Isn't it ironic that marketing has marketed itself so badly? - Talk Marketing 019 - Robert Craven

Martin Henley

Good. Good morning, Mr. Craven.

Robert Craven

Ah, good morning, Mr. Martin. How are you?

Martin Henley

I’m extraordinarily well, I’m really excited to be speaking to you. Because like, I’ve already told you I’m a little bit of a fanboy, because I saw you way back when, like 14/15 years ago. And you inspired me when I was a very young marketing company. And I quoted you in my second ever, “What The” episode when I was trying to define marketing, because the marketing definition that you came up with is the best I’ve ever heard. And fortuitously you came across that video, you commented, you got in touch, said it was great, you know, you saved me all the trouble of having to get in touch with you. So, I am properly excited. This is the conversation I was hoping to have when I started this, 18 episodes ago. So thank you, thank you, thank you for being here man.

Robert Craven

My absolute pleasure. It’s actually one of those wonderful things about the internet, one of the good things is, you find this randomness and these random connections you probably wouldn’t otherwise find, it is one of the really great things about the internet, I think.

Martin Henley

Yes, I think it is, and I need to remember, and you need to remind me occasionally, because what I do most recently is I teach digital marketing, and I teach it in a very conspiratorial way. So I teach my students, the first thing I tell them is I can’t teach them digital marketing. But what I can do is, like when you teach somebody to surf, you can teach them to be safe in the water. So I teach them very much it’s us versus the corporations. I have to be reminded because I was working 20 years ago, 30 years ago that before the internet, things were far harder than they are now. So I need to remember that from time to time.

Robert Craven

Well, I’m actually going to dispute that, I didn’t think they were harder. So there you go, it’s just a bit of upside-down thinking, because it’s so easy to do it now, you know, because anyone can throw up a website with Wix, because anyone can come up with a unique selling proposition, because anyone can find some product, you know, everyone can be at it. Whereas, you know, 15 years ago, you had to work really hard you had, to have five or 10,000 pounds to have a website, absolute minimum. I remember, selling websites to lawyers for 40,000 – 50,000 pounds, and they weren’t, certainly weren’t, very sophisticated by today’s standard. So, you know, now, if you want to find out who’s the head honcho of your target company, just go into LinkedIn, press a few buttons, see who you know knows them and boom, you’ve actually got the connection whereas then it was like, you know, how do I even know who’s the head honcho? I know, I’ll phone them, and you get through to the reception, and they say, so who is the person in charge of marketing that I should be talking to, the phone goes down. So supply and demand tells me that there’s five times more people doing business, and it’s five times easier for them to actually make names, which means that there’s just so much noise, I mean, just look at your LinkedIn or your Facebook feeds and how much blinking noise there is. That noise wasn’t there before, you know, I think it might have been in some sense a better time.

Martin Henley

Yes, well, I’ve got whole theories about the digitisation of the world, of society, and whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing or not. We’ve got into this, and we’ve got no idea if you’re qualified to be speaking to us about marketing at all already. That’s actually my first question. So I was there, I graduated in ‘93, I think. And by the end of ‘93, I was in a media house in London cold calling people trying to sell them advertising. So I was there doing the marketing, and doing the, I haven’t got a clue who is responsible for this, and I need to find that person thing.

Robert Craven

Yeah.

Martin Henley

And I think you learn a lot about marketing that way. That’s probably how I know about marketing and I think people who weren’t there don’t necessarily know about marketing, like in digital marketing, they know where all the buttons are, but they don’t know where the actual levers are.

Robert Craven

100%. So if you ask a typical marketer, “Who is your target customer?” They say, “Well, we just, go into Facebook, and we just hit the button, look-alikes.” That’s just getting a machine to do some of the lifting and it’s not necessarily accurate, because the way they actually segment isn’t the way that people actually are or behave, we should be segmenting by people’s behaviour, not by their colour, age, what they last bought, and so on and so forth. And yeah, well, I’m sure we can get on onto that.

Martin Henley

Let’s go to that, because there needs to be something, I’m gonna start writing things down, because this is gonna get really interesting.

Robert Craven

Alright. Let’s start off with what right have I got to talk to you about marketing?

I think in some senses, I have none, because we all have L Plates in this world and so in some senses, I have none. If you’re going to go to qualifications, I got a degree in Economics and Politics, that’s totally irrelevant. I’ve got an MBA, that’s even more irrelevant, because they don’t teach you anything about the real world in business school. You know, I spent 50,000 quid on business school, I learned two things really, one of which I use every single week, the other I use once a month, the rest of it was just, “This is how GCE, this is how British Telecom….” This is stuff that very few people actually need with theories created in the mid-50s and early 60s about a world which isn’t the world we live in now. So not a great deal of respect for that.

I started marketing, I suppose, at the prime age of 13, Richard Buckman invited me to Petticoat Lane to help him on his uncle store where we sold, I’ll rephrase that, we gave away really expensive blankets, and we sold really nasty sheets. I used to stand at the back on a Sunday morning, and there it is, it’s like, “Not five-pound! not four-pound!! not three-pound!!! not two!!!” And all that kind of stuff. And I’ll stand at the back with money in my hand and every three minutes I put my hand up and go, “I’ll buy two!” and I’ll run to the front, collect these lousy sheets, turn around, go back round to the back and do the same again. I kind of learned about psychology and what people buy, and how to get people to buy, and how to sell and how to win people’s confidence. I suppose that was my starting point.

First business aged 21, first proper business aged 21, which is a café, came a restaurant, sound recording studio, Pop Festival catering, did loads, 10 years at Glastonbury. Fell into consulting. It has always been marketing, it has always been how on earth can we get, you know, the restaurant was, you know, this is what we sell, how do we get people in? How do we get the sort of people we want to come in to buy? And how do we sell to them at the right price? I’ve always been fascinated by the reality of selling more than in a way, more than marketing. And off my MBA, I was so hacked off with the business school, I just phoned them up and said, look, get another example of selling, you know, I turned to the MBA, it’s really, really interesting. However, the program on small businesses I felt could have been better because it didn’t really deal with what I experienced as someone running a small business. And they said, well, thank you very much for your comments. But I was suffering from cancer when he did the program. I thought, okay, keep going, while actually, we’re going to the funeral tomorrow. I’ll tell you what, I’m driving past, its Warrick Business School. I’m driving pass Warrick tomorrow on Friday, which was a total lie. Let me come in and see you. And they have a bunch of programs that they are trying to run. And I said, look, you don’t know what to do with these programs, let me run them. And they said, what do you need, and I said, all I want is your logo, I will use people who’ve been there and done it, to help people go there and do it. If I don’t, I’ll give me a phone and give me a paying in book and that’s all I need. And that became a thing called the Business Growth Program for high performing businesses. And that’s exactly what we did. We got people who’ve been there and done it to help people go there and do it.

So, the marketing expert was someone who ran a marketing agency, had grown it and the finance expert was someone who was an accountant, but he’d grown a business. So, we didn’t use any of their staff, we used their buildings. Because we wanted people who’ve been there and done it to help people go there and do it. And that’s kind of been my philosophy ever since. I did the business growth program. And we’ve run various programs getting bigger and bigger for more and more people. But that same basic principle that you want people who aren’t inverted commas on stage, who’ve been there and done it. So, they’ve got the spears in their back. And the real learning takes place side to side on the table. You know, how did you do it? How did you experience that? Does this work? Doesn’t this work? What might you do? Let’s talk about it when we meet up next time. It’s very, very kind of experiential.

When I was at Warrick, I cut a deal with Virgin Books. They wanted a business school to partner their book series. And that was the point at which I kind of became serious about it in a way where I said, okay, part of the book series was I had two book titles. And then I started writing and as a result of writing, this is a long-winded explanation, suddenly, because there weren’t people writing books all over the place. Suddenly, I was speaking on stages, and people are listening to me. So that’s kind of the short version. So more am I going to talk about marketing? I’ve sold tons of stuff. I’ve run tons of failed marketing programs, and tons of successful marketing programs. And still, every day I have to get up and find ways of selling our stuff. So it’s a raw marketing piece, I wrote a book called Bright Marketing, which was me really trying to get a bit like you’re saying, Martin, about really trying to get to grips with what marketing is about, and what marketing really means. But you could argue that it’s, I certainly don’t have the doctorates and the PhDs in marketing, and I didn’t work for Accenture, or Ogilvy’s, or whatever it is, that’s not the route that I took.

Martin Henley

Okay, so that’s a really long answer. I had no idea. And it’s interesting, I had no idea that it was so academic, your experience.

Robert Craven

I don’t it think was academic, I think we used the platform of the business school to access people. So all the people who came on the programs we ran, didn’t have degrees and they will take photos of themselves in front of the business school side because it was so funny that they’d gone, you know, there was a truck company that had like 500 trucks, there was a, what else do we have, a refrigeration company. The proper, proper businesses that we were bringing them together to help them accelerate their growth and they just on the whole at that time, they weren’t all, certainly weren’t formal, let’s show you the 5Ps and the 7Rs and the 10Xs and this three by three matrix and all that bollocks.

Martin Henley

Good, really good. So you weren’t running these courses for students of the business school?

Robert Craven

No, we were running it for real businesses. And funnily enough, just yesterday I threw away all the brochures, you know that thing when you kind of go through all your files and go, I think it’s time to throw these brochures away.

Martin Henley

Okay. All right. So this is really, okay, this is really interesting. So, what you did is you just leverage the brand of the business school and marketed directly.

Robert Craven

100%. I’m telling you the really interesting thing about that is, pre-business school I was doing consulting and you pick up the phone and say, “Hi Robert Craven Consulting. Can I help you?” Phone goes dead. “Hi, Robert Craven Consulting. Can I help you?” Phone goes dead. Go to Warrick Business School, “Hi Warrick Business School, Small Business Center. Yeah. How can I help? Boss would like to talk to you.” And selling became really, really easy because selling was like, literally used to invite people in for these tastes all evening because really, I’d never, when I arrived, I didn’t know how you sold with a brand that makes sense. I didn’t understand that people knew about you. And you didn’t have to educate them and say Hi, this is what I do. And we arrived and it was, it took me two or three months to realize, you know, when you sell BMW, you don’t say Hello, this is a BMW, it’s the ultimate driving machine. It’s unbelievable. Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, because people know what a BMW is. And if they don’t, they won’t buy it. And the same thing happened at Warrick that you’d invite people in, show them the premises, give them some tidbits to eat and some glasses of wine. And then what I used to do is get X attendees of the program from last year’s program, to present about the program, I used to go to the bar, I don’t know if anyone even knew that, I used to go to the bar, and I used to drink two pints of Guinness, literally, and leave potential clients with existing clients to talk to each other. Okay? And that way they could have they could ask all the questions they wanted, discuss all the things they wanted to what was good, what was bad, what did what didn’t work. And then I just used to walk in with an order book, you know, and just take orders. My existing clients were ambassadors, and they did all the heavy lifting of the selling for us. Really interesting exercise in selling. So it was, and I literally just said, here’s the program at 6000 pounds run over 12 months bla bla bla bla bla, sign here.

Martin Henley

Fantastic. Okay, good. Because marketing was happening. And I’m with you. I think I came from sales. I also did politics, they called it by the time I was at university. So I had a politics degree, which went towards kind of philosophy. So that was interesting. And I think semi-useful, because you’re talking about motivations and things.

Robert Craven

Yeah, yeah.

Martin Henley

And then I went into sales. And then I went into marketing, only because I spent 10 years in sales and my reasoning was, I’d seen the marketing people loaded up with all of the budget, and none of the target while the sales people had all of the target and none of the budget.

Robert Craven

Yeah.

Martin Henley

Then I came to marketing. And only then in my mid-30s, I learned the kinds of lessons that you’re talking about now. My question for you is this, because what I’ve done recently is teach digital marketing, which is a special kind of torture. Because it changes all the time, somebody at Google decides they’re going to change.

Robert Craven

No, no, no, no, it doesn’t change all the time. I mean just go back, just go back to 1961. And I will be academic, the one piece of academia I will quote for you, 1961, Theodore Levitt wrote an article in Harvard Business Review called Marketing Myopia, right? And he says in it, and I’ve lived on the shoulders of great people, he’s a great person I’ve lived off. And he said, people think marketing is all about tactics. You know, Facebook this, Facebook that, look-alikes, and it’s not. And then people say, oh, if it’s not about tactics, it must be about strategy, because we like using the strategy word. And he said, marketing is not about strategy. He said, marketing is all about the customer, yeah? And this myopia of thinking it’s about my product and what my product does and how people can benefit from my product is entirely wrong. That marketing is all about, it’s all about the customer. It’s not about me, it’s not about my product, it’s not about my features and benefits. You know, it’s about you know, why should they bother to buy my product when they can buy someone else’s? It’s about, you know, people don’t mind buying my product, they buy my product, not for what it does, but they buy my product for what it does for them, you know. And, it’s really fundamental.

And the other thing he said, and we can probably finish the interview now in a way, is he said that marketing is just about two things. It’s about segmentation, in other words, who the hell are you selling to? And it’s about differentiation, which is what makes me different from the rest? And if you can nail segmentation, you know, we sell to lawyers with between 50 and 150 desks, who have a problem understanding how to grow their sales. Differentiation, and what makes us different is we’re faster than the competition and brighter and friendlier and nicer. You cut the two in half, boom, there you are. Off you go. And I think that this whole, I think people just lost sight of how blinking simple it is. It’s, you know, customer is king, whatever you want, however you want to describe it. It’s about what hurts, problems, needs, what scratches customers got and how can we sort them out for them?

Martin Henley

Okay, good. Perfect. I’m really, pleased to hear you say that. Because this is essentially how I get away with teaching digital marketing, because I teach the principles of marketing, and how you can leverage those using digital platforms. That’s kind of what I do. I’m agreeing with you 100%, so we’re not going to have an argument. The issue with digital marketing is that digital marketing isn’t necessarily about the customer. Digital Marketing isn’t necessarily about, it’s about digital. It’s about Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, whoever else wants to come to the party, and where the buttons are, because digital marketing is not necessarily about marketing, I think that’s the issue. It’s created a whole soap opera, which is about it. So the issue with teaching digital marketing I think, is academically, is that by the time you’ve put together curriculum, by the time you’ve got it approved, by the time you’ve put together the exam questions, then some geka, Google has changed the way things work. I don’t know what it might be, PPC, or whatever it might be. It doesn’t work like that anymore.

Robert Craven

Yeah, but so that’s certainly about the deliveries, in terms of the delivery. It’s like, and yeah, we saw that on COVID, how, I mean, if we did this interview, a year and a half, two years ago, pre-COVID, we’d probably done it on, do you remember? Skype.

Martin Henley

Yes.

Robert Craven

Skype was the platform that everyone was on a year and a half ago and it’s vanished, vahoom! It is, I don’t even know Skype exists anymore. I can’t remember the last time I used Skype. So 100% it’s about Oh, the algorithms changed. Oh, they’re now penalizing you for this. That’s the kind of deliverable but my argument is that most agencies are too, a bit like what Levitt’s saying, that they’re too preoccupied with the tactics. In other words, do you put on TikTok, do not put it on TikTok? Is it 30 seconds or 60 seconds? Do we have a video? How many people do we have? Versus the bigger principle which is, you know, what is our customer’s problem? And how can we help them deal with it?

And one of the really interesting things in COVID is the agencies that did really well, sweeping generalization aside, I apologize to all the people I’m upsetting. The agencies that did really well, we kind of went back to basics, which was, what is it our clients really want right now. And what their clients really wanted is, they wanted to keep the customers they had, slow down the customers that are leaving or get more customers. So those agencies realized that their job was to help their clients do that. Not necessarily via PPC or Facebook advertising or new websites, that they recognize that their role has become to help their clients navigate through difficult times. The agencies that did really, poorly sweeping generalization, were the ones that said, “Hello, we are a PPC agency, and we specialize in PPC with Google. And this is what we have to offer you.” Because they weren’t able to lean in to what it was, the customer really wanted and, that is a myopia. They believe that the only thing they could sell was PPC and search, or the only thing they could sell was Facebook advertising or being advertised or whatever it is. And customers don’t wake up in the morning and say I want more PPC, they wake up in the morning and say I want more, better customers show me how to do that.

So the challenge becomes, do you let the tail wag the dog? You know, when the customer turns up and says, we’d really like an email marketing campaign to go with our PPC campaign? Do you say, No, we are a PPC campaign, we cannot help you. Or do you go, either we’ve got a sister company, and we’ll take ownership or Oh, that’s interesting, that’s the third inquiry for email marketing we’ve had this week. It sounds to us like what our customers really want is PPC, and email marketing, and they fit together really well. So I’m going to, quote Theodore but in a way that yes, tactics make it incredibly difficult. And I would hate to be setting the syllabus for an exam that’s being delivered in a year’s time or six months’ time or three months’ time or one month time. But the problem for agencies is understanding who their client is and what their clients’ hurts, needs, then scratches one so.

Martin Henley

Good. You’re saying everything I believe, you’re saying everything that I tell people all the time when I’m teaching. My interest is in, because I think digital is particularly difficult because it’s run by these four corporate monoliths who will change something and it changes globally. And there’s no feedback mechanism. There’s nothing that goes on. I think that is difficult. And I think the danger is if you are an exam board, you’ll want to ask questions about where the buttons are, etc. And the buttons are constantly moving. So, I think that’s more difficult. What I’m interested in is your comment about your MBA where you were dissatisfied to the point that you went back and said, I’m dissatisfied.

Robert Craven

Yea.

Martin Henley

My question is, is it actually possible to teach marketing academically?

Robert Craven

What a great question. Is it possible to teach marketing academically? I believe. Go on?

Martin Henley

Sorry. I mean, I don’t have to if you’re happy to answer the question.

Robert Craven

Yeah, no, no, no, I think it’s a great question.

Martin Henley

It will require a little bit more. Yeah. Okay.

Robert Craven

So, the answer is yes. I think the way it’s taught at the moment is wrong. Isn’t it ironic? That marketing has marketed itself so badly and there’s a blog in its own right. People don’t understand the value of marketing, good marketing is singularly developed. Because as my daughter said, she used to work for marketing agency in, where was it? In London, in one cool funky place, Farringdon, you know, marketing is getting people to buy shit, they don’t really want. And I mean, it’s quite a cynical view, people getting people to buy shit they don’t really want. But I think that the basics of marketing can clearly be taught. Okay, that sense of who is a customer? What does the customer want? And I’ve worked with the wonderful professor McDonald at Cranfield. I mean, for the last 10/15 years I’ve been working with him. And you know, he wrote the original marketing something, about marketing. And it’s just very, very straightforward. It’s about, you know, what is the product? What are the features? What are the benefits? Why should people buy it? What are the advantages? What’s our customer strategy? What are the customer tactics? What have you measured? How you can make it happen? And, the difficult bit gets in your digital piece, where we go down into the tactics.

So I think that marketing can be taught in the sense that the tools, techniques, and the levers that you pull can be taught. Can the, the-know, the marketing knows be taught? I think, probably not, you know, that sense of, I know, one or two people in marketing, I’m thinking of one guy particularly I work with, he can look at anything and he will see how it can be presented in a way that satisfies, deeply satisfies the customer need, one hurt, he’d scratch, and he just has a skill of saying, Okay, I understand you’re selling whatever it is, a cup or a mug that I think that particular people would be particularly interested in your type of market would be the people for this and therefore, the way we could present it would be this and therefore that and he’s like a magician in a way. And so that I think is harder to learn, that kind of, the creative side of it, but I think the technical side of it, yeah, sure. I think the interest thing, of course is we’ve got, you know, militant PPC on this side, you know, which is all people with very, very pointy heads. And then on the on the far side, we’ve got full-service agencies where they’re all wearing their black Versace jumpers and their Yves Saint Laurent jeans. And they’re doing kind of brand and creative stuff. And there’s quite a lot of confusion about who’s doing real marketing. But I think, can marketing be taught in? Yes. Is the business school the right place to teach it? Yes and no. Business Schools are wonderful for standing up in front of a board and being able to talk to any director in the boardroom. Because you know the models, you know the systems, you know the processes. Small Business Marketing, that’s tougher, isn’t it?

Martin Henley

Yes.

Robert Craven

That’s tougher.

Martin Henley

Okay, so I love your marketing nose but it comes close to the other danger, I think, which is this idea that really perpetuates, which is that there is some kind of trick, there’s one trick to marketing, or you’re going to collect your marketing knowledge in nuggets. And if you’re lucky enough to find those nuggets, then you might be successful. So which I think is the other danger, and I’m somewhere in between the two. It’s not an academic thing. But also it’s not a trick, you know, there are principles that need to apply. So not very, not a million miles away from you, the way you describe the activity of marketing. I tell my students that marketing is about landing the right message on the right person at the right time.

Robert Craven

Yeah. Practice profitably.

Martin Henley

Profitably, yes, thank you.

Robert Craven

It has to be profitably, because I can sell, the one thing I learned at Petticoat Lane, is if you’re selling something for a penny, you can sell tons of them. It’s not difficult selling stuff. It’s not difficult. What’s clever is selling it for 50 quid.

Martin Henley

Yeah.

Robert Craven

So I don’t know. The, you know, the trick isn’t.

Martin Henley

Is it a trick, that’s what we’re trying to establish first.

Robert Craven

Well, it’s not a trick. Well, it’s, here’s a pair of glasses. These could be you know, one pound at the Pound Shop. It could be 50 credits at Specsavers. They could be 250 pounds at Robert Craven Optometrist, for the senior people. Now, as long as I’m delivering value at all levels, that kind of doesn’t matter, as long as the clients are kind of happy. It’s not necessarily a trick because at 250 pounds, I might spend like a day of my time, you know, fixing and measuring and adjusting and so on and so forth. So, I think the thing is that marketing gets confused with kind of the ad-man staffer will drink brand and smoke cigarettes. And then will come up with a cunning plan to fool people. It’s not about, to me, it’s not about coming up with a cunning plan to fool people. It’s about finding ways to give people what they want, you know? And if people want to spend 250 quid on a PCR test, because they don’t want to do it through the NHS, you know National Health Service, that’s fine. So, it’s about, you know, it’s about how we play with that, obviously, it can be abused.

Martin Henley

Good. Alright. And I think the reason that all of this is so confusing, because exactly like you say, marketing is appalling at selling itself.

Robert Craven

Yeah.

Martin Henley

It should be much, much better. Like, we can define it in simple terms, like really simple terms, really, really simple terms, and make it a common-sense thing. For me, the whole of business is marketing, the whole of business is to go back to the definition that you gave in 2006/2007, whatever it was, it’s about finding, winning and keeping customers profitably. If you are doing that, then you are in business. And if you’re not doing that, you’re not going to be in business for very long. But people don’t do that. Because they don’t know that’s what they’re supposed to be doing, I think. You know, and that has to be the fault of marketing the community that, small businesses, especially big businesses, of course, they know how to do this, they’re doing this all day every day. But small businesses don’t know that and if marketing is identifying a need and satisfying that need, why isn’t marketing, this gets very meta I think, but why isn’t marketing very good at doing that?

Robert Craven

Because it’s full of itself, I think is the answer. I think it believes it’s something really special, doing something really profound, they believe they’re saving the world by getting people to buy more frozen food, you know, and, and they’re not saving the world. I mean it’s a great job to have, don’t get me wrong, and it’s good for the frozen food company and it’s good for business everyone’s happy, but they’re not necessarily saving the world, there are better ways of saving the world than doing cute ads for frozen food. So, but they are, you know, let’s also give marketing some respect. Marketing people also have the opportunity to communicate really important ideas to people. You know, I would argue, as you know, this things can be really cumbersome. I would argue that as we look at the way in which governments have been communicating about COVID, that’s been a marketing exercise on the whole, it’s been how do we persuade? I mean, they would argue its PR, but its how do we get people to do this stuff? How do we target specific audiences who may be averse to having jabs? And how do we reach them and persuade them of the benefits and get them and make the sale or making the sad equals, getting people to put jabs in their arms? So marketing or you know, marketing for charities, or, the way in which, you know, the issues around climate change have being taking place? These are all, I would argue these are all, I know, you’d say its PR, but it’s really just marketing, about understanding how to nudge people, understanding how to get people to do what you want them to do, which is what marketing is about in a way.

Martin Henley

Absolutely, I’m 100% with you. The conversation I had two chats ago, was with Melanie Farmer. Melanie Farmer’s involved in Australia, she’s been involved in essentially marketing their COVID response. She’s always been positioned inside universities. And for me, 100% It’s a marketing campaign, you know, to get people to respond the way they’re wanting them to respond, to stay at home, not stay at home, go to work, not go to work, have the jab, not have the jab. So, for me, it’s always about marketing. And what’s interesting about that is I think that the science, I think the reason is so difficult, if it’s difficult, I don’t know, I know, the huge majority of people in the UK have had the vaccine now, but where they’re getting resistance is because of a lack of credibility in the politicians, and in the science and in the pharmaceutical companies. So that comes back to what you were saying about the business school, which is if you have the right association, it all gets much easier. Okay, good, we’re coming close to what you’re busy with now, I think, are we? So, you’re running some kind of agency community, agency service? What exactly is it about?

Robert Craven

Okay, so what is it? So digital agencies, we have a Facebook group of 1500, digital agency, owner, founders, we have a subscription-based portal with monthly updates and interviews with people like Tom Peters and Rand Fishkin, and all kinds of people which is pay before you enter. And essentially, we do three things. I mean, our thing is, we help agency owners run the agency they really want to run, why? So, they can live the life they really want to lead. If they want to row across the Atlantic, we’ll help them do that, if they want to sell their agency retirement, and we’ll help them do that. And we kind of do that three ways, one to one work, you’d call that coaching or consulting or mentoring. I’m not really too hung up on which phrase we use, the right hat at the right time. Once a few mastermind groups, and then one to many, which is training and keynotes. So, the message, you know, the DNA the message is pretty much the same wherever you go, whoever you talk to within the organization, but it’s not the techniques that your students get examined on that we are interested in. We’re interested in, how do you run and grow an agency? So it’s far more about the agency’s strategy, the agency’s marketing, the agency’s teams, the agency’s leadership, the agency’s finance.

Martin Henley

Okay, cool. So, is there some irony here? If you are having to be an agent for these agencies?

Robert Craven

Well, there is an irony, there’s always an irony when someone sets up some kind of a network to represent, I mean, my kind of, our value system is kind of around. These agencies could be doing so much better and these agencies could be seen so much better. So let’s help them be seen to do better and be seen to be better than they are. That’s kind of trying to move the perception of the industry, that’s kind of where we’re at, that’s what we want to do. They don’t have time to do it themselves, you know, the usual stuff. They’re too busy working in the business and not enough time on the business. And they’re too busy looking after their own agency to not worry about the industry. And ironically, the industry doesn’t understand what they do. Because if you take Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, whatever it is, it’s not a fair partnership, so they don’t understand the needs of the individual agency. So it’s an interesting dynamic there.

Martin Henley

Okay, good. Did you just answer the question why you decided to put this together for specifically for agencies?

Robert Craven

No, no, I didn’t answer it. So, the CV guys, ran the course at Warrick, upset everyone at Warrick, left Warrick, set up on my own consultancy. In about 2000, I’ve been involved in consultancy, digital agency, we’ve grown to about 50/55 people. And then, in 2014, 15, 16, realize that nearly all our clients were marketing agency, graphics artists, web design, same time, Google approached us to ask us to help them put together a program for Premiere Partner Digital Agency, same time an agency in the States asked us to work on some research that would inform a program which we didn’t realize at the time was actually the same program. And then 2016, we launched that program for Google Premier Partners, 32 countries, yada, yada. The book, Grow Your Digital Agency came out. And then we said, you know, what, legacy clients, you know, this is what we want to lean into. These are the people we like, partly Martin, because all the problems you said earlier on, you know that, digital agency land is different, because the algorithms are changing so rapidly, that does make them a unique one. Secondly, they tend to be really young minded people. Thirdly, they tend to be really bright people. And those are my people, don’t let anyone know about it. More than accountants or lawyers, you know, I’m willing to go over burning coals for these people.

Martin Henley

Okay, so I don’t know, because I’ve only ever run a marketing agency, I’ve run one business in my life, and it’s a marketing agency. So I have no frame of reference. But I get the sense that running a marketing agency is a special kind of torture, it seems to me that it must be more difficult. I’ve got no experience, but just because it was so freaking difficult that you know, is a marketing agency, a specifically difficult type of business to run?

Robert Craven

You can take almost anything I say, you know, so the book, Grow Your Digital Agency, you could almost do cut, paste, search. Search, cut, paste of digital marketing agency and put accountancy practice, or architects’ practice or whatever in it. Because it’s, in many ways, it’s all the same stuff, which is where the hell are we going? Strategy. How on earth are we going to sell this stuff? Marketing. Why can’t we get on better? Teams. Where am I taking this place and why should people listen to me? Leaderships. How much are we making? Finance, money. So those things exist. Those are the nuts and bolts of running any business, whatever it is. There’s then the specific I think of it being service. So, in other words, it’s not consumable, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. I think that’s really important. So, we can’t have an agency, we haven’t got an inventory behind us as staff on the whole. And secondly, we’re trying to help other people to do what they’re trying to do, which is the sense of kind of consultancy agency, which I think a lot of people don’t really quite get. So, is it harder? I think if you had a dining room with like 20 business owners with a cocktail bar company, a marketing agency, a camera shop, a portrait artist, a pottery, I think they’re all pretty much as difficult as each other because they’ve got their own set of things going on. I mean, I wouldn’t like to be a wedding venue right now, for instance? No.

Martin Henley

No. Okay, so I think I was laughing just to see how many different types of businesses you could name if you could actually get to 20.

Robert Craven

Physiotherapist, psychotherapists.

Martin Henley

Of course, you can.

Robert Craven

Publisher.

Martin Henley

I think the irony is, well, the thing that makes running a marketing agency difficult, especially, if you’re working with small businesses, is that you are working with the hopes and dreams of those business owners.

Robert Craven

Agreed.

Martin Henley

So it’s not as different from accountancy where everybody knows at the end of year you need compliant accounts to go in.

Robert Craven

See I wouldn’t agree with that. That’s not the job of an accountant. See the job of an accountant, and there are a few who do it really well. I’ve got one of them. But the job of the accountant is to help their clients have better lives. It’s like this, why do you do what you do? So that it’s this benefit thing. The accountant, you know, is there to do your account so that you can live the life you really want to lead. My accountant should be asking me, your accountant should be asking you, what is it you want to do with your life? When we think of retiring, you know, how much time do you want to spend with your kids? All the things you’d like to do like travel around the world. Okay, let’s make that happen. Yeah, but most accountants, you’ve probably got accountants now, most accountants say, Ah, yeah, we have an account, your numbers, and they don’t add any value. And because they don’t add any value, they get a bad name for themselves. But a great modern thinking accounting, is there to transform the lives of their clients.

Martin Henley

Okay.

Robert Craven

And likewise, digital agencies are there to transform the lives of their clients. It’s about, God, I hate Simon Sinek, I hate people talking about purpose. But it is about, you know, what are we there to do? If you’re just there to count the numbers and take the money, you’re a boring accountant. But if you’re there to really connect and engage with your client about how you can help them get what they want. And I think the same thing applies to a digital agency, you know, we go in and we say, what is it exactly you what? I want hits selling a million units, I want to be able to sell this business in five years for 10 million pounds because its product number one, it’s consistently number one in its niche. Okay, we can help you do that. It is not just about another the numbers.

Martin Henley

Okay, so the thing is, this is really uncomfortable for me, because you and I think exactly the same and it’s not the way the world thinks.

Robert Craven

Yes, correct.

Martin Henley

The way the world thinks is that accountants are essentially a compliance facility in your business, to make sure you don’t go to prison for not paying enough tax or not getting things in on time or doing those things. So, the motivation of the buyer of accountancy is a need, every business knows they need accountancy.

Robert Craven

They can get that for $5 an hour from Bangalore, but the added value.

Martin Henley

But they are absolutely going to buy that service, whether I spend $5 or they spend 500 pounds an hour, they are going to buy that service. Now every business should know that they need marketing in their business, and they should be prepared to buy marketing. It’s about finding, winning and keeping customers profitably. It’s about being in business.

Robert Craven

Yes.

Martin Henley

But they don’t know that. So, I’m with you, accountants could offer far more value. When I was running this business properly, I went through an accountant a year for eight years because I was shocked that they weren’t adding value to my life. They were sending me emails in red letters and block capital letters. So, I’m with you 100%. But it’s not the way the world thinks, like the world doesn’t think like us. If the world thought like us, it would be much easier running a marketing agency, but they don’t get what it is. They don’t understand the value. They don’t understand that actually, literally like an accountant could make your life better. A marketing agency, the whole reason they are trying is to make your life better.

Robert Craven

Yeah, I totally agree. And part of the failure is ironically, need to advertising, need to marketing by the agencies themselves, you know?

Martin Henley

Yes.

Robert Craven

I’ll tell you, two or three stories very, very quick. The first one, I’m at a conference for digital agencies dealing with the customers, there are 30 stalls all the way down. Every stall is identical. Every stall has people either climbing up ropes, pulling ropes, or climbing up trees on the picture behind them. Every stall has a young, very, very pretty girl with a very flimsy blouse on. And that’s not sexist, it’s just an observation of the fact. Who walks up to you, shuffles up to you in her high heels and says, can I help you and you say the same thing to every one of them, which was hi, I’m running a professional service firm, I really like help with my marketing, tell me what makes you different from the rest and they say, blah, blah, we deliver value for money, and what makes us different is our obsession with customer service. Every single one of them said the same bloody thing, every single one of them, all 30 of them until I came to number 31, which is a gray-haired man to be like you with a beard and stuff. And he said, tell me about more about your business and your experience with digital agencies and why you’re looking for a new one. Because my proposition to you is, you need to tell us what you want from your agency, how many sales you want and if we don’t deliver, we won’t charge you. We do deliver, we’ll charge a fee, which is agreed in advance. It’s like bloody hell, you know, 30 of them, total fails, one of them, you have my money. So, it’s about not understanding the problem. The problem for digital agencies is they sell the same product, the same people, using the same websites, the same selling techniques, because they employ the same people who’ve been to the same universities, using the same tools, and the same techniques and the same price points and the same leverage points in order to sell the same stuff to the same people. It is so incredibly beige out there. All the agencies look and feel and sound identical. They have failed in marketing 101, you know, absolutely. And not only they failed in marketing 101, but they’ve kind of failed the industry by not smoking their own dope, not, whatever the phrase is you want to use.

Martin Henley

Okay, I like smoking their own dope. Okay, so this is really interesting, why is it? Because it comes back to what you were saying before about the agency only wanting to be a PPC agency. So, my issue in my line or when I think about these things, I don’t think of it very often, doesn’t keep me awake at night. But my issue is why don’t businesses understand that they need marketing? And the answer is because they don’t understand what marketing is.

Robert Craven

Agreed.

Martin Henley

And it sounds like what you’re saying to me right now, is that marketing agencies don’t understand what marketing is. So, if a marketing agency, and you said this, and I heard this in 2007/2008. So, it’s been around for at least 14 years. I can’t imagine, you cooked it up for us that day. You’ve been telling the world that marketing is about finding, winning and keeping customers profitably for at least 14 years that I know of. Why isn’t that the standard? Why don’t, the people who do this full time, marketing agencies employ people to do it, why aren’t they saying that to their customers?

Robert Craven

Because I failed. I failed.

Martin Henley

You failed or they failed.

Robert Craven

Well, I fail because obviously I’ve not managed to get the message out there well enough against. But, maybe, if the analogy is like pop music, maybe it’s okay, because it’s a cult. It’s a small offshoot of people who know what’s really good against the nonsense that’s out there. Now, what drives me mad is that marketing has got such a bad name as the consequences. 30-second story, woman said, can I come, can I see her? I said well, I’m driving past the door I can see her. She’d invested 70,000 pounds of her redundancy fee in a website, okay? She’d given 20,000 pounds to the web designers. She’d given 10,000 pounds to the graphics designers, she’d given 10,000 pounds to the digital marketing person, she’d given 10,000 pounds to the copywriter. And it was a rubbish, rubbish idea. It was a rubbish proposition. Nobody told her because they all wanted their money, okay? And it was an absolute disgrace that they’d taken 70,000 quid from her. And any half decent person like you or me, Martin would have said, this is a really interesting idea you’ve got here. Before we go any further, I think you just need to test that proposition. Maybe we could just test it very lightly to see what kind of response you have. But no, everyone just wanted their 10,000 quid for their bit of the work. And nobody took ownership about the fact that they were helping the woman lose her home, absolute disgrace, you know, and it brought tears to my eyes. So, we have, you know, selfish freelancers in all different fields and areas, who are preoccupied in their own problem, not looking at it holistically, not seeing it as part of marketing. You know, where are we now? Where are we going? How are we going to get there? How does my bit fit in? And, yeah, and the industry is riddled with those kinds of stories, which we kind of, and then we wonder why marketing gets a bad name?

Martin Henley

Yes, and I don’t think it’s necessarily freelancers, I don’t know the last time you pitched for a client, or if you ever pitched for a client, but the way it goes, and the last time I pitched for a client was in 2013/2014, so the world might have adjusted itself. But essentially, the way it goes is, if you’re me, you go in and you pitch them, you say, look, I’ve done some research, I’ve looked at the sort of keywords that people are searching for, and the volumes, and I’ve looked at, you know, how much noise there is around this on Twitter. And I’ve looked at kind of the attention that some of the YouTube videos have got. And this is kind of what I would imagine is going on. And this is what I would imagine is going to cost you to win a customer, and all of this good stuff. But if you’re the sixth person in, they’ve already spoken to five people who have bullshitted them about, without thinking about any of that stuff. Just Oh, yeah, we’ll have you number one in Google in three weeks’ time.

Robert Craven

So, we have to get back to the basics, Martin, which is why should people bother to buy from you when they can buy from the competition when the competition is faster, smarter, brighter, cheaper, friendlier, so it’s about that proposition? And it could well be that you’re not right for them? It could well be that they want a cheap, cheerful solution, when you’re the five stars. It could be that they want a mini but you’re the Audi or the Mercedes Benz. And that’s cool. And that’s fine. Because all customers are not born equal. And all customers are not right for us. So, that’s the first thing. Second thing is we’ve just run a program on pitching based on a program we ran a year before for senior directors on pitching. And people are shocking at it. Okay, they’re just, they can’t do it. They can’t. It’s still, everyone is still. I’ve just been with an agency. They showed me five of their pitch decks. The shortest one was 81 slides, you know, and the first 10 are, about us. Don’t they understand the world’s moved on? I’ve googled you; I know who you are. I know what your work is off your website. I only wanted one no one thing is a customer which is, in short, how much is it going to cost? What am I going to get? Yeah, so just tell me that, please. So why isn’t the opening, “Hello, I’m from ABC, we believe that we can get you 100,000 clicks per month, and it’s going to cost you 10,000 pounds. Now, let me explain how you can do that.” Now you can expand on that with intrigue, cranes, I’m not going to go into the detail of it. But most proposals are the same proposal that you saw five or 10 years ago, they just cut and pasted the proposal from the agency they worked at. And they think that’s the right way of doing it. They don’t phone up the day before they do the proposal saying we’re going to come to see you tomorrow to do the proposal. Just to be clear with you, it’s going to be 10,000 quid a month for 100,000 clicks. Is that what you were looking for? And so the client can say well actually, we thought YouTube advertising will be nice as well. There’s a process about pitching.

So to answer your question, if there’s six people in the room, do you really understand what the client really wants? So we’re about to the advantages of working with us, why we’re different, why we are better. And even more, you know, yeah, the work is won before we get to the proposal. So let’s have a look at your website matey. What are the questions that clients ask themselves? Questions that client ask themselves, which are not on your website, by the way, are, how much is it going to cost? What might go wrong? How else can I get this result? Yeah? Who else should I be talking to in this field? And what are the advantages and the disadvantages of working with them? And tell me some stories about people you’ve worked with at the top. So why don’t you Mr. digital agency, why don’t you put that on your website? Oh, no, you say, Oh, no, Robert, we can’t do that. We’ll do it when we have the one to one. But don’t you get that if people don’t get answers to those questions straight away on your website, they’re gonna go somewhere else? If I couldn’t figure out whether you’re an agency that wants to work with me with my small 10,000 pound budget, and then someone else says, our fees are between five and 20,000 pounds a month. I’m gonna stay with that one. And the other thing is, you’re starting to imprint on the potential client, your values, how you work, how you talk, by answering the questions that your customers have. And yet, you know, we’ve done loads of research on agency website, 95% on the pants. Here’s the dog, we were founded in 2010. We’ve got over 500 years of experience as an agency. Here’s a list of our clients. I mean, it doesn’t match what the client wants, which is what can you do for me?

Martin Henley

Okay. Good. Good. Right. Two things. Firstly, we did okay, we won enough pitches. So I’m not pitching about this.

Robert Craven

No. I mean it was 15 years ago, 10 years ago.

Martin Henley

Yeah. Yeah, it got to the point where I was sitting in front of a client one time. And he said to me, Martin, what you need to understand is that you will slide a lot further on bullshit, than you will glass. And what he was effectively saying to me, was lie to me, everyone else is lying to me. So, nobody’s going to get you to the top of Google in three weeks’ time by any means that is going to be sustainable, you know, so or good for your long-term business. So that’s the first point like, I know that I was pitching up against people who were telling lies, and I know I’m too moral to run a marketing agency like that. So those are the two things that I know. The second thing, is that if being an effective marketer is being able to understand the market, and the needs of a market and deliver value against those needs, why can’t marketing agencies, if they can’t do it for themselves, how could they possibly start to imagine they can do it for a customer or a client.

Robert Craven

100% Agree. 100% agree. So, the best agencies that I work with how do they get most of their clients after word of mouth? PPC. Agencies that really struggle, they don’t use PPC. This is interesting, isn’t it? So, agencies, which are good at PPC use PPC to sell their agency because they know PPC works. For agencies who aren’t doing well, don’t use PPC because it doesn’t work. Or maybe it doesn’t work for them because they don’t know how to use it. Very, very interesting. So, we’re back to if everyone’s zigging, can you zag? You know, so we used to have a consultant who’d work with us called Rosemarie. Fantastic person. She used to turn up for pitches, Yeah, without any proposal in her hand, and she used to say, I can see from the list, you know, at reception I’m the third person in pitching to you today. You know, fully well that the 100 page proposal pack you had is exactly the same as all the other ones they give to people but they put your logo on it. But what you’re buying is me. So why don’t you ask me questions about me and how I can help you. And by the way, before we go any further because I live on the Isle of Wight any work that I do with you, I’d have to leave by four o’clock in the afternoon. I could never be here before 10. She never lost a piece of work. She won everything she pitched for.

And, okay, maybe there needs to be a newer, more modern way of doing it. But it’s a zig before you zag thing, it’s the pre-proposal phone call. It’s, if you’re going for a tender document and going for you know, RTF it’s about disrupting the process. We don’t talk, you have to fill in our 50-Page document trying to talk to someone about why you want this and why you want that? Yeah, so we have to be cleverer at the marketing and selling of our agency, where there is so much noise, but I would argue, the really great agencies, you know, what the really great agencies are really good at? You’ve answered it, Martin, they’re really good at marketing themselves. Marketing, you know, look, for agencies as well as the clients, marketing is not a battle of the product. Yeah? And the thing is that most agencies think it is a battle of the product. No, marketing is not a battle for the product, marketing is a battle for the mind of the customer. Yeah, I believe my accountant is awesome. Okay, I’ve got no proof of that, because I only have one accountant at a time. But my accountant makes me think that he’s awesome, and therefore I love him.

So, agencies need to have the same understanding that it is a battle for the mind of the customer. And all the research says unless you’re talking to an FD, the decision making, firstly, 90% of the decision is made before they actually see you. And secondly, most of the decision making is not rational. I know we like to put it in our spreadsheet, but it’s irrational. So why don’t you flip the way you sell your agency to, Mr. lient, how do you currently feel about digital marketing? I feel very uncomfortable. I don’t know whether I’m getting value for money. Mr. Client, how would you like to feel about your digital marketing activity, I’d like to feel that I’ve got confidence, that I can go to the MD and the FD and deliver the results. And you just smile, look them in the eye and say, we can do that. And the interesting thing is that totally disarms them because most people are saying, we’ve got here that evidence, here’s a proof, here’s what we did before we believe we can use these function points if we do 20% in Facebook and 30% in Bing and then the remainder in PPC. But you know, you don’t need to brighten them in science, you just need to give them confidence that you can deliver.

Martin Henley

Okay, good. So I think, now I don’t know if this is what I pitched. I don’t remember, I don’t think I had it quite as honed in my mind right now. But if I was pitching a client, you know, I’ve sold for 27 years or something, embarrassing amount of time. And the only way I’ve ever sold to anyone is by finding out exactly what it is that they wanted to buy and managing to position what I’m offering as that. Yeah, so but if it were a pitch, I would never pitch, I’m never going to stand up and say you should buy because of this, this, this, this this. But the principle for me now has to be about this delivering. So if I say to people, if you’re proactively marketing, you are in the business of buying customers, it’s going to take some investment of time, energy or money to acquire those customers. I’m here to help you do that profitably. And the way we start is by understanding what it costs you to acquire a customer right now.

Robert Craven

100% agree with you.

Martin Henley

When you tell people that, they fall over 100% of the time, because they never even factored any of this cost in. I sacked one of my accountants because I asked him like, what is it costing me to acquire a customer? He was getting all the receipts, he was getting all the expenses, he was getting everything. So, it’s like so basically, I was saying to him, what’s my sales and marketing costs? And how many customers have I acquired, and he told me that was jargon. And that’s why we parted ways. So the pitch, if there is a pitch should be literally that you are paying far more than you could possibly imagine to acquire customers currently, I’m going to come, I’m going to let you know what that figure is. And then, me and my people are going to work all day every day to reduce that number. So you can have more profit in your business. You can take more money home to your family, live in a bigger house, take nicer holidays, etc, etc, etc. I never hear it, I never see it.

Robert Craven

So, again. I mean, when you saw me way back in the day, I would have talked about, because, the interesting thing is, because I’m a bit of a marketing 101 guy, I haven’t changed what I say very much because I think it’s still true. I think it’s kind of evergreen truth. It’s actually two things, isn’t it? And most people, most clients don’t know, which is, what is the cost of customer acquisition? And what is the lifetime value of a client? So, a client, it might cost you 100 pounds to acquire a client, let’s just say its 100 pounds. And the client might spend 100 pounds a year with you, and the margin might be 30%. So, you make 30 pounds a year from the client, but the client on average might stay with you for five years. So, the contribution is five times 30 which is 150 quid, so therefore it’s costing you 100 pounds to get 150 pounds. Now the accountants don’t like this because they like everything to be in years. But as long as the lifetime value of the clients is less than the cost of customer acquisition, I can go up to that point. And I think that we haven’t even factored in upsells, cross sells, economies of scale, and so on and so forth.

And I think that, go to a lawyer, go to any kind of potential client and say, I know, because I’ve been to Companies House and done the math, I know how much typically someone in your industry, what the cost of customer acquisition is, in fact, Google and Facebook give you access to that kind of information as well. And I can see from your accounts, which I’ve taken down from Companies House that it’s, how many clients do you think you got last year? 25. Okay, I can see how much it costs you. And as you’re saying, we can handle that and, pretty much guarantee that we can improve that number. And more importantly, now, Mr. Customer, as we try and really help your business, what is the lifetime value of a customer? And how can we help extend the lifetime? Can we make the typical lifetime value of a customer go from five to six years by bedding them in, keeping them in? And secondly, is it possible that the lifetime value each year we could increase by reducing the amount of friction that you’re working with, because now what’s happening is you’re going from being a digital marketing person to actually becoming more strategic.

And my argument would be for agencies is that we need to get into the boardroom to add serious value because as long as we’re at the bottom of the digital marketing tree, digi, digi, digi, digi, digi, digh! Its going to end up being commoditized and priced, you know. What percentage of Google AdWords spend do you charge? It’s all on price. But as soon as you are into the advice, one, you’re adding significant value. Secondly, it’s more profitable. But the main thing is you’ve got a choice about being a supplier. Hello, we’re doing 10,000 pounds a year on PPC. Can you do it for us? As advisor, we do 10,000 per year on Google PPC. Could you just tell us what split you think we should be doing between which of our products? So you know, advisor, thumbs up. And the next Level up, which is where I want you to be trusted advisor where they say, before we start next year, here’s our product mix and this is what we want to do with the business. How do you think we should be going about doing our marketing? How much do you think should be digital versus non-digital? Within the digital, what do you think the split should be between video and non-video? You want to be adding value at that level. Not the pure supplier level. I think too many digital agencies think they should be a supplier and they shouldn’t. They should be an advisor, a trusted adviser.

Martin Henley

Of course, of course. Okay, so there’s two things, but I’m aware that we’re coming to the end. So, there can’t be two things after every time you finish talking. The first thing is, it’s a suck it and see process, like so basically, the only guarantees you can make, and absolutely 100%, I’ve never been in a business where you couldn’t reduce their cost of customer acquisition, because there is so much waste. And they’re investing nothing in retaining their customers or cross selling. So, it’s always possible to increase the customer value, and reduce the cost of customer acquisition. Those are the only things I’d ever be comfortable about guaranteeing, other than that it’s kind of a suck it and see experimentations, you can see what the clicks are gonna cost, you can see what Google are telling the traffic is going to be like, until you’ve got some skin in the game, you don’t actually get to know the truth. Okay, so there’s that thing, I’ve answered that thing. The second thing then is about agency. So, does there always have to be an agency? Okay, so probably the best example is you, how effective are you? Because I have marketed myself for all my business for like six, seven years. And I’m doing it in the clunkiest way possible, in the most half-assed way possible. But I’m doing it at least you know; it will sharpen up. But do you need an agency to market you? That’s my question. Is it, how effective have you been at marketing yourself?

I’m quite good at asking questions. Aren’t I?

Robert Craven

Yeah. In theory, Martin, the agency will be more up to speed and more efficient at doing it than you. However, there’s a tremendous amount of friction between what you want and kind of what they deliver. So we, for ourselves, we have someone in house, we also go out to agencies to help us with stuff. Some of the agencies are fantastic, because they know stuff we don’t know. And they’re faster and quicker and incredibly good value for money. And some of them just don’t seem to get what we’re trying to do. Now, we’re a low-ticket business. But the poor agencies should have still said no. So yeah, you can do it yourself. I think the answer is, don’t sign up to any of these. Get your agency to six figures in the next six weeks. So, these six tips type of Facebook things because I think it is back to basics, but it is also you know, deliver tons of really great content, be out there, be seen, be known.

And I think business today is about trust. You know, so how do you evaluate trust, there’s some clever formula about you know, reliability, consistency, honesty, divided by self-focus, you know, so the more people are talking about themselves is bad, the more they’re talking about you, the more good it is, I think if you can find an agency that works for you, they can deliver awesome value for money. Can you do it yourself? Is that really what you want to be doing? Don’t you want to be running a restaurant? Yeah, so why don’t you get someone else to do it? So, I’m kind of, I’m slightly on the fence. I think, for a small business, it can be difficult to justify. And I think there’s probably enough free or near to free tools and techniques to help you do it yourself. But as the business starts to grow, I think you’d probably need the expertise or buy buy-in, you can employ them, you can have them, get them on Fiverr or whatever sort of freelancer, or you can go to a proper agency where you can put a brick through their window if they don’t deliver, you know, you got choices.

Martin Henley

Good. That’s real customer feedback. Okay, good. Oh, man, I’ve got so many more things that I want to ask you. But we really do need to stop. What we’re talking about in principle here is a marketing proposition which is as quantifiable, as all of the services that businesses know they need to buy and are comfortable buying because they are so quantifiable, like legal services, like accounting services, like I don’t know, courier services, like all of these things. So, it seems to me that there is something in this, like, if you could get this standardized, and I understand that it’s difficult, or, you know, we’re going against a tsunami of bullshit, which is basically continuously coming the other way propagated by business owners who don’t take the trouble to know what it is that they’re buying, and agencies who like the fact that businesses don’t know what they’re buying.

Robert Craven

Yeah.

Martin Henley

But it seems to me that, you know, we could fix this. Like, people could stood this thing, you know.

Robert Craven

It’s a quantifiable value proposition. Okay. And no one does it. You know, Malcolm MacDonald at Cranfield did research, I think 1000 businesses and discovered that roughly 1% of them actually offered a quantifiable value proposition, which is, we do this for you, which means it will cost you this and you will get that, you know, and we can do it, we can do it, we can look at our last 10 clients and say, you know, we work with businesses like yours. In the last 10 clients we work with, they paid on average, 10,000 pounds a month in return for which they got 1000 clicks, which equated to an additional 25,000 pounds of profit and that’s what you can expect when you buy from us, you know. So it’s a quantifiable value proposition. But instead we like to go, we just back off, you know, when the client says, if you’ve got any skin in the game, would you like to do payment on results? Most agencies go, No. So, we don’t mind you paying us to do it. But we’re not prepared for any skin in the game of doing it results-based because we’re not that convinced about what we do.

Martin Henley

I don’t know if this is true, but I’m still telling people. But there was a statistic that the average lifespan of a digital marketing agency client in London was three months.

Robert Craven

Yeah, that’s probably true. And the tragedy, of course, is it takes that amount of time to actually figure out what the hell you’re doing for the client. But there’s a lot of swapping around and moving around especially because it’s, does this agency do Google, does it also do Bing, does it do Tic Toc? Does it do Facebook? Or does it do Facebook video? Should we be doing video? Again, I’m arguing that those are actually kind of the wrong questions because tactics is secondary to strategy and strategy is secondary to what the customer really wants. But so, a lot of agencies find that it goes very, very, you know, that they don’t stay very long, they’re not very sticky.

Martin Henley

Okay, and this goes to, which is another whole can of worms, which we can’t get into, which is the other thing that you’re saying is, about what the customer wants. And for me, half of the issue is that customers don’t actually know what they want from their marketing, they get a sense that they should be doing this while they’re doing that. That’s the sense I get. Man, we’ve gone for an hour and 20 minutes already, so we’re going to have to stop. I’ve loved this. I’ve really thoroughly enjoyed this. Thank you so much.

Robert Craven

My pleasure. I’ve talked a bit too much. But my heart pressures have been quite high today. So I apologize if I’ve cut across to you.

Martin Henley

It’s only a blazer. The difficulties been, is that we agree 100% on absolutely everything. And I’ve had to be saying things I don’t agree with, which I don’t really enjoy. So, man, thank you so much for this. Here’s the final question. Who else should I be talking to? Who else has got something interesting and useful to say, on this subject? You think that might be interested to talk to me?

Robert Craven

I would talk to Barnaby Wynter.

Martin Henley

Barnaby Wynter.

Robert Craven

Yeah, Barnaby Wynter, and I think the address is @barnabywynter. He’s a general marketing guy. He’s worked with just about every brand there is but he’s got a down to earth, absolutely down to earth approach to understanding what the customer wants and how we give it to them.

Martin Henley

Fantastic. Thank you so much. Is there anything you wanted to say that you haven’t said?

Robert Craven

No. If your digital agency put your prices up, just put your prices up. And I think we’ll stop there.

Martin Henley

Okay. And if they are a digital agency, and they are looking to do better, then they should come seek you out. So you are Robert Craven.

Robert Craven

So well the best place is RC, which stands for Robert Craven at GYDA Initiative. So GYDA which stands for Gray Digital Agency, gydainitiative.com, all one word. So rc@gydainitiative.com, will get to us.

Martin Henley

Fantastic. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that we’ve had this conversation. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. You’ve confirmed everything. I believe you’ve given me energy to go on and further spread the word.

Robert Craven

Yeah. We are not alone.

Martin Henley

Well it feels like I’m alone and it feels like you didn’t really pile in with a huge amount of enthusiasm when I said we could fix it. I will soldier on alone, Robert.

Robert Craven

Brilliant. Thanks a lot Martin.

Martin Henley

Okay, thank you so much. Thanks.

Robert Craven

Okay, cheerio.

Martin Henley

Cheerio. Are you still there?

Robert Craven

I’m still waiting just to see when the recording stops now.

Martin Henley

That’s the weird thing isn’t it, is when you do that faker bye and then it doesn’t really feel like you’ve said goodbye.

Robert Craven

Yea.

Martin Henley

Martin Henley

Martin has built a reputation for having a no nonsense approach to sales and marketing and for motivating audiences with his wit, energy, enthusiasm and his own brand of audience participation. Martin’s original content is based on his very current experience of running effective marketing initiatives for his customers and the feedback from Effective Marketing’s successful and popular marketing workshops.

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