In January we discussed some of the marketing plans that should be in place for 2003 [“January: Plans Should Be In Place,” Jan. 20]. This month, let’s look at some more marketing tips.

Media Watch

Newspapers:Keep running TOMA (top-of-mind-awareness) ads with occasional image and all-purpose ads. Direct response for either “End of Season” or “Last Year’s Price” 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” or “Last Year’s Price” offers for equipment.

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

Radio: This media is still off considerably from post-Christmas highs. Trim back here, but continue to harp name recognition for selected service leads.

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

Yellow Pages: Fax me at 334-262-1115 for your free ad critique; change your results with a real Yellow Pages ad designed to pull leads.

Monthly Strategy

Remember all those names you were adding to your list for February? Good. (This is my not-so-subtle hint that you read the JanuaryNewsarticle!) For warmer climates, prepare an “end of season” direct response replacement offer as appropriate. Colder states can continue pumping selected service groups to build customer database.

All areas should consider a direct response offer (such as “Buy a New System at Last Year’s Price”) to stir reluctant replacement callers. You must put a deadline on the offer that is not more than 21 days out or you lose the effectiveness of the urgency. (By the way, an offer without a limit is not an offer.) Get with your manufacturer to dovetail their financing with this offer. Deferred payments still do well up until April.

The point during February is to gather more names for your targeted “high probability” list. As you’ll see throughout the course of the year, a healthy list is your most valuable business asset, by far. All calls — prospects, demand service, and quotes — should be on your list to mail and help determine affinity groups. (I’ll explain later.) As you track leads, watch for your zip code response penetration. (If you want an explanation of “9 Most Profitable HVAC Direct Mail Lists and How to Get Them,” e-mail or fax us with the request and it’s yours.)

Next Month

You’ll end the first quarter on a high note next month. You’re on the verge of a customer retention push, a little creative direct responseservicemarketing (pretty unusual stuff) and the general warming trend that’ll hit most of the United States in 60 days. Customer retention is key, so get your list ready. We’ll look at that next month.

Sidebar: So, How Do I Create A Direct Response Ad?

Much of your strategy now depends on your weather (like you needed me to tell you that). But more specifically, you must — as one of my favorite direct response copywriting coaches said — “Enter the conversation your prospect is having in his mind.”

This sage advice means that you must translate their needs, wants, and wishes into tangible desire that results in a phone call to you. I constantly preach to quit trying to stuff a $5,000 replacement sale into a postcard or other media. I promise, it’s much easier to sell the phone call. Why?

Well, your business is, in its simplest sense, only about sales. Sales come from leads. Leads come from marketing. So, if you’re lacking in sales during February, you’ve got to create leads by building desire in a direct response ad or letter. This is done by:

  • Including a headline: Strong headlines are 80 percent of an ad’s effectiveness. Put the primary benefit for a reader in the headline and make that point twice more in the sales copy. We have letters that have bombed with one headline (that I, of course, wrote) but by changing three to five words, we have tripled the original response rate.

  • Using short sentences: Use short sentences in the sales copy, especially opening sentences to paragraphs. Why? People like short. They want simple. They like brevity. Like now, for instance. See? You can write very effectively with short to-the-point sentences. Hey, if people don’t read it, they’re not calling you.

  • Solving a problem: Allow the opening paragraphs to illustrate a problem you know your prospect has. Let the middle paragraphs show them your solution. Let the ending portion make this solution easy, simple, and risk-free.

    Key Considerations
    Your job is to raise value and lower risk. The farther these two are apart, the better the chance of the all-important phone call. Put in guarantees, free surveys, free IAQ checks, 100% Satisfaction or You Don’t Pay, long-term warranties, no money down, no payments, $100 Savings Bond if you buy a more valuable system or service, and on and on. There are dozens of these. I don’t have time to list them all here and you don’t have time to read them.

    Be interesting and tantalizing while you’re selling. No “sameness” or dullness allowed. If you put in “For all your heating and cooling needs,” or some other such worn-out phrase, I’m calling the cops. Take a risk by being readable and you’ll sound like a real person instead of some distant HVAC zombie who “really appreciates your patronage.” Please.

    Now, put a limit on your offer. Use a P.S. or “Bonus.” Place the ad in Section “A”, page 2, 3, or 5 of the newspaper. Or put it in a No. 10 envelope with a real stamp. Put it in front of good prospects. Plan a telephone follow-up that reiterates the risk-free nature of a free visit. And start ringing up sales. Still don’t have a clue? Send me your attempt for a free critique, via fax, to 334-262-1115 and I won’t be too hard on you. Or go to to see other marketing tips for February. And stay busy.

    Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink. He can be reached at 800-489-9099, 334-262-1115 (fax), or

    Publication date: 02/10/2003