Thursday, 9 May 2013

Grow Your Service Firm: The Expert - in brief

All roads seem to lead to the notion that the well-managed expert business can win over the clients…

People like to buy from an expert and not from a follower…

One accountant is better than another in the mind of a client only because the client thinks that he is…

Marketing is not a battle for the product but for the mind of the customer…

One-minute rant
Most service firms, PSFs (Professional Service Firms) and firms in general think that the key to business success is their technical skill-set; however, they don’t understand:

  • What people really buy
  • What people really need from them
  • What people really want from them
  • The importance of a good bedside manner
  • The importance of demonstrating benefits/proofs/testimonials
  • The business development process!

Most ‘professionals’ were trained to be technically excellent, but no-one told them how to run a business.

Tip of the day
You should become an expert – become an expert in the world that you work in.

Become an expert
People hate buying from a ‘follower’ or an ‘also-ran’ but love buying from an expert… whether you are an accountant, a homeopath or a plumber, you can do it…

And because everyone will know and see you as the expert… they will ask you to do the work and they will pay a premium price!

So what does an expert do?
  • An expert focuses
  • An expert writes
  • An expert possesses
  • An expert knows
  • An expert speaks

As well as the five attributes above there are two additional, yet underpinning, concepts:

  • An expert has an ‘ology’ 
  • An expert uses testimonials and endorsements.

The interesting thing about these various aspects of being the expert is that they all interlock and inter-weave. More of this later in Part Two.

Once you clarify your specialisation then you can walk and talk and write about it (using the same case studies or examples) to confirm your expert status. Each element of The Expert! model supports the others.

Experts present themselves in the position of authority or knowledge; they tend to be seen as what some might call ‘positioners’. They present themselves as ‘positioners’ (where they set out to adopt a specific position in the eyes of the customer) rather than ‘prospectors’ (where ‘prospectors’ are chasing work and clients).

The purpose of most expert activity is to command respect rather than to hustle for business. Often, experts take on what can described as an ‘education-based’ marketing approach to attracting new clients; and this education includes giving away valuable information and advice rather than giving a sales pitch.

The mindset of the successful expert is that:

  • Their activity gets them the prospects that they want
  • They maintain their dignity and professionalism because they are not using heavy-handed sales techniques… they let interested parties come to them – a client pull/attraction approach
  • They are educating and showing people how their expertise can help
  • They establish credibility and this recognition is a key driver in personal satisfaction
  • They have a systematic process for communicating and for delivering work, which means that they are not constantly re-inventing the wheel.

So, what’s holding you back?
Most people are happy to run with the pack. However, in this age of mediocrity you only have to be five per cent better than the competition to stand out… and if you stand out then people remember who you are… so go for it!

Why do we need The Expert! model?
Put simply, most professional service firms make life very difficult for themselves.

The really small ones have no idea how to run a business; they spend most of their time struggling to find clients; the larger ones may be more successful but also struggle to keep clients in an ever-changing world where the clients, competitors and staff seem to be constantly changing their behaviour.

When most firms in your industry look pretty similar (actually almost identical) then why should people bother to buy from you when they can buy from the competition?

All roads seem to lead to the notion that the well-managed expert business can win over the clients…

An Excerpt from Grow Your Service Firm

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

How to Win a Business Award

Over the past few years I have been a judge for numerous national business awards and competitions: start-ups, growing business, fast growth, bio-tech, working with the ‘good and the great’ to recognise and celebrate the achievements of individual businesses and their owners.

The process of judging is always a humbling affair; it involves a lot of highly-heated debate as well as a lot of laughter. The refining and narrowing down of a group choice to one winner is not as scientific as a one would like, but at the end of the day the best business wins.

There is a lot of similarity between the way that job applications get handled and award applications get dealt with.

The sifting process

The first sift is very binary and somewhat cruel, depending on the award. Someone sifts the big pile to create a short-list. This is more about putting people in the rubbish bin than anything else. 

So simple questions are addressed:

  • Are they applying for an appropriate category?
  • Do they fit all entry criteria?
  • Have they followed the entry guidelines and presented their case properly?
  • Are they a good example/case study of their category?

Those that don’t meet the above get cut; it’s as simple as that. 

The pile then gets filtered again to start picking out the exceptional from the ordinary – amongst all the noise some entries always stand out as being better/different/more interesting. 

More than anything this is a marketing exercise – you are being judged on your ability to tell your story in a compelling way that will attract the judges’ attention and demonstrate that you are a worthy contender. Speaking bluntly, too many applications are simply ghastly.

The judging panel

At the judging panel, the judges work in small groups and all they have to go on is the competition applications, a quick look at the website, Google, accounts (on the web), and maybe a brief presentation from the contestants. In a very short period of time, with limited access to information, a decision is made.

A little like Dragons’ Den or X-Factor, the judges apply their own criteria to what they see. That’s all there is to go on. Constant reminders of the judging criteria or the specific category criteria are referred to but the judges will select according to their own experience, wisdom and belief as to who is the most worthy or appropriate winner.

So, at the last judging panel, we passed over the application that had been faxed in and printed in Arial 9 in the first place as it was totally unreadable. We passed over the hand-written one put together while watching Eastenders I suspect. Likewise, we were highly suspicious of the ones that didn’t fill in all the boxes (you must know this year’s turnover?) and those that didn’t stack up, probably because of mistakes (surely you realise that gross profit cannot be bigger than turnover).

Clearly, judges are individuals and will apply their own filter and prejudices to what is presented to them but you need to make it easy for them to see why you are the right choice. So, present your application clearly, fill it in thoroughly, and make it easy for them to understand your business model and your story. Most importantly, market your business so that it stands out, enabling the judges to crown you their winner.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Top-performing companies are the most fertile source of new jobs..

Top-performing companies are the most fertile source of new jobs... so ignore the rest?

This study confirms my comments in Start-Ups Are A Waste of Time and Money

In any given year, the top-performing 1 percent of firms generate roughly 40 percent of all new jobs. 
  • so-called "gazelle" firms (ages three to five) comprise less than 1 percent of all companies, yet generate roughly 10 percent of new jobs in any given year. 
  • The "average" firm in the top 1 percent contributes 88 jobs per year, and most end up with between 20 and 249 employees. 
  • The average firm in the economy as a whole, on the other hand, adds two or three net new jobs each year.

"Because fast-growing young firms account for a disproportionate share of net job creation, policymakers who are worriedly poring over unemployment projections might instead seek to foster the creation of more high-growth firms," said Robert E. Litan, vice president of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. "While some new companies will undoubtedly fail, high-growth firms must be started somehow, and the more quickly they are launched and in larger numbers, the faster both output and employment will grow."

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Design Your Own Robert Craven Workshop

We are planning to run some more workshops before the summer gets into full swing and we need your help!

Before we schedule any events we need to know what you, the client/customer wants from us. To that end I am asking for less than 1 minute of your time to complete this quick survey

Why should you fill in this survey?
Because you are feeling:

1. Generous - to help us run better programmes
2. Selfish - to make sure you get what you want
3. Fortunate - to receive a 10% discount on any tickets you buy for these events
4. Lucky - to have your name put in a prize draw to win a copy of one of my books
5. Very lucky - to have your name put in a prize draw to win a ticket to one of the events.

Thanks for all your help (in advance).

If you know anyone who might want to complete the survey, please do forward this email to them.


Click here:
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Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Directors' Centre Online Business Club Update - 25% DISCOUNT SALE

Here is the latest Business Club update:   
The Employees Charter
A template to help your business implement an employee charter.
Sheryl Sandberg
The COO of Facebook encourages women to aim higher in the business world. (Full Members Only)
We have found an excellent online site that holds over 1000 eBooks for businesses across many industries. (Full Members Only)
Charles Moore gives his first full-length talk about Margaret Thatcher's biography since her death.
Paid Search Advertising
A complete guide to implementing your own search engine advertising and marketing. (Full Members Only)
Big Biz Small Biz
Robert Craven looks at the advantages that small businesses have over big ones and how they can work together.
Patagonia's head of marketing discusses why they became a leading environmentally-friendly company decades ago. (Full Members Only)
The CEO of talks about how he turned a failing gay social network into a popular online retailer. (Available to both Lite and Full Members) 

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