How Our Start-Stop-Start Again Approach To Marketing Almost Put Us Out Of Business

Posted On August 1st, 2019
Ross Brouse

Ross Brouse,
Continuous Networks

Stuck Between Growing Our Business And Saving It

It’s all perspective. From the outside looking in, our commodity cloud and server company seemed like a goldmine a few years back. We were climbing toward $8 million in annual revenue. We had 50 employees. But because we weren’t sure how to effectively lead, how to business plan and how to market, our business was not poised to weather a potential storm.

Over the next couple of years, the storm hit hard. We lost nearly HALF of our revenue and 60% of our team. With tons of debt and too much overhead, we were bleeding money. My business partner, Jason Silverglate, and I didn’t want the same fate for our IT services business, Continuous Networks. But things were not good within that company.

As the CEO, Jason was also in charge of sales and marketing. I was the COO, so I was running (trying and failing) operations. The culture we had built was starting to tank. Everybody was overworked, and it showed. There was stealing. There were physical fights. I was often working 18-hour days, seven days a week. To be blunt, we were stuck between GROWING our business and SAVING it.

A Brief Taste Of Marketing Brings In $50K In MRR

We had always sucked at marketing, so we took the plunge and got the Toolkit in 2015. Even before digging into the Toolkit, we were off to Boot Camp in Nashville. Boot Camp was big, overwhelming and jam-packed with ideas and opportunities. Above all else, it was motivating.

Later that year, we implemented three of our first-ever marketing initiatives. We sent out Robin’s Bad Date sales letters to Chamber of Commerce members. Plus we honed our Google AdWords presence, which led prospects to our newly improved “Robinized” website. These three marketing initiatives brought in $50K in new MRR at the time, which won us a Flaming Grenade Award at a Producers Club meeting. Yay, we were marketing and getting results!

Yes, Robin’s marketing was working for us. Problem was, it was working TOO well. We landed a monster client that was worth a mind-blowing $30K in MRR but consumed ALL of our time.

My Greatest Mistake Became My Greatest Lesson

Our massive client quickly grew to $57K in MRR, and we were drowning! That single client became a total SUCK on our business, and frustration levels were at an all-time high. I remember thinking, “I don’t care about their MONEY, I just want my LIFE back!” 

In early 2017, I stood in front of my business partner and said, “Jason, we must SHUT DOWN all marketing and sales. If we close even one more deal, my team and I are going to CRACK!” He reluctantly agreed, and we hit the brakes on ALL marketing. Forgive us, Robin?

As if fate were in our corner, Mike Michalowicz of The Pumpkin Plan spoke at Boot Camp 2017. At the time, I had no idea what a Pumpkin Plan was, and I certainly had no idea how influential his process would become after dealing with this frustrating and yet incredibly high-paying client.

By the end of the year, our relationship with this client was completely failing. Yes, money is important to a business. But Mike’s Pumpkin Plan forced us to see that there were some things more important than money. And that whale of a client cost our business by negatively affecting our entire team, our entire company.

I look back on the decision to stop marketing as one of the greatest mistakes we ever made. However, it remains one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned. Once you get a plane to fly, if you want to keep it flying, DO NOT LAND IT. In our case, we CRASHED it!

Lesson Learned: It takes 3X LONGER to ramp up your marketing again than if you never stopped marketing in the first place. No matter how busy you THINK you are, NEVER stop marketing. You can always hire the techs or build the operations around the new clients and new revenue.

My Wake-up Call From The Pitbull Of Personal Development

Thanks to Robin, I had the pleasure of hearing Larry Winget speak twice. One thing he said resonated with me: “Wherever you are, it’s exactly where you want to be.” He was 100% correct. My life was exactly the way I wanted it – a MESS! I worked myself into exhaustion every day. I barely saw my wife and kids. I struggled with money, with over $50,000 in credit-card debt. I could never take my business to that next level and I had no idea why.

I remember the words my father always spoke to me when I was growing up. He would say, “Ross, are the decisions you are making working for you? If they aren’t, make a change.” Thanks, Dad. Thanks, Larry. From that point forward, I made the changes to FINALLY be exactly where I wanted to be!

Discipline + Consistency + Accountability = Results

With every decision I make, I incorporate those three tenets: discipline, consistency and accountability. In the last nine months, this has resulted in some pretty remarkable transformations. Becoming the captain of my Accountability Group (Big Guns) helped to create a foundation for success in both my professional and personal life.

First, we not only read Gino Wickman’s book Traction, we hired an Entrepreneurial Operating System implementer to help us put it into action. Plus, we are running a weekly leadership meeting at Continuous as a Level 10 and we are ROCK-setting with our team.

Next, we got rid of our “sick pumpkin” client and made $500,000 as a result. We even sold a technology asset that cost $50,000 just five years ago for $2.4M in December. How is that for return on investment!

Our team consistently meets every Monday morning to review sales fundamentals and activity goals, and reviews our prospect process using our Prospect Tracker. Our response and resolution SLAs of 30 and 60 minutes are being met 100% of the time, utilizing our clearly defined Reactive Support Process. Our Centralized Services Team has reduced our unpatched servers and workstations from more than 30% down to 2%, using a clearly defined daily Centralized Services Process.

The team is all setting quarterly S.M.A.R.T. ROCKS and achieving them 80% of the time. Our Level 3 engineers were 80% reactive just six months ago and are less than 30% reactive and 70% proactive today. (Yes, we measure EVERYTHING.)

Most importantly, while I used to spend 100% of my time working “IN” the business, I now spend 90% of my time working “ON” the business. I’ve recently paid off all of my credit-card debt and we have nearly $3M in our bank account to ensure future growth. And the transformations affect me personally. Since joining Producers Club, I have lost 60 pounds and reduced my body fat from 35% to 12%. I’m in the best physical shape of my life!

Three Game Changers That Can Transform Your Business

First, take a weekend and list out all of your clients. Next, grade every client. Which clients make you cringe and keep you up nights? Which clients deliver the most profit to your bottom line? This list becomes your roadmap for which clients you GROW to more MRR and which clients you SHRINK (or fire) to save your time and headaches.

Second, if you haven’t gone through the Rapid Implementation Workshop, you may have serious holes in your marketing. A few hours into this workshop, I thought to myself, “How have we been in Producers Club this long and missed ALL of these marketing strategies?” This workshop can provide a critical marketing foundation for every IT services business.

Third, when it comes to Technology Marketing Toolkit, if you can’t see BEYOND the marketing campaigns, you won’t thrive. While Robin’s marketing campaigns are important to your success, it’s also about changing your mindset, building a sales and marketing foundation, and taking advantage of the numerous business-accelerating opportunities, strategies and speakers Robin puts in front of you.

500 Dials A Week = 3 To 5 FTAs

To follow up on our direct response marketing efforts from our Bad Date sales letter  and Poker Chip campaign, our Inside Sales Rep has an aggressive weekly activity goal of 500 dials. Every day, our ISR logs his KPI activity of Dials, Decision Maker Conversations and First-Time Appointments booked in our Activity Tracker. Because logging every action keeps him accountable, we now average three to five first-time appointments (FTAs) per week! 

Selling At 70% Gross Margin!

Zig Ziglar used to say, “Nothing happens until you sell somebody something.” Because sales are the heartbeat of our business, I have spent considerable time learning how to sell effectively. I’ve learned that you need to sell prospects what they want, not what you think they need. With this philosophy as my foundation, I am selling at a 70% gross margin. We currently have $10,000 of MRR on our 30-Day Prospect List and $18,000 MRR on our 31- to 60-Day Prospect List!

Our Activity Tracker records our Completed FTAs, Prospects Added to the TruMethods Prospective Business Review (PBR), Closed Deals and Closed MRR. Peter Drucker, known as “the founder of modern management,” says, “If you can’t track it, you can’t improve it.” Our Continuous Campaign Tracker allows our reps to effortlessly provide the critical metrics we need to continuously improve.

Calculating Campaign Success

To better understand campaign costs and ensure campaign success, we are able to automatically populate our TruMethods PBR along with the baseline metrics from our Campaign Tracker. Additional key datapoints are brought in, including the total number of days to make the dials and the cost of our ISR. At a glance, we can see which campaigns are wins and which need improvements.

Sending Our Shock-And-Awe Box To All FTAs

We fill every Shock-And-Awe box with our co-authored book and multiple marketing materials that position Continuous Networks as the clear IT choice. We average about three to five new appointments each week and send our Shock-And-Awe box to prospects we’ve met.

Using Our Technology Success Scorecard And QBRs To Earn $278,925!

Our Technology Success Scorecard has been responsible for most of our existing-client new MRR and is now an integral part of our sales and vCIO processes. While a First-Time Appointment can be cold, we often use the Scorecard during Second-Time Appointments with new prospects prior to a proposal. If the deal is closed, their Scorecard becomes a baseline for improvement and is tracked using our Continuous Track process.

We have also conducted the Scorecard during the quarterly business review (QBR) process with nine of our clients. In Q4 of 2018, we closed $9,978 in MRR, $19,980 in project work and $63,000 in hardware sales from our vCIO/QBR and Scorecard process! A fantastic success so far, the MRR increase will total $278,925.48 over the life of the contracts.

A Foundation For Future Success

Robin Robins and Technology Marketing Toolkit have given me and Continuous Networks a marketing, sales and processes foundation we truly needed. We will continue to harness what Robin gave us to build our own foundation for success.

Our One-Year Plan is to achieve $4M in annual revenue, $500K in net profit and grow from 12 to 42 Technology Success Clients, double our endpoints and send out 75 total marketing campaigns. Our Three-Year Plan puts us over $8M in revenue and $1.6M in net profit. Most importantly for us, we’ve finally nailed down our Core Focus, Target Market and 10-Year Target that all result from EOS! Just recently, Robin has even helped us rebuild our Unique Selling Proposition and make it even stronger. Thanks, Robin!