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Small business chat update – Al Hunter

09 Mar

mugs It’s time for another Small Business Chat update, this time with Al Hunter from Auto Evolution. Al was first featured on 28 January 2012, and when asked where he wanted to be in a year’s time, replied “Auto Evolution’s primary service will be the ECU remapping services. With fuel costs seemingly rising on a day-by-day basis, we see our EcoMap service as becoming increasingly popular, as clients want the benefit of reduced fuel costs without the associated costs of buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Additionally, remapping a car’s ECU is not weather dependent like your typical SMART repair service such as repairing alloy wheels or a bumper scuff. We will continue to provide our SMART repair services, as we are skilled in these and want our clients to have the option of a quality SMART repair service through us. However, until we can afford our own in-house repair facility, which will remove the complications associated with completing a car body repair outside, we will focus the bulk of our energies on promoting our ECU remapping services through our EcoMap and ProMap brands. So in a year’s time, we’d like to see ourselves in the position where we can afford a unit large enough for our ECU remapping services as well as our SMART repair services”. Phew – that’s a long one.

I’m happy to report that Al’s been able to give us lots of information on how he’s doing now – you’ll find his discussion of SEO services particularly useful.

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

No we’re not. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. A number of factors have led to this being the case. Whilst our ultimate direction and goal remains the same, our delivery is now different. Without a business mentor I’ve learned lessons the hard way. However, passion, belief and determination leads to dedication. 2012 was meant to be a year of stabilisation with 2013 as the year moving forward. But, it seems that 2013 will be the year of stabilisation with 2014 as the year moving forward. So we are about 12 months behind schedule.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

With regards to our business plan a year ago, not a lot has stayed the same other than the ultimate goal. In 2011 we focused on advertising in local trade shows, stands in supermarket car parks and spent money on others to build us a website. A website, it turned out, that we couldn’t find, let alone our customers. So we learned about SEO … In looking for a company that would/could build us a website and do the SEO for us we were quoted huge fees for a small one-man company. Fees of £10,000 but £500pm! As such a lot of time was spent trying different web creation software until we found one that I could use comfortably and save a lot of money with … even if it meant we lost a lot of time in the process!

With my new software programme and skills I set up www.auto-evolution.co.uk as our website. Whilst customers told us they liked the site, marketing it SEO-wise mean’t that it wasn’t the easiest to market as a) it doesn’t state on the tin what it is we do, and b) with doing many different things (wheel repairs, bumper scuff repairs, windscreen chip repair, ecu remapping, chip tuning, etc.), focusing a marketing effort on any given area for any given keyword was very time-consuming (not expensive, as I’m now doing that myself). But soon after this, we found that one of our suppliers had seemingly tried to sabotage one of our services… not a good thing. And we only found this out through our customers and industry contacts. It meant that we had to look for new suppliers and pay for legal fees to recoup our losses from the supplier, all of which put us on the back foot.

But then we had a bit of luck which changed our web direction and has meant starting back from scratch … As mentioned above, one important element to marketing your business is to have a name that is instantly recognisable as to the service you provide. Well … our principal service is to provide a mobile ecu remap service. And as luck would have it we were able to be the first ones to register mobileremaps as a web domain for .com and .co.uk as well as Twitter, Facebook (although we’ve now changed this to www.facebook.com/MobileRemaps). This is great, as it not only tells customers what we do, but we’ve got a fantastic logo that stands on its own merits. Furthermore, we now use remap file writers who have over 25 years’ experience and have tuned more than 10,000 cars and worked for some of the industry’s largest names to back us up …

So now we market and trade as www.mobileremaps.co.uk with a website built by yours truly and SEO (search engine optimisation) done by yours truly.

Whilst all of the above has gone on in the background, it meant that to keep the business dream alive, I’ve worked part-time. It also meant heavily revising our business plan so that we can move Mobile Remaps from a start up (as of end Oct/beginning November 2012) into a premier ECU remapping company in the UK by 2014 with a solid reputation for customer service.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

What have we learned? The power of the internet to market services, the importance of being easily distinguishable to your customers, to always be open, honest and transparent with customers and the service you provide (this helped a lot given the hassle with a former supplier) and always ensure you build a reliable team of like-minded people behind you. We have this now, and so 2013 really should be a year of stabilisation with us moving forwards in 2014.

The learning curve has been steep. It’s also been a lengthy process. But moving forward, I’m now bringing on a SEO fellow as a consultant to do the SEO marketing I don’t want to have the time to do … you can’t do everything yourself and so it’s important in business to bring in people to create a team so you can continue to do what’s important. And that is to steer the direction of the business. I did this when looking for a new ecu remapping file writing team. And now, as I write this, it means bringing in an SEO consultant who I can trust and rely on to do what’s right for us regarding search engine marketing so I can be in front of customers, steering them through the maze of remapping a car ecu and ensuring they get the right remap for their needs and vehicle.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Never work with anyone unless you feel you can trust them

Only work with those who truly understand your needs

Ideally work with those who understand your industry, not just your needs

Using the above as your guide, bring in the right team around you to free up your time to steer the direction of your business. Remember you’re a Director for a reason. You’re steering the direction of a company … if you don’t do this, you’re not being a Director. You’re just being an employee with a jolly tough job!

Have a plan and work to it! And always reflect on this plan at appropriate intervals and don’t be afraid to revise your plan as needs be.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

By the end of Q1 2014, we’d like to see Mobile Remaps fully funding itself. By this we mean the business it turns over being 100% profitable rather than using funds from Auto Evolution. I say this as although throughout this update we’ve focused on Mobile Remaps, it does not mean we’ll stop doing the bumper scuff repairs, windscreen chip repairs (this what Auto Evolution will focus on once we’ve got Mobile Remaps fully profitable) … but we want those services to be add-on services to cross-sell to our customers for additional profit rather than relying on that to boost Mobile Remaps’ profit. Achieving this will also mean I can give up the part-time job I took up as well … thus freeing up time and money to drive Mobile Remaps forward. Fortunately, I think we have the team behind us now to achieve that. So that’s encouraging. It means, though, a long hard year ahead. Often working from 6am to 8pm just as we did in January.

Wow – a very challenging year – but Al stood up to the challenge, worked hard to beat it, and is hopefully looking at a reworked and positive 2013. I’ll be very interested to know what happens in the coming year!

Mobile Remaps

P: 0800 051 5415

M: 0790 842 9996

W: www.mobileremaps.co.uk

E: info@mobileremaps.co.uk

FB: www.facebook.com/MobileRemaps

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.

 
12 Comments

Posted by on March 9, 2013 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

Tags: ,

12 responses to “Small business chat update – Al Hunter

  1. ClareLauwerys

    March 9, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Al, do you mind if I give a bit of free advice? Well I’ll give it anyway.
    On your home page, you’ve listed Benefits of using you. But they aren’t Benefits, they’re features. Even “Gains of up to 30% in BHP & MPG ” isn’t really. Tell me you’re going to save me money, now there you’ve got a benefit.
    This point was drummed into me by a professional commercial copy writer I had speak at the networking group I run.

    SEO for those of you who can’t afford an SEO specialist (websites are my thing) is, to strip it back to basics, a matter of making sure the text in your site contains the words people are searching on and that you have used page titles appropriately.
    People think my networking group has spent thousands on SEO to get it where it is in google. We’re pretty happy that by obeying some simple rules we rank v high for the words “business women networking” (second for the natural listings)

    BW
    Clare

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    • Liz at Libro

      March 9, 2013 at 5:57 pm

      Thanks for this, Clare (and when am I going to feature your business in this series …?)

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    • Liz at Libro

      March 10, 2013 at 7:43 am

      Hi Clare, Al had trouble posting this reply and asked me to do so …
      “Hi Clare, thanks for that. Whilst I agree with what your copy writer says in our industry correct copy writing doesn’t necessary apply. Listing ‘features of using MR’ isn’t as saleable as benefits. Additionally, from an seo perspective ‘remap benefits’ is more popular a search phrase than ‘remap features’ and the ‘benefits’ features are answers to the most commonly asked questions by those searching for chip tuning and remapping companies as far as what they see as benefits goes. What no company should ever promote as a benefit is something they cannot guarantee such as ‘saving money’. So whilst I agree with your copywriter at your networking group… if correct copywriting doesn’t fit the search phrases or use the language your potential customers use when searching the net, then the copy that is written will work against you rather than for you from an seo perspective.”

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  2. ClareLauwerys

    March 10, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Agreed on the search terms but when it comes to people on the site actual reading the copy you need to generate an emotional response. Which is where the features and benefits comes in.

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  3. ClareLauwerys

    March 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    …hit return too soon.

    Features don’t generate as much emotion as benefits….

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  4. ClareLauwerys

    March 10, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    So “gain of upto 30% MPH” = feature. But that will save me money = benefit

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  5. Liz at Libro

    March 11, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Thanks for your info on here, Clare, I have sorted out the comment posting problem so Al may be able to reply later!

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  6. Al Hunter

    March 12, 2013 at 1:58 am

    Hi Clare

    let’s see if I can reply now…

    FAB: Features Advantages Benefits. Inform of the Features. Explain the Advantages. Sell the Benefits. Simple marketing.

    Feature: A remap can be tailored to flatten out the power and torque curve of an engine’s performance

    Advantage: This leads to a car getting up to and maintaining a set speed more easily

    Benefit: By getting up to and maintaining any given speed more easily, gains up to 30% in MPG in vehicle economy can be made.

    So what you have listed as not being a benefit IS a benefit. The difference between you not recognising it as a benefit is purely from a personal perspective. And by personal I don’t mean you personally but rather looking at it from an individual’s point of view. Let me explain through rephrasing the FAB’s above:

    Feature: A remap can alter a car’s performance so that it can get up to and maintain a given speed more easily.

    Advantage: This can lead to gains of up to 30% in MPG in vehicle economy.

    Benefit: Gains in MPG will lead to lower fuel bills and therefore save me money.

    The first set of FAB are aimed at the car. The second set of FAB aimed at the individual.

    Now to Sales: The first rule of Sales is to know your market. I know you know this. Without this it’s not possible to write the copy for your market in a way that is meaningful for your market and seo friendly as well as getting what you, the business needs… and that’s action from your customer to buy your product or service.

    In the remap market. Customer’s DON’T search for or buy remaps to save money. They aren’t searching for perceived personal benefits. And split testing on this very issue appears to back this up [less than 0.005% response rate and less than 0.5% CTR versus over 9% (!) CTR on this very issue] when directing FAB towards the car rather than the person.

    Successful copy writing and selling is NOT about emotion all the time. It is about providing the solution to what your customers see as their problem. And depending on the industry, the problem and therefore the solution are not always personal. It can be, but not always.

    In any market where a high value purchase or a high perceived risk purchase takes place, you can list all the benefits you choose as a salesman but, if those benefits don’t solve the customer’s perceived problem, you won’t make a sale. Or if you make a sale, you won’t make a repeat customer because that customer won’t feel they have solved their problem.

    In the remapping industry, the perceived problem by our customers is not money. The perceived problem is an inefficient vehicle that is causing them to spend money they don’t want to spend on fuel. So the benefit listed on our web pages that we are discussing here is aimed at solving the problem our customers tell us is the the problem they want to solve. And as a result, our customer action rate, as well as our CTR through that classic SEO mantra of A/B [Always Be] testing shows that we’re on the right track on this one whereas if we followed your initial thinking and advice through what you have been taught… we wouldn’t be.

    So in summary… Clare I agree with you and what you say has been ‘drummed into’ you by your professional copy writer completely. It’s just that for our business, our customers are responding to solving a physical problem [in this example a vehicle that is not as fuel efficient as they would ideally like], not make themselves feel good or lessen emotional pain every time they pull their debit card out when paying for fuel for their car [which is the C after B – the consequence of the benefit – for both personal and automotive benefits]. As such for our business, and this example we’re discussing here, the copy has been written accordingly. It’s not perfect admittedly but now you understand why the copy has been written in the direction it has.

    regards
    Al

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