In the sweet old summertime, the mercury’s rising, and business is hot, too. Or at least that’s the way you want it to be. Many contractors are making 70 percent of their money when the heat hits hard, so don’t miss out on the great possibilities that await you. Do not wait around for the business to come your way. Market wisely and you can make the most of this opportunity.

Here’s some quick but immensely profitable news: There are exactly three ways for you to make more money: (1) Sell more often; (2) Sell for more money; (3) Sell to more people.

That’s it.

Sorry to not have anything more complicated to share with you, but if you take your eyes off simplicity, you’ll probably just bury yourself in lengthy “to do” lists that don’t get done — and, quite frankly, don’t need to be done. Simple is best.

By now, you’ve surely readied the market with your preseason marketing, but that doesn’t mean you can drop your guard. Generate leads all summer long — while they’re ripe for the picking.

Timely Tips

Look to these tried-and-true tips:

Your Yellow Pages ad — If yours renews this season, have it redesigned to draw more leads. Don’t mess around with pictures of all your vans or your company name dominating the top of the ad. (It’s a bad idea.) Get it to pull leads, since that’s presumably why you’re paying through your nostrils for it in the first place. If you love your ad, but know it’s not pulling, get a professional opinion. Fax it over to us, and we’ll critique your ad for free. The Yellow Pages ad is routinely a contractor’s most expensive marketing investment — and it lasts a year! Make sure it pays you back.

Customer retention program — “Ha! I don’t have a retention program, and I don’t need one,” you scoff. Well, here’s my response: This attitude means you don’t care too much about customer relationships. Your customer translates feelings toward the relationship into loyalty, or the lack thereof. No relationship equals no loyalty. This can be good news for someone: your competition. They’re excited about your hopelessly shallow customer assessment, because 55 percent of your customer turnover is walking out for someone who doesn’t share your attitude.

Get a customer retention program or you may as well send them your competition’s business card. This is the single biggest oversight in HVAC marketing right now. It costs very little and pays handsomely. At Hudson, Ink, we’ve been recommending newsletters until we’re blue in the face, and we’ll keep on doing it because they work. They keep you connected to your customers, and they get your name in their home in a way that’s useful to them. In fact, contractors have had so much success with them that we’ve recently expanded our newsletter program to four times a year.

Alternative Marketing — When you do any service (especially after a neighborhood mailing), use your yard sign. This is a gentle reminder of your ad or letter and that you are the company of choice for their neighbors. Hudson, Ink’s PowerPack has just the thing you need in yard sign designs.

Put copies of your direct mail letter in each service van to distribute to the neighbors. (Note: Don’t put them in the mailbox; that’s illegal.) Just put them inside the screen door or have them printed as a door hanger. If your service techs do this for two more houses on each trip, you triple your mailing penetration at almost no cost.

Always have extra newsletters printed. Extra copies can be beneficial for two reasons:

1. Put “Free Newsletter with Money-Saving Tips” in your ad, and you’ll send a few that way to callers who love anything free.

2. Let techs take them to new customers with the message, “We wanted you to have this. It has some great money-saving info in it.”

That’s it. The customer likes it, the tech doesn’t have to get into a long conversation, and what better way to start a relationship than with a gift? When do you think was the last time that happened to this customer?

Media Watch

Newspapers — Last month, we hammered the market hard with direct response, so now you can use the occasional “trade-in” or direct response ad. Begin to swap these out in favor of image and all-purpose as the month goes on. Let the image and all-purpose ads be the focus of your high-image, high-margin presence. Many people are in the market. Image ads help bring “lookers” your way.

Direct mail letters — Send follow-up letters at end of month to non-closed sales from last 90 days. Force recognition in your market with continued mailings to specific neighborhoods.

Postcards — Service postcards can be used in larger areas to attract “fence-sitting” service users. Image and all-purpose postcards can pack a mighty punch to the same group. Do not attempt a system sale in a postcard, only a “free” energy review, which results in a system lead.

Radio — Trim back here, but continue to harp name recognition for “selected” service and replacement leads.

On-hold messages — Messages should be about service, cutting energy bills, and plumbing maintenance now.

Next Month

Continue readying for August with a list of non-closed sales. Gear up for “end of season” offers. Amass high probability lists. If you want a free 12-month marketing calendar, fax your letterhead with the request and it’s yours.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, “Creative Marketing that Works.” News readers can get a free subscription to his “Sales & Marketing Insider” by faxing a copy of company letterhead to 334-262-1115 with the request. For more information, call 800-489-9099 or visit www.hudsonink.com.

Publication date: 07/14/2003