Business on Life Support - desperately needs advice.

by cjmac 20 replies
I'm a new WF member, and in the interest of full disclosure, I'm a complete failure at marketing. I either need a consultant (that I can afford), or need to learn how to do this myself - and I have no idea where to turn next.

For the last several years, I've been building a tour business, and have invested in travel, trade shows, research trips, equipment, etc.

I need to get the investment debt paid off - and it's substantial. It's now almost $50K.

My website (which I don't want to publicize here for competitive reasons) is ranking poorly. How poorly? I searched on one of the tours I offer and didn't come up in paid or organic results in the first TWENTY pages. Out of pure disgust, I just paused all of my Google ads.

My social media strategy is fractured. I'm trying to be somewhat active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and G+, but have no real strategy or tactical plan. (Throwing random stuff against the wall to see what sticks is NOT a plan. It's desperation.)

When I start to dig in to those networks to try to understand them better, I'm deluged by buzzwords and jargon that I don't understand, so I end up more confused than when I started.

For example, I tried a promoted Facebook post, publicizing a contest with a $100 prize. The goal was to grow the e-mail list, and there was a link provided for subscribing.

Results? $100 ad spend, 50,000 paid reach. TWO new subscribers - a massively complete failure by any measure.

My primary asset is a 1,300 subscriber, 30 month old newsletter that is published every month and is 100% opt-in.

I've built this list mainly by presenting lectures on my specialty topic for clubs and conventions and by buying a booth space at other conventions. This is old school grunt work, but because I provide very solid content, the newsletter open rates are ~45% with a newsletter click rate of over 14%.

Those, according to my newsletter service are over 2X and 3X the industry average. I do anticipate selling ads in the newsletter at some point, but I think I need at least 3,000 subscribers - and maybe more like 5,000.

That's why I signed up here of WF, but as a non-internet marketer (at least not a successful one), I read these forums and see what appears to be post after post promising astronomical success.

Frankly, like an old-time quack doctor with the ultimate cure-all potion, that just reeks of superheated sales hype that can't be trusted. Maybe I've just hear too much hype in my life and have become over-skeptical.

What I'm desperately seeking is a plan - a step-by-step road map (or maybe a consultant) that can take someone like me who just wants to build an offline business - and help me to kick it into profitability. FAST.

At this point, I have given my business one year to live. If I have not hit a very modest target income by December 31, 2014, I will pull the plug on it, even after 7 years of working 7 days a week to build it.

If you've read this far THANK YOU. And if you have any ideas or advice I will be very grateful to hear it.
#offline marketing #advice #business #consultant #desperately #life #offline #support
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  • Profile picture of the author PerformanceMan
    What you describe is more common than you realize.

    Off the top of my head I'd say switch your focus from ads on first tier websites like Adwords and Facebook and move the money to real 'niche' marketing.

    If you have an ideal customer, target them at sites they're already at. Plus, you need to have a very strong call to action and sales funnel in place to convert them.

    Good luck.
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  • Profile picture of the author joshril
    Originally Posted by cjmac View Post

    I'm a new WF member, and in the interest of full disclosure, I'm a complete failure at marketing. I either need a consultant (that I can afford), or need to learn how to do this myself - and I have no idea where to turn next.

    For the last several years, I've been building a tour business, and have invested in travel, trade shows, research trips, equipment, etc.

    I need to get the investment debt paid off - and it's substantial. It's now almost $50K.

    My website (which I don't want to publicize here for competitive reasons) is ranking poorly. How poorly? I searched on one of the tours I offer and didn't come up in paid or organic results in the first TWENTY pages. Out of pure disgust, I just paused all of my Google ads.

    My social media strategy is fractured. I'm trying to be somewhat active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and G+, but have no real strategy or tactical plan. (Throwing random stuff against the wall to see what sticks is NOT a plan. It's desperation.)

    When I start to dig in to those networks to try to understand them better, I'm deluged by buzzwords and jargon that I don't understand, so I end up more confused than when I started.

    For example, I tried a promoted Facebook post, publicizing a contest with a $100 prize. The goal was to grow the e-mail list, and there was a link provided for subscribing.

    Results? $100 ad spend, 50,000 paid reach. TWO new subscribers - a massively complete failure by any measure.

    My primary asset is a 1,300 subscriber, 30 month old newsletter that is published every month and is 100% opt-in.

    I've built this list mainly by presenting lectures on my specialty topic for clubs and conventions and by buying a booth space at other conventions. This is old school grunt work, but because I provide very solid content, the newsletter open rates are ~45% with a newsletter click rate of over 14%.

    Those, according to my newsletter service are over 2X and 3X the industry average. I do anticipate selling ads in the newsletter at some point, but I think I need at least 3,000 subscribers - and maybe more like 5,000.

    That's why I signed up here of WF, but as a non-internet marketer (at least not a successful one), I read these forums and see what appears to be post after post promising astronomical success.

    Frankly, like an old-time quack doctor with the ultimate cure-all potion, that just reeks of superheated sales hype that can't be trusted. Maybe I've just hear too much hype in my life and have become over-skeptical.

    What I'm desperately seeking is a plan - a step-by-step road map (or maybe a consultant) that can take someone like me who just wants to build an offline business - and help me to kick it into profitability. FAST.

    At this point, I have given my business one year to live. If I have not hit a very modest target income by December 31, 2014, I will pull the plug on it, even after 7 years of working 7 days a week to build it.

    If you've read this far THANK YOU. And if you have any ideas or advice I will be very grateful to hear it.
    In many situations, $100 ad spend is not enough to get a campaign in the black...

    Additionally, there may be other avenues other than social media that make sense... Quite honestly, there are too many variables to get a "quick fix" answer on this forum... especially if you're not going to share your site/sales funnel.

    There could be issues with:

    -Your offer
    -Your copy
    -Your advertising strategy/researching your target market
    -Your sales funnel, in general

    Thanks,


    Josh
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  • Profile picture of the author bob ross
    What about targeting seniors and doing casino trips? (if a casino is nearby)
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  • Profile picture of the author misterme
    I tried a promoted Facebook post, publicizing a contest with a $100 prize
    Not much of a prize which may be why the low response.
    Plus I don't know what else was involved with that contest which may have hindered results.

    My primary asset is a 1,300 subscriber, 30 month old newsletter that is published every month and is 100% opt-in...

    I do anticipate selling ads in the newsletter at some point
    Instead, what about understanding WHO your subscribers are, dig deep and come up with product tailored for their specific interests...meaning possibly even changing the kind of tours you do to make them even more targeted to your readers... and making great offers to your subscribers?
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  • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
    Before you spend any money trying different marketing tactics, you need to do a really critical analysis of your business model. What is your process?

    This stuff can be hard, damn hard, to work out and even the best can struggle at times. Be wary of anyone who may be sending you PM's or posting saying if you pay them to do X they will make you money.

    The root of any business, at the core, is a fundamental action that generates more revenue than it costs to get that action to occur.

    Along the way, each step you want your people to take has a cost. If the sum total of those small actions is costing you more than your profit of the "core action" that runs your business, you will continue to lose money and never be able to get off the ground.

    However, if you can find a process that costs less than the profit on your core action, then you can take off. Growth can happen quickly, and you can scale up to something that can sustain itself and pay your bills too.

    This process, this combination lock, is the heart of what it means to be an entrepreneur.

    My advice: Stop, today, looking for the marketing tactic that will make this work. It is likely that you will continue to struggle. Instead, get very detailed and specific about what your core action is. Find the nugget that drives the business. Analyze it carefully and know exactly how much the profit is.

    Then, work backwards from there, being skeptical about every marketing step. Make sure that with a reasonable, conservative, conversion rate the cost will be less than your profit (or at least break even so you can sell them again later). The total sum of all actions you are taking is currently too high.

    With the very limited amount of info I have from your post - I don't think you just have a marketing problem right now. I think you might have a business model problem also. Maybe just one little tweak could make it all work.
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  • Profile picture of the author iAmNameLess
    7 years without profit? You're wanting to accomplish this year what you haven't been able to in 7? Good luck.

    My advice is to do whatever you can to not be emotionally attached. The best thing you can do is realize when something isn't going to work, and stop. Then you can analyze without emotional attachment what went wrong, and where to start again.

    Not every business is going to succeed.

    You have a long way to go. Nothing to be ashamed of, but if you haven't learned a basic funnel in 7 years, maybe you should spend this year to learn, and forget about the tours.

    My recommendation, go to www.hubspot.com and read every blog post ever written. You will be in much better shape.
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    • Profile picture of the author TheBigBee
      Originally Posted by iAmNameLess View Post

      7 years without profit? You're wanting to accomplish this year what you haven't been able to in 7? Good luck.

      My advice is to do whatever you can to not be emotionally attached. The best thing you can do is realize when something isn't going to work, and stop. Then you can analyze without emotional attachment what went wrong, and where to start again.

      Not every business is going to succeed.

      You have a long way to go. Nothing to be ashamed of, but if you haven't learned a basic funnel in 7 years, maybe you should spend this year to learn, and forget about the tours.

      My recommendation, go to www.hubspot.com and read every blog post ever written. You will be in much better shape.

      ^^^

      Shut her down for now.

      Seems like your Newsletter is your most valuable asset here. I'd stop selling tours on my dime, and monetize that newsletter.

      I'd just turn it into a lead generation mechanism and work out deals with other companies to ship them business in exchange for revenue.

      You said you create great content - scale that up! Create better content and more of it! Also design the funnels around the content you create to reward social and e-mail sharing. You want to do all you can to create situations where people feel motivated to encourage friends to opt in.

      For example, you can create content on a site, and use the newsletter to drive content to that page / site. The site may feature an offer like $500 spending cash on your next trip - invite your friends for automatic entry!"

      Under this example, you and your partners can share the $500 prize.

      This allows me to make money (stop the bleeding) while cutting costs and getting to learn about my customers.

      You also mentioned the word "specialty." A lot of times businesses are started because someone went into the world, wanted to buy a product or service, and couldn't find it.

      Now, if you happen to LOVE deep fried cat turds, it may not be the wisest move to go out and start a deep fried cat turds truck.

      IMHO striping my business down to focus on monetizing my newsletter through affiliate marketing would allow me to learn what it is I need to be selling to people later.
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    • Profile picture of the author Neromancer
      Niche marketing using fanatical niches is a sure fire way to solve your problem. When you focus everything on a fanatical niche you can ride the resultant traffic, good will and groupthink right to your products / services. I think you need to find one of these massive fanatical niches and focus all of your attention on it. The people already have a proven track record for supporting their niche and you can position yourself to wrap your products/services around this content.

      This worked wonders for all of my marketing.
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    • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
      It has been these 4 fundemetal things in place
      going back to when man started trading.

      1 Right audience

      2 right message

      3 right media

      4 right timing

      Starting with the right audience.
      Have they shown by past actions they have bought
      similar things at a similar price point before?

      Right message is entering into their mind
      right at the moment they are making a decision
      or can't solve a problem.

      Right media is no point in placing an ad where
      they aren't going to notice it.

      Right timing is being in front of them when they want it the most.

      Filter all your decision making through those 4
      when you do your marketing because those 4 principles
      work in any type of business in any point in time.

      Best,
      Ewen
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    • Profile picture of the author Biz Max
      Originally Posted by iAmNameLess View Post

      7 years without profit? You're wanting to accomplish this year what you haven't been able to in 7? Good luck.

      My advice is to do whatever you can to not be emotionally attached. The best thing you can do is realize when something isn't going to work, and stop. Then you can analyze without emotional attachment what went wrong, and where to start again.

      Not every business is going to succeed.

      You have a long way to go. Nothing to be ashamed of, but if you haven't learned a basic funnel in 7 years, maybe you should spend this year to learn, and forget about the tours.

      My recommendation, go to www.hubspot.com and read every blog post ever written. You will be in much better shape.
      THIS is the best advice of this thread. Don't keep throwing life preservers around
      the Titanic. Let it sink and move on to something you research better.
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      • Profile picture of the author Marvin Johnston
        Originally Posted by WhiteRhino View Post

        THIS is the best advice of this thread. Don't keep throwing life preservers around
        the Titanic. Let it sink and move on to something you research better.
        I have two friends were doing much the same thing the last time I talked to them. They don't consider their businesses as needing life preservers, and instead they make a success of it.

        So comparing a business to the Titanic without any understanding about how the current business is being run seems like a bad comparison.
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  • Profile picture of the author Marvin Johnston
    The advice you will get here will be relatively generic as there is not enough information provided to get specific (and I think this would be an inappropriate place to provide that information.) The other problem is you might not understand the ramifications of the advice given here, or how to implement it in your particular case.

    Do you have any friends in the industry who are doing well, you trust, and they would be willing to act as a second set of eyes on what you are doing?

    That is what saved my butt in my first business as I was very much in similar circumstances. It took me only a few months to realize the tremendous holes in my knowledge, and start getting help.

    Well okay, my friends actually pointed out my weaknesses and were very generous with their support in helping me to succeed. We were in the same business, but did serve different markets.

    All I had to do was be willing to listen and implement.
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  • Profile picture of the author TeamBringIt
    Originally Posted by cjmac View Post

    I'm a new WF member, and in the interest of full disclosure, I'm a complete failure at marketing. I either need a consultant (that I can afford), or need to learn how to do this myself - and I have no idea where to turn next.

    For the last several years, I've been building a tour business, and have invested in travel, trade shows, research trips, equipment, etc.

    I need to get the investment debt paid off - and it's substantial. It's now almost $50K.

    My website (which I don't want to publicize here for competitive reasons) is ranking poorly. How poorly? I searched on one of the tours I offer and didn't come up in paid or organic results in the first TWENTY pages. Out of pure disgust, I just paused all of my Google ads.

    My social media strategy is fractured. I'm trying to be somewhat active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and G+, but have no real strategy or tactical plan. (Throwing random stuff against the wall to see what sticks is NOT a plan. It's desperation.)

    When I start to dig in to those networks to try to understand them better, I'm deluged by buzzwords and jargon that I don't understand, so I end up more confused than when I started.

    For example, I tried a promoted Facebook post, publicizing a contest with a $100 prize. The goal was to grow the e-mail list, and there was a link provided for subscribing.

    Results? $100 ad spend, 50,000 paid reach. TWO new subscribers - a massively complete failure by any measure.

    My primary asset is a 1,300 subscriber, 30 month old newsletter that is published every month and is 100% opt-in.

    I've built this list mainly by presenting lectures on my specialty topic for clubs and conventions and by buying a booth space at other conventions. This is old school grunt work, but because I provide very solid content, the newsletter open rates are ~45% with a newsletter click rate of over 14%.

    Those, according to my newsletter service are over 2X and 3X the industry average. I do anticipate selling ads in the newsletter at some point, but I think I need at least 3,000 subscribers - and maybe more like 5,000.

    That's why I signed up here of WF, but as a non-internet marketer (at least not a successful one), I read these forums and see what appears to be post after post promising astronomical success.

    Frankly, like an old-time quack doctor with the ultimate cure-all potion, that just reeks of superheated sales hype that can't be trusted. Maybe I've just hear too much hype in my life and have become over-skeptical.

    What I'm desperately seeking is a plan - a step-by-step road map (or maybe a consultant) that can take someone like me who just wants to build an offline business - and help me to kick it into profitability. FAST.

    At this point, I have given my business one year to live. If I have not hit a very modest target income by December 31, 2014, I will pull the plug on it, even after 7 years of working 7 days a week to build it.

    If you've read this far THANK YOU. And if you have any ideas or advice I will be very grateful to hear it.
    I can pretty, much tell that you do not have a SYSTEM in place. You are everywhere and not getting any results. That list that you have, who are these people? Do you know their true interests? Have you developed a relationship, with them?

    Do you have any relationships with past customers? Have you given them, any great deals lately? Do you follow-up with them? I suggest that you try to re-sell or make awesome offer to the past customers...FIRST.

    Then, try to attract new ones. I highly suggest, that you come up with a killer, OFFER that makes..your customers say "DAMN, I WANT THAT" and then use the proper channel(s) to deliver that message/offer to them. You have been, doing things "wrong" for the past 7 years. There are other people, that are doing well and pretty much..offering what you are offering. You can, still have success.

    Come up, with a good system, run it, tweak it and make money!
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  • Profile picture of the author Chris Rivers
    Hey,

    What do you mean by "tour business?"

    Does that mean you are selling tours to vacation resorts, exotic places or local hot spots and sights?

    Because at the end of the day, your target market determines what tours they're willing to buy. Sounds like you're not selling something that your target market wants.

    The best three pieces of advice I can give you is this:

    1. I don't know if you're sending a physical newsletter or online e-newsletter, but regardless of that, you NEED to send your subscribers a survey tomorrow and ask them what type of destinations, packages, pricing and options they want to see.

    Try your darnedest to setup the survey online using a service like survey monkey etc. so that you can get the feedback instantly. Use that $100 prize as your reward or incentive that you'll giveaway to the subscribers who respond to your survey.

    However, you're going to have to email or send something out more than once a month to encourage your subscribers to share feedback with you. If I were you and struggling as bad as you said you are, I would email them about the survey for three to four days straight.

    While on the subject, you need to be testing emailing your subscribers at least three or four times a week with funny, interesting and relevant stories that are connected to the type of tours you can sell.

    2. Take that information from the survey and use it to make your irresistable offer based on their answers. When I say irresistable, I mean you need to put every relevant bonus, extra or goodie you can get your hands on to sweeten the pot.

    You need something that is jaw-dropping good and is almost exactly what they said they wanted. By the way, if it doesn't make you a little uncomfortable making a offer that good, then you're not doing it right. You need something to shock them into taking action.

    And for the love of pete, please put a expiration date on the offer.

    3. Find a way to send a email or direct mail piece as often as you possibly can (without pissing off your list) about your new irresistable offer. If it's good, then you can email them about it for each day for a week or so.

    Then, create another irresistable offer that is similar to the original one but different enough to give it a new flavor and do the same thing again. This should be the new way you do business.

    One irresistable offer after another with good content interspersed in between. You have to do both in order to not burn out your list while making a profit. Don't get sucked into just doing one or the other.

    Lastly, not to go negative on you, but if you're not willing to take the time to find out what your target market wants and then sell it to them, you might as well pack it up and call it a day.

    Chris
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  • Profile picture of the author Rus Sells
    I think you need an industry consultant who knows the tour industry business model. They should be able to come in and find out quickly what's wrong in your business.

    Most of the advice, (while good) is post diagnosis to the problems in your business and might not be a solution until you're fixed.
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  • Profile picture of the author mjbmedia
    What are your main competitors (the successful ones) doing that you aren't?

    Copy them and better it or do as best you can , either way it'll be better than what you've got now, don't reinvent the wheel (yet) just copy the successful people now, get the money in, then look at alternatives.

    Are they coming up on your searches, where, what for, what is their lead generation funnel like, have you ever opted into their lists and SM pages etc seen what they do to convert.

    Theres lots more like understanding who your target market really are, ie the ones who will actually pay you money to make you profits and come back to you again and bring others with them , where are they reached, how are they engaged with, etc etc
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  • Profile picture of the author Peter Lessard
    I'm going to assume that if you have worked this 7 days per week for 7 years you have made money with this business but that now you find yourself 50k in debt perhaps due to a few bad decisions.

    The trick will be now to analyze the good and the bad and focus on scaling what works. If you have 7 years of data and experience at this there is enough information in your head and in your numbers to come up with some conclusions. I would suggest a fresh set of eyes that is not emotionally tied to the business to go over it.

    If anybody recommends a magic pill run but again with 7 years of experience in your industry I would hope at this point you can recognize the difference between a plausible course of action and snake oil.

    You should also be prepared for the cold hard truth that after 7 years of trying to make this work that much of the advice you will receive from someone that knows how to proceed will be just as much or more about fixing you as it will the business. It will likely not be pleasant.
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  • Profile picture of the author NewParadigm
    You haven't posted enough information for anyone to really reply adequately.

    Have you established if there is a paying market? If so, how many? What competition if any? How do you stack up? How are you providing value?
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  • Profile picture of the author focusedlife
    First and foremost, welcome and thank you for your candor.

    I know it must be rough to point out your own flaws in public, however, I can totally appreciate you looking and reaching for help, with sincerity in the tone of your post.

    There are just so many variables to consider in your business and although you've given a great overview, without knowing specifics about what you've done and haven't done, both strategically and on a very tactical level, there is just too much ground to cover to give you useful advice.

    Besides that, you may want to consider the qualifications of those that would attempt to give you useful advice.

    If I may, I'd recommend looking to and modeling with enhancements those that have the success you wish to attain in your field and that you can verify are ACTUALLY successful.

    Obviously, great marketing principles apply, and since you've already stated that you don't have a real strategy or tactic, I'd be willing to bet that simply putting an action plan, that you will commit to following militantly in and of itself will get you going.

    Spinning plates sucks, but spinning plates without goals and control are sure to keep you from making any head way.

    I wish you the best of luck and welcome you to PM me if, perhaps, you just want to chat with someone interested in your problem and is willing to offer their insight.

    I, by no means, feel like I have the definitive answers to your problems but I'd be willing to offer my input, whatever that might be worth, for free.

    Marketing is my passion and there are quite a few I'd turn to and recommend even here on these forums and a few of them have actually already given their input.

    Much luck and God bless in 2014!

    Regards

    Los

    P.S. Simply put...I think we all need more information in order to be of better help and to help you from being more deluged and mired in more contrasting information.
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  • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
    Your newsletter sounds like it may not be reaching people who will be customers or who will send you customers. May lack clear calls to action.

    Off the top of my head:

    I'd suggest getting a marketing plan with someone who has industry experience.

    Get copywriting help.

    Reverse engineer successful tour companies.
    Maybe work/volunteer for one for a while.

    Reach people who will send you customers.
    Hotel and visitor center staff (pay them a little something).
    Tourism bureaus, travel agents, Chambers of Commerce...

    Guest post/advertise on relevant blogs/websites/city directories

    Use website such as hotels.com, expedia, booking.com, and tripadvisor.com

    Dan
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