With every retailer in the country screaming non-stop at the buying public, this month is one of the most challenging for marketers. This just means you have to be more creative. There are three rules for successful marketing this month.
When marketing in December, remember that the din of retailer advertising is jacked up to its annual high. It’s hard to compete with big box advertising, so don’t try. Look for alternative means of reaching people. Zag when others zig.
2. Focus on Convenience
Between parties, shopping, decorating, baking, school functions, and family, no one has any time in December. People gravitate towards the easy buy. This is one of the reasons we’ve seen an explosion in online sales.
3. Know Your Place
To most people, buying a new furnace ranks right up there with buying a new set of tires. People are focused on iPad 2’s, Blue Ray players, and jewelry. Compared to that, a high efficiency air cleaner doesn’t have a chance.
So, knowing the three rules, what do you do? Here are nine practical tactics you can use to boost your year-end performance.
1. Allow Online Scheduling
Take away the need to call you during the day and you’ve just made life a little easier for your customers. Your customer can schedule you online, at night, when you no longer answer the phones.
Allowing online scheduling doesn’t have to be challenging. Get your web developer to add a simple form indicating whether the service is urgent (i.e., first available appointment) or would be preferred on a certain day and time window. On the form, let the customer know that a customer service representative will call the number provided in the morning to confirm availability. The form results in an email to your dispatcher, who calls and either accepts the appointment request or suggests another time.
2. Use Facebook and Twitter
Hopefully, you’ve been building a following using social media. When times are slow, it’s time to tap into this group by flashing coupons by for emergency service each week and recommending your followers share these with family and friends who need heating work. Service Roundtable members use the coupons we provide them as Facebook photos on their personal and company pages and as Twitpic pictures. They work. They won’t solve all of your marketing problems, but they can play a role. If you want social media to play an even bigger role, build a bigger following.
3. Market to Customers
The one place to deploy direct marketing is to your existing customer base. They’re already familiar with you and, hopefully, trust you. You’re always more effective marketing to your customers than others. December is a month when you need that edge.
4. Tie in With Charities
This is a month when charity activity goes into overdrive. Pair your business with a popular local charity using affinity marketing techniques and sales will increase. At the very least, if your work load is down encourage people to volunteer at as many public events as possible. Pay them, but insist they wear company sweatshirts or other apparel.
Since people aren’t excited about the stuff we sell, bundle the stuff they are excited about. Bundle an iPad with a high efficiency furnace replacement. Bundle a Blue Ray player with a standard efficiency furnace. iPads start at $500. Blue Ray players can be picked up for less than $100. Build it into your pricing.
To add permanence to the bundle, get the back of the iPad laser engraved. For example, you might engrave, “Buy a Furnace – Get an iPad 2” on one line and your company name and phone number or website on the second. The engraving doesn’t cost more, but requires you to order from Apple’s online store.
6. Phone Calls
If the phone’s not ringing, keep your CSR busy by calling service agreement customers to wish them a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah. Don’t make it a sales call, just call to wish them well and thank them for their support.
7. Local Events
Find out about all of the local events occurring in your area, ranging from school to community to charity to church. Become the clearinghouse for local happenings through social media, email, and your website.
8. Gift Certificates
Market to your customers the ability to give friends and relatives the “gift of comfort” through gift certificates with your company. Add a safety element through an inspection of combustion appliances and the installation of a CO alarm and this might be the perfect gift for the senior who has everything and wants nothing. It’s consistent with the trends of supporting local, small businesses and giving practical gifts this holiday season.
9. Leverage Commercial End of Year Budget Opportunities
The buying motivations of commercial customers differ from residential. If your commercial clients have budget money left, they might need to spend it before year end or lose it. Even if they aren’t concerned with the budget, per se, they might want to minimize taxes by moving some 2012 expenses into 2011. Contact them to see if there are any projects or pre-paid work they would like to pull into 2011 for budget or tax reasons.
Larger companies where the managers are not the owners will be more sensitive to their budgets. Owners will be more sensitive to taxes.
Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable. Find out how you can earn cash rebates by buying parts, equipment, and supplies from Service Roundtable’s preferred partners. Call 877.262.3341 and ask about the Roundtable Rewards program. It’s free for Service Roundtable members.