The X Factor in Your Marketing - IE3: Business Tools for HVAC & Plumbing Contractors  

The X Factor in Your Marketing

Let’s begin by looking at the marketing type that maximizes the hopeful result of branding.

Extremely smart marketing types call this, “Information segmentation and mass individualization based on experiential results.” They use words like this to validate their fees – just as I will if you’re thinking about buying something from us – but for this article, let’s call it what it really is

Customer Retention Marketing.

Oh, sorry. You wanted something more glamorous? You want to talk about getting more leads for less dollars or how to guarantee differentiation in your market? You’d rather learn how to turn one sale into many? You feel our time would be better spent discussing the nuances of phone-melting headlines?

If you’ll practice the rare art of “active” customer retention, all of those can happen. This is already known by a small, well-rewarded group of contractors who’ve held a tight lid on this weapon as long as they could.

In fact – after over a decade of preaching to what I thought were empty pews – we’re seeing massive change on this subject. Used to be when I asked seminar crowds or interviewed contractors, only about 6% of you did any customer retention. We estimate it to now be around 11% and growing. So why has this number nearly doubled?

Well, before disclosing how every contractor reading this can capitalize on this “former secret,” I owe those in the 11% a tip or two on jumping ahead. Fair is fair.

To Experienced Retention Marketers – Your previous “advantage” may have eroded slightly, but since you’re pro-active, here are some suggestions and observations:

  • Increase aggression for Maintenance Agreements. This is a version of “forced retention” and is a natural ascension from your “normal” customer group. Use your clout to push for it. “Negative option” renewal highly recommended.
  • Push for greater “differentiation” through initiatives which – due to high-tech nature and health slant – elevate your marketing position considerably.
  • Stealth pursuit of Web-based lead generation and others allow “customized, flexible lead flow” largely under the befuddled noses of competitors. Those who get in early tend to maintain advantage. Inexpensive, fast and worth a try.

Consider tying in your web presence with your direct mail retention pieces. This will allow those Generation Yers to access more information about your business by going online. Make it easy for your readers with QR Codes that link to Social Media accounts and landing pages on your website.

  • Continue to wean yourself from Yellow Pages addiction (while younger companies pursue this costly, habit-forming media) to fund and extend your newsletter, thank-you campaigns and follow-up referral sources. Allow your remaining YP ad to be a pure lead generator; small, fast and uncluttered.

To Recent Retention Marketers who are now using newsletters, or are relatively new to Maintenance Agreements, the real warning is to not quit. We see too many of you get the instant “differentiation” benefit and positive comments from customers, followed by a tendency to jump to the “next thing.” Sporadic efforts lose the momentum and bring confusion to your staff. Retention is a program; not an event.

Also realize that Retention marketing’s effect is like compounded interest. The true magic requires patient, continued pursuit. It builds on itself, multiplying the effects, allowing low-cost marketing advantages for the earned loyalty, shorter sales cycle, easier upsells, more referrals and greater response rate.

For the group who is still “thinking about” doing Customer Retention. You can read my list of “things to do” and “what you’ll get” by doing them. Sometimes that’s all the spark anyone needs. Yet for true change, something else must happen.

As most success coaches will tell you, it’s not about checking off items on a list.  It’s about changing your mindset.  And since it’s my job to be your personal tour guide for guilt trips, check this mind-shift.

  • The “normal” contractor gets a customer in order to make a sale.
  • The “marketing” contractor gets a sale in order to make a customer.

Admittedly, that sounds odd, and the scarcity of those who “get” the above is almost the point. (Regular readers of this column know why.)  But this should make it clear…

The contractor who is wisely counter-intuitive in marketing wins the marketing. Period. Those who think, act and do like everyone else get results like everyone else. I’ve also noticed their complaints are like everyone else’s too.

So, by really understanding and applying the “marketing contractor” mindset, you’re automatically in the small segment, “differentiated” from the pack.

Most contractors seek to get the sale – a noble goal that I fully understand. So their marketing follows that pursuit to the fullest. Those who do it well get there with hard-hitting Direct Response. Those who do it poorly struggle with mediocre and frustrating results from a variety of sources too lengthy and painful to cover here.

Getting the sale instead of the customer, although alluring on the surface, is limited by meager expectations. It is finite. Yet “Relationship thinking” allows you to access the infinite.

Imagine your business just a couple short years from now. Instead of a “sort of” satisfied group of customers (so labeled merely because they bought something), you see a huge crowd of raving fans. It’s twice the size it is today; each a direct supporter or salesperson for you. Nearly half of them have a Maintenance Agreement, and they’re encouraging the other half to join them! All feel they “know you” to a degree and vice versa, because you’ve built a relationship not based purely on the sale.

Loyalty is nearly unshakeable. Why? Because it’s easy to quit using “just a contractor” but very hard to quit a relationship.

Adams Hudson

Adams Hudson

President at Hudson, Ink.
Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a contractor marketing firm serving the contractor trades, and ACCA’s national marketing partner. Readers can receive a free subscription to Adams’ Sales&Marketing Insider eNewsletter by emailing a polite request to freeACCAstuff@hudsonink.com.
Adams Hudson
Adams Hudson

Adams Hudson

President at Hudson, Ink.
Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a contractor marketing firm serving the contractor trades, and ACCA’s national marketing partner. Readers can receive a free subscription to Adams’ Sales&Marketing Insider eNewsletter by emailing a polite request to freeACCAstuff@hudsonink.com.
Adams Hudson

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