The Main Ingredient for Marketing Success

I’m standing in the lobby of the host hotel at the last HVAC Comfortech when a guy steps up to me and says, “Are you Adams Hudson?”

“Yes,” I say, in a puffed up way, thinking he’s a member of my adoring public (of which there are three people, and he would have been the first non-family member). As I’m prepared to accept his compliments, he says, pointing an accusing index finger, “Your marketing material was wrong, and your guarantee is wrong.”

Scanning the lobby for a uniformed officer, I summon enough composure to ask, “In what way was it wrong and how can we fix it for you?”

He takes a breath and says, “You know where you say your system will double our sales in 90 days?”

Since I’d written both the system and the guarantee, I had to acknowledge, “Um yes, I’m very familiar with that.”

“Well, it didn’t. We doubled our sales in 62 days, and I just wanted to shake your hand.”

He got me.

We shared a good laugh as he recounted what he did and how it worked. He showed a willingness to market against his competition’s weaknesses, pounding out his “differentiation” among prospects.

In addition, he clearly “got it” when it came to marketing and sales, plus one major point: He applied it.

None of what you read or learn anywhere will change one thing about your business without that ingredient.

The best ad I’ve ever written isn’t worth its weight in gnat wings if you aren’t willing to try it. In fact, you can set afire every grain of my advice or openly disagree with me on any count, as long as you’re willing to do something to get results.

What You Will and Won’t Get in This Column

We won’t discuss heady marketing theories here, because when pressed for a theory, I generally make it up on the spot. I also have no desire to turn you into a copywriter, graphic designer, or behavioral psychologist.

Instead, we’ll look at what works and doesn’t work. We’ll cover the strategies and tools that helped other contractors significantly increase equipment sales last year, using our material.

I may even offer you in this column an additional freebie that will expand your learning, or something you can put to use right away in your business. However, it’s up to you to do it.

In this first month of 2005, wouldn’t it be nice right now to say, “This year, I’m willing to try something different in my marketing.”

Think about it. In a few months, you’ll have some marketing strategies and tools in place that incite outcome and output in your company. Those two words mean “sales.”

How Will We Do This?

At some point this year, your Yellow Page ad is coming up for renewal. As a reader of Contracting Business, you’ll have the opportunity to have us critique it for free by faxing or e-mailing the ad to us. As long as you can take some firm advice on what’s right or wrong with it, we’ll be happy to tell you.

We’ll also use this column to address the two types of retention – open and closed – that matter to contractors. I’ll offer you free samples of each with a corresponding report.

This strategy is so simple it’s frightening. Yet only 8% of contractors apply it, quietly amassing staggering fortunes right under the nose of their bewildered competitors.

The nearly unanimous evidence suggests that those with active customer retention programs in place outsell and outprofit those who don’t by a healthy margin.

Why?

They’re spending less on acquisition marketing where the resulting customers shop harder and close slower, while focusing on higher margin sales with a faster-sale cycle through simple retention efforts. This also builds a nice referral stream which, the last time I checked, was free or next to free. However, we may occasionally bribe or thoughtfully induce the referral source.

Now, where did these contractors get the money to do this retention? From their Yellow Page budget for starters. Then, they spread it across other effective media and put the plans in place to adopt closed retention through maintenance agreements (we’ll discuss those at length, too).

Oh sure, companies into customer retention marketing also have other great programs in place. However, the main thing they’ve done is develop an attitude of retention because they realize its importance.

This permeates the whole company, and customers sense it. They feel valued, which begets value and loyalty. I can assure you this isn’t normal in most contracting companies, regardless of their chest-out admonitions to the contrary.

Perhaps you think your company handles every incoming lead with the passionate pastoral touch of a church membership drive.

However, we call thousands of contractors a year and have found otherwise. In fact, I know of several companies that are in hot contention for the not-so-coveted “Customer Avoidance Award” recognizing new standards in rudeness. I may announce the winners in this column, although I think we have to clear that with legal first.

But don’t worry, we’ll talk about that subject too, even if we don’t publicly humiliate those who richly deserve it. You’ll get customer service scripts for incoming calls and outbound follow ups. Once again, the advice is free; your willingness to act on it is up to you.

What to Do Now

After all this talk of what we’ll do in upcoming columns, let’s look at something you can do right now. Companies just don’t reach the lofty heights of true success and maintain it by accident. They’ve got a plan.

This is in stark contrast to the contractor whose plan is admittedly somewhere between “sort of formulated in my head” and ”kinda written down somewhere, I think.”

Look, I know that creating a marketing plan is about as fun as stapling your fingers together, so let me give you something to get you started.

We’ll send you a 12-month Marketing Strategy Calendar if you’ll fax us your letterhead with your request. (Or e-mail to [email protected].)

The calendar has media suggestions for every month, along with where your sales focus should be for each quarter. It can be a reminder of your newfound desire to change your marketing this year, starting today.

Now we’re back to where we started. Learn as you go forward. Apply what you learn. Toss out what doesn’t work and increase what does.

And mostly, we’ll have fun along the way. That’s my goal. I invite you to write me with any burning questions you have about your marketing. That’s why I’m here. In addition, if you don’t write in, I’ll not only feel unloved but will be forced to write about what I want instead of what you want.

This is your column. This is your magazine. The reason it’s published is to change your business. Let’s start now. u

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a leading marketing firm for contractors. Readers are encouraged to send questions or request free items by fax to 334/262-1115 or e--mail to [email protected]. All readers can get his newsletter, Sales & Marketing Insider, by contacting Hudson, Ink as above or by calling 800/489-9099. See more at www.hudsonink.com.

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