Tips to help overcome your marketing confusion.

Be forewarned: this advice isn’t all pretty, just as business today isn’t. The silver lining is that the new economy is forcing a move from shiny wrapping (indulgence) toward valuable content (importance).

As during any transition, confusion reigns.

Confusing conceit with commerce

Enough of “me” marketing. The economics of becoming a direct-response marketer of plumbing services have been well-proven in these pages before. I have long contended to get “us, we, our” out of your self-impressed advertising.

That self-focused stuff isnotgenerating leads. And in this “recovering” new economy, an indulgent stab at supremacy appears insensitive, uncaring, detached. Worse, it is contagious …

Contractors often copy everyone else’s advertising approach and get hoodwinked into believing that marketing should be about them. This misstep is reinforced by media sales reps who know ego (self-focused marketing) is a powerful motivator that mysteriously increases the ad budget.

Now, in the age of “every person is a media” Internet (reviews, social media, viral no-cost video productions), the old method is even less effective. Focus on the consumer, be transparent, earn trust, get sales. Got it?

Clarity time: To generate a response in the current market, focus your ads on: being different from the copycat junk out there; concerned about the customer’s gain; and why in the heck he should call you instead the 800 other losers who claimmostlythe same stuff. See the first item again.

Confusing activity with accomplishment

Would you rather talk about whatworksin marketing or talk about what everyone else istalking about? Case in point: social media. The following will be unpopular. Sorry.

OK, pick any previous buzzword: networking, branding, search marketing, whatever. After the initial spike of interest, all landed at the exact same spot. And that’s where return meets investment. Business sanity must prevail, and the fuel for sanity is fiduciary responsibility.

The current marketing love-fest is with social media. Fine. If used intelligently, it can be a fantastic source for lead generation. We do it for ourselves, create it for others and earn money by doing both.

I say this to alert you to the truth: Social media also can be less productive than standing in line at the DMV… with improper ID … on a holiday.

Countless posts, hopeful Tweets, link-sharing, setting up groups then monitoring and updating them regularly is a befuddling array of activity. At a certain level, accomplishment must be measured.

If it ain’t payin’, you’re just playin’.

Clarity time: For Twitter, I like Tweetdecks to save posting time. We adviseone blog postevery other day that posts to Facebook, Twitter and others. Your posts should be about 70% advisory and 30% sales. For Facebook, make sure you create a company page that informs but also links to in-depth info on your website (again, a 70/30 split) or immediate email contact. That drives fans, likes, readership, SEO and, more importantly, sales.

Systemize traffic flow to you website to obtain contact info, move them toward direct contact (email or phone), and advance toward customer acquisition. That is accomplishmentfromactivity.

Confusing revenue for relationship

Richard Branson, the billionaire businessman, recently blogged, “When it comes to business success, it is all about people, people, people.”

Sure we’re all sick of reading or hearing that, but considering his multiple successes in multiple business categories, it is interesting that he follows up with, “Every entrepreneur and business leader is trying to uncover the same secret:What will help them grow their customer base and keep those clients loyal?

The billionaire speaketh sage advice for all.

You see, most contractors see the goal of acquisition to be revenue. Most any ding-dong can get X closing ratio out of Y leads. That’s a short-term, revenue-driven goal.

Yet the goal of your very expensive acquisition marketing should be very inexpensive but lucrative retention marketing. Why? The relationship, re-sales, referrals and recurring revenue.That’swhy, according to more than one billionaire.

To me, in this refocused economy, retention is the new acquisition.

Without exception, our top-grossing, top-growth clients who’ve set sales records in this economy are retention experts. They think past the sale.

Clarity time: You cannot survive on one-time sales or one-time customers - multiplicity of effort rules. Extract marketing efficiency by forcing your company beyond the goal of “getting the lead and closing the sale” (the old way) and adding in “and keeping the customer forever.” This will pay huge dividends.

The degree to which you ignore or engage your customers is the exact degree they’ll do the same to you. They’re just looking for someone who appreciates them, and in this way, are we any different? Show them. A few quickies:

  • Vividly demonstrate your appreciation. This is by action. Call, card, email, newsletter, gift. Ignore them, they ignore you.

  • Inform customers of pending changes. Your prices going up? Tell ’em so they can buy at the old price. You adding a service? Tell ’em and sell ’em. Want them to find out about the tax credit program from you (instead of all your competitors) before it ends? Tell ’em.

  • Extend the customer community. As evidenced by the social media boom, you want your customers to be your advocates, inviting others. You must encourage them to refer and praise what they like about you. Hint: It ain’t your trucks, booties or tool rack. It’s the relationship with your people.

    As the new economy finds stability, it is wise to seek clarity. Enlist these in your marketing and even more in your business philosophy.

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