At the beginning of June, my brother Dan and I made our annual pilgrimage deep into Northern Canada for a fishing trip to Lake Esnagi to fish for northern pike and walleye. Normally, after spending a day driving from Michigan's Lower Peninsula up into Canada, we typically catch a float plane and fly in. However, this time, due to the weather forecast for the next day, we decided to use the only other method of getting there, so we took a train that dropped us off at the southern end of the lake where we were picked up by a boat and taken to the lodge. This year, we were trying a different lodge than we had in the past.
Now, before you get the idea that my brother Dan and I are die-hard fishermen complete with the funny vests and 'lure-infested' hats… let's just say that packing was easier this year because the poles were still in their travel case from our last trip last June. But, hey, if you're only going to fish once a year, you might as well do it right. Besides, if I was going to be spending six days isolated with my brother/business-partner in a car, small boat, and cabin … it seemed to make a lot of sense to go someplace where there wouldn't be a lot of witnesses if he got on my nerves.
Although the weather was overcast with rain on and off, when we got settled into the lodge, we were able to get out that day and land a few pike as well as one small walleye. However, a lot of our time was spent getting to know our way around the southern end of the lake. On our previous trips, we had just fished the middle and northern end of the lake. You see, Lake Esnagi is over 26 miles long and up to five miles wide in some areas with islands, bays and cliffs everywhere. Even as big as it is, it is still virtually isolated since you can't get to it by car.
That night at the dock, we sat and listened to the real ‘die-hard’ fishermen who had gone further north and said the fishing was amazing
and they had brought in their limit. What they failed to mention was that they also had enough state-of-the-art fish-finding sonar gear on board their boat to make an aircraft carrier jealous. But, just like a dog seeing a squirrel, or a contractor that reads a new marketing article, we knew without a doubt that all the fish were to be had only on the north end of the lake, and that we were missing the boat by not doing what we saw our competitors doing. So, without seeking any advice—or a good weather forecast—we decided to direct our little 20 HP Mercury outboard motor north the next day. A paltry 26-mile, hour-and-a-half trip in an open boat was not going to stop us from getting all the fish we knew we were missing.
Like a contractor committing to personally write a weekly blog, we would soon realize that the path to hell is still being paved with good intentions. And… did I mention that we never really checked the weather forecast?
It was crisp 54 degrees as we pulled away from the dock under overcast skies the next morning. We took off with high hopes, and a stiff wind at our backs. As any sailor will tell you, a “stiff” wind at your back is a good thing, as long as you don’t have to get back in a hurry. Unfortunately, the only thing I know less about than fishing—is sailing, so we merrily headed north, “blissfully” bouncing over the small ‘white capped waves’ that were forming on the lake. At this point, you probably have a small inkling about what’s coming—which just goes to show that you’re definitely smarter than I am. It also illustrates that, many times, the worst perspective on a new endeavor is typically our own. Just like all those ‘too-good-to-be-true’ marketing pitches we get caught up in, all I was looking at was the promise of all the fish waiting for me at the other end of the lake.
When we finally did get to the other end of the lake, the wind had picked up even more. The nice thing about traveling with the wind at your back is that you’re moving in the same direction that the waves are, so you slice into them cleanly with the bow of the boat and the wind blows the spray to the side.
However, when I turned to try to locate the fishing spot we were hunting, the wind was now blowing sideways to us. Every time the bow crashed into one of the waves that the wind had kicked up, it blew spray right into the boat with us. On a warm 80-degree day this would have been okay but, at 54 degrees, getting soaked with lake water that had been ice just a month earlier was just plain cold and miserable. To top it off, dark clouds blew in above us and it started to rain.
I have to say that being cold and wet in an open boat, on a tossing lake, in the middle of a rain storm, is one of those experiences that ranks right up there with doing a day-long attic install in the middle of August. After wasting a good part of the morning getting there, we turned around and headed back to the lodge—cold, wet, and fishless.
To add insult to injury, it took us longer to get back since we now were running into the wind as well as getting soaked every time we hit a wave.
Cold, humbled, and realizing that we had just blown one quarter of our fishing time chasing what we were sure was a great plan, the next day we did the unthinkable—we asked one of the guys at the dock his opinion. Go figure. How crazy is that to ask the people involved with the service for which we were paying for their opinion before making a plan? His answer, was to simply point about 100 yards across the bay to a spot on the other shore, and say we might want to try there. After the previous day, the idea of fishing within sight of the warm lodge did have a certain appeal to it—so that’s what we did. During the next two hours we had a ball. We totally took our limit on big Walleye. It was such good fishing, we had to take a break and motor all 100 yards back to the dock to turn in some fish because our stringer was getting too heavy.
So, why am I confessing how dumb of a fisherman I am in our newsletter? Simply because I was reminded of it yesterday when I had a call from a customer. Thinking back on my fishing experience made understanding how he got into what he did a lot easier. I have had this customer for quite a few years now. His website is doing well and he is on top of all the searches in his immediate area. He called me almost embarrassed because during his typical slow time at the beginning of the year, he had gotten caught up with one of our higher priced competitors and, before he knew it, he was contracted with them to do a new website for him. They had convinced him that they knew where all the “fish” were, and they could help him get all he ever wanted. Even though the cost for their service was about $2,000 more a month than what he was paying us, he was talked into giving them a try for a year.
He wishes now that he had talked to us and gotten our input but, just like me on Lake Esnagi, he was focused on the promise of a lot of “fish” and didn’t stop to talk to the “dock-hand” before he set out on his quest. The company he contracted with spent almost four months developing him a new website they told him would be absolutely fantastic. However, when he finally saw it, he was disappointed because he felt the site he had with us was better. The sad part of the story is that once the season hit, he realized that his current site with us is back delivering leads and doing everything he could ever want it to do. He has too much work now to even take on more business, without having switched to his new site yet. However, because he and his company have a lot of integrity, he plans to fulfill the remaining 8-months of the contract he signed. He called to tell me of his predicament, and wanted to know how best to handle it so he can come back to us when his contract ends.
Even though I wished he had called me before he signed, I told him that coming back to us is not a problem. In fact, we have had 13 companies in the last 12-months come back after leaving us to pursue promises from other companies of being able to catch more “fish” for them.
You see, the problem with paying an additional $2,000 a month, or $24,000 a year, for your website is that the math really doesn’t work to justify the added cost. To spend an additional $24,000 on web marketing, if you don’t cut back drastically elsewhere or increase your business enough to cover it, the money comes right out of your bottom line. For example, a contractor making a 10% net with 25% fixed overhead costs, in order to recoup an additional $24K in marketing costs, he has to generate an additional $180,000 in sales just to cover his cost before he makes a dime of additional profit.
(Additional Marketing Cost / % Profit) x (1- % fixed costs) =
Break Even Sales Required
($24,000 / 10%) x (1 – 25%) = $180,000
Hitting an additional $180 K in annual sales (from a website that is already working well) just to make the same profit number you are already at without making a dime more, is a tough equation to justify. It’s one that all the companies who have moved to us from our $3,000/month competitors realized that they couldn’t. That’s why our services have always been focused on ROI, not the gimmick of the month.
If there is anything to take away from my story, I hope it is the understanding that I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it when clients call with questions or concerns. That’s what we’re here for. We’re in your corner and our goal is to give you the best ROI in the industry. If you have a question about something you read or were told, call us and get our take on it. Because there are a lot of empty promises floating around out there, we may not give you the answers you want to hear. But, it will be the truth—and isn’t that what really matters? Until next month.
God bless and have a great summer!
UPDATE: In March 2017 I'm happy to announce that the client in the story above just came back to us. You gotta love a happy ending!