Q: “If you’re so confident in your ability to drive sales will you work on a commission-only contract?”
A: “If we agree a sales commission of XX%, then yes.”
In the early summer of 2013 I uncovered an interesting opportunity: a commission-only contract to build an online brand and drive sales using social media. The property in question was making a late transition from a traditional hard-copy voucher-based publication to online. It was a classic inbound marketing challenge.
I weighed up the risk and reward. On the plus side the commission was very healthy, I liked the service concept, and I was excited by the challenge of proving my worth.
In the negative column there were problems with the website where design, messaging and usability were all poor. I was promised my input would include specifying the resolution of these issues.
Put in the work and they will come
All marketing consultants and agencies know that there is often a period of heavy lifting at the start of a project. My calculation was that, after a big initial investment of time and energy on my part, a good monthly revenue stream would develop over three to six months. With the goal of getting to revenue as fast as possible I went at it hammer-and-tongs.
Alongside the production of content and the grinding work of building an online presence where there was none, I made clear recommendations for changes to the client’s website. We needed:
- Action-driven landing pages
- A clearer customer journey
- Less clutter and more space.
The developer worked in the States, wasn’t easy to get hold of, and I became increasingly worried at the lack of re-design progress.
Meanwhile my hard-won traffic to the site was converting at a pitiful rate and, worse still, I wasn’t making any money. I was reassured (again) about the design changes.
Finally, a single landing page was delivered for a specific promotion and — guess what — converted 800 new users in two weeks.
Another month passed. Every day I checked referral traffic from my activity and resulting sales (trackable through cookies). Conversion rates broke my heart. My pleas for site changes become more frequent and impassioned.
After eight weeks I had delivered 13,000 unique hits to pages across the site (see graphic above). But after pouring so much energy into the project for such a low financial return it was crunch time for me. The project was seriously affecting my focus, draining my time. My other clients were suffering.
I opted out.
Looking back, my error of judgement is obvious, and I am still kicking myself. I was in charge of customer acquisition but had no control over conversion. With these two processes mis-aligned customers were bound to be disappointed (and my fat commission cheque would never materialise.)