Managing Marketing Transformation
We’ve made some changes to how we market our business. The decision to switch to opt-in only communication and freely accessed livestreams wasn’t made lightly.
This post outlines how we came to the decision to change how we were marketing, and provides the pros and cons of some of the tools we evaluated along the way.
As an added bonus, we’re hosting a final webinar on our webinar platform outlining why you may want to consider doing the same.
Join Carrie Richardson and Caitlyn Jopp, VP Community & Engagement for Channel Program as they discuss the merits of opt-in only. Caitlyn is one of the marketing masterminds behind outbound email campaigns like Auvik’s “Nifty Gifty” – a highly effective and often-duplicated opt-in email campaign that recruited hundreds of opt-in subscribers for multiple vendors.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
This might be true for some things, but marketing is constantly changing. It seems like the minute something starts gaining traction, something changes.
An algorithm update destroys your carefully crafted SEO strategy mid-way through the year.
LinkedIn decides it no longer gives weight to surveys (thankfully, I hated those so much) and starts rewarding you with visibility into your posts if they have a picture of one person in them, but penalizing you if there are two people.
It’s a constant battle for a small business to stay on top of every changing marketing trend, and remaining consistent is likely the biggest challenge any of us have with our marketing initiatives.
Email Marketing Annoys More Prospects than It Converts
One of the things we’ve heard consistently as we’ve built Richardson & Richardson Consulting is this:
“I hate getting emails from companies that I didn’t give my email address to.”
Whether they’re personalized, carefully curated notes referencing specific things or just one-message-fits-all marketing campaigns, people aren’t loving them – and most of the time, they’re not even reading them.
Your sales team can spend an extraordinary amount of time crafting custom emails for prospects that aren’t qualified, and don’t open your email. Imagine: you’re paying your sales team a significant amount to generate new opportunities. They spend an hour on every “custom” email they write, and none of them get opened. That’s a lot of wasted budget.
The alternative to that is randomly spamming large lists with a more generic message, only to have very low results – a small percentage of people open them, and often for unsophisticated marketers, the numbers look better than average because you simply don’t understand the numbers. If you send a thousand emails, and 500 of them are opened at the exact same time, that’s software checking to see if your emails have a virus, not email open statistics. Some platforms catch this, some don’t.
People have started setting up “fake” email accounts. I personally don’t put my email or phone number on my business cards any longer. I use a QR code that goes to my website, where they can contact a generic email address or schedule time to talk to me. I cancel any sales meeting I don’t want to take. And I’m not the only one.
Worse, once your domain has been flagged by a few angry folks as one that is spamming people, your actual important client communication emails may end up in Junk, or worse, in quarantine.
It’s time to rethink how we interact with our prospects.
Our decision at Richardson & Richardson to adopt an opt-in only format wasn’t taken lightly. We have a phenomenally accurate prospect-provided MSP email database. We had a low unsubscribe rate, under 1% per send. However, we often had a low open and click rate. With almost 50,000 emails to manage, that still netted some decent wins, but we were seeing more and more people complaining online about how much they hated being spammed. Just because someone gave us their email address once four years ago doesn’t mean they want to keep hearing from us forever. A list from a 2016 tradeshow may have had a disclaimer on it, but it’s 2023 now – do they even know who I am anymore?
The Transition to Opt-In Only
We weighed the pros and cons of quantity or quality, and decided to switch to opt-in only. If you don’t opt-in, you don’t receive any mass emails from us. Simple, right?
To Newsletter or Not to Newsletter
The decision to add a newsletter into the Richardson & Richardson marketing strategy was also something we considered carefully.
I published an email newsletter almost weekly as one of our marketing initiatives at my previous business, Managed Sales Pros, for ten years.
We used it to educate the market, promote our virtual events and invite people to meet with us when we attended tradeshows. Sometimes we nailed the call to action, sometimes we forgot to include one entirely. We were amateur marketers throwing stuff at the wall.
Measuring The ROI of Marketing Initiatives
As we learned more and I became a more mature marketer, I learned how to measure the results of our various marketing initiatives. This came in very handy during the pandemic when we needed to conserve resources.
Over the course of several months, I was able to identify that the people who were reading my newsletter every week like clockwork were not the people that were buying from us. When I went back and reviewed our most engaged subscribers, none of them had ever purchased so much as a training call from me. Quel suprise!
No Marketing Initiative Is Truly Free
While I wasn’t always paying someone, I was still investing a significant amount of time in writing unique content, managing unsubscribes, creating templates, and uploading graphics.
Even with a small marketing support team (which I had to drop during the pandemic), this was a costly and time consuming activity that it turned out had led to no measurable return on my ten year investment.
Maybe it helped in an ephemeral (read, impossible to metric or measure) way, but there was no dollars in that spit more dollars out. Likes and clicks and shares are nice, but you can’t pay your mortgage with positive reinforcement.
So we stopped.
What Happened When We Stopped Sending Email Newsletters?
The year we stopped doing our weekly newsletter (and almost everything else – I was debt free by then and not prepared to debt finance my business or tap my savings to keep my business afloat during the pandemic) I added 1.5MM in ARR in under two quarters.
I had no sales or marketing support team by then, and I was outsourcing my calling to a new firm launched by one of my former employees.
I had a lot of newfound time on my hands, and I focused my attention on my highest and best use: cold calling.
Pivot Back to Owner Led Sales and Marketing
The pandemic had made staffing my call center impossible.
I had no interest in pivoting back to managing remote employees. We started our business like that in 2014, and once we moved into the office, there was no going back for me. Although, I saw the writing on the wall and identified my pivot. Outsourcing the calling to a company founded by a former employee of mine who launched a remote agency.
With the burden of team management gone, and the constant requirement of creating of all of that unique content off my plate, I had more time for traditional sales activities.
I used a combination of cold calling and calling the list of 10,000 inbound leads that didn’t convert the first time around.
No trade show spends, no marketing budget at all.
If I couldn’t execute on it myself, I didn’t do it.
The results from that experiment?
An additional 1.5MM in top line, 40 percent margins and no team to manage. I held at that pace for two years, and I hired Ian Richardson (my new husband) as CEO to document all of my processes and prepare the company for sale.
We sold in 2021.
Ian had recently exited from his own business, and after the transaction finalized, we launched R&R together.
Ian’s MSP hadn’t done a lot of marketing outside of word of mouth. As the premiere provider for Healthcare IT in his city, he rarely needed to do more than network and ask for referrals.
But Then, We Had To Start All Over
But now we had a new business.
Back into bootstrap mode.
Back to startup mode.
We took the enormous amount of data (including our email list) that I had acquired over ten of years of tracking the technology channel, and dove back in to mass email marketing with a push to virtual events. At the time, volume seemed more important than quality. We needed revenue if we didn’t want to dip into our exit savings and we had so much data at our disposal, why not try it again?
Mass email helped us build a quick following, but by the end of the first year we noticed more and more unsubscribes and much lower attendance at our virtual events. We received irritated replies to our email campaigns from people who wouldn’t just hit “unsubscribe”.
We wondered how eliminating “spray and pray” email would impact our business.
We did some math. YMMV, and of course neither of us as “assets” were ever at 100% utilization, although Ian was working more hours than he wanted to on non-billable projects like webinars.
Our daily consulting rate is $6000 US. I’ve been billing at that rate for years – whether I’m dialing the phone for someone who just wants a highly skilled hunter, or creating sales playbooks, the cost is the cost and I don’t want to spend all my time consulting.
Ian is a highly sought-after strategic facilitator.
He’s much busier than I am.
However, much like trying to figure out your ability to service debt, you need to assume that at some point you’re going to be at full capacity, and you can be at capacity getting paid or at capacity doing unpaid busy work. It’s completely up to you, but I know how much revenue I can generate in an eight hour period when prospecting – and that number is considerably higher than my consulting rate. Between the two of us, our earning potential is extraordinary – but only if we manage our time effectively and quickly abandon high-activity, low revenue actions.
The catch is this: most business owners hold on to to unprofitable activities for much longer than they should. Either through an inability to transfer their knowledge to a third party, a belief that they are the “only ones” that can do it correctly, or because they just don’t understand opportunity cost. Some business owners simply love to hold on to the things they like doing, but I’ve found that most of the time that stems from wanting to avoid the tasks they don’t enjoy. Enter E-Myth by Michael Gerber – if you’re holding on to tasks that are low-revenue and high action, this is a must-read book!
Time is Money
It took me – even with templates – at least two full days of work to set up each virtual webinar, and we did one per week over the last year.
Recruiting guests, creating slides, collecting collateral from guests, creating campaigns…all of it was incredibly time consuming. With our platform send limitations we had to time things perfectly – we had 44,000 contacts and we couldn’t send or schedule more than 10,000 sends a day – so a lot of attention needed to be paid for what we sent, to whom, and when.
That included email reminders, thank you emails – all things we had to create, customize each week and then manage effectively so we didn’t send emails too often or not enough.
We had to A/B test things.
Our platform didn’t integrate with our CRM, so managing unsubscribes across two platforms was a constant uphill battle.
The platform we chose for virtual webinars cost $250/month/channel. It’s called Big Marker. I liked a lot of things about it, but it was overkill for a small business, and very complicated to learn and manage. We had two channels (500/month for a startup was a big investment) – but it worked well for us. When someone unsubscribed from one channel, we could still contact them from the other. The platform channels protected our domain.
After all of this, it still took Ian a full day to prep with our guests for the webinar. Then a few more hours to set up, test and host it.
The Final Tally
And finally, it would take several days to contact those who had attended to thank them for coming and see if they’d like to take a sales meeting. All in, our “inexpensive” startup marketing strategy was costing us around $90,000 in billable time every month.
We decided to eliminate the platform, and all the set up involved with that.
That meant killing off our email marketing completely.
We ditched the expensive platform, and decided we’d stream our events, allowing people to consume them on the platform of their choice. We dropped the number of events, and ultimately landed on a newsletter platform and a live streaming service.
The streaming service costs 1/10th of the email marketing platform, and allows people to consume content how and when they want. Our email newsletter platform is 50/month – cutting our software costs in half.
More importantly, it eliminated literally days of partner time to execute on. Days.
Our all in cost of “time and treasure” went from $90,000 a month down to $6000 a month.
But Will It Work?
Well, as my lawyer likes to say; “It depends.”
Time will tell if the strategy pays off.
We went from being able to hit 44,000 inboxes weekly to under 25.
We’ve given up the ability to track who was opening email. We no longer have the ability to paywall events to collect data.
We believe the tradeoff is worth it. Ian took back his time to add paid coaching calls to his offerings, and I took back my time to actively prospect for new business.
A year from now, we’ll let you know how it panned out.
In the meantime, if you enjoy our content, please don’t keep it a secret. Share our newsletter if you find value in it! That’s how we’ll grow a list of raving fans. Subscribe here!
Interested in creating a marketing process that works for your business? Richardson & Richardson can help.
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