Rise and Fall and Rise again - a few stories of Marketing Successes that saved my bacon - Marketing my Service - Marketing Ideas for Service Businesses

Go to content

Rise and Fall and Rise again - a few stories of Marketing Successes that saved my bacon

3. Marketing System


Necessity - the Mother of Invention


Marketing Keys borne of Necessity


Necessity is the mother of invention.

So speak to an inventor!  

An inventor of Marketing ideas that really work!

There is a massive amount of useless knowledge 'out there' on-line, written by people who have never done it.

They're paid writers - at best, more likely robots churning out the same unoriginal, uninventive, recycled text. Such robots do exist, for SEO purposes, so you can recycle the same content but written in different ways, to avoid Google penalising you for 'duplicate content'. THAT is why so much of what you now read on line about Marketing is so repetitive.

So unoriginal.

I read some books on marketing and sales in the late eighties, and applied the ideas and systems to my then job in Insurance Sales. I was on commission and a then reasonable salary of £7k. Within a couple of years I was earning more in commission than in basic, which was not how things were intended by the creators of the commission levels. It was not a business that paid peanuts and forced you to rely on commission - £7k a year was a good starter salary in the 1980's. You could buy a house for £7k around that time.

Within 4 years I was on £30k, a huge salary in the mid eighties. More than the average price of a house at the time. I became area sales manager and was teaching the other sales people to copy my marketing and sales system. The Company did so well out of one product I sold that the MD was able to sell out to Sun Alliance for a few £million.

This was a service that earned the princely sum of 10 pence a unit in commission. All the other sales people did not consider it worth their effort getting out of bed for a few 10 pences. They changed their mind when they saw I was earning £1500 a month in commission on this one product, month in month out, on auto-pilot. For I'd spotted one thing they did not see - a lot of ten pences add up to a diamond and I had a diamond of an idea. The idea was dead simple - all I did was change the label on which the product was sold from an 'opt-in' to 'opt-out' wording. One line of text changed on a sticker. 'Opt-out' marketing was legal in those days, so instead of a 5% sales rate, the sales rate rose 95%, by just changing a stick-on sticker.

Every now and again I will look up a new marketing and sales book for new ideas and do you know, there is hardly anything new in any of them?  There has been one extraordinary exception to this recently - a diamond of an idea that is so brilliant I am applying it to great effect in my wedding business right now. Generally though, the writer is simply repackaging basic principles of sales and marketing under different names to make them sound original.

Calling A Unique Selling Proposition (USP) a Principle Buying Reason (PBR) instead, or replace SPACCO with some other mnemonic to measure of the sale process, the principles and ideas are still the same as they were in the seventies and eighties. It is just the means of communication that have changed with technology, from print to on-line.

I agree the Internet did change everything, but that is a different story about which more on other pages. And it is not all about SEO, there are other ways....

Useful knowledge, Useable and Innovative Marketing Keys that you can use right now to unlock hidden cash in your own service business, such know-how is precious and rare, like a Diamond. And of great value.

Innovative & Inspirational Marketing Keys
to unlock new income from your business today

In our Business Marketing Audit -

let me lay down a challenge to you personally

Could you increase your sales by at least 25%

using our Marketing Keys?

On this rather lengthy website you will learn how I have done this,

a few times, in my own business




Back in 1990 I was 'bankrupted' by Lloyd's of London. I lost £300,000 in 4 years as a 'Name' at Lloyd's (about £1.5m in today's money).

This huge sum was three times the equity I then had in my private residence.

It was 10 times my then quite reasonable salary from a sales job selling insurance.

And it was 30 times my annual profit in a small home business I had been running as a side-line at weekends.

Spurred on by Lloyd's losses, within a couple of years I'd turned that same small home business I ran as hobby/ side-line (a cleaning agency making £10k a year profit), into a £1m franchise, earning £300k annual profits.

After Lloyd's of London lost me £300,000 (based on house prices now, £1.5m in today's money) the pipedream of franchising my Cleaning Agency became a necessity.

Faced with the failure of my first method of franchising and getting subscribers (publishing a book to sell for £96, all about the Agency, that no one bought), and my initial abandonment of the whole idea, yet more Lloyd's of London losses came along a year later. These forced me to sit down, annoyed, and say to myself, "This has to work, I have no choice now."

Necessity is the Mother of Invention. Necessity forces you to turn dreams into reality. When your own life is turned upside down, as business inevitably has its up and down cycles, what is normal and ordinary gets tossed aside. You have to believe in the Exraordinary. Do the abnormal and make some extraordinary things happen. Do the same as before, and the next downward cycle knocks you down.

Making Money in a business for most people is a dream - and yet, 50% of businesses do work. Better odds than the lottery (which we all have a flutter on, despite odds of 14,000,000: 1).

Almost 30 years later, I still remember sitting at my Canon StarWriter (4 lines of text to the screen) and saying, 'this has to work, there's no choice, so it WILL be made to work'.  I sat down for 12 hours a day at weekends and 3 - 4 hours most weekday nights after work, to write what became 'Month One' of a 12 month set of manuals. At the same time I wrote my CIDA Marketing Letter, bought a mailing list, and posted out the first 100 Marketing letters. Three bought Month One before I even had time to write Month Two. Now I had to write a month every month!

Subscribers were added, 10 or 20 each month, or more. Eventually the monthly manuals on the Agency sold thousands of copies, then at £30 each Month. £360 for the set. After maybe 18 months, I had 700 Subscribers at £30 PCM.

And so the next Marketing Key (CIDA) was devised, and the subscribers, readers, dreamers and actioners, and eventually out of these, the franchisees, poured in.

You don't really make millions unless you need to, you just dream of it.

Losing £300,000 in the 4 years I was a Lloyds Name, up to 1992 (about £1.5m now), made it 'necessary' to earn it back. In so doing, I created a new stream of income, a new market, really an entirely new business (publishing and franchising) which did exist until I sat down and started typing away, 4 lines of text to a screen, one page of memory before it had to be saved to floppy disk and could not be edited any more.

I did more than earn that £300k back; the new business earned £300k turnover and £100k profit every year for many, many years, while Marketing Key 1 worked on the original business, unlocking £1m of turnover and £200k annual profits.

Enough to pay off Lloyd's of London debts within a year, and go on to buy a new London House every second year, for cash - read more here.




Spurred on by my successes with my home business, I got cocky. I got confident. I believed it could never end. That I was invincible. I even thought I was clever (you're only as clever as your last Marketing Idea, leave it a few years between Ideas, and you're not so useful).

OK, so I made a mistake.

I thought my little home business would keep on working forever.

It worked fine until about 2007.

I was so confident it would just keep on working, I actually bought the castle in 2000, without a survey and without running a mile as I should have done. I thought, it doesn't matter what it costs to do up, I need to absorb some of the profits and I can put it in the Company and offset its renovation against the profits from the cleaning agency.

I strongly objected to the tax-take on my £300k profit - over £100k a year - criminal!  So I happily blew £3m doing the castle up, which saved about £1mi in tax, as it easily absorbed all the profits and made the combined enterprise 'break even'.

All perfectly sensible for tax purposes, so I thought.

And it worked...

...until the first business went into reverse and I could not fix it.

I slowly realised I had to make the still derelict Castle work as a business in its own right. It had to support itself.

The story of how I did this and am still working on it, began with another useful new Marketing Key - link-building on an industrial and systematic scale. I employed two full time staff on links.

I was not doing link-building by posting on forums etc, this was all done back in the early 2000's long before SEO experts started talking about link-building on every SEO forum going. Read more here.

Since then I have tweaked the marketing of the Castle in many fascinating and novel ways. I have had to continually find some very good Marketing Keys to keep unlocking more cash from it to make it pay its own way and to fund its own restoration.

2018 is proving a very tough year. We're on course to lose £100,000 as our Expenses are exceeding our income. Wedding sales are doubling, yes, but the bookings are for next year and the year after, while this year we are suffering from our own under-pricing, and simply not being as busy as we need to be. In 2016 and 2017 there was over-reliance on Last Minute Packages because we had not forward sold enough bookings in previous years to cover our increased costs.

In 2018 we had a chef who claimed to be Michelin trained who could not cook, so employed an army of staff to cook for him! We had a Front of House who could not manage the Bar or Cellars (part of his job) and knew less than I did, which is saying something. I can at least change the real ale and clean the taps and lines but he was beyond training even in that. He was invited to leave, and was so disbelieving of the fact he was being fired, he smiled at the Manager and said "You're kdding me right?" Aggrieved, he then shopped us to Environmental and we lost a couple of stars on Food Hygiene as it transpired the aforementioned chef could not complete Food Hygiene forms either.

We had a complete changeover of wedding planners yet still sold more weddings than ever.

Marketing is a necessary endeavour. I have no choice. You have no choice. It is also fun, when it works.

Every now and again I discover a real golden key. A key that to any other business could be life-changing for the owner. But for me, it's just another turret or gulley I get to repair.

I would not keep thinking up ideas but for HAVING TO spend £200k on restoring the castle each year, and a similar sum again on the mortgage and just living. I suppose I need about £400k of surplus cash a year. Actually, I could do with double that or maybe triple, to really get on with things.

OK you might say I'm basically just spending too much.

I completely agree.

My own needs are very modest.

Do you know, leaving aside the chore of making money for a moment, what real happiness is?

Let me tell you.


Happiness is...

a Bailey Pegasus in a farmer's field

surrounded by mooing cows

- with views over open countryside


Yes, it's true.

To be honest, I'm happiest in a caravan in a field. Green is a known soothing colour. The more green the better - fields and countryside, the most relaxing place to be!

The best investment I ever made was my Bailey Pegasus touring caravan.

I bought it second-hand for £9,500 and have averaged 108 days a year touring in it - Wales, England, France, Switzerland, long stays in Cornwall and Devon. That was before I lived in it permanently, when moving to Dorset for 8 months in 2017.




In 2011 I was once again losing so much money that I went to my bank to borrow another £700k or so, just to tide me over for a year and to carry on renovation work. I thought I was being quite conservative and precise about that's years income needs.

But the suits just scowled darkly, or maybe they were just puzzled. The bankers went away and then told me they wanted all their money back.

Just when I needed the money.

No idea of service! I even had to put my castle up for sale to keep them happy.

Then I found another new Marketing Key and double my castle's event income in a year - read more here.


Niche Offer Websites begin

Niche Offer Websites are a truly Golden Marketing Key, and yet I just do not see many businesses using them.

Ok, there is some justification in having just the ONE main website for your business and concentrating all your energies on that, to get it well ranked etc. But I have found it pays to have multiple sites to cater in a highly targeted way for niche interests. You cannot really combine the different niche interests of scary ghosts, romantic weddings and a reasonably nice dog friendly hotel on one site. They need to be separate niches. How did it all start?

Well, when you need money the first thing everyone does is play the National Lottery. Never mind the odds of success are 14 million to 1, as against the odds of a business succeeding being nearer 1:2. Anyway, on the lottery theme, my wife decided to design a site that created Lottery Numbers randomly. It was a fun number generator. While this was not successful it did prompt me to learn the same website design program (X5 Media, dead easy to use). And then I started designing a new website, in fact I wrote about a dozen in 12 months. Some failed and got amalgamated into the more successful niches and I now have about half a dozen niche sites.

But it was thanks to my wife playing around with her Lottery Number generator site. that I came up with one of my better Marketing Keys - Niche Offer Websites.

Al is revealed on this site. These clever little sites more or less doubled sales at my Castle, enabling me to take if off the market. All because of a few niche offer websites.

There were some clever elements within them. I learned about multiple CTA's (Calls to Action), where before I had one 'Enquiry page' and one Enquiry Form. I learnt about pricing incentives (attractive package deals on weddings). And within a year I'd made some profit, took the Castle off the market, paid off the Bank (who said they were 'flabbergasted' I found the money) and I carried on.

Until 2016/17 when it all went up the spout (again).


Losses Again

In 2016/17 wages doubled due to the National Living Wage, pensions contributions, and just more staff on the wageroll. Business rates doubled from £20k to £40k in one year, Electricity - everything, went up.

And there was simply not enough income - once again.

The bank this time just agreed the overdraft without complaint. I did not bother asking for a meeting and asking for money, We just added £200k to the overdraft in 2016 and another £100k in 2017. The bank recently wondered mildly when I might start paying it back. As I've had two years of mild losses, and still not managed to balance the budget, I've kept mum on that one.

But then I subscribed to a free marketing book - free aside from the £3.50 postage and packaging. My wife said I was wasting my money. The book was free I said. "So, what's the £3.50 for?" she asked accusingly (this from someone who will happily spend half the National Debt on-line shopping in a single month). "That's the postage," I said.

Anyway, I read the book and discovered something so basic, so simple, that I was not doing, I was flabbergasted. A month's work during the summer got everything set up, and now the new Marketing Key is working its magic, adding £300k to turnover over the next couple of years. Not a bad return on my £3.50 investment.

In 2018 I've found another Marketing Key - one that cost me £3.50 and will help make add £300k extra turnover a yeer. Not profit, that's elusive right now, but it will help.  One day I might balance the budget again.

Unlocking large amounts of cash you never knew your business had in it to make, is most rewarding, even if the staff do complain at all the extra work and late shifts. I realised too I should be helping other hotels like mine, to form a Hotel Marketing Club with other hoteliers, as we can all learn from each other - read more here.

Innovative & Inspirational Marketing Keys
to unlock new income from your business today




Do you know you can live in a caravan with a large awning for £10 a night inclusive of heating, lighting, water and waste, in a farmer's field, on a Caravan Club CL site?

It's the ultimate escape to the country, the ultimate freedom. And no overheads. Best done on your own probably. Not so good cooped up in a touring caravan for a whole year (2017) with a regular family.

So my advice, is join the Caravan & Motorhome Club, stay on a CL site for as long as you can get away from it all (OK you do have to keep swapping sites every 21 days to be legally 'touring', which is a bore) and in a year you can save virtually all your salary. Just find a field near where you work and let out the house. Fine if you're single! (and have a house to let out and can manage your business without being there 24/7!)

Not living in a house yourself means you do not need much furniture. You do not pay council tax, oil, electric, water charges, insurance etc, so you save even more. I did this in 2017.

Off we went to Dorset. We moved to Dorset in the caravan for the school terms, so the children could go to a nice school. Climate in Wales is very wet and Dorset is like a different country. Well, England IS a different country from Wales of course.

From Castle to Caravan, no problem at all. I am happiest in a field in the caravan. And so were the children. I would do it in 2018 also. But my wife was unhappy. She did not want to live in a caravan in Dorset. Cannot think why. Why do what everyone else does and live in a house, paying a fortune in rent, I asked?

Still, I succumbed. Now I have to rent a house - one big enough for all the stuff we keep buying (which we do not need). I still have to keep on coming up with new Marketing Keys. I still have to make money. But one day, when the children have gone their separate ways, I'm looking forward to taking my caravan and going off to a field, having a real ale, and sitting watching the sunset with the cows.

Upon re-joining the rat-race, I noticed in 2016/17 financial year I was losing money again. Back I went into the fray, and came up with an idea that cost £3.50 to acquire, that is now adding another £300k over 2 years. It's one of the most simple and brilliant. Marketing Keys and the cheapest of the lot to implement, the return on investment is thousands of pounds times the cost of implementation. I'm impressed!

I used to dream of doing 100 weddings a year, but it never happened, until it was necessary. I could not get above 88 a year for over a decade. It was not until costs overtook income so severely, once again, that I figured out a way of resolving the next lot of challenges, ways of meeting the latest new necessities. Now I am on course for 140 weddings a year.

For in 2016 and 2017 I fell back, costs escalated, my Castle Hotel lost money, and I added £300,000 to my overdraft. Unsurprisingly the bank started asking for it back. So once again I needed to earn another £300k. And one little, ever so tiny, but oh so effective, tweak to the marketing process - a new marketing key in 2018 - duly unlocked another £300,000 or more to my turnover. Another game-changer.

£300k is the added income in just one area of my business, to be grossed per year, rising to this level within the next two years - money I never knew the business had the capacity to make. Money which I have effectively lost over many previous years by not implementing this idea and system earlier. By 2020 I now know this one marketing key will unlock an additional £300k or more in turnover (not profit - this is turnover we're talking here) every year. Enough to make inroads into that overdaft, certainly, if I can resist spending it on something else.

140 Weddings - a level of trade I once regarded as unachievable, is now no longer a dream. It was achieved ONLY because achieving it became a necessity. This increase in sales is not just down to the one new Key in 2018, for there are other Keys (listed above) that I was NOT implementing fully, that a Manager came in and implemented (finally) alongside the new Key.

The 2018 Marketing Key (named 'the ALFUS Project') is not revealed on this site, because it is so new. It is also copiable by my competitors and I do not want this idea copied locally to me. It's fine for Hoteliers in areas nowhere near me. I know it is very powerful. I know from my own example that this ONE Key is instantly capable of adding many £100k to any hotel with a function room.

Yet the cost of discovering this idea for myself and turning it into a useable Marketing Key was the princely sum of £3.50. You could probably work it out for yourself if but implementing it would take time you may not have. This probably needs doing for you. I can easily do this task for you. OK, so it did take me a few weeks to set up this Game-Changer Marketing Key. But once set up, it set to work instantly. It started on unlocking more profits on a form of auto-pilot, and it will continue to do so, unstoppably, for years and years to come.

I'm now setting up the same key in the agency business but this will be much slower to work for reasons not to do with the viability of the ALFUS per se, but due to the lack of preparedness of the cleaning agency business to adopt it.

The value of the 2018 marketing key will be 1,000 times that initial cost of £3.50, over the next 24 months. It took a month to set up, and is so clever, yet so simple, that I am not disclosing it on this site. It can be used only by Hotels outside South Wales.

On putting the boys to bed in their new nicely furnished large bedrooms, I asked the boys which they preferred, the caravan or the house we're now renting in Dorset.

Without hesitation, they said the Caravan - so like Father, like Son!

High overheads force you to be inventive.

If you run a business, any business, the chances are some of the Marketing Keys that work wonders for me, will work wonders for you too.

You'll be surprised what you are missing. In fact, like my sour faced bankers in 2011/12, you'll be flabbergasted. That's what the word my bank used, when I came up with the 2012 Marketing Key - and bankers are not prone to such language, they've seen all the hype and false dawns and are justifiably sceptical.

Making a dream reality takes real enterprise and innovation, and sustaining the dream requires ever more originality.

So here is a question:

In our Business Marketing Audit -

let me lay down a challenge to you personally

Could you increase your sales by at least 25%

using our Marketing Keys?


Could you increase your own business's income by 25% year on year?

In your dreams?
Or in reality...

I know if someone had offered me another £300k of income, in 2016/17, I would have been more than happy to pay 20% to whoever bought me this extra income. After all, I would be benefiting from the increased income, for year after year, forever after.

My latest Marketing Key will indeed generate another £300,000 a year, within two years. The sales pattern has changed, and the forecasts can be made on the new sales results and I know roughly how much the business is going to expand by as a result of this one simple new marketing key being applied.

What would this key be worth to you, if it could do something similar for you?  

Bear in mind these Marketing Keys will increase the amount of business you have to do, so you'll have more work, more staff, and more supplies will be needed.

Marketing Keys enable you to build up sales to stand a chance of making a PROFIT but how to manage income versus expenses, this is a different subject which is not covered here. Profit can be elusive. However in any business, cash flow buys you time, and cash is king. Your market demand levels are the first thing to get right, then you need to refine the delivery of your service and goods, your staffing levels, and your pricing, so you can make a profit.

My latest 2018 marketing key adding £300k to my own sales, cost me all of £3.50 to discover.

This idea was all thanks be to a generous author who shared his wisdom in a free book - charging a mere £3.50 was for the book's postage and packaging. The idea may not even be applicable to your business, but if it is, I can tell you that this one idea will add anything from 20% upwards year on year, extra to your income. I would just check if the idea fits your business and if it does, I could guarantee this growth for you, based on my own direct experience of the power of this one oh-so-simple marketing key (alongside a few others).

As the author said, he knew very few if any readers would implement his ideas. So he was happy to give the information away for free. He knew most people would not just implement the ideas on their own, without subscribing to his marketing consultancy.

The problem everyone has is time. Lack of it. Badly managing time will cause you to miss out on all these Marketing Keys - it will cause you to do nothing proactive and new (read more on Time Management here).


More and More

Marketing Keys

need adding or refining

every year


Over the years I have added to my Marketing Keys. I now have a key-ring full of them. I know I will need more keys in the future.

The need for more innovative marketing and sales processes to meet and overcome each new challenge or difficulty always creates new opportunities. Whenever costs threaten to overcome income disastrously, I've managed to find more marketing keys that unlock more cash into the business that, up to that point, I didn't know the business was capable of earning.

Had I only known about all my Marketing Keys earlier in the business's life, I would be a much wealthier man. Would this make me happy? That's not a question for this site. What I can say is just as I have made millions with my Marketing Keys, I have also lost many more millions by not discovering them earlier.

One business has all but collapsed, yet would have been saved ten year ago, had I found one of the Keys I now use in another business, sooner.

There is so much written on the internet by people who are not in business, that you cannot see what works because the writers have not applied what works to a real business, as I have done. Top marketing consultants own marketing consultancy businesses, because they can market their consultancy business well, but they are not marketing YOUR business or a business LIKE yours. I am, at least I am if you are in my services sector or a related one.

Each new Marketing Key unlocked new money that was hidden to me, that up to that point, I never knew could be made. Levels of sales and income I previously only dreamt of, remained a distant dream - until they became 'necessary'.


Necessity Makes Possible

the previously Impossible


Believe in this, for it is so true. When you HAVE to do something, you'll do it. Inertia and lack of self-belief are the 'disablers'. An understanding of Nature and Evolution tells you that everything tends to improve, this is your 'Enabler'.

For all successful species evolve, naturally, to cope with the challenges of their environment. Nature just keeps trying till it gets it right. Marketing is no different and success is inevitable as long as you keep trying, just as failure is inevitable if you never get started, if you suffer inertia or a disabling lack of self-belief. If you never adapt or even try to adapt, that is failure.

They say Edison took 1,000 attempts to get his incandescent light bulb to work, yet now we all take light bulbs quite for granted. Indeed there are now many different types of light bulb. It is the same with Marketing and Making Money. It takes many attempts to (i) find, (ii) recognise what you've found, and (iii) apply a Marketing Key that works, and like today's many types of light-bulbs, there are many types of Marketing Key.

It takes many attempts that do not work, to find what does work. You can take a short-cut by following and applying what others have made work. This is why people buy franchises.

More importantly you can also scrap the 'disablers' - lack of self-belief and inertia.

Hire your enablers - a positive can-do success attitude, and get on and DO something.

Every day get up and do something new. Inertia begone!  Naysayers begone!  Kill that lack of self-belief and you'll just KNOW improvement is as inevitable as Evolution. Provided you keep testing, keep trying, wealth and business success is inevitable. As inevitable as failure, as every failure is a prompter to Success.

Use this handy Index to skip to any subject that interests you


Promoting your Hotel or B&B


How to increase your hotel's bookings

Marketing your Hotel - what we can do for you

Calling All Hotels who need to grow turnover ahead of costs

How our hotel found its customers - ideas you can use

Find your own Money-Making Marketing Keys here


Our Services to promote your business


7-Point summary of how we will grow your business - start here

Marketing Audit: find specific Marketing Keys that will boost your business now

Marketing Training Course for your staff and Managers on your Key Money-Making Marketing Tasks

Marketing Hotels & Events - All-in-One Marketing Service - Results Guaranteed

Marketing your Hotel - Our £50,000 annual turnover increase guarantee

Marketing Advice by email - client advisory service

For a Weekly Marketing Tip - subscribe here


Niche Marketing Opportunities


Niche Marketing - why it works

Niche Offer Websites - Case Study and Benefits of Niche Websites

Niche Offer Website Service

Discover new Marketing Opportunities here - Be Inspired!

How 'Marketing Necessity' will always accelerate your business to unexpected highs

Find your 'Marketing Mojo' here


Sales & Marketing Tips


Why promoting your business is an Owner's Responsibility alone

Sales & Viewings Presentations

Marketing Keys that will grow your business - explained

Time Management Manual - bed-time reading; my free booklet on Time Management

Back to content