An American Dream – The $2400 question

Episode 8:

(Forgot where we left off? Re-read Episode 7)

“So, what do you think?” Marcus asked Allan as they closed up a pop-out display at the end of the day. “Are you going to come work with us?”

“You should,” Tony added. “We could definitely use the help and you’re a fun guy.”

A truck drove past, drowning out Allan’s answer from where Bob was listening. He didn’t have to wait long though. Allen said goodbye to Tony and Marcus and came looking for him.

“How was the trial day?” Bob asked. Allan hadn’t been sure about leaving RV Superstore for the smaller outfit at Robby’s RVs. They’d settled on a test run during one of Allan’s days off from the other lot.

The look on Allan’s face said everything. “It was great! The inventory is mostly the same, which is easy, and Tony and Marcus—I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun.”

“They’re good guys,” Bob agreed.

“At Superstore, it’s all about the numbers. Everyone is your competition, and you don’t help your competition. But today we were all working like a team, working toward the same goal. I don’t want to go back to the other way.”

“Then don’t,” Bob told him. “I’ll put you on the schedule tomorrow if you’re ready to cut the Superstore loose.”

Allan paused for a moment, thinking, but they both knew what he was going to decide. When he nodded, Bob shook his hand and Marcus and Tony let out cheers from where they’d been watching.

“Now that you’re an official member of the team, we have to celebrate with a beer!” Tony announced.

“And you have to tell me that trick for getting people to offer you their email so you don’t have to ask for it,” Marcus added.

Allan looked over at Bob. “You coming?”

Bob wanted to say yes—a beer out with his guys after a good day sounded great—but his phone chimed a 10-minute reminder. “I can’t. I’ve got a meeting with Ken Mahar.”

“The email guy?” Marcus asked. “Do you need me to stay?”

“Nah, it’s all right. Go have a beer.” They were just going over a proposal, nothing official yet.

Bob had been feeling like pretty hot shit over his email success, with a plan to keep doing it on his own, but then he’d gotten an email from Ken that hit a little too close to home.

Did you put your email marketing in the hands of whoever was available, regardless of whether they’re an expert?

Are the emails you’re sending based on a long-term strategy, or hip-fired because of an immediate need?

Are you analyzing your results after you send, or making the same mistakes over and over without even realizing it?

They were guilty of all of those things. Marcus was the most enthusiastic about marketing, but he was by no means an expert. Bob still hadn’t even figured out the compensation for his extra role.

But Mahar seemed to think Bob’s struggles were common and easily fixable. So far, he hadn’t steered Bob wrong. Yes, it was costing him a thousand dollars to see what that fix looked like—but if he didn’t like what the guy had to say, he’d get it back. He’d heard worse offers in his life.

Bob shut off the lot sign and closed himself into his office. At his computer, he clicked his way through some links (he was getting pretty good at this stuff!) and ended up sitting face-to-face with Ken across the computer screens.

“Hey, Ken. Thanks for agreeing to do this so late.”

“I know you’re a busy guy,” Mahar answered. “That’s why I think we can help. You and your team need to be on the lot, selling RVs—not messing with emails.”

Mahar laid out his plan for Robby’s RVs. The first thing they would do is create a killer follow-up series for the sales team, so whenever they collected an email address, the customer would get three perfectly crafted messages to help him overcome the most common hesitations to buying—all without the guys having to do anything beyond entering the email once. For anyone who bought an RV, they’d do a 60-day follow-up requesting a review to keep Bob’s Yelp and Google Plus pages up-to-date and help compete with RV Superstore.

For everyone else, they’d do a monthly message highlighting new model features, and a quarterly message that dug in on fun things to do with your RV, great places to go, tips on how and where to park it, and anything else that helped customers get the most out of their RV experience.

“And lastly,” Ken said. “Your sales guys won’t be the only ones collecting email.”

Mahar’s screen changed to a copy of the Robby’s RV website, and a Winnebago Grand Tour rolled onto the screen. Find Your Escape, it said, with a place to add your name and email address.

“You can do that with my website?

“We can,” Ken promised. “We’ll also add a form to your facebook page, to convert followers into email list members.”

It sounded amazing. And even more so, Mahar seemed to think it could all be done with one 20-minute call a month. Even Bob had time for that. “So how much is this going to cost me?”

The screen changed and, for a minute, Bob thought he had hallucinated. “Twenty-four hundred dollars…every month? And you want me to sign a contract?”

“If we sell even one more RV a month for you, it will have paid for itself five times over. I think we can do a lot better than that. But you tell me, Bob. If every phone call, every up, and every web contact got three great emails from you encouraging them to take the next step, would that increase your traffic? And if every customer you’ve ever sold to or will ever sell to is getting helpful emails about how to enjoy themselves out on the road, do you think they’ll sing your praises and tell their friends to come see you?” Damn. How could Bob argue with that?

But every single month. There were few things in life Bob hated more than adding monthly overhead.

“What if we work out a price for all that automatic stuff you talked about and I just pay you once?” he asked. “We could handle the rest.”

Ken laughed. “I think you’re already figuring out that what we do today isn’t necessarily going to keep working six months or a year from now. The monthly amount allows my team to continuously improve our strategy—to make sure your campaign keeps performing.”

He wasn’t wrong, but it didn’t stop a feeling very similar to heartburn from creeping up in Bob’s chest. “Can I think on it?”

“Of course. It’s a serious business commitment. I wouldn’t want you to sign-off without thinking it through. Let’s get on a call again in three days. Same time?”

Bob agreed and they ended the call. When he’d closed up the office and climbed into his truck, he was at war with himself. He wanted everything Mahar had shown him. He wanted it badly. He could already see it working, see the way it would up the professionalism for Robby’s RV and help them stand toe-to-toe with places like RV Superstore.

But damn if the cost hadn’t come in higher than he was hoping. Bob had always prided himself on keeping overhead low, including marketing expenses—but that obviously wasn’t working out for him. He needed to do something, and he couldn’t think of anything smarter than communicating with people he already knew or who had stopped by the lot with an interest in owning an RV.

When Bob pulled into the garage, Angie was waiting for him.

“How did it go?” she asked.

“The day, Allan’s trial, or the email meeting?”

“All of it. Tell me all of it,” she answered, handing Bob a cold beer.

So he did. When he showed her the proposal from Ken, her eyes got wide. He could see her wheels turning.

“It’s a lot of money to be sending out every month,” he said.

Angie rubbed at her bottom lip the way she did when thinking through things. “He’s not wrong though. To pay for the year, you’d only need to get two or three sales from it. After that, it’s all profit.”

“Still. Do I really want to spend 30 grand over the next year on something Marcus could probably do all right at for next to nothing?”

“So he has a whole team of experts that will work on your campaign?” Angie asked.

“Yeah, and Ken dictates the strategy. He’s a damn good salesperson—turns out he actually sold cars before this email thing. He was the National Walkaround Champion for Honda, so he gets it.”

Angie looked suitably impressed. “And you think Marcus can live up to all that? I don’t know what it would cost to hire all those people, but that sounds like a pretty fair deal to me. Especially if you only need to sell one extra RV to pay for it.”

They both knew she was right. Angie put her hand over his. “I don’t think the real question is, do you want to spend the money? I think it’s…can you afford not to?”

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