In this day and age, customer acquisition and retention are more important than ever.

I don’t know who said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing,” but it has never been truer. Every week of this “new” economy, contractors call or question, “How can I get more leads?”

Yet, in that decidedly ruthless way that shocks the inquisitor, we are trained to respond: “What are you doing with the ones you have now?”

By that we mean seven main things to extract full, cash-rich value from your current lead flow. It’s right there under your nose.

Where’d the leads come from? Market source via media? Web site, media, direct mail, Yellow Pages, etc.?

How big is this target source (what we call “universe”)? Neighborhood? Community? County? Retirement community? Church? Name and number it.

How many bought what? Closing ratio per item? Most focus hard on this, but it’s only one “power number.”

What did they pay? Upsell offered? Transaction size per sale? Most overlook this one. Don’t. It is key to extremely lucrative marketing results.

What are their circles of influence? You’re looking for a referral follow-up chain. Friends, neighbors, members.

What about the ones you didn’t close? Here you want follow-up closing efforts. The unclosed are often the majority and yet many contractors just toss ’em. Bad, bad idea.

What system will keep all these customers and prospects coming back to you? Answering this puts your profits on autopilot.

See, we can make the phone ring again. You can pay me to do that and we’ll do it. Great. But if you’re not maximizing the lead value, then it’s only marketing heroin. More is not always better.

Your Formula For More Leads, In Order

The previous questions are in order, too. The top one is the most important. A mediocre ad to the best target will outperform the best ad to a mediocre target. Yes, as an overpaid copywriter, I just said that. Truth is, we can usually kick your mediocre offer and help you find the best list because that serves both of us.

I do this because I guarantee your results or I have to give you a refund. Not my goal or yours. Thus, this formula is our “inside” formula, but I’m handing it toPlumbing & Mechanicalreaders.

But guess what?

If you’re not tracking, there’s no way you can answer this question with any degree of certainty - and that means your bottom line is suffering. On to the seven steps.

1. Target in to wherever your offer is aimed.In other words, are you blasting ads at every single person who can see, hear or read, or are you segmenting and targeting your list for highest response? From your customer list to your Web visibility, which includes SEO and AdWords, to your radio demographic, cable reach and in-house prospect list. These are segments you can define and have a reachable quantity. That leads to…

2. You’ve got to know the size of the pool.Is this your current list, dated list, big-ticket buyers, referrals, church bulletin, little league parents, chamber of commerce? To answer whether it’s even worth fishing the pool, the third step comes into play.

3. Do they close well?Or are they a bunch of meager-mouth price-shoppers? Maybe they’re affluent, rabid for image and Product “Z” supports that image. If you’ve got a service that’s more popular than any of the others, that might be the one you want to push to the public. Likewise, if an area of your business is underperforming, you either need to check out what you’re doing or how you’re marketing it. Closing ratio must intersect with ticket and gross profit to be meaningful.

4. Are they high transaction sales that can make your month?Or low transaction sales that must sustain volume to be profitable? On either, is there a more profitable upsell you’re not offering? If you went on an $89 service call, what else did you offer the customer while you were there? Water filtration? Upgraded faucets? You’ll never know what customers want if you’re not willing to ask and offer it. Before you leave them…

5. Seek commonalities and aim your offers accordingly.This relates to finding a better target than going back to the “big pool” again. Everyone has friends - even me, which likely shocks you as it does my wife. And guess what? Birds of a feather flock, shop, eat and buy together. Whatever your customers are buying, there’s a good chance their associates either need it or want it, too. It’s part of keeping up with the Joneses. Plus, it costs zero marketing dollars to generate referrals. The neighborhood residents, church members and business people in the same category are an easier target.

Now these are steps most contractors miss severely:

6. What happened to those who didn’t close?You think they were window-shopping you for fun? Look, if someone doesn’t buy from you and you just walk away never to contact them again, guess what? Yeah, their money went straight into someone else’s coffers - most likely your competition. A “no” now is not a “no” forever. Sometimes persistence pays. Find out why they didn’t buy. That’s the key to a fortune right there. Resolve that and go kick bootie with a far higher result from steps 3-6.

7. As my overly eloquent teenagers would say, “Duh - it’s retention.”Thanks to the economy, this is more important than ever. The commonality among contractors doing well and those “not” doing so well is powerful retention. Those who don’t fill the pipeline and then build a high-sided inescapable pool into which it flows are quite sorry. They had customers in there, but they escaped. Now they get to go back to the first step, spending new marketing dollars to recreate what was lost. Not exactly ideal.

Especially since a marketing investment of about $3 per year per customer would have kept those customers nicely in your sales loop, increasing their lifetime value and your profits. Yes, all of that from an informative, well-designed newsletter program. And still, many plumbers fail to see the value of retention.

That’s how to multiply your efforts and results from your “existing” incoming leads. And you thought it was magic. All you really have to do is: a) create a better message to make the phone ring; b) make sure to aim it at the best targets; and c) keep all the customers you get, plus their pals, at top transaction sizes.

Sound like a plan? Go back to your list of incoming leads right now. Ask yourself the seven questions. If you need us to help you fish them deeply and regularly to extract full value, that’s why we’re here. Otherwise, you’ve got plenty of bait in this article to catch a boatload.