They Were The Busiest 3 Months Of My Entire Life. And I LOVED Every Second Of It!
Give me a choice of staying busy or being bored, I’ll always choose to stay busy. I joke that if this IT thing falls through, I can always be a circus juggler. I knew the three months of the Rapid Implementation Workshop would be crazy busy. It was the other little twists life had in store for me during this period that I didn’t count on.
Here’s just a glance of this insane time period: attended Robin’s Workshop; started and finished $100K mountain bike trail project; sold my company, completed merger; completed renovations of my office building; hired new technician; migrated to AutoTask; migrated to new accounting system; onboarded four new clients; migrated 25 servers to Azure; taught my 16-year-old daughter to drive a straight shift; designed, hiked and mapped 5.5 miles of new city mountain bike trails; executed testimonials campaign; implemented new “Robinized” website; executed new direct mail campaign, five e-mail campaigns, 10 QBRs, four JV partner meetings, four monthly newsletters and one awesome Shock-And-Awe box; interviewed, hired and trained new marketing coordinator (thank God!) and even slept (once or twice).
Whew! I got tired all over again just writing that list!
Oh, And We Increased Our Monthly Recurring Revenue By 44%!
You may have heard of IT owners who “transformed their business.” It always sounds exaggerated. Overhyped. I can honestly tell you I truly TRANSFORMED my business during this short time period, growing my revenue more in three months than I had in the last six years COMBINED!
The numbers still blow my mind. In just 90 days, I increased my MRR by $21,551. That’s a 44% GROWTH over where my business was before I attended Rapid Implementation in October 2018. This growth added $258,612 in new MRR. Including hardware sales, project work and a few new MRR contracts earlier in the year, we totaled $264,438 in top-line revenue, added $57,520 to my bottom line and almost hit the $1 million mark for the first time since 2008. Ah, 2008…
Everyone Has Their 2008 Story. Ours Was More Of A Nightmare.
When would have been the absolute WORST time to open a business? How about 2007! That’s when we opened our IT business, an enterprise architecture and business consulting company. After many late nights and many glasses of wine, we came up with the name Cogentes, a deviation of the Latin root cogo: to bring or bind together. Today we are Pineland Cogentes.
We quickly landed engagements with very large Fortune 500 companies. Practically overnight, we went from start-up to $2.6 million in revenue. We were so blessed…then so cursed.
Enter the fall of 2008. We saw our booked revenue tumble to under $200,000. And NONE of that was recurring. We laid off everyone except for two engineers who were engaged in our one ongoing project. You read that right: ONE measly project. Like rats on a sinking ship, my business partners scurried away. I was in debt with a $250,000 line of credit. To make matters worse, that debt was backed by my father’s company.
I had two choices. Option 1: I could follow my partners, jump ship, flee to higher ground (corporate America) and destroy my relationship with my father. Option 2: I Could Roll Up My Sleeves And Work My Way Out Of This Mess.
I Chose Option 2.
There were just three of us left. The market for enterprise architecture was gone, so we had to reinvent ourselves if we were going to survive. We decided our best offering combined virtual CIO with a virtual IT department at a small business-friendly price point.
Without a sales team or any concept of marketing, we scrambled for new business. From 2010 to 2017, we averaged about 5% growth through customer referrals alone. But hidden within this time were a lot of up years and down years. We would have 15% growth one year, followed by a year with a loss of 8%. Then 27% growth, then plummeting to -16%. With this lack of predictability, company morale was sinking as our debt was piling up.
Without Sales And Marketing, There Is Zero Predictability.
Referrals are great! They’re easy to close, can be some of your most appreciative clients and are usually willing to pay top dollar. But they are never predictable. You can never plan next year’s revenue on the HOPE of getting 10 or 20 new referrals.
Our inconsistent and unpredictable revenue was being caused by two major factors:
#1 – Going after the WRONG type of customer
#2 – Relying on REFERRALS and LUCK to get our leads
Suddenly, I GOT IT. I understood that WITHOUT a marketing system and WITHOUT a proven sales process, nothing about our business was predictable.
Predictability Enters In The Form Of A Redheaded Marketing Dynamo
Since 2012, I had received e-mails and letters from Robin Robins. But I always lumped her program in with a myriad of calls I get on a weekly basis from companies wanting to generate leads, outsource my sales, provide SEO, etc. But timing is everything. Robin caught me at a point where the pain threshold was high enough that I was willing to take action.
Man! When I got the link to the Toolkit Dashboard, I had major information overload. There was SO much to digest. Of course, being the male that I am, I didn’t follow the instructions. I just jumped right into the pieces that resonated the most for me (and not necessarily the way Robin prescribes to do them either).
Our First Crack At R.E.A.L. Marketing!
Embarrassingly, we ran an IT business for 11 years without doing any marketing! Looking back, I can’t believe we survived without it. Going forward, I knew that marketing would have to be a significant part of our DNA. Here are a few of our first marketing initiatives from 2018:
First Newsletter Attempt
In May 2018, we launched our first-ever newsletter. I took the quicker, easier shortcut, of course, by sending them out as an HTML newsletter via e-mail. It was better than nothing, but not by much. We sent these out for four months straight with very little response.
Lesson Learned: The goal should never be to “just get it done” so you can check a box and pat yourself on the back. Instead, you should do it RIGHT – the way Robin tells you to.
Customer Engagement Through E-mail Campaigns
Since our first newsletter wasn’t scheduled until May, I wanted to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, to start contacting our customers. Because Office 365 phishing and ransomware attacks were on the rise, it was an opportunity to engage my customers and give them a free security script. We received a phenomenal 100% response rate (from the addresses that didn’t bounce…still needed to clean that list!).
USP and Target Market
Against all of my “charge ahead and be damned” tendencies, I slowed down a bit and spent some time reflecting on our USP and target market(s). We had three distinct verticals that made up about 80% of our business: accounting, local government and health care. I spent several days fine-tuning what I thought was a great USP for each of these verticals!
My First Direct Mail Campaign Landed $2,700 In MRR and $16,000 in Project Work!
In May 2018, I downloaded the Cyber Security Crisis Campaign and immediately started modifying it (oops!). Well, in my defense, I wanted to target a very specific issue that was hot in the press.
I mailed the campaign to 141 county and city government officials throughout Georgia, then followed up. We called the prospects in surrounding counties first, since they had a better chance of knowing about us. In the first round of calling, we landed two network and security assessments that resulted in $16,000 in project work and $2,700 in MRR! Woo-hoo! Now we were cooking with gas! We also have one renewal opportunity in the pipeline for 2019.
Our USP Helped Land Moby Dick!
It’s what we are all chasing, that whale of a client that transforms our entire revenue outlook for the year. For two years, we chased an opportunity with a company that provided health care to correctional facilities throughout Georgia and Louisiana. On July 1, 2018, while the rest of the US was in holiday mode, the new COO asked us to pitch IT support to their parent company.
Using the USP that I had been perfecting over the past month, I put together a presentation about why Pineland Cogentes was the answer to their problems. The pitch went flawlessly, and holy crap, we landed Moby Dick – $7,500 Onboarding Fee + $15,000 Initial MRR. By the end of 2018, they had spent $72,680 in projects and hardware and $82,970 in recurring revenue. That’s $155,650, thanks to a strong USP!
Direct Mailer #2 – Bad Date = Good $$$
Hot on the heels of this big win, we launched our second direct mail campaign targeting accounting firms. And what better campaign for accountants than the Bad Date Campaign! We sent it out to 108 accounting firms and started calling. We got two good leads that resulted in $1,500 in project work. Success!
Rapid Implementation Workshop – Holding My Feet To The Fire!
I have always been a self-starter with a strong work ethic. Problem is, left to my own devices, I tend to cherry-pick what I want to do and NOT follow the plan. THAT DID NOT WORK WITH MARKETING!
The Rapid Implementation Workshop solved this problem for me. Everyone on Robin’s team held my feet to the fire. Because of the accountability that you MUST do the marketing as Robin lays it out, the results were immediate and phenomenal! Here’s just a glimpse:
Upgrading Our Newsletters!
Gone are the days when we take the shortcut and only e-mail our newsletters. Starting in October 2018, we are now dedicated to successfully mailing PRINTED newsletters to all 145 customers and hot prospects. We expect new opportunities to hit SOON!
E-mail Campaigns Delivered $16,500 + $5,850 In MRR!
From October through December 2018, we sent the following e-mail campaigns:
- Customer Testimonials (October 22: 98 sent, 35 responded, 21 testimonials created)
- QBR (October 25: 21 e-mails sent, 10 QBRs scheduled, $5,700 in MRR and $15K project work generated)
- Office 365 Add-ons (November 9: E-mailed all Office 365 clients and generated $150 in MRR initially but will grow to $3,100 when client’s Office 365 migration is complete)
- Referral Campaign (November 19: E-mailed to all clients, 2 responses, no leads)
- Blog Post E-mail (December 4: E-mailed to all clients, 3 responses, $1,500 project work)
Created A Shock-And-Awe Box!
We are proud of our Shock-And-Awe box that we send out to prospects before a sales call. We worked to perfect every component, including a “What You Should Expect To Pay” report, “7 Critical IT Services Protections You Need” report, samples of our printed newsletter, IT services provider comparison chart, Client Bill Of Rights, “Top 5 Reasons To Choose Us” and 100% Money-Back Guarantee Certificate.
2018 Has Been One Wild Ride! Watch Out, 2019, 2020, 2021…
I wasn’t in a place mentally to appreciate Technology Marketing Toolkit and commit to the plan until 2018. There’s a time for everything, and 2018 was finally my time to take the plunge and commit to marketing, sales and growth.
In spite of all the other priorities in my life throughout this time, and my complete lack of sleep, we have increased our bottom-line revenue by $57,520 (a 310% increase)! In fact, we rolled into 2019 with $770,000 in booked recurring revenue, a 79% growth over where we were starting 2018!
NEXT STEP: To get your own FREE customized marketing roadmap go to https://itmarketingconsultsurvey.com and fill in the survey and schedule a free 60 minute one-on-one private consultation.