My Pieces of Paper...
Chris Kent MSc (Dist) FCMI CMgr CDOL MCIM Chartered Marketer
I started my career as a computer programmer after graduating with an HND in Computer Studies from Southampton College in 1984. In my spare time I wrote a software package for a local builder to help them with their estimating. It saved them a lot of time and money and they loved it.
I’d always had a burning desire to be my own boss. Shortly after my 23rd birthday I gave up my day job, started my first business to sell “Easy Estimator” to every unsuspecting builder in the country and make my first million.
Within a few short years I’d screwed up, gone bust and buried myself under a mountain of debt. By the ripe old age of 26 I’d ‘lost my shirt’, become another government start-up failure statistic and was on first name terms with a local bankruptcy solicitor.
And I guess that’s where the story starts…
Having a great product was only a small part of the entrepreneurial equation. I learned the hard way that marketing is far more important – and a skill I needed to develop before I had another go. I read every marketing book I could get my hands on, attended every seminar my credit card could bear, and burned the candle at both ends to hone my marketing skills. I loved it. It became my passion. It consumed me!
Over the last quarter-century I’ve started several businesses and also helped friends take that great leap into the unknown. Some were successful, like my IT consultancy business which netted me a personal income of over £250K in the run up to the Year 2000 – Ah! Those were the days! Others less so – like my property business which plummeted during the financial crisis and cost me a couple more shirts!
As an entrepreneur you have to take the rough with the smooth but on reflection, when I focused on my customers and applied what I learnt, things usually turned out well. At least until the Internet came along and started to turn the marketing world on its head.
I spent several years grappling with the swarm of new developments and trying to understand how the whole thing pieced together. Not to mention burning a hole in several more credit cards attending weekend seminars run by the self-proclaimed experts of the day peddling the latest Internet fad.
The digital snake oil salesman left me frustrated, confused, deep in debt and with literally hundreds of hours of DVDs to wade through to find a single nugget of wisdom I could use in my next venture.
The stress of life in the fast lane eventually took its toll and I was diagnosed with a pretty serious heart condition. That stopped me dead in my tracks (pardon the pun!) and my doctors insisted I quit work and take things easy!
I began to understand the theory around what I’d been doing all those years, but the big digital picture still eluded me. That was until I enrolled for a Master’s Degree in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2012.
The fog gradually lifted and all became clear during my final year. My research dissertation focussed on the impact of the digital marketing skills gap on small business owners – and boy – was that an eye opener! I’d finally solved the puzzle and it all made perfect sense.
Graduating in 2015 set me up for my next career move – to help fellow entrepreneurs and small business owners get to grips with the modern marketing landscape rather than drown in a sea of social media and digital information overload.
Every entrepreneur I interviewed during my research told me that if they only knew how modern marketing actually worked before they started their business, their lives would have been so much easier!
That inspired me to continue my journey and the concept of the 21st Century Marketing System was born shortly before I started my part-time PhD in January 2016 (also at Manchester Metropolitan University).
I also saw it as an opportunity to build a new training business on a strong academic foundation, and fill the gap I identified during my master’s dissertation project. I’d collected such rich and detailed insights into the real needs and wants of solo entrepreneurs and micro-business owners it would be criminal to let this go to waste, especially when I knew I could help them succeed!
My challenge was to make sure my PhD supported my business development goals, and to make sure that my new business also supported my PhD journey. I knew it was going to be a pretty tough long term commitment, but I saw my PhD as the ‘Research Department’ for my new business.
The ongoing research would help keep me focused on my prospective customers (as they were also my research ‘population of interest’). It would also give me plenty of highly relevant and focused material to share through the training business.
In August 2017 I published my first book based on my research entitled ’21st Century Marketing: What it is, why it matters and how to do it’.
The book presents a simple solution to a complex problem; it teaches entrepreneurs and small business owners how to generate word-of-mouth in the digital age.
My goal now is to help every willing entrepreneur and small business owner build a solid foundation in modern marketing before they repeat the mistakes I made when I first started.
You have to put marketing at the very heart of your business if you want to break through the noise and get your voice heard in our 24/7 connected world dominated by technology, social media and ‘digital everything’. And that’s not easy! This book has been specifically written to show every entrepreneur and small business owner exactly what they need to do to harness the power of the internet, why it’s important to their business, and precisely how to do it.
Inspired by the response to my book and the increasing need to ensure small business owners get the information in a format they can consume, the concept of the 21st Century Marketing Academy was born.
During 2018 I took the content from the book and created the Business & Marketing Book Camp Programme. It comprises of four short courses and is intended to give small business owners the knowledge they need to play the role of Marketing Manager in their business.
I also put my previous technical background to work and built the academy membership website https://academy.21stcentury.marketing which went live in 2019. In addition to the Business & Marketing Boot Camp Programme I developed two mentoring programmes:
The full details of these, and other, training programmes can be found on the main company website https://21stCentury.Marketing.
In the summer of 2019 I joined the mentoring team at Tech Manchester and volunteered to mentor a Manchester based Tech Start-Up for 12 months to help get the business off the ground. I love mentoring and coaching and saw this as an opportunity to ‘put something back into the pot’.
I am developing my career as a Keynote Speaker. My initial keynote is entitled ‘How To Generate Word of Mouth In The Digital Age’ and has been well received at business expos in the UK and abroad. More details can be found at www.HowToGenerateWordOfMouth.com
Giving keynote presentations and workshops is a great way to share my knowledge. It is also provides an effective platform to raise awareness of some of the real issues entrepreneurs small business owners have when marketing their business – and what they need to do about it!
Onwards and upwards…