Why offline marketers need to stop being so myopic about internet marketing to small businesses...
Maybe you fellow offline marketers can get some insights or ideas from one of my recent client projects - a small landscaping firm in the $400,000 a year category.
The owner is actually a fairly wealthy guy, who has an operating manager that was the original founder and manager of the company. They are first cousins, and when the original guy got into bad financial trouble (classic case of Gerber's E-Myth), the cousin stepped in and navigated the company through the re-org.
They had no USP.
They had a very crappy, brochureware website that didn't even capture customer information.
They had some print mail pieces they'd done at an abysmal rate of return.
A banner at the local high school gym for varsity basketball games... waste.
But they did have a decent customer base that came with them through the reorganization, a fair number of testimonials, a nice mix of commercial and residential accounts, and a lot of ability to deliver a full range of services beyond the 3 guys and a pickup truck. Nice equipment, decent professional brand image. Decent referrals.
The first step was to consult.
CONSULT CONSULT CONSULT!!!
when you're done doing that.... CONSULT SOME MORE.
They don't give a crap what you know at this point. And now is not the time to start telling them about getting their website to the first page of google. In this particular instance, their website was crap and didn't even have a contact form.
Ask lots of questions about customers, service, competition, average contract amount, internal operations, staff, etc...
Take copious amounts of notes. Notebooks full. Learn as much about their business as you possibly can.
Of course, having been consulting with small businesses for many years, I have a very succinct process, and a systematic approach for this kind of thing.
What I DON'T do is go into the door, guns blazing with my spectacular offer to get their website to the first page of Google in 1 week.
The first thing I want you to realize is that leading the strategic level of process itself is of MORE value than the various, individual tactical levels of service like web design, SEO, etc...
I charge for this process. I get anywhere between $5,000 and $30,000 per business, just for leading them through my process.
Taking them through the process does a lot of things besides make me money as a consultant. It puts me in control of the entire rest of what happens with the business' marketing, both offline and online.
The process identifies weak areas, growth areas, what works and what doesn't.
Most of all, it eliminates 100% of the objections for any tactical level of marketing function that I want to sell to the client, from web design, to brochure design, to SEO or even hiring a call center or doing a direct mail campaign.
Whatever the strategy is going forward, the entire budget is already cost justified based on the statistical projections and goals going forward.
So, back to the landscape company.... After the initial consulting phase, we went into a step-by-step mode of implementing strategies in some key areas.
First of all, we have to identify these following three things... first, you have to define the audience, then the message, and then use the right medium to get to that audience.
This message is different from audience to audience (or it should be anyway). For example, you don't communicate the same message to an existing premium customer that you do a prospect that has never bought from you.
Landscaping falls into two broad categories, commercial and residential.
So after defining these audiences, we define the message we want to deliver to each group. Obviously the needs of a home owner are very different than a property manager or maintenance supervisor.
Then we set about recreating the mediums with the newly crafted message. This means a new website, a new set of brochures, a new phone script for people answering, even training for the work crews.
Of course, I am in control of all of these things. I pick the projects I want for myself and sub out the rest to trusted partners.
But it gets deeper. The new website is generating leads, so what do we do with it all?
Well, they didn't have much of any sort of customer database, so recommending a CRM solution and directing that project became a paid task item.
See how this keeps going?
Anyway, the website is the start of a funnel. We changed the generic, we do this or we do that crap to a specific offer for each audience. The home owners, we're offering a total care solution package... a seasonal service solution that gives a home owner a total solution from mulch, edging, mowing, fertilization, leaf removal, etc... the entire works.
We're targeting medium to high end home owners instead of taking all comers. You'll now fit into our process instead of us creating a unique process just for you. E-myth again.
The commercial folks are getting a seminar offer - effective cost control of your property maintenance, delivered by a bonafide expert. We're doing it once per quarter for a very low cost to just cover the facility. Low intensity pitch at the end of the very real content of the session.
Google Adwords with local modifiers for specific key words
Direct mail driving them to the website or to contact directly
Of course, I controlled both of these projects.
Now, the real meat and potatoes...
In the past 6 months, we're on target to double sales, but that's not all. The company has increased profitability by 40% by targeting the best customers and standardizing the packages of services (cutting out the custom project bids each time).
The bottom line for me is that the process alone yielded around $20,000 in consulting fees. But the project efforts generated after that has already generated another $25K in additional fees for services, and I suspect probably another $25K over the next 12-24 months will be forthcoming as cash flow justifies the next layer of development.
The important, relevant part is that if any other marketing or advertising professional attempts to sell into this account, I have been installed as the gatekeeper. It either fits into the plan or it doesn't. So, I have locked out the rest of the tactical level salespeople and service providers by taking ownership and controlling the strategic level.
While all of this is a nice story, I want to illustrate the real point to all the offline marketers... if you're selling internet marketing services at the tactical level, you will eventually run into someone like me who shuts you down.
Oh yeah... the other point... so what if your prospective business doesn't have the sugar daddy paying the bill on the front end?
Well, with a well defined plan, this is the fodder that makes for venture capital investments from angel investors and sometimes, banks will make SBA loans for business development projects.
"Oh, I can help you with that too. I have a few angel venture investors who are looking for investments like this. If we can get a deal together, my fee is ....."
get my drift?
I hope this gives some of you guys and gals some ideas about how to not be so myopic about your offline "internet marketing".