It's About Lead Generation, Pure and Simple

Sept. 1, 2008
Your marketing should balance many roles all working together to generate a better image, greater recognition, more leads and outstanding customer retention.

Lead generation seems to rule the day. It's hard to sell without a lead, and that's why direct response copywriters are highly sought-after marketing experts. The best in their craft weave words that flip “buy” switches, turning calls into cash for their clients and themselves.

Top direct response copywriters can command up to $25,000 to write a sales letter, plus a percentage of sales generated. Usually these fees are paid by deep corporate pockets with millions to gain or lose, yet they still give mere mortals sticker shock.

Well-crafted direct response is the most powerful lead generation method of all time. Yet this next sentence surprises many contractors. Not all ads are supposed to generate leads.

Are you stunned and disappointed? Well, let me ask you this: Do you consider any of your customers friends? Good. Do you try to sell them something every time you see them? I didn't think so. If you did, I'm thinking very few would consider you much of a friend. It's the same with your ads. Your marketing should balance many roles all working together to generate a better image, greater recognition, more leads and outstanding customer retention.

Just like tools in your toolbox, different ads have specific roles and ingredients, and they're covered by the following five categories: image; top of mind awareness, or TOMA; retention, all purpose; and direct response.

To achieve your overall marketing goals, you must use all five ad types in balance. The amazing lead generation results of solid direct response ads have a dark side that no one in my field talks about much. If you only use direct response, your image will suffer.

In fact, all ad types have an “inverse.” If you only use TOMA ads, don't expect a big lead count. If you have no retention effort, don't wonder why you lose customers. Balance is critical to your success. So, if you agree on that point, you're ready to find how to boost leads “on demand” by intelligent use of direct response lead generation.

Direct response ads are hard-edged offers

They turn heads. They jolt the reader. If they're doing their job right, the prospect gets pulled in - sometimes by asking, “How can they offer this?”

You aren't the target audience

So stop talking about yourself. Forget bragging about your own self-serving virtues or knowledge. Point your direct response ads at your customers. Enter their subconscious. Address them personally. Use “you” and “your” instead of “us” or “we” in every conceivable case.

Make your headline powerful

It's responsible for 80% of your readership, so make it count or lose the prospect. Powerful headlines can be immediately beneficial as in this example: “How to get a $157 ‘super tune up’ guaranteed to save you at least that much in utilities … for just $89.” They also can be imperatives such as, “Get a new water heater that'll keep your showers steamy all year … but please don't pay me a dime for six months!” Now, doesn't that make you want to take a second look?

Write about benefits, not features

Tell prospects how they will benefit - and if measurable - to what degree they'll benefit. Then tell them when they'll benefit. You can even try a “damaging admission” such as, “We're offering this because we're having a slow season and we want to keep all of our techs on staff and busy.” Your reader must be able to see and feel the gain (or loss) and become emotionally involved in the process.

Inform your reader with meaningful specifics and reversal of risk

If you just use the same dumb phrases as everyone else, you're wasting their time and your money.

Tell them specifically what they're going to get and how you can guarantee it. Some examples include: “Over 93% of our calls are handled within 24 hours” and “you're guaranteed same-day service and satisfaction.” Another example includes: “You'll reduce utility bills by 17% or get a check back for the difference.” Get creative and tell prospects how you'll be accountable for their comfort, gain and the competitive advantage only you offer.

Tell the prospect what to do

This is a “call to action,” so give clear directions. If there are any special conditions to your offer, tell the prospect or you're asking for confusion. As an option to increase immediacy of leads, impart a sense of urgency - such as a specified length of time or number of available units. A direct response offer without a limitation is not an offer.

Many contractors are scared to make offers that differentiate them from other contractors, which is great news for those who will. Have you ever noticed dealers offering the same manufacturer rebate in the same town at the same time?

We recently took a similar offer, then blended in all the above and “qualified” the rebate as a trade-in for their old water heater. We then guaranteed callers a gift just for having our contractor client out for an analysis and put a limitation on the offer. These cost our clients virtually nothing to offer, but it makes them different enough to stand out, which is the point.

Direct response also can be used in newspapers, as inserts, for radio, television and even the Yellow Pages. It works for service, upgrades and is coming on strong for filtration. Use it wisely and profit accordingly.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors, and author of the recently published “Contractor Marketing Secrets Your Competition Doesn't Want You to Know”. Readers can get a free marketing newsletter by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334/262-1115. Call 1-800-489-9099 or check out for other free marketing articles and reports.

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