Keep your company name in front of the customer.

Our customers love us, but, sadly, they have short memories. If they have enjoyed the benefits of our quality service and repair work, it may be a year or more before they need us again. Consequently, they may remember our company as “that company that did such good work,“ but couldn't recall the name without some prompting.

And when they need a service call, they may not be so patient in looking for the company that last worked on their home. In an effort to fix the problem immediately, they are likely to open the phone book and search for a company they think will get there the fastest.

If we do not keep our name in front of the customer, we cannot count on getting a high percentage of return business. Customers need service - and when they need it, they need it fast. If it is not easy to locate or remember a company's name, it's on to the next company. Loyalty fades in an emergency.

Repeat Business Is Good Business

We have already spent the cost of acquiring a customer when we did business with him in the past. Why waste the investment? We have spent money for Yellow Pages ads, truck signs, previous marketing and advertising expenses - all for the purpose of generating that prior business.

Besides, our company's reputation and credibility are already established in that customer's mind, so we don't have to sell ourselves to the customer again. They are probably comfortable with the way we do business, and would agree with our assessment of the problem and the cost of the solution. A customer with few objections - isn't that what we like to find? We have them. We simply need to keep in touch with them.

Customer memories are not very long. We should keep in touch with them at least every three months. Any longer than that and they may remember the quality service but not the name.

It's not necessary for them to hire us to perform their service and repair work for them to remember our names. However, we need to keep the name in front of them. Simple postcards work. Special offers are nice, too, but a newsletter is even better.

The stickers and refrigerator magnets, pens or other handout items or reminders may assist, but nothing refreshes your customers' memories like a tangible message or e-mail that saves them money. It will remind them that it's a good time to get the work that they have been putting off completed.

Media Alternatives

Most of us would have some challenges in publishing even a simple newsletter; it's time-consuming. Fortunately, there are several alternatives that can accomplish what we need, and most of them do not cost very much. Using a simple written message that provides service and repair information, safety tips and recommendations for emergency actions, should they be necessary, can provide valuable information to a homeowner.

Just sending a marketing letter that offers a bargain for prior customers on work that may be discretionary can also be effective. We have had success with postcards, too. They are very cost-effective. Put a coupon together and offer a discount for some services in slow times or out-of-season work.

Specials always get consumers' attentions. They are always looking for ways to save money. They win and you do, too. Whether it's a newsletter, single-page flyer or postcard, be sure to include an incentive for having service and repair work done by a specific time in the near future. You do not want them to stash the coupon or offer in a drawer, thinking they can use it any time in the future. It will probably get discarded before it is used.

There's another media you may not have used yet but it's effective, too, and cheap. More and more people are using e-mail as a means of communication. The cost is low because the distribution is virtually free (no postage) and only the customer prints the message. This media is very difficult to use, however, if you do not have a database of your customers' e-mail addresses. Be certain your call takers, dispatchers and technicians get the necessary information so you can contact your customers after the job.

For customers that do not use e-mail, use your database of customer addresses from your accounting records. Keeping them up-to-date will improve your marketing effectiveness.

Regardless of the type of media we use to contact our customers, it's usually more efficient and cost-effective if we have someone outside the company do the job for us. Outsourcing these tasks usually ends up saving us money because the companies who do the mailings can do the job easier and cheaper. Many specialize in doing those kinds of promotions.

When To Send

If you are mailing to consumers, send the marketing piece so it arrives on a Saturday afternoon. The customers are home and they are relaxed. They may be performing some fix-up or improvement work on their homes then. At that time they are more likely to be thinking about having some service and repair work done.

If you have commercial accounts, it is best to mail or e-mail the marketing materials so they arrive at the business in the middle of the business week - Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday - in the middle of the day - from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. During these times the person responsible for making purchase decisions will likely be there and read the message. Any time a business can save money, no different than consumers, a coupon or limited-time special offer will attract attention. And you will get business from your marketing efforts.

If you include safety tips or valuable information about your customers' homes or business systems in a newsletter or similar marketing piece, it only makes sense to coordinate the marketing effort with the information provided.

For example, if you share information on ways to keep water heaters safe, you would want to have the accompanying coupon or special offer related to water heaters. Once the customer is thinking about replacing equipment, having it serviced or repaired, your offer will be more relevant to him, so he will be more likely to accept your offer. The result is that you will get a higher percentage of your mailings that produce business.

As with any investment you are going to make in your company, you will receive a better return on your investment in new marketing efforts if you: 1) have specific goals for your marketing pieces, such as demographics, geographic area and promotion of a particular service or repair job; 2) follow up with additional marketing efforts so the customer recalls the name of your business; and 3) are prepared to handle the new business so the customers always have a positive impression of the services you offer.

Your planning will be easier of you have a standard template set up for each customer that includes his or her preferred method of contact. For example, it would note whether that customer would like to receive special discount offers by e-mail or delivered mail. This information could be extracted from your accounting/bookkeeping software.

Your customers are waiting to hear from you. Don't keep them waiting too long.