“I can remember having to supress the urge to march him out by the scruff of his neck. It was just about more that I could take.”
Back then, in my small business, installing and maintaining security systems, my marketing wasn’t happening.
Now, I was doing ‘lots of stuff’ but for some reason none of it was attracting enough prospects. And those it did attract weren’t staying around long enough to become customers.
But how could this be? All the customers I did have were happy. I was delivering a quality product with great service, and my pricing was about right – competitive but not too cheap.
I was doing everything I was ‘supposed’ to be doing to promote my company:
There were adverts in Yellow Pages and Thomson Local.
I’d built a nice website that had a professional look.
And then there were all the other marketing bits that I signed up for:
Adverts in the local press;
A feature in the “Specifier’s Yearbook”
Spots in a couple of local lifestyle magazines
Even an advert in the local cinema booklet (but that was more for the free tickets)
Still enquiries weren’t cascading in like I’d hoped for. A few calls from the Yellow Pages – but most of those were price shoppers who were getting seven different quotations, oh and other advertising reps with their offers.
(You have to remember this was nearly fifteen years ago – before the explosion of social media – otherwise that would no doubt have been in my arsenal too.)
Clearly something was wrong. But from deep in the trenches I couldn’t see the obvious. No, with my increasing agitation to get enough customers to feed the business-beast I’d created I came to the conclusion that what was missing from my life was: more marketing.
I looked for more ways, different ways, and better ways to find customers. So I was easy pickings for the cold-calling reps (on my Freephone number) with the next shiny marketing tool.
Nathan was late.
I’d agreed to meet him at 9.00am and it was now gone half-past. Finally, he arrived without apology – although I gave him ample opportunity, as I stared trying to decide which was more polished – his shoes or his suit.
He delivered his rehearsed presentation from his leather ring binder (at least no PowerPoint). By now I was numb to most spiels, having heard so many, and just dutifully answered the series of closed questions that were herding me towards the signature line.
Wearied by the fight and bitter from the succession of non-performing promotional activities, I interrupted mid-sentence:
“So, is this really going to bring me any customers? I’m paying out left right and centre for advertising and marketing and NOTHING is getting any results.”
Nathan buckled his leather presenter and plopped his order pad on top,
“Well, we can’t be held responsible for what happens afterwards. It’s nothing to do with us whether customers contact you. Now will it be the full-page or two half-pages? ”
And that’s when it happened.
I decided enough was enough. Enough wasted cash, enough empty promises and false hopes.
I’ll spare you the details, but Nathan left sooner than he had anticipated with the pages of his order pad flapping in the breeze – but his scruff untouched.
It was late 2003 by now, and one day an envelope arrived with information on ‘direct response marketing.’ I cast it aside in disgust – more of that marketing stuff – it doesn’t work.
But for whatever reason, it didn’t get thrown away and I came across it a few months later – during the dark times – just after my business finally failed.
Well I read it, and over the next couple of years learned and studied this new art (it was so radically different from all the ‘stuff’ I’d been sold on before).
Without the resources (or the courage, at that stage) to set up again, I joined up with another firm and although still on the tools – installing and servicing – I was quietly developing marketing strategies and tactics.
We tested them, and got a response. I refined them, tried new tactics, all the time testing and measuring what happened. It was good. This stuff was working; but it still wasn’t right.
But it was working enough that colleagues and friends noticed. They were intrigued. “How are you doing that? Where are you getting those leads from?” Pretty soon I ended up helping them in their businesses.
I didn’t know it then but I was missing just two critical components.
Fast forward a few more years, and now in another business – in an industry entirely different from the one I’d spend the best part of twenty years in – I’d found my missing components. Only now I had a new problem.
Gone were the days of bumping along from one idea to another, based on chance cold calls. No more was the content of my marketing material at the mercy of ‘in house design teams’, who churned out tired, trite, institutional sameness.
I was in control, knew what I wanted to say and even more importantly how I wanted to say it.
The first real test came. A half-page advert in a glossy magazine with national coverage. I sent in my artwork and waited for the publication date, checking to see if stocks had arrived at the big newsagents. If I’d got this wrong, it would be another expensive mistake – but this time I’d be the only one to blame.
I had five responses before the magazine was in the shops – not realising that subscribers got their copies a couple of days ahead of everyone else. This was great. I’d made this happen and I’d generated responses to boot.
If I’d been pleased with the five, I was ecstatic with the two hundred and sixty-three that steadily flowed in over the next three to four weeks.
The new problem I had wasn’t not knowing what to do anymore. It wasn’t not knowing how to do it either. The problem now was getting other people to do it.
Remember the two critical missing pieces from earlier?
Well the first of those was: Systemisation.
Having a defined system for how we would get prospects’ attention, get them to express interest (not necessarily buy), what we would do when they did, how we would follow up over time until they did buy. And then once we’d delivered the product and had a satisfied the customer, how we would continue to market to them to generate additional sales, and manage how they referred friends, family and colleagues to us.
The system had lots of components: Print adverts, email, web, social media, live events, and phone calls to name a few. But they were all part of the whole. They were all connected and related. No one component was responsible for getting a customer. Finding prospects and moving them gently through the system resulted in customers at the other end.
We didn’t have the skills or resources in-house to produce or operate all the system components. We needed a web designer, a graphic designer, an email platform, someone to do SEO, someone to feed the social-media beast we’d built with content, video stuff and all the technical appurtenances that supported them.
So we outsourced all our requirements, quickly amassing a large number of independent suppliers. Each of these came with their own costs and monthly subscriptions. Our system was getting expensive. Worse than that, it was starting to break down.
The more we refined our system in terms of how we wanted to interact with the prospect, the more complex the system became – with more components and more interdependency.
(That in itself isn’t a bad thing. I’m sure the technical system for ABS brakes is highly complex – but it means the operation is simple: slam the brake pedal – stay in control.)
I had two challenges:
First, suppliers just didn’t get it. They didn’t understand our way of marketing, so they just ignored that parts of our brief that appeared alien to them, and did it their way. After all, better a beautiful graphically rich website that generates zero leads, than a slightly quirky looking one that consistently brings new people into your marketing system day-in, day-out – right?
Second, none of our suppliers cared that what they were doing for us was part of something bigger. In short, they had a”WIIFM” attitude. They didn’t want to sell me what I wanted; they wanted to sell me what they wanted to sell me. Because they could only provide us with their bit, they needed to make all their money on that one bit.
Out of frustration I started learning how to do things for myself. It was painfully slow and to be honest an incredibly poor use of my time as the business owner – but what could I do?
Over time, I trialled partners, freelancers and software platforms until I’d built my own team. Specialists in their own right – but working as contributors to the overarching task. Collaborating to get the end result.
No more “Blame Ping-Pong”. No more “That’s not our responsibility; you’d need to talk to your xxxx provider” from both parties.
Finally, we could build an end-to-end marketing system that worked and produced results.
It wasn’t long before friends and colleagues noticed what we were doing and, hampered by many of the same challenges that we’d conquered, were asking for help. It was like déjà vu, all over again.
We helped. After all, we’d invested in commercial grade hosting, developer licences for our software and platforms – just to be able to take control and do it ourselves. So, it wasn’t a big deal to build a marketing system for them too.
And that’s when I had my epiphany.
What we’d built solved a major problem for an inordinate number of business owners.
What we’d built could help people avoid the traps I’d fallen into years before.
And I realised that I was more passionate about marketing than I was about the industry we were using our system in.
Now, Outsmarketing helps business owners implement their marketing systems, letting them concentrate on running their operations and growing their companies.
We’re not a Marketing Agency;
We’re not a Marketing Consultancy;
We’re focused on implementation – about making your marketing happen.
You’ve probably never read an ‘About Us’ page like this one before (or as long). But you read all the way down here. If the first paragraph had boasted, “We’re a full service best-of-breed marketing agency….”, you’d have been gone long ago.
I’d personally like to invite you to take advantage of the free information and resources available on this site. If you’d like to have a chat or ask a question via email please feel free to get in touch.
PS: What was the second critical component I’d been missing before? If you want to know, you’ll have to be in my marketing system. Click here to go back to the top of the page and fill in the form on the right hand side, and I’ll share the answer with you.