Did someone steal summer? And fall, too? I vaguely remember being involved, yet somewhere between swimming and raking leaves, I guess I missed them. Perhaps by the time 2018 arrives, someone will tell me what I ate during Thanksgiving. Just, wow.
Year-ends are fantastic because there are four great ways to absolutely trounce the other contractors who are waiting for winter to arrive. Scary because you can almost forget “sale” marketing during December (unless you follow the steps below).
So, let’s hit November super hard, finish strong, and get ready to welcome a new year.
They do — big-time. We’ve seen the trend toward active customer retention programs increase over the years as impersonal e-zines and one-size-fits-all marketing programs fail to impress. (FYI: The vast majority of “e-zine only” customer contact is a dead end if not coupled with real, paid media efforts.) Here are four ways to improve retention.
Contact them. Seems so simple, but most contractors contact only for sales or offers. A follow-up phone call and a thank-you card after a service are pennies spent to generate dollars of delight. No contact other than an invoice or offer is a completely shallow relationship. Go deep. Engage.
Go automatic. Automate the sending of a monthly email (info-based), a real newsletter four times per year and a holiday card two times per year. The newsletter gives you the real estate to educate, inform and sell. The email must be short and engaging.
Go social. Use the exact same email above as a short social post that also leads to the next point: engagement.
Engage them online. This can be through a web-based content article, a video or both. (This is why Hudson, Ink offers the Customer Retention Portal.) Add a comment box to all of your posts. Respond to any comments on Facebook — especially to reviews. Which brings me to my next point.
Online reviews count
The days of letting this area go unmonitored are over. Many prospects who find you online don’t go one inch past a bad review. You never even know you lost them. Even having no reviews is a mild negative because you’re an “unknown” online.
Of course, if you follow the above four suggestions, you’ll build more community and praise, but for the initial visit to customers, it’s extremely wise to do the following:
Set expectations. Many customers are intimidated by techs fiddling inside walls, in basements and on ladders, and they really don’t understand how they should be billed or what’s involved. Hand them a “green sheet” in person (a one-pager about your company) or send them an email prior to your arrival showing tech, a photo, a company bio and your services offered. Don’t sell them — just tell them.
Overserve your customers. Most reviewers will not watch for your technical expertise; they’re watching for your customer service skills. Are you on time, neat, professional, courteous, clean and polite? If yes, this counts, and they are critics of all.
Give them the option of leaving a positive review. No bribing, no arm twisting. Just asking, “Was my service good enough to earn your positive review?” If you get a “no,” you have an opportunity to fix it. If “yes,” party on.
Follow up quickly. The thank-you call that we’ve advised for years is still painfully less enacted, yet when we get one, it’s a huge differentiator. Our clients have scripts for this, plus postcards and emails that help cement the relationship.
Remember, boys and girls: Your customers pay for everything you have. Your overhead, trucks, tools, training, techs and profit. It’s probably worth investing in them. Be different. Be their contractor hero by proving you care, especially during the season of the year where it is most accepted.
This is where direct-response marketing is at its strongest. And you can kill it in November by making a serious year-end reason to call you. Your highest return on investment is with direct mail before the December clutter arrives. Remember, the rule is “message to market match,” and that means you pick what you want to sell and to whom. Here are three great marketing devices:
An end-of-year price-increase letter. Alert your people to prices “out of your control,” adding that you’re willing to hold prices for customers on remaining product if they’ll call and schedule before <DATE> (this creates a sense of urgency with added quantity limitation).
An unclosed prospect letter. Got some folks who didn’t buy last winter? Hit them with a reason to call now.
A trade-in letter. A regular top-performer here, year after year, is the trade-in letter, though I can quit tweaking it each time. Offer to trade in an ugly faucet, an ugly fixture — you name it. It doesn’t matter. This is called a ‘qualified rebate,’ and people eat it up.
If you will just do one or two of the things mentioned in this article, you can finish your year strong.
This article was originally titled “How to finish the year with strong marketing” in the November 2017 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.