ACHRNEWS

Stick to Your Guns

July 31, 2006
There is more advertising clutter in the world today than ever before. According to the book Data Smog, in 1971 people were subjected to 571 advertisements per day. In 1997 that number was up to over 3,000 advertisements per day. Just imagine the competition today, especially with the Internet being even more of a factor in everyday life. Product placements are in everything from sitcoms to sporting events. How can a contractor ever hope to cut through the clutter in today's world?

CUTTING IN

As contractors try and cut through that clutter, they are not only competing with hundreds of heating and air conditioning companies, but they're also competing with every ad that a consumer sees. The battle is for mental real estate, which is a scarce resource.

To make things worse, HVAC is an industry that homeowners usually have little interest in. Average consumers don't pay attention to heating and air conditioning advertisements until they need help. By then it may be too late to make an impression.

What's the best hope of coming out on top? One of the best ways to cut through the clutter is to develop a unique message and positioning strategy that positions the company in a favorable light, has a positive connotation, and is instantly memorable.

UNIQUENESS COUNTS

Some people refer to this as a unique selling proposition. The best ones are often at the front of everyone's minds. Which beer is cold as a mountain stream? Who do you send a package with when it absolutely, positively has to be there by 10 a.m.?

I'm confident that the products associated with those messages instantly came to mind while reading them. That's the mark of a strong positioning strategy.

Step one is to choose a unique selling proposition for the company. This is a process not to be taken lightly. Be sure to invest time in developing an effective company position.

Step two, and this may be the most important step, is to stick to your guns. Once a position for the company has been chosen, the most important thing to do is stick with it. By doing so, it'll drive that message and that position home for every consumer in your market. The message should serve the company for its lifetime.

It's so crucial to stick to your guns because the strategy and message will help determine how successful the company is. Thousands of companies turn up bankrupt each year. How many wind up bankrupt because they aren't technically competent? I'm going to suggest that there are very few.

Most of them go bankrupt because they don't have enough calls. And they don't have enough calls because they don't have a winning positioning strategy that attracts consumer interest.

Step three is to track the results. Once a positioning strategy has been established, track the advertising. This will inform contractors where people have heard their message and whether it is having the desired impact. If a message is having no effect over time or is actually hurting the company, only in that case should a contractor change the company message.

DIAMONDS AREN'T FOREVER

Here's a quick example of the importance of sticking to your guns and knowing when it's time to change your position.

Retailer Tom Shane operates The Shane Co., a string of 23 successful jewelry stores across the country. For years his message was, "Now you have a friend in the diamond business." That is until a few months ago when he changed that message to "He's dull, but he's brilliant," most likely in response to criticism against his monotone voiceover on the radio ads. But where is the focus of that new message?

Do consumers really care about a boring individual who might be brilliant? With that tag, he's broken the bond that he fostered with the average consumer and shifted the focus to himself rather than the customer. After all, most everyone would like a friend in the diamond business. That position spoke to consumers, where the new slogan didn't seem to have the same appeal.

From shopping at The Shane Co., I know how diligently they track their advertising, and I'm guessing that Tom's results showed that the new position wasn't working. He didn't stick to his guns and his results suffered. That's why I wasn't surprised to recently hear a commercial where he stated that some people were concerned that they had lost their friend in the diamond business. He reassured them that he was still their friend in the diamond business and at the end, that familiar message came back.

What is the moral of this story? Build a powerful position for your company and when you find one that works, stick to your guns. That's how you make money every day. n

Terry Nicholson is president of AirTime 500. For more information on AirTime 500, call 800-505-8885. Nicholson can be reached by e-mail at tnicholson@yoursgi.com.

Publication date: 07/31/2006