When your creative juices aren’t flowing and you are up against a deadline, turn to two unlikely sources for ad copy inspiration. Many of you can find one sitting right next to you on your wife’s bedside table. The other one you probably see everyday and don’t pay any attention to it, and it is right there in your checkout line at the grocery store.
Regardless of your industry, most contractors have a hard time generating new business. And to make matters worse, the methods they use are essentially copy cat variations of their competitors. Direct mail, door hangers and yard signs all scream “Hire me, I am great and I am cheap!”
However, imagine the following scenario. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, a promising heating and air conditioner contractor goes through a neighborhood knocking on doors. Instead ofhanding out fliers, he has a free report outlining the benefits of keeping the air conditioner system cleaned and maintained. He says thanks and leaves.
The next week the contractor mails out a postcard to the same people asking them to call a special 800 number to get answers to the top 5 most frequently asked questions regarding how to maintain their heating and cooling system.
Lastly, on the second week, the contractor sends off a bulky envelope to the people. Now this envelope has a refrigerator magnet shaped like a melting ice cube. Across the magnet reads “Keep your cool with XYZ Cooling and Heating Services!” The magnet has the company’s phone number, website, physical address, and email information. With this type of information offering, and consistent marketing approach, a lot of these people will be more likely to call the new contractor because he has provided value before asking for the business. What are you doing to market your business today…this week…this month?
After my week-long series on social media marketing for contractors I received an email from a painter out on the west coast who basically said that social media is bullshit. His business was built on referrals and he is making a good living from that.
To that I say good for you George. But for those of you out there who haven’t found the goose that lays the golden eggs you need to consider social media as another way to spread the word. And I mean spread the word because the days of “build it and they will come” have passed you by.
As someone who has meetings in boardrooms as well as over the hoods of work trucks, one of the most frequent questions I get is how to build a following online. There really is no one answer to that question except for this – no matter where you decide to plant your flag; Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, you need to remember that the days of set it and forget it are gone. In other words, throwing up a website and calling it a day isn’t going to cut it anymore. The best way for you to grow your audience and build a brand is by making yourself a valuable member of existing communities.
You need to find out where the conversations are taking place around your area of expertise and be there fielding questions and supporting that community any way you can for as much time as you possibly can. Because in 2010, the community doesn’t come to you, you have to go to them!
- How to promote your event with social media (dontdrinkthekoolaidblog.com)
- How to Reward Yourself Using Social Media (socialmediatoday.com)
- Friday Fun: Calling bullshit on social media [Confessions of a Science Librarian] (scienceblogs.com)
I talk to a lot of contractors every week. Some are clients, some are friends, and some are just strangers I meet in Wawa or Walmart. When the conversation comes up about how business is today they often reflect back to the good old days when they would be booked out for six months.
Well, I don’t have to tell you between the economy and the “we want it now” generation, the window that you can schedule jobs for is short and getting shorter. Most of the contractors I talk to tell me they are lucky when they are booked 6 weeks right now.
The people factor
Consumers are much more educated as to who the “go-to” contractors are in a given field thanks to sites like Angie’s List. They also know who is second, and who is third, and all the way down the list to the guy that can’t hang a nail properly.
That means that the most sought after contractors are getting the lion’s share of the local business and everyone else is getting the leftovers. Now, just because they are getting most of the work doesn’t mean they are the best, and as a business owner you need to do your due diligence and find out what that company’s weaknesses are, and then use those weaknesses against them.
This is why you need to advertise
Don’t name your competition in your advertising, but definitely create differentiation by highlighting what makes you better than they are, and let the consumer pick up on the subtlety of your ad. If they have spent any time gathering information on their home improvement project, they will certainly “get” your advertising.
It’s the economy stupid
There have been a lot of people hurt in this economy. 10% unemployment and a terrible employment outlook have forced people to stick their hands in their pockets and keep them there. This is again why your advertising has to hit the mark. Why? Because no matter what my job situation is, if my water heater takes a crap I need a new water heater. Same thing if a tree falls through my garage, ruins three cars and a driveway…don’t laugh it happened to me a few years ago! I’m still burning that tree every winter.
Your contracting company has to be “top of mind” when people get out there and are ready to buy. If you are the 1/8th of a page ad 20 pages deep into your Yellow Pages heading or your website is found on page 15 of Google, you are not “top of mind” to your prospects. Now, I am not saying run out and get a full-page color ad in the YP, but you have to expose your company to people exactly when they are ready to pull the trigger, and if your business isn’t represented when that time comes, the job goes to someone else.
My point is if you think you can just cruise through the rest of this economic downturn until everyone gets busy again, then I have some bad news for you. Smart contractors are re-tooling their businesses, they are leveraging their ability to get great talent cheap, and once consumers wash off the stench of the last 5 years they are going to spend like gangbusters and your competition will be right there to take their checks, cash and credit cards. Will you?
Learning about marketing should be as important as learning your trade. You can’t be a successful contractor if people don’t know who you are, and that requires marketing. So spend the time it takes to learn how to promote your business and I promise you will be busier in your business.