Signal. Not noise.

You could’ve attended the recent Direct Marketing Association Conference, spent days and thousands of dollars, and taken pages of notes, but the above was the three-word summary.

Fittingly, during my most recent onstage appearance (as I wind these down, by design), I mentioned, “Getting a prospect’s attention requires knowing what signal they’re tuned to.”

This does not mean which media to choose because any goof can tell you about a media’s audience and how much it’ll cost you to gain access. Too many contractors buy a media “because that’s where my prospects are.” Or so said the salesperson. Sure, they might be there, but if/when your message is not what they’re tuned into, they’re tuned out.

  • The old TV ad model gave you 30 seconds to impress them. Now they record over you;
  • You had a chance at them between songs on the radio, until satellite said you didn’t. When Sirius invited you back, they let customers pay more not to hear your message;
  • The telephone seemed like a direct line into dinner until the FTC said you should be tortured, in kind. And, with over half of us ditching landlines, only a fraction of published phone numbers remain;
  • Emails are regularly directed to trash before landing in the inbox; and
  • Facebook asks if I want to see you or not. If not, you’re brushed off into the weeds of irrelevance, even though you paid for this dismissal.

You still liking your chances with the media where your prospects are supposed to be?

Note: Until mailboxes are equipped with shredders that have offer-sniffing technology, at least you have a shot with direct mail. Unless, of course, you ruin it with an institutional message touting all the reasons you’re just like your competitors.

As it has turned out, the audience now controls the stage time. You’re silenced until they say, “speak.” They’re running the auditions, and they also publish the reviews.

Let’s not blame this on the millennials, President Donald Trump, or statues of confederate war heroes.

The poor millennials get blamed for being lazy, instant-gratification junkies with the attention span of wax paper, more likened to watch a squirrel water ski on YouTube than care if their ducts are in order.

And, now, the truth — much of the above applies to all of us; we just like blaming the pierced and tatted masses because they seem like good targets. This is remarkably flawed. The truth is, they taught us how to binge watch TV, grew up devouring all seven volumes of Harry Potter, and attended multiday music events. Their attention span is not the problem. Because like all of us today — their attention is reserved for those who deserve it.

If you’re adding to the noise, you’re silenced. And, rightfully so. Personally, I’d watch that squirrel thing or the Asian kid with the crawfish stuck on his nose way before I listen to you try to tell me why I should call you for “all my heating and cooling needs.” Puh-lease.

If you’re adding to the signal, you get attention. So, the problem is not the market. We all need heating and cooling, right? It’s not the media. We can all see all the media, right? It’s the message. Until you make it a signal, it’s just noise. So, how do you do that?



The model has shifted. You can’t cut through the clutter with willpower, money, and the demand for attention.

So, I ask you to rethink the way you do things: Stop telling people to listen — start being worthy of an audience; stop selling the uneducated — start educating the unsold; and stop running ads — start running campaigns. And you can start doing all of that by getting to the root of the clutter.

Right now, your IT/web person probably has some offer running on your website. Your service manager wants a “Winter Savings” note in your bill stuffer. Your office manager is posting something on Facebook. The manufacturer is offering you a radio ad. And, shockingly, none are in alignment — it’s noise — several songs playing at the same time. You’re skimming over the attention surface. There’s no repetition, branding, or consistency. Your image wavers with each output. No one — it seems, including you — is willing to confidently repeat your refrain. So, now you think Facebook doesn’t work. It does work. But your face keeps changing, and consumers don’t know which one to pay attention to, so they don’t.

Today, you must align messages through marketing integration. Make all ads sing the same song across all forms of media. The same message, images, and offer should repeat across media channels for the duration of a campaign or a season. Longer even — heck forever — if it’s your branding promise or guarantee.

But, when you integrate messages — literally achieve message integrity — people can hear you, see you, understand you, and respond. Need proof?

In a recent case study, a Tampa contractor earned $16,511 in sales over a two-week period using the ad-by-ad approach. In another example, when a contractor wanted to launch his new HVAC division, he used an integrated campaign with a direct mail letter, postcard, three Facebook posts, and three emails, which all delivered the same message. Result? He brought in $212,000 in HVAC sales his first month in business.

It is time to break the old contractor model. You can do this using less media, with less complexity and marketing budget for more response. Cut through the clutter to turn the noise into a signal.

Publication date: 1/22/2018

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