Mistakes and Failures #2:
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary.
Posted by Ryan Neal
Mistakes and Failures #2:
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal

As you know, I don't like to dwell on mistakes and failures. But successful people almost never talk about where they've gone wrong and it's something a lot of people can learn from. Which is why, every once in a while, I'll showcase one of my own mistakes or failures.

I do this for 2 reasons:

  1. So you can see I'm not perfect. :) I mess up a lot. The fact that I mess up a lot means I put myself in a position to succeed. A lot. ;)
  2. Hopefully you learn something from my mistakes and avoid them in your own current or future ventures.
If you haven't been around these parts for long, check out Mistakes and Failures #1:

The Failure:

[caption id="attachment_5664" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption=" on Feb 04, 2003"][/caption]

Zavoom isn't an actual word. I made it up. I liked the way it sounded, it was short, and I could brand the business any way I wanted.

So what was Zavoom? It was an "e-mail club" that I would run for local businesses. The idea was that I would set up physical e-mail subscription forms for each business (placed near their registers) and then add whoever signed up to an e-mail list specifically for that business. Then I would send out regular discounts and information for the business.

More info directly from the About page:

What is

The home of a very effective marketing program for local merchants utilizing the power of the repeat customer. If your business has walk-in traffic and would like to promote customer loyalty, then our marketing program will work wonders for you.

What kind of marketing program?

It is known as Local E-mail Marketing or LEM. Your customers subscribe to your own "e-mail club" which periodically offers them discounts on your goods and/or services. You can then send your "e-mail club" members special offers up to 4 times per month, bringing your business a nice little boost every time. You will also have the ability to send a special offer to our whole network of "e-mail club" members.

Do I have to run this "e-mail club" myself?

No, will take care of everything for you. We will set up an "e-mail club" box in your establishment that will entice your customers to join. They simply fill out a very short form with their name and e-mail address agreeing to join your "e-mail club." Any time you have an offer to send to your customers, you just let us know what it is and we take it from there. The names and e-mail addresses in the "e-mail club" box will be collected up to 4 times/month. Privacy is of utmost importance: we will never sell your customer's information to another establishment.

Will I see immediate results?

You should start seeing results as soon as you have approximately 250+ "e-mail club" members. It should not take you longer than 1 or 2 months to attain this level of membership.

Will my "e-mail club" also be listed on

Yes, you will be listed on with your very own Web page along with any special offer you give to new members. We recommend a 5-50% discount off their next purchase to entice them to join your club. Your Web page will also include your phone number, address, hours of operation, and 1 picture (a logo or a picture of your establishment). You can also include your Web site address and additional pictures as described below.

How much will I have to invest in this marketing program?

Your investment is based on which "e-mail club" package you choose.

Our packages are:


· 1 Web page for your business on

· E-mail your "e-mail club" a special offer up to 1 time per month.

· Up to 500 "e-mail club" members.

· Investment: $99 setup, $49/month.

· Only $49/year extra to include your Web site address and up to 1 extra picture on your Web page.


· 1 Web page for your business on

· E-mail your "e-mail club" a special offer up to 2 times per month.

· Up to 1,000 "e-mail club" members.

· Investment: $99 setup, $79/month.

· Only $49/year extra to include your Web site address and up to 1 extra picture on your Web page.


· 1 Web page for your business on

· E-mail your "e-mail club" a special offer up to 4 times per month.

· Unlimited "e-mail club" members.

· A Web site link and up to 1 extra picture can be included on your Web page free of charge with a Platinum membership.

· Investment: $99 setup, $99/month.

Annual Investment:

If you opt for the annual (once per year) investment, you will receive one month free.

How much is the investment to mail your whole "e-mail club" list?

To send a one time mailing to our whole list consisting of every "e-mail club" member on our network the investment is $59 per 1,000 members. This is a great way to add an extra boost of foot traffic and sales at any time of year.

To read one of the first sales letters I ever wrote check the Advertise page here ( link).

This was a fairly thought out business model, but a little bit difficult to explain. And there was one big problem ...


This may have been ahead of its time (although I did have data of a few restaurants that did it successfully). It was difficult to extol the benefits of an e-mail club to small businesses. Most small businesses (don't get me started, many small businesses are run by absolute imbeciles) still don't use any customer follow up method even though it's easier and cheaper than ever. (Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb.)

As for results? None. I didn't sell any packages. But ...

Why It Didn't Work

I gave up too soon. I only met with 5 or 6 business owners before I gave up on this idea. The thing is, I've always loved marketing and sales, but I hated it in person. I've always been a bigger fan of the written word than the spoken word. Local lead generation works great. Look at Groupon and the ilk. My idea was not exactly the same, of course, but small businesses are far more open to local internet marketing now than they were in 2003. (Chad Frederiksen, more on him below, does a wonderful job at local lead generation.)

What Should I Have Done Differently?

I should have signed up businesses for free and charged them based on how much business I brought them. I'd probably have made much more money this way than a flat monthly fee I was charging. But again, I quit because I just didn't enjoy face to face sales. Also, my other businesses were thriving by 2003 so money itself wasn't motivation enough to pursue Zavoom.

Closing Thoughts

I look back on this idea with fond memories. I remember designing the site and writing the sales letter and I had a lot of fun with all of the internet based stuff. The offline stuff just wasn't fun at all to me. I wasn't comfortable on sales calls and I still wouldn't be comfortable with sales calls if I had to make them today.

How Would You Have Made A Success?

If the Zavoom "e-mail club" idea was yours what would you have done differently in 2003? What would you do today to make this work?


If you're interested in the local lead generation business model Chad Frederiksen (<-- he doesn't blog often, but his archives are worth a read), one of the smartest no bullshit marketers around, does it quite successfully. Check out his Local Lead Plan here.