What's the most important thing you can say after your customer makes a big-ticket purchase?

Hint: It's not, "Which way to the bank?" Or, "What other lucky person gets to talk to me today?" It's saying, "Thank you."

Someone has just dropped five grand or so into your company and is on the way to really making your day. Don't you think a thank you is in order?

The biggest offense in your sales procedure is - are you ready? - nothing. Yes, I said nothing, as in no appreciation, no follow-up, no up-sell, no continued service attempt, no letter, no nothing. Eventually you'll be met with a "no thanks" on your attempt at a next sale.

It's not just the words "thank you." It is the act of thankful recognition that fails to be delivered. Research shows that 77 percent of big-ticket item purchasers are not recognized or congratulated after the sale.

And we wonder why there's a customer retention problem in contracting? These follow-ups are not just polite. They're necessary for building long-term relationships and referrals.

If you hope to survive, you can't just "check off" your customers once you get their check. Tell them thank you in a systemized way that maintains the relationship you just spent a lot of money and time to establish. Think of it as increasing the return on your investment. It's pretty simple, really.

Don't just send a standard thank you card where you simply fill in the blanks with their name and yours. Send a real letter or make a "happy call" ("Were you pleased? Were we on time?"). Ask them to complete a customer survey. In short, anything that involves them in the furthering of the relationship is good.

For larger purchases, you can send a fruit or snack basket with healthy beverages and a card, stating, for example: "Cheers to good comfort and health with your new system."

One of the smartest contractors I know has a local florist send flowers in a company mug. This amounts to lots of flowers every month, lots of recognition, lots of happy ladies and appreciative guys ... with one huge added bonus.

Do you think the florist has a customer list? Do you think he'd approve a mailing to this list introducing, if not endorsing, you and your service?

We call these COI (circle of influence) letters, and they're one of the most powerful weapons in our HVAC Marketing PowerPac, but you can create your own. They work.

Just give your customers something they'll remember. After a big-ticket purchase, a $4 item may be the best marketing you can do. And it opens the door for many more sales and referrals.

To keep your customers, you must make regular contact after the sale. This can be done with a strong customer retention program that includes thank you calls or cards, customer newsletters, holiday cards, maintenance reminders, special offers, and small gifts.

And the best time to get that program started is to say thank you right after a purchase. Your system sale is not the end of anything. It's the beginning of everything else.

July Seasonal Strategy

Hot weather peaks in July for most of the country. July also begins the third quarter of the year. (Already?)

Your marketing plan and budget goals should be assessed this month. Where are you in your goals for sales, referrals, and new customers? Find out.

The media breakdown is as follows:

  • Newspaper: If lagging in leads, use a powerful trade-in concept or other direct response ad, but most of you can drop your direct response ads in favor of image and all-purpose ads. 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 persuade "lookers" your way. At the same time, TOMA (top-of-mind awareness) ads should continue.

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

  • Postcards: Service postcards should be in larger areas to attract fence-sitting service users. Image and all-purpose postcards can pack a mighty punch to the same group.

  • Radio: Trim back here, but continue to harp name recognition for selected service and re-placement leads.

  • On-hold messages: These should be about service, cutting energy bills, and plumbing maintenance now.

  • Yellow Pages: Sick of paying big money for small results? If your ad renews soon, get it redesigned for maximum lead generation at lowest cost. Fax us for your free ad critique.

    Adams 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 freestuff@hudsonink.com with the request. For other free marketing tips, call 800-489-9099 or visit www.hudsonink.com.

    Publication date: 06/28/2004