About Tom St. Louis

The Making of a Marketing Maven

Or, why should I listen to this madman?

I made it to grade eleven in Montreal, and then
before long hit the road with my guitar. I was
one of those relatively few Anglos in Quebec
who voted “oui” in the 1980 Quebec
referendum on separation.

I went to the Mardi Gras and met an old
master, and learned how to separate a
tourist from a few of their dollars with some
inspired street performing and advanced
folding money extraction procedures.

Pretty sophisticated stuff, actually.

When the gigs thinned out I would load or
unload trucks or trains. I worked in an Italian
catering company making huge vats of
delicious pasta sauce 4-8 times a day.

To this day it provides astonishment at
regular dinner parties.

I was one of those people who never studied
until I left school. I studied H.G. Wells’
Concise History of the World for several
months. It did not seem that concise to me.

I took a job selling theatre subscriptions by
phone. That too was hard work but
the hours were comparatively easy.

I went on to become the “World’s
Greatest Telemarketer”. All this started
when an “appointment setting wizardess” died
of a sudden illness. The insurance broker
who had employed her insisted she was
the greatest when I met him. He was looking
for a replacement but, a) didn’t believe anybody
could come close, and b) was quite adamant that a
man could not talk to newlyweds and persuade
them to meet him as well as a woman and former bride could.

Within a couple of weeks I smashed all her records.
On my best night, I set over twenty appointments
for him….in about two hours. I don’t think I encountered
a single “no” that night? Why?

Rapport skills. Connecting skills. Listening intently
in the space between breaths.

I thought I had it made. My friends were amazed
that this guy sent me a check by courier every
Friday for $1000. I was making a lot more
than I would down by the docks.

One weekend I was visiting my music publisher
in Montreal. His wife had a small home based
business. This would be the spring of 1983.

She asked me to “Help with her business”.

I said, “Sure, I can move some boxes around
if you need me to”. Or maybe she needed
help with techniques for setting appointments by phone?

She said: “Talk to me and tell me
what you think I should be doing”.

She went on to tell me about her print brokering
business. I had never heard of
print brokering but she told
me that she intermediates between the trade
printers and companies who do not have the
in house skill or sales volume
to justify working with them.

Long story short, out of curiosity and
the basic desire to do what I could to fulfill her request, I asked questions
which led (as it does) to other questions.

I asked how she got the clients,
what happened when she did NOT get the clients.
What exactly does she say? What do they say?
What happens next?

What are the factors affecting
size of orders and reorders;
do your clients realize all you can do for them? What
is the means and method by which you educate
or inform them of all the potential benefits you
can bring? I don’t know exactly how I knew
to ask this stuff. I was just following where her answers took me.

I ended up saying something like, “It’s a lot to
absorb or change, but I suggest trying these
three things”, and wrote out three suggestions
for her sales process.

And then I forgot all about it.

Six months later or so, I was visiting Montreal
and she excitedly blurted out that she had
doubled her business.

And I said, “Way to go!”

And she said, “No you don’t get it. I doubled
my business using your three suggestions”.

I said: “Get out of town.”

That was the moment when I finally realized I
must have an aptitude for this stuff.

I went out into the market and figured out
how to get a client. I was a bit rough around
the edges, so I was looking for opportunities
to prove myself with RESULTS.

It astounded me that a business
owner would pay me a lot more than he was
paying his receptionist if I could bring new clients
in the door even though I only dropped by from
time to time.

Early on I made a deal with a mortgage broker.
He said he would pay me 20% of his fees for any
prospects I brought to him that he was able
to close. So I brought him eight to twelve
appointments a day for about week.

He closed a lot of mortgages that week!
Boy was I counting my chickens.

Then he refused to pay me. He said “There’s
no goddamned way I’m going to pay a 23
year old kid $5000 a week.”

And I said, but you’re killing the golden goose.
You would make $25,000 a week!
And he said, “so sue me. Get in line. I’ve got
at least 15 law suits going on”.

He was proud of it!

I didn’t like it at the the time but that was a great
and super condensed lesson in client selection.

Naturally, I stopped getting him appointments.

I worked with hundreds of business owners
in the next several years. I offered one off
guaranteed turbo consultations with audacious
guarantees, daring them to ask for a refund
if their worlds were not well and truly rocked.

I was never asked for a refund.

The crazy thing was, every time I did a consultation,
I found out what that business was doing to get a
customer and keep a customer. I found out what
had worked and what had not worked. What
their breakthroughs were as well as their blocks
and areas of confusion.

They handed over everything. How could I help
them if I did not know everything they had tried?

I started being referred to as a “marketing genius”.

Most of the time, the genius lay in getting them
to do more of what worked, and in a lot of cases
what worked was something they had previously
figured out all by themselves but for some crazy
reason stopped doing.

What you need to know is that very smart
people do some very unsmart things and sometimes
a consultant can help them to re engage the
best things they ever did.

And then be deemed “a genius”.

I created a course called ‘Double Your Business
in 180 Days—Guaranteed”.
Mostly it was for small businesses,
including “one man armies”. It took a lot of coaxing
and handholding, but I had businesses double,
triple, quadruple and quintuple during the course,
and here again, nobody asked for their money back.

Another staple of my repertoire was getting a client
to reinvigorate lapsed clients and communicate
strategically to a newly segmented data base
or clients, prospects and potential referral sources.

I kept studying and learning and trying different
models for consulting. From one off “Marketing
Audits” to long term engagements. Fee and
contingency deals based on a percentage
of the lift my strategies brought them.

In the late 80s I developed a specialty in print
advertising and copywriting. I would clip out
ads from newspapers and magazines and
make audacious promises to the business
owner about how much untapped potential
they were missing due to the fact that their ad was
created by a person not steeped in tested and proven
direct response principles.

I discovered from Jay Abraham, my marketing
mentor, that changing the headline in an ad can double or triple
or even quintuple (up to 21 times increase in fact
according to thousands of tests)
the results of their ad.

I studied with all the great marketers
and greedily compiled and acquired hundreds
of case studies in dozens of industries.

My First Lawyer Client

And then one day I decided to take on the Yellow
Pages. In the back of my mind I had always wondered
how a direct response medium could be treated
as an institutional advertising medium.

It was a crazy mismatch, and, seemingly,
an opportunity. Every time I looked I just sat
there in mild shock at the dissipation of so
much money invested so carelessly.

So many people trundling in lockstep, doing
what everybody else is doing, assuming the
other guy knows better and that the only
possibility is to follow the crowd.

Right at the precise moment a person is ready
to buy, they were shown bland and generic
“me too” ads based on what everybody else
is doing in their heading. How could that possible be?
Isn’t differentiation and uniqueness a basic basic
advertising priority for anybody who is half awake?

My first direct mail wave got me several appointments.

What I was saying was just too far out for most
business owners. I could take them logically
through the case, and I could show them what a
proven print ad looks like. And I could show them
the difference that changing elements could make
on the response to an ad.

But at the brink, they would hesitate.

And then I met a divorce lawyer in Toronto.
At the brink of being discouraged
by all the rejection my perfectly reasonable premise
was receiving, I challenged him.

I said if you choose to go with the ad I create for
you, everybody will try to dissuade you. Nobody in
your firm will understand. Your directory rep will try
to talk you out of it and recommend you keep your
ad looking like a compendium of everyone else’s ad.

“To do this you have to have brass balls. Do you?”

(Not your usual “close” but I was a bit desperate).

He decided to go ahead. And as I had predicted,
everyone told him the ad would not work. A lawyer
from the directory called and told him he could not
run that ad.

This got my new client’s attention, and I think it
got his back up.

We ran the ad. The response was so robust
that he reduced his allocation the next year from
twelve directories down to two the next year and
still filled his appointment book.

I started to notice that lawyers are very committed
to ideas and to new intakes. That too got my attention.

They were very conspicuous consumers of expensive
media. I noticed that too. And so,
I contacted law firms all over the US and licensed my proprietary methods
on an annual basis.

And then I watched the Yellow Pages die. I urged
my clients to get out, thought many continued to cling.

Since then, I have developed other offerings for the
legal professional, most notably in the area of referrals.

In my onsite consultations, I have interviewed clients
from all over the States, and have heard so many
shocking and touching stories.

In so many cases, a personal injury lawyer has
to go to the wall, well beyond the call of duty to
help a client get justice. One by one they earned
my respect and admiration.

Law firms make an incredible and deep commitment
to their clients and their community. They invest
in infrastructure and staffing and advertising and
sometimes their clients refer their friends and loved
ones.

Mostly they don’t. (which I explain elsewhere).

I am still a compulsive learner.
I still like lawyers. As long as injured people keep getting the runaround, lawyers
will be necessary and as far as I am concerned the
consumer who suddenly finds himself in need of a
lawyer is deserving of good information to help
them make the right selection.

I help that person to find a good lawyer by helping
the lawyer connect with that person.

In my spare time I am writing a musical about
Julius Caesar and the end of the Roman Republic
in Gospel and Roots music set in New Orleans
in 1934.

the end.

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