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Lesson #5: “The number one strategy of all companies should be advertising.”
Ilhan's marketing strategy was founded on one simple premise: dare to be different. The idea of Crazy John's and its logo bring images of loud and fanatical characters to mind. Much like his role model, Richard Branson of Virgin, Ilhan went to great lengths to associate his persona with the brand. He believed it would give him an extra leg up against his much bigger competitors at the time.
Ilhan also used his childhood story to help build his brand - poor boy from Broadmeadows makes good. Most of his target customers were small and medium sized business owners who, like Ilhan, understood the value of hard work, and respected those who demonstrated it. Selling this story would appeal to their heartstrings, and Ilhan milked it for all it was worth.
Despite his well-planned marketing strategy, Ilhan knew that he would constantly have to be tweaking it to follow trends and changes in society. He kept a close eye on the latest technological changes in the mobile phone industry, along with consumer behavior in response and changed his strategy accordingly.
"It's a very, very tough market. So unless you do a really good job, you buy the right products from the manufacturers, you service the customer, they keep coming back, they bring their friends in, it's all about numbers, numbers, numbers," he said. "We react very quickly in the market. We can make quick changes."
Business was not as complicated as most people made it out to seem, for Ilhan. He kept very simple business practices, along with a simple approach to sales and marketing. He figured if he kept giving customers what they want, they would come back for more. Success was that simple.
"This may seem simple, but you need to give customers what they want, not what you think they want," he said. "And, if you do this, people will keep coming back."
So, just how did the name Crazy John's come about?
"I was sitting in my other office, Jack's coffee shop in Brunswick - I did most of my business there because my shop office was so small - with Sean Taylor, a mate who was state manager for Triple M (FM radio)," Ilhan recalled. "Anyway, we were thinking how I needed a catchy name. His colleague was next door checking out the mobile phones and he came back and said, 'You blokes are crazy, you're giving away this and you're giving away that'. When he said 'crazy', Sean and I looked at each other and said: 'Yes!'
"So next thing he's calling a mate, Johnny Hillier, to say we wanted a logo saying Crazy John's. Johnny did it, sent it by courier. I think it cost $20 and it hasn't changed since, other than the legs aren't there anymore and we added blue to it and we've got a more modern phone in it.
"The industry was saying, 'What an idiot! What is he doing?' The carrier, Telstra, would constantly say, 'Don't do it, it's not corporate, not professional', and today, well, today it has worked bucket loads."
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