Lorraine Ball offers marketing tips during a seminar at Comfortech.
DALLAS - What is street marketing? If you ask Lorraine Ball, she'll tell you.

"Street marketing is getting things done efficiently - doing things that your competitors don't do," said the owner of Roundpeg, a national business consulting firm headquartered in Indianapolis (www.roundpeg.biz).

Ball spoke to a group of attendees at the 2003 HVAC Comfortech meeting in Dallas.

Part of her presentation included the display of a simple calendar. She called it her marketing calendar, stating, "It should fit on one page."

"In marketing, as in most things, you start with your goals," she said. She noted that the first letter of her five goals formed the acronym "smart": specific, measurable, action, realistic, and time-based.

"For example, to be measurable, let's talk about a home show," Ball said. "If you are displaying at the show, do you know how many appointments you want to set up from the contacts? Ask yourself, ‘Did I get my 25 phone calls?' If the answer is no, assess why it did or didn't happen."

Speaking of home shows, Ball feels it is important to network with other businesses in the area. She suggested forming a "power team" with people who are in the same places that contractors want to be. "You can share a home show booth with another business and save money, too," she said.

She said that it is important to set realistic marketing goals because if the goals are unrealistic and hard to reach, it could be demoralizing for the employees who work hard to achieve them.

Ball said that contractors should understand the importance of referral business, as it usually reduces advertising and marketing costs.

"If your goal is to sell 10 systems a week with a closing rate of 50 percent, you need to make 20 sales calls," she added. "Where do those 20 leads come from? Either referrals or advertising."

She also spoke about Yellow Pages advertising, saying that it is a two-edged sword. "You need to be there but with a small presence," she said. "I wouldn't steer people to the Yellow Pages because you are telling people to go to where all of your competitors advertise."

If a contractor advertises in several phone books, Ball said it is important to track each call (with a number that can appear in the ad) so that the ads that draw the fewest calls can be dropped and the advertising money spent somewhere else in the following year.

"If you don't collect data on the front end, you can't understand what works on the back end," she stated.

Setting Up A Budget

Ball said there are four different methods of setting up a marketing budget.

1. Percentage of sales. "Two to four percent of projected sales should be spent on marketing," she said. "This is the easy way to go, except if you are launching a new company and don't have the data for projections."

2. Payout plan. This involves looking at marketing not as an expense, but rather as a "payout plan." This is a plan that is projected out over a number of years, with high front-loaded costs.

3. Competitive. This involves estimating what a competitor spends on advertising and using that as a starting point for a marketing budget.

4. Target method. This involves building a marketing budget around the number of leads that a business wishes to generate.

Ball urged attendees to be consistent with printed and graphical images. "Be in the same place with the same look," she suggested. "Don't keep changing. Pick two fonts for your printed material and stick with them. Fonts do make a difference! People are used to sans serif fonts. And don't use Times, Roman, or Arial, because everyone else does."

The same goes for color. "Colors are important, too," she said. "Pick seven colors. Don't change the shading. You can use a specific PMS color or an RGB color system."

Ball added that it is important to develop a good relationship with a printer in order to ensure good service and good pricing. "You have no bargaining power if you shop around," she said. "If you shop for the lowest price in town, you will get exactly what you pay for."

Don't think you can get by without an online presence, either. "You need to be on the Web," she said. "And don't hire some college kid who is designing your Web site as a summer project. He will be long gone when there is a problem."

Publication date: 12/08/2003