Balance is hard to achieve in marketing. Clients usually contend they want piles of leads, all the time (you too?), yet fail to realize that keeping customers is of greater importance. It’s less exciting, but more profitable, especially in a declining economy.
Between the extremes of “getting and keeping” are the marketing variables that dictate image, notoriety and market position. There’s a single point of contact at the getting and keeping hinge that many contractors miss, discussed in your “to-do” list below.
Each marketing message is a particular ad type that’s definable, trustable and nearly formulaic in application. Contractors know formulas. You know how to build; you know how to measure. “Paint-by-number” marketing ought to be simple.
Yet, another thing to know — most contractor marketing is rubbish. Before you rush to pen the first hate mail letter, realize it’s not your fault. Not one bit. I ask in seminars, “How many marketing questions were on your license exam?” and the answer is always, “None.” Likewise, I’ve never been to a copywriting course where they asked me how to tune a furnace.
Three ways you may have been brainwashed:
Believing the media rep who just happens to be selling ad space in that media;
Buying into “co-op” ads because they’re slick, done and partly paid for. (Have their marketing people ever even talked to a homeowner? Oops, here comes my first hate mail letter after all! In your letter, please tell me the results of your last campaign, and we’ll talk.); and
Looking to your competition for inspiration — who, by the way, have no idea what they’re doing.
Let this column be your fourth option.
We plan to put your brainwashing on a heavy rinse cycle, coming clean with real results from real contractors. I welcome your comments, questions, inquiries and even complaints (as long as you offer a constructive counter element too).
Your marketing to-do list
A snapshot of: “Where we are right now.”
The smart marketing money for the next two quarters will be in street-wise strategies. This means low-cost, high-results marketing — nothing fancy, just shrewd.
Here’s a quick, free one you can do today: Even though most of my work is to generate more leads, the quickest area to bump your appointment rate and catch the gold slipping through your fingers is at the phone call.
Sloppy lead-handling for the uncaring or untrained will bode poorly. Leads are too costly to get, costlier to lose and almost never come back. How much of that can you afford? Most say they “Don’t have a problem” here. That’s what’s most disturbing.
We make about 6,000 calls to contractors each year, and none are cold calls; thus, “invited” or “requested” from owner/president. The lack of professionalism and sheer rudeness encountered virtually ensures that the poor image of contractors will remain healthy for some time.
There are three sales in every incoming call; two happen on the phone. The first is selling friendly proficiency (how you answer, relate, correspond). The second is securing the appointment (polite firmness to capture the lead). The third is at the home, but it gets all the attention. Correct the top two, and you get more opportunities at the third.
Start with the greeting. Since no one likes an unhappy greeter, learn to “Smile through the phone” aided by a mirror at the desk of the phone trafficker. (You think Disney does this for the heck of it?)
I’m not crazy about the wordy, forced greetings running more than 14 words (not including company name). End your greeting with a question. (You’re a service, remember?) Greetings should be the same companywide. Every time, no variance.
Keep the call focused. Script your responses to commonly asked questions. Make sure your phone traffickers know how answers point to services or products you offer.
A script is vastly superior to winging it. Don’t confuse scripts with that robot who called you during dinner last night to sell you a new phone plan. Learn talking points instead of verbatim.
Learn to upsell without changing subjects. Such as, ask all non-Agreement customers, “Are you on our Agreement program?” If they say “yes,” they’re predicting the immediate future! If they say “no,” reply, “Once I confirm your appointment I can tell you about it,” or “Then make sure our tech tells you how today’s service could be heavily discounted.” Both are polite and sell without “selling.”
Time permitting, ask all callers, “Did you want a free inspection with your service call?” or whatever supplemental additional service you can offer to enhance a dormant revenue stream. Who says “no?” Not many and these are free leads.
If you can bump your appointment-to-call rate by just 10 points, you’ll find more money coming in without spending a dime. If you can bump upselling unobtrusively into every call, results should skyrocket. All free, sitting there, untapped. Speaking of which …
The same principles should follow every service call, sales call and even unclosed leads. Given the relative slowness of this season, you likely have the overhead in your office, right now, able to tap into this revenue. Referrals do not happen by accident, and the follow-up call generates them easily with few questions. Again, free leads.