Chris Cardell has shown thousands of business owners how to grow their business.
I interviewed Chris Cardell, founder of Cardell Media to find out more. This interview is the hundred and fifty eighth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Chris!
Avoiding the Dangerous Number One
Chris Cardell is a strong believer in the golden rule of the entrepreneurial world: the most dangerous number in business is one.
As UK & Europe’s leading provider of online and offline marketing information for businesses, Cardell knows that Entrepreneurs can’t rely on one of anything – whether it’s one key customer or client, one key employee, one key supplier, one key product or price, or one key marketing method.
It’s a lesson he knows well and has continued to teach during the more than 20 years that he has helped Entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
As one of his current clients at Cardell Media puts it: “The lesson that we learned during the recession was that you can’t be reliant on one business source, which is something that people who have listened to what Chris Cardell has to say are aware off.
“That’s one of the first things you learn when you sign up to work with him,” according to Dan Butt of Now Chartered Surveyors, whose one key business source prior to the recession was High Street lending institutions.
He is just one of the many business owners that Cardell and his marketing company, Cardell Media, have helped get out of the “one” mode.
“The majority of businesses have one or two or three vital customers who – if they were to go – would cause major difficulties,” Cardell said. “On the face of it, it is very appealing to have one great customer paying you oodles of money and who is enjoyable to work with. But all the positive points are outweighed by the risks involved in that dependency.”
For one, this type of situation makes business owners weak, because at some level, they are operating from a level of fear, according to Cardell. It also means the Entrepreneur doesn’t have a system to bring in new customers, so the business can never grow.
It’s a situation Cardell knows firsthand. He was in the “one key client” position early on in his career, a situation that worked well for both Cardell and the client at the time. And although the relationship ended amicably, he said most of these types of relationships end badly.
“Freeing yourself from that dependency should drive your entrepreneurial actions every day,” he said. “You need to have enough customers so that if, despite your best efforts, you lose some, it doesn’t matter.”
Having gone from one key customer to Cardell Media’s tens of thousands of customers, he said: “I can assure you that the difference is not just financial. It’s psychological. I don’t want to lose a customer. But if it happens, it makes zero difference to my life. That is a key element of what financial freedom is about.”
While one key customer is bad, the “just one” key form of marketing is even worse.
It’s also fairly common, he said, noting that about 90 percent of businesses are dependent on just one or two forms of marketing to get customers, usually Google, referrals or Facebook.
“I have lost track of the number of businesses I’ve heard about who were making small fortunes purely from free traffic from Google. They were completely dependent on it and everything was going fine until Google did one of its algorithm changes,” Cardell said.
“These business owners woke up one day to find their website had gone from the top of page 1 of the search results to page 5 or 10 – or in some cases, they had completely disappeared from the search engine. End of business.”
Of course, he continued, there are also “the business owners who got all their customers from Yellow Pages – until the year that their phone number was printed wrong. Or the businesses that were totally dependent on Google AdWords – until the month a couple of years ago when Google closed the accounts of 30,000 businesses in a policy crackdown.
“I’m sure you get the idea,” he said. “The first step to marketing success is to find one or two methods that work to attract customers. The second step is to do whatever it takes to find two or three more, so you’re not dependent on the first ones.”
Again, this is an area that Cardell knows well. He grew his business from a small company to a multi-million pound enterprise by using a wide variety marketing methods, including Google AdWords, Facebook and other online marketing methods.
But he said he also has spent – and continues to spend – a huge amount of time and resources on direct mail, newspaper ads and multi-channel TV advertising.
“Why? Because I don’t want to be dependent on the online element.”
While he is proud of the rapid and dramatic profit increases he has helped business owners achieve, he said, the more important work they do together is to build a long-term, multi-marketing approach to growing their businesses.
And yes, he practices what he preaches. For example, he has spent about £3 million of his own money on Google AdWords. He handles the Cardell Media ad campaigns himself, making him very qualified to be Europe’s leading trainer of Google AdWords.
“I’ve trained more people in AdWords than anyone in Europe,” he said, noting that it is absolutely crucial that businesses advertise through this medium because people are always searching for products and services on Google.
Another area where Cardell works diligently to change attitudes with Cardell Media members is the idea of one product and one price.
He continually encourages them to think about offering premium products/services, so that they can charge premium pricing. In doing so, they are offering more than one product and reaching a larger number of potential customers.
There will always be those who will buy the most high-end product available, he said. And when Entrepreneurs add in that higher-priced option, their more basic offering will look even more affordable so their sales will increase too.
He used Apple’s recently released watch as an example of why business can’t fail with a high-end version of a basic offering.
“Along with their main offering of the Apple Watch Sport, which starts at $349 (£230), they also launched a premium price version that will range from $10,000 to $17,000,’’ he said. “The more that Apple has us talking about the $10,000 watch, the more we forget to have a conversation about why a $400 or $700 watch is actually pretty expensive.”
Enough said. It’s easy to get the picture. Perhaps that why Cardell Media has had a hand in creating more successful Entrepreneurs than any other marketing business in the U.K.
Cardell can take a situation from today’s news reports, like the Apple watches, and put it in easy to understand, practical terms for all sorts of Entrepreneurs – whether it’s on premium products and pricing, AdWords, or avoiding the forbidden “one key” of anything.