Pulling Large Rabbits Out of Small Hats
Plumbing and HVAC contractors need to look at themselves as magicians. We don't have huge budgets to spend on marketing so we need to be extra careful how we spend those dollars. In essence, we need to be magicians - able to pull large rabbits out of small hats.
The first thing is to make sure that you're investing in marketing. These dollars will pay off down the road, but may not pay off immediately. You're trying to get your name out, educate the customer and create the situation where he will remember your name when a need arises. This takes time and an investment.
Here are some things you can expect from actively planning and implementing a marketing plan:
- Client loyalty, retention, repetition
- Community recognition with a good reputation
- Being known for your actions
- Making new clients regular clients
- Acquiring a better understanding of what clients want
- Providing services with sincerity and concern because you have formed relationships with them
What's the magic investment in dollars? Most contractors can create a good impression over a period of time by investing 5 percent of sales. Some do more, but 5 percent is the minimum that you should plan to invest. And, that 5 percent can't be spent only on the Yellow Pages.
When formulating your marketing investment plan, here are the questions to ask:
- Is forming a relationship with my clients important?
- Is my client my main priority?
- What does my client expect?
- Am I aware that doing things after the sale is just as important as doing things to get the sale? Show your gratitude in different ways.
- What is my company's marketing mix?
- Do I realize that complaining clients are actually my friends?
A very wise person once told me that you can't make all of your clients happy. And there are times that you will fire clients. So, the definition of a "client" should be part of your plan.
Assuming that you will be client-focused when answering the questions above, transform that focus into marketing activities that you can do every day. You'll need to make sure that your technicians are on board with you and that they realize the customer writes the paycheck. They must sell service agreements. This is a large part of your marketing plan since agreements build a repeat client and referral business. If your technicians do not believe that service agreements are in the best interest of the client, find out why. If you can't change those beliefs, you might need to hire technicians who do believe that service agreements are in the best interest of the client and do the necessary work to maintain plumbing and HVAC systems.
Once you have the marketing plan questions in place, you'll need to research where a client finds his information about plumbing and HVAC businesses. Most answers come back : "I saw a truck" or "I asked a neighbor, relative, friend." Pressing further, you'll find that they listen to certain radio stations, read certain newspapers and magazines, and read some direct mail.
Once you know this information, it's time to decide what you're spending your marketing dollars on. You'll need to look at a mix of direct mail, radio and television media, the Yellow Pages, trade shows and public relations activities depending on the answers to the research you've done. Public relations activities include sponsoring Little League teams and other community-oriented activities. This is a way to give back to the community and also get recognized for the good deeds you do.
Finally you'll have to track the results. You need to know where your dollars are working so that you can continue the mix next year or change the mix to do more of what is working and less of what isn't working.
Putting the marketing plan together isn't difficult. It takes time. The hardest part is implementing the plan and sticking to it once the plan has begun. Taking the time to make sure that you are doing what you have committed to do and tracking the results are what will make your plan even more effective in future years.