Your marketing message is one leg of a three-legged stool that also includes market and media, and it's a fundamental building block for a successful marketing program. Do you know your message?

Sadly, many contractors don't.

We critique thousands of ads and letters here and find the poorest examples are from companies that focus the message on themselves. It's "we" this and "our" that, and it all comes off as bragging about one's own perceived greatness. Good copywriting puts your points about experience, reliability, standards and services in a way that serves the prospect.

By placing the customer in the center of the ad or salesperson's dialogue, you'll find your message begins to answer the only real question on their mind, which is: "What's in it for me?" Make your message about your benefits, not features.

Examine the difference in these two sentences, which discuss just one part of a maintenance agreement program:

1. "Get your coils cleaned and up to a pound of refrigerant as part of our deluxe Maintenance Agreement contract."

2. "Save energy dollars and lengthen equipment life with planned maintenance that pays for itself."

Do you see the difference? The first sentence describes features of the plan; the second details its benefits. The benefit statement gives power; the feature statement is tech talk. If you mention features, only do so when you can qualify it with a corresponding benefit. Never leave it to the prospect or customer to draw the line from A to B - they'll seldom do it or get it right.

Also, never give prospects or customers a reason to say, "So what?" Sentences such as, "We've been in business for 35 years," and "Our technicians are certified and efficient" can lead to the "So what?" response.

You must put the customer's perspective into the feature by following it with a clear benefit. That's done by shifting the focus from you to them, so the sentences become, "You get 35 years of caring experience" and "Certified technicians calm your fears and put the comfort back in your home, fast."

I recently got an e-mail from a customer of ours who, after attending a seminar of ours, changed his marketing message from the "we've got" to "you get" approach. He also rephrased all of the harsh sales words (such as using "agreement" instead of "contract," using a list of 21 such common word exchanges) and told me his leads increased and his closing ratio jumped from 34 percent to 55 percent.

Results like this from across the country continue to remind us that the marketing message

is not about you. It's about prospects and customers. By taking this approach, you'll also find you become a standout among the majority who feel the message is about them. Don't believe it? Open the Yellow Pages to any page you choose, and you'll see. Let us know how we can help you.

August Marketing Tips

Summer's heat winds down slightly in cooler states; it's still warm in others. For cooler climes, prepare an "end of season" direct response replacement offer as appropriate. Colder states continue pumping selected service groups to build customer database for retention mailing next month. The point during August is to gather more names for your hottest list. All calls - prospects, demand service, and quotes - should be on your list to mail. Watch for your zip code response penetration.

  • Newspapers: TOMA (top-of-mind awareness) ads continue running with occasional image and all-purpose ads. Direct response pieces for "end of season" can be powerful, depending on applicability.

  • Direct mail letters: As seasonal replacement calls drop somewhat, urge your highest probability groups to take advantage of your trade-in offer or use a sister promotion to your newspaper ad for "end of season" offers.

  • Postcards: Service postcards should be in larger areas to attract fence-sitting service users.

  • Radio: Stay steady in radio, but continue to stress name recognition for selected service or replacement leads.

  • On-hold messages: Continue with maintenance agreement info, free newsletter offers, and other service benefits.

  • Yellow Pages: At least 77 percent of contractors spend over half their entire budgets here. Pitiful results from an expensive year-long ad are not what you're after. Fax us your ad for a free critique.

    Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink ("Creative Marketing that Works"). News readers can get a free subscription to his "Sales & Marketing Insider" and the Marketing Budget Calculator by faxing company letterhead to 334-262-1115 or sending an e-mail to with the request. For other free marketing tips, call 800-489-9099 or visit

    Publication date: 07/26/2004