Everything You Know Is Wrong
John arrived at the restaurant ten minutes early. He walked in and had a quick look around. It was a nice place filled with all kinds of well-dressed people enjoying the good life. He found it kind of hard not to be more than a little envious.
He went outside and waited near the entrance for Mark to arrive. He didn’t have to wait long.
Mark arrived about one minute early and bounded up to John with a big smile and a firm handshake.
“How’s it going buddy?” Mark asked.
“Well it could be better I guess, but it’s great to see you,” John replied.
“So let’s go grab our table and tuck in. You can tell your old pal Mark all of your troubles.”
They took their seats and ordered lunch. Mark was positive, animated, and filled with energy, as usual. He almost looked like he glowed. John looked at him and wondered just what Mark had that seemed to propel his business to ever greater heights.
“So business is rocking?” John asked.
“Top notch,” replied Mark, “in fact if things continue on as they have I will be able to sell my company for a packet of cash and retire before I’m 55. That’s why I chose self-employment. I’m going to travel the world and have me a fine old time.”
“Awesome, wish I could say the same,” John said.
The conversation went back and forth and was light. As the two old friends got caught up it seemed as if the lunch just flew by. They talked about life and family and the weather and everything and nothing. Mark noticed John was more subdued than normal. Finally Mark asked John what was troubling him.
John erupted, “I'm frustrated beyond belief. I feel like I'm in a rut that I can't get out of. It doesn’t matter what I do to build my business I just can’t get anything to work. We’ve tried direct mail, social media, online advertising, print advertising, cold calling, trade shows and most any other thing you can think of. We just burn up money and get poor results if we get any at all.”
“That bad eh?” asked Mark.
“Oh no, it gets worse. If I don’t get things moving soon my friendly neighborhood bank manager is going to call my loans,” said John.
“That sounds serious. You must be worried sick,” said Mark.
“I sure am. To be honest I really don’t know what to do. We’re always trying different things but none of them gets traction. It’s like my business is a perpetual struggle machine. I’m about ready to throw in the towel.
"I hate to sound like a whiner but it seems what you touch turns to gold and what I touch turns to lead.”
“Well, if you want to know the truth it wasn’t always this way,” said Mark, “things haven’t always been this rosy.”
“What do you mean? You’ve got it made, everyone knows that."
“Well John, I do now, but I can tell you my business was going nowhere for several years. I wasn’t at risk of having my loans called like you were, but I couldn't meet my growth objectives. My rate of growth hit a plateau and I couldn't make it budge.
"Here I was, the guy who was supposed to know everything, and I couldn't fix my business growth problems. You know John, I fell into despair faster than a speeding ticket. I couldn’t see my way forward and was really discouraged.”
“So what did you do?” asked John.
“I read somewhere that I was suffering from NSOS and began to understand what was wrong.”
“What is NSOS?” asked John.
“It’s next shiny object syndrome. Basically I was always finding and trying the latest and the greatest marketing technique, failing, moving onto the next one, and repeating. I was confusing activity with efficiency.
"Oh and as you mentioned you've been doing in your company, I also was burning up a lot of money and getting nowhere in the process. My business was stuck.”
“Okay so what did you do to get your business back on track?” asked John.
“Well I had to change my way of thinking and my way of doing. First, I had to stop thinking there was some magic bullet I could use to grow my business. There was no single activity that would solve all my problems. No shortcuts. That was a big step,” said Mark.
There's no magic bullet that will grow your business.
Successful marketing is a coordinated process not a series of unrelated events.
“I’m with you. Then what did you do?” asked John.
"I found this marketing guy and he explained that effective marketing is a process not a series of unconnected or unrelated events. He helped me realize the reason I was struggling to create consistent growth was because I had no marketing system. Once I had my system in place our growth took off.” said Mark.
“Okay, so building this system, was it easy?” asked John
“I’ll tell you what, John. If we can continue to have these lunch meetings I’d be happy to sketch out the key parts of a simple system he taught me that hasn’t failed me yet.”
John called the server over to bring them more coffee and asked for a pen and a few sheets of paper to write on. He wondered if this was going to be complicated.
Then Mark spoke.
Marketing Is Not An Event
“As I mentioned just a minute ago John, the first thing you need to accept is that the kind of marketing that will grow your company is a process and not an event.
Part of the problem you may be having is you don’t have a marketing system in place. But I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. Tell me what you’ve been doing.”
“Well Mark,” John said, “we’ve been doing all kinds of things trying to get some growth happening. Last month we tried four different things and none of them worked.”
“What were they John?” Mark asked.
“Well we mailed out a thousand brochures to a list of new prospects and got three inquiries. We disqualified one for having no budget. We have not been able to reach the other two,” said John.
“Okay John,” Mark said, “if you didn’t have a sales letter with a free no-risk educational offer along with your brochure it’s a wonder anyone responded. People buy from those they know like and trust. Your brochure does nothing to make this happen. What else did you do?”
John continued, “We doubled our online advertising budget and drove traffic to our updated website. We did notice a spike in our traffic but no additional inquiries. It’s like they visited and left.”
“Did your advertising drive traffic to a specific page on your website that had an educational offer or to your home page?” Mark asked.
“To our home page,” John replied.
“That explains it. Whenever you are promoting your business online you need to use direct response marketing. Always drive your to a specific landing page with an educational offer. It also means you can measure the return on your marketing spend to the penny,” said Mark.
“So what was the next thing you tried?” asked Mark
“We tripled our activity on Facebook and Twitter for a full 30 days. This was a major disappointment as we got absolutely no sales leads,” said John.
“Well John, while social media certainly has its uses it's not effective for every company in every industry. It may have something to do with what you offered. Let’s discuss this later.”
“Did you try anything else?” asked Mark.
“Yes,” said John, “we increased our cold calling by 50% for a full month. Unfortunately we found it more difficult than ever to reach prospects. Most of the time my salespeople reached voicemail and left messages that weren’t returned.”
“That's not a surprise. People are more difficult than ever to reach and many of them are hiding behind email and voicemail. If none of your voicemails were returned it’s because the prospect couldn’t see the value in having a conversation,” said Mark.
Don't confuse activity with efficiency.
Throwing lots of mud at the walls in the hope that some sticks is not a good bet.
All marketing activities will work...if done right.
“So John,” Mark continued,” just so I have a handle on this I was hoping I could ask you one more question. Were your marketing activities coordinated?”
“Not really sure. What do you mean by coordinated?” asked John.
“Did you use the direct mail, online advertising, and social media to drive people to a landing page on your website to register for some free educational information and follow up with them by phone and email?” Mark asked.
“Umm no,” John replied a bit sheepishly.
“Ah, so it's as I expected” Mark replied in an even voice, “you had four unrelated marketing activities going on at the same time. You were treating marketing as single events instead of a process.”
“Better than doing nothing,” John replied. They both laughed out loud at this statement. It relieved the tension in the air.
“Hey John, I've to go make a phone call. I’ll be back in five minutes or so and we can start outlining the key elements of marketing system that will work for you,” said Mark.
As Mark walked away John had this weird feeling that Mark might just be a lot brighter than he’d thought. After all Mark wasn’t living in a big house and driving his flash car because he wasn’t doing fine. John knew for a fact that Mark had no debt and owned everything outright. He thought to himself just how nice that would be.
When Mark returned he put two old-fashioned glasses on the table. They looked like they were very expensive crystal.
"Interesting," said John.
Then, in a fairly low voice, Mark started singing a song by Weird Al Yankovic.