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8 ways that Basnett Plumbing and Heating generates leads and retains customers. BY ADAMS HUDSON SPECIAL TO CONTRACTOR Second in a series Why do they even let me do this stuff? I mean, Basnett Plumbing and Heating was just fine until I came along. As you read last month ("Marketing Makeover," pg. 19), the company has goals, great staff, solid sales figures and a desire to continuously improve. Yet,

8 ways that Basnett Plumbing and Heating generates leads and retains customers.

BY ADAMS HUDSON
SPECIAL TO CONTRACTOR

Second in a series

Why do they even let me do this stuff? I mean, Basnett Plumbing and Heating was just fine until I came along.

As you read last month ("Marketing Makeover," pg. 19), the company has goals, great staff, solid sales figures and a desire to continuously improve. Yet, as Rob Basnett told me on our first phone call, "More leads, sales and a better image can't be a bad thing."

He's right, of course. Rob and Maryann Swift, his overly able office manager, know that sales come from leads, leads come from marketing and that's how I got invited to a party already in progress. Not coincidentally, marketing progress is the goal.

So let's get right to it. Since the last issue, here's what we've done or is in the works:

1. Yellow Pages ad redesigned for lead generation. Your YP ad had better be "direct response" since every dollar of the many spent in YP needs to send people to the phone. The ad we designed for Basnett is a format we've used in areas with similar demographics with strong results. In one area, this ad replaced one that was six times larger. Fortunately, the smaller ad not only saved the company $21,800, but it generated more leads. Basnett trimmed its YP investment too, partly to help fund more lucrative marketing, such as ...

2. New Year's letter to its customer base. This was not for lead generation, only to thank and retain customers. Plus, we wanted to scrub the company's list before we went crazy with other mailings. Translation: We send an inexpensive but first-class mailing to the company's house-list to clean up bad or outdated addresses. (Subsequent mailings will generally be "live bulk-rate" to save the contractor postage dollars but appear as first class. Translation: I'm cheap.)

This entire 1,800-piece effort cost Basnett $970. In the letter, we put in two sentences about a Customer Only offer and a deadline (fewer than 21 days out as we've found this to be the magic number). Though it wasn't supposed to generate leads, the company ended up getting a slew of positive comments, plus five jobs at an $810 average or $4,050 in sales. No, that's no way to get rich but look at it this way: Basnett was paid $4,000 to thank its customer base.

3. A series of TOMA newspaper ads. These "top of mind awareness" ads are very small (2 column inches) and inexpensive. If you didn't already think I was stupid, wait 'til you read this: These ads weren't for lead generation either ...

They're only for recognition through repetition. We want people to "know" of Basnett, and small, high-frequency ads are the fastest way to get there. Maryann Swift is one awesome shop-per and got 22 weeks of TOMA ads in four newspapers for $2,200. Whoa.

Figure your "breakeven rate" at just a $500-per-job average and four phone calls erase this entire 22-week expense, but not the image from a zillion eyeball impressions. In a similar demo-graphic, we have a plumber who consistently gets four phone calls a week from his TOMA campaign.

Remember, we're just building momentum now. We do not want to over-whelm Basnett — or any client for that matter — but give you easy steps to get started before we frighten you and all your competition simultaneously. That's why we chose these next few items too ...

4. Welcome Wagon letters. Rob Basnett had wisely invested in getting this list but, like most of us, has 300 things going on at once. So, he hadn't mailed them yet. (Plus, annoying marketing people call him every 15 minutes for results. I'm not naming names.)

We have a letter in our Plumbing Marketing PowerPack for this purpose, so we modified it slightly to make sure this group gets this letter every single time he gets the list. I like automatic, systemized marketing.

In letters to members of this well-targeted group, we can afford to give them something for free — which Rob was originally hesitant to do.

Here's my rarely seen logic: New move-ins spend 50% of what they're going to spend on their home over the next five years in the first five months. Rob overcame his reluctance because he's a smart businessman.

Plus just 100 move-ins will cost him only $55 a month to mail. So a measly 1% response rate on a $500 service will pull 10 times the marketing cost returned. You can't help but like these numbers. This is a very specific offer targeted to new move-ins, which is your monthly lesson in "message to market match." We'll report results in an upcoming issue of CONTRACTOR.

5. Service letter postcard. I'm still trying to come up with an ad that'll make a faucet leak, but absent that, we're sending 4,800 deadline-driven service-discount postcards. This is a "bought list" targeted for income, home value, travel radius, and noncustomers. Why non-customers?

Well, we don't need to acquire customers again, which is a waste of postage. And we sure don't need them calling to say they want $20 off their invoice from last fall. (Would they ask this of Wal-Mart?) Plus we have retention methods to keep these customers that specifically reward them. (Readers can get a free report on the Top 9 Plumbing Mailing Lists by asking us nicely. See end of article.)

6. Val-Pack coupon. Normally, I despise these things. Why? The whole world opens them over a trash can searching for the pizza coupon and $5 dry cleaning specials. But Basnett had gotten on a contract and had done pretty well, so what do I know? Don't answer yet: We redesigned the coupon and put in a deadline, sorely against the advice of the publisher. Look for results soon from a potentially embarrassed former marketing consultant.

7. Customer retention newsletter. We recommend at least four customer retention contacts a year. This relationship-building tool increases referrals, image and keeps you higher in customer's minds. You can create your own, but Rob is using our "turnkey" customizable newsletter program, HomeXpert, which took him about 30 minutes to have done. (Get a free sample below.)

8. Tons of little stuff:

  • Yard signs on every job. I mean, why not? We had several designs for them in the PowerPack. For $25 per re-useable sign, it's a bargain and a half.
  • Door hangers. Another no-brainer. The techs' goal is to distribute five per job, but I personally think that goal is a little lofty. I'd be delighted with two, but is there a cheaper, better targeted, more direct distribution method in the world?
  • Yellow Pages diverter stickers. They'll be stuffed in every invoice and anywhere else we can think of. Personally, I'd like to start dropping them from airplanes, but that may be a little drastic. Cost is super low and keeps customers out of the Yellow Pages (ironically being paid for with YP budget reduction!).
  • On-hold messages. Great image builder for a few dollars. For a fraction of what the phone system costs, Basnett now has increased professionalism and made customers more welcomed. Make sure your messages hold listeners' interest without being overly promotional or boring. Hint: Educate your customers.

OK, so was this list so far very hard? Of course not, because I didn't have to do anything! Ha! I just threw it all on Rob and Maryann. Only half kidding.

The ads all came from the Plumbing Marketing PowerPack (except the Yellow Pages ad) as did the plan to do all this. Fortunately, the company has spent very little money on this. In fact, Basnett already was spending most of it; we just come in to add some high-performance techniques. You can do this exact same thing.

If the results are favorable, remember this: They're not "my" results; the credit belongs to Basnett, which did the work, placed the ads and got it done.

Regardless, part of my goal is for Basnett's marketing to be automatic, push-button stuff that only needs the occasional tweak and not a marketing consultant. We're just teaching the company how to fish. Join us next month to see the catch.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for in-home service contractors. In this Marketing Makeover series, you'll see an actual case study of marketing from the inside-out cosponsored by CONTRACTOR. In the meantime, you can request a free 12-page copy of Your Plumbing Marketing Makeover by faxing your letterhead with the request to 334/262-1115, or a polite e-mail to [email protected]. You can also request a copy of the Top 9 Plumbing Mailing Lists and a free Customer Retention Report and newsletter sample (like Basnett is using) at the same time. Call Hudson, Ink at 800/489-9099 or visit www.hudsonink.com