When it comes to sales and marketing in this great industry, we are surrounded by a sea of sameness that is almost sure to confuse any potential client. We’ve seen it happen time and time again when the somewhat blind lead the completely blind down some marketing path sure to end in a waste of money, effort and time. More often than not, one contractor (the big successful one, of course) rolls out a specific ad campaign, sends a postcard or shows up on television at an unusual time slot and suddenly the competition begins playing copycat. 

With such a gross lack of differentiation, the potential client feels as if he might as well hire anyone from any company to work in his home. Service companies all look and say the same things with their marketing; no one really stands out.

This is a true shame. It’s costing you thousands of dollars a day, week or month, depending on the size of your business. Don’t worry, you can change it and make yourself stand out and deliver the kind of value that makes you smile ear to ear, but you’re going to have to take a good, hard look at your value points and strategic positioning.

Many companies are good at positioning a brand to get people to take action before a sale and actually call the company in the first place. However, most companies have such a lack of differentiation in their positioning that clients don’t expect much from them. Their marketing message looks and feels exactly like everyone else’s, so the client thinks all contractors are virtually the same. 

Unfortunately, the old “butt crack” plumber image still comes to mind for some. Even worse, if all companies appear the same to a prospective client, then the potential client is forced to make a purchasing decision on price alone.

The great thing is there are companies that are anomalies in our industry. They are the companies focused on great service before, during and after the sale. These rare companies gain the opportunity to work for the client through differentiated and strategically positioned marketing messages. Congruency and synergy exists between what the companies say and do, how the brand looks and the general feeling clients have when deciding to hire them as their home service provider. 

Once the client is into the service delivery process, there are no mishaps, no mistakes and no detours from the promises made before the client hired the company of choice. In fact, although the client has a pretty high expectation already because of the good marketing message, the company should still exceed the client’s expectations every single time. This is a very exciting and profitable way to do business because everyone wins.


Get the clients, keep the clients

Our clients who operate this way understand the importance of what we call critical synergy. This is when a pre-sale message matches your value delivery system flawlessly. There is complete synergy from the time a client is originally exposed to your message or your brand all the way through the service process, including the follow-up system. You do have a follow-up system in place, right?

Very few contractors really focus on critical synergy, and this is not because they don’t care. Most contractors have good hearts, want to do the right thing, and live by the golden rule. The problem lies in the fact that most of us don’t have a degree in how to run a business. I know, I’m a contractor, too, and so many things are pulling at us every day we sometimes lose focus on the fact that we have two primary jobs as leaders. We need to get clients and keep clients. Period. 

The vast majority of us came up in this industry focused more on fixing things and paying the bills than anything else. Then we had our “entrepreneurial seizure,” as Michael Gerber (author of “The E-Myth Revisited”) calls it. Suddenly we wake up in business for ourselves and are in charge of marketing, finance, customer service, sales, human resources and so forth. 

It’s very difficult to break out of this position of wearing all the hats in the company, but it can be done. If you have team members, then it becomes necessary that you work on the business more than in the business.

If you’re already a more accomplished company, then focusing on the critical synergy between marketing and sales will help catapult your growth. You can scale more quickly than the smaller shops. If you’re a newer company, or one that’s 100 years old and still operating as if it’s the early 1900s, then getting clarity of what you want and focusing on congruency between sales and marketing is crucial in helping you get to that elusive next level.

If your primary role is to inspire your team to simply get and keep clients, then you must have consistent messaging to your team, as well as the entire market, about what your strategic positioning is. You cannot be all things to all people, so decide exactly who you want to be a champion for and start speaking directly to that specific person with all marketing copy and sales processes.

To carve out an ideal demographic niche and deliver value to that group is incredibly wise, incredibly profitable, a lot easier and a heck of a lot more fun. Niche marketing and sales programs are incredibly under-utilized, providing a huge opportunity in this industry. 

The lack of niche marketing is primarily because we either play copycat marketing or throw money at a branding agency. These agencies don’t understand the first thing about direct response marketing or selling to a certain demographic without a multimillion dollar marketing budget.

Demographics are immensely important when it comes to investing your marketing and training dollars. Please remember that a demographic is not a client or a prospect. A demographic is a particular sector of a population, not an individual person. 

If you are segmenting your marketing based on demographics, then please stop reading for one moment and pat yourself on the back. You are investing your dollars better than 90% of your competition. 

If you want to kick it up another notch, begin speaking to a very specific person within that demographic every time you write a headline, a pay-per-click ad, a postcard or long-form sales letter. Some people call this avatar marketing. It can really help because instead of marketing to an entire group, you can speak from the heart directly to your ideal prospect and the message will be clear, concise and consistent.

Focus on bringing your marketing and sales processes together to create synergy for your clients and watch your profits increase, online reviews skyrocket and client concerns significantly drop off. Stop swimming in the sea of sameness and start positioning your company for greater success.


This article was originally titled “Avoid the sea of sameness” in the July 2015 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.