By Rodney Koop
Founder and CEO. www.TheNewFlatRate.com
What if contractors, businesses, etc., sold training? The world is full of wannabe do-it-yourselfers. But the problem is that the large majority of people under 50 years old can’t change a tire on a bicycle. Those of you who are technicians and go into these homes know this is true.
How long has it been since you went to a house for a service call or to install equipment and saw a real tool chest or a real workbench with real tools? Back in the day, I remember it was common. Almost every garage had tools— tools to change bike tires for the kids, tools to build shelves for the garage and for the bedrooms. I remember when if someone wanted a white picket fence in the yard, they built it and painted it with their wife and kids. But now?
So, I told this business broker, “Why would I want to buy someone else’s business when I could start my own and put $20,000 into marketing and have all the customers I want?”
If you look in the dictionary under the word “stupid,” you will see my name in bold letters, I’m sure, but wait! There’s more!
You see, I will heartily agree to the stupidity of my arrogance at that time (25 years ago, so give me a little slack), but I had a little bit of truth to my statement.
Here’s why: No HVAC company or plumbing or electrical at that time was spending $20,000 on marketing of any kind in my area. Had I been the first to do it, and had I done it full out, balls to the wall, the full Monty, the full $20,000, I would have immediately had all the business I could stand and would have easily grown beyond all the existing local HVAC contractors at that time.
I will say that I knew pretty much nothing about HVAC, so crash and burn would have been in the cards, and it did happen anyway, but that’s another story.
In 1995, what was the most powerful marketing program of any kind that anyone with the guts to buy it could take advantage of?
The Yellow Pages! And no service company at the time, not even the big carpet cleaning franchises, were spending anything near $20,000 on Yellow Pages in my area. In fact, Yellow Pages were about to peak and then disappear under the weight of the new digital age. But peak they did.
As I go deeper with this, I want you to consider how this form of advertising was absolute gold in 1995, and nowhere near even bronze today in 2021.
So, let’s think about the many forms of advertising that have worked at some time in the past but don’t perform today like they did then.
Then, of course, we want to think about what does work today and what would happen if we put some bucks behind it.
Just for the fun of it, I will mention ‘snake oil salesmen.’ These guys get a bad rap for selling sugar-laced codeine, alcohol, and cocaine bottled and labeled as the latest be-all, cure-all and all around make-you-feel-better-today medicine, but let’s face it—they made a good living.
Let me throw in a nugget here for you to chew on. Who makes the most profit worldwide today?
1. HVAC contractors.
2. Alcohol and drug manufacturers and distributors.
3. Mattress salesmen. Ok, that was an easy one, but here’s the takeaway. The most money is made by those with the most hyped value (real or perceived) and, don’t miss this, the lowest cost.
Ten cents a bottle for the water, 5 cents for the plastic bottle. Two cents for the colorful label and 25 cents for distribution = 43 cents cost for a bottle of water that sells for 99 cents. Add some flash and a flip top and it goes for $3.29. A whopping 530% return on your investment. This is how billionaires are made. Can you say, “I’d like to teach the world to sing?”
What’s this all about? This is about getting your mind out of the wholesaler’s mentality that says you must pay for more expensive equipment so you can mark it up and make more money. More on that later maybe. Now back to advertising. I sort of got carried away there, you know, with going from being a get along contractor to talking about how some became filthy rich. Sorry about that.
Now had I, back in 1995, immediately put $20,000 in Yellow Pages advertising, I could have had the first full page add in our book. By the way, we only had one Yellow Pages in 1995, the real Yellow Pages from Ma Bell. The largest ad at that time was likely what was called the “dollar ad” because it was the size of a dollar bill and cost about $195 a month to run. But it worked because there also were only a handful of HVAC companies who actually paid for an ad in the book.
It’s fair to say that getting the business and knowing what to do with it are two very important distinctions, but I’m willing to assume that if you are reading this, you know what to do with the business once you get it. So, my 15 minutes here are about up, so let’s recap.
1. Do-It-yourselfers have the want-to but not the how-to. There is opportunity there. What if you looked at your business as a trainer for the DIYers in your area of expertise? I have a good friend who has sold very expensive high- end barbecue grills by holding classes with a chef, teaching prospects how to cook. What could you do with that information? Example: what if you hold a class, live or online, teaching people how to troubleshoot their HVAC system? Now that’s a cheap bottle of water, but you could pick up a few clients. Now, let’s upgrade. What if you taught those wannabe DIYers how to increase their cash by dropping their utility bills in half using just a hammer, a caulking gun, and a 20-dollar infrared thermometer? Now, this is just off the top of my head, but what could you do with ideas that run along those levels? Or “Homeowner, using simple tools saves $99 a month on monthly expenses.” Cheesy, right? But we all buy cheesy.
2. What advertising are you spending money on today that quit working yesterday? Oh, it hurts just to ask yourself that question, right? We’re all in this together, by the way. I cringe when I ask myself that question. Yellow Pages quit working in most, but not all, markets. Social media was the darling when it came out; now I only see about five posts a day because it’s too busy. I check my messages on it from close friends, and that’s about it. So, what works or doesn’t work today? Make a list.
3. Where’s the big kahuna, the silver tuna today, right now? YouTube. In my opinion, there is more money being made with YouTube than almost anything else. Other big name social media platforms are scrambling to catch up by pushing videos to the top. People want videos, how to videos, entertaining videos, and they want them fast, short, and fun. Longer is fine if the content is addictive. I keep telling myself that I have to get new YouTube videos up. Procrastination in the day of lightning-fast information gathering is not good. But we all fight it. Do something with video.
4. Your website is still valid. By the way, I have started using my map app as my yellow pages. If want to know if Lowe’s is still open, I just hit maps, search for Lowe’s, and it not only shows me where it is, which I probably know, but it immediately gives me the store hours and tells me if it is open or not. Link your information to maps. Now, here is my suggestion for your website: get your picture on it now, today. People want to see something visual, and they don’t give a (insert expletive here) about the AC unit you sell. Unless you are ugly, put your mug front and center with a pretty spouse and/or a pretty child, or a cute dog, even if you have to rent one for the shot. Get pictures up of everyone who works with you. Everyone. Why? Why you ask? Because you are buying the most expensive commodity in the world with the cheapest money. You are buying your prospects’ time with a picture. Use the currency you have, and get the biggest return on your investment. Now, while you have their attention, give them an offer they can’t refuse. I just checked out my website and kicked myself until my butt was blue. I’ve got to get pictures back up. I hate it when I’m a hypocrite, but I can fix that.
5. Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop trying to sell bikinis when your customer is buying parkas. Quit trying to sell air conditioning and heating when it’s 78 degrees outside. Get out of the overalls and get into the business suit. I mean, sell the customer what they want to buy, when they want to buy it. Never throw advertising dollars at a slow season. Find a hopping season, find something they want to buy now, and sell that. Quit thinking they will buy a new system in September when what they really want is a new kitchen by Christmas. Just saying! Figure out what they want, and find a way to give it to them.
Ok, I know I’m all over the board today, so feel free to call me and chew me out anytime.
Pricing enthusiast Rodney Koop is the founder and CEO of The New Flat Rate, a home service menu-selling system designed to put profit directly into the hands of plumbing, electrical, and HVAC contractors. (706) 581-0622, anytime. [email protected]