Copy the Automakers ... Prepare an Owner's Handbok

Automakers provide them. Appliance manufacturers provide them. But seldom do service companies provide an owner's handbook or manual. Why
not?

Frankly, no one's better suited to providing a handbook on one or more aspects of the home than the service provider. Manufacturers deal with their teeny weeny component. The service provider deals with the system, with all of the components and the way they interrelate.

Why Provide A Handbook?
You want to provide a handbook that becomes the primary reference for aspects of the home you handle. Written correctly, the manual will become the source the homeowner goes to first when he or she is looking for information. When this happens, you win. You win because your name is all over the handbook.

The handbook can also be a useful device for planting seeds about other products and services you provide. The homeowner can read about the add-on and accessory products they hadn't considered before. As the seeds are planted, over time they will germinate. Some will flower and blossom into future sales.

The handbook will also help train the homeowner in the development of good habits. Auto dealers are masters at this. They expand upon the owner's manual provided by the manufacturer, presenting coupons for maintenance and service for the first year. By giving away service, they're trying make it easy for you to fall into the habit of getting your car regularly serviced and getting it serviced with them. They hope it's a habit you'll never kick.

Handbooks Aren't Just For Products
It's sort of natural for an air conditioning contractor to develop a handbook. Yet, it makes equal sense for a pest control company or a locksmith. The pest control company can include information on the poisons used, spotting termites, identification of other bugs, the risk of silverfish in an attic where you store cardboard boxes, and so on. The locksmith can talk about a host of home security issues. Look at your services. Look at your product line. It's easy once you get started.

The owner's handbook is more than something to accompany a product. It can also be used to add value to a service agreement. Put a price tag on it to create a value perception, but give it away with the service agreement.

Presentation
If you do it right, the owner's handbook becomes a selling tool as well as a retention tool. If it's to be perceived as valuable, it should look the part. It's amazing to me how many home builders present spiral bound handbooks with poor quality copies.

Consider getting the binders custom printed. If you've got enough customers, the price isn't any more and might be less.

Shrink wrap binders that your salespeople or technicians can show to customers. The shrink wrapping serves to keep the handbook looking nice and also creates intense curiosity about the contents. It's human nature to want to know what's inside. The imagination is always better than reality. The only way to find out for certain is to buy.

Matt Michel is president of the Service Roundtable (www.ServiceRoundtable.com), an organization dedicated to helping contractors prosper. Matt is also the publisher of Comanche Marketing, a free marketing e-zine. Subscriptions are available at www.ComancheMarketing.com. You can contact him directly at [email protected]. Or send your comments to Contracting Business at [email protected].
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