John Haslam’s workdays are probably half as short as they were before he joined Digital Lighthouse 15 months ago but now they’re twice as profitable.
“Last year, I set myself a target to double my profits, and I did. I doubled my profits and I’d not done that in all the years I’ve been in business,” reports John, the owner of two companies, Jeves Magazine and Leaflet Distribution and home cleaning franchise Molly Maid. “This year, I want to put another 50% onto that. From where I was when I joined Digital Lighthouse, it will be a 300% increase if I achieve that this year. In fact, I’d already done a quarter of that in the first month of this year because of renegotiating my contracts with my current clients.
“You look and think that it’s impossible to double your business in this current climate, and yet I did it. It’s all about having the tools to make things happen and having the time to think about my business – I now spend all my days doing marketing. That’s all I do.”
It’s a far cry from when he attended his first Digital Lighthouse event. Back then he was “working 18 hours a day, six days a week and collapsing on Sundays”. Worse, he had almost no cash flow because he was too preoccupied with networking, delivering his product and taking phone calls to send out and chase up invoices. He had no time left to follow up the leads he received from networking events or to use the marketing techniques he’d found to be successful in the past.
“I was chasing my tail because I wasn’t getting the bills out fast enough,” admits John. He knew he needed to change the way he was doing things but didn’t know how. When he heard about “The Marketing Secrets of a Multi-Millionaire Entrepreneur” written by Digital Lighthouse’s Founder Jonathan Jay, he immediately ordered a copy. Inspired by what he read, he ordered Digital Lighthouse’s marketing CDs and DVDs and then attended an introductory Business Building weekend.
A few months later, in December 2009, he joined Digital Lighthouse’s Business Development Programme. “I went to the first meeting presented by Digital Lighthouse’s PR Expert Paul Green. We spent the first couple of hours describing our businesses and where we wanted them to go.”
No one in the room that day could believe that John could manage to run two full-time businesses on his own as he had been trying to do for more than 10 years. “Paul asked me how I’d done it. And the answer was ‘Very badly.’
“Paul said ‘You can carry on the way are, basically stressed up to your eyeballs and working 18 hours a day, but if you want to build your businesses, you must change the way you’re doing things.’”
He committed to making three major changes immediately: to systemise and outsource his business procedures; to get an administrative assistant; and to move out of his home office and into a rented office.
“I stopped getting any direct phone calls and that saved me about 16 hours a week. I employed someone to take care of all the paperwork for both businesses – all the billing, the admin – and that freed up another 10 to 12 hours a week of my time.”
No longer exhausted, he could begin working on the business instead of in it.
Moving into a rented office also helped boost his productivity, he says. “I’d worked from home for nearly 15 years so it felt quite strange. Leaving the house to go to work completely alters your brain.”
Once he made those changes, the orders rose and the profits followed.
“It was as if somebody just turned a tap on,” admits John. He had to take on four new full-time staff because he was swamped with work.
At his second Business Development Programme meeting, John was advised to reintroduce all the successful marketing methods he’d used in the past.
“I used to do a lot of cold calls to premises and send out 100 ‘cold call’ letters a week to businesses, offering my services, and it had worked very well but I stopped because I found it was taking up so much of my time, and I found networking to be easier.
“I now know that I made a major mistake in stopping what was successful.”
He’s gone back to sending 100 sales letters out each week (using the direct response techniques he learnt from Digital Lighthouse) and introduced an automated follow-up process. The difference is that instead of John spending five hours a week typing letters and addressing the envelopes, he now has an administrative assistant to do it for him.
“My assistant isn’t allowed to leave the office until she’s done 100 cold call letters every single week because it brings me new, different clients that I can’t get any other way.”
He also discovered a way to make his networking more effective.
“In the past, I was going to networking events, getting a lot of leads and interest but didn’t have time to follow up. Now, networking is becoming more profitable because I follow the leads through.”
The Digital Lighthouse technique that had the most impact however is niche marketing. “That has been the biggest success of the whole lot. I pick just one industry, think of a reason why I should write to them and then give them an offer they’ll find hard to turn down.
“I sent my first letter to about 56 health clubs and gyms in the Northampton area. I picked up six new clients as a result. The whole exercise took about half an hour, cost £56, and I made £1,000 profit.
“That encouraged me… so I then did the next one to another niche market, and it cost £30 and made £700 profit.”
“The next stage was following everything up properly because I hadn’t been doing that. As things started to turn around, my confidence grew – I wasn’t a bad salesperson before but when you’re totally confident in your product, you go in knowing you’re going to get the deal.”
He also created two brochures to promote his products and services, using the copywriting techniques he’d learnt from Digital Lighthouse. “Both brochures cost me a total of £100 in print costs. I designed them myself and I send one of them out with my invoices. About 98% of them get thrown in the bin. But I get phone calls back from my current clients, and they say, ‘I’ve just noticed you do so and so.’ I might have told them 20 times, but they don’t listen. When they get the brochure however, it reminds them.”
Another big change was to set up a website to promote Jeves Magazine and Leaflet Distribution.
“At last I have a website. It’s not perfect but it’s working, and I’m already picking up business from it. Within a week of going live, we got three new clients. I was shocked. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe it could work, but I’d run my business for many years without a website.
“I thought it would probably bring me some enquiries eventually. When it went live, I looked at it and thought, ‘It’s not how I want it. It’s not doing everything I was told to do at Digital Lighthouse – there’s spelling mistakes and errors on it and there’s all sorts of bits I don’t like’,’ but I couldn’t carry on any longer without a website. We had to start somewhere so we got this thing up, and it is bringing in enquiries. I’ve now started work on a Pay Per Click campaign, and I had a special report that I’m going to offer. I’m going to start writing a blog, do special offers and create a newsletter too. I want to get that to start to pay because it’s obviously a quick and easy way to get to market.
After making those big changes and boosting his profits, John has now begun to focus on other ways to improve his business. “I’ve done the big stuff – I’ve reorganised what I do, I’ve got the office, I’ve got the assistant and the website, and now I’ve got the time to use all the techniques that I’ve haven’t yet done. My project for the next couple of months is to get my website tidied up and to get my online marketing and email marketing working.”
“Because I wanted to grow the business rapidly last year, I chose those marketing tactics which were going to give me the quickest results. With a little of luck and a bit of concentration I managed to build it up without having to do lots of things. This year, I’m going to continue using the methods I used last year but start adding all the other marketing techniques I’ve learnt.
“The speaker at the last Digital Lighthouse event gave us a one-page marketing plan…and it hit home straight away. I went back to my hotel that night and drew up my one page plan, and we’ve been working through it since I came back. I have a list of 21 marketing tactics that I want to use this year, and i plan to introduce one each week and test the results.
“If it doesn’t cost me very much to try, and it brings me one extra client a year, then it’s worth it. If I do that with 21 different things then that’s 21 new clients.”
He’s set up a joint venture with a print company and is now selling their services too. “I’m also working with another joint venture company on an email marketing system which again I’m starting to use myself and offering it as part of my marketing package.
“This week, I’ve just set up a referral system. Yesterday I spent three hours sitting with the owner of a leaflet and distribution company in Milton Keynes. He’s got a system I want. We’ve agreed at the meeting that he’s going to license his system to me and in return, I’m going to give him some information that I have – I’m going to promote his print company for him – I’ll be one of his affiliates, if you like. These are the things you’re able to do when suddenly you’ve got loads of time.
“Joining Digital Lighthouse was the best thing I’ve ever done, and I wish it had been available many years ago. From my point of view, it’s been a massive success. But it ain’t going to happen if you don’t put the work in. I’ve been on many, many courses where I’ve listened and never used what I learnt because it didn’t click. That’s the big difference –I made the decision back in December 2009 that whatever I was taught I was going to make it work, and I did. I took action.”