Losing our shorts with one poor decision

In an earlier post I briefly talked about finishing up my formal education by attending a community college my junior and senior years. As I mentioned in the post, I got a job to help cover the cost associated with school. I dabbled in a few other things as well, specifically during my senior year.

Through a flurry of events (that I’ll have to cover in a later post), I ended up co-founding a mobile car detailing business with a fellow college buddy of mine. You can check out our page here.

The problem with detailing is, it’s a very seasonal business. What made it bad for us was that the off-season almost exactly follows the fall, winter, and spring quarters at college (the time when we needed the cash-flow the most!). The thing I attribute the eventual closing-up of the business to is a really poor marketing decision (as a result of terrible communication between my partner and I).

In November a coupon magazine showed up in our mailbox hosting ads for things like massage, restaurants, carpet cleaning, and real estate. There was a number to call about running an ad, so I gave a jingle just to see how much it would be. After a meeting, a drawn-out design process, and fessing up to my partner that I spent $500 on an ad campaign that would run for two months, we had this:


As I recall, I was pretty excited to see the next issue show up with our ad in it (this was back then I thought I had great taste in ad design *shudder*). Once it did, I waited by the phone. Two weeks after the magazine showed up, I got my first call. A week later, I got another. That was it. Needless to say, I was really bummed; especially after I did the math:

Marketing expense: $500

Revenue: $425

Total loss: $75

When you’re a small detailing business trying to survive the winter, taking a 15% loss on a campaign hurts. In fact, it triggers a closing-up-shop (at least, it did for us).

The three biggest things that I would do differently today are:

  • Have much, much better communication with my partner (that’s for another post)
  • Not make rash decisions to spend all of the business’s funds on an ad that I wasn’t sure would work
  • Spend more time crafting and telling a story rather than pushing my own agenda to try to make sales

The advertising industry itself is taking a dive. The internet destroys the barrier between me and all the other car detailers. It equalizes us with the click of a button, until the only thing we have left to fight over is price. As a result, we race to the bottom.

That is, unless we take the time to associate meaning with that which offer.

Have a story of marketing success or failure? Comment below or zip an email!


2 thoughts on “Losing our shorts with one poor decision

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