The majority of plumbing contractors hit a rough patch from time to time. The key to overcoming it is knowing what went wrong and what to do about it. Take a look at the following common problem areas and their solutions. You can easily avoid the “blame game” in a way that generates leads, increases closing ratios and improves profits.
Low phone traffic?
Contractors think of the weather as the common culprit for fewer phone calls. While seasonal ebbs do affect demand, it’s only part of the story. Give the weather half the blame if you must. But also look to your marketing for the trouble it’s causing you. The purpose of marketing is to level out weatherdriven leads. If it isn’t, chances are, you’re either badly under-marketed or you’re spending good money on bad marketing.
You must remember that the seven most powerful sales triggers are Fear, Guilt, Greed, Anger, Exclusivity, Vanity and Salvation.
Hit on one and you’ll get attention. Hit on three and you’ll get leads. Hit on five and you’ll get sales. Hit on seven and you’ve got my job! (Oh, like you’d want it.)
How to use the triggers for lead generat ion: I s tar t by headlining a customer’s strongest, most immediate desire. Then why the offer exists; why it’s an opportunity, and — if it’s hard direct response — why it’s a limited offer. The price is mentioned early if immediately valuable or late if it requires building. If there’s a guarantee, I put it nearest the price. Why? To minimize the fear and risk at the point where anxiety is highest.
It goes in that order, because this is how you “pull” the trigger. Yet 80% of the ads I critique start with how great the company is, rarely build value or real benefits, throw prices out at random, and fail to include a call to action. If any room is left over, a piece of equipment is tossed in so everyone will know it’s an ad. And we wonder why it fails.
As human beings, we’re very predictable. For the marketer, that’s good news. Repeatable behaviors make it easier for us to systematize the marketing approach.
Do it like this: Follow a four-point plan for identifying with your audience — research, resell, reap and repeat. Focus on keeping contact with your existing customer base, then target a larger but manageable group with shared demographics including age of home, income, single family residences, geographic boundaries. The “who” in your marketing campaign is much more important than “what” you say or “how” your message is delivered. (Yes, I just said that and I create ads for a living.)
Reach them by continually presenting yourself to these prospects. Win them as customers through a staged approach in different media. Print or radio (broad market) can be followed by direct mail (focused market) that speaks their language. Follow that with either a postcard, a zoned newspaper insert or telemarketing. Yes, you can call your customers if you have an established business relationship with them. Always ask, “Is it okay if we call you back if there’s special news for you?”
Remember to keep track
Track how effective the promotion was. You’ve got to know this by the cost per lead and cost per sale. Costs per lead can range from $40-$255 for direct response (since you can’t really hold the other forms accountable). For replacement sales, this cost and a healthy closing ratio is still very profitable. But you’ll never know your return on investment if you don’t track.
Repeat what you’ve been doing, now that you know what works and what is responded to positively. You replicate this among a larger group, or repeat the same effort to extract full lead count. Based on this, you then use a “mirrored” promotion for the next similar season and mark it down to use again in a year. That’s the great thing about seasonality.
Many leads, few sales? If you’re getting many leads, but few sales, that’s not a marketing problem. That’s a selling problem. Sure, you may get some unqualified leads, but the salesperson is usually too quick to blame “price, products or people” instead of “poor presentation and preparation.”
Solution: draw a clear distinction between you and your competition by delivering a comprehensive, yet brief, sales presentation that builds confidence and trust in you, your company and your recommendations. Talk about your prospects’ needs and problems and how you and your products or services will provide the right solutions. Provide your techs with “presentation” training that will help them be better prepared in front of prospects.
Leads, sales, but no money
You’re spending lots of money and lots of energy and getting lots of work done — but it’s not paying off for you. Take a look at your overhead, scheduling and any waste, of course. Also recognize that the real culprit could be your pricing strategy. If you’re trying to be the “cheapest in town,” your competition isn’t running you out of business — you’re doing that to yourself. When you’re losing money on calls, you’re better off financially not showing up at all.
Solution: there are two pricing strategies for special offers — one is a penetration strategy, which means that you are basically seeking entry into a customer’s home. This strategy works if your technicians are properly trained to look for additional work and trained to consult with the customer. If they aren’t — and if your technicians merely walk in and perform the maintenance work — you are going to lose money and opportunities.
The second strategy is to price for profit. By pricing for profit, your customer will perceive that your service has more value, taking these two factors into account: 1) What they consider value for the price; and 2) How your price is positioned against the competition.
The key to price for profit is being able to demonstrate value. Your responsibility is to make certain that your technicians inform your customers about the value they are getting. A strong presentation is the key there as well.
So, put your finger on the problem above, and focus on the solution. You’ll find that solutions are much easier to live with! Let us know how we can help.
Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Readers can get a free report, “17 Ways To Exceed Customer Expectations,” by calling 800/489-9099, faxing your letterhead to 334/262-1115 or e-mailing [email protected]k. com with the polite request. Also check out www.hudsonink.com for other free marketing articles and reports.