The simple fact is any sales message sent between Dec. 10 and Jan. 12 is a waste of money. You probably knew that already, but you also know that cold weather and a lot of large gatherings can strain the heating and plumbing of almost any household. Obviously, this is no time for your customer to forget your name.

The best way to address your market during this season is to address holiday cards to your customers. A great customer retention tool, holiday cards give an uplifting message to your customers in a way that lifts their spirits and expresses appreciation for their business. But only if they get noticed!

We've all seen the stock Christmas cards with a picture of an ornament, a photo of some time-hardened and essentially inedible fruitcake, or whatever. These do not stand out, and since your marketing can only stand out by being different, you probably won't be remembered.

That's why we always make a special effort to design cards that are different. The result is full-color, professionally designed holiday cards that I make available to contractors at a much better price than stock cards. (Check them out at

Whether you choose ours or design and print your own cards, just make sure you make contact. After all, you don't want to forget your customers during the holidays if you're counting on them to remember you throughout the year.

Media Watch

Soon, Thanksgiving and Christmas will occupy everybody's mind. Capitalize on this with massive preseason replacement offers, last minute tuneup offers, and a prompting for frozen pipe leads. Radio time is important now. The holiday mailing and newspaper strategy is "the sooner the better." December is a massive slowdown time for replacements and plumbing upgrades, so continue your aggressive push from October.

Newspapers - Plumbing service leads increase while HVAC should be reducing service offerings in newspapers. Concentrate more on replacements. Use the sharpest direct response ads now. Don't wait. Be aggressive. Continue your top-of-the-mind awareness ads.

Direct mail letters - Target your mailings for direct response replacement offers. (Use names from October's tuneup and preventive maintenance campaigns.) We like deferments, monthly payments, or trade-in campaigns now for HVAC and plumbing.

Postcards - The very last of your direct response service postcards for preventive maintenance and tuneups should be out. The end of the month may be good for image postcards for replacements and plumbing upgrades.

Alternative media - Your yard sign presence should never be taken for granted. Do not forget these on every lengthy service visit or installation. Your name should be pounded into your market.

Radio - Radio can increase from the fall lull to include your preseason offers that are also in print. Remember, your company name should be branded at least twice in all radio ads.

On-hold messages - Move messages to the topics of cool weather replacement sales and frozen pipe prevention.

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.

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 with the request. For other free marketing tips, call 800-489-9099 or visit

Publication date: 10/25/2004