Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.

I remember the first few years of being in business, and just wondering what was working and what was not working for other people. There’s something about doing marketing for other people, which I feel extremely confident in. But when I wanted to do my own marketing, I started questioning whether I was doing the right thing or not. I think it’s a common problem that we all face, of sometimes we’re too close to our own goods or services to really truly be able to describe how they solve people’s problems. Sometimes it’s hard to create messaging when you are so close to it, and that’s really because we’re breathing it day in and day out. I think sometimes even for me, especially with social media, when people want us to give tips or presentations, I sometimes feel paralyzed, honestly, because I am like, “Do people know that or do people not know that?” And so, it’s obviously good for me to know where people are before I start a presentation. But it’s interesting, because I’m too close to it to know what a beginner or an intermediate person knows or doesn’t know. And so, that’s the thing, is I remember being the beginner part of my business and wondering, what was I supposed to do to make my marketing work? 

So today, I bring you a different sort of episode, one where I lay a few cards out on the table and show you what we did last year. One marketing effort failed spectacularly, and the other one worked, and I was shocked. I’m gonna share a little bit of what I learned from those two experiments, and that’s what I’m calling them. I think it’s important in business to experiment. Obviously, we have to take calculated risks, but if we can take experiments and measure the results, then we know, okay, is this something that we need to tweak next time? Is it something that we should replicate exactly like we did last time? Or do we need to scrap it? For example, we run this workshop. This is a bonus, this wasn’t even in the plan in my outline. We run this content repurposing workshop, and it’s one of my favorites. We have one coming up, you should register, and we have cracked the code in a way, on how to market that, and we’ve done it successfully a few times. But one time, we marketed it and only one person showed up. That was just a reminder like, okay, what happened? Why didn’t people show up for that one? We determined that that was more of a timing issue, not necessarily a marketing issue. And because of that, we’ve just been more careful about when we schedule that workshop. That’s an example of tweaking. Bonus example, I guess. 

Here’s one that we scrapped. Earlier last year, Roger, my husband, had a brilliant idea. He’s really passionate about serving people in the trades. And especially, it comes from – We have had to hire a few different tradesmen to work in our home, and it is impossible to find good websites. Here’s the predicament: we had to figure out messaging-wise, how do we sell a website when people can get a free Google page? What’s better about having a one-page WordPress page or website? What should the website contain? How can we make it affordable for these people, and will they buy it? And so, we figured out the messaging. The messaging is amazing, and we have gotten a few clients through the trades’ website. However, then we were like, “Okay, let’s go big. Let’s take this to the masses.” And so, we figured, would social media ads work? And we had the question, how much time do these trades people spend on social media? Are they thinking about work when they’re on social media? And while this is a very blanket statement and a stereotype, I was thinking of our ideal customer as this uncle. Like if I had an uncle who is in the trades, does he really spend time on social media? And so, our ideal customer, I figured, you know what, I don’t actually think that they do. Maybe I was wrong, you guys. I don’t know. We haven’t gone to the social world to see, but we figured, what about a mailer? All of these people have addresses, why don’t we find them, and let’s target three sectors? 

If I remember right, I think we targeted plumbers and HVAC people, and we picked three different cities. And so guys, there are good ways to buy lists, we did not. For one, because I was wary of how old lists are, whether people have actually consented or whether the lists would actually work. Some of the lists that we could have bought were really expensive. And so we figured, let’s, this first time, work as a team to mine addresses and find the people. Let’s actually go search, I think one of them was plumbers in Cincinnati, and find the ones who have listings on Angie’s List or Google My Business, but don’t have websites, or their websites are really bad. We actually did this manual process, and we figured out, all right, who is a good candidate? And so, we actually almost handpicked our ideal customers. So it took a while. It might not have been the best use of my team’s time, looking back on it, but we figured, hey, we send a thousand of these out, we get 10 of them to come back, that’s a 1% return, and that would pay for everything. Guys, we sent these postcards out, and they were really good postcards, and nobody took us up on the offer. We even had a ‘hurry up, discount now’, et cetera. 

And so this is the thing, I am not a direct mail expert. If somebody comes to me and says, “Hey, we wanna do a direct mail campaign.” I will say, “That’s great. Here’s a design, I don’t know what’s gonna happen next.” Because we tried it. I know that there are people who are direct mail experts. For the amount of junk mail that we get, and maybe you get, people wouldn’t be sending direct mail out if it didn’t work on some level. So it works. Did it work for us? No. Will I try it again? Unlikely. And so instead, we’ve looked for different ways to reach the trades community. PS, if you know a trades person who wants a one-page website that actually sells, let me know because we have a really great offer. Maybe we’ll actually get a client out of our podcast instead of through our direct mail campaign. 

Now for something amazing, I don’t wanna leave you all on like, hey, let’s tweak things, or let’s scrap things, but what about when things work? How do we make them work better? Background story is that Stratos has never done a Black Friday sale. Part of it is because we’re a service-based business, we don’t really have something that we could say, “Hey, you get 10% off of the first month.” We want our clients to get good products, and so that just doesn’t work with our business model. So we created a product this year that is purchasable. What I mean by that is that it is a set product. It is a service-based product because we do the work, but then we give you the end result, and the ongoing engagement is us just helping you use it. So what that is, as I’ve mentioned before, but it is our social media toolkit. You get 12 to 24 graphics with it, you get a whole bunch of captions, and then a whole bunch of content stuff that you can work with. It’s basically a toolkit that we create for you, so you can DIY your own social. Works awesome. Our clients who have it love it, and it has been so helpful. 

And so, what we’ve done is for Black Friday, we decided that we would give it at a discount. We reduced it by, I think 500, 700 bucks, and we sold it on our website on WooCommerce, which is a shop. We created a huge marketing campaign for it, social media posts, we created emails that would go out. One of my favorite things that we did is that we told people ahead of time like, “Hey, we’re gonna do this, FYI, and the sale starts on this date.” What I like about that is that it was still 1,200 bucks, I believe, for people to buy, so it wasn’t cheap. It’s not like, go to Target and get a $5 item. It was still an investment.  And so we gave people a heads up so that as they were planning their business purchases for Black Friday, they knew ahead of time that this was coming. And so, we put it all on. What I love about our system is that we just put it all on auto-drive or automatic. We had our post scheduled, we had our email scheduled. For us, it felt like we were nagging people, but we used very specific subject lines that people knew this was our Black Friday sale so they could delete it if they did not want the Black Friday sale. That was another tip that we used and that I think worked really well. 

The first day of the sale, we actually got a purchase. I walked around my house, and was like, “Oh my gosh! Somebody purchased from us.” I was surprised that our own marketing worked. Roger, my husband, was like, “You’re a marketer, why are you surprised that it worked?” I don’t know why, but it felt so good to be like, “Hey, we did this campaign, it worked.” I have seen this with clients dozens of times, and it worked. How I believed that my marketing wouldn’t work is just baffling to me. Obviously, the sale only lasted for certain days. We also limited the amount of toolkits that we were gonna sell, partially, because of our own team workload. We were like, “How many can we realistically do?” But then also, that created this scarcity aspect. And so we had 10 that were gonna be available, two were purchased by the time the weekend was over. I was surprised, enormously pleased, if I’m totally honest. It was so fun to see something work. I think it all goes back to the fact that we are so close to our own businesses that at times, we don’t expect things to work because we’re like, “Well, do people really want it?” If it’s on sale, will it be more likely that people will buy it? And so, I was really, really happy that in this case it worked. 

One other thing that I think did help is that one of the persons who bought it, they emailed me with questions. And so granted normally I would take the whole Thanksgiving weekend off, but I was like, I really want this to work, and I would really like to make an extra 1,200 bucks. So I got on my computer and recorded a Loom video walking her through it. That was really cool because all of her questions could have been explained simply by giving her access and an inside view to what we were offering. So it’s been cool because now it’s something that we have on our list to do for our landing page. And this goes to, if you have heard me talk about ‘They Ask, You Answer’,  the book by Marcus Sheridan, if she asked a question, I had the answer. And I made that into a piece of content that now lives on the landing page for future people who have the same question. I know doing a video walkthrough is not a great option for everybody, but in this case, it was a great option for us. Got us another sale, and has helped us create more content accordingly. 

Here’s my wrap up, I guess. I’ve shared three different stories, marketing that we needed to tweak, marketing that we needed to scrap, marketing that worked and we’re excited to expand it in the future. But let’s talk about what it means to do an experiment. We had those three examples, but let’s be honest, they all required pre-work that required investment, both time and monetary. And so for each of those, we made calculated decisions about how much time it would take, and so some of those are technically losses. In my brain, it’s not really a loss, because we learned a lot, but financially, I had to pay people for their time, especially that address mining. That was a huge waste of time. Don’t follow my example, you guys. But that’s the thing, if you are risk averse, you might say, “Hey, I already know what’s working. Let’s keep on doing what’s working”, but that’s how you’re gonna become stagnant. So take a few risks here and there that you are willing to take, and try out some new things. If you have extra cash to invest, or if you have some extra time, then maybe you wanna take on a bigger risk. But again, here’s what I would say, don’t take any of these risks without nailing down your marketing, nailing down your messaging, and nailing down your strategy. 

Your strategy may not work, your messaging may not be right on the mark, but get it as close as you can because then you will have a valid experiment to go back and decide, okay, do we need to scrap this? Do we need to tweak it, or did it work, and let’s expand it, and how do we wanna expand it? I would love to see us become a business marketing culture willing to take calculated risks. I meet so many business owners who are resistant to that risk. And I get it, I also have experienced loss, but how do we become people who are willing to take these risks, albeit calculated, so that we can see fruition and growth that comes from those risks? Because that’s really how businesses grow. If you’re not willing to take those risks, you will become stagnant and you may grow, but eventually, you will plateau. 

Guys, with this new year, I hope that you figure out some risks, figure out some experiments that you’re gonna take. I would love to hear about them because one, we all need to have a community that can cheer us on even in the scary moments of experiments. But also, I wanna see, hey, what worked for you? What didn’t work for you? I’m happy to share those two because as we figure out what has worked, then we can all benefit from it. I will see you guys on the flip side, and by that, I mean you will hear from me on the flip side, but come and visit our social channels so that we can hear a little bit more from you

Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have, if you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you loved our podcast and want to give us a rating or a review, I promise we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us.

Also, thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys. Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week and I hope you will be too.