Quick marketing tips for the new year.

If you don’t want to pay for the most expensive contractor marketing consultant in the nation to consult, here are some questions recently plucked from Mr. Plumbing Marketing Man’s overflowing inbox. All names have been removed. Here are some good-natured answers with a serious edge.

Question:I’m a plumbing contractor and the Yellow Pages reps are so aggressive they have offered to cut the price of my ad by 18%, give me a free color, and even include a coupon in the back where cheapskates can drive my profit margin even further down. Is this a good deal?

Mr. PMM: It is only a good deal if you pay them with counterfeit money. Why? Because Yellow Pages traffic has nosedived 64% in the last four years. We’ve recommended slashing Yellow Pages budgets every year for the past 11 in a row (which is why they like me so much). YP should be 19% of your total budget, shifting the “difference” from what you used to spend into search engine optimization, local listings and retention efforts.

Question:Are you saying the Yellow Pages are dead?

Mr. PMM:Yes. And you may join them if you spend more than 17% of your marketing budget there, which is an all-too-common amount for plumbing. I was actually at the Yellow Pages funeral, which was advertised online. Google it if you want. Next question please.

Question:Several ad reps and other contractors have told me I need to do more “branding” of my company. What is this?

Mr. PMM:No one knows, but explanations can take up to 812 pages, which is beyond my allotment in Plumbing & Mechanical this month. We think it has to do with your “image” and the ability of people to recall your name quickly. Everything after that requires hypnosis, scented oils and some very special Kool-Aid.

Question:Then why do so many people recommend it?

Mr. PMM:Clearly, it was well-sold, I think by the guy with the English accent who sells some weird mop on TV. As a sane alternative, we recommend you do TOMA (Top Of Mind Awareness) marketing, which actually can be measured. I’d do a small, fast and inexpensive TOMA campaign for 13 weeks and watch incoming calls increase. For some reason, contractors seem to like getting leads for next to nothing. Next question.

Question:What’s the best way to market in this economy? My main goal is to get more leads.

Mr. PMM:One way, not necessarily advised, is to slowly wait for all your competitors to go out of business. Then you’ll have all the business you want.

A more proactive method is to realize contractors who are not “doing so well” mightnotbe marketing themselves so well either. Those factors are often linked. Since the American consumer has the memory of a fruit fly, none of us - I mean “them” - can remember the name on the service vehicle that was in our driveway eight months ago.

So being repetitive is highly effective. Like I said, being repetitive is highly effective. Great “repeat rates” are available in radio and in newspapers (yes, those are still printed).

Radio has been eroded by satellite, and most stations will almost give you your own show if you buy enough “drive time” ads. If you’re in a big city (more than 500,000 people), this could still be prohibitive.

Online banner ads and skyscraper ads are only good if the audience is good. Remember that if you remember nothing else. High traffic withinyourservice reach can work well if you follow these tips:

  • Do not use purely “image” as a banner ad. You will hate the results. Trust me.

  • Do use an alluring direct response headline that links a viewer to a valuable report, audio or video that helps them. Internet clicks respond more favorably to free advice.

  • Do capture visitors’ briefest information (first name, email) to “confirm” their request to see your free info.

    Newspapers have four excellent things going for them. First, most of your competitors are chasing other media, so they’ve left that playground to you. Second, they’ve become very cheap, inserts especially. Third, these people often live in homes, since to my knowledge they don’t deliver under the interstate overpass - yet. Fourth, people who get the newspaper can often read, a very good trait.

    Yet day in, day out, the winner is still …

    Direct mail for reliable lead generation per dollar. More helpful for contractors since mail goes to the home, is about the home at a mailed address, thus immediate relevance.

    However, the U.S. Post Office rarely has a stamp sale. (Soon as you hear of it, let me know.) Mr. Marketing Man has seen increased response in direct mail and advised accordingly for the past two years. Why? People flocking online, looking for the newest thing have left this market wide open. Direct mail has “open rates” and “response rates” that absolutely kill email. What do you delete most readily after being out of town for a couple days?

    Direct mail is worth about 24% of your total marketing budget for maximum lead generation.

    Email is for those who have a good relationship with their list. Sending 12 to 24 soft messages a year to your list is excellent; do not sell in every one or the relationship and the sale are jeopardized. Smart marketers point readers to websites, where they can get a free report, video, free ezine, discounts and the referral program. Email supports other contact; it does not replace it. The exact same is true of your social media posts and links.

  • Links