Get it? Ha! OK, that was bad, but it got you here. Marketing lesson No. 1: Your headline’s main job is to get your prospect to your next statement. Now that I’ve been hilarious …

What are you doing next? I mean, humans are presumably the only of God’s creatures who think of the future, although someone needs to tell me how we know this. (Did scientists poll wolverines and platypuses with questions about living out their dreams?) Regardless, the past is an awesome teacher about the future.

The core of every survey, the reason we apply for loans, insurance, jobs, etc., is to allow the past to be a vaguely reliable predictor of future behavior.

I get calls from contractors who say they’re stuck at a certain sales level. As an overpaid consultant, I’m trained to ask, “And what have you done differently in the past 12 months?” The highly predictable answer is, “Nothing much.” No changes equals no change. And why was there no change? The core cause — usually unspoken but obvious — is fear.

These days, contractors often ask for marketing suggestions to make the phone ring. We realize this is to create cash and/or relieve them of financial calamity. We make suggestions — by the dozens — in publicized media (such as in this magazine) and to private coaching clients. Results are shared, stories retold, strategies revealed.

Oddly, the ones who never did anything different during good times are just as resistant to changing anything during bad times. Why? Fear, plain and simple.

Past behavior weaves its nasty way right into the future. Goes both ways.

The hyperactive, hyper-achievers seem to relish differentiating behavior. Marketing lesson No. 2: Market leaders, by definition, don’t copy and can’t wait on the crowd. However, they often sensibly reformulate based on proven criteria. Those stories, new successes and breakthroughs carry them into the future. They tend to see a wave coming and prepare to ride it ahead, while others frantically splash about.



Habits of the super successful

Which way are you going next? The five behaviors that super-successful contractors do not engage in and the “new” habits they do cultivate are revealed below. Do not read this if you’re unwilling to read some harshness.

1. Accept the norm. Leaders advertise with customer-focused direct-response ads that stand out. Likewise, if the “crowd” is not having success with maintenance agreements, the leaders find a way to pile them on. If the crowd is not getting publicity, the leaders focus on it. If the crowd doesn’t want to invest in customer retention, the leaders quietly amass legions of devoted fans by using it.

2. Resist outside advice from qualified experts. The fear-of-change aspect again. Leaders typically hire specialists in finance, estate/succession planning, insurance, legal, marketing, sales, personnel and technical training. They see these as investments; the crowd sees them as unnecessary costs. In time, the gap between the investor and the fearful nonspender widens. The crowd calls them lucky. The leaders would call the crowd names, but they have bigger things to focus upon.

Note that our coaching clients typically say things such as, “Just having someone on my side, giving advice and urging me forward, is worth several times the fee.” That was not a plug to join our coaching program, but to find someone, some place, where you get a regular “sense of mission.” Looking at the same walls, the same employees’ blank faces, generally will not do it.

3. Refuse to look at the ‘hole in the bucket.’ If the website visits are going down, there’s a reason. If the response to direct mail has sunk, there’s a reason. If your old customers aren’t calling you back, there’s a reason. If you regularly hear people not requesting a certain tech of yours, there’s a reason. All are costing you. Turning the other way doesn’t make it go away or get better.

Self-admission time: Though our renewal rate for newsletter clients had gone up, I still wondered about those who did not renew. So we launched a three-part mail/email/call campaign to all who — for any reason at any time — didn’t renew. It’s amazing. We received many new phone calls, heard from old clients who were feeling appreciated and had new orders come in. The hole in the bucket, now smaller.

Negative habits, practices and trends exist in your company now that are reversible. Take a hard look at them. Be the leader who admits there’s a problem, takes corrective action, measures results and repeats accordingly.

4. Get ‘hurt’ by criticism. Sorry, but we’ve become wimpy, politically correct, crybaby-prone fence-sitters concerned about everyone’s self-esteem. This is, to me, why we fear change. We fear resistance, reluctance, making a wrong move (so we make none) or offending people. Respectful leaders forge ahead without bullying, but also without regard to slings and arrows of sideliners. Most critics do little other than criticize.

So, if you have something you’ve “been thinking about doing” for awhile, there’s a God-given reason it won’t leave you alone. Apologies to Nike, but just do it.

5. Expect new results from old habits. The old model has died. Those who change are going to manifest their destinies accordingly. Yet following the same marketing pattern, sales presentations, going to the same discussion boards and same industry events with the same speakers are not going to bring change.

Best thing you could do is buy a plane ticket to visit a business you want to become and find out what it did to be successful. Ask whose advice its leaders sought, what systems it has in place. You’ll find they were never afraid to change. Emulate that.

Watch for these five nasty habits in your business, and pick one thing you can change now. You’ll soon make far more headlines than corduroy pillows.


Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. PM readers can get the free report, “21 Simple Things You Can Do to Differentiate Your Plumbing Company Now,” by sending a polite request to


This article was originally titled “Corduroy pillows = great headlines” in the June 2016 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.