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The bad news is that every single one of your competitors is in the same boat, so that means your marketing has to be more efficient and aimed with laser-like precision than ever before.
The good news is that there are five things you can do right now to change your business economy from a downturn to an upswing. Below is how to do it:
1. Turn to direct response. There is no type of advertising that is better suited to the cause of generating leads than direct response. This method gets its name because the offers go directly to a prospect and ask for a response. It builds successful features around several important points:
• Bold. The offer must be powerful enough to prompt a response, and the attention-grabbing headline sets that course in motion. They’re bold enough for someone to stop and take notice.
• Direct. Direct response ads speak to a prospect about his problem or need and propose a solution right then and there.
• Limited. Direct response comes with a sense of urgency. It’s no mystery that the prospect is supposed to respond immediately - if not sooner - to the offer. He usually gets a little bonus for responding quicker. The time or product availability should be limited, and this “sense of urgency” with a deadline or quantity limitation is one of the strongest traits of direct response.
• Reduce risk. They have generous guarantees to reduce any barrier to action and can offer free items (called “premiums” or “freemiums”) as a bonus to act faster or improve response rates.
2. Follow unclosed leads. When you leave a lead unclosed, it’s like leaving money unclaimed. The lead you worked hard to acquire, which you then pursued with an appointment, evaluation, and offer, could be waiting on one more simple step: your follow-up.
Recontact all your unclosed sales from, say, the past 30 to 90 days. You’d be making a “sweep” of the prospects yet to take action, which is why it’s sometimes called a “sweep letter.” Make this recontact a regular part of your own sales schedule, just like your marketing plan tells you when to run ads. Sweeten the offer if you’d like or add a new sense of urgency (last remaining systems at that price, for example).
Don’t let a lead die without follow-up. Give your unclosed sales another chance.
3. Upsell early and often. If you want to boost profits for your company, one way to do so is to get more money from each customer during each call. The upsell is a path to more. And a little more each time goes a really long way during the year. So, where do upsells come from? You have a service upgrade, warranty, thermostat, humidifier, air cleaner, and maintenance agreement all waiting to be sold. Are your customers going to ask you if you have them? No. You must tell them. And that usually begins with your own questions: “How else may I help you? Do you have any other questions or needs today?” You’re gently upselling toward other products and future calls.
Upsells and add-ons are a nice ticket to profitability while competitors are looking at lowering prices to make a living during the recession. They’ve pulled back and must turn their dwindling leads into sales, leading to a further spiral. But when you offer valuable upsells, you protect margin and increase the average transaction ticket.
4. Focus on the most profitable part of your business. If you knew an area where spending marketing dollars was five times more profitable than any other, don’t you think it’d be a good idea to keep a laser-like focus on that particular area? Well, there actually is such a segment of the market - and it’s called “your customers.”
Your goal, on an average day, is to retain your customers and increase the value of your customers. You do so by communicating to them on a regular basis.
These communications don’t look like ads, but they are certainly helping you convey the image of trustworthiness, credibility, dependability and a caring attitude. They can be thank you calls, cards, or letters; follow-up surveys; congratulatory letters on a system install; or a “Welcome to the maintenance agreement family” note. They can be “Sorry we missed you” door hangers, maintenance agreement appointment reminders, or a customer newsletter filled with helpful household hints.
5. Know the truth about direct mail/newspaper inserts. Technology is great, isn’t it? Well, yes, it is if you’re talking about how much easier it is to communicate with friends and colleagues, save time shopping, and save postage paying your bills. But, though there are rumors that the U.S. Postal Service is headed for an untimely demise, there are a few things to consider about continuing to send mail that could have a big impact on your bottom line.
First, when the Wall Street Journal confirms the strategy we’ve been recommending for eons, we figure we must be doing something right. Earlier this year, in an eye-opening article, this esteemed publication of business news highlighted the consequences companies experienced when they switched from snail mail to e-mail for marketing purposes.
One company gave up its direct mail letters, opting instead for e-mail, and saved the cost of the mailing, but also saw a drop of 25 percent in its business. So, what did they do to turn around the situation? They went back to what worked. They mailed a postcard and, in that simple mailing, recouped the 25 percent loss.
Mailings have not gone away, but they have tended to become more personal. The most cost-efficient business mailing today is the one that follows the most basic customer retention strategy: mailings that are addressed to current and prospective customers. And for some of the same reasons mailings are still in the game, newspaper inserts are too.
NEWS readers can get a free report “Get More HVAC Leads in Less Time” by e-mailing their polite request to email@example.com or faxing company information to 334-262-1115. See other marketing reports at wwww.hudsonink.com or call 800-489-9099.
Publication date: 11/08/2010