MegaMarketing: His Epiphany, Your Profit

Oct. 1, 2008
I’m not used to being shocked, stunned, and nearly speechless – or at least I wasn’t until I started paying attention at the gas pump. But this question that I received from a reader left me, frankly, a bit flabbergasted

I’m not used to being shocked, stunned, and nearly speechless – or at least I wasn’t until I started paying attention at the gas pump. But this question that I received from a reader left me, frankly, a bit flabbergasted:

We’ve just installed a new system in a home, and have the customer’s approval to use them as a reference. Can you tell me which is the best lead generator: Door hangers (which state among other things they should contact Mrs. X and ask about her satisfaction with the work or service performed), or purchasing mailing lists for sending post cards and letters to the neighbors?

Wow. Someone’s having a contractor marketing epiphany – and it’s happening to an actual contractor. For those of you who, like the reader above, actually give a rip about references (I’m assuming that’s all of you), my first response is to heap praise upon you for even requesting a reference. I’ve been yapping about marketing for “preponderance of proof” and “enhancing credibility” long before the last umpteen corporate scandals, misquoted news sources, and shamed politicians uttered their latest non-truths.

So before I even answer, please know that we are in a shifting environment that demands more proof, more credibility, more factual “reasons why” customers should choose you than ever before. A photo of your smiling family and well-groomed cocker spaniel in your ads isn’t going to get it.

Read this, cut it out, paste in over your building’s entrance if you must: No credibility equals no sale.

Increasing credibility is directly related to increasing your closing ratio, referral rate, and retention rate. It’s done in numerous ways, but we’ll just hit on a couple.

Now, the answer to the aforementioned reader’s question is: Yes, both.

With the door hanger, do NOT tell potential customers to phone your reference or your reference will grow to hate you, which kind of reverses the goodwill of having a strong referral. You instead want to merely “cite” the referral as someone who just had a great job done, and “…may be saving more money on energy than you are!” or some equally curiosity-arousing or combative comment.

If they choose to look the reference up and call them, fine. If they choose to call you for a reference list, fine. But do not open up your customer’s privacy to the world.

Same advice for your direct mail letter: You DO want to purchase a list for nearby homes (called a radius or proximity mailing), but realize that a really small specialized list will be expensive per name. Yet it’s the quality of the list you’re after since the postage will be the same regardless of quality. We go for better quality lists with a strong offer to drive response rates higher and cost-perlead lower. You want to spend more for a better, more targeted list, I promise.

Yet there’s a method that’s even better than a mere referral. It’s easier to control. The response rate is much higher, the target audience is much broader, and the ‘shelf life’ is longer.

Better Than References
The well-worded testimonial is like a turbocharged reference. And you want your testimonial to be ‘hard’ instead of ‘soft’. That is, a soft testimonial contains niceties but nothing that quantifies your superiority. The hard testimonial follows this formula:
1. States where a customer was before the decision to choose you.
2. If space is available, states some skepticism or hesitancy in calling you.
3. States the results or outcome of contacting you.

Just four or five well-worded impactful testimonials can be the centerpiece of an ad campaign, should be added to your sales presentation book, and listed on the back of your direct response letter, door hanger, brochure, or whatever. (They’re not allowed in Yellow Page ads though so don’t try it.)

The problem with testimonials is that everyone “says” they’ll send you one, but few do. How do you get them? Write them yourself and send to the customer asking for their approval, or invite ANY changes they wish to make, as long as you get permission to use it. Pretty simple solution, but few do it.

What if They Don’t Want to Give a Testimonial?
Take before and after pictures of the installations of your best jobs. Put THOSE in your presentation book. Get before and after copies of their energy bills (names deleted) for ads or presentation books. Get before and after photos of their excessively nasty duct system (preferably interior shots) for ads and presentation books.

You want to build a vault of credibility that has nothing to do with “your” seemingly self-inflated estimation of your company and everything to do with a paying customer’s estimation thereof. Each supportive shred is worth its weight in gold.

For the Serious Marketers
Get the testimonial giver to record their exact words and drop this recording onto your website and in your emails. Their own voice (saying your “suggested” words) is more believable than some radio-announcer voice, and who cares if they don’t speak perfect English?

Free Thing This Month:
The “Survey Testimonial Builder” free to Contracting Business readers when you email [email protected] or fax your letterhead to us at 334/262-1115 with your request and mailing info. This survey card automatically generates the testimonials you need to solidify your credibility and image in your service area – all you have to do is it mail it. Whatever you do, begin to amass real, live, willing testimonials, reference givers, or supporting facts that make your “selling” job a “telling” job instead. Other people’s words speak louder than yours. Use this to your full advantage.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors, and author of the recently published Contractor Marketing Secrets. Readers can get his free contractor marketing newsletter by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334/ 262-1115. Call 800/489-9099 or check out for other free marketing articles and reports.

2008 Winner of the Ugliest Yellow Page Ad Award Announced

It was hard to choose the ad most in need of a makeover – mostly because so many of them looked the same (think about that for a while). But after digging through several hundred of them, I finally landed on the one destined for greatness:

Say hello to Crossville Heating and Cooling – and say goodbye to this perfect example of institutional advertising. Look at the most obvious crime: the headline. The reader is immediately given the cost of a service. And while there are bulleted points, none of them spell out benefits to the reader, or back up what’s so great about $49.95; they merely list the same meaningless features common throughout the Yellow Pages – none of which are a reason to purchase.

Better to use a headline that actually solves the problem the eager prospect is seeking. How do I know he’s eager? Have you ever known anyone to open the Yellow Pages who wasn’t in or near immediate need?

The second ad doesn’t even have a headline. If that weren’t bad enough, the huge photo of the condensing unit does nothing. Am I supposed to say, “LOOK! A machine thingy that looks like the thingy outside my house! They MUST be good!” In all, it’s a horrific waste of company resources. I honestly believe an ad a fraction of this size could outsell this one. Give the savings to charity… it’d benefit more people.

Ok, enough verbal, er, written abuse. The point is the ad needed a lot of help. And it’s going to get it. Be looking for the exact steps that will change this ad from the Worst YP Ever, to an instant lead generator.

And if you want to see the 5 runners up for Ugliest YP Ad, you can check them out at