Piracy in 2011

One of the hottest topics in the shipping business – and a recent report by MTI Network, a global maritime media crisis management group, has highlighted some major points – below we have taken some highlights from this report.

Some 22,000 ships a year pass through the Gulf of Aden, heavily involved in the oil trade and trade from Asia to Europe. Unfortunately, concerns of piracy now dominate operational agendas and commercial decisions as well as the hearts and minds of owners, managers and especially seafarers.

Recent figures from the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre for 2010

cited 1,818 seafarer abductions world wide. Activity by Somali pirates remains the dominant threat with 1,016 crew members taken hostage by pirates in this region and 49 vessels hijacked.

Figures as of February 2011 show 717 people and 33 ships being held by off the coast of Somalia with 14 ships of which have been hijacked this year.

Some of the key findings reported by MTI, a global maritime media crisis management group shows:

  • Slow vessels with low crew numbers and inadequate watch keeping are most vulnerable to attacks.
  • Crew have approximately 15 minutes to respond to an attack from the moment a skiff is spotted to when the ship is under control of the pirates
  • Mother Ships are used to stage attacks further out to sea and incidents have occurred some 1300nm from the Somali coast.
  • Once captured average detention periods for a ship are between 2-5 months
  • Average ransom figures have increased dramatically, from $750,000 in 2008 to current averages of $5.4 million USD, with $9 million USD the highest ever paid
  • First quarter 2011 has seen an increase in the violence used towards hostages in an attack and in captivity
  • Ensuring strong and timely communications and keeping relatives informed, secure, comfortable and reassured is essential in handling a crisis effectively.

Piracy in the Media

It is absolutely vital that the details of negotiations taking place are never discussed with the media. This could jeopardise the safety of the crew and the validity of the negotiations.

From previous experience it has emerged that Pirates have real time access to internet news outlets and satellite telephones – so any news released must be carefully considered.

Details of crews and relatives should never be given out by relatives; although it seems that the Philippines authorities are happy to give details of overseas contracts to any journalist, if asked.

Hijacking hot points for media attention

  • attack/attempted attack
  • once hijacked, there will be a lull and journalists will work on the human interest angle by contacting relatives or ex-employees.
  • Vessel release. The first port of call will have journalists wanting to talk to crews, looking for info on ransom amount paid etc. Should be avoided at all costs.

Armed guards – The Debate

While MTI believes that each company should be responsible for establishing their own policy regarding safety at sea. We feel it is prudent to make clients aware of some of the key arguments in the debate over how best to protect your ship and crew, should your security strategy ever be called into question by the media.


Arguments in favour of Private Security

  1. Armed guards on board ships act as a strong deterrent to pirates
  2. Non-violent defence has proved unsuccessful, while no ship with armed guards onboard has ever been hijacked.
  3. Private military personnel are trained specialists usually with military backgrounds
  4. Convoys are largely ineffective as different vessels have different requirements and travel at different speeds
  5. It is impossible to be part of a Naval convoy in every area of water where piracy is a risk

Arguments against Private Security

  1. Cases of mistaken identity have already occurred, such mistakes can damage your reputation and create law suits and criminal proceedings
  2. Private Military Contractors (PMC‟s) are not State controlled armed forces
  3. Weapons on board ships could easily lead to an arms race
  4. If pirates capture a vessel after being shot at or wounded it could aggravate conditions for captives
  5. P&I clubs and Flag States in some cases may not allow armed security or guns to travel on board the vessel.
  6. In some instances non-lethal evasive measures have proven effective such as evasive manoeuvring and Citadel Tactics
  7. If under attack it is unclear as to who would be in charge of the vessel and its crew if there is armed security on board.

Naval Escorts and Convoys

Vessel operators are advised to register their details with the Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa where military and merchant navy personnel from countries around the world can advise and coordinate the safest route through the Gulf of Aden (http://www.mschoa.org).

There is a real moral complexity surrounding any decision to pursue a military solution over the payment of ransom.


Hostage Rescue?

Would you be in favour of rescuing hostages kidnapped? Few have been successful and reports by Associated Press have highlighted a ruthless development from the Pirates in response to rescue attempts; with one pirate saying: “Killing hostages has now become part of our rules”.


Citadel Spaces

Shipboard Citadels are intended to provide all crew members with a safe space where they can retreat to in the event of a hijacking. Common spaces utilised as Citadels include the Engine Control Room, E/R workshops or the Steering Gear space.

Consideration for effective primary and secondary communication systems is important and such equipment must be capable of being used from within the Citadel. Citadel retreat drills are conducted in order familiarise persons with the process.


Potential Questions in the case of a Hijacking

When considering your company crisis response strategy it is also important to consider how you would respond when faced with challenging questions from the media. The answers you give can have significant impact on your company reputation and public image.

  • Have the pirates been in contact? How much are they demanding? Do you believe that lives are in danger or is this just a negotiating tactic? Do you feel there’s a moral dimension in dealing with hijackers? How much can you afford to pay? Will you negotiate with pirates? Will you pay the ransom? You are an extremely rich company. How much is the life of a crew member worth?
  • How many seafarers are on board? Has anyone been hurt? Is it true that the crew members have been threatened? What nationality are they? What are their names? What is being done to support their families?
  • Why do you sail this route if you know these waters are infested with pirates? Surely you cannot be surprised by this? Will you continue to sail this route in the future?
  • Why do you not arm you crew or provide them with adequate security? What security measures were taken to prevent this hijacking? Were the crew forced to sail this route? Who made the decision to sail this route? Would you support any attempt by naval forces to free the captive crew?
  • What cargo is the vessel carrying? Is the cargo hazardous? Who is the charterer? How much is the cargo worth? What type of insurance do you have that would cover a situation like this?

When considering company crisis response strategy it is also important to consider how you would respond when faced with these questions. What questions would you answer/ not answer and are you prepared with relevant and accurate information should you wish to release any information?



The emphasis must be on the importance of being prepared when it comes to travelling through piracy plagued waters.

  • Ensure your company has an effective media strategy in place to cope with the immediate and long term interest from journalists and the public
  • Make sure you have a plan for how you are going to respond to media pressure. Who would be the company spokesperson? Are you prepared to deal with reporters from many different countries? Do you have a support mechanism for families



Outline of a Business Plan

Marketing your Company to Financial Institutions

The structure or format of a business plan depends largely on the type of business, the purpose of the business plan and its target audience. As all businesses are different, not every business plan is the same or needs the same level of details.

For a simple example such as a home-based web designer who designs web pages for small businesses, a simple 5-page business plan will suffice for his own guide, as long as it covers the key elements of a business plan: Situational analysis; Business objectives; Marketing and Financial Plans.

For a start-up in high technology or a manufacturing concern that requires large amount of capital injection, it is essential to have a detailed and comprehensive business plan written.

A comprehensive business plan should include these elements :
#1 Executive Summary
This is the most important part of a business plan. It may be the only section read by some (venture capitalists and bankers) readers who receive numerous business plans in a day. The executive summary must convince readers of the merit of your idea and your ability to carry out the plan.

#2 Description of Business
You must demonstrate that you are focused on your business. Demonstrate your core competency. A business that tries to do everything and anything will not be able to convince investors and lenders.

#3 Market Analysis
You must demonstrate that you have the product knowledge and a good understanding of the market and your competitors. Identify your target customers, market trends that you will capitalise to your advantage and your competitors.

#4 Marketing Strategy
Your marketing strategy is the key to the success of your product/service in the market. Know what the competition is doing and have a strategy to deal with it. Adopt an effective marketing strategy for your product/service that integrates multiple mediums or promotional strategies to reach the market.

#5 Operations Plan
You must demonstrate your organisational capabilities through the roll out strategy of your action plan, which should also be reflected in the financial plan.

#6 Management Plan
This is the most critical section in most cases, especially if you are a start-up with no historical record. Your management team will be scrutinised by investors and lenders, who are most concerned about the capabilities of the key members.

#7 Financial Plan
Summarise your funding requirements, indicate planned uses and possible sources of funds (equity, loans or grants). State your assumptions clearly in all projections and be realistic.

#8 Appendices
Include all supporting documents that lend support to your business plan.


Six Steps to Mastering the Art of Great Conversation

Becoming a great conversationalist takes proper planning and hard work. But, mastering the art of conversation is worth it. Outstanding conversation gets noticed and so does the person behind it.
Have you ever been to a social event and watched someone with an “Aw Shucks, I’m from a farm down home” look about them because they can’t string two words together. They may be too shy or just have nothing to say. Either way, it’s not pretty. In most cases it’s not because a person can’t hold a conversation, it’s because they haven’t prepared for conversation. As with everything in life, great conversationalists understand this simple but important tenet: proper planning prevents poor performance (P5).

The following six steps should help you be better prepared when you next enter a room full of people.

  1. Asking great questions
    Ask elaborating questions that force a person to open up. Here are some examples: “Really?” “How did that make you feel?” “That must have been exciting. Tell me more.”
  2. Become a great listener
    Any conversation should follow the 80/20 rule. You do 20 percent of the talking and the rest of the time you’re listening. People like to talk, so let them talk. It makes them feel important and it turns you into a friend. And, the bonus is that they think you’re a great conversationalist. Sometimes its hard to get someone to open up. You can get them talking by …
  3. Eye contact is critical
    Make sure that you establish good eye contact when speaking to someone. Not the Charles Manson “thousand yard stare” kind of eye contact … that’s just scary. Never break eye contact when you’re busy making an important point. If you start looking like a sneaky, edgy Coyote, it puts doubt on your integrity and on the validity of your words. So does touching your face, nose and ears whilst speaking. This just makes you look like a fibber. This normally happens when you’re not sure of yourself or your subject. Sigmund Freud once said that the body oozes deceit.
  4. Compliments help you make friends
    We all love compliments don’t we? Make the compliment sincere, brief and specific. Most important of all, the compliment must be based on fact otherwise it just becomes empty flattery. For instance, if you saw someone helping an old lady carry her groceries to her car, your compliment would go something like this: “When I saw you helping that old lady with her groceries the other day, I realized that you’re a kind and thoughtful person.” That compliment is based on evidence. However, if you say, “That’s a beautiful red tie you’re wearing … wow, you’re a real go-getter and confident person.” Well, that’s just plain old flattery, isn’t it? Wearing a red tie is certainly not evidence of any kind of personality trait, is it? Of course, if someone compliments you, you should react in an appropriate way. When you receive a compliment, simply smile and say “thank you”. By doing this, you do wonders for your confidence and you acknowledge the thoughtfulness (and courage) of the person who complimented you.
  5. Ooze with confidence
    Confidence is a massively attractive trait. People like talking to confident, authoritative and powerful people because it makes them feel safe. You’ll attract more people to you than bees to a honey pot if you can appear confident.
  6. Say something
    Readers are leaders and good conversationalists. Keep up to speed with the latest events happening in your world through newspapers, television and radio. There’s always something topical happening … make sure you know about it and that you have an opinion on it.

Try some of these tips next time you’re at a cocktail party or conference and become the person people want to listen to.




Using Market Research to Increase your Profits.

The terms “market analysis” and “market research” are often confusing to entrepreneurs, especially for people who focus on a specific niche or market segment.

In fact, many small business owners don’t understand the process or complain that conducting a market research and analysis programme is too complicated or too expensive and wonder why or if it is necessary.

In reality, it can be beneficial just doing it by yourself. If you have been working in your industry or the market you are after, for a long time, chances are that you know most of the answers yourself – but you never think about it because you are too busy with your day-to-day activities.

Take a few moments and write down the answers to the questions below – it will give you a much clearer target of what you want and where your business should be going.

For new products/services, it is essential for creating a business plan – but in this instance you need to ask as many people as possible the questions – then (either by yourself or by someone more experienced) get a written analysis of the answers from all the people who have participated. Obviously the people answering the questions should be people who would buy/use your service, not friends or family.

What is market analysis?
In the most basic terms, a market analysis is an assessment of:

  • A particular problem or opportunity in a market.
  • The needs of the target market relating to the problem or opportunity.
  • Ideas for marketing a particular product or service that fills the needs of the target market.

When should you conduct a market analysis?

  • When you are starting a business.
  • When you are entering a new market.
  • When you are considering a new product or service.

Why should you conduct a market analysis?

  • To understand the problems and opportunities.
  • To identify sales opportunities.
  • To plan your marketing/sales approach.
  • To minimize business risks.

The process of conducting a market analysis can be divided into three parts:

Part 1 – Understanding Market Conditions
This gives you basic information about your entire market – the size, the competition, the customers.

Part 2 – Identifying Market Opportunities
This gives you more targeted information about potential problems or opportunities in the potential market, and includes information about growth, current and future trends, outside
factors and more information about specific competitors.

Part 3 – Developing Market-Driven Strategies
Here is where we get into what market research does for you. It helps you to pinpoint opportunities to grow your business. By understanding the market and knowing what opportunities are available you can create a marketing strategy that leaves your
competitors in the dust!

Here are 8 questions that can help you get started:

  1. What is the market I want to reach?
    – Who are they? (Basic Demographics such as age, income, spending habits, useage (of similar product/services to yours) habits, gender, geographic location and so on)
    – What is their biggest problem in relation to this market?
    – Are their needs being met by the products or services provided in this market?
  2. Who is my competition in this market?
    – Are they successful in this market?
    – Are they marketing a similar product or service?
    – What is the market share of the three biggest competitors in this market?
  3. What is the size of this market, in terms of dollars and number of users?
    – Is there room for growth?
    – Is the industry growing? Stable? Saturated? Volatile? Declining?
  4. How is my product or service different from the competition?
    – there is always a difference, you just have to find it, think about your process, your features, what benefits you offer .. sometimes it doesn’t have to be that different .. if you are the first and only person highlighting a feature – it can also make you stand out from your competition
  5. How can I reach this market?
    – How is my competition currently reaching this market?
    – Is it the most effective way?
    – What are the alternative ways of reaching this market?
  6. What are the business models of my competition in this market?
    – Are they effective?
    – Is there a way to do it differently or better?
  7. What do customers expect from this type of product or service?
    – What are the basic expectations customers have of this product or service?
    – What would make your product/service “new”, “different” or “better” for the customer?
  8. How much are customers willing to pay for this product or service?

Knowing the answers to these questions will not only help you figure out if there is a need for your product or service, it will help you figure out the best ways to reach your customers,
price your products or service and ultimately make more sales and bigger profits!


Marketing 102 – the Science of Making Money!

The Marketing Process consists of …

The Message (what)

  • determining what your USP (unique selling proposition) is going to be
  • determining what image you want to portray in your message
  • how do you create credibility for your company and your message – that’s your corporate strategy
  • then combining all of the above and creating one message in a clear, precise and inviting manner?

The Market (to whom)

  • identifying your target market, by priorities – the more focused your market(s) can be the more accurate your message and the greater your success
  • your market(s) can be narrowed down by industry type, geographically and by employment potential.
  • a basic law of business is that 20percent of your customers will be responsible for 80percent of your revenue – the more you can balance these figures, the more successful you will be.
  • you will also find that in the process of defining and narrowing your target markets, it will help clarify your message so that it is to the point and appeals directly to the people you are trying to reach

The Strategy (why and how)

  • once you have identified your USP, your desired image and your corporate strategy into a single, simple one sentence message – you need to consider how you are going to deliver this message to your identified target(s)s, in the right priority – to the different market sectors, in different geographical areas, perhaps different languages to people (always remember your customers are people, just like you – not companies) of different demographics (age, sex, income etc).
  • you need to make it simple and clearly understood by your target market as to why they need your product/service. What’s in it for them (NOT you!) .. your potential client .. that’s strategy!

The Medium:

  • once you have your strategy, you need to work on your medium. How to deliver your corporate strategy … will you use PR, Advertising, internet marketing, direct mail, newsletters or none of these? Maybe you can use sales staff to greater effect, joint ventures with other successful companies in your line of business? Whatever you decide, there is a scientific process (called measuring and testing) that can determine your best approach – but it requires hard work and an analysis of your present situation and the industry/markets you are working in.

22 marketing secrets to start growing your business today! – part 2

Part 2: Action.

  1. how to plan your long-term strategies before you plan your tactics. Many people confuse the terms strategies and tactics. Strategy can be thought of as a trend, a direction to get you to where you want to go. While tactics are the actions you take to get there. You need to know where you are going before working out which bus to take. Find a goal, make sure you know where you want to go and which is the best way to get there. Then work on the quickest, most cost-effective ways to reach your target using your pre-determined route.
    For example you might want to own a successful fashion house for 40+ women in upper income brackets. The strategy to achieve this could be to create a fashion look that appeals to musicians/show biz people who are admired by the public and get a lot of press coverage. Your tactics would be to find a couple of role models, then outfit them for free for a given time; promote free fashion shows in public places; create outrageous publicity stunts that will give you free media coverage etc.
  2. always tell prospects right from the start what you are about to do and why.
    It is human nature to be afraid or skeptical of whatever you do not know or do not understand. In business, whatever you are trying to sell, product or service, will be new to your first-time customer. He/she will be skeptical, there will be little or no trust and the better the product/service, the less likely for them to believe all the features and benefits.
    One way to overcome this problem is to take time to explain, in detail, the background of how and why the product was developed/manufactured. If you are selling professional services tell your potential customer about the latest legislation and how it affects them as the customer. Talk about the benefits your product/service will provide for the customer. Talk about safeguards for the customer. And always take them, step-by-step, through the deal, explain to them how and why and what’s the benefit – answer their questions before they ask them.
    Taking the time to explain does two important things. It creates credibility for you, your product/service in that it shows you know what you are talking about and in talking about the product, not the sale, it creates trust .. you are there to help, not just rush in for a quick sale and be gone. You might ask, why not?
    Because to build a business you need repeat customers and your best customers are your existing customers – think about it! They know you, they know your product/service and if you did a good job the first time, why wouldn’t they buy from you again and again?
  3. write down every objection you hear. Few potential customers will rush to buy your product/service, without some objection to your price, features, supposed benefits etc. That’s what sales people are for, to overcome people’s objections and close the sale – just one step in the marketing process. Because people are different, no matter what you say, objections will always arise .. but objections should be seen as a positive sign.
    Positive, because it shows they are interested. Positive, because it allows you to spend more time with your potential customer, as he wants his objections answered.
    The most successful companies and salesmen use objections as a sales tool. First, make sure you write down every objection you hear – no matter how silly and seemingly foolish. Write it down, try and answer as best possible but make sure you keep a note of all objections and when you go back to your office .. think about it, research your answer, make sure you have the best possible answer and make it part of your sales kit.
  4. bring up the objections before your clients do. When you meet your potential customers for the first time, think of what objections he may have – price, after sales service, qualifications .. and bring them up in your presentation before he can raise the objection himself. But make sure you call them an objection, such as .. “our price is not the lowest, but by using our product/service, you will save ‘x’ and make additional revenue in this way..”, then go on to explain.
    Why? Because in doing so, it will show him that you have an understanding of his business, you understand his problems and that you have already thought about and thought of answers and solutions to his objections.
    Also, there is a good chance it will stop him thinking about additional objections as you have brought some up yourself, so he could well expect you to have thought of all of them – as it is your product/service.
  5. using the principle of ‘risk reversal’. In any transaction there is a buyer and a seller and there is a risk factor. Often this is a stumbling block and kills a transaction. Who is going to take the risk, the buyer or the seller – neither wants to.
    In the beginning, it is the buyer who usually risks most as he pays cash for something he does not know. If you have a good product/service, why not reverse the risk and present the offer in such a way that the risk is equal or even in favour of the buyer. This simple strategy has brought tremendous results in increased sales.
    Free time trials, sampling, guarantees, ‘money-back if not satisfied’ offers .. all produce instant increases in any business. What are the seller’s main objections: ‘it will add to my cost, what if I have to give a refund?” The answer is to do your calculations properly at the beginning, to allow for a 2% max refund sum, which is more than acceptable based on the increase in sales you will achieve.
    Make your clients come out so far ahead, in terms of risk, they would be stupid not to deal with you.
  6. the power of leverage. Leverage means multiplying whatever advantages and benefits you have with your product/service through the use of other products, other companies, competitors, within your same target market.
    For example, a shipbroker would join and participate in the local shipowners association, prepare markets reports on charter rates, newbuildings, for distribution within the shipowners association for FREE. In return, if a member is looking for broker services, where would he turn – the friend in the association who already provides him with free market information would be a natural first choice .. in fact it’s the association that promotes the brokers services on his behalf – that’s leverage.
  7. surround yourself with success. Success is not easy, you have to work at it on a continuous basis – and perception plays a big role. You have to be seen to be successful and one of the easiest ways is to associate yourself with successful people and companies. Go to the association meetings, get to know the successful people in your industry, in your city. If you do business with other successful companies, make sure people hear about it – but not always in an obvious way.
    Being around positive and successful people will also make you feel better personally, you will find yourself gaining more confidence, other people will approach you instead of you chasing them – it takes time and effort – but it works, try it.

In our third article of this series (Part 3: Motivation), we will look at the cause and effect of your preparatory steps and your marketing action plans … why they work and how you can start today to increase your income by implementing one or more of our marketing secrets discussed in this report.

16. why your clients are your best advertisement
17. working on your business as opposed to in your business
18. how intuition leads the way
19. follow your hunches and see where they take you.
20. dare to do what no one else does.
21. build yourself multiple mastermind groups
22. Take action TODAY!


22 marketing secrets to start growing your business today! – part 1

After studying marketing around the world for many years, researching and copying the ideas of successful people and businesses; networking and attending seminars and conferences from international experts like Jay Abrahams, Dan Kennedy and others, there is no doubt that marketing is a science. The science of making money. And it is available to any company that has a really strong desire to achieve financial success, regardless of which industry, which country. This 3 part report will give you a basic, overall view of what good marketing can do for your company and future reports will focus on individual aspects in more details – as long as you become part of the maritimemarketing team!

Based on principles used successfully in Europe and America, by a variety of businesses, here (in this report) are a number of simple ways that anyone in the shipping industry (or any other industry) can use to improve their business volume, cash flow and profits. Try one or two of the points you most easily understand and think would work for your business – put into practice – then watch your business grow!

Many of the steps we will be discussing sound like simple and basic facts – and maybe they are – but just ask yourself .. how many are you practicing right now? If you follow our ideas and practices as discussed below, no matter how simple they sound, you will find that they do work! Not like magic, but with effort and lots of hard work.

Try it and be happily surprised! And don’t forget you can always contact the maritime marketing team for any query/explanation/help you may want.

Part 1: Preparation.

  1. Goal setting. It’s surprising how few people take the time to set down their goals, in writing, short term and long term, on paper. Be specific – do not generalize – tell yourself what you want … i.e. By end 2006 I want to increase my fleet of bulk carriers from 4 to 6 ships! Why is this important, because it acts like a commitment to yourself. Your sub-conscious mind will see it as a firm task to do even when you are thinking of other things. And don’t be modest. Aim high in your goals, don’t restrict yourself in any way. But above all, think of a plan and write it down – in the act of writing, your mind will alter and develop your plan many times – for the better! Trying is believing.
  2. Learning from mistakes. Look to past mistakes and failures to improve your business today. Review what went wrong – in writing – and the reasons why mistakes occurred will show up like dollar signs. Use past lessons to firstly, not repeat past mistakes and secondly to see where and what changes and improvement are needed. If you need help – don’t be afraid to ask! But, and here’s a very important point, only ask people who are more successful than you and it doesn’t have to be in the same industry. Principles of success are not restricted or dependent upon on industry types – they depend on the individual, their attitude and willingness to learn, regardless of age.
  3. Creating a ‘business’ attitude. Your mental attitude to your business is more important than your factual knowledge. There are many graduates in the marketplace fighting for a job. You can buy factual knowledge, you can’t buy attitude. What do we mean by attitude? Attitude is a state of mind that keeps your business goals in your thoughts at all times – 24 hours a day. It is that simple. It doesn’t mean that you become a ‘workaholic’. It means that you look at your every day life (24 hours a day) and in addition to enjoying the moment, you think of the moment in relation to your business. Look and listen for ideas, insights, concepts that you have never thought of, in your social life as well as in business activities. Talk to friends in other industries and see if you can use any of their methods and ideas in your business – at the end of the day all businesses in all industries are the same: there’s a seller and a buyer (of products and services), it is really that simple. And if you get an inspiration, an idea – always, always write it down – immediately.
  4. You are never too old to learn! Today’s modern technology allows for instant and unlimited access to more information (from anywhere in the world) than ever before. What does this mean to you – the already successful small shipowner? What it means is that circumstances and how business is conducted, in shipping, in China, in Asia, is changing daily. And if you want to continue to grow, to make money .. you need to keep up with the rest of the world, keep up with the opening of new economies like China and India as an example. As it creates the problem of too much information, modern technology also brings you the answer and allows you to learn, whether you’re 25 or 50 years old. Ask yourself: “what is absolutely critical to my success?” Then find out as much as you can from other people, from the internet, from trade publications – and write down any ideas, any information you find helpful. Once you know what you need, what skills would help you to make more money – hire people with the factual and technical information you need to be successful! Or if you can’t afford to hire them – consider a joint venture, give them access to your customers in return for something you need from them, think about barter possibilities. I can guarantee that once you start looking you will find inspiration, positive ideas will come to you without trying. But you need a strong, burning desire and the will to put in the hard work.
  5. the long-term value of your client. Any and all successful businesses make money as a result of excellent and long-term client relationships. The important term being – long-term. Have you ever worked out what a client is worth to you? How do you work out the value of a client? Do you take the last transaction and delete the cost from the income, maybe you deduct a further allowance for operating costs and end up with a net profit? Wrong! That’s what you do for your annual corporate accounts! Sit down today and take one of your clients – any client. Now, calculate how much profit came from his last transaction, then put this amount to one side, let’s say $10. Then think …
    (i) how many times in a year could he repeat this transaction? Three? That’s another $30.
    (ii) what else do I have that he would buy from me, under the right conditions? Think about related products/services? Then add that as well. 

    So now, at a bare minimum we have a value of $40 instead of the initial $10 you would have said at the beginning. Now think of how long this client will stay with you – you don’t know? It’s easy! You will keep any client as long as you keep them happy with the benefits they derive from such product/service. Once you have calculated the lifetime value of keeping a client, you will not only be amazed, but you will find you have more flexibility to make outstanding offers that ensure your client will stay with you.

    Easy to say, hard to achieve? Not with good marketing – and you notice I didn’t mention price. Marketing can make price a secondary issue, you should never sell on price only – sell on benefits, add benefits, don’t cut your price!

  6. It’s all about your client – not you! In all your business plans, your strategies and especially your execution, remember you are doing this for your client, your customer – not you. No matter what your business, you have to try and put yourself in the mind of your client, think like he does (remember he pays for your service/product)
    and you must succeed. Your client wants to know very basic facts .. like: “what’s in it for me!”. You must explain, in simple terms, what benefit does the customer receive if he pays for your product/service? He doesn’t really care about your company, how old it is, how large, how many staff, what’s your turnover .. unless it relates to a specific benefit for him – the customer doesn’t care.
  7. Your 30 second USP. Every business has a ‘unique selling proposition’. Even in shipping. You may be an owner, you have basic bulk carriers – so do two hundred other owners; you may be a freight forwarder – there are hundreds in China alone. How can you be different? Here’s the secret! Firstly, every business owner stamps his own personality on his business, in some way. Secondly, no two owners operate exactly the same way. You need to learn to ask yourself the right questions. How would you explain your company’s business – in 30 seconds. Try it! It may take practice, but once you have it down to 30 seconds you will have gone a long way to identifying what you think is really important in your business – that’s your USP. The second method to identify your USP is to look at the methods you use to conduct your business – sometimes you do not need to do things a different way, but if people do not know how your business operates and you tell them an important part – you own that position in their minds! For example, if you, as a shipowner, have 4 tweendeckers and promote your company as Fuzhou’s tweendecker company .. nobody else is going to promote having tweendeckers as they be seen to copy you – the perceived leader. Being first, can establish you as a leader, in anything!
  8. One step at a time. Most of you will know the wise statement: “All great journeys begin with one step forward!” Improving your business is no different, you can read all the books you like, attend all the seminars, listen to advice from a multitude of experts – but at the end of the day, it is up to you to take that first step, regardless of how big or how small. The bigger the project, the goals, the expectations – the more difficult is the beginning. Why? It is because your natural inclination, your perception of the “journey” ahead is one of hard work, problems, obstacles, the potential of failure and embarrassment, so you procrastinate … when what the beginning of any project should really be is one of optimism, of looking at the results and benefits that will come from action and completing your project. Take the first step and the rest will follow, as long as you have a clear mind and direction of where you want to go – preferably in writing. Break your project into parts (as many as you like), then think and do, one part at a time – but take the first step, slowly but surely – and you’re on your way to success!

In our second article in this series (Part 2: Action) of how to grow your business, we will look at the 7 ‘action’ secrets of:

9. how to plan your long-term strategies before you plan your tactics
10. always tell prospects right from the start what you are about to do and why
11. Write down every objection you hear
12. Bring up the objections before your clients do
13. using the principle of ‘risk reversal’
14. the power of leverage
15. Surround yourself with success


22 marketing secrets to start growing your business today! – part 3

Part 3: Cause and Effect.

  1. Why your customers are your best advertisement. In today’s aggressive and highly competitive business world – skepticism – is an unfortunate buzz word that keeps rearing its ugly head. People are reluctant to accept anything at face value. Due diligence, factual proof .. that’s what people want to see and hear. One way to create instant believability is with referrals – and the best referrals come from people who have used/experienced your product/services, i.e. your existing customers.
    There is no better proof than having one of your peers clearly state the benefits your product/service has provided for him/her. Put in place a system for obtaining referrals and use them in every type of promotion you do – – from media advertising, to direct mail.
    Once a customer has expressed satisfaction, write your own modest referral and ask your customer to put it on his/her letterhead and date and sign it. Offer them a benefit, a reward for doing so.
    And when you use it, make sure you include the person’s name and company name and city to ensure people cannot think you may have made it up by yourself.
  2. Trust – your secret weapon! An oft forgotten area of leverage in business, although it is very obvious, is Trust! By trust, we mean confidence .. your customer must have confidence in you and you need to have confidence in your customer (to pay you), in your suppliers and so on. The more trust exists, the quicker deals get done and at a lower cost. No trust results in higher costs to do the business and a much longer implementation period.
    So how do you establish trust? Establishing trust is the same as establishing relationships .. they take time and honesty on the part of all parties involved. People trust other people because of two characteristics .. their individual character and the perceived competence and ability of the people they deal with.
    A person’s character is an inner trait, in business it means they want there to be a mutual benefit for both parties. They are not out to make sure they along come out as winners .. making this evident in any relationship builds trust. Competence and ability – do they have the right skills, what is their track record? If they have been a shipbuilder for 35 years they have instant trust in terms of building a ship – if a ship owner decides to become a shipbuilder to make more money .. trust would be a big question mark?
    Gain a person’s trust and you have a huge plus in any business dealings – lose it and you may never regain it.
  3. Working on your business, as opposed to in your business. Getting caught up in the day-to-day grind of making everything work properly, fixing problems, making sales calls, dealing with questions etc., that’s what we call working in your business. And it’s an essential and important part of any successful business.
    However by itself, it will not make your business grow. You need to spend time every day, working on your business. By working on your business, we mean activity that will result in building and growing your business – deciding on corporate goals, where you want your business to be in a year from now, fine-tuning your corporate strategy, working on getting more referrals from happy customers, creating direct mail promotions for existing and new potential customers .. that’s working on your business.
    And you should be doing it at least once a week, preferably daily, even if only for an hour a day, a morning a week – block off some time and work ON your business, not in it. Try it and you willbe amazed at the results in increased revenue and profits.
  4. How intuition leads the way. All of you have read stories about the power of the subconscious mind. Entrepreneurs the world over are often successful because they followed their gut feelings, had a hunch about a new way to do something and basically just listened to their intuition. How do you know when it’s right for you? You don’t, but if it seems right, looks right, feels right .. then you will be right the majority of times. And the times you are wrong, you will learn a valuable lesson.
    So follow your intuition and instincts – they will lead you in the right direction more often then not – and no-one is right all the time. All successful businessmen have made many mistakes, but if you take the time to analyse and learn from your mistakes .. even mistakes will increase your business and profits. Be courageous and become successful.
  5. Dare to do what no-one else does. If you look at successful businesses and the people who run them, you will find they all have many things in common in their behavioural traits. One of these is the courage to do something different from their competitors, from their industry peers.
    For a shipowner, it could be to build ship types when charter rates for that class are at an all-time low; or to sell and lease back his fleet in order to expand his business – or even to introduce a new service when the economy is bad. Whatever, in business you must look to be different. How about guaranteeing your ship arrives on time (within a 24 hour time period)? Ship suppliers offering “money-back” guarantees? Dare to do what no-one else is doing. The additional business you gain will more than outweigh any guarantees offered.
  6. Look for and join, or create your own mastermind group. When you run your own (or somebody else’s) business, you are so involved in the day-to-day affairs you never think of your business like an outsider. There are numerous business principles that work in many different types of industries. A mastermind group is like networking .. but a very focused type of networking (among people you have chosen just for that purpose) that let’s you solve problems by listening and adapting ideas from other people in other industries.
    Ideally, you should look to find 5-6 people, of similar professional status and management level, but in different industries, then get together on a regular basis, in an informal setting – like lunch or dinner – and discuss your individual business problems. The more varied the individuals in the group, the better the ideas. It’s not a matter of copying someone else’s idea per se, it is matter of realizing someone else’s idea can be a spark to show you how to adapt an idea from another different industry – to your specific business problem. Leave your egos and competitiveness at home, you are all there to help each other – a simple and pleasurable method to improving your business and profits.
  7. Take ACTION today. Many people join websites, take courses, read books to help them improve their business, then wonder why nothing is happening. Action! Nothing happens until you have action of some kind.
    It does not have to be perfect, it does not have to be the best of its kind, BUT you the best way to improve your business and your profits is to start by doing something. If it doesn’t work 100percent, test it, change your headline, let someone else write the sales letter – but you need to take action!
    For example, this article has 22 points regarding ways to improve your business and profits. This does not mean you have to follow all 22 points at the one time!
    Read all the points again, pick the one you are most comfortable in implementing and give it a try. If it works well, pick another one .. and so on. As long as you keep doing something, chances are your business will move forward, not backward – but take some Action today!
    Getting something 60, 70 percent right is better than do nothing. Remember in business there is no such thing as standing still. Every day, you either go backwards or forwards. The choice is yours!

Marketing 101

Mar’ket’ing :

the art of communicating the value and benefits of a product or service, to a designated market able to use/implement such product or service for
their personal or professional benefit.

In order to successfully achieve the above, you need to consider 3 important points.

  1. The Message. What do you want to say
  2. The Market. Who do you want to say it to
  3. The Strategy. How are you going to get your market to accept your message.

To be successful in any activity in life, marketing in some form – is always used to some extent, whether we realize it or not .. sometimes more successfully than other times.

Whether you are selling space on ships or just the managing of ships – marketing is the essential element that separates the successful from the unsuccessful.

And it is the same for looking for finance – whether to buy a new ship, expand your business or take over a company – you have to sell yourself, your company to the people providing you with finance … to make them believe you are capable and have the ability and resources to be able to pay back your loan as per the terms of your agreement.

Any financial organization will give you all the money you need – if you can convince them their money is not at risk. The less risk, the lower the cost – the higher the risk, the higher the cost .. a simple fact of life.

The problem again is perception.

Your perception of what risk you (your company) represent in terms of repaying any loan … will always be different to the perception of any financial organization you deal with.

Yours (perception) will be lower – theirs will be higher. A simple fact of life.

It is also a fact that neither party can be a winner, there must be a process of negotiation and compromise and both parties must come out of the negotiations feeling that they are winners.

How do we do this .. that is what we are going to look at this morning.

Let’s go back to our original points:

Marketing is the art of communicating …
the right message to the right people in the right way.

Simple? It can be if you accept that it takes hard work and a systematic approach. Let’s look at each aspect in turn.

  1. The Message. What do you want to say
  2. The Market. Who do you want to say it to
  3. The Strategy. How are you going to get your market to accept your message.