Adams Hudson

Here is a safety tip: Do not try to remove a 10-pound fire extinguisher from its bracket with your head. You really should just use your hands.

I was minding my own business, really. I’d leaned down in my garage to see if I - a mere mortal with a flawed sense of mechanical aptitude - could remove the front bumper cover off my needy car to get to the horns.

See, it had wimpy horns. And in the intelligence of the Dodge Viper assembly team, who likely considers honking inferior to just lighting up the tires to escape harm’s way, they’d stuck the horns in a thoroughly unreachable area. I knelt all the way down to see the dinky little horns beside the radiator. Then I stood up abruptly.

Major ouch. At my height, I don’t bump my head very much, so I made up for several lost opportunities. Two very loud clonks rang through the building - the first being my head removing said fire extinguisher from the bracket, the second being the extinguisher hitting the floor, scattering tools about the cement floor.

I got to my feet and poured a bottle of water on my aching head, clearly needing stitches. I contemplated going to the emergency room, but images of waiting behind gunshot victims and those with various communicable diseases coughing in my general direction made me reconsider.

So, with icepack on head, I watched Americans in Idle with my sweet wife and marginally concerned teenagers. The next day I went to the doctor who did his embroidery and sent me on my way. This got me to thinking.

Quickly and without notice stuff happens. These are called accidents because there’s no one to blame for their occurrence. I guess I could’ve gone victim and sued the contractor who installed the fire extinguisher, and the fire extinguisher company for not softening the edges of said unit. Plaintiffs and the tapeworms posing as their attorneys have gotten paid for more preposterous things, I assure you.

In this economy, we’re hearing more about victims of its wrath. For the guy or lady who lost their jobs due to plummeting sales (which govern the economic machine, lest you forget) out of their control, victim could be apropos.

Or for those whose livelihoods have taken an epic-sized belt tightening due to skittish customers or the collectively paranoid lenders that used to keep the pipelines flowing, the victim word is accepted. Yet for many hoping for a victim card, might I suggest a different word … such as “volunteer.” You make the call.


A contractor who had been doing well in the go-go economy was seeing his agreement renewal rate slip, his closing ratios tilt downward, and his margins erode to get the jobs. “This is the economy,” he told us.

We suggested circling the wagons and protecting his customer base first, locking down renewals, beginning a low-cost referral campaign, then getting aggressive with direct-response acquisition strategies for better-heeled, less-price-sensitive new customers.

In essence, he responded nonsense and promptly spent $60,000 on a radio campaign that was more about his ego and price-cutting than existing customers. Failure ensued.

During the past 12 months, he’d actually reduced his customer retention campaign to fund the “new” marketing. In time, his “old” customers heard the “new” offer, saw it as superior, and that generated two responses: (a) “Cut me the same deal or I’m gone,” and/or (b) “If that’s how you treat loyalty, I’m gone.” Thus, his respondents became a mix of current customers seeking a concession, and cheapskates.

Immediate margin erosion and accelerated customer exodus sent our contractor into a tailspin. Most profitable leads dried up. Ninety days later and half a staff later, he still has $15,000 a month due in radio, his Yellow Pages budget was never trimmed (suggested for three years, “Couldn’t give up the priority placement,” said his ego), many current customers and their agreements defected due to inequity and inattention. Some defectors commented on a blog site and reflected same in Google rankings. Not good.

He admitted that he’s very likely a couple pay cycles from the “B” word if things don’t improve. He called his company a victim of the economy. Your assessment?

There are victors, victims, and volunteers. This economy is making their distinctions very clear. Joining the victors is mostly a choice to do so, and it looks something like this:

Look at your ads.Is your message about family comfort or cheap service? If your reason to advertise “lowest prices in town” is just to get calls, don’t complain to me if you get a bunch of price shoppers. You basically begged ’em to call.

Look at your landing pages.Does your website attempt to pound visitors with hard logic? Or befriend them with helpful advice? Does it use technical jargon, or display benefits that mean something?

Look at your newsletter.Are you talking about the greatness of your company and its glorious history? Save that for the company picnic. Tell buyers why that matters to them. No one likes a braggart, but everyone likes a problem-solver.

Look at the images in your marketing.Do you display a lot of trucks and tools? Great. Show that to the guys in the warehouse, they’ll love it. But unless they’re your buyers, get it gone.

Let this year be the year you shift your message to fit your true buyers. Attract with emotions, convert with helpful authority, and retain with friendly efficiency. Do this and you’ll have enough new business to make this your best year ever. Maybe spring for a new wardrobe? Nah. Buy her something instead. You’ll come out even farther ahead.

Readers can get Adams Hudson’s Customer Retention Report and newsletter sample by e-mailing or faxing to 334-262-1115.

Publication date:03/28/2011