attract VAT) so the real price is £1.07… What else can you get for a pound these days?

Monday, 14 January 2013

Start-ups are a Waste of Time and Money

Here's a view (from the point of view of an 'economist') 

It is not a popular view but it makes rational sense.

  1. Startups are not where we should focus our efforts. Investing in start-ups is like betting on a horse race without getting a look at what the horses can actually do. (Clue: most do not win)
  2. Real job growth is found in fast growth businesses (50% of all jobs in a 10 year period) - the top 4% of businesses (see Prof Storey)*. Investing in fast growth businesses is like betting on horses after they have gone over the final jump!! If I could bet at ant time that's when I would do it!!! 
  3. The trouble is that 100% of businesses vote so focusing exclusively on high growth businesses is politically unacceptable!!!
  4. There is also precious little evidence to support a start-up programme 'ology' that works (aside from exclusive high growth incubator-type activity).
  5. Successful businesses appear to succeed despite what might be on offer. This suggests that start-up programmes add little real value apart from helping to create life-style businesses.
  6. The trouble with life-style businesses is that they tend to replace each other (unless they are exporting or selling into an expanding/new market). With a fixed demand for a product then an increase in supply of companies inevitably does little macro good... (moving the deckchairs on the Titanic?)
  7. So it seems that one 'should' invest in fast-growth (to use public funds effectively in the short and medium term)... and to boost the economy.
  8. Invest in start-ups if you want to be politically popular
  9. Invest in "high growth" start-ups with potential (and experience) to increase the chance of seeing a return on your investment; ignore the rest. 
Clearly we need start-ups to 'feed the funnel'... so that some businesses can become the stars of tomorrow. The reality is that most won't; so recognise that life-style businesses in their own right are a good thing but they are not the engine of growth that politicians suggest they are.

This is confirmed by  NESTA showing that the 6pc of all UK businesses with the highest growth rates generated 54pc of the net new jobs created.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Eric Ries - The Lean StartUp - but not just StartUps!

Eric Ries's book, The Lean Startup.

A fascinating book. And not just for the start-up. (Having written Bright Marketing for Start-ups it has been great to see lean principles applied to the start-up process.)

A lot of what Ries says has been applied by The Directors' Centre to our clients over the years. However, it is important to emphasise thathis model is Silicon Valley-centric and then he tries to apply the model from high growth start-ups outwards.

We started from the opposite end of the spectrum, working with existng growing businesses with potential. But so many of the principles are similar.

For the sake of this article I will focus on Ries' work rather than our own
In his blog and book, Ries uses specific terminology relating to the core lean startup principles. I will emphasise them in bold

Minimum viable product
A minimum viable product (MVP) is the "version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort."The goal of an MVP is to test fundamental business hypotheses (or leap-of-faith assumptions) and to help entrepreneurs begin the learning process as quickly as possible.

Continuous deployment
Continuous deployment is a process “whereby all code that is written for an application is immediately deployed into production,” which results in a reduction of cycle times. 

Split testing
A split test orA/B test is an experiment in which "different versions of a product are offered to customers at the same time.” The goal of a split test is to observe changes in behaviour between the two groups and to measure the impact of each version on an actionable metric.

The work that looks so similar to ours is on the decision: "pivot or persevere?".

Innovation accounting helps startups build some discipline into managing questions associated with pivoting or persevering. It works against vanity metrics in favour of truly actionable metrics that answer very specific questions about each experiment in learning.

Pivots are the point where you decide to continue or re-jig the offer (but keep some core fundamentals) include:
Zoom-in Pivot
Zoom-out Pivot
Customer Segment Pivot
Customer Need Pivot
Platform Pivot
Business Architecture Pivot
Value Capture Pivot
Engine of Growth Pivot
Channel Pivot
Technology Pivot

You do need to see the book to get the real value but for me the pivot or persevere question is worth its weight in gold. Especially in recessionary times where so many businesses plod on regardless, waiting for things to change… when maybe they need to change themselves!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Directors' Centre Business Club - Price Increase: soon!!!

Business Club Announcement 

Business Club Subscription Prices Go Up On The 1st February, 2013, for new subscribers...

Many of you will already be familiar with my online Business Club,
In February 2013 we will be increasing the prices of new subscriptions to the Business Club’s Full Membership... so the next few weeks will be your last opportunity to get a Full Membership subscription at the current low price.
If you are not familiar with the Business Club I recommend you visit the site and have a look at some of the content and business tools available.
On 1 February 2013, new subscriptions to Full Membership will increase to the following prices:
Annual Fee: £395 +VAT
Monthly Fee: £39 +VAT
Throughout January you will be able to subscribe to Full Membership at the current prices:
Annual Subscription: £200 +VAT
Monthly Subscription: £20 + VAT

Click on the link below to sign up

If you subscribe to a new Full Membership now your subscription fees will remain at the lower price until January 2015.

If you are a currently a Full Member your subscription fee will remain at its current price until January 2015.

If you would like to discuss this further please contact James Bailey, the Business Club Manager, and he can answer any questions you may have. You can contact him by email
or telephone +44 (0)1225 851044.

Asking for the business - a quick intro

Good sales people, people that love selling and build solid relationships with a base of faithful clients, are worth their weight in gold.

Many of us are nervous about asking for business but the truth is that if we don’t ask then it will go to someone else. It’s often the reputation that pushy sales people have that puts the whole process in a bad light. Nobody likes in-your-face selling, especially if it’s unsolicited.
If it’s just you on your own and your sales skills aren’t up to scratch, you might want to consider investing in some training. Meanwhile, these tips from Robert Craven, author of Bright Marketing, should help to point you in the right direction:
Put your heart on your sleeve - Too many people are shy about putting themselves forward to clients even if they are eager to work with them. They expect possible customers to pick up on their enthusiasm without doing anything.
Visiting a potential client to tell them how excited you are about the working with them is a good way to strengthen a relationship. Emphasising that the relationship could be mutually beneficial, and offering the reasons why, will allow you to introduce your products or services and explain what you do.

The business ‘script’ -
 There are three simple questions that you can ask in order to get more business. This so-called ‘script’ can be used with existing customers who already like your business. These questions can be asked over coffee or by phone and they really do work:
‘What do you like about our business?’ – It’s simple and straightforward, but will allow you to listen to what they say and build on your strengths.
‘What do you dislike about our business?’ – Again, just listen to what they say and try not to be defensive.
‘What do we need to do to get more business from you?’ – Often, they will tell you exactly what you need to do to get more business from them. You need to be bold enough to ask the simple questions that will get you far.

Referrals -
 Plenty of people know about referrals but how do you ask for one?
You know that the person in front of you has lots of contacts. Surely you could sell to one of them, but how do you ask for the referral so that you don’t feel embarrassed or upset the person you are talking to?
Firstly, those of you from professional service firms such as lawyers, solicitors, accountants and architects may feel that selling is a bit humiliating. Remember that some of your competitors will not feel this way and are likely to get the business.
Remember that you are in a strong position because you’re already speaking to a satisfied client. Ask if they have any contacts that would benefit from your services and show that you realise it would be rude to ask them for their names and to cold call them yourself.
Then ask them to contact them on your behalf and say that you will be in touch. A referral is like a foot in the door and will greatly increase your chances of getting more business.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Pricing Experiments: Beating the Credit Crunch

The Kindle edition of Beating the Credit Crunch is now available at for £2.05. less than a price of coffee!!!

Why? As a thank you to our Business Club members 
Why? To see how the price impacts sales.

It is currently #239,65 in the Kindle paid books list so let's see where it ends up...

We tried this experiment before with Bright Marketing at £1.29 and hit the number one spot in sales/marketing books for several weeks. The price has now changed.

Watch this space.

The Kindle edition of Beating the Credit Crunch is now available at for £2.05. less than a price of coffee!!! Which will help you grow your business?



The Act of Attraction in Business by Tamsen Garrie

Tamsen Garrie's The Act of Attraction in Business - how to align your activity for extraordinary business results is a rather clever book.

It is clearly aimed at the independent-minded businessperson, probably someone who has heard of the Law of Attraction (and the associated noise around books like best-seller, The Secret). 

What is clever is that this is a serious book for people who wish to explore how to deliberately create the business that they want to run. Just when you think the book might start to get too fluffy and 'woo-woo',  it supplies some solid theory and a practical yet results-oriented exercises to keep you 'on track'.

It is not a big book but large enough to enable you to work through various exercises to reflect on and craft your vision, mindset, behaviour and plan. Some may feel that they require the support or assistance of a coach or mentor to help them work through the exercises although the instructions and guidelines are clear enough if you prefer the DIY route. As with these types of exercise the devil is in the detail as well as you taking the necessary actions to achieve the required results.

Tamsen's is a personal book, using personal stories and situations. You know that she wrote it herself.

Tamsen writes about deliberately designing and planning your future - there is a clear four-step process (vision, mindset, behaviour, plan). She has taken the same principles in deliberately designing this book, a book that will appeal to anyone looking to get structure and focus into the way they think about and plan their business future.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Amanda Ruiz on Robert Craven's Mastermind Group

Amanda Ruiz gives feedback on the Mastermind Group

Can You Arrange 60 meetings In 6 Weeks? - feedback

Hi Robert,

I thought I would give you some feedback about your idea “Can You Arrange 60 meetings In 6 Weeks?”.

My campaign was from 4th July to 17th August (17th August was because I was going on holiday on the 18th)

In the end we had 30 new opportunities for me to explore.

From that I received 3 responses, converted to meetings, converted to business.
I got 6 responses from existing customers, from which I converted 5 bits of completely new business.

But from a chance conversation with a bloke in a pub I met, and yes it does happen, one of those conversions over the next 2 years will result in £3m of new business. That alone doubles the size of my business!!!

Contracts have been signed yesterday to start in January 2013.

The other conversions will amount to in excess of £100,000.00  

Robert, thank you for your inspiration.



Can You Arrange 60 Meetings in 6 Weeks?

The 60:6 Formula

Too many businesses feel that it is Year Three of the Meeting With Customersrecession. And they have tried everything but nothing really seems to work.

So what’s going on? 

The list is endless. The well is dry. People aren’t buying like they were. There are more, cheaper competitors. Customers can do it themselves, or they can wait. Advertising doesn’t work anymore. Networking is an empty promise. Social media is just so much hot air. Strategy is all very good but what about some sales now?

It used to be OK. Currently it is tough. And it looks like it is going to get even tougher. Many businesses are like planes trying to take off but running out of runway…

Even more businesses are going to go bust. Many know who they are; even more haven’t lifted their heads above the parapet (or out of the sand) to see what’s about to happen.

Emergency situations require emergency measures. Now is not the time to avoid doing the cash-flow forecast. Now is not the time to find some intellectually fascinating project that distracts you from the real problem which is… not enough sales to pay the wages. WAKE UP! WAKE UP! 

So what is to be done?

Well, it does depend on where you are. How deep is the problem? How long will the cash last? When do you need to start laying people off? I am afraid you need to confront all of this now. Know what it is that you are dealing with. Understand when you will reach a point-of-no-return and decide what you are going to do before you get there. Start preparing your Plan B now and get to grips with when you will need to put it into action. There is no time to waste; the time bomb will just keep ticking away so you need to take evasive action, and fast.

A cunning plan?

There is no universal solution, no one-size-fits-all business rescue plan that will take a dying business and transform it into a money machine. You have had plenty of time to organise that but for some reason it just ain’t working. But I do have a cunning plan that might just work, subject to timing, subject to how long you’ve got, subject to how much money you’ve got, subject to how much positive energy you’ve got left.

It is the 60:6 Formula. It is not rocket science; it is taking massive action.
The thinking behind it is simple.60 Meetings In 6 Weeks
For most of us (not retailers but you can still adapt my thinking) the sales are a function, a result, of how many people you contact. Obviously there is a quality issue as well, but it would be fair to say that if you are talking to more people then the likelihood of making a sale increases.

So that 60:6 formula is as simple as this:

Make appointments to meet 60 potential customers in the next 6 weeks. 6 weeks is 30 working days so you need to average roughly 2 meetings per workday by the time you rule out other work and activities you have got in the diary.

The process of having the target gets you to apply yourself to the task in hand. Draw up a chart with the numbers ‘1’ to ‘60’ down the side. And start filling in the names and the results.

The exercise gets you to re-focus on meeting potentials. And if they don’t want to work with you right now then they will probably know people who you should be talking to. Tell your people, “I am on the road for the next six weeks. If someone wants to see me, I’ll jump in the car and see them. Just give me the address and I’ll be there.”

A couple of caveats before you just rush off and make tons of appointments. Are you able to:
  • Be clear about what your offer is to your customer?
  • Ask for the sale?
  • Articulate what it is that you do and why people should buy from you?
  • Explicitly describe the overt benefit to the customer of your product/service?
  • Describe the real reason to believe why you can deliver the benefit/results?
  • Show what the dramatic difference is between your offering and that of your competitors?
Time to get diary out and start making those appointments.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

2013 - The Year That Social Media became Exhausted??

2012 - The Year That Social Media Became Exhausted

or maybe 2013?

Nick Tadd said 
"About bl**dy time too. According to Mashable 2012 is the year we exhaust social media."

I couldn't agree more. I don't think that it is dead ("deceased, no more" as in Monty Python) but as mashable say, we are exhausted. Social/digital Exhaustion will become the catch phrase.

People finally realise that connecting or following or being followed (as a numbers game) is meaningless unless there some purpose and some result. (See Twitter is For Losers)

I think the light bulb moment is when you employ people and they appear to be playing on social media (while you are paying them to do so).

Now I don't deny the benefits of being open, pursuing random connections and so on. I love it. BUT we must not confuse activity (=wheel spin?) with business.

I am not the social media guru but we have noticed that many of our clients have become fixated with activity and almost irrelevant metrics when they need to get back to basics... 

So reflecting about the state of play... On the one hand, we have the social media zealots grabbing at the next new best thing universal antidote (and yes I do feel myself falling for Google Plus!!!). On the other hand, we have the incredibly lazy marketing habits of the old school agencies (see Why Marketing is a load of B******s!) simply spending more in a naive attempt to interrupt and buy people's attention. 

What I do know is that there is:
- just too much noise and it is turning off a lot of people
- just too much "me-too" follower behaviour (buyers and sellers)
- not enough common sense engagement and connection
- a brilliant system (fast, quick, vast, cheap) to reach out and find and explore and share with others.
- tons of opportunity if you can just navigate your way through it all
- not enough time to do it all so a need for clear guidelines, prioritisation and time management!!!

To be honest, I am starting to feel that the problem is actually about THE MESSAGE. Your message. (The channel may be a red herring.):
- What exactly are you saying that is interesting? 
- Is it compelling? 
- Worthy of attention? 
- Clear and helping other to understand what you do? 
- And how can you help?

All the talk is about how you communicate and what works . (Maybe that's simpler than dealing with the basic "why should people bother to buy from you question!) 

But if the message is broken (and let's be honest, most are) then you are simply wasting your time.