Friday, 29 November 2013

Disruptive Marketing - Robert Craven in Cheltenham

Here's a one-and-a-half minute video about the Mix Marketing Conference held in Cheltenham. The video introduces my subject, Disruptive Marketing, and gives you a feel for the actual conference.

I was the keynote/opening speaker, setting the scene for the rest of the day.

And a great day it was too!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Customer is King - on the web

This posting has gathered together various references to the phrase, 'Customer is King'.

Top 5 Business Worksheets from Directors' Centre Business Club

Here's the latest update from the Directors' Centre Business Club

The Directors' Centre Business Club
Focusing On Growing Your Business   
 November 2013
Dear Robert,   
As the year draws to an end, here are some of the most popular worksheets, videos and articles from 2013.

To start you off -

This collection covers the subjects of pricing strategy, marketing, customers and selling. All of the worksheets are excellent pieces that can be used both as an important lesson or as a quick reminder.

Keep an eye on your inbox for more Top 5s of 2013 over the coming weeks as well.

New Facebook Business Page Changes
There have been some recent changes to Facebook business or brand pages that allows reviews of your business to be published prominently on your brand page. A large number of businesses are already up in arms about the way the ratings are collected and calculated.

Don't worry, we have it all explained in our article Facebook Ratings Are Damaging Your Brand (And How You Can Fix It). It explains the problems and suggests ways you can improve your score, as well as offering a method to remove Facebook ratings completely.

Bright Marketing AcademyThe Bright Marketing Academy
Last month Robert Craven launched his first online training course on The course covers everything you need to know about creating a successful marketing strategy that will improve your profits and sales. 
Forward this email to friends and colleagues so they don't miss out!  

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See the latest update now at

Sunday, 24 November 2013

So, What’s Holding Your Business Back?

So, What’s Holding Your Business Back?
‘It’s not such an easy question to answer…’ said the budding entrepreneur.

‘OK,’ said the business adviser (or coach or consultant or friend or partner), ‘I’ll ask you one more time… So what’s holding you back?’

The reply came, ‘Well, obviously it’s the recession, the market, the competition… then there’s the finance and the getting and keeping the right people’.

‘Ahhhh,’ said the business mentor, ‘so it’s everything else but YOU!’
(Pregnant pause, followed by embarrassed wringing of hands…)

The Magic Million research asked entrepreneurs what they felt were the inhibitors to their business growth. As predicted, their answers were, in order, market conditions, staff (inability to recruit), cash-flow, competition (Directors’ Centre 2008).

Consistent with my experiences, the respondents pointed the finger at everything but themselves! They cited external influences as the key thing that was holding them back.

The recession, the Government, banks, accountants, consultants, competitors, staff and access to funds are clear targets for the entrepreneur’s frustration. You feel that you can identify the culprits and ‘name and shame’ those who hurt you the most. Listen to the dinner party conversation of a frustrated entrepreneur and most sentences start with the word ‘They’! However, I think that what’s actually going on is slightly more subtle and psychological…

Remember Noddy and Big Ears? Sure you do. Whenever Noddy was asked to explain why something dreadful had happened he always replied ‘I didn’t… I didn’t… I didn’t!’

In essence, he was always shifting the blame away from himself and onto others. Maybe he was in denial… maybe he really thought it was someone else’s fault… or maybe he just couldn’t accept the reality. His taxi service was a bit like our poor, frustrated entrepreneurs!

Let me expand …

Ask any entrepreneur what’s holding back their growth and they will usually cite the recession, competitors, staff and access to funds as the problems. These are all external constraints on the growth of the business.  I don’t deny that these are real constraints but I think that they are looking in the wrong place to understand what is really holding them back. So, where should they look? Answer: in the mirror!

In most (but not all) instances, the biggest constraints on a business’s growth are internal, not external. It is the internal constraints that are the real limiters to growth and need to be overcome in order to beat the external constraints.

Put simply, the internal constraints that hold back business growth are based around fear - fear of ‘letting go.’ The two key internal constraints are based on the terror of losing management control (by delegating and sharing out the running of the business) and the terror of the consequences of loss of ownership (when share ownership gets diluted or new investors are brought in). OK, bear with me here if I’ve just symbolically jabbed a pencil in your eye.

As an analogy, talk to any sportsman and they recognise that their internal constraints (psychology, attitude, belief) need to be in tip-top form to deal with the external factors (competitors, environment and so forth). Similarly, businesses need to get their own psyche sorted to take on the outside world.

In a nutshell, the real limiting constraints to business growth are the internal factors (i.e. the entrepreneurs themselves) – these outweigh the external factors (i.e. everything else) for most businesses. The external factors can be worked on but only if the internal issues are sorted out first. How else could so many businesses set up and thrive in a recession?

So, final thoughts for Noddy and his entrepreneurial friends?

Before you start blaming others for your poor performance and lack of growth, take a look at yourself! To grow your business the first thing you need to do is be willing to share the ownership and management of your business. I am willing to bet that you cannot do it all on your own.  Email me if you are that rare soul who can!

So, for most of us the message is to stop blaming everyone else and recognise that the key factor that is limiting your business is you! Maybe you are unconsciously sabotaging the growth of your business! And if you don’t believe me, then have a word with Big Ears!!

PS  Having run businesses through the Thatcher and Bubble recessions I know how one can try to blame the recession or other outside forces when things aren’t going too well. I am not for one moment belittling the massive efforts of business owners. All I am trying to say is that internal factors are even more powerful than external factors.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Robert Craven at Born Global event at Yeo Valley...

Born Global is about export... entrepreneurs... start-ups... and business growth.

Here's an edited down version of the Born Global video.

A great event for global entrepreneurs... people with ideas that should be launched globally rather than just locally.

The event was run at the inspiring Yeo Valley Training Centre near Bristol and was sponsored by Business West, UKTI and EU funding. I was very kindly invited to deliver the opening keynote presentation.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Friday, 1 November 2013

What help should you get for your business?

Applied to your own business (and specifically to your marketing), I wonder if it is better to narrow your focus and look for deep activity in a narrow field (niche) or is it better to go broader and shallower?

As I reflect on my own activities with business owners and directors (spread between keynote speaking through seminars to mastermind groups and one-to-ones), I have been following the progress and successes of clients and delegates.

All the research points to one blindingly obvious fact.

Yes, the choice of intervention is varied from free workshops, seminars and ebooks through paid-for CDs, videos, events and workshops through to mastermind groups, strategy away days, coaching and consultancy support. And yes, business owners should choose the style of intervention that suits them best. However, the medium selected is just that, simply a means to an end. And the end is to significantly improve business performance. So, the question that should be asked is, "which medium gives the biggest and best improvement for my business?"

What is emerging is that the simpler, shorter interventions, especially what can be called 'one-to-many' activities, (one speaker to 150 delegates, one speaker to 150 people on the end of the phone, one person making a CD and selling 150 copies…) is not necessarily the best catalyst to get the business owner to:
- Recognise the business's key issues
- Understand the cause and best possible solutions- Understand what decision needs to be made- Take the decision and put in place a plan to roll-out the necessary actions- Make the plan happen- Know how to monitor/evaluate/improve on the plan (and do it).

I think you have to choose the intervention that you think will best help you to make the decisions and take the actions. Making decisions and drawing up plans is good but actually it is the implementation of the right plan that you are looking to accomplish.

'One-size-fits-all' solutions rarely do fit all. If (as a director) you don't know what you don't know then how do you know if you are actually doing the right thing…?

Because business owners need to understand what is wrong with their businesses (and because they probably don't have the diagnostic skills to identify them) so it can be seen that smaller groups working for longer time-periods (not just one-offs) and actually inter-relating in discussions about the specific business should be more effective.

To that end, we find that mastermind groups, strategy away days, coaching and consultancy support are the most effective interventions.

In general terms, you can see a continuum going from low price/low result through to high price/high result.

However, a high price-point does not guarantee high results. The key seems to be whether the intervention (at whatever price-point and by whatever medium) actually gets the business owners/directors to take the necessary actions to grow their business.

Regrettably, too few of the business interventions actually help the owner to do this.

So, as an owner-director what do you do? 

So, is the best intervention (from the point of view of giving the individual client, you, the best result) to work with more clients (but in a shallow way) or to work with fewer clients (but more intensively)?

If you are talking about the future of your business then the shallow solution (a book, CD or workshop) simply cannot be sufficient. You need the intense solution that gets you to take action