Back when I was growing up – which is weird, since I’m not grown up yet – astrology was just catching on. Signs of the Zodiac, the Age of Aquarius, and predictions by ladies with too much eye makeup were everywhere.
These people regularly appeared on TV, generally wearing all black and some sort of hypnotic amulet so you knew they were for real. They’d then discuss their predictions which – and this is the amazing part – all happened way before the interview.
In my lifelong quest for minimal brain effort I thought, “Man, I want a job like that.” As a side note, I think it odd that I have never seen the headline: “Psychic Wins Lottery!” Now that would give some creds.
The Church of What’s Happening Now
In case your powers of observation rival that of a cucumber, you’ve noticed we’re at year’s end. This is the exact point where all business people: 1) Reflect on the past 12 months, and 2) Get creative with how they’ll shield their income.
And driven by an entrepreneurial gene defect, as business people, we also actually look forward. We project ways to improve income, grow our business (or perhaps just our profit, which is different), and be of more service to more people. I have my goals; you have yours.
Frankly, it’s no time to whine about what’s past, but use it only as a God-given education to improve. If you want to get depressed, turn on the news. If you want to “choose” betterment, stuff your mind and sensibilities with information that can change your news.
“2008 Was The Best Of Times; It Was the Stinkiest Of Times”
My apologies to Charles Dickens’ poignant reference to the French Revolution, and now that I’ve ruined it, I may as well go all out and claim this, “A Tale of Two Contractors.” Seems we had contractors who had sorry years across the U.S., many beginning their slides as new construction halted mid-year, others in the last quarter. However, those who remember that homeowners still need basic homes services, had their best years ever. No kidding. Got an email recently that said,
“I’ve been working my ‘keister’ off on marketing activities per your marching orders, and I’m finally catching up. The newsletters are out, press releases are flying out like planes at O’Hare, and the trade shows positioned us as experts. I’ve gotten great leads and sales, with many ‘love calls’ (extremely powerful marketing tool – thank you!) I’m all caught up, and backlog is very good. All of this is a result of marketing and great people in our company as the foundation. It is a wonderful time to be in HVAC.”
– Allen Kent, Kent Heating and Air
Allen lists, in one short email, four (or five) distinct strategies, all revealed in my CB articles over the past year, that he has done to radically boost his sales. He did not succeed by “accident” or by “waiting” for the phone to ring. He was on top of the marketing wave the whole time. Information he gleaned became results through action. Doesn’t make him a better contractor than you. Yet, he is a victor. (All told, about 15% of our clients have reported either “best” or “great” years.)
Yet, we too frequently get a frantic inquiry from someone who says they’re a “good contractor” (which I believe) but is on the verge of meltdown. Leads down, customer calls down, techs leaving, business in tatters. Blames it all on the economy. He admits he does no marketing outside of a pitiful Yellow Page ad, no customer retention program, no direct response, and thinks “image building” is for sissies.
Doesn’t make him a bad contractor, but it does make him a victim.
I concede: Spending is down. People are putting off upgrades. But as the “pie” decreases in size, so too does the “visible” competition for slices.
The Hidden Opportunity
My water heater failed last Sunday. One day and $850 later, I’m enjoying hot water again. Apparently, neither my plumbing nor my furnace has reacted to the economic woes. Only those who service them have.
As the wizened victors snatch business and customers during this “recess” (interesting root word), guess who’ll be sitting atop the very pent up “Needs replacing now!” heap when the economy regains? Guess who probably won’t be there to service or replace at all?
Adams Hudson’s Marketing Predictions for 2009
(Which are Believed to Be 84.7% Accurate, More or Less)
• Contractors who market to customers first and foremost will generate more sales, and referrals at lower cost, than costly broad market attempts by competitors. Proven repeatedly, virtually guaranteed in a recession.
• Guerilla marketing will see a resurgence, with creative website search engine optimization (SEO), “sequential” email campaigns, and lowtech, low cost radius mailings, “cluster control” tactics and heavy TOMA (Top of Mind Awareness) strategies. Related but separate…
• Publicity will continue to rise as the “golden star” of low or no cost marketing. There is no more effective, less costly image and lead builder. Be very careful of who “owns” the creative when you get airtime. Suggestion: you. Why? It’s going on your website and YouTube.
• Smaller, more targeted Direct Mail “layering” emerges as a cost-effective alternative to “mass” mailing. Better results too. Shorter drive radius for your fuel bill. And a bunch of other reasons I don’t have room for here.
• Costly network television time for contractors should dip. Other strategies get bigger bang for less buck. Cable viewers at 2 a.m. will rise due to add-on shift workers, second jobs. Results per dollar will be better.
• The Yellow Pages people will continue to hate me. Fine. One of us isn’t in this for the money, but for the results. Cut spending to less than 24% of total marketing budget this year. Make it a good ad or else…
• Adams Hudson will come and shred up every copy of your phone book in a blender, right before your eyes. It’ll generate basically the same lead count, but you get free confetti.
Victim or victor, totally your choice. Have fun with your marketing.
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 a free 2008-2009 12-month marketing strategy calendar by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334/262-1115. You can also call Hudson, Ink at 800/489-9099 for help or visit www.hudsonink.com for other free marketing articles and reports.
Start 2009 the right Way— By Taking Me To The Cleaners!
Never before have Contracting Business and Hudson, Ink offered you so much in one package. All CB Readers can snag the following to start off the year WAY ahead...
Teport #1: The Biggest Marketing Mistake of 2009 – A down economy punishes harder for this. You may not know you’re making it, but most contractors do.
Report #2: Cluster Control – The new marketing model for HVAC contractors. Dominate your service area one neighborhood at a time - here’s how.
Teport #3: Customer Service That Sells – Your CSR is the most vital link in your marketing chain. What can you do to make your customer service excellent?
12 Month Marketing Strategy Planner: Everything you need to know about message, media, and market laid out month by month. Take out the guesswork!
Free teleseminar, tuesday January 20, 2009: Your Marketing Map for the Next 90 Days – It’s the roadmap you’ve been waiting for, but you MUST register at www.hudsonink.com. Limited lines available.