Bill Raymond, a seminar presenter at the Nexstar Super Meeting 26 and senior trainer with Nexstar Inc., talked about marketing to existing customers.

DENVER - Contractors who look to venture into new markets need to overcome the "fear of change" that accompanies any attempt at diversification. The rewards can outweigh the costs and an existing customer base can grow if the marketing efforts are strong enough, according to Bill Raymond, a seminar presenter at the Nexstar Super Meeting 26.

Raymond, a senior trainer with Nexstar Inc. and a member of their board of directors, told attendees that the first thing they must do before venturing out into new markets is to "be sure your house is in order."

Raymond said that contractors should ask themselves the reasons for entering a new market in the first place - and the reasons why not.

The main reasons for doing it include the ability to increase sales while spreading overhead, increasing market share while diversifying, more work for the existing staff, greater customer retention, and the ability to make a natural transition into a new market.

However, Raymond said there are reasons not to enter a market, too, including the fear of change, not having the right people with the technical expertise, inability to make a financial commitment with a better return on investment, the increased physical size of the company, or the prospect that the move may not enhance the business.

"Don't think about going into a new trade if your house is not in order," he said. "Starting a new business may not be the band-aid or cure-all."

So why do it? "You are looking to generate leads," he said. "You want customers to call you and book a service appointment. That's the bottom line."

Raymond took a moment to define marketing, which he divided into three segments.

1. Marketing is about customers. Having a solid understanding of customers means having a solid understanding about how customers behave, their motivations, perceptions, and preferences.

2. Marketing is about competition. Marketing is also about understanding competition. It means thinking about their competitive reactions, objectives, and capabilities. It means understanding competitive forces in the industry as well.

3. Marketing clarified. Marketing isn't just advertising or sales. It's a holistic approach to finding prospects you'd like to work with, taking the necessary steps to convert them into clients, offering services that will greatly benefit them, developing a working relationship with them, and generating referrals and repeat business.

Raymond noted contractors should be clear on their goals when marketing a new business to their existing customer base. They should first examine the number of customers in their database and using this list, determine the amount of service calls they want to generate, the new leads they want to generate, and how many techs they want to keep busy.

"Then determine what marketing you need," he said. "What level of message do you want to get out? Whispering? Talking loud? Screaming?"

Raymond asked seminar attendees to come up with ideas on how to market a new business, based on the various levels including whispering, talking loud, or screaming.

The list included direct mail, stickers, cross-selling, messages on hold, door hangers, telemarketing, truck signage, and, press releases.

He noted contractors need to choose someone to "champion the charge" - a person in the company who is capable of whispering, talking loud, and screaming.

Publication date: 11/20/2006