For marketing success, you have to narrow your target audience from everyone to those most likely to buy. Funnel marketing is a proven way to make that happen. This process enables you to move your message through a "funnel," of sorts, that narrows to a smaller audience and with more controlled media.

Think of each of the five following items as a funnel through which your message and means of delivering it pours:

Who is your intended target market? Cold prospects are at the top of the funnel and it narrows to contacted leads, to inactive or old customers, down to the active, spending customers.

What are you saying? This moves from a big-market, broad message to a narrower follow-up message, to a reactivation message, to retention, to up-sell messages (newsletters, maintenance agreements) at the bottom of the funnel.

How do you send your message? The Yellow Pages is the broadest market. Newspaper is next, then radio and TV. Direct mail is the narrowest, since it can be very focused.

When do you run? Yellow Pages ads run yearlong. Newspaper may run 26 times a year. Radio is seasonal. Direct mail can be four to eight times a year per promotion.

How much do you spend as a percentage of sales dollars? For an aggressive marketer, that's 8 percent to 10 percent, a moderate marketer 6 percent to 8 percent, and a conservative marketer 3.5 percent to 5 percent. Divide the dollars according to your type.

E-mail or fax a request for our "Marketing Budget Calculator" to help you learn what type of marketer you are and how to allocate your budget in different media.

The results of following the funnel are an instant increase in closing ratio for fewer marketing dollars. Unfortunately, most contractors spend most of their marketing dollars in the costliest broad media with the lowest closing ratio. Don't make that mistake. Focus your marketing down the funnel, so more customers and sales will funnel your way.

May Seasonal Strategy

Your newsletters went out last month according to plan, right? May marks the end of school, beginning of vacation, and warm weather. You can capitalize on this with massive preseason replacement offers and last-minute tuneup or preventive maintenance offers. This is the time to snatch leads and sales from competitors who are "waiting on the weather."

If you miss sales now, they're out of the market for a long time. Be very aggressive. Use your hardest direct response ads now.

The media breakdown is as follows:

Newspapers: HVAC should be reducing service offerings in broad media, but plumbing service presence should increase. For HVAC, concentrate more on replacements. Use your sharpest direct response ads now to get leads that your competition is waiting on. No waiting. Be aggressive.

Direct mail letters: Target your mailings for direct response replacement offers. (Use names from April's tuneup and preventive maintenance campaigns.) We like deferments, monthly payments, or trade-in campaigns now.

Postcards: The very last of your direct response service postcards for tuneups and preventive maintenance should be out. The end of the month may be good for image postcards for replacements. Follow up with irrigation system and plumbing upgrade letters with reminder postcards; these should hit before the weather heats up.

Alternative media: Your yard sign presence should never be taken for granted. Don't forget these on every lengthy service visit or install. Your name should be pounded into your market, and yard signs are a cheap and effective method.

Radio: Your radio ads can increase from the spring lull to include your preseason offers that are also in print. Remember, your name should be branded at least twice in all radio ads.

On-hold messages: Move messages over to spring and warm weather replacement sales.

Yellow Pages: These ads are often your costliest advertising expense. You deserve results. Have an ad designed that pulls leads. Fax your ad to us 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: 05/03/2004