One of my biggest problems with Snip throughout its whole existence starting in January 2011 has been that it’s been a “side” thing and I haven’t been able to put much time toward it.
In addition to the fact that I have to earn an income somehow, I have two young kids and a wife who all need attention. There’s not really a whole heck of a lot of discretionary time I home when I can justify sneaking off to the computer for some Snip work. I’ve tried it and the inevitable result is frustration for everyone.
Being self-employed, which I have been since October 2013 (and previously from June 2011 to January 2013), allows me to have more choice over how I spend my time. If I want to take a whole Tuesday off and just go prospecting for a day, there’s nobody to tell me I’m in trouble.
On the flip side, it’s also up to me not to get off balance with Snip, which is not currently earning me any meaningful profit. There’s also the challenge of earning enough money with my consulting, period. Even if I were to put 50 hours a week into my Ben Franklin Labs, my consulting business, that’s no guarantee of prosperity. And if BFL is sucking, that affects Snip. If my business is so fragile that the unexpected early end of a client engagement represents a financial emergency, then the bloodflow to Snip gets cut off entirely, which is of course a failure of the system. So the stronger and steadier and more reliable I can make BFL, the more time I can comfortably spend on Snip. The better BFL is doing, the better Snip can do.
Lately I’ve been doing better with BFL. I’ve been charging more and more, I’ve gotten smarter about managing my time, and I’ve been learning more and more about how to market myself effectively. I feel like I’m finally hitting my stride.
Business Cards and Branding
I have business cards for BFL but I’ve never had business cards for Snip. Part of the reason is that I, perhaps incorrectly, haven’t believed business cards would have been very helpful. I also guess I haven’t wanted to be one of those fuckin dummies who starts a “business” and goes out and has business cards, brochures, etc. made up before they even have a single customer or anything. And another part of the reason is that I didn’t want to have shitty business cards that didn’t match the look and feel of the marketing site or application itself, which currently don’t even match each other.
So in a move that’s probably overdue, I’ve finally decided business cards wouldn’t be premature. I reached out the other day to my (fucking awesome) designer who did my BFL cards and told her I’d like to have business cards made for Snip.
But since I don’t want all my Snip communications to have an awkward, disjointed look and feel, I think it probably makes sense to do some at least really minimal branding before I have the cards made. At least a common color for everything or something like that. Maybe a simple logo.
So that will be exciting to have business cards for Snip. I might go out and do some more canvassing just to have an excuse to give out some of my cards.
Free Guide as Lead Gen Tool
A long time ago on the I Love Marketing podcast I heard marketer and former carpet cleaner Joe Polish talk about a “consumer awareness guide” he had put together in the ’90s to help consumers not get ripped off by unethical carpet cleaners. My understanding is that the guide contained an invitation to call a free recorded message, which included an invitation for a “carpet audit,” which included an offer for a free room of carpet cleaning, at which point the prospect was finally offered the actual service of cleaning all their carpet.
I decided to copy Joe’s idea and put together a guide called something like “5 Costly Mistakes Salon Owners Make When Choosing Salon Software – And How To Avoid Them.” The idea has been ruminating in my mind for several months but there were certain prerequisites blocking from execution. Mainly, my marketing site used to be in Rails instead of WordPress and I didn’t want to invest anything more into my Rails site because I would just have to duplicate that work later after I switched.
Well, as of this Monday there were finally no blockers in place of me getting my guide out there anymore, or maybe I just decided to stop being a pussy and get the guide out no matter what. So I put up one of those things on the Snip site where there’s a bar at the top. It says, “Warning: Don’t Make These 5 Common Salon Software Mistakes” and then there’s a button that says “Get Your Free Guide.” In exchange for your first name and email address, you can have the guide sent to you.
The hilarious thing is that I “lazy loaded” my guide. (Lazy loading is a programming concept.) What I mean is that I offered the guide for download on my site, but the guide’s not actually done yet. Nothing happens if you request the guide. I told somebody about this who said, “What, in case nobody ever downloads it?” It was more like I wanted to remove any possible excuse for not getting the thing out there. My plan was that if someone requested the guide, I would write the rest of the guide real quick and get it to them.
Well, yesterday evening someone requested the guide. So, “Yay!” Also, “Shit!” because now I have to write the guide real quick and get it to the guy. What’s kind of funny is that I developed the guide thing as a lead generation tool, but the same guy who requested the guide first called me, and then later he signed up for a free trial and requested the guide. So he was already in the funnel by the time he requested the guide. Still, I’m glad he did because I think the guide will help get him engaged and help move him onto the next steps in the funnel.
Another thing I did in the last week or so was to start a referral program. I think I got this idea from something in my GKIC membership. First I went to all my users (among my 6 salons there are like 60-70 users) and asked for their birthdates. To incentivize them I offered a drawing for a $50 gift card. Now that I have their birthdates, my plan is to send birthday greetings to everyone for whom I have a birthdate, and remind each person that if they refer me a new customer, I’ll buy them a certain $500 pair of shears. (This, according to a few of my users, would be a highly desirable gift.) So hopefully that proves to be effective. It’s obviously a longer-term kind of thing.
I’m getting closer to my direct mail campaign for Snip. For some reason I had fewer apprehensions about the idea of first doing a direct mail campaign for BFL, so I’m doing that first. Getting customers via direct mail with Snip somehow seems too good to be true, but for BFL it for some reason feels totally natural. I know that’s not necessarily logical but whatever.
For BFL I bought a list of about 1,100 businesses across the US. I’m sending them a sales letter in which I invite the prospect to email me or call me. A more sophisticated funnel would of course be possible here, as would better targeting, but if I wait until I have all that stuff in place I’ll just never fucking do it. So hopefully this mail campaign will get me at least one new client. It looks like the mailing will cost about 1,000 bucks.
Unless something terrible happens with this first BFL mailing that tells me I should never try direct mail again, I plan to do subsequent mailings to the same list. Then, after that, I plan to do some mailings to salons.
I’m not sure what my offer will be to salons. Suggestions welcome. For starters I might just offer my free guide, either through mail or by signing up to get it via email.