Adams Hudson: Popular isn’t always profitable
Smart plumbing contractors invest in marketing trends, not fads.
Why we do what we do” is why I do what I do. My job is to “change behavior.” It should be your marketing’s job, too — to move a customer from not calling you to calling, from leaving you to staying, and from complaining to glowingly referring.
Here’s how you do that.
WHERE MARKETING FAILS
People tend to think of marketing as some voodoo-laced experiment by hyper-creatives who cause people to start drooling as they withdraw their credit card. And basically, that is the mission, except for one thing: The hyper-creatives have numbers to hit, which include budget, time and units sold. If not, they find themselves a new job as, I don’t know, the next SEO expert.
When a contractor hires any company for marketing service, buys ad time or space, or does any promoting, the following is a very common seed of failure: Neither the contractor nor the vendor has set clear goals or expectations.
When one or both sides do not match up to the undiscussed goal, things fall apart. You want marketing and advertising dollars to bring you fast, qualified leads plus a great image, unshakable retention and a stream of referrals. But that won’t happen in one ad, run one time on a shoestring budget.
Contractors often give up inches from a breakthrough to try “something new.” Vendors — often too eager for a sale — don’t often explain the outcome or the time it’ll take to reach it.
Return on marketing investment can include these behavior changes:
Increase annual/seasonal lead count (online, offline, from service department, etc.);
To increase searches by company name and not by trade (trade results are a crapshoot, and no one gets “lucky” on Google — it is orchestrated and formulaic);
Generate X% more referrals (higher closing ratio and higher ticket average);
Increase average transaction size by X%;
Generate positive reviews from X% of customer visits; and
To generate X% of business from customer base.
Just like those who create marketing, achieving your goals takes a budget, time and a realistic expectation of units sold. Remember, the big goals of marketing — and the only ones you should be paying for — are to:
- Get noticed;
- Get customers; and
- Be memorable.
That’s it. We get roughly 8,000 questions a week (but who’s counting?) that begin with something like, “I was told I should <blog/spend my life on Facebook/Tweet like a manic magpie/hire an ad agency/create a jingle/etc.>, so how much should I spend on it?”
The answer? Not one dime — unless it changes the behavior of your target market to meet your expectations. And those expectations are items 1-3 above, with actual numbers and dates attached. See? Simple.
THE WWIT FACTOR OF WEALTH DIMINISHMENT
After spending 17 solid years doing only contractor marketing (and seven years before that pretending to learn it), you begin to notice trends. A big one is where contractors will actually follow a prescribed marketing path for a while, then want something “new, fresh, shiny,” and take an abrupt detour to, as is often said, “go in a different direction.”
And in a different direction they go, often toward promised rich returns that are actually just a marketing exploration that uses their Visa card for a flashlight.
It is at this point a contractor comes to the WWIT conclusion: “What was I thinking?”
POPULAR IS NOT ALWAYS PROFITABLE
Go with what works; invest in marketing trends, not fads.
We have cautioned that the huge market in Facebook was still a likely negative ROI due to the “we-hate-sales-and-selling” mentality from the top down. Same with Twitter. The “goal” for social media is not direct sales or leads but lead nurturing, relationships and referrals. Very different.
Thus, the method (in this one medium) to change behavior is to be “advisory” 70% of the time (relationship) and promotional for 30% — and even then, only “introduce” an alluring topic that is linked to your site for the actual promotion. Tread lightly or get slammed socially.
Nowhere is flippancy of media any more pronounced than in local listings, where daily rule changes put you in ongoing reaction mode to maintain your ranking. Up one day, down the next — what happened? Hard to change your market’s behavior based on rules that are adjusted behind closed doors, often for entertainment.
So we turned to places we can change behavior instead of respond to it: online content (which pushes and maintains rank), videos, structured emails, traffic manipulation, direct mail and anyplace we can push a message to a real, live, targeted audience. (I italicized direct mail since this medium is making a huge comeback and getting terrific results.)
So, as you begin to adjust your marketing plan, ask how to change the behavior in your market, at what price, and how soon. Anything else is like those bumblebees: lots of noise, zero sting and causing a massive headache.
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