As contractors, you design systems in a logical way. In marketing, the same pattern exists: marketing generates leads, leads generate appointments, and appointments generate sales. That’s it. Now, if this isn’t the way it’s happening for your company, the pattern is pretty clear on that too: trouble’s brewing. No leads – means no sales – means no money – to fuel the business or your paycheck. Soon, no business exists. But there’s no need for pessimism, because we’re about to kick the pattern into gear with effective Direct Response marketing. First, make an irresistible offer… When you create your printed promotion, think of only one thing: the customer. Sound obvious? Well, not to the several thousand contractor ads we’ve critiqued who are 90% focused on their company and its implied greatness. Think of what customers want to read, what they can gain, how they will win with your offer, and most importantly – how they’re supposed to get these benefits. Leave nothing to guesswork. Start by listing all the benefits you want to offer. Some will be major (and thus headline-worthy), while others will be minor. These may become subheads or bullet points in the ad. Remember: keep only one major point and no more than five minor points in any ad. You never want your customer confused about his benefits. The minor points simply support the main benefit or build a customer’s reasons to act. That’s all. Now, let’s create… Let’s say for your Direct Mail letter or newspaper ad, your benefits include a six-month, no payment plan; a 10-year parts warranty; a 15% energy savings; and you’d like to throw in a year’s maintenance. As you state benefits, you build value. As the value increases and the risk decreases, you’ll find little or no resistance to generating leads. For example: The headline should state, “You Can Get a New Heating and Cooling System Now, But I Won’t Let You Pay Me for 6 Months!” The subhead should say, “In fact, I won’t even let you pay for a single part for the next 10 years!” By now, you’ve got anyone who’s even thinking about being in the market somewhat interested in your message. Don’t let them down. Keep the momentum going by identifying with them as you explain your offer in plain terms. Like this… “Look, it’s going to be hot this summer and your high energy bills are going to prove it! So why not save some of your money? I’ve got a way that you can stay cool, drop your energy bills and not make a single payment until (Month, Year)!” Then you build each paragraph – beginning with a great benefit. So if they just scan sentences, they’ll understand your full offer in about 5 sentences. Like this… “You can pocket payments and watch your energy bills drop like a rock!” Then build upon that benefit and four to six more until you get to… “On top of this, the (BRAND) manufacturer has approved a 10-year warranty, so you pay NOTHING for parts for 10 full years!” Risk reducer: The last resistance will be a customer’s risk or fear-of-action in calling you. You address this with guarantees. Make them powerfully stated where the customer can’t lose, doesn’t risk and has no reason not to call. That’s the incredible power of good Direct Response. Rotten Direct Response yells an ever scummier mountain of mild deceit. Great Direct Response pulls appreciative buyers through the phone. Yet not without this: Call to action: What exactly do you want them to do? In a newspaper ad, you want your “Call to Action” in perhaps a lined box that draws the reader in – usually in the lower right hand corner. In a letter, always use a P.S. that restates an immediate and obvious benefit to your offer. You don’t want this missed! Put your phone number in there too. Sense of Urgency: In your copy, you want to limit the time, the quantity, the neighborhood and the “packages” you’re offering in a way that incites action … not inaction. If you make a Direct Response ad with no limit, you don’t have an offer. In Summary: Make a good strong promotion that communicates benefits for the customer in a logical, clean fashion. Direct it to the most likely response group with a limit and watch the results. It’s fascinating, profitable and – like most things that are done well – fun. Make your marketing message stand out, so they can’t help but call and remember you! Adams Hudsonis president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Readers can receive a 16-page report “Get More Leads in Less Time” and a free marketing newsletter by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334-262-1115. You can also call Hudson, Ink at 1-800-489-9099 for help or visit www.hudsonink.com for other free marketing articles and reports.