Editor’s note: From time to time, Repairer Driven News features pieces by prolific national columnist Gene Marks. While despite not being directly related to collision repair, they should still prove valuable to the small-business owners and employees which make up much of the industry. In this column, find a low-tech high-tech marketing option.
By Gene Marks
My company sells sales-and-marketing software technologies. Really good ones. Customer relationship management applications. Bulk email services. Quoting software. Mobile apps. Outbound and inbound lead, opportunity and campaign management tools. We also help implement these technologies by providing design, training, customization, integration and development services. All for an hourly fee, of course.
So are you looking to increase your sales with these great technologies? After more than two decades doing this I have some advice for you and it’s the best advice you’ll ever receive: Don’t. Really, don’t. Don’t do this until you hire someone first.
The software companies won’t tell you this. They’ll tell you that you can double your business, improve your sex life and reap great profits just by buying (or more likely subscribing) to their services. Just hit a few buttons and all your problems are over.
Technology partners (like my firm) will make similar promises. “We’ll customize this for you,” we say. “So, it’ll be exactly what you want. We’ll make it talk to your other systems, generate sales, clean your apartment and train your dog. Really. We will!!”
We are all B.S.-ing you.
Over the years my company has implemented hundreds and hundreds of sales and marketing systems. We have had some glorious, fantastic successes. And, we have had our share of horrible, profanity-filled, tear-stained failures. What was the difference? Why do some companies succeed with these technologies and others don’t? It just comes down to one thing.
Technology is nothing more than a tool. It is a bat in the hands of Bryce Harper and a calculator on the desk of an engineer. It is a microphone for Beyonce, a computer for Mark Zuckerberg and an outfit made of meat for Lady Gaga. It is an implement that enables marketing people to do their job.
Want to succeed on social media? Hire a marketing major from the local university. Tell her to record a monthly video and post it on Google Hangouts or Periscope. Tell her to post one blog a week on your website and combine it with messaging on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Give her permission to log onto your social sites, even when mobile, and respond to any communications.
Of course, supervise her. Give her ideas to write about, give her access to your employees and customers to interview. Read what she writes before she posts it. Have metrics to track your growth in followers, likes and fans.
What will happen? Eventually, you will have a growth in followers, likes and fans. Some of those people will buy from you.
Want to do a great newsletter? Hire someone to do it for you. Make him in charge of your monthly newsletter. Sign up for a good bulk-email service like Constant Contact, My Emma, A Weber or another. Have him manage your data. Give him ideas to write about, then let him do the research, interview the right people and produce the content. Review the content, of course. Then let him use these marketing tools to get it out and delivered.
Have him provide metrics telling you who received, who opened and who clicked. Do this again and again, month after month, year after year. Over time, as your recipients are getting useful advice consistently from your company, a strange thing will happen: They will start remembering your company when it comes time to buy a product or service you provide.
With the right amount of effort, you’ll start getting leads from this, too.
There’s a cost, of course. You can probably pay a college kid minimum wage and promise them a great experience to add to their resume. Or you can pay someone older and more experienced from UpWork or Freelancer anywhere from $20-$150 an hour. You get what you pay for. My preference is to find someone local who can interact with you and your people, take photos and videos and get a good feel for your company.
Do you want to do a great mailing? A successful telemarketing campaign? A vibrant website? Do you want to maintain a complete and accurate database in your customer relationship management system? Ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and every contact who gets entered there is “touched” by your company continuously? That’s marketing, and you’re not going to do this with just technology. You’re going to do this with a person who’s using the technology.
Don’t be a cheapskate, and don’t believe the stories software companies tell. They only want to sell you software. When you budget for your next technology purchase, budget for a person who you will be paying to own this technology and make it really work well. This is a cost no one tells you about. But it’s critical if you want to succeed.
And that’s the best marketing advice you’ve never received.
Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small business owner. http://genemarks.com. Gene writes every day on business, politics and public policy for the Washington Post and weekly for Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur and the Huffington Post. Gene has written 5 books on business management, specifically geared towards small and medium-sized companies. His most recent is “The Manufacturer’s Book of Lists.” Nationally, Gene appears on Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC discussing matters affecting the business community. Through his keynotes and breakout sessions, Gene helps business owners, executives and managers understand the political, economic and technological trends that will affect their companies so they can make profitable decisions. Gene owns and operates the Marks Group PC, a highly successful ten-person firm that provides technology and consulting services to small and medium-sized businesses. Prior to starting the Marks Group PC, Gene, a Certified Public Accountant, spent nine years in the entrepreneurial services arm of the international consulting firm KPMG in Philadelphia, where he was a senior manager.
Gene Marks in Entrepreneur, Feb. 12, 2016
Social media puzzle concept art. (Anatolii Babii/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock)
Columnist Gene Marks. (Provided by Gene Marks)