“I Can Fix Any Problem With More Sales”
i3 Business Solutions began in the Grand Rapids area in 2004 from a series of mergers of IBM business partner firms. A few years later, the Great Recession hit Michigan like a nuclear bomb. Instantly, the unemployment rate climbed to 18% in our area while the manufacturing and distribution industries – our target market – were in freefall. Suddenly, we were forced to transform our business dramatically and step on the accelerator of managed services.
Most of Robin’s members are technicians and engineers. That’s not me. I’ve been a diehard salesperson for 25 years. I have always believed that sales drive the engine. I jokingly tell people, “I can fix any problem with more sales.” (Hmmm, maybe that’s why techs don’t always get along with salespeople.)
In 2016, my dedication to sales was working like gangbusters. We hit $100,000 in monthly recurring revenue, which was a monster milestone for us! But that celebration was short-lived since our Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) dropped considerably for three months!
From “Marketing Schmarketing” To Running With Robin
Since sales ran through my blood, I had always turned my nose up at marketing. I thought, “Marketing schmarketing. You don’t need taglines and billboards and branding. What you REALLY need is to go talk to a human and ASK for the order. You need a SALESPERSON, not marketing.”
As you might have guessed, my aversion (lack of knowledge, lack of confidence) to marketing meant a very sporadic, disjointed and unproductive marketing plan. Our marketing largely focused on telemarketing, with spotty social media posts and an enewsletter. But the more RECURRING REVENUE I lost and the more SLEEP I lost, the more I opened my mind to giving marketing a shot.
So, I started running with Robin. Every time I ran, I would listen to Robin’s YouTube videos. Hour after hour after hour, her sage advice and strategies about successfully marketing an IT business beat me down. After listening to her for months, I was drinking the Kool-Aid and ready to start IMPLEMENTING her brand of marketing.
Mailing More Dollar Bills Than My Bank Stocked!
We got the Toolkit and signed up for Robin’s Accelerators Club. I’ll never forget our first direct mail campaign. We ran the Godfather Campaign where you affix a dollar bill to the top of the letter. So I went to my local bank and asked for 100 one-dollar bills to get started. My banker said, “Sorry, Mike, we don’t keep one-dollar bills in stock.” Not taking “no” for an answer, I asked him to order my dollar bills in. By the time the campaign was finished, he was stocking dollar bills just for me! I would call him up, ask for a few hundred dollar bills, and he would deliver them straight to my office!
I Gave Myself An Ultimatum That Could Impact Everything I Built
I went all-in on Robin’s marketing. I was drip marketing with postcards and mailing campaigns and following up with phone calls. For the first time in my 25 years as a sales-first businessman, I was a TRUE MARKETER. Unfortunately, we had zero results from all of our efforts. For five months straight…nothing.
About that time, a salesman from the Sandler Selling System called and played all the emotional strings. I was tempted to sign with him, but wanted to give this new marketing a serious shot. So, I made myself an ultimatum: If I am not closing lucrative deals in a couple of months, I will sign up with Sandler.
The Floodgates Opened! We Added $3K A Month For 6 Straight Months!
I’ll never forget that call I got from a manufacturer in town. He said, “Mike, you sent me a dollar bill that I have right here on my desk. Can you stop by and see me?” That day, I met with this prospective client, and just two weeks later he signed on with i3 Business Solutions.
Right through that summer, all of the campaigns and drip marketing we had done started to heat up. We added about $3,000 in monthly recurring revenue one month. Next month, we added another $3,000. And another. And another. By the end of that year, we added $3,000 a month for six straight months for a total of around $25,000 in Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)! I never did sign with Sandler Selling, but I did offer to speak at his next seminar. He didn’t appreciate that.
Attending The Rapid Implementation Workshop: “We Have Action Items!”
In May, we attended the Rapid Implementation Workshop. When I arrived back at my office, I told my marketing manager, “Grace, we have action items!” Maybe it was that we attacked the 90-Day Checklist with a vengeance. Maybe it was because we had perfect attendance on all of the accountability calls. But we enjoyed great results from our efforts!
An Additional $65,000 In MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue), Thanks To 32 Quarterly Business Reviews
We have always conducted annual strategic business reviews with our clients and quarterly business reviews (QBRs) when warranted. Since May, we’ve made a concerted effort to request QBRs for our clients. This new push to have in-person meetings with our clients resulted in 32 total QBRs in just seven months, adding $65,000 in new monthly recurring revenue!
Mailing 523 Packets Of Aspirin Worth $15,649 In MRR!
From June through July, in increments of 60 to 80 letters a week, we mailed a total of 523 packets of aspirin in our Aspirin Campaign! When possible, we customized the letters to the specific industry (health care, manufacturing, agriculture, insurance, etc.). One of our favorite campaigns, this direct mail effort brought in $15,649 in new monthly recurring revenue!
Windows End Of Life Campaign Gave Us New Life!
Targeting our top 15 clients with the largest number of servers and workstations to upgrade, we implemented the Windows End of Life Campaign in July. All told, this direct mail campaign added $362,924 in new project revenue! In addition, we ran an Office 365 campaign that generated $6,500 in new Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), totaling $78,000 annually!
Boosting Our Credibility With Testimonials
As a result of sending out our testimonial e-mail campaign, we were able to create an impressive marketing piece that provides prospects with third-party proof, credibility, as well as trust that our team will exceed their expectations. We now include these testimonials in our Shock-And-Awe boxes and in our proposal packets. These testimonials are a reminder of the value we deliver to our clients.
How A Prospect Used Our Shock-And-Awe Box Against Us!
We started sending out Shock-And-Awe boxes over a year ago, and they’ve been working quite well. Inside the box, we include the book Predictable Success by Les McKeown, an i3-branded emergency kit, an i3 mug, some sweets and, of course, the client testimonials and cover letter.
On a recent sales call with a real estate company, she brought out my 21 questions from the box and asked me every single one of MY OWN QUESTIONS! I figured, if she’s asking my competitors these same questions, we are definitely winning the deal…and we did! Plus, she was so impressed with our box, they are going to implement the concept for their entire franchise!
A Complete Online Presence Means More Internet Leads
Implementing Robin’s Online Marketing Checklist was one of our more time-consuming and extensive assignments, but we did it! We are now able to better track traffic, leads and user behavior with Google Analytics. We also set up Google My Business and have eight reviews so far, averaging 4.9 stars. By implementing SEO best practices, adding new web pages and rolling out Facebook Ads and LinkedIn ads, Internet leads have steadily increased in the past few months.
In addition to implementing these marketing campaigns and strategies, we have successfully accomplished the following:
- Referral Reward Program – We offer gift cards to people who refer us and plan to have a referral competition in the next couple of months.
- Answering Phones Live – We now have TWO dispatchers to deliver even better customer service.
- Online Drip Campaign – We constantly “drip” to our prospects and clients with blog posts and social media posts.
- TechTips – Every month, we send TechTips and Microsoft tip e-mails to all clients and a list of prospects that includes links to our website, blogs and product promotions. Additionally, we send quarterly TechTips postcards to our list of prospects.
Lessons Learned In My Journey From A Sales-Only Mindset To A Sales And Marketing Mindset
For 25+ years of my life, I believed that being successful in business was all about banging the phone over and over again. Without selling, nothing happened. After learning from Robin Robins and the Technology Marketing Toolkit team over the past two and a half years, while I still believe that sales are the engine, I also believe that marketing is the necessary fuel to make your IT business run.
Back when we sent out over 600 dollar bills in our Godfather Campaign to our list, I remember getting a phone call…from my brother. He said, “Mike, I got your dollar bill in the mail. I used it to buy a fundraiser candy bar from someone in my office.” That’s when I turned to the 10 Commandments of Great Marketing for IT Services that was hanging on my wall, and the light bulb finally came on. Commandment #1 read: “Thou Shall Always Use A HIGHLY TARGETED List.” At that moment, I looked at my list of 600 prospects and pared it down to 350 of my absolute best prospects.
Lesson Learned: When you have a VERY targeted market and you are CONSISTENTLY drip marketing to them, you get MORE HIGHLY QUALIFIED leads. When I talk to other business owners, I tell them that selling IS important. But it’s the constant drip marketing that makes the whole selling process far more effective. Where I used to preach the truth of sales focus, I’m now a passionate evangelist for drip marketing.
Another lesson I learned relates to our commitment to excellence. Our MSP has adopted what I call “Checklist Process Excellence,” where we are delivering phenomenal service on a consistent basis. Problem was, like Robin says, “Until they do business with you, they only know how good your MARKETING is.”
Lesson Learned: Now that we are also implementing “Checklist Process Excellence” for our MARKETING and SALES, we’re delivering predictable results. Our process is now documented and always implemented. This cadence of excellence extends from drip marketing and throughout the sales process. When we get a prospect, we immediately send them our Shock-And-Awe box. After the first meeting, we follow up with a letter in the mail.
From “King Of Sales” To “Master Of Marketing,” We’re Coming For Your $5.2 Million!
With an aggressive goal of $5.2 million in revenue, we now know just how to get there. Although marketing was never a huge part of our business, we have started taking MAJOR steps to improve branding, website and campaign strategies. Robin’s implementation tips are filling all the gaps we used to have.
Thanks to the Rapid Implementation Workshop, in just 90 days following the workshop, our company has hired five full-time employees, received 11 inbound leads, set 10 appointments and closed two new clients! With growth comes challenges, but we’re ready to tackle each challenge, one at a time!