Running a business, the most hated question I had from any marketing company was "What's your budget". Often these were one of the first words they ever said to me when they learned that my business was just starting, which for me was like being washed down with a bucket of dirty water, putting out any possible flame of engagement, and tainting the relationship immediately. Focused on what’s in it for them, the naïve business owner has no clue whatsoever in how to answer that question. To them, it’s like saying how much money have you got to the marketing company to gamble with, and potentially lose, with not even a hint of taking any ownership or responsibility for success from the marketing company.

Put onto the back foot as somehow being financially accountable to this company, often implying to have the success of my company in their hands alone, I looked or life's certainties, and soon realised that most of marketing is far simpler, and much of what was being talked about to me was little more than smoke and mirrors.

It also became clear to me that marketing appears to be the only business, other than perhaps a casino or other gambling establishment, where the expectation by marketing companies to be given potentially large sums of money is matched without the promise of any return.

The challenge for any small business is to be known, and to create desire for their products. It is true that the 'art' of being seen is called marketing, yet I could not believe that there was not a 'science' too in how to turn a marketing investment into a tangible return.


So What Really is Marketing:

Marketing is a combination of a wide variety of skills, consolidated into a selected range of effective strategies, implemented using a wide variety of technologies. It became clear that much of this can be done as a ‘formula’.

What started as an investigation, soon evolved, creating a formula for short, medium and long term exposure and growth, for any company with a valued product or service, with the basis for tangible results.


Everyone Does Marketing:

It's true. You can't go to a single networking event without a fair number of the attendees being 'in marketing'. With so many to choose from, how is a small business supposed to know the good ones? Do they pick on the most expensive, and hope that cost is a reflection of quality? Do they choose the cheapest one, hoping to reduce the marketing spend? Do they focus on someone who appears to understand their product, and maybe has past experience of something similar? What about selecting a business simply because you like the person.

With my own long consulting track record, it is clear that anyone can brand themselves as expensive with no correlation whatsoever to their quality or results. The cheapest one could be a reflection of their level of desperation, which could mean eagerness to please and do a great job, or it could be a reflection of their lack of experience. Someone with past experience is unlikely to tell the full story of at what point they engaged with that company, and how successful it already was at that time, with a success years ago not necessarily having any connection to the probability of success today.

Reputation seemed like a good reference point, yet it also occurred to me that any testimonials are going to be from companies who have attributed some of their success to the work of that marketing business. They may be friends. They may have taken over from one of the many 'bad' marketing companies that yielded no results and came it at the right time. They may have been a lucky 'right time-right place' situation. There had to be a better way to tell.

It occurred to me that the answer of what was the best indicator to select was based on probability of success. But how could this be reasonably attained. 

The Art of Mid-sized Fishing:

Most marketing businesses prefer the idea of dealing with businesses that have already ‘made it’, by having well established customers with revenues of 100’s of 1000’s. In my humble opinion, the greatest challenge for a company is in getting to this, as once they reach this size, the wheels clearly are already in motion.

This often means that marketing companies that focus on only hunting the same band of medium sized companies will all be competing with each other on being there at the right time, when a company is dissatisfied with its results of its existing marketing strategy, and knows it is time for a change.

With an existing and active large fan-base that most big companies have, it is far easier to create a replacement strategy/campaign with supporting material than to bring a company up from zero. Therefore this fishing pool, is flooded with companies claiming to be marketeers, when their skills are in fanning an existing fire, and not in lighting a new one.

Mid-sized companies know that a marketing budget is required in order to maintain a presence and help gain market share, and a fishing money-pot is created. For most marketing companies, entering into this game is a lottery.

Most people in the mid-sized companies make decisions of with whom to spend the money belonging to their company. This makes them the best' target' for the marketeers hoping to hook a mid-sized fish. For the marketeer, it is often little more than a numbers game. One minute you lose, the next, you may win. Portfolio, reputation, and clever proposals may increase probability of success, but usually it is one of relationship building, as face to face exposure time anywhere from networking events to badminton clubs can slowly wear down a prospect to help win the deal. Actual results don't really matter. After all, to the employee of the company making the decision, that startling fact is that it's not their money.


Reputation Reputation Reputation:

Many marketing companies trade off their reputation, and proudly display their awards. The larger the firm, the greater the probability of achieving some good work, and the greater the probability of being noticed and receiving awards.


Newton's Third Law in Marketing:

Many of us will know about Newton's Third Law, stating that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Within marketing, however, action rarely immediately leads to reaction. With the advent of social media, success if often defined by immediate and delayed engagement. Besides the delay, marketing results are cumulative. An initial input of 2+2 may result in 0. Later, it may result in just 2. But with more continued effort, gaining an audience and awareness, and perhaps if we are lucky, inputs of 2+2 may eventually become 22 or more.

Why Marketing is Like a Barbeque:

Many marketing businesses focus on finding established businesses, perhaps already with a turnover in the many 100’s of 1000’s or millions already. Preferring the idea of dealing with businesses that have already ‘made it’, provides the marketing company a comfort blanket of knowing the business already has a following. The flames are already lit, and the job is often about trying to fan the flame higher, and stop it from dwindling.

The right products, presented correctly in front of the right audience results in natural organic growth. The flame grows gently higher.

Increasing the rate of growth requires altering the message. Whether it's a change to the format (branding), or a change to the message itself (the fuel). We also have to be aware that the environment may naturally create a surge, like air helping a flame do its magic. As such, we must always compare results to comparable competitors in the same market as a reference point to know whether the growth is due to marketing effort, or natural occurrences.

Understanding how to grow a flame requires patience and understanding, with all of the right fuels added at the right time, in just the right way. Even when you know how, there are no shortcuts without luck, money, or the right contacts. But there is the long way, which claims the lives of too many unfortunate businesses.


If Marketing Companies are so good:

Even with a solid business strategy, well considered messages, clear markets for sales opportunities, and great well priced products and services, success if not guaranteed. The key to successful promotion is in the marketing execution.

Surely, if a marketing company is as good as it claims to be, happily taking credit for the height of the flames of previous clients, why wouldn't any provide a guarantee?

This is the question that usually was followed by silence.



I have often thought that if a marketing company is so good, why won't it give any guarantees? No marketing activity can ever truly offer guaranteed results. The results, however, can be predicted with high probability for larger companies wishing to build on an existing reputation, but creating a reputation in the first place takes the most self-confidence by far. If the marketing company believes in the product, I've never understood why they wouldn't put their faith in the business in the same way that the business is expected to put their faith in the marketing company.

A Risk-Reward strategy only seemed logical.

Small Companies Don't Need More Fuel:

Every one of us is an investor. Each and every day we invest our limited time on what we choose to focus on. A business needs to invest this wisely. Time is far more than money. Used badly, missed opportunities can be the difference between life and death.

Doing due diligence on a business can take time and effort, and relies upon honestly and integrity from everyone.


It's true that the products and services need to be right, they need to be well priced, and the business needs to be run well, and an investor of time and effort would need to have confidence that the products and services have potential and are aligned with the investors.


It is obvious that no matter how great a product or service, it won't ever gain popularity if no-one knows it exists. 


As counter-intuitive as it may seem, small businesses often believe that they need to spend more to achieve greater results. Although this could create greater exposure, we have to consider what we are exposing people to.


To a start-up, the height of the flame is of little value when all they want is just to light the first branch. Creating the spark is perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of small business marketing.


Choosing the Right Pairing:

No matter how good their products and services may be, we can all tell some businesses which are destined to fail. In the hands of the wrong people, run in the wrong way, in the wrong conditions or at the wrong time, even the best companies can plummet.

A business-marketing relationship is a partnership. Both have to have a certain level of trust for one another. Both have to believe in the work of the other one. Both have to invest time and effort, not only to screen the relationship before it properly begins, but also to invest in maintaining the relationship, trusting in the results that are anticipated with continued controlled regular input. The relationship is a 2-way-street, where the business needs to provide certain inputs, and the marketing company needs to provide the others. Unless motives are aligned, the wrong pairing is inevitable. Getting the right pairing is key.

If everyone is focused on wrestling for the mid-fish, who is helping the little ones:

Without a large budget to give away, marketing companies will ignore you. The key hunt for "what's in it for them" is almost exclusively focused around short term revenue. The client’s best interests come way down the priority list.

When a small business starts, it is often started on little more than an idea to make a change. Seeing how a need of a customer could be met, energy levels are high, and enthusiasm drives the business into existence. If comparable competitors exist, the story of their success has often left many traces, and seeing how they market themselves is often the easiest way in accelerating readiness to hit the market. But even replicating their breadcrumbs of success may not be appropriate to your business, lacking their presence in the market, their long and hard earned trust, public awareness of their company and branding, or even something as simple as their website name being synonymous with what they do.

Marketing is an art and science combined, requiring some very precise steps, combined with some artistic creativity in both branding and strategy. As many marketing companies will no doubt say, it's never too early to begin marketing. The key is to make sure that the effort is put to good use, with deep consideration of the short, medium, and long term plan.

There are many marketing companies that will help the small businesses. For a price. No guarantees. 



So why did I start in Marketing:

The answer is simple. I had a need. I had a handful of clients, wishing to become known, wishing to engage potential customers, and wishing to make sales.

Wishing didn't bring results. But marketing companies couldn't promise any either.

I met many marketing companies, and each had a different spin. Some focused on regular posting on social media. Some focused on breath-taking graphic design. Others focus on the power of videography. Some focused on getting the message just right, without necessarily a clear view on how it was to be used. Others focused on following proven tried and tested strategies for past success. Few had any knowledge of creating markets for new products and services. Few knew how to monetise without significant investment well enough to get enough of a rapid return, in order to fund the mid and long term marketing activities. Few knew how to be creative in learning from now outdated past successes, while looking for how these could be adapted, and improved to successfully work in the present.

With sufficient time and money, acting together, they could have been a great power-house, but individually, they were each like a bow with a single thin string trying to claim they could shoot a multitude of targets all at once, providing little confidence of their holistic ability to carry out a fully rounded by non-overhead intensive approach. Although many were capable of generating revenue from the local (often desperate) small businesses in need, it was clear that finding a marketing company that could 'do it all', without costing a small fortune was perhaps impossible.

I knew a lot about current technologies and trends, about graphic design, and with over 25 years of both succeeding and failing with numerous businesses, I also knew how hard it was to be seen, and to find a marketing company that really could make the difference, where their results and my successes were inter-twined. I also knew how to call upon the experts, and wasn't afraid to research and learn all that I could.

And so Risk-Reward Marketing was started.


The cornerstone to our business is our marketing formula. With a clear formula, and a pick-n-mix approach to each of the ingredients within it, the division of work can be split according to who is best placed to carry it out, by combining the skills and availability of the various stakeholders, not limited to the client, ourselves, a client elected marketing company, and our trusted experts to fill in any gaps.


All ingredients in the formula have clear acceptance criteria, making sure that they meet specific measurable objectives, expectations, and quality checkpoints. The key word being measurable. With work being delivered quickly and efficiently to a high standard, progress against the formula is both clear, and tangible.


Ethically leveraging our various partnerships and business relationships with others, we can also add additional value in providing extra routes to market at no extra cost.

By getting to know your business more, gaining confidence and trust in your products, quality, metrics, and more, a risk-reward strategy could then be investigated if desired, assessing whether some of the formula elements provided by us, could be exchange for agreed future rewards. Risk-reward is not for everyone, and does rely upon mutual trust. This decision has to mutually benefit all parties, carefully considering both risk and reward.