I wrote last month’s column about contractor media integration to help dispel the myth that online and offline are somehow separate. They’re not. The web is merely a means of message delivery, like any media. However, one element of web marketing remains profoundly different from other media. It’s also “conveniently” left out of most every web media salesperson’s pitch.

Not knowing it can be crippling to contractors. It even posed a lethal limitation to web-based sales giants such as Amazon, eBay, Pro-Active and J. Crew. Yet, they quietly “discovered” a very old-school way of exploding their profits, one you’ve already known for years but have probably been told to avoid. As a direct response marketer (meaning, focused on sales and leads, not on soft advertising results), promotions have one of two goals:

1. Direct sales — Asking for the order in the promotion.

2. Lead generation — Getting a warm lead, a prospect.

Now, if you want to tilt the response heavily in your favor, you will use the leads from Item No. 2 to make the offer of Item No. 1. Yes, it’s that simple but most people miss the simple stuff in pursuit of the complicated.

Profit Point No. 1. The target is the most important factor. (My most alluring promotion for generators will fail if wagged in front of people who’ve never lost power.) Having more contacts on this list is the bedrock to meteoric and consistent business growth.

Profit Point No. 2. You would do well to constantly build your target list through any means available, all year, to constantly “prime the pump” and never ignore a previous warm lead or customer. Identifiable targets are gold.

Profit Point No. 3. The profoundly different element in web marketing is that you have no definable target. Don’t gloss over this point, as it ties the lesson together.

All former media — mail, TV, Yellow Pages, radio, billboards, you name it — were pushed to a known audience. (Direct mail was and continues to be the absolute king of reliable, controllable push marketing.) We pushed to some hopeful group, expecting a little interest and eyeball, then waited for the phone to ring. We chose the market.

With web marketing, they choose you. They choose the search terms, based on their needs, whims and desires, instead of just staring at the television or opening the mail. You don’t have a target without knowing their thoughts or having their permission.

That’s why the most successful online marketers must rely on pull marketing.

Profit Point No. 4. You must master pull marketing to build your list. This means becoming magnetic through the following methods, in order of importance:

• Your local listing;

• Your own site’s “attractor factor” (search engine optimization);

• Your pay-per-click campaigns; and

• Your social interactivity to drive leads.

Ordinarily, I’d stop here. The above is enough to rouse any contractor who’s sick of seeing his web-based lead generation remain as flat as Snooki’s brain activity during Scrabble. (Or doing anything for that matter.)


Integrate and succeed

If you only pursued the four profit points, you’d soar above your competition, as we have seen many contractor clients do. Yet there’s a twist to the story.

What if you were primarily web-based and had already built a business using those principles? How would you grow the coveted list?

Amazon spent eight years out of 11 losing money. Then it finally figured out it’s not in the online retailing business — it’s in the list-building business. Now it “retails” to that list. A lot. And it has burst through the logjam into fortunes previously unknown.

eBay spent nine years parasiting its own list of auction junkies without much target growth and a dead stock price to show for it. Then it figured out it’s not in the auction business, but in the list-building business for buyers and sellers. (Points 1 and 2, restated.)

Profit Point No. 5. To build your leads and sales, integrate offline and online.

The key to Amazon and eBay’s success — and yours — is realizing they had to grow their lists. They couldn’t rely on the glacial pace of normal growth of recession-weary consumers. They couldn’t keep pounding their well-worn house lists. (Sound familiar, Mr. and Mrs. Contractor?)

They had to come up with a new way of lead generation to drive traffic to them. And this new method?

Profit Point No. 6. Direct mail is back, in a big way.

Yes, dust off the pony, load up the saddle bags and start licking some stamps. They (and a parade of online giants) have rediscovered direct mail as a gateway to their sites, to build their lists and to boost sales. New school, meet old school and multiply. How?

Like this:

• A postcard gives a QR code for an offer, video or “to read more” online.

• A letter invites the reader to visit online or call and gives the discount code in the letter. Thus heightening the value of the letter.

• A newsletter offers a discount for a service they read about, different recipes or archived articles online (which should include an “info capture” device for email addresses).

The look of the cards/letters matches the landing pages. The online language references the mail piece. It is truly integrated and truly successful.

The new success of direct mail is being copied by such large mailers that  commercial mailings are up 3%, direct investment in advertising mail is up 5.8%, as noted at DeliverMagazine.com. These marketers don’t spend $48 billion in a media that’s not returning dividends.

If media integration works for them, it can work for you. Please quit thinking of online and offline as separate entities. Integrate them. Don’t think of “our email list and our snail mail list.” Let online and offline offers be the same and offered simultaneously.

Retailers are adding tens of thousands to their email lists by using direct mail. Don’t believe the “word on the street” about other media. (How many sales have you made using Twitter?)

Focus on being in the list-building business for contractor services. Do it through all your marketing, in a cohesive whole, consistently strong across the media. 


 Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. PM readers can receive the free report, “21 Hottest Sales and Marketing Methods” and a complimentary subscription to the industry’s No. 1 training resource, Sales & Marketing Insider, by emailing their request to freePMstuff@hudsonink.com or faxing to 334/262-1115. See other marketing reports at www.hudsonink.com or call 800/489-9099.