Hi I’m Mike Hardcastle; I have been involved with setting up companies, developing and marketing products and services for over 20 years.
In 2008 I sold up on a printer sales company and took over a company called Light Tape UK Limited supplying a revolutionary new high-end lighting product using radical technology that very few people were aware of. The product had uses in multiple market sectors so the outlook seemed bright; then the economy fell apart.
So I took a step back and thought what do I need? After much research and trial and error I found a way of achieving my goal of promotion and business capture. What follows is a potted version of the story of how I found out exactly how to achieve public awareness and get leads and more without it costing me a fortune. The story also follows the path that led me to starting the company “Digital Customer.”
My previous company sold mainstream printers and associated products and had a marketing budget in the hundreds of thousands working with Hewlett Packard, Epson and Canon. We sold into a specific sector and as such the business proved relatively easy to promote using traditional marketing.
However with the lighting company we had no real marketing budget and were working with a manufacturer who no one had ever heard of. We were selling into diverse sectors such as Architectural, Marine, Automotive, Movies, Exhibitions, Interior Design, Nightclubs, Events, Safety, Entertainment, Clothing, and many more. The potential was there but I needed to get the company and product known.
One of the many routes I tried was the usual tried and tested avenue of sending press releases to appropriate magazines in the hope that they would publish the article without it costing me vast amounts of money. The product was new, innovative, and worthy of editorial coverage. But, although I had some success, I knew that in today’s market place to get an article published you are almost always expected to buy advertising space too and with no budget that was not an option. With other methods of low cost advertising techniques tried to varying degrees of success I realised that I was not achieving the level of leads and more importantly, actual business that I was hoping for.
It seemed to me that I could not achieve my objective of generating quality leads carrying on in the way that I was. I felt then and still feel that, you can forget the general rubbish that comes out of the overpaid marketing and advertising executives about branding and product placement, I’ve been in too many meetings with these guys who want lots of money but will never commit to providing any measurable results.
What I needed were sales leads, pre qualified leads from potential customers who have a genuine requirement for my product and are aware of the benefits. In fact as a business owner that’s all I have ever wanted from my marketing spend.
Normally for a major product launch I would produce a series of Press Releases to get some editorial in the trade press, designed and placed direct response mailers in the relevant magazines or purchased mailing lists to promote road shows, using trained sales reps or agents to actually sell the product.
We would obviously have a website promoting the product but, a pretty website on its own is about as effective as a billboard at the North Pole it’s never going to get enough traffic.
I set up my first ecommerce web site in 2001selling software and printer consumables it cost over £10K to set up and another £10K to promote, it made over £40K profit in its first year which was great but my new product was not suited to ecommerce sales and as I’ve already said I had no budget for promotion.
I have never been a fan of page advertising because it’s expensive and almost impossible to measure the results and the effectiveness of, that’s why the marketing and advertising guys love spending your money on advertising it can’t be measured so consequently their effectiveness can’t be measured either and if the product doesn’t sell it’s the economy or the product or the salespersons fault never theirs. Sound familiar?
I also had to consider that in my case, because of the diverse nature of my product I would have to have stands at several major trade shows to cover just a few of the market sectors and as the attendance at trade shows has been steadily dropping off for some years because of the Internet I still wouldn’t catch all the potential customers from this form of exposure.
Then it struck me; there had to be a way of launching and marketing products and services using the latest web based technology without leaving my desk and without spending a fortune.
I started my working life as a design engineer and moved into sales then into running my own businesses. My job has been to take complicated systems and processes and simplify them to make them more productive and cost effective.
After quite a bit of research I came to realise that Internet marketing is like the Wild West: lots of products making big claims most of which are too good to be true but after you go past the get rich quick schemes and cut through all the hype, and if you‘re prepared to put in the hours there are some effective strategies that can be implemented inexpensively to achieve your goals.
I looked at using Google AdWords and spent several hundreds of pounds on PPC (Pay Per Click) to direct prospects to my web site, the problem was although I was directing paid traffic to my web site it was only one step better than paid advertising because unless I converted my web site home page into a “landing page” which encouraged the visitor to fill in a web form I still could not measure the quality or effectiveness of the paid visitors.
Average click-through rate in 2011 for PPC paid search worldwide was 2%, that equates to a 50/1 ratio, in other words on average you pay for 50 visitors to come to your site for every one that makes an enquiry.
Most Internet marketing is based around information products that can be delivered digitally and is aimed at home based business; I needed to attract a sophisticated Business2Business audience for a technology product.
So, after six months and thousands of hour’s research with less than a £1,000 investment in hardware and software and putting into practice some of the ideas I’d found, I started getting results.
Initially I was spending 25 to 30 hours a week outside of office hours in the evenings and at weekends and about 25% of my time during the working day putting together a lead generation system by trial and a lot of error.
Very quickly I went from 3 of 4 leads a week to 5 or 6 a day and found I was spending the majority of my working day on the phone with the prospects explaining my product leaving little time to do anything else.
I needed a rethink. Quickly I tailored my system to focus on educating and pre qualifying my suspects and answering most of the Frequently Asked Questions before they contacted me, this removed many of the enquirers who for whatever reason were not suited to the product.
After about twelve months my system was producing 6 to 10 leads every day through a combination of web enquiries and direct phone calls from potential customers who have been on my web site. To keep the system working at this level I maintained it about 2 to 3 hours a week, knowing if I need more customers I could always increase my activity.
At this time I became aware that this was something that I could package and teach others. The only downside to this system was the colossal amount of time and effort required in the initial stages to make it work effectively was virtually a full time job, so I shelved the idea of marketing my system and went back to using it internally.
During the last couple of years while I have been successfully generating leads from my web based system a massive shift has been happening almost without us noticing at first.
I changed to an iPhone as soon as it was released, this small device has changed the way we communicate, browse the web, get information and shop. It’s a miniature computer in our pocket and is rarely out of arms reach.
Smartphones have made us a moving target as far as marketing is concerned no longer are we tied to the desktop or laptop and with the rise of the tablet, mobile wireless computing is changing the way we live.
In 2010 I spent a week at a trade show in Frankfurt sharing a stand with several other distributors and the manufacturer of the product I supply in the UK.
We did the normal thing and collected a shoebox full of business cards that the manufacturer wanted to take back to the states and distribute when they had entered them onto their database. Knowing how long this would take I insisted on capturing the leads for the UK on my iPhone by using an app that photographed the business cards so I could at least send out a quick email thanking the UK attendees for coming along to the show and onto our stand.
I managed to get the email out within a week of getting back to the UK and I remember thinking, at the time, how cool it would be to be able to scan someone’s card and have an auto-responder automatically send out an email while he was on the stand. I use auto-responders when someone makes an enquiry on my web site to thank them and send out more information, I am also conscious of the fact that over 75% of enquirers buy from the first person that responds to their enquiry.
Another technology that caught my eye was the QR Code. The Quick Response Code is a 2D barcode and I had been using a Barcode Scanner for comparison shopping in stores and supermarkets for a couple of years and QR Codes were just coming into the public consciousness.
I was also at this time looking at how we could produce a Smartphone App for our products. We wanted something that could be altered quickly and updated with special offers and blog links, the App Store was too restrictive so we looked at Web Apps but did not have a well formed idea on how to distribute it and use it to create leads.
In 2011 all the elements came together that allow a new way for any company to market their business automatically, we had the hardware with Smartphones and Tablets, the communication methods with SMS Texts, QR Codes, Email, Audio and Video, and the software with Web Apps, Landing Pages and Auto-responder software.
The question I asked was, what if a prospective customer could scan a QR Code with a Smartphone and enter their name and email onto a Landing Page, their data could be automatically saved onto a Database and an Auto-Responder could send out a series of Emails. Emails that include embedded Video’s showing the benefits of the product or service the prospect had enquired about. It could even feature a Voucher Code special offer. And, we could even send out a link to a Smartphone Web App at the same time.
The technology I found could also achieve the same results using SMS Text Messages to enter the prospects data which would allow me to use a Text Auto-Responder for instant contact, as over 96% of Texts are opened within minutes of receipt.
This was basically a PPL (Pay Per Lead) System, as opposed to a PPC System (Pay Per Click). We could produce a campaign where after the initial campaign set-up cost the client only paid when someone responded to the campaign and unlike PPC campaigns the client has captured the enquirers details and knows his prospect would be automatically receiving a series of benefit rich Multi-Media Emails and Text messages designed to nurture the prospect and give him/her enough information to make a considered buying decision, a job normally done by expensive sales people. This method not only costs less it is more acceptable from the prospects point of view because it is less intimidating than talking to a salesperson.
From this basic premise the company Digital Customer was born. Offering Campaigns that combine traditional marketing methods with the latest Web based and Mobile technology, they can be tailored to promote hardware, software or services on a local, national or global scale and can work just as well for the home based business as they can for the multinational.
Now I want to share with you in detail, how the Digital Customer System works so for a complete overview of how you too can take control of your marketing follow this link: http://www.digitalcustomer.co.uk