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What are you doing next? I mean, humans are presumably the only of God’s creatures who think of the future, though someone needs to tell me how we know this. (Did scientists poll wolverines and platypuses with questions about living out their dreams?) Regardless, the past is an awesome teacher about the future.
The core of every survey, the reason we apply for loans, insurance, jobs, etc., is to allow the past to be a vaguely reliable predictor of future behavior.
I get calls from contractors who say they’re stuck at a certain sales level. As an overpaid consultant, I’m trained to ask, “And what have you done differently in the past 12 months?” The highly predictable answer is “Nothing much.” No changes equals no change. And why was there no change? The core cause - usually unspoken but obvious - is fear.
These days, contractors often ask for marketing suggestions to make the phone ring. We realize this is to create cash and/or relieve them of financial calamity. We make suggestions - by the dozens - in publicized media (such as in The NEWS) and to private coaching clients. Results are shared, stories retold, strategies revealed.
Oddly, the ones who never did anything different during good times are just as resistant to changing anything during bad times. Why? Fear, plain and simple.
The past behavior weaves its nasty way right into the future. Goes both ways.
The hyperactive, hyperachievers seem to relish differentiating behavior. (Marketing Lesson #2: Market leaders, by definition, don’t copy and can’t wait on the crowd. However, they often sensibly reformulate based on proven criteria.) Those stories, new successes, and breakthroughs carry them into the future. They tend to see a wave coming and prepare to ride it ahead, while others frantically splash about.
Which way are you going next? The five behaviors and “new” habits of successful contractors are revealed below. Do not read this if you’re unwilling to read some harshness.
CHANGING YOUR WAYSThe five things the super successful do not do are:
1. Accept the norm: A few examples: If normal contractors spend over one-half their budgets in the Yellow Pages and perennially complain about the sorry results, the leaders shun same. Our top clients spend about 20 percent in the Yellow Pages - less if we can make a business case for it.
Likewise, the normal ad is a stupid, puffed-up, ego-driven, and ridiculously ineffective ad designed for “free!” - featuring sweating penguins, starbursts, and “for all your heating and cooling needs” - by the staff whose design criteria is to “not stand out too much.” (They succeed: the ads in the heating and cooling section all blend together in a sea of sameness. Guess what - that’s bad.) Leaders advertise with customer-focused direct response ads that do stand out.
Likewise, if the crowd is not having success with maintenance agreements, the leaders find a way to pile them on.
If the crowd is not getting publicity, the leaders focus on it. If the crowd doesn’t want to invest in customer retention, the leaders quietly amass legions of devoted fans by using it.
2. Resist outside advice from qualified experts: The fear of change aspect again. Leaders typically hire specialists in finance, estate/succession planning, insurance, legal, marketing, sales, personnel, and technical training. They see these as investments; the crowd sees them as unnecessary costs. In time, the gap between the investor and the fearful nonspender widens. The crowd calls them lucky. The leaders would call the crowd names, but they have bigger things to focus upon.
(Side note: Our coaching clients typically say things like “Just having someone on my side, giving advice and urging me forward is worth several times the fee.” That was not a plug to join our coaching program, but to find someone, some place, where you get a regular sense of mission. Looking at the same walls, the same employees’ blank faces, generally will not do it.)
3. Refuse to look at the “hole in the bucket”: If the website visits are going down, there’s a reason. If the response to direct mail has sunk, there’s a reason. If your old customers aren’t calling you back, there’s a reason. If you regularly hear people not requesting a certain tech of yours, there’s a reason. All are costing you. Turning the other way doesn’t make it go away or get better.
Though our renewal rate for newsletter clients had gone up, I still wondered about those who did not renew. So we launched a three-part mail/e-mail/call campaign to all who - for any reason at any time - didn’t renew. It’s amazing - many new phone calls, old clients feeling appreciated, and new orders came in. The hole in the bucket is now smaller.
There are negative habits, practices, trends in your company that are reversible. Take a hard look at them. Be the leader who (a) admits, (b) takes corrective action, and (c) measures and repeats accordingly.
4. Get hurt by criticism: Sorry, but we’ve become wimpy, politically correct, crybaby-prone fence-sitters concerned about everyone’s self-esteem. This is, to me, the fear behind change. We fear resistance, reluctance, making a wrong move (so we make none) or offending. Respectful leaders forge ahead without bullying but also without regard to slings and arrows of sideliners. Most critics do little other than criticize. So, if you have something you’ve “been thinking about doing” for awhile, there’s a God-given reason it won’t leave you alone. Apologies to Nike®, but just do it.
5. Expect new results from old habits: The old model has died. The economy rupture of last year just gave it a not-so-respectful funeral. Those who change are going to manifest their destinies accordingly. Yet following the same marketing pattern, sales presentations, going to the same discussion boards and same industry events with the same speakers, are not going to bring change.
The best thing you could do is buy a plane ticket to visit a business you want to become and find out what they did. Ask whose advice they sought, what systems they have. You’ll find that they were never afraid to change. Emulate that.
Watch for these five nasty habits in your business, and pick one thing you can change now. You’ll soon make far more headlines than corduroy pillows.
Publication date: 06/21/2010