Real Life Lessons Part 1

March 15, 2005

Marketing Lessons, All Day Every Day

By: Adams Hudson

If you ever find yourself bored, please go buy a 130-year-old building that hasn't been so much as swept out for the past 50. It was so dirty that pigeons had refused to roost in it anymore.

Shortly after your purchase, you'll get to meet every contractor in town, write him several checks, and quickly realize why most sane people don't do renovations. You'll also get a free (yeah, right) education on how NOT to treat people, how NOT to represent yourself, how NOT to follow up... and several dozen other marketing lessons I already knew, but had reinforced by all but two - yes, TWO - of the 2 dozen contractors and subs.

And that is why I love my job. For some reason, the marketing is what makes your contracting skills attractive to others who will willingly pay handsomely for the service to be done right.

Can you find yourself in these pictures?

Roofing Contractor - I got two bids. One for $21,500. The other for $6300. Like you, my intelligent response was "Huh?" And when I asked the more expensive guy what he was doing differently than the other, he said, and I quote: "This is a hard job, and it's high up." Okay. Guess who I went with? Guess who looks like an overcharging barbarian who can't even slightly express value?

Plumbing Contractor - Two quotes. One shows up on time, the other kind of forgets. Plumber "A" asks about 50 questions, takes notes, offers advice, mentions a little architectural oversight (that would've been virtually impossible to correct later) and gives us a quote the next day for $18,400. Plumber "B" (for Barely in Business) makes grunting noises, offers no advice, hands us a quote for $10,000 and never calls back. To me, his "round" number - even though considerably lower - looked made-up on the spot and I wouldn't trust him to plumb a birdbath. Guy "A" gets the job and does an awesome job. He also just did $2k worth of work at my house too. And he'll also get the bathroom remodel, plus anyone I can refer his way.

Framing SubContractor - One bid. Only needed one. Here's why: The general contractor says to me:

"Look, I'm on this job every day. My guys, their safety, your job and the lifelong integrity of it are dependent on this being done right. Exactly right. There's no room for error. There might be cheaper guys out there, but it's not worth the risk."

Okay. That did it. A powerful testimonial with full conviction locked me and this sub down to a $12,800 agreement and I never even met him. You think testimonials from your loyal and impressed customer base is worthwhile?

HVAC Contractor - Two bids. Guy "A" is $7100 with a 10 SEER, 90%, hard and flex duct, the basics. Guy "B" is $7600, same stuff. Neither one offers me anything resembling an upsell. I ask for the 12 SEER. I ask for mastic. I ask for the programmable. I ask about zoning. I was so bored and unimpressed with both I just let the GC pick.

The job's installed, not ONE extra filter is left (gee thanks. After a week of construction, the old one looks like a cat in a flannel nightgown got trapped in there.) The best thing the guy did is have his logo screen printed on the thermostat. No attempt to mail me the warranty, call me, visit, or offer a maintenance agreement though.

Do I even exist? Maybe he doesn't care that I have 6 units elsewhere and speak to hundreds of his potential customers a year locally who think I know something about HVAC. Maybe he's got all the business he wants. That's the only impression I can have.

Painting Contractor - After this, I'm pretty sure that somewhere in the English language, the words "Lacquer" and "Liquor" are related.


There's a mountain of material I could write for each of the companies above. They're all struggling to some degree, some less than others. Here's how they could boost their sales with better marketing right now - -

The framer and roofer sell very occasional needs. They should get well-worded testimonials on simple 1-2 page sheets with references and maybe some photos. If they did, they'd leave very little to chance and trample any competitors.

The plumber did great, but desperately needs a newsletter as the cheapest, fastest way to make sure I don't forget his name or number. I also need a magnet, business card with a "Thank You" note. Sure, I'm all giddy now... but in 3 months, 6 months who knows? Don't MAKE ME go to the Yellow Pages (even though I've had to twice already.) This could be avoided for about .78 cents.

The HVAC Company has missed and is missing massive opportunities if he thinks that "disregarding" customers with no upselling, no back-end products, no frills, and no follow up is his path to a fortune. It's not. He should've knocked me up the ladder for zoning (I would've bought it IF he'd spent 15 minutes with me, but other needs pressed.)

He should've offered me filtration/IAQ. (I have allergies and am getting paranoid about IAQ.) I already upsold myself on $1700 of stuff HE NEVER offered me! He also needs a "Thank you" package with warranties, a newsletter, and a salesperson. Badly.

They all need to realize that marketing converted their skills to money, and the lackthereof left them wondering what happened. Again.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink “Creative Marketing that Works.” His company creates a full line of marketing tools for contractors including Customer Retention newsletters, Yellow Page ads, “turn-key” Marketing PowerPacks and custom copywriting. You can get a free subscription to his “Sales & Marketing Insider” by faxing your letterhead to 334-262-1115 with the request. Also check out on the web for free marketing tips or call 1-800-489-9099 for more info.

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