Has the recession caught up with you? Here are some ways to not let the economy run your business.
Don't wait for the phone to ring. Go out and sell water conservation, energy conservation and green. The Department of Energy has created an interactive map that shows how much stimulus money every city in the country is eligible to receive for energy efficiency: http://www.eecbg.energy.gov/GrantAlloc.html. Are customers giving you price objections to efficient equipment? Then sell return on investment. Look on our Web site, www.contractormag.com and click on the page that has all of Dave Yates' columns. There on Dave's page we have an article, “Dave's ultimate ROI sales tool,” wherein Dave explains how to show customers their return on investment, rather than selling simple payback. It beats almost any return they can get today.
Accept trade-ins for old plumbing and heating items, suggested Matt Michel, CEO of the Service Roundtable at the recent Quality Service Contractors meeting in Florida. Consumers are looking for value, Michel said, and if you offer, say, $25 for a water heater, that creates value.
Michel was full of ideas. Here are some more:
Advertise in church bulletins, homeowners' association newsletters and political newsletters. People like to do business with kindred spirits.
Barter, especially if you do work for people who can help you advertise, such as a radio station or a video production company. Just make sure it's an even trade-out, otherwise the difference is taxable.
Have your techs cloverleaf door hangers to five houses across the street and two on each side of where they are working.
Give U.S. Savings Bonds. A $100 bond costs $50 but it has a perceived value of $100. Elderly customers love them because they give them to the grandkids.
Practice affinity marketing with groups such as the PTA or VFW where you make a small donation for every purchase. Pick a group, create a program, identify the decision makers for the group and pitch them on the idea. Have a brochure about the program to hand out. Pass out a “savings card,” so that members are aware of the program. Keep a log to keep track of purchases and issue the group a check quarterly.
Join all of the service clubs: Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions and Optimists.
Leave your business cards at retail counters. Print a coupon offer on the back of your business card to give people a reason to keep them.
Commercial customers employ potential residential customers. Leave your refrigerator magnets on the office fridge in the kitchen — or some other keeper like anti-scalding information or a windchill chart or a household tips magnet for the washing machine.
Print up a pocket calendar for your community theater or other civic groups, Michel suggests.
Sponsor a 5K race. Runners are interested in pure air and water, making them good prospects for undersink RO systems and IAQ products.
Ron Collier, president of Collier Consulting Group, presented more ideas in The PHCC Connection newsletter.
Diversify your products and services, Collier said. Sell washer hoses, disposers, water filtration, laundry tubs, new faucets and anything water-saving. If you sell HVAC, also sell CO detectors, thermostats, indoor air quality, added insulation, humidistats and anything to do with energy conservation.
Collect your money on completion of the service. For commercial customers, the invoice should go out the same day, Collier says.
Look at all of your expenses, such as insurance or cell phones.
Don't cut marketing, Collier emphasizes. Spend 3%-5% of sales revenue on marketing, carefully targeted to your area with direct mail. Don't waste it on broad-brush advertising.
Keep training your people and develop manuals and standard operating procedures. It's the best way to improve efficiency and productivity.
Consider joining a franchise. Speaking of franchises, 1-800-PLUMBER's tip for fighting off the recession is to embrace technology. Make sure you have an up-to-date Web site and that it's registered with the search engines like Google or Yahoo. Use state-of-the art software for accounting, call taking and dispatching, the franchisor suggests. Install GPS in your trucks.
Join your local association.
Everything is cyclical. We'll be out of this by next year.