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6 Sources of Free Marketing Ideas From Professional Marketers

May 8, 2019
Would you like to be a better marketer? There are plenty of people who will teach you. You just have to pay attention. Here’s how.

1. Read Your Junk Mail
Do not throw junk mail in the trash. At least, do not do it right away. Examine it, especially if it is from another industry. Look at the envelopes. What catches your attention? What seems to be a theme in direct marketing?

Open the mail. Look through it. Look at the headlines. Look at the copy. Is it written in corporate speak or conversational? Is it first, second, or third person? How is it laid out? How are graphics used?  Is there a call to action? What do you think is the objective?  Some of it will be really good and more will be really bad.  Divide it into two piles based on what you like and do not like. Take the best piece or two and set it aside. Toss the rest.

2. Watch How Others Price
How does a quick oil change company price? See how long it takes and figure out what they are charging per hour. Remember, you are coming to them and queuing up outside their place of business. If they get more per billable hour than you do, maybe you should raise prices.

Do the same thing when you get a haircut. Do it for other services. What is the main offering? Do they try and sell up? How? What technique is used to encourage you to buy more?

Visit the big boxes. The next time you visit a DIY big box, look at the prices charged for things you get from your supply houses. Some will cost less than what you pay, though the quality may or may not be the same. Some will cost a lot more. How can you apply this information to the way you price your goods and services? Maybe a uniform mark up and billable rate in your flat rate pricing is not the way to go.

3. Look at Trucks
What vehicle wraps catch your eye? Snap pictures of them with your phone (when stopped, of course). Take pictures of the wraps you like as well as the trucks you do not.

Later, when you have time, review them. What is the difference between the attractive wraps and the ordinary? How do the good wraps stand out? What are they using the vehicle to promote? Are their phone numbers prominent?  How about website URLs? Do you see multiple brands or just one?  Is there a unique selling proposition?

4. Examine Social Media
Lots of ads pop up in social media. What ads catch your eye?  Why? Save screenshots of the ones you like. Pay attention to the headlines. 

Click on a few and see what happens. How are they incenting you to click? What are they requiring of you? What does the landing page for an ad look like?

What do companies feature on their social media pages? How do they present themselves? What’s in their news feeds? How do they try and engage people?

5. Open Email
If you receive a lot of email, it’s tempting to just delete, delete, delete. On some days, take the time to open the email. What are the subject lines that get your attention? What is the return address? Does it look like it’s coming from a human being? How is it personalized to you?  Save the emails that seem to catch your attention the best.

6. Look at a Home Show For Ideas
What booths stand out? How are they staffed? What are the people doing that staff the booths?  What are they giving away? 

Walk up to different booths and introduce yourself. Ask what works for them?  Ask what their objective is?  Do they want leads?  Are they trying to set appointments?  Do they want sales on the spot?  Are they just trying to build brand awareness?

Take pictures of the booths you like. Review them later to look for the booth design, flow, lighting, headlines, and so on that are most appealing.

Build a Swipe File
Take the direct mail pieces you like, pricing strategies that are interesting, pictures of truck wraps you like, Internet advertising you like, emails you like, and home show booths you like and put them in a “swipe” file. Once a month or so, review it. Take notes on how you can use what you learn to improve your own marketing.  Each time you review it, purge half, so the swipe file does not become so large it is useless.

Frankly, the best outcome of a swipe file is the change in your mentality it requires. If you build a swipe file, it forces you to pay attention to the marketing of other companies and industries. It makes you a student of marketing. That will inevitably result in better marketing for your company.

To really build your marketing and get HVAC specific ideas, join the Service Roundtable. It’s only $50 per month, without a long term commitment, and includes unlimited downloads of sales, marketing, and business management tools, the industry’s largest peer-to-peer support structure, and HVAC’s biggest and best buying group.  Visit for more information.

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.