Powerful contractor marketing in the new economy.



Either you change with the market, or the market changes without you.

Last month, we did our best to frighten you with the knowledge that: your budget must change; your media choices must change; and your message must change.

Let’s look at the three remaining market changes that warrant attention:

1. Sales cycles are longer because memories are shorter.

This is not your imagination, your fault or fully the fault of the economy. Need proof?

The “…rapidity of ‘noise,’ continual distraction and multimedia onslaught has physiologically altered our short-term memory. As decision-making is clouded by clutter, procrastination increases.” - The Franklin Institute, “Stress and Memory Loss.”

People put off big decisions because they’re focused on the urgent. “Get back with us” is nearly reflex. It’s more common for customers to get a second sales presentation because time elapsed since nondecision on the first one and failure to remember important points. So the customers aren’t lying or covering up; they’re cluttered.

Also - and this is very important - natural memories are crippled. Cell phones remember hundreds of phone numbers, calculators remember how to add/multiply, Outlook remembers appointments, MapQuest remembers how to get there. Who needs a memory?

So the response to your sales presentation from yesterday is nearly forgotten today; haven’t looked at it yet; haven’t talked to spouse who also is busy; and what was your name again?

Solution: Give short pieces of information and seek agreement at each step, instead of the old-style, drawn-out sales marathon that ends in a closing crescendo. It’s now a series of sprints.

The first approach? Present options at each step and ask, “So, what should we do here?” As simple as it sounds, customers “accept” a step and move forward to the sale. By the end, you’ve gotten decisions along the way that prevent the customer from falling all the way back to square one. This is a better approach and a huge timesaver for the technician and the customer. (This is an adaptation from master presenter Joe Crisara at www.contractorselling.com.)

Another approach is to let the customer choose that he’s going to choose that day. Basically, you get agreement on a decision - even if it’s a no - before the presentation starts. Small decisions create sales flow, making it easier to get a yes instead of this huge, groaning decision at the end like old-style selling. This has been very effective.

2. Business information is being generated faster than we can absorb it.

This is for you, not the homeowner. Desks are more cluttered, we have more “unfinished” projects, and in the realm of Internet marketing, we are fairly confused with constant changes and options.

Three years ago SEO was the rage. Two years ago it was social media. Now place/local listings are the rage. With each new topic, you were threatened to either get with it or locusts would eat you. (Someone would post the video on YouTube for posterity.)

Once again, the sense of overwhelm is understandable. With the advent of the Internet, the rules change about every 15 minutes. Though it is clearly an important avenue of traffic, leads and company relevance, the constant changes only add to our sense of always being behind, inundated with decisions and adjustments.

Forget the frills and focus on the basics. In football, it’s running, passing, tackling. In marketing and sales, it’s GCK: generate leads, close sales, keep customers. That’s it. Do those well and succeed. Don’t and fail.

So only pay attention to Internet techniques that aid the above - nothing else. Get out of the techno-babble race - let the geeks sort it all out.

Solutions:

  • Focus only on the marketing and sales metrics that affect GCK. Don’t get bogged in minutiae. Focus on what moves the ball.

  • Refuse another “do-it-yourself” initiative if you have any in the unfinished column or you can reasonably hire out or purchase it “done.” Others are more capable at Internet marketing and sales who are not capable of doing your job. We see plumbing contractors attempt to do their own SEO, PPC campaigns, Facebook posts, responses, Twitter, launch email campaigns, get caught up in video campaigns, design and purchase banners on useless sites. It shreds the company’s core focus, the results are amateur and the “real” contracting work suffers.


  • 3. Old marketing methods aren't working.

    Your approach of “run ads when we need to” isn’t working anymore. Your occasional ads are forgotten. Name recognition has slipped. You see old service customers who bought new equipment - from another contractor. Why? Same reason as before: they forgot. They’re over-marketed. You blended in.

    You didn’t “remind” them you were their contractor. No follow-ups, no friendly hello, no automated correspondence, no “touches” between visits. Basically, you forgot them so they forgot you. This is considered the No. 1 marketing mistake for contractors, since it is costly/counterproductive to replace customers you already had.

    For acquisition of new customers, we have this regrettable trend: For the first time since measurement, shorter copy (print, email) and messages (radio, TV) get the same or better response rates. This, coming from a guy weaned on long copy.

    Even email has shown better response with shorter messages than three years ago. These micro-mails should now point to a landing page that highlights the benefits of clicking the next link, page or video. Seeing a trend?

    Sales pages on old websites have become “squeeze pages” (short, teaser copy that captures info and links to a sales message). Shorter steps rouse curiosity, keep interest and advance the sale.

    Currently, the most clicked of all online marketing are videos. Even the promise of a video linked within an email gets 44% more clicks than putting the actual video in the email. You can thank the pornography and infomercial industries for researching these numbers. Yet it holds true across “Response” categories, from cooking to fishing to service contracting.

    Another old marketing problem is inconsistency. You used to be able to run an ad that bore no resemblance or connection to your other ads (except for logo and phone) and do OK. No more. Inconsistency is death in marketing today.

    Tapping into memory and gaining recognition must be done with repetition. Shorter, higher-frequency messaging with similar look or themes are required.

    Case in point: GEICO has ascended in sales, market share and name recognition in what could be the most competitive industry in the United States. How? It pounded three themes simultaneously for different targets: Gecko, Caveman and “Can GEICO really save you 15%...?” This has forced reigning king Allstate into a defensive position. This strategy worked where Pepsi failed against Coke, Burger King against McDonalds. Theme repetition advances the ball.

    Solution: Make your marketing consistent, using similar theme and messaging to penetrate today’s customer. Do not allow current customers to forget you, or they will.

    As the economy and the consumer mindset changes, your marketing, too, must change. You either change with it, or it changes without you.


    Read Hudson’s article, “Everything has changed, part 1” here.

    Links