Today I had lunch with a fat cat.
Not real cat with soft hair and sharp teeth and penetrating claws and truthfully not that fat – a little overweight in fact – but actually a real man that has generated a million or two or three or even more in sales through his 5 year old business. Yet sales are not profits and profits are not net profits so hence the meeting today with the fat cat.
So this is a tiny story about big profits lost, about stubbornness of the fat cat that eventually led to the breakdown of a large business and the really easy way that breakdown could have been avoided.
We decided to meet in the airport in Manchester, which I don’t mind because as I wait I still sit there drinking Starbucks coffee whilst staring out of the window at the A380 in a hypnotized fashion asking that same question, “how the hell does that thing get off the ground?” I love airports.
I love watching fat cats running around for their short Manchester to London flights carrying their small black case pretending to be the best most expensive leather when actually it was around £47.95 from Marks and Spencer’s, wearing their badly fitted, un-cleaned, off-the-peg suits whilst pacing back and forth doing a deal on their iPhone 4 (I’ll get an iPhone 5 if I get the sale they say to themselves in silence).
I love watching all the beautiful women walk past, back and forth looking sexy, looking quirky, looking and just being women. (I know I can sound like sexist pig by modern day language but actually I am just a man looking at the women arrest me!) And of course the families with 3 kids, 4 kids and the kids that cannot be controlled by any father, mother or therapist.
So back to the fat cat He tells me right away he’s 37 minutes late as he couldn’t find a good enough spot to park his Bentley (New flying spur – how cool). Once he said that I was almost embarrassed to tell him I arrived in a Mini so I quickly changed the subject (but really I am not a car person so what’s the problem Alan!.) Lets call this Fat Cat Edward just for the sake of this story.
Edward and I did the very English thing of shaking hands, smiling as we spoke and sat down. I sat down into the molding that by backside had already made on the leather chair, Edward sat down like a large lump bring dropped from a height only to make a huge fart like noise from the inflated cushion underneath his backside.
We both laughed but actually I think he farted as well!
“So Edward, what’s up, what can I do for you?”
“I brought the papers for you to look at Alan”, and then opened his case in a fumbling fashion only to spill everything all over Starbucks floor.
“Damn” he said, picked up everything and then handed me his advertising and results all in perfect 2013 Microsoft excel sheets for me to go over with him.
“Edward give me a moment to review these again please”
“I’ll go and grab a coffee while you do that, would you like one?”
“ Yes please, soya cappuccino please (I discovered a girl that does Yoga and she insist I drink soya not cows milk. I like to let her think I am trying to stay fit and save the world so I drink Soya and be a hippy).
The first thing I noticed on Edwards’s strategy is he has no strategy
The second thing I notice on his excel sheet is his advertising and marketing is sporadic, one month big gap, one week, no marketing and frankly it’s a little all over the place.
The third thing I notice is his adverts are terrible and digging into my 30 years experience I know for a fact that no one in a million years would read them unless it was the only words on paper available to a stranded man on a desert Island and even then the first option might be for toilet paper not reading material.
Edward came back carrying one Americano, one soya cappuccino, and three different cakes. No wonder Edward looks like a waist size 38-40 plus!
“Ed I have to say – you don’t mind me calling you Ed?”
“No Ed is good”
“Well Ed, the adverts are bad and I can’t make out any kind of strategy from what I am reading, do you have one?”
“Yes and no and kind of. When we are slow we advertise but even when we are busy we are never busy enough to make a good enough profit. Last year we turned over 2.9 million pounds and the net profit wasn’t enough to give me a holiday despite all my staff got one”
I was thinking ‘yes Ed but you got the Bentley and the 3 million pound house but of course I never said that after all this is business not my insights into life and death!
“When is the last time you went away?”
“Let me tell you this Alan. I have a massive house that I spend no time in. I work ridiculous hours. I have a pool I haven’t actually used now for nearly 3 years I think. It feels like the last time I saw my kids was years ago but obviously I see them for a minute or two a day but sometimes no days! And the profits or lack of profits from this business are just not good enough”
“OK Ed tell me a couple of things. Who does the copy for your adverts now?”
“We all have a go but the girl that does the mail is better than most of us. She writes it and then the other 7 of us make tweaks, changes and add the odd words here and there”
“So these adverts are written by 8 people then?”
“What about strategy, do you have one?”
“Yes we advertise when it’s quiet”
OK but looking at this excel sheet it looks like you ran seven adverts this past year and four of them were in May?”
“Ah really, I didn’t know that!”
This isn’t unusual so I told him, “what we need to do here is … discover exactly what your buyers needs are, create an almost flawless strategy for your marketing, create a marketing system that grows your business”
From that he sat in silence, asked on or two questions and we went through everything. One hour became four hours and finally Edward left. We shook hands, we agreed on lots of things and I drove home in my Mini but first waiting to go to my car until Ed had left in his new Bentley.
After everything had been created the critical piece was to create strong direct response adverts. Good headlines, good calls to action and written with the mindset of the buyer and written and created by one expert mind not 8 amateurs that don’t understand the art and science of copywriting (that’s me of course and after almost 30 years writing copy don’t argue with me because I always win apart from when I argue with my mother).
The master plan was to take his profits up and take them up fast. Everything was in place and a set of strong adverts that tied in with a strategy had been created. The first advert went over to Edwards Company for feedback.
It looked nothing like he had ever run before with advertising. It sounded like nothing he had ever run before. It had headlines, which he never had before. It had a strong story and graphics like he had never used before. It had a very simple and strong call to action like he had never run before. His feedback came back.
“Hi Alan I love the advert but everyone in the office has added their comments and want to know can we make them a little like the old adverts?”
I stopped, stalled and thought for 24 hours before I replied.
“Edward the last adverts all 8 of you wrote failed at every level. You need to run with this campaign and frankly I don’t care what the receptionist, the coffee maker, the tele sales people and any other amateur copywriters have to say – trust me and run this campaign”
“OK I trust”
And he ran the first advert. The results were bad in fact no existent.
“Alan that advert didn’t work write another”
“Send me the advert as it appeared in the magazine please”
“He sent it and it was part my advert and part 8 other peoples advert. So now the adverts had gone from 8 writers to nine writers and frankly it was a mess”
I’ve seen this before so I didn’t get to excited (I just wanted to kill them if I am honest but maybe that’s over the top maybe I just wanted to fire them all or even better lock them in the toilets whilst I took over!
“Edward who changed this?”
“We all did we think it looks better”
“You mean the same guys that created failed adverts in the past?”
“Yes I’m afraid so”
He’d better be afraid because it had started to look like two months hard work on everything was about to go out of the window.
Lets jump forward.
I had to fire Edward. His sales slumped, he sold his company and he probably drives a Mini like me although probably a better Mini than mine!
Why did I fire him?
Time and time again I have seen businesses at so many levels falling to pieces at a most basic level. They spend a fortune on the office. The boss has the big car and turns into a fat cat. The staff are running riot, have too much control and dilute everything that is powerful so it becomes weak. They don’t care (well they do care but only about their wages, their holidays and their sick pay). The boss realizes something is going sadly wrong but he has lost is lust for success now he has his car and loves being the fat cat.
Yet it only ends one way … no profits means it’s a dead cat not a living cat, not a cheetah, not a tiger and certainly no longer a lion.
Yet that is all so simple to change.
Business can change.
Circumstance does change.
Life changes like the seasons and we either run or go with it or we freeze to death because we dress for summer in the middle of winter.
How about your business?
Gives you rewards you want?
Losing time when time is life?
Yet when it comes to changes you ask everyone what is happening, how to put things right – you ask everyone apart from the experts?
Is that you – be honest – is it?
Edward – well Edward or Ed is probably in Starbucks as I type reading through the jobs section in his local newspaper whilst his company has either been sold on to smart savvy entrepreneurs or has vanished like the ice caps during global warming.
Business has never been tougher. Changes have never moved so fast. If you don’t change and mold and bend – you are playing a game that you can’t and wont win. Are you online optimized? Do you understand traffic and conversion? Do you understand that almost 100% of your clients search for you online before they look elsewhere – are you optimized?
If you need help I can help you.
You don’t even have to buy me a cake, a yoga cappuccino or meet me in airports where we can talk and watch the world go by.
Call me for a unique and premium consultation. My fee are more than worth it and I promise to show you how to more quadruple the price you pay. I can come to your office and train your team. I can train your copywriters. I can hire and fire your deadbeats and superstars. I can help you build a powerful strategy that has made some of my clients multi millions in sales.
All you have to do is ask me or one of the other consultants here.
Our consultancy starts at just £200 – £1,200 per hour
On site visits price on asking.
Critiques, copywriting, sales letters, strategy and tactical advice and more… Can you afford to wait any longer?
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Yours in peace, love and powerful profit pulling marketing
Alan Forrest Smith
Ps: I know I am good and feel even better when the God father of direct response marketing himself told me over lunch that I am a “brilliant marketing mind” (That was my friend and mentor Jay Conrad Levinson)
P.p.s: By the way if we work together and I make you a ton of new sales you will have to buy me a custom Triumph motorbike or a Harley Davidson to keep me happy. I am a man of simple pleasures but I will give you exactly what you need to thrive.