HARK! Million Dollar Marketing Lessons from 1598

June 1, 2005
My wife and I recently went to a Shakespeare play. This isn't exactly my kind of entertainment (nor my wife's), but we went at the request of an architect

My wife and I recently went to a Shakespeare play. This isn't exactly my kind of entertainment (nor my wife's), but we went at the request of an architect friend who invited us to join him and his fiancè. The invitation was partly in thanks for some work we're doing together and partly just to stay in touch. (Marketing lesson #1 is in this paragraph.) Shakespeare is tough on the average listener.

So as a below average one, I leaned forward in hopes of understanding the language and was practically bobbing atop the overly coiffed hairdo seated in front of me. Eventually, I was sitting back, understanding most of what was being said, enjoying some laughs, and actually following the plot. (Marketing lesson #2.)

Later, my eyes were drawn across the theater to a mother and daughter having a hushed "discussion." The teenager tapped on the mother's shoulder, only to be "shushed" repeatedly in that proper theater way. The daughter leaned back into her chair, arms folded, while the mother attempted to refocus. The cycle repeated, then I noticed a long, knowing look from the mother into her daughter's eyes. Next, a cell phone was pulled from the purse and handed to the daughter who dismissed herself with a hug. (Marketing lesson #3.)

Yo Juliet, What Lessons Through Yonder Window Break?
These lessons — missed by many contractors — tie in perfectly with your summer marketing plan. No, I'm not recommending that you host a Shakespearian play for irascible teenagers, but I strongly suggest the following:

Lesson #1 is about relationship-building and customer retention. The architect was reinforcing our business relationship, which helped him measurably and immediately. He didn't try to sell me anything, nor did he say, "Here are my cards, give them to everyone you know." His contact merely drove the relationship and recognition deeper.

A few days later, a friend was telling me about a historic but forlorn property he'd bought. He had no idea who could design a proper architectural upgrade. Guess who got mentioned and got the $38,000 job?

No one expects you to take your customers to a play. But solid retention marketing allows you to build relationships automatically. Each sale should get a thank you card, and each customer should get a newsletter at least twice a year. Your ultimate goal is that they become lifetime customers with a maintenance agreement. Is having customers for life a worthy goal? Methinks it is!

You can't reach that goal without a customer retention program, however. It's not your customer's responsibility to remember you, but it is your obligation to make sure they don't forget you. If customers don't hear from you, they will certainly hear from your competition. And that's often all it takes.

Dumb question alert: Why should I market to my customers in summer when the weather keeps me so busy?

Simple answer: Because that's when people are actively in the market, and it sure helps to include customers in your target. This group is less price-sensitive, buys faster, trusts you already, and refers you more readily. Quit only chasing "new" when "old" is gold.

Lesson #2: Your message to your target group should be in their language, not yours. When a person is ready to hear your message, as I was at the play, they want to gain by listening. If they don't gain, they're gone.

Virtually every amateur ad creator thinks, "Hey, this is my ad. We're paying for it, so it's about us and what we do." Wrong. It's about your customers — their needs, their desires, their fears.

The best direct response ads strive to achieve a 4:1 ratio of using "you" to "us, we, or our."

Lesson #3: Repetition builds recognition and reaction. The teenage daughter finally got what she wanted from her mother: the cell phone and freedom from the play. It just took awhile.

Jay Conrad Levinson, a great marketer whose work I admire, cites that only one in three messages even registers, and it takes nine exposures to the message to change behavior.

While one direct response ad can cause an avalanche of leads, it works far better when you are known to the respondent.

That means it takes 27 messages before the consumer starts to let down his defenses and takes an interest in your product.

So, does this mean you send someone 27 postcards before they respond? Not at all. Your truck, yard sign, postcards, letters, billboard, and Yellow Pages, newspaper, and radio ad exposures all count toward the goal.

Marketing is about achieving TOMA (top of mind awareness) and persuasion. Being quiet and waiting for the phone to ring is a short course to bankruptcy. Be known instead.

This is why I get cross-eyed when contractors dump most of their marketing money in the Yellow Pages, then wonder where the leads went. A variety of targeted messages through the year brings more leads in less time from a better qualified audience.

Postcards – The Shakespearian Smart Thing to Do
A postcard during peak seasons is a great way to stay in touch with prospects or customers. It arrives "opened" and ready to read. If you use a bi-fold postcard, you get twice the message for the same postage. You can save even more on postage if you choose the standard or detached mailer rate.

The postcard should enhance your image and enforce TOMA. When received at peak season, the message will click with the recipient. You can drive service leads with a deadline discount, or make an attractive replacement offer that includes a "Free Energy Survey" (never offer a "free estimate"). Be sure to emphasize the energy savings, or other news that's meaningful to them.

The upcoming 13 SEER standard is an example of news that makes a postcard worthwhile.

Remind your customers and prospects who you are. Be interested in them. Be informative. Be entertaining. Be different. Be someone they want to hear from!

So, are you "To be or not to be?" That is the question. The answer is to do what it takes to keep your customers, and that starts by staying in touch.


Now, who to send them to? Segment and send them to your A, B, and C markets, in that order.

  • The "A" list is your customer base.
  • "B" are inactive customers, unclosed leads, or those in a market similar to your customer base, based on age of home, income, travel radius, or neighborhood.
  • "C" is the broader market.

Strategy point: Each group is successively larger, but less responsive so sending pieces to each group in order helps balance the call load.

One of our clients has 36,000 names on his "C" list and does a predictable $300,000 with them twice a year in service and replacements. The buyers are moved to the "A" list, leads that don't sell to the "B" list. Your goal is to cultivate your list to be more plentiful and productive.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Readers can call Hudson, Ink at 800/489-9099 to ask about our summer customer retention postcards or visit www.hudsonink.com to view samples. To receive a free marketing newsletter, fax the request on your letterhead to 334/262-1115. Other free articles and reports can also be found on the website.