The Big Idea

Tony Pic big

The original idea of this site, ‘Completely Free Sales Advice’ was as simple as the title implies. Completely FREE marketing advice. I have had great fun over the last couple of years trying to help people out with this stuff, and I want that to continue.

In truth, its always been more a vehicle for my perspective on all sorts of stuff than its been anything else, and these days its unashamedly that.

Oh, and if you still want completely free marketing or sales or social media advice, then feel free to contact me!

I’m a successful commercial executive with general management experience. I have specialised and excelled in building audiences online and in traditional media, and I’ve a good knack of turning those audiences into money too… I have studied marketing to post-graduate level.

This blog started out as an experiment. I was inspired by a little book called The Tao of Twitter, and I thoroughly recommend that you read it too.

I have learned so much from that book, and indeed the author of that book, who is now also my friend, Mark Schaefer. It was a conversation with Mark about ‘Authentic Helpfulness’ one of the principles of his social media strategy that led to the formation of the Oiconf  (Online Influence conference) that has been such a huge success, and recently taken on by the lovely Paul Shepard of Coup Media

Currently I’m running a development project for the regional media organisation Local World. Before that and most recently I’ve run South West Wales Media – A portfolio of websites and news titles. Previously, I ran the biggest commercial radio station in Wales, Real Radio for the Guardian Media Group.

The idea of the blog is to have fun, and to help people, I really hope you enjoy it.

You can contact me directly and I’ll do my very best to put you, your business your marketing and / or social media strategy and your sales effort on the path to greater success.

Leave a comment on the blog, on the Facebook page or Tweet me at @MrTonyDowling or if you’d prefer, please email me on and I’ll speak to you in confidence.

56 thoughts on “The Big Idea

    • Hi Gwyn! Nice to hear from you.
      I think thats a bit of a broad question! It depends on an awful lot of factors of course. My best guess with such a brief ‘brief’? Well how about a clearly defined plan? With clearly defined goals and simple KPIs set out and measured especially tightly in the early days?
      I have found that it’s more and more the case that businesses fail due to a lack of focus, and it amazes me that so many people start up without much idea of where they want to go and what they want to achieve, and certainly not much idea of how to move forward.
      They know they love doing what they do, or at least they think they’d like to make money out of something that they are good at. But thats often as far as it goes
      So for me, the number one priority is to have a plan! And the discipline to stay on the plan.
      Thanks for joining in!

  1. Great blog!
    Here is a question for you….what are your thoughts about a printed magazine in a niche extreme sports industry going online? Also, due to the present economic climate are you able to see the benefits of sponsorship online?

  2. Hi Tanya, great to hear from you

    On line is the perfect place for niche anything, much less sports! check out ‘The Long Tail’ by Chris Anderson
    And the benefits of sponsorship online are enormous, especially in todays climate, as you are able to offer that ‘niche’ audience to a client. For ‘niche’ read super targeted. much more effective than a broadcast sponsorship for instance,
    If money is tight its a very cost effective product
    Thanks for contributing

  3. Your blog is the gift that keeps giving. Heard someone say this today (Kate) and I have been waiting for the perfect time to use it….this is it! I hope you will write for my blog soon as my readers will definitely benefit from your insights as much as I have.

  4. As my gran used to say, ‘What goes out through the door, returns through the window.” That was in Welsh, but the sentiment was the same. I’m a great believer in the supposition.

  5. Great blog mate. We’re just starting our own blog, should be up and running by the end of the month but we’ve got a few articles ready, its good to give back. What tips have you got for generating blog ideas?

    • Thanks Dale (?) I read some of your stuf last week actually, its good to get it out there no? As for generating ideas to blog on, you’re probably asking the wrong person! I find stuff strikes me every day, and I think ‘I need to write about that!’ – for me its a question of having the time to do all the blogs I want to write!

      But I’d guess generally speaking, just make sure its on stuff that speaks to your target customer. Make it personal by all means, but on brand at all times. Theres no point in having a sales blog and writing about football is there?

      Thanks for the comment, I look forward to talking to you on here some more in the future!

  6. Hi Tony,

    Thanks for making contact today. Will follow your blog with interest.

    Best regards, David
    @CardiffInternet – Free business networking for small businesses and Internet Professionals in South Wales

  7. Great stuff! Another completely free sales advice page that I find extremely informative is the Facebook page Sales Tips Of The Day. Check it out.

  8. Hi Tony, I look forward to checking out The Tao of Twitter, it sounds like a useful resource. I am a very keen observer of Social
    Media though to date not a particularly effective user. A while back I wrote what I think is an amusing blog post about the various ‘species’ that inhabit Twitter. If you’re interested here is the link,

  9. Hi, I am from a marketing background and have vast experience, and experience in the male hairdressing and grooming industry. Due to unforeseen circumstances with the council, a few things have been set back. However, a male hairdressing and grooming spa has opened in the city centre. We are quite unique to area, and once com over 5000 flyers have been distributed with a 20% discount, all businesses in city centre have been given 20% off all services for year card, involved with local discount card, flyers been left with tourist and student unions. Two adverts have been in free metro paper with discount, and one in local news paper also advertised with discount in police paper. All bars restaurants, hotels, both staff and customers, been flyered. Gay pride was flyered and every day at least two hours have been dedicated to publicising salon. We also have Facebook and twitter accounts to which we do a top tip of the day, and frequently converse. Please could you advise what may be doing wrong or missing, as business is still slow, many thanks. My list is not exhaustive of my efforts, but think may have ranted and bored you enough!!! would be so grateful for some help, advice x think might be too involved, hoping so, it deserves to be successful x would appreciate any comments, advice, thoughts you have,
    Thank you for your time

    • Hi Julie,
      I would say “well done” as you are clearly working hard, challenging & pushing yourself.
      Reading your post, I would “step back a pace” and take a more research approach i.e.
      – What were the key benefits that convinced you to take on the current site? Have these materialised or not and why?
      – What concerns or fears did you have before you launched? Have these materialised or not and why?
      – How many potential customers are there in your catchment area i.e. 6,000
      – How often do these people need your service i.e. 4 x a year
      – Therefore your maximum income will be £24,000 per annum **** shared between all the service providers in that catchment area.
      Often businesses owners beat themselves up or ask for help with getting more business, but the business is just not there..

      Once you are satisfied that there are enough customers & sales to trade from, then it is all about 2 things 1) getting them in and 2) getting them to spend more. Thus, from your post it suggests they know about you, but they are not coming in – why? Are you giving them a good enough reason to change from their existing supplier to you?

      As a marketer you will be aware that the 4 P’s are a great tool for starting this process: 1) Product (or Service) 2) Place 3) Price 4) Promotion. It sounds like to me you are all over 4, but what about 1, 2 and 3?
      Ask yourself or the people you are trying to attract: –
      – Am I providing what the customers want? Are there services missing from my offer? Are my competitors offering more / better? (1)
      – Am I delivering it as the customers want it? Are my opening times compatible with the customer needs? Should I take the service to them? (2)
      – Am I offering value for money? Does money off devalue the product ? should I put my prices up? (3)

      I recently conducted City Centre & high street research and whilst the volume of people was very high, circa 85% were commuting to / from work or rushing off to somewhere else, thus giving the impression of a very busy “shopping” environment, but almost no one was buying.

      Tony’s point is well made, you need to find out why they are not coming to you…

      Good Luck..

    • Hi Julie!

      thanks for the question, and you have actually given me a good idea for a new post! (I also took the liberty of editing your comment to remove that extra text!)
      As for the short answer, you basically just need to keep going. It takes time to build market share.
      As long as you have a good product that people will actually pay money for, and you invite people to come and do business with you, you will start to get traction.
      You may want to ask people why they dont come to you? That can give you some hints too
      Thanks for the comment, and look out for that post you gave me the idea for!

  10. I am thinking of starting my own business and want to offer a VIP discount card which would provide discounts to area vendors. How do I go about setting something of this nature up and is there a way to gain a commission from this card, or is it totally based on yearly fee or monthly fee.

    • Hi Jasmine
      Not too sure whats the best way to go about that actually. As is usually the case in situations like this, Google it :)
      I’d certainly suggest exploring both the ways you’ve suggested to monetise. However, in my experience, people often expect these sort of cards to be free.
      You may get a kick back from any vendors you promote on your card of course, but generally its a one off payment that they will make to be part of the scheme.
      One word of caution – there is a lot of competition in this area, and much of it internet based
      Good luck!

  11. Hi Tony,

    I’m Srinivas, co-founder of a startup in India.

    We are trying to replace the paper menus in the restaurants with the tablet menus. So far we took care of technical aspects. Now, we are looking for advice in marketing our product.

    My question is, How to make sure we are effectively marketing? or How exactly should we sell ?

    We couldn’t come to a conclusion on pricing model too.

    Can you help us ?


    • Hi Srinivas! Thanks for stopping by :)
      Wow, they are some big questions, and there aren’t many fast and easy answers to them either!
      I love the idea of tablet menu’s, it’s great fun and quirky, but it could also lead to lots of other opportunities for your restaurant as well as the intended.
      I’ll bet you’ll get some publicity for doing it too!
      As for whether what you do works or not, it’s really important to measure your efforts.
      That way you might be able to refine your approach to ensure you are using the most appropriate methods to market your business.
      Decide on the objectives of the campaign first. It’s often the case that people enter into marketing without having much idea of what they want to get out if it.
      So it might be to increase turnover, or to achieve an improved reach for your efforts. May to increase subscriptions to your blog or whatever.
      Once you’ve decided on the objectives, it’s clearly much easier to understand whether it’s working or not!
      Pricing is another huge area.
      It all depends on whether you want to be positioned at the low end or high end of the market you are aiming to serve. The price you charge has an awful lot to do with this. The higher the price, generally, the higher the market position people will perceive you to inhabit.
      All these issues are quite complex, and if you’d like more detailed feedback, please let me know and we’ll arrange some off line chat!
      Thanks again for the comment, I’m glad you’re reading :)

    • Hi Srinivas, It is not clear on whether you will be providing the tablet or the restaraunt will be providing them?
      I think there is some great opportunities here with a platform to gather feedback directly from the customer.
      Also the opportunity to running promotpromotions directly to the customer i.e. happy hour.
      You could program the tablet to engage with the customer to gather contact details which would compliment your relationshiop marketing further down the line.

  12. Hi Tony, I have just come accross your blog and i intend to read it a lot as everything I have read so far is very interesting and very helpful.
    I have recently started up a new photo booth hire business in Llanelli called Strike A Pose and my biggest problem so far is that I am not being found online i.e on the first page of google for my preferred key word phrases such as “photo booth hire swansea” or “photo booth hire Llanelli” . When Yell told me that they would get me on the first page of google for ceratin phrases i signed up to a 12 month contract with them but we are coming up on the second page which is no good to me and I am now stuck in the contract. I have been told horror stories about google adwords campaigns because of rival company owners clicking on your link until your daily allowance has been used up etc so i have been put right off that option. apart from registering the website on google maps is there anything else i should be thinking of to help promote the business online? i have found lots of free directories to register the business such as freeindex and brownbook. I get emails and phonecalls from companies every day offering to put me on the first page for ridiculous amounts and monthly fees by dealing with my SEO, The website was built with seo in mind and I realise that it normally take a few months for the website to be trawled by the googlebots etc, but i need to know if there is anything else that I could be doing myself to help move things along quicker?
    What do you think that i should be concerntrating my efforts and my very limited advertising budget on that would have the biggest impact on natural listings on google?
    Thanks for any help or advice in advance.

    kind regards


    • Hi Andrew
      This is a fairly common concern for people I think. And first things first, you’ve got a great handle on the best way to deal with these issues. I certainly think PPC is a great way to build a business, but I would be really keen to ensure you keep talking to Google and telling them all about your concerns. Its up to them to keep their customers happy – thats the trouble with self serve stuff isnt it?
      Maybe have a think about what other long tail searches you can rank for too? Its really easy to rank for stuff people are using, but that doesnt show up in the key word tools.
      On the other question, of what you can do to drive your ranking cheaply quickly and affordably, there is only one answer! Blogging…
      Google loves fresh content, and its loves links to your content. All stuff you get by writing a daily, or weekly or even monthly blog. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your content builds up.
      As for topics to blog about, anything goes really. It makes sense to talk about the stuff your customers are talking about though.
      Try this exercise…
      What are the top 10 questions my customers have? Or top 5 or whatever.
      And then write a post, or video blog or even do a podcast that answers each question. If you do one a week, thats two and a half months of content right there! Add in some nice curated stuff about parties maybe, and how to make sure they go with a swing, or even better, get creative and put your own spin on those sort of related questions?
      Before you know it you will have the highest ranking site in your niche, with all the authority in the world, because your content will be fresh, constantly updated, rich and deep, which is exactly what Google likes, and people with be liking it and leaving comments and all sorts – win all round.
      How does that sound?

      • Hello Tony,
        Thank you very much for taking the time and effort in leaving me such a full and informative reply to my questions in relation to getting my new website to be recognised and liked by google. I will take in what you have said and try to make good use of the information you have provided me with, especially about the blogging as this is something that i have never really given much thought.
        very much appreciated
        kind regards
        Andrew Bowen

  13. Hi Tony,

    I think it’s great that you offer free advice and I could definitely use some.

    For a small restaurant that is interested in introducing its concept to a foreign market, I have to make a comparison between the German and the English market. As in to find out which of the two is more attractive. Obviously I will gather info about the market size, market growth, entry barriers, buying power of consumers etc., but this data is too big and I believe it will not be very useful for a small restaurant in deciding a market.

    What other ways are there to assess market attractiveness? I was thinking of doing a questionnaire on both markets, and this data will be useful, since it’s not general of the whole country anymore and controlled.

    Do you have any other ideas?

    I’d really appreciate your help.



    • Hi Ashna! Sorry for the delay in replying to you. Ive clearly missed this comment, and am only now getting round to responding. Luckily, my advice is free, otherwise you’d want your money back!
      It sounds to me that you have a very good idea as to what work you need to be doing to assess the potential of your idea. Your obviously very switched on and informed about the broad world of marketing.
      In terms of what else you can do, I would struggle to offer you much. I’m no expert in either international marketing or restaurants!
      A questionnaire seems an entirely sensible approach to take to gather your intel, and you may want to think about performing a quality / price gap analysis too?
      What other restaurants are around in the market place you are thinking of entering, and at what price points and quality points do they trade?
      Is there more ‘room’ at the lower end of the market, or the upper end?
      What about the competition in your preferred niche?
      A well stocked supply of a certain type of restaurant in the new area could mean its even harder for you to break in and make a mark. On the other hand, spotting a real gap because a market or area is underserved in something is a great way to make loads of in roads really quickly!
      All the best, and good luck. Please let me know how you get on?
      And sorry again, I cant believe I missed your question and I hope Ive gone some way to help.

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