Business Lessons - Journey
Everything Led You To Where You Are Now (even - punk rocker to direct marketing consultant)
I’ve nothing to say today. Well nothing in particular that is so I thought it would be nice to share some thoughts that may stimulate and make you think about things. When I say things I mean nothing in particular or it might be something in particular. I’ll write to you as it leaves my mind and mouth – enjoy.
A Life Unplanned planned?
When I think about my own life (so far) I can pinpoint changes. Changes for the good and changes that made things worse for me. Yet the truth is when I give it even more thought there are never really any changes for the worse because everything appears to lead to a place that settles, rebalances and creates something even better than before.
As I write I am recovering from a painful slipped disc in my back. Yet this is an ailment that I first had when I was a hairdresser way back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Whilst lying on the floor recovering I thought about this even more.
My back first got hurt when I first left school. I was a skinny landscape gardener with no meat or muscle. I had been ill for six months and in hospital. I then left hospital very much thinner and frail only to take a job just weeks later rather than going back to school (which I hated from start to finish).
One of the first tasks I was given was to pick up trees from a trailer that were around ten years old, throw them on my shoulder and carry them over to the hole where they were to be planted. They were heavy for me, very heavy. The older men did it no problem but the weight of the tree nearly buried me never mind the trees. One day I got passed another tree only to feel a pop at the base of my spine and that pop led to me taking 4 weeks off work.
GARDENER TO HAIRDRESSER
After 3.5 years doing work that I hated I decided to become a hairdresser. Now as you can image there are good sides to being a hairdresser. First you get to run your hands through the hair of beautiful women day in day out. You can flirt, they can flirt and you just never know what’s going to happen. That was the good bit. The bad bit is this; it aggravated my back to the point that after some years I would work a week then have to take a week off sick with my back problem again. Don’t worry this story is leading somewhere and that somewhere has a point that I think will benefit you so please keep reading.
Finally after building three very successful hair and beauty salons over seventeen years my thirst for change became so huge I decided to change everything in my life.
Everybody thought I was crazy but I knew this; my back was getting worse by the week and frankly I was bored out of my brains doing what I had been doing for twenty years – hairdressing.
What would I do next?
HAIRDRESSING TO CONSULTING
Well I had discovered a lot from my salons days but the biggest thing was how to create powerful, effective profit creating marketing.
For me in those days marketing was about one thing only. The salon was busy or the salon was dead. I wanted my salon busy seven days a week (six actually because Sunday trading still wasn’t allowed then) so I had to learn how to find clients and persuade them to come to my salon rather than the 35 salons in the town.
Now here’s the thing; I had done marketing in the past and not realized it (see image at top of this page with my scribbles). When I had my punk rock band we had one gig in Bolton that a guy had promoted for the band. Once we arrived at the gig, set up and got ready to play, no one arrived to watch us and when I say no one I mean not a single person. We decided to still play the gig for the 300-seat venue and about halfway through a guy walked in carrying a saxophone. He sat down and didn’t pay to enter.
At the end of the gig the manager of the club and his two huge bouncer pulled myself into the office and threatened to beat me senseless unless the £55 for renting the room was paid. The band and some friends all put cash into the pot until we had £48. I paid the club and we all ran like hell.
I'M MARKETING BUT DIDN'T KNOW IT
After that humiliation I decided to do all the posters, tickets, flyers and other PR promos for the band. Every gig was filled after that and we even played a session on the famous John Peel show in the 1970s. So you see how one thing led to another although I never realized it at the time.
Back to leaving hairdressing then.
I had become somewhat of an expert in direct marketing. I was doing direct mail campaigns years before any salon in the UK was doing them and although I had no ideas of numbers then in the 90s my results went as high as over 80% response on some letter campaigns to internal lists.
This of course led to other things like businessmen that came into the salon and asked who was handling my marketing. This then led to myself being asked and hired to create campaigns for these guys whilst getting paid handsomely at the time. It was obvious now where to go after hairdressing and that’s where I went – into direct response marketing.
Now here is something you might think you know about me (if you know me) but probably don’t know about me.
NOT A COPYWRITER
Over previous years I picked up a reputation of being (in other peoples words) a brilliant copywriter. Then for years as an expert writer I got sold on and referred by others as the only option copywriter for results. I was good, I am good - the best!
The truth is this was never the truth.
Yes I had been getting some results that would read on paper as crazy yet at the same time my main role in working with clients has, was and is always strategic. Writing copy has always been part of the machine rather than the machine itself.
In the early days of the transition into leaving the hair industry and moving into a consultancy business some of the results were what I can only say call mental!
MY FIRST CLIENTS & ORANGEBEETLE - Direct Marketing Consultant
One of the very first clients I worked with as a paid consultant was a group of accountants around 1998. They wanted to harness the web early and create a niche within their industry so they would be seen as the only option for this new product that was being promoted by the government at that time. At this point they had no clients in this niche. Their regular business was typically business people and the like. The first meeting with them created a couple of things. First was my alliance as a consultant with them and second was the name of my business – Orange Beetle.
From a standing start I created a income stream for them that generated well over ten million pounds in real sales. There was no copy this was pure strategy and I was rewarded handsomely. Second was when I drove my vintage 1976 1303s bright orange Volkswagen Beetle into their car park I was then referred to the guy with the orange beetle!
And then of course one thing led to another. I was hired by a Sage software reseller to create a campaign for them that went on to sell tens of thousands in sales. I was also hired by a jeweler to create a strategy that again generated sales that made this client a millionaire. There were a lot more.
Then I started to get hired by clients wanting not just to make money but also to save money. This wasn’t new to me as when I looked back over my hairdressing days everything had to be done on a tight budget and nothing could be wasted or I would be sunk. One client in the building industry saved £60,000 after one meeting. Another clients wiped off £110,000 from their quarterly marketing budget and another built his empire from a start-up of just £500 after I showed him how to get newspaper advertising for almost free every week for years!
Now as far as strategy goes the web changed a lot of things. You see (and incredibly a lot of businesses I deal with still do this even today) at one time the business could feed the prospect whatever they wanted to feed them. They could say it, write and it promote it like crazy. The prospect had to take their word for it and buy or not buy. Persuasion had to be good but at the same time even marketing that wasn’t that good was still building empires.
NOTHING REALLY CHANGES - THE ROBOTS ARE COMING
Today things are different (tech) whilst some things will never change.
Today you the business builder and advertiser have lost control of feeding your targets what you think they should buy. Now people jump online in a coffee shop. Do a search, seek reviews and make a decision to buy or not buy. Now the buyer has control and you no longer have control.
What does this mean?
Back in my hairdressing days I opened my salon in a town with 35 established salons. The question I had to ask myself was why would they choose me. Choose my salon? Kevin had a great salon at Esquire. He was nuts, creative and did some great work and honestly I was a little jealous of him. The Jazz boys had been there twenty years and were solid as a rock but with average hairdressing so I knew I could wipe them out. Malcolm at Dickens was a brilliant businessman and had three really very busy and very established salons all close to mine. So how the hell was me the new guy going to make the choice easy for clients to choose?
It was all about one thing and that one thing I felt was wrapped up in two taglines I use to use.
“It’s the difference that makes us different”
“Having find, doing hair, being number one”
Also I decided to put the word ‘quality’ at the start of everything I wrote or promoted about my salons.
The signage outside above the salon no longer said hairdressing it would ne be redone (hand painted in those days so it meant a new sign) Quality Hairdressing Services.
I took a position of putting quality before quantity. This allowed us to spend more time on each client whilst at the same time we double and tripled all prices. This gave us a perceived value. This in turn gave us power in the market place.
So the one big thing I learnt about business is this.
Despite the facts that something’s never change.
The sun never changes.
The moon never changes.
The Earth itself in the big scope of things never really changes.
And people, men, women or your customers never change.
And I mean NEVER!
The only real changes are the way life and marketing is delivered and thought about but the basics never change.
So despite the fact we are living in a very changed marketing environment and are surrounding by technologies that are getting even more difficult to understand there are some truly basic things that will never change in your business and if you get them right they make a massive difference to everything you do. If you business is right so is your life am I right?
Today as a business online you have new technologies and new challenges almost weekly. You might have noticed the endless changes and tests I make even at OrangeBeetle.com (in fact we are rebuilding the homepage as I write).
SEO is incredibly hard now and unless you pay an expert to handle this full-time you are just playing at it ( I have a team in-house that can deliver you ANY number of highly targeted leads any day of the week).
Google are controlling your business online.
Scrolling, mobile technology and lean-back methodology are changing almost weekly yet despite this there are ways you can stay ahead of the pack.
I did this with my hairdressing businesses.
I did this with OrangeBeetle.com.
I’ve done this with many clients and here is why it is timeless despite the technological changes in your marketplace.
It’s this: Positioning, perception, power and presence through your brand.
And you want to know why all four of these words will build you an empire? Because they are built (initially) through things that you can control yourself but an even bigger reason is they are all based in the mind of your prospects. In other words with good research, strong strategies in place supported by good tactics you can ethically place deep within the mind of your client or customer. In other words when they think of what you sell they see and think of you as the ONLY option.
Wile we are on the subject of brand (and this is a whole long discourse in itself) a brand is not just a logo. Your brand has to be the very fabric of your company and it today's world that has never been so clear and obvious yet most business still haven’t grasped that.
Just look at Apple. Would you buy a Blackberry, Nokia, Acer, and Amazon phone, HTC or an Apple? Why did you answer the way you answered?
When I built my hairdressing salons from new and went head on with 35 established salons I quickly realised we would have to create something special, noticeable, and memorable to not just survive but to thrive and truly prosper. A haircut that was good would never be enough.
So the changes will drive you crazy and if you don’t get to grips with them it’ll drive you insane but even worse your direct competition if they get a grip and you don’t you are screwed!
But here is what is great (and I know I had nothing to say at the start of this) if you are deeply implanted in the mind of your buyer you will always be not just the fist choice but you will be the one and only option.
The world of marketing has changed and will keep changing but something don’t and never will. Think about it. People buy into you or your company, your personality, the coolness of what you do or simply that you have the reputation for being the best and of course the tools and skills to support that.
For me, life keeps changing and I hope it keeps changing.
Yes, I have all my hero MENTOR guys I love and they do incredible things. One student has now hit £170,000 plus a year from zero. She was charging £20 per hour when she began being mentored and now has a truly incredible and growing business.
I have my consulting clients that when they behave and I don’t have to shout at them (yes it does happen) have changes that are beyond words. I have on client that not only transformed every aspect of his business but my work was directly responsible for keeping him and his family in a house. The first week I consulted with him and his business he pulled in £42,000 in new sales and that was from zero!
But now my life keeps changing as I am running my writing business alongside my consulting business. I do think about where my writing came from yet when I look back I started writing when I was 15 when I formed my first punk rock band. Can you see how things connect?
I have just published a new book called I AM BASTARD I AM WAR and am working like crazy on two new writings. One is possibly called HAPPINESS and the other is called The Death Of Anna Babushka.
So I know I said at the start of this I don’t have a lot to say so I would start to type and see what came out. That’s what I have done and shared with you today so I hope something, somewhere was useful for you in your life or your business.
Just one thing.
To be an expert you need expertise. To have expertise you need to have input. The kind of input you need are new ideas new thoughts and current thinking. The best way is to take the very long route and learn yourself or take the short route and ask someone. That is how you become expert in a world that has now been filled with experts of no substance.
So after I have finished and sent this email to you I will be heading to the gym. Once I get back I am working on a couple new projects for OrangeBeetle.com this year.
One is a new MENTOR approach with a live weekend based around my MENTOR book that I am writing. That would be in autumn. There will be no more than fifty places.
The second is a series of free webinars we putting together. All are very high value and packed with useable information. All are also free.
I will also be starting a big launch for my latest writing I AM BASTARD I AM WAR. We are just finishing an advert/movie that we have created to show in cinemas. Once that is done the launch date will be agreed.
And of course there is more.
So finally yes things change, things have changed and business things will continue to change. I just wanted you to know that now and then I get overwhelm just like you do. I can get confused and become slightly off target but its fine. This is when you and I should take time to realistically reflect on where things are and where you want them to go. Like I always say to my MENTOR guys is if you have no final destination planned how do you know how to get anywhere – you don’t.
Take this time and think about your end result and then reverse plan everything.
Don’t forget nothing in your life is random. Where you are right now is the perfect place to set off to where you want to be. You were meant to be where you right now even if it your darkest or lowest place. When I look back on life even my dark places lead me to something better I just didn’t see it at the time.
And of course your business; If you would like me to review, critiques, mentor or work with you on business I am here to do that with you if you'd like the advice from a direct marketing consultant with over 30 years experience.
That’s it a long ramble but maybe worth sharing, maybe not. I would love any feedback, just hit reply and speak to me.
Enjoy your day.
Build your life, create what you want.
Your bearded warrior.
The one and only Alan Forrest Smith
P.s Once we begin to work with each other I will show you things that'll transfer you sales in 7 days and that's just to start with. You will be so thrilled you'll do anything at my command! OK I was exaggerating but I guarantee you will be thrilled to say the least.