Personal relationships with my customers turned my startup around and led to our selling the business in 2017.
It’s August 2016 and I’m a nervous wreck.
I haven’t slept more than two hours in weeks. I’m waking up in cold sweats and panic every night.
I’m not eating much. Food has lost its taste.
What’s happened? Two months ago I took what I called a “calculated risk” and “invested” $500,000 on Facebook advertising to acquire leads for my direct-to-consumer tux rental startup called Menguin.
In 2015, I spent $30k on Facebook ads–for the entire year. Calculated risk.
Except. I have a problem. These leads I’m now sitting on–tens of thousands of them, the Glengarry leads that were going to take me to the promised land of insane growth and riches– aren’t moving. They won’t go past unqualified leads.
Months of studying my cohorts, years of conversion rate optimization, A/B testing every single thing across the funnel and I’m left with leads that on the surface look identical to my target audience and customer base–they’re perfect–but with one crucial difference.
They’re not engaging. They’re not clicking on my emails (and let me tell you what – I have awesome emails. They’re so beautifully designed and I’ve A/B tested the crap out of my subject lines – 20% open rates!!!) – they’re not going back to my site or clicking on the insane amount of retargeting ads I’m showing them all over the web. They’re not buying my goods.
The leads won’t close.
I’m spending whole days trying to console nervous investors, teammates and most of all myself that the promised land is within sight – they’re going to close – the funnel is air tight – we’ve perfected it over the years. We’re finally on our way. The rocket ship is taking off – space here we come.
Only, it’s not. The rocket ship is still at the station – waiting. The half-life on these leads is accelerating daily. Tick. Tock.
As I grow more delirious by the day in my sleep-deprived state – a strange idea crosses my mind.
“If I could personally talk to all these leads – if I could tell them why we’re better – how we can help them – build a connection with them – I can close them. I know it.”
It’s a ridiculous thought. Not scalable in any way. But I’m desperate. And my beautifully designed marketing emails aren’t working.
So I take out my phone. It’s Wednesday morning in October. And I start texting these leads – that once promised me so many riches. It’s a Hail Mary. I’m texting leads. In 2016. Telling them I’m their personal assistant. Here to help them with their needs. Whatever they want, I can do, I tell them. All from my personal cell phone.
And something crazy happens. They respond back. 70% of them to be exact. Within 2 hours. Asking questions. Asking for my input. Asking me why I work at Menguin. Connecting on a human level. And I respond back. If I can text personally with all these leads -I can close them. I know it.
Four weeks later this cohort of 162 people is my best converting cohort. I’ve closed almost 50% of them. Each one representing big revenue. I go to Walmart and buy 34 “burner cell phones.” I give them to our entire call center team. We text more leads. They all respond. My previous conversion numbers hold. It’s “not scalable” scale. I sleep for the first time in months.
The rocket ship is *finally* taking off.
People really like connecting with us 1 to 1 via text. We’re hitting on all their pain points. And solving them. By telling them directly – when they ask how we can help them. They’re not leads anymore. And more than customers. They’re almost like friends. They trust us.
Except. They trust us a lot. We grow too fast. We *almost* run out of inventory. A few months later I sell the business to the founder of Men’s Wearhouse when he sees the insane growth. Calculated risk.
I tell you all of the above to illustrate one, very basic, but very often-missed point in this digital marketing world filled with obsessions over impressions and click optimizations and relevancy scores.
You have to talk to your customers. Like for real. Directly. You have to build relationships with them. Where they live and want to connect. You have to build trust with them. Not spammy emails or gimmicky growth hacks.
Real. Conversations. Back and forth.
For me and my brand this was text. It inspired me to build the best platform (Voxie) to help other brands selling to Gen X, Millenials and Gen Z to do the same via text and other mobile messaging apps.
“But Bogdan–how can I do this at scale? I have so many leads – Menguin was small!”
That’s literally why I left after selling Menguin to build Voxie and solve that scale problem. What I found working with top tier brands was that there was a real lack of 1:1 conversations (note back and forth between two parties) occurring.
That’s literally why we created Voxie. We help you have those 1:1 personalized conversations–at scale–using AI and behavioral automations. We can scale your human touches to build real relationships that drive revenue but more importantly–build life-time value.
So for goodness sake – talk to your customers where they live and most importantly, when they talk back (and if you do it right they will), listen.
Want me to tell you more? Let’s connect!