This topic is so important, I have covered it thoroughly and believe all the content to come is relevant, so be forewarned and enjoy. It may assist you in the most important decision you need to make relative to your company’s sales future: who is in charge of your Internet lead generation? Please read on.
Independent business owners often opt to keep things in-house to help control costs and their overhead. For some tasks and responsibilities, this makes sense, but most often, when it comes to tasks not so menial in nature, it can be a poor decision. The naked fact is when it comes to the specialty services your company needs, it may be a very bad idea to keep it all in-house. Sometimes it is helpful to illustrate my point using real life examples; they can make a more compelling argument, so allow me to share a couple short stories with which to set the stage:
After the Industrial Revolution was well on its way to reshaping the American economy, Henry Ford was interviewed about his expanding empire and the intellect it took to create the assembly line. The interviews were many, but Mr. Ford offered up the same response time and again. In the early 1900s, communications were vitally important to the business goals of the day, yet the technological capabilities were not anything like they are now. This was way before the car phone, much less smartphones. And yet before computers transformed our world and shrunk the globe, the basic fundamentals of business still applied. The recipe for success then included some key ingredients which Henry knew could not be compromised: having the right people at your disposal was just as critical then as it is now. Henry Ford built his business model on the cornerstone philosophy of having the right person for the right job. This concept still matters.
When treated as though he was a genius, he poo-pooed the notion and set the interviewers straight in a kindly manner. He didn’t mind owning the label of being a “visionary” or the compliment of being “pragmatic.” His common sense was legendary and a significant part of his leadership skills included how well he discovered dependable talent and then delegated responsibilities.
Over and over, he explained to those in awe of his empire how fortunate he was to have the specialists he needed at his beck and call. The business telephone had been invented by the time he was in full swing, an impressive communications tool with multiple extensions and a series of separate buttons with which he could reach different departments and vendors from his desk just by dialing them. From his office phone, he ran his kingdom.
A paraphrase of one of his interview responses would go something like this: “So you see, my friend, if I push this button, I have one of the world’s most talented car designers. This one,” he said as he moved through the keypad, “connects me to the best mechanic money can buy. This one puts me in touch with a first-rate bookkeeper who tells me if I’m spending too much, and this one my talented sales manager, and so forth. So, as you can see, I have surrounded myself with only the best, world-class resources and they happen to be people, people I challenge daily to keep me well informed and make me perform well so I look good!” After a pause, he would continue with a twinkle in his eye, “but remember the secret is not the actual button, but knowing which one to push and who needs to be on the other end of the line.”
Intuitively, Henry knew how to assemble a team of independents (attorneys and consultants included) and in-house management. He gave them all enough freedom to be successful at their respective jobs, but a leash short enough to keep them on task.
Moms and Pops may or may not be working to build an empire like Henry. Their goal may be to dominate only their market and carve out their little piece of the pie, but this basic fundamental still applies. Be they subcontractors or in-house personnel, you need the right person for the right job. This is an immutable fact. To summarize this argument, I could accurately state that “the better the team, the higher level where they can perform.” Talent, passion and commitment are a competitive advantage. Sometimes you can find that in your back yard, but often you need to go out and recruit the best to be the best.
Before I tell you another story, let me clarify that I am not saying you should ever try either approach hook, line, and sinker: don’t keep it all entirely in-house or farm it all out. Like Henry Ford was wont to do, consider the need, the importance of the task, your true in-house capabilities, and then let common sense be your guide. Now, on to a relevant story I know all too well…
Before our foray into the digital marketing arena with our partner Joey Bouza, my wife Tammy and I had procured investors and built a multi-million dollar targeted direct mail agency. In the early nineties, I was way too confident in my production management skills, probably because I lucked out and made some great hires in the beginning. Also because I didn’t realize the huge difference in skill sets it took to manage production as opposed to sales people. I convinced my wife to allow me to build a production facility and a sizable staff.
We had begun the business with our own hands by bagging our own mail and taking it to the post office ourselves, learning the correct way to prepare it for the mail stream. I figured we would have the greatest amount of QC and more control over our fate if we did as much as possible in-house. I unfortunately didn’t have the production management skills to back up my theory; in my new capacity, it didn’t matter that I could do a bang up job of hiring, training, and making successful sales professionals. This was a different ballgame!
As a professional entertainer then a sales executive, it was burned into my character to make people like me, make them enjoy themselves so I could be hired back. But in my new role, I was too worried about what my employees thought of me for my own good. It wasn’t enough to me that I was creating revenue with which my employees could pay their bills and feed their families. I wanted to make sure they were as happy as clams. It was like I was trying to run a damn adult amusement park and I wanted to be their closest friend instead of employer.
I thought this was a good management style, so when an employee came to me and said, “Uncle Carl is coming into town because Aunt Millie’s carpal tunnel has acted up so bad that I need to get her to the hospital for emergency surgery (emergency carpal tunnel surgery, really?) and the Buick doesn’t have safe enough brake pads so they need to be replaced first, because I have no way to get there and, on top of that, the doctor called in some important prescriptions she needs and I can’t pick them up because there is no shuttle at the Discount Inn and I can’t afford a cab and after the surgery, I’ll need to help her because she’ll be on a walker and Uncle Carl’s arthritis won’t allow him to help her so I’ll be out next week,” I would say sure! Aunt Millie needs you.
Next, my wife would pull her hair out because we had deadlines and obligations to our sixty plus clients and the only way to get the work done (since I had no clue how to schedule overtime) was for us to jump in there like the good old days and do it ourselves. My lack of production management skill was killing us! The great, initial team I had put together had moved on, using the experience we provided, to positions at other, larger companies or their relative’s family run businesses. I tried to rebuild our once talented and dependable staff, but it never came to pass. As good as I was at finding, training and making successful sales professionals, I was equally bad at running a production facility. I failed the challenge miserably. Our once admirable staff had morphed into people we couldn’t depend upon. I was not doing a good job of finding acceptable replacements; now putting out fires replaced the time I used to spend growing our now sizable business and finding new opportunities.
My Waterloo came when we had been on vacation to the beach and decided to come back early on a Friday afternoon to check on things. We walked in through the unlocked front door to our business wide open and not a soul inside! We couldn’t find an employee in the office or the production warehouse. The product was unsupervised as were all the computers. In short, our entire organization was unmanned. The cat was away and the mice decided to play – hooky, that is.
That was when I realized I was starting to lose money and my sanity trying to do something I wasn’t cut out to do. Tammy and I retooled our operation. We quit worrying about the sheer quantity of work we landed, so we could support the troops we employed, taking a hard look at how we wanted to spend our time and continue growing our company. After soul-searching and analysis, we gave everybody two weeks to find new employment and let the landlord know we were moving into a smaller office space. We put all our clients under a microscope and kept 30 of the 60, the ones we felt were the best fit, and notified the others that when their contracted period was up, they would need to find another mail agency/supplier.
The end result was we found a mail company, specialists who had been doing it for years, that would work directly with our printer. We negotiated for great pricing and from that point on, our mail shop production, postage and shipping costs went down and our quality went up. The time I had to service the “blue chip” clients went up and I had time to think like a marketing person, developing new data files that improved our targeting, our service and the product we supplied our clients. Eventually, by using the mail shop experts and not being a “do it yourselfer,” we learned how to work creatively with our resources and develop new and better ways to get the mail in homes while paying someone else less than it cost us to do it.
What is the take away from this story? Our efficiency went up. Our profit stayed the same as when we had twice as many clients. An entire staff of employees and our management responsibilities were reduced by 80% and we regained fifteen to twenty hours of personal time every week! By letting the cobbler build our shoes, life became more comfortable. Imagine that. Find good people and let them do their thing, so you can concentrate on those things that you are most adept and passionate about. We found out that trying to be all things was a good way to divide and conquer our own ass.
I only mildly apologize for using two old school stories to illustrate how having the right (or wrong) people can affect your business. They were a bit lengthy, but the substance hopefully made the journey worthwhile. Now on to the new marketing landscape!
Following are some benefits of allowing the cobbler to build your digital marketing shoes (I don’t want to go overboard and list every single benefit I could, so I’m going to stick to the largest, most significant ones):
Benefit #1: The world of Internet selling and digital marketing is an ever evolving and forward moving universe. Believing that you can run your business while staying on top of all the innovations coming down the pike, much less get them implemented in a timely fashion, is an unrealistic expectation. Just keeping the ship headed in the right direction and keeping your folks motivated is work enough. Don’t you think?
At Prospects International, we have a CTO who subscribes to all the think tanks and keeps his ear (a technically educated ear, might I add) to the tracks and knows what is coming down the rail. He knows its possible value and application to the piano marketing landscape before it even gets here for us to test! It is his passion. Being a musician and a trained piano salesman to boot, he understands the game with the end in mind. This is one advantage of allowing the pros to work for you: you have access to someone with an insatiable appetite for innovation and new capabilities which, even if you had the appetite, you would never have the time or resources to match. We are a company who relies on innovations to be a trendsetter, not a follower.
Benefit #2: The marriage of old school fundamentals and the most current technical capabilities spells pragmatic marketing options. Joey stated years ago that his goal and the framework of our company sales and marketing philosophy would manifest itself as he digitized my sales training and marketing experience and methods. As it turns out, I’ve learned to apply the fundamentals of good selling in ways I never knew existed before our partnership. The partnership of old school and new is very much in lockstep with what we do for the piano industry. We use the very latest innovations to market a very valuable “old” product, the piano. See? Old still has a place in today’s world!
Benefit #3: Our consortium of clients. You can’t join enough cost sharing groups, go to enough manufacturer dealer meetings, visit NAMM, or read enough articles to match the learning we receive from servicing our clients. PI is marketing piano clients in over thirty markets and four countries. We learn so much about how to improve our services, products, and sale support from the simple interaction and problem solving which occurs because we aggressively serve your customer base. I will not go into detail for time conservation purposes, but because we need our clients to be happy in order to keep them, we learn and meet their needs on an ongoing basis. It provides remarkable on the job education that a single dealer “DIYing” could never simulate.
Benefit #4: We are playing at the major league level. We are scrutinized and challenged to meet the needs of the world’s most profitable piano dealers. These are the ones who have survived the economic downturn. Many of them have changed or condensed manufacturer lineups and have moved and reinvented themselves to stay in the game they know best and remain passionate about. A DIYer can’t know what it’s like to be asked by the very best piano dealers and sales persons to push the envelope and add to your already A game. Many of our clients I’ve known for decades. How do we maintain such a client base retention rate? We match passion with passion. We take our clients’ and our programs’ ability to convert digital activity into sales personally. When you play at this level, you have expectations from your clients as well as the expectations you place upon yourself. Then you go out and find a way to meet them… until you set higher ones.
Benefit #5: Because I don’t want to overstay my welcome, I will end on this benefit. It has to do with the most important first fundamental in marketing: the ability to target the client’s prospects most efficiently. Because we serve so many markets successfully, we have the largest volume – or may I say digital history of people responding to ads, both PPC and social media – of any entity globally. Your internal personnel or local, well-dressed and well-educated techie company geek could never say that. Months ago, when our PI dashboard (from which we monitor and adjust our many programs) showed we were approaching ten thousand leads generated, I hesitated to promote that fact or the short time frame in which we accomplished it because I didn’t think our clients and/or prospects would be able to put it in context, making it a meaningless statistic until this article. Do you have any idea how many global clicks, how many times our ads have played in front of millions of profiled individuals, how much programming and profiling it took to find that many people who have interest in a piano?
Well, neither do I, but my partner Joey does and he is and should be proud of the volume of piano interest leads we supply annually. Let me put that into context. It’s over ten thousand leads, but for the sake of example, let’s cap it at ten thousand and figure our customer base sell through at a low, less than 5% conversion of leads into sales. Trust me, we have many salespeople over 5% and several over 10% of leads fielded to sales on the bottom line, four copies – press hard. Fools can figure and figures can fool, so I will not drill down or embellish; the digital sell through impact in the short term is in the millions and in the long term (after lead nurturing), it is a large figure and the salvation of many retailers and possibly the piano industry as more and more decisions are made online. I say all that to say this: the volume of ads we place is so significant that we have our own Google and Facebook representatives helping us target better as the history of respondents grows globally. This gives us a better history and the very best pool from which to find look-a-likes in the piano realm. Since we place more ads and have better service from the pay per click and social media platforms, we target better than anyone in the piano business. This is an advantage your in-house person or local digital marketer will never afford you.
Now I will bring this down the home stretch. As you can guess, our most significant competitor at Prospects International is the dealer who decided to be a “Do it Yourselfer.” Our second most significant competitor is the local marketing firm. The purpose of this article was to get the reader to realize how many leads and how much profit they are sacrificing by not allowing the specialists who know the piano business inside and out to handle their marketing needs. There are exceptions to every rule and the possibility exists that there is an equally qualified mind in-house that could get you some leads, but the reality is this: they won’t have the innovation (benefit #1), the mix of fundamentals and technology (benefit #2), the ongoing problem solving and learning from a consortium of piano industry clients (benefit #3), the motivation and reputation (benefit #4), and finally, the ability to find the piano buyer (benefit #5) that a company who lives, eats, and breathes lead generation does.
Summary: For many, it all comes down to CPL or cost per lead. For a great definition of what CPL is and how we perform in detail, allow me to send you to another (albeit much shorter) article on our website, accessible by this link: Are you paying too much per lead?
We can give ourselves and our lead generation a very important and necessary report card by analyzing the CPL. The bottom line is that you will not save money by being a DIYer and in reality, would be placing your sales future in the hands of an entity or person far less qualified than they need to be. If you want to have the best fit, let the cobbler build your shoes.
Repeat business depends on our client’s happiness. If we are good at what we do and we can not only save you money, but also help you make money, then this is a win-win relationship.
If you believe as we do:
“Prospects equal options. Master prospecting and you will be the master of your sales destiny.” – Tibor Shanto
Then in this retail world of eat what you kill, we can be your most important component to sales success. If you already have the best of the best lead generation available, then there is no reason to contact us. If you don’t and are looking for the most innovative resource for piano leads in the industry, then you should reach out to us. We can help you build a bridge to a better business tomorrow.