Adams Hudson
Lots of "experts" are ready and willing to tell you what you should be doing to promote your business and increase your sales. The trouble is, some of them are flat-out wrong. So how can you sift the good from the bad of all the things you're hearing? For starters, let's go over a few basic principles.

Pure lead generation is not your only marketing goal. Your ad rep may scream, "It's all about getting more!", but the tactics that ensue may resemble those from a circus barker with a truth disorder. Beware: This "sell at any cost" approach can lead you down a common path - one designed especially for low-priced leaders on their way out of business. I can write an ad to get you all the leads you want if I can give the store away (seemingly) and suspend the truth to entice gullible, unqualified, and possibly bankrupt leads. Is this what you want?

Further, don't use your marketing to promote low prices unless you're positive this fits your business plan. You can be good, cheap, or convenient; pick any two. But, please know that if you use low prices to "bait and switch," you may get an unfriendly letter from the attorney general. Use your marketing to promote your value. Tell prospects what's in it for them and how your products and service can make a difference in their lives. This ensures a more qualified prospect at the start.

By offering a superior and immediately recognizable advantage that your competition doesn't offer, you turn prospects into customers.

In Yellow Pages ads, bigger is not always better. Sure, Yellow Pages reps want you to believe that if you buy bigger Yellow Pages ads in more sections, you'll get noticed. But think of it this way: Is bigger always better in HVAC systems? In marketing, as in heating and cooling, you're going for efficiency. If your Yellow Pages budget exceeds 31 percent (HVAC) or 41 percent (pure service or plumbing) of your budget, you're not getting the most for your marketing dollars. Stop the madness, now.

Direct response is not the only advertising form you should use. Look, I'm a direct response copywriter. We're paid $1,800 per page to write good copy. If I wanted only to line my pockets with your money, I'd be a fool to tell you this wasn't the answer to every marketing need you ever had.

Call me a fool then - direct response as your only form of advertising is the fastest way I know to lose your credibility in the market. Good luck building it back among worthy customers. If you don't, you'll be the king of dangling increasingly fantastic bait in front of largely unfinanceable dregs. It's hard to keep this and a strong, solvent, loyal customer base moving together. Use a balanced mix of direct response, image, TOMA (top of mind awareness), and retention marketing to achieve the success and reputation you deserve.

All prospects are not alike. Sure, bigger, older homes with old systems have you salivating about big-ticket replacements. But this gets back to the first point. Don't go chasing your dream of new customers unless you're willing to put a little bit of effort into keeping the ones you've already got.

The best prospects for new business - through their own service and replacement needs as well as their referrals - are your current customers. The fact is, customers spend 33 percent more than non-customers. And referrals among customers are 107 percent greater than among non-customers.

By providing a superior customer retention program - which includes contact several times a year - you keep those customers.

There are two excellent retention programs that are easy to do: (1) newsletters for every check-writing customer you've got. (Let us send you a free sample.) And, (2) a maintenance agreement program, which is loyalty that a smaller group of your clients pay you for. Now that's a nice switch! You get reliable, referring, high-value customers pumping predictable profits into your company year after year ... automatically. Let us send you a 12-page report called "The Perfect HVAV Profit System" on how to build a maintenance agreement business. (Send an e-mail to requesting this report.)

Use these different marketing tools and tactics to build a better marketing machine for your company. You'll find your marketing can bring leads, image, and sales almost by "auto-pilot," so you can run your business instead.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Readers can get a free marketing newsletter by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334-262-1115. You can also call Hudson, Ink at 800-489-9099 or visit for free marketing reports, including a free 12-page report called "The Perfect HVAC Profit System" on maintenance agreements.

Publication date: 02/21/2005