In case you missed past installments of this marketing allegory, Charlie Hatchet is the busy-beaver owner of Moosepicks, a company that makes toothpicks for moose. Back when Charlie’s new company was almost going under, marketing consultant Fred Squirrel helped him turn things around. With Fred’s help, Charlie found a target audience, created a company name and brand, and developed a unique product. Manufacturing is no sweat for Charlie, but he continues learning the ropes of marketing.
“Kits, how are things in the production department today?” Charlie Hatchet surveyed the stacks of Moosepicks ready to be moved onto storage racks in the warehouse. His kits were doing a great job. Each individual Moosepicks was smooth and straight with a perfect point; each one sported a small Moosepicks logo. The stacks stood straight and neat, not topsy-turvy like they would have been at one point, back when the kits were younger.
Some afternoons Charlie helped the kits with their work. On afternoons that he worked in the office, he made a habit of going back to the kits’ work area. His visit always boosted their morale, and it gave him an opportunity to check on their progress and address any issues.
But there were no issues on this Thursday. “We’ve almost met our quota for the week!” the kits told him. “If we finish tonight, can we have the day off tomorrow?” They were so excited about meeting their quota that they didn’t even stop working as they talked. That was unusual.
Charlie gave a grunt of surprise. The oldest kit went on. “It’s because of the new layout you came up with for this place. We are faster than we used to be.”
The second kit added, “Dad, you are a master of efficiency!”
Charlie grinned. His kits were usually respectful enough, but to receive a compliment from them at their age was unusual, and he treasured it.
“Well, thanks!” he said. After he gave them permission to be off, he wondered if the kits had been right about his knack for efficiency. I do like to get things running smoothly, he thought. They probably are right.
He re-entered the office with a smile and tried to bring his mind back to what he needed to be doing. A scheduled marketing review meeting with Fred Squirrel was coming up, so he knew he’d better look at the lead tracking forms he kept stuffed in a drawer.
But an hour later, Charlie was not so happy. His feeling of satisfaction had evaporated. “Eighty-four percent!” he snorted. “How efficient is that?” If that figure was anywhere near accurate, only sixteen percent of moose interested in Moosepicks actually bought!
He flipped to another piece of birch bark and looked at the ledger showing the acorns he had spent on advertising. What a waste! Why was he spending so much to acquire leads if most of them would never buy? He wondered what Fred Squirrel would say. Well, next week he would find out.
Charlie complains about “inefficient” marketing.
Fred Squirrel knew Charlie Hatchet pretty well by now and he could tell Charlie was disgruntled. He first picked up on it when he asked Charlie if the warehouse reorganization was complete. Fred knew that Charlie had been excited about the plan’s potential to increase output and efficiency. But Fred didn’t know that his innocent question would trigger a small outburst.
“Yes, we rearranged the layout of both the production area and the storage area,” Charlie said. “Turns out it’s even more efficient than I thought it would be. Last week the kits met their weekly production quota by Thursday evening. Can you believe it?”
Fred Squirrel nodded, but didn’t have a chance to congratulate his beaver friend because Charlie rushed on. “But I can tell you what is not efficient! My sales and marketing efforts! According to this, less than twenty percent of my potential customers actually decide to buy. Why is that?”
Though he was a bit taken aback at the force of Charlie’s question, Fred Squirrel gave a calm reply. “I don’t know if I can completely answer your question, but let’s talk through this.” He reminded Charlie about the calculations they had done earlier to figure their return on Charlie’s marketing investment.
“Those ROI calculations showed that we were not paying too much for each new customer you acquire. So even though you are concerned about this low conversion rate, at least your marketing acorns are still profitable. You aren’t wasting them.”
Charlie nodded, a little ashamed of the brusque way he had raised the issue. It felt good to know that maybe things weren’t as gloomy as he had first thought.
Fred Squirrel suggests asking questions.
Fred Squirrel continued. “Your marketing plan is clearly working, because you are getting plenty of leads. So let’s think how we could improve so more leads are converted into paying customers. Do you have any clues as to why so many moose who inquire about Moosepicks end up deciding not to buy?”
Charlie shrugged. “Maybe Moosepicks are too expensive for them?” It was a question, not an answer.
Fred Squirrel’s mental gears were whirring. “I think I know what we need to do next: research.”
Charlie put up his paw. “Wait! That sounds expensive. Can’t we do something cheap for once?”
Fred Squirrel’s tail twitched back and forth. He almost reminded Charlie that sometimes you get what you pay for, but then decided that wouldn’t be wise. Instead, he said, “All it takes is some of your time. Oh yes—and a little bit of courage to stick your neck out and ask some questions.”
“But research sounds complicated!” Charlie was still dubious.
“I know,” Fred said soothingly, “but this kind of research is simpler than you think. It is simply asking the right people the right questions. In your case, the right people are your leads who aren’t buying. And as for the right questions, let’s work on that right now.”
Charlie tries his paw at research.
The next afternoon found Charlie at the home of a moose who had asked for a Moosepicks brochure about one moon ago. The moose had never sent in an order and had never stopped by the warehouse to pick up a Moosepicks. As part of Charlie’s Fred-mandated research, he was here to find out why.
Charlie had always enjoyed relating to customers, but today seemed different. Instead of teacher mode, he was in student mode. He cleared his throat. “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
The mother moose said she didn’t mind. So Charlie cleared his throat again, glancing at the note on the piece of birch bark he held to remind him what to say. “You showed interest in Moosepicks earlier. Are you still in the market for a teeth-cleaning tool?”
“In the market?” the moose’s voice carried a question.
Charlie rushed to explain. “I mean, do you still need toothpicks?”
“Yes, I guess I do. At least, I have not bought any yet.”
“And may I ask why not?” This was the question Charlie had thought would be the hardest to ask. He forced it out, shifting his feet and looking at the ground while he waited for the answer.
“I did look at your brochure,” the moose said. “But then my mate’s sister’s brother-in-law’s uncle’s family dropped by for a few days to visit, and after that my calf got sick—I think our visitors must have given us the bug. With all that going on, I just forgot about it.”
Charlie relaxed. The moose didn’t have anything against him or his product. He didn’t need to take it personally. The busyness of life had just gotten in the way.
He suddenly had an idea. “Would you like if I would send my kits over here tomorrow with a few samples you could look at?” he asked. “If you like what you see, you could make a purchase without needing to make a special trip.”
The mother moose was pleased with Charlie’s suggestion, so he made a note to remind himself after he returned home.
Charlie’s research yields pleasing results.
That week Charlie contacted fifteen leads that had never bought Moosepicks. He followed the same pattern in each conversation. After identifying himself, he would ask permission to ask a few questions. If the moose was still in the market, Charlie asked what was keeping them from purchasing a Moosepicks. If the moose was no longer in the market, Charlie asked this question: “How did you satisfy your need for a toothpick?”
The answers were revealing. Some moose, like the first one he had talked to, had just never gotten around to making a purchase. Others had decided to purchase a toothpick from Porky Pine, usually for the lower price Porky offered. One moose had decided it wasn’t important to clean his teeth, and another one said he wanted to try to make his own toothpick.
What pleased Charlie the most was that two of the fifteen moose he “did his research on” ended up buying Moosepicks. The very act of following up with them seemed to be the nudge they needed to make a purchase.
Charlie delves into lead funnel management.
“Simply following up with leads seems to increase sales! Two of them actually bought after I talked to them!” Charlie shared this insight as he recounted his research project to Fred Squirrel.
Fred Squirrel was as excited as Charlie about the implications of this fact. “How can we zero in on that and make it work to our advantage?” Fred asked. “If you’re game for more recordkeeping, we can start tracking individual leads, and intentionally reaching out to them if they don’t make a purchase after a certain amount of time. That additional contact with your company might nudge them to become buyers.”
Fred and Charlie created a system for managing contacts with customers and potential customers. Charlie’s lead follow-up plan looked like this: If lead does not purchase after first contact with brand . . .
- Send a Moosepicks leaf-let two days after first inquiry.
- One week later, send kits to the prospect’s home with samples.
- Two weeks later, prospect receives a call from Charlie to answer any questions.
- Put prospects on monthly leaf-let mailing.
It took Charlie several months to get his follow-up plan in place and running smoothly. Like many of Fred Squirrel’s suggestions he had implemented, he chafed under the extra work it caused. But as time went on, he began to see the benefits.
One benefit was that the kits could help address and mail the leaf-lets. The kits also enjoyed getting out of the warehouse and doing the house calls with the samples. It gave them a welcome break from production work, and Charlie knew that the interaction with customers was good for them.
As Charlie’s system became more sophisticated, he began tracking the number of touches, or contacts, each prospect had with Moosepicks before they became an active customer. When he had a conversation with a potential customer, he wrote down a few notes in that moose’s file. This helped him keep follow-up calls friendly and personal. He learned that he got better results when he approached each prospect as a friend, and he always tried to get permission to follow-up with each prospect.
Charlie developed a repertoire of questions that worked well for him. He began teaching the kits to ask the questions, too. His favorite questions were:
- “What challenges are you having that you think Moosepicks might solve for you?”
- “If Moosepicks actually took care of that issue for you, what difference would that make?”
- “When do you feel would be the best time to make a decision about this?”
- “Could we pick out the style and size that you like best?”
Several months after developing his follow-up routine, Charlie once again settled on his office stump to review lead tracking forms. Instead of being frustrated, this time Charlie was elated. Lead conversions had increased to 24%!
Moral of the story
Not everyone who calls for information or visits your website will end up buying your product or service. But you can increase the number of leads who eventually convert to paying customers.
Begin with developing a system for following up on leads you collect. Even if leads are not interested in buying immediately, cultivate the relationship by offering value to them in some way.
Each contact they have with your brand should create a positive impression. Your goal is to build brand awareness and position your company as a caring expert. They should want to come to you for a solution when they encounter a problem you can solve for them.
Can you relate to Charlie Hatchet’s challenges? Rosewood Marketing is your Fred Squirrel for the real world. Would you like someone to walk alongside you to help solve your marketing challenges? Call 717-866-5000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.