September 19, 2018

My early business failures (part 2)

My first venture as a self-employed consultant was selling SMS text messaging to local business. If you read yesterday’s email, I had been developing this in evenings and weekends.

Suddenly I was out of work, with no savings to speak of. Overnight the SMS project went from being an edgy side business, to something that urgently needed to generate income.

It would be fair to say that working in marketing doesn’t exactly prepare you to go out and find new customers. If I liked speaking to cold prospects in person, I would have worked in sales.

Still, I prepared a sales pack I could leave with shop owners. The pack was an A4 envelope, containing a 2-page sales letter, a flyer of my own design, and some small guillotined paper SMS messages that fell on the floor when you turned the pack upside down. The messages said things like “Your customers want to hear from you, and ALWAYS have their phones…”

I would print out ten or fifteen packs, and walk around nearby towns asking shop owners whether they wanted to talk to me about SMS text messaging.

The answer to which, was no.

One day I walked into a hair salon, and spoke to a middle-aged man with bright blonde hair. I asked if he’d be interested in creating an SMS customer list.

“My accountant already deals with my taxes, thank you.” he said.

“No, not taxes,” I replied. “Text messaging, like on your phone…”

“Oh,” he said. “I don’t think I need that. But… can you get me ranked on Google? You know… in the Google rankings?”

I replied confidently that I thought I could, and set up a meeting for the following week.

One week later I was back in Emile’s hair salon, dressed incongruously in a suit. We sat on a bench with my laptop perched uncomfortably on my knee. A few metres away a customer was having her hair blow-dried. I talked Emile through the website design, and he nodded.

“How much is this going to cost?” He asked, abruptly. I hesitated for a second.

“Well, it will be seven hours at £40 an hour. So £300 plus hosting and domain charges.”

“What?” he replied incredulously. “I’ve had website quotes for £100 in the past. I’m not happy to pay more than £100…”

I thought about that for a moment. Doing this amount of work for £300 was ridiculous, let alone £100. But frankly I didn’t have any better offers on the table.

“Okay, I’ll do it.”

We shook hands, and that was the last time I saw Emile.

The promise of working with Emile made me want to sharpen my skills. I had been working on websites for a number of years, but I didn’t consider myself a ‘web designer’.

Not long afterwards my relationship with Emile went suspiciously quiet. I eventually got an email from him saying he just didn’t think he needed the website. Which is a shame, for him at least. It would have been good for his business, and he would have gotten an excellent deal on my time.

Still, it set important wheels in motion because I had stumbled across something I could actually sell: getting found on Google.

More on which tomorrow…

A persistent mistake I’ve made in business has been confusing the technical solution I provide with the problem I solve.

I made this mistake with my SMS text messaging offer. I might have sold a project or two had I ignored the text messaging technology, and just said “For £500 I can get your customers to come back again and again. Want to talk about it?”

I have a challenge for you today. I’d like you to email me, and tell me the main problem you solve. It’s actually quite hard to do without mentioning your solution.

The problem is what needs to go on your website, on your social media profiles, and in your welcome emails. You can talk about the solution later.

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.