Geoff Morris You know how sometimes, you look at your Hi-Fi system that you have had for many years – Old Faithful, and you think – ‘Well – time I bought the latest gizmos and replaced the whole lot with one that works’.
I remember the first system I bought, and where I bought it from.
It was from a little store in town, where the manager was really helpful and friendly, not at all pushy, and he even offered to come round that same evening and help me sort out all this new spaghetti wiring that seemed to spring up from everywhere.
Because of this helpfulness, over the years I went back to this store on many occasions, but with the passing of time, even me, with my loyalty, increasingly turned to the internet for my purchases. Something inside me though, made me revisit this store – especially after seeing their pathetic attempt at a web site. You know the sort. It says something like ‘Hello, welcome to my web site, our company has been here for 35 years, we sell this and this and this’ all beneath a great big LOGO. Now logo’s are very impressive to the owners, but usually mean diddlysquat to any passing surfers. Also, they seemed to be spending a lot of money on equally bland adverts in the local papers – you know, prime front page bottom right position – and total ignorable. When I got to the store, I spoke to the manager (his name was Andy by the way), and asked him why he had never updated his web site. “Oh, we don’t sell on the Internet” was his reply, “we can’t compete on price on the web, so we get all of our business from local advertising”. The fact that his site, crappy as it was, was Number 1 in a Google search for business of that sort in his area was totally lost on him! Then I asked him which advert, which paper, pulled in the most leads. His response was also so typical of many a small business owner.
“Well, as long as we get 20 or 30 leads a week, we don’t worry about where they came from” he said. When asked how he handled the leads, he said that they just employ a girl to follow up by phone, give it two attempts, then moved on to the next lead. He also admitted that they don’t keep an up-to-date on-line database, and don’t keep email addresses of their old customers (including me!). Now, to me that all sounded like a real waste of time, opportunity and money. Having been involved in copyrighting for some time, and now selling my own Direct Marketing systems for small businesses, this to me seemed like a challenge. Out of a fondness for his previous good service to me, I offered my services to give his business a complete marketing makeover totally free of change ( except of course for the fact that I would want a glowing testimonial afterwards – I am after all, a Marketer). Just digging around in their business, I discovered so many interesting facts about this company, which could have added such tremendous added-value potential to their customers and prospects alike I couldn’t believe it. I knew that had these facts been pulled out in front of surfers, or indeed their existing customer and prospect lists, the hits would have shot through the roof. For instance, they had the ability to build low cost computers, and actually had the ability to offer a pc service facility, and had employed two teenage ‘geeks’ that seemed to me to be able to answer any question on computers known to man! Ideal fodder for any half decent direct marketing activity, and a dream for a copywriter to get to grips with! It was very clear that they simply did not know the value of the potential ‘value proposition’ they could make in their marketing blurb. Working closely with them, within three months their business was beginning to show a remarkable growth in turnover, and PROFIT. Not only that, but instead of facing the prospect of many other business in the town, that of giving up in the face of competition from Nationwide chains as well as price wars on the internet, this firm was on a very remarkable, steady growth in business, not just from local trade, but nationwide.
So, lets see where direct marketing and good copywriting secrets has taken them? They now have: • An extremely proactive web site that is geared up to capture names and email addresses of prospects. With a much bigger list came the opportunity to sell more and more low-priced products, and the ability to do joint ventures with suppliers as new products came along. • A very efficient way of tracking the results of every promotion and advert – so they now put their money where the business is, and have actually reduced the cost of getting each prospect. They are able to analyze the average value of their customers so that they can set the cost of their advertising appropriately, and they know what they can afford to give away for free to entice new custom. • A more highly focused method of creating adverts. Using powerful words rather than pictures of nice looking televisions, they now know that the prospects that signed in were more highly motivated and targeted than the previous ones. • A very efficient customer database was in place, so they were able to target their existing customers now on a regular basis, luring them back into the store. They even found a number of low value products, just to keep these customers spending on a regular basis, so when the ‘BIG Spend’ opportunity came up, Andy’s store was already top of their list. • A number of separate profit centres set up (like pc repairs) to maximize on their growth, and retain new and existing customers alike. This also helped to build retention with existing clients, and was even creating more business by good word of mouth promotions (and of course the ‘Tell A Friend’ script on their web site. • A formula for getting great testimonials from very satisfied customers. These testimonials are all on the website and are a key part of establishing a reputation for honesty, integrity and service excellence.
• A stream of business coming in from the web – based on price alone – and making a profit from it! (Remember Andy’s earlier comments?) In all, they are now spending less money on advertising and promotions, but generating more hot qualified leads.
And of course they are making far more profit out of every activity they are now involved in.
For a small business they are now a pretty slick outfit that completely understand what their customer base want, and so can target their offering very accurately. Is it not time you had a good close look at how your business is really performing? Good direct marketing and copywriting facilities could breathe new (and a longer) life into any business. Whether you do it yourself, or employ an internet-aware consultant to do it for you, the effort could be more rewarding than you could ever imagine. Today’s new technologies and markets open up so many new possibilities that the question you should really be asking yourself is ‘can my business survives without it?’