My furnace is just so insensitive. It doesn’t care at all about my economic needs. Here we are on the eve of the vast holiday season, where fun, frivolity, and the collective shooing of over-served relatives will soon be heard throughout the land. This extra in-home traffic, increased system usage, and changing of the seasons will equate to more in-home service calls for the 873rd year in a row. Those are givens that can be loosely translated as get ready or get left behind.
given for this time of year is increased competition for what I call share of
wallet. In essence, mail, email, and other media will begin pounding us to
cough up money to buy things - shiny, expensive, decorative, redundant things.
(Author’s Marital Tip of the Month: If you’re shopping for a female, make sure
your gifts are not terribly useful, lest you want this to be your winter of
this, the market need for in-home service will increase. Good. The market
competition is high, yet attraction for
service need is fairly low. Not so good. Now if your subconscious is saying,
“What about the recession,” tell your subconscious to shut up and re-read the
minor recessionary points in your favor: People are more prone to pay for needs
than wants. (Strange marketing and sales tip: Your job is to make them want the needs.) Second, since
they’re being urged to spend more in this season than others, that message can
only help your cause. Third, your direct competition has probably pulled back on marketing, even though the market demand is about to increase.
The marketing answer to all this holiday commotion is to
cleverly penetrate competitive forces with sanely-budgeted differentiation.
is a departure from the marketing myopia that causes many to mimic retailers’
holiday sales pitches. If you advertise a giant holiday sale, please ask
yourself how many customers really want to give blower motors to their loved
In fact, it is pointless for
a contractor to send sales messages between Dec. 10 and Jan. 12. Not only will
your efforts most likely wind up discarded, but you will also earn a spot on
the list of insensitive hawkers.
What marketing messages work
best during the holidays?
• Rebates, cash, tax
are especially effective in the current economy. Use them extensively from
November through January. Focus heavily on either “Cash Back for the Holidays”
rebates and/or the tax incentive for replacements, urging compliance for this year’s tax credit. (Want an
audio CD on how to market tax credits? See end.)
• Seasonally-effective guarantees. Many people put off having
contractors come into their decorated homes and adding to the general seasonal
discord. Thus, offer “We’ll leave your home as clean or cleaner than we found
it or we’ll pay you $100 cash.” This strategy stands out and is very effective.
Leads will greatly outpace your unwarranted concern that homeowners will take
advantage. (We have seven other guarantees we recommend that stand out, space
here restricts. Call if you get stuck.)
• Creative discounts. Before the season hits hard, offer discounts
that support savings towards holiday cash needs. Tie the savings you’re
offering into helping pay for other gifts, such as “How to Turn This Postcard
into an iPod.” That one is new for us this year, but clients have successfully
used variations on it for years. We’ve also done well with “Have A Repair Free
Holiday,” which introduces the maintenance agreement program.
• Publicity and charitable giving. Call your local Habitat for
Humanity (our newest charitable donation partner) and inquire about upcoming
participatory projects. Alternatively, call your television news for the same
purpose; telling either that you’d like to get involved. If you’re granted
airtime, make sure of three things: Thank the other volunteers; encourage other
service businesses and individuals to help; and wear company attire with a
company truck nearby. Good-heart marketing is real; people are naturally
attracted to support those who support others.
• Send thanks. If you can only do one of these,
do this one. Every year I urge contractors to do this. To be a guaranteed
standout, send a unique holiday card - not the same cartoony junk everybody’s
sick of - with a nice, thankful message or a little humor. Studies show that
stability and humor have risen in response ranks this year. It is a good idea
to follow this trend.
When working on implementing
your holiday message strategy, try some of these:
• Forget the envelope. Save money and use a
self-mailer card. Use the money you would’ve thrown away on sending more cards.
• Send first class. Holiday stamp preferred.
This way you scrub your list, which should be done twice a year. This is among
the cheapest methods.
• A clever twist. Last year, Yelverton’s
Electric used our cards but asked about including a coupon, which almost made
me violent. However, he’s so smart it gave me an idea. We termed the coupon as
a gift certificate and he sold $17,460 of service in January from card keepers.
Who said I couldn’t learn?
• Choose the right image. I beg you, please do not
show Santa or a snowman trying to get warm. Kids, animals, happy scenes, and
unique scenes - supported by uniquely warm messages - deliver a better,
• Video cards. In addition to your holiday
card, you can make a short video from your company to post on YouTube. Sing a
holiday song no matter how poorly, or just thank customers for being your customers. If it’s especially
heartwarming or funny, you can bet that the link will get forwarded well beyond
your customer base. Put the link to this video in your email signature and in your holiday cards for more
• Share and share alike. Look, for many
contractors - and well, everyone else - this has been a tough year. Why not
share the expense of holiday marketing by using a cross-promotion with a
non-competitor, like a plumber, a restaurant, or movie theater? In exchange for
discounted services, tickets, or free appetizers, include these with your
the restaurant can give out your holiday cards (with a clever sales twist as
mentioned above) with each meal ticket. It’s a win-win at almost no cost to
either of you. Plus it’s an awesome way to gain access to a valuable list,
adding to your own.
Bottom Line: The holidays are full of opportunities to get
out front and stay there. Don’t waste this built-in opportunity to generate
leads, goodwill, and future sales. I promise you, if you retreat during the
holidays, you’ll have more “Silent Nights” than you ever wanted. Get bold, get
creative, have fun, and join the furnaces who have thankfully forgotten there’s
a recession. Maybe we should learn from them.