Too many contractors serve customers once andthinkthey're customers. They're not. The horrific truth is, most of the time contractors get the call, schedule the appointment, show up, present the bill, leave, and, in most cases, that's it. There's no follow-up whatsoever. Maybe you just expect them to remember you after one service call because you did such a great job. Maybe you expect loyalty and referrals, and want to believe that they're yours from here on in. If only that were true.

Studies show that 16 percent of your customers leave you due to a competitor's offer. That's bad enough, but another 55 percent of the customers you lose leave because you paid them no attention. Remember, repeated surveys show that each customer costs you around $300 to get. But you spend nothing to keep them, so they leave. Yet for less than $3 per year you can keep them, their business, referrals, and future sales in a way that makes you stand out from your competition. How?

Get a customer retention newsletter program going, or keep it going. Newsletters are designed to keep your name in the customer's mind, but not merely as a sales piece. If you're always trying to sell somebody something, that's a big turnoff. Instead, a newsletter builds a relationship with customers, and this relationship builds loyalty, which leads to referrals and sales far better than a screaming advertising message could.

Staying in touch with a newsletter is one of the most effective, least expensive marketing tools you have. In fact, Jay Conrad Levinson, the creator of the guerilla marketing concept, says that customer newsletters are the No. 1 guerilla marketing weapon on the planet. If you're on this planet, you should invest a little to keep the customers you paid so much to get!

Media Watch

March is the beginning of your customer retention push. This means sending newsletters to your active (activity within the last 48 months) customer base.

  • Newspapers: Warmer areas must focus on direct response furnace replacement offers to get rid of the winter inventory and keep installers busy. Discounts or incentives apply.

  • Newsletters: Your new newsletters should be going out now. Even if you don't use ours, get one out or you're giving customers to your competition.

  • Direct mail letters: In warmer climates, target mail letters with beginning-of-season air conditioner offers with a reduced price to spur installations. Deferred payments work well, too, since tax time approacheth.

  • Postcards: Service postcards for tuneups can go out, to increase service leads.

  • Radio: Unless you have a radio contract and/or strong radio presence, you can continue to pull back in this media.

  • On-hold messages: These should be about service and preventive maintenance.

  • Yellow Pages: Fax us your ad for a free critique and we can redesign it to increase your leads.

    Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink. For more information on newsletters, contact the company at 800-489-9099, 334-262-1115 (fax), or

    Publication date: 03/01/2004