Let’s begin by looking at the marketing that maximizes branding.

Extremely smart marketing types call this “information segmentation and mass individualization based on experiential results.” They use words like this to validate their fees — just as I will if you’re thinking about buying something from us — but for this column, let’s call it what it really is: customer retention marketing.

You want to talk about getting more leads for less dollars or how to guarantee differentiation in your market? You’d rather learn how to turn one sale into many? You feel your time would be better spent discussing the nuances of phone-melting headlines?

If you’ll practice the rare art of “active” customer retention, all of those can happen. This is already known by a small, well-rewarded group of HVAC market contractors who’ve held a tight lid on this weapon as long as they could.

In fact — after preaching to what I thought were empty pews for over a decade — I’m seeing massive change on this subject. Used to be when I asked seminar crowds or interviewed contractors, only about 6 percent of them did any customer retention. We estimate it to now be around 11 percent, and growing.

For those who are still thinking about doing customer retention, you can read my list of “things to do” and “what you’ll get” by doing them. Sometimes that’s all the spark anyone needs. Yet for true change, something else must happen.



In your head

As most life and business success coaches will tell you, it’s not about checking off items on a list.  It’s about changing your mindset. And since it’s my job to be your personal tour guide for guilt trips, check this mind shift:

The “normal” contractor gets a customer in order to make a sale.

The “marketing” contractor gets a sale in order to make a customer.

Admittedly, that sounds odd, and the scarcity of those who “get” the above is almost the point. (Regular readers of this column know why.)  But this should make it clear.

The contractor who is wisely counter-intuitive in marketing wins the customer. Period. Those who act, do and think like everyone else gets the same results as everyone else. I’ve also noticed their complaints are like everyone else’s, too.

So, by really understanding and applying the “marketing contractor” mindset, you’re automatically in the small segment, “differentiated” from the pack.

Most contractors seek to get the sale — a noble goal that I fully understand. So their marketing follows that pursuit to the fullest. Those who do it well get there with hard-hitting direct response. Those who do it poorly struggle with mediocre and frustrating results from a variety of sources too lengthy and painful to cover here.

Getting the sale instead of the customer, although alluring on the surface, is limited by meager expectations. It is finite. Yet “relationship thinking” allows you to access the infinite.

Imagine your business just a couple short years from now. Instead of a sort-of satisfied group of customers — so labeled merely because they bought something— you see a huge crowd of raving fans.

It’s twice the size it is today; each a direct supporter or salesperson for you. Nearly half of them have a maintenance agreement and they’re encouraging the other half to join them. They all feel they know you to a degree and vice versa, because you’ve built a relationship not based purely on the sale.

Loyalty is nearly unshakeable. Why? Because it’s easy to quit using “just a contractor” but very hard to quit a relationship.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Snips readers can get a free report, “21 Simple Things You Can Do to Differentiate Your Company Now” and a free subscription to the Sales & Marketing Insider by emailing their polite request to freeSNIPSstuff@hudsonink.com or faxing company information to (334) 262-1115. See other marketing reports at www.hudsonink.com or call (800) 489-9099.