Making the Big Money
A check arrives in my office and a one-day meeting is scheduled. The business owner arrives on the appointed day.
This is going to be tough. It always is.
To earn my money, I must take the client through 5 steps that are easy to understand but hard to do. This is the process my staff and I use to grow little companies into big ones. But our magic can’t happen until we’ve extracted these answers from our client.
What are we trying to make happen? How will we measure success? See it clearly. Say it plainly.
What is the competitive environment? Do we understand the felt needs of our prospective customer? What is holding us back? Name the limiting factors.
When two of our goals come into conflict, which one bows the knee? Prioritize our objectives.
What would be the shortest route to our primary goal? What levers might we use to dislodge impediments? How might we nullify other limiting factors? Are we willing to modify the business model? This is the moment when the future is won or lost.
Are we willing to pull the trigger? Lets quit talking and DO something. Nothing changes until action is taken.
Seventy-five or eighty percent of the time we can tell business owners how to get to the next level and they’re happy with us. But about 1 in 5 business owners will fixate on a symptom and refuse to see the root disease. Here’s what it can look like:
I ask, “What are we trying to make happen?”
“Traffic is flat. We need more traffic.”
After evaluating the limiting factors, I say, “Your media plan indicates that you’re already reaching more than enough people to achieve your goal. You’ll have more traffic when you have a stronger message. What new message are you willing to give me?”
“Can’t we just say more strongly what we’ve been saying all along?”
“No. The limitation isn’t the language; it’s the message itself.
“I don’t think we need a new message. We just need to use a different media. Which one do you recommend?”
When the client’s self-analysis is wrong, they often grow frustrated when I refuse to join them in their delusion. “But Roy I don’t think you fully understand our essence. We truly love the customer. We treat them far better than any of our competitors. We greet them at the door with a smile, get them a cup of coffee or a soft drink and then listen attentively as they tell us about their problem. We provide a far superior experience. If only you could capture this and communicate it with a really great ad or through a more effective media, I just know our company would grow.”
In the old days, I would accommodate these people by telling them that they weren’t on the right track and in my professional opinion their message plan couldn’t be made to work, “but if you insist, we’ll go ahead and do the best we can.”
I no longer do this because I got tired of hearing the report, “Roy, we did exactly what you said and it didn’t work.”
I’d rather be the jerk who refused to believe in your dream than the jerk whose ads didn’t work.
There is no benefit in the perfect execution of a bad plan.
Occasionally the client doesn’t have a marketing problem at all, but is limited by something else entirely. Here’s what happened during a recent session of Ocean’s 11 – Build Your Business.
The client was Scott Fraser, one of my partners in Wizard of Ads, Inc. [Note: Scott paid the same price as every other participant in the class, even though he is a partner and a friend.]
Aside from being a talented marketing consultant, Scott owns Milne Court, a gas station/convenience store near Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I ask, “What are we trying to make happen?”
“I want to increase the sales volume at Milne Court.”
We go to step 2 and evaluate the limiting factors. “How many cars drive past the store each day?”
“How much gas would a successful station sell to that much traffic? Are there any industry statistics available?”
“The oil companies say I can’t expect to sell more than 4 million liters per year.”
“How much are you selling right now?”
“About 5.5 million liters per year. (That’s almost 40 percent above the projected best-case scenario.) But the profit isn’t in the gas, it’s in the coffee and cookies and stuff they buy while they’re there.”
“What’s the industry average for coffee and cookies bought by the typical person who stops for gas?”
“About 2 dollars and 75 cents.”
“What’s your average?”
“About 5 dollars.”
“Scott, you are the king. I bow before you. I don’t really think there’s anything I can suggest that’s going to make a significant difference in your sales volume.”
At this point, steps 3 and 4 tumble on top of each other.
“Scott, you need to open more locations.”
“But I don’t want to spend the million and a half dollars it costs to open each new store.”
“Then become a consultant to the thousands of gas station/convenience stores that are merely average. And if that category isn’t exciting enough for you, look for other retailers who have hundreds of cars parked in their parking lots, but who haven’t been able to get those drivers into their stores.”
“What do you mean?”
“The only reason to sell gas is to stop cars so you can sell coffee and cookies to the drivers, right?”
“Think of all the fringe retailers around the edges of the anchor store’s parking lot in a power center. Every Home Depot is surrounded by little businesses that see cars parked outside their windows every day, but they can’t figure out how to get those drivers into their stores to buy coffee and cookies. I believe you’re the man who can solve that problem. In fact, you’ve already proven it.”
Whether or not Scott was disappointed in me for not being able to tell him how to take Milne Court any higher, I cannot say with certainty. We didn't get to spend any private time together before Scott had to leave for the airport.
But I do know this: He doesn’t have a marketing problem.
Roy H. Williams
Book Alert! – Wizard Acadgrad (and world-famous neurologist) Dr. Larry McCleary has a new book out. The Brain Trust Program is a scientifically based three-part plan to improve memory, elevate mood, enhance attention, alleviate migraine and menopausal symptoms, and boost mental energy. Check it out.
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