September 18, 2018

My early business failures (part 1)

When I got back from South America I immediately started work again at the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) company near London, where I did my placement year.

I hired a room in a shared house, in a town called High Wycombe. Two of my new housemates turned out to be crack addicts, which is a story for another day…

I look back on those years as being paid to learn. I bought and studied the recordings of Ken McCarthy’s System Seminar. A deep thinker with a keen eye for historical trends, Ken showcased less flashy internet marketing experts. I discovered Perry Marshall through Ken’s recordings, as well as Gary Halbert, Ben Hunt and Glenn Livingston.

I’d listen to the audios on a little battery-powered 125mb capacity MP3 player on my way to work. I was accumulating a lot of marketing knowledge, but I didn’t really understand the part in the middle… me.

While I was at the CRM company I did a few ‘intrapreneurial’ things. The company had just launched an email marketing service, partnering with a company called Communigator. Communigator was a sophisticated but complex email marketing platform that none of our customers could really use.

I would go to the customer’s site and attempt to teach the basics of sending an email. There’s only so much you can achieve in a day, especially when you’re working with someone who lifts their mouse up and down to make the cursor move. Often I would arrive with a solid training plan, only to spend half the morning teaching someone how to turn their computer on.

I remember going to one especially traumatic meeting in London, where the customer locked me in a room for two hours while they aired their laundry list of all the issues they had with the CRM system. I wouldn’t blink twice now, but it overawed me at the time.

Towards the end of my time there I created a beta ‘web marketing’ service, which involved billing out my time to do pay per click and SEO work.

We only managed to sell one web marketing project. I’d go to meetings at the client’s site where the alpha male M.D would animatedly insist they needed more traffic, or ‘footfall’ as he called it.

I would insist he needed more conversions, although nobody could tell me what conversions they really wanted. They wanted more direct enquiries, without pissing off their network of distributors. Despite what I thought at the time, I wasn’t able to give them that.

The web marketing service I had created eventually wasn’t scalable enough. Looking back I think it was too much of a departure from the company’s core business of software development. My manager eventually insinuated that I could go and do it for myself, but they weren’t going to support it.

I was busy prototyping my own endeavours while this was going on. From Ken’s seminar recordings I had also started to follow Kim Dushinski. Kim wrote one of the original books on mobile marketing: The Mobile Marketing Handbook. Kim argued that simple SMS text messaging was still the main tool to use.

(As an aside, the situation hasn’t changed so much today. SMS is still a VERY effective tool, even though everyone is obsessed with messenger bots).

I would head to a pub after work, and create different ‘packages’ for my new SMS text messaging service. The route to financial freedom was all mine, I told myself.

Or not, as it turned out…

We’ll pick this up tomorrow.

This is really the first story about how I moved into my current line of work. It’s a ‘feeling your way story’, that sets the groundwork for a turning point that’ll come tomorrow.

There are two other insights that are obvious to me, reflecting on this story. One is that I’ve always been able to learn stuff very quickly; whether that’s been email, SMS, AdWords or otherwise. This is both a blessing and curse, because for years it has muddied the water about what work I really should be doing.

I’ve also never been able to follow someone else’s system when creating a business. I tried to implement Kim’s system, and failed (more on this tomorrow). It’s like the difference between following a path, and discovering the path for yourself.

I’m much better at the latter, and I suspect you are too…

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.