A marketing manifesto

What makes your marketing stand out? Think very hard. Business guru Robert Craven argues that, for many companies, too often the answer is simply ‘not enough’

Take 15,000 owner-managers and managing directors of growing businesses. Ask one simple, yet fundamental, question about their businesses: What aspects of marketing and selling do they need to get better at?

Give them the answer(s) in a way that allows them to significantly improve their businesses. Return after one year and see the results. This was the Bright Marketing recipe.

And the reality…

Over the last three years I’ve asked the following question to more than 15,000 owner-managers and directors at marketing masterclasses and seminars: What do you want to have learned by the end of this session? As a result, we now have a pretty good idea of the key marketing issues that people want resolved.

At its simplest, the questions that audiences wanted the answer to came under one of six headings:

… What works?

… How do you communicate effectively and how do you get heard?

… How should you focus and how should you target?

… How should you measure?

… How do you stand out from the rest and how do you get listened to?

… How do you go about getting more sales for your budget?

Tools for growth

As we answered the key questions time and time again, we were able to develop, create and modify a set of tools that were fundamental to the growth of a successful business. In the end, we were able to identify and share an approach and attitude that separates the exceptional performers from the average ones. This common set of Bright Marketing tools creates remarkable results for those that use them in their businesses.

A world of similiarity

Nearly everyone looks the same. Your competitors pay similar people with similar qualifications, similar wages to use similar software on similar hardware to make similar products that do similar things at similar prices. We live in a world of similarity in which I can almost guarantee that your competitors have similar, if not identical, marketing materials to yours.

You will be exactly the same as the rest of your competition if you also try to promote yourself by celebrating similar qualities (qualified staff, happy customers, value for money, etc). In most industries there is too much sameness; too much safe differentiation between the various competitors.

The failures

We discovered that the reason that most people’s marketing doesn’t work (as well as it could) is normally down to one or several of the following reasons:

Lack of commitment – If you are not consistent and regular in the ways you promote your product, then the odds are that you will not succeed.

Lack of a clear benefit – It never hurts to state the obvious. You must sell something that people want.

Poor positioning – If you look exactly the same as your competitors and you offer the same benefits at the same price, then why should customers bother to come to you?

KISS (keep it simple stupid!) – We have an ability to complicate things without realising that simplicity, clarity and focus will bring us the profits we seek.

Paralysis by analysis combined with dull thinking – Usually caused by attending inappropriate marketing courses and reading too many marketing textbooks.

Why people buy from you

There are four possible answers:

1. You know exactly what unique set of advantages you offer your clients, and you set out to capitalise on these advantages.

2. You offer a unique set of advantages but you’ve never identified them yourself.

3. You offer the client no unique advantages and you’re just lucky to still be trading.

4. You’re about to go under because you’re virtually giving the stuff away.

Be totally honest. If it’s numbers two, three or four, there’s work to be done.

Robert Craven is an entrepreneur, businessman and author who has run Mastermind Groups and action-centred learning with Warwick Business School, Business Growth Programme and London’s Accelerated Growth Programme among others. His latest book, Grow Your Service Firm, is available now . He is managing director of The Directors’ Centre.

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