I’m not that good of a planner. I’m really not. When I started this business, my attorney poked some fun about that shortcoming. “And, with your so-called plan in place, how do you intend to gather customers?” He used the little two-fingered hand sign for quotations marks when he said “plan.”
My response was, “Largely by not talking down to people who have hired me.” I returned the quote mark hand gesture thing when I said “down.” There was a momentary pause. Then we laughed about it, and still do on occasion. Friends can laugh at each other in a way that’s not funny, if you know what I mean.
No, my “plans” weren’t very specific back then. They basically included, “don’t go bankrupt;” “if the phone rings, answer it;” and other motivational sentiments like that.
Through grace and wonderful clients, things have worked out. Yet, I still spend a couple of weeks asking — and answering — questions about the upcoming year.
Interestingly, two of my questions are the same as the top two we get from you. (And, in case you wondered, yes, we rank your questions in order of frequency. There’s a hint in that near-obsession your phone trafficker and techs should be sharing with management.)
The No. 1 marketing question we get is, “What do I do next?” The second is, “When do I do it?” After that, you ask us, “How much to spend” and “In what media” and then a whole bunch of stuff we have to charge you for, but, essentially, all the answers are contained under a single umbrella called planning.
Some of you may roll your eyes and say, “I’ve heard it before,” or ask “How do you plan a business that’s so seasonally dependent?”
Well, if you’ve heard it before, it’s like the preacher who shared the same sermon 21 times in a row. He told his congregation: “I’ll give a new sermon when you all start doing this one.” And, by the way, seasonality makes your business far more plannable, so that’s two excuses down the tubes. (How do you think I am so familiar with them?)
To make you feel better, please realize that a little planning takes the stress out of your year. A simple marketing attack gives you a strategy that considers the needs of your market and provides a year-round plan to meet those needs. It gives you a calm, rational approach to anticipate and counter slow times and ways to level off or stretch the busy seasons. Both are accomplished through a marketing plan.
The trouble is, three out of four contractors don’t have one. Why? We hear it’s… (take a deep breath) too much time, trouble, and effort; not worth it; don’t know how; too costly; I’m too busy; etc. All that is clutter, and none of it is getting you any closer to accomplishing your goals.
Time to De-clutter Your Mind
1. Quit thinking your old marketing will suddenly have new results. Amazingly, contractors crumble up thousands of dollars in “dead” ads a year. If it’s not helping your image or your lead count, chunk it. Get fresh and watch your market respond.
2. Quit thinking co-op is your main requirement for advertising. Use co-op to supplement your advertising message. I encourage you to brand your company with your own ads, your benefits, and why customers should choose you, not just the equipment. Your company is worth its own unique message.
3. Lose the fear of being different. How in the world are you supposed to stand out if you blend in? This is so obvious, yet contractors still use the competition as a model. Parade your unique benefits over the same old thing offered by your boring competition.
4. No more “Manic Marketing.” Instead of panicking at the last minute or throwing something together, have ads ready to run in different media. All it takes is a little forethought. You already know the seasons, your product line, the service offerings, and perhaps even the financing offers. So, why not have ads ready that fit the situation?
5. Set a marketing budget. This is so simple, yet not even one in eight contractors do it right. If you’re aggressively pursuing market share, it’ll cost you 8-10 percent of your sales; moderate marketers spend 5-8 percent; and conservative marketers spend 3.5-5 percent. If you’re trying to be aggressive, but you’re only spending 2 percent of your sales on marketing, you’re looking for diamonds at the price of cubic zirconium. Spend what it takes.
6. Set a marketing plan in motion, no matter how small. At the most basic level, divide your year into quarters and define which are peak and off-peak. Figure out exactly what you’ll spend to promote what during that time. Then decide how to deliver that message (media). You’re ahead of most of your competition just by doing this.
If you can accomplish just three things on the above list, you’re probably off to a fantastic year. However, you may have planning problems that go beyond marketing. So, if you’re really stuck…
1. Find a colleague who’s had and beaten the problem you’re facing. Quit fiddling around in industry chat rooms complaining to others who enjoy the complaints but aren’t even remotely qualified to answer. Find someone who has actually been there and successfully done that. Or…
2. Invest in your life and pay a consultant who’s recommended by people you trust. Not all consultants fit all people. I have a copywriting coach who’s a level-three genius on that topic, but I wouldn’t ask him for a word of advice on building relationships.
3. Combining the above, consider a “MasterMind Approach” where colleagues — even those from different industries — meet and exchange ideas. Joining an aggressive member group, attending trade events, and mutually sharing ideas can keep business fires burning all year long.
So, at the time of year when we all plan, please know that you can make plans, or they can make you. Your choice.
And, if you wonder about my plans these days, I actually take my own advice, occasionally. I’ve joined four coaching groups for different topics and have invested more than I used to make in seeking marketing solutions you can use. Fortunately, none of it comes from my attorney. Have fun with your marketing in 2015. Let us help you get from where you are to where you want to be.
Publication date: 1/26/2015