Adams Hudson
March is the beginning of your customer retention push. This means sending newsletters to your active customer base (activity within last 60 months).

Pre-season tuneup offers can begin in warmer climates. In cooler climates you need to get “End of Season” or other direct response promotions out. This is the final call for getting winter’s “non-closed” sales to respond. Make your offer a good one and it’ll sell.

Land these sales and your marketing can outperform 90 percent of your competition.

Ever spent money to run ads or mail letters that got absolutely no response? Or perhaps you got response, but from the wrong prospects — you know, “price-shoppers,” or those unable to finance, yet still find the time to waste your time while “just checking around.”

Most of the time when I critique ads for contractors, I see three common failures. Fortunately, these are almost immediately correctable. When I resubmit the ad for a test, contractors are astounded at the difference in the look of the ad or letter, plus the way it “reads” — but mostly in the way it works.

So, is there a magic formula? Sort of. Much of the success is about being interestingly persuasive to the right prospects. (At least that’s the intent.) Yet, if you’ll develop an easy, casual style of “talking” in your letter or ad, instead of the distant-sounding formality I often see, you’ll do much better.

Also review these three simple parameters to help you judge your ad or letter’s effectiveness, and you’ll be ahead of 90 percent of your competition’s attempts.

Did you have a target and goal for the ad? Or was it the wrong ad for the wrong people at the wrong time? Don’t run an ad or send a letter with fingers crossed — define what you want out of exactly what group. The ad’s purpose and goal must be determined before you write the first word.

I see contractors spend more time on deciding how they want their logo positioned than “who” gets the ad or reads the letter. This is not smart. Spend time getting the highest-probability list and target for your ad. It’ll pay you back handsomely.

What is your delivery system? This refers to the media: newspaper, letter, postcard, radio, e-mail, or alternative (such as outdoor, door hangers, etc.). Often, contractors use a “Mail-Pak” delivery system in an attempt to sell new systems. This combination usually spells failure. New systems are best sold in letters, newspaper, or electronic media. Tuneups do well as postcards or inserts. Occasionally, tuneups work well with “Mail-Paks”, depending on your cost per thousand. Don’t cheap out on the delivery system; simply go for results per dollar spent. That’s the only measurement that matters.

What is the message of your ad? Your message needs to be conversational and persuasive. Use “you” and “your” at least four times as often as “we,” “our,” and “us.” (Who are you talking to: them or yourself? Treat prospects as the feature of the ad.)

For direct response ads or letters, you must give an irresistible offer with a super-clear headline. The headline is 80 percent of the ad or letter’s effectiveness. If you send a boring, dull letter with no excitement or major benefits, it’ll go in the trash where it belongs. Don’t be afraid to address concerns or objections either. Especially in a letter, you have room to overcome them.

I often admit shortcomings or limitations of the offer, since this heightens your credibility and your response rate as a result. You can’t go wrong with any method of credibility enhancement. This includes specifics of energy savings, warranties, satisfaction guarantees, and testimonials.

A well-worded testimonial can boost response rates by 120 percent. The problem is contractors don’t bother to get them. Make it a point to get testimonials, then load them into ads and your sales presentation book. They help close sales, too.

So, if you have an ad “failure,” check these three major areas first. If you’re just sitting down to create an ad, these are the building blocks of marketing success.

Hottest Marketing Tips For Spring

My number one weapon is a customer retention newsletter. (We publish them, but many others are available.) You can call, fax, or e-mail us for a free sample. My favorite “new customer” acquisition piece is a “Direct-Response Tuneup Post Card.” They’re fast, inexpensive, and dynamite. List the benefits of getting your tuneup, and why now is better than later, and you have a winner.

Use these tips and profit. You’ll be gathering more customers and profits while your competition is still wondering when the weather is going to break.

Media Watch

Newspaper:Warmer climates can use a direct response service ad or insert. Warmer areas must focus on direct response air conditioner replacement offers to rid inventory and keep installers busy. Discounts or incentives apply. TOMA (top-of-mind-awareness) ads should be running.

Newsletters: This is it! Your new newsletters should be going out now. Your competition hasn’t done theirs — and probably won’t — so be a standout. Our spring issue is ready now. So get a free sample from us now. Even if you don’t use ours, get one out or you’re giving customers to your competition.

Direct mail letters: Make sure your letters to non-closed sales have gone out. Target mail letters for pre-season air conditioner offers (warmer climates) offering a reduced price or “Last Year’s Price” to spur installations. Deferred payments work well too. March and April are prime times for home remodeling. (Do you think you get those Home Depot mailers by mistake?)

Postcards: Service postcards for tuneups can go out to increase service leads. You want hard-hitting, extreme-value points made. One in 24 tuneups should result in a repair or equipment quote. Now do you see why this is cash-rich marketing? Get your service department trained on “upselling” maintenance agreements.

Radio: Unless you have a radio contract and/or strong radio presence, you can continue to pull back in this media. Occasionally, a “support” ad for service or replacement that echoes your print offer can work well.

On-hold messages: This should be about service and preventive maintenance now.

Yellow Pages: Fax us your ad for a free critique; plus, we can redesign it to help you double your leads.

Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink. He can be reached at 800-489-9099, 334-262-1115 (fax), or

Publication date: 03/10/2003