Adams Hudson

If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to be in one of my seminars, you know that I list certain rules. Things like: fire the Yellow Pages; quit using the competition for ad inspiration; your distributor is your friend, not your mother. And on it goes; there are many.

Psychologically speaking, those examples - worded as they are - also generate other, deeper responses from contractors, all intentional, all relative to the marketing lesson in this article. They’re rarely obvious until pointed out, but can be supremely powerful in your marketing and selling.

First is the recognition and subsequent resistance to standard. Most contractors are surprised by the common-ness of the marketing problems, thinking perhaps theirs were unique. While this may give some initial comfort, it then makes them very uneasy about remaining in the common group. This is a very important, but odd, human trait. Though most of us, by definition, fit average, no one wants to be average.

Second is establishment of a common villain. Though you could consider that remaining average is a villain (and it is or no one would attend seminars) the other, more flagrant enemies are the ones that unify groups, making us want to ban together and storm Frankenstein’s castle with flaming torches. This “enemy” reaction is hard-wired in us. (I mention two in the rules above.) Think this through for a second.

All good movies and books have them. All super-heroes have them. Most political, financial, or sports discussions have them. Perennially, we love to hate the taxman, love to ridicule government ineptitude, love to think the bossman never does any real work.

And I certainly have mine in marketing: Thank heaven for the villainous Yellow Pages.


I applaud their sales nastiness, their cunning, marginally-deceptive, strong-armed tactics. I adore their awful, underperforming ads, dripping with world-class graphical incompetence. I love that they’re a really big, really expensive, and - in the realm of ad creation - an easily beaten foe. A Goliath needs a David. I have been happy to accept the role, however undeservedly. I took this role for a couple reasons.

I bash the Yellow Pages mainly because it’s deserved, but also because I rarely meet a sympathizer. Sure, I’ve been cursed out on the phone by their employees, but have also had former employees concur with the accusations - plus a couple I’d not thought of - as if in a guilt-cleansing marketing confessional. Point is: contractors and your customers passionately relate to an enemy, and would like your help kicking them in the shins, or somewhat higher.

Our Yellow Page ads (guaranteed to double lead counts, often smaller and less expensive) became a way to do just that for thousands of contractors. The strategy introduced them to our way of marketing, hopefully leading to other sales in the process.

You too have enemies to flail in front of your customers, helping them win against the tyranny, gaining their trust and understanding in the process. So take a gander at the enemy lineup that causes your customer to sit up, take notice, and hopefully take out a pen to sign the “Bid Acceptance” form:

• The Government:Everyone yelled at them for the handling of the 13 SEER efficiency change. However, if you’ve followed these articles, you’ll notice we did the end around with the marketing (generating nearly $2 million in sales from one ad for the featured contractor) by telling people their beloved 10-12 SEERs were going away forever. This worked for lead generation, opening the door to higher SEER sales.

This summer, the rage was about the tax incentive rebate that confounded as many consumers as contractors. The teleseminar, conducted by The NEWS’ Mike Murphy and available free at the end of this article, revealed our strategy to catch the momentum of “Cash for Clunkers” madness, then turn the government into our tax-reducing friend. Worked again. And it’ll work again all winter long.

• The Utility:If you can’t make these guys enemies, you’re way too nice. The rate shifts, profit gouging (real or perceived), and the assumption that all energy bills are going up, all the time, even while you sleep is enough to make almost anyone say “No more Mr. Nice Guy!” Showing an ROI on energy - not payback - is a far more attractive way to get back at unstoppable rate hikes.

• Other Energy Evils:Similarly, our ads link natural gas rates to the Mideast oil producers or profit hungry oil companies (both true by the way, look it up before you write) which almost always generates agreement. Your marketing and sales will be stronger this winter proving you’re trying to help customers beat these enemies.

• The Competition:This is the easiest enemy of all to beat, but be careful. What you want is general acceptance that many contractors make you wait too long, or don’t show up at all, or seem to disappear when there’s a warranty claim. (Easy because it’s true.) Just don’t call names. Remind prospects that many contractors don’t drug test, or train past “Simon says fix furnace”, but you do drug test, and you send your techs/CSRs to school regularly. Plus, others may intentionally confuse homeowners with specs and dollars, but you show prices up-front, and explain what you’re doing. Guarantees separate you even farther. Many ways to win here; notice I didn’t put “cheapen your prices” as one of them. It’s not.

• The “Business As Usual” Approach:The norm isn’t good. Most customers get fiery-eyed at the complete customer service meltdowns of too many service businesses. Yet when you make a point of full-disclosure, online rankings, appointment reminders, courteous follow-up, sending newsletters, and thank you cards that are not just trying to sell something, it makes you a standout in a sea of customer DIS-service. Heck, we just spent a year creating a contractor customer service program because this industry needs to up the ante. Making an enemy out of poor service is easier than skewering Jon at Kate’s Tupperware Party. Look, you’re not the norm; make that thoroughly obvious and appreciated.

• Yourself:Funny one to pick, but you’re different … remember? It’s fine to be human. Be honest and occasionally mention that you overbought (reason for good discount), or understaffed for the season (reason to call before weather hits), or should’ve alerted customers to the price increase earlier (“so act before I change the price books”). Customers appreciate and seek honest validation to value. This is why we hate the copycat “$500 Rebate!” every manufacturer on planet earth thinks is so alluring. Showing you’re a likable, honest human being is the first step toward being a trusted advisor.

So, if you’re not employing enemies in your sales and marketing, you’re not helping assess the contrast all customers use when they buy. And that means your sales are suffering, which I’ll bet is an enemy you’d like to beat.

TWO Free Sales and Marketing Tools of the Month:NEWSreaders’ early gifts from Santa - Audio CD of “The HVAC Tax Credit Incentive!”; “The Weakest Link in Your HVAC Sales Chain” – Report on boosting customer service. Just name which of the above you want, and fax a polite request on company letterhead to 334-262-1115 or a similar e-mail to

Publication date:12/28/2009