I was an idiot.

Three years into my commercial cleaning franchise, I was feeling pretty cocky. My first two years were spent struggling and believing everything the yellow page salespeople would tell me. Things like- “Hey you need to spend more money on a bigger ad, hey, you need to have patience and give our “program” time to work, hey, it’s important to get your name out there).. and other such lies. Year three was different. I kicked the yellow page guy out of my office the year before. It was 2003, Google Adwords was beginning to take shape and I was succeeding with targeted direct mail and email campaigns.

I now had built systems that targeted my ideal prospects and I tested everything so I knew what was making money and what didn’t make money. My sales were increasing and my profit margin was up 30%. Yes sir, I was too smart to be pushed around by large advertising companies. Or at least I thought so, until one bright morning in 2003. It was about 9:30 am on a Monday, all of my crews were out and I was catching up on some paperwork from the prior weekend. There was a knock on my office door. When I opened the door I was greeted by a young lady who could have been mistaken for an international fashion model.

She apologized for not having an appointment and mentioned she was representing a new direct mail magazine that was a fraction of the cost of Reach Magazine. The young lady now had my attention and not just because of her appearance. Reach Magazine was (and still is) a very effective local coupon product that I was considering using, but it tended to be pricey. She showed me her competitive product which targeted the same local zip codes at 60% less! Instead of paying $1000 for a large ad, I would only pay $400! And she had a sample of the magazine for me to review. In addition she had shown me 5 other local businesses which signed up, including a huge landscaping firm.

I personally knew most of these guys. Well, if these business owners were on board- count me in! She mentioned there could be only one business of my category so if I was interested I needed to write a check for the entire amount now and she would get a proof ready for me in 6 days. I handed the young lady a check for $400 and that was the last I ever heard from her. That’s right.. there was never a magazine, no new company, no nothing. And I didn’t even have a fake bottle of snake oil to show for it. Yes, my check was cashed at a counter of my bank the next day. I had a local detective check this out. Turns out there was a con artist who hired this girl and then left town. The local detective said the guy stung 10 other local businesses, and then disappeared. I felt like an idiot.

What can YOU learn from this story? Never trust middlemen, or salespeople when you are working on your marketing stuff. Always go directly to the source. Work with owners like me, or with team members of an established agency like mine ONLY after you have vetted them out.

Yes I’m embarrased.

Scott

 


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