Stay On The Attack

August 28, 2009

By Matt Michel

Many small business owners make the same mistake.  The owners hustle, take risks, and invest in their companies.  Then, once they get a little ahead, they start playing to keep what they’ve got instead of continuing to attack the market.  When business pressure increases, like today, they’re even more apt to pull back and try to play it safe.

To use another sports metaphor, that’s not “dancing with what brung ya.”  You become successful by the pursuit of opportunity, not the avoidance of all risk.  To go turtle is to go nowhere.  Worse, you risk getting caught in a downward spiral as you defend loss after loss, blow and blow.  You lose equilibrium.

If you’re playing to outlast the current recession, you’re following a losing strategy.  Instead, attack the market.  Get aggressive.  Take your successful sales and marketing tactics from the past and repeat them.

But don’t just do what you’ve always done.  Try something new.  Try paid search.  Try local newsletter advertising.  Try affinity marketing.  Try shared mail.  Try yard signs.  Try door hangers.  Try email marketing to your existing customers.  Try social media.  Try radius marketing. 

Step up your marketing.  Invest in the future and in your business.

Let the Competition Play Defense
I was in Panama City this summer and took Peaden’s Robert Wilkos to lunch.  Months ago Robert sensed the market might be off because of the economy, so Robert stepped on the gas.  He accelerated his marketing, leading to record sales.

As we passed another contractor’s shop, Robert commented, “Word is they’re dying.  No calls.  No marketing.  They’re just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.”

The contractor was playing defense.  Robert was attacking.  His marketing was reaching more homeowners resulting in more calls for Peaden and fewer for the competition.  And I could tell Robert was having fun!

Your competitors are probably playing defense right now, making this the perfect time to attack the market.  There’s less noise coming from the competition.  It’s easier for your message to get through.  It’s easier to cut off the oxygen of your competitors.

Play To Your Strengths
If you were coaching a football team, had a solid running game, and faced an opponent with superb defensive backs, would you air it out or emphasize the ground game?  You would run the ball, of course.  Hopefully, the defensive backs would move close to the line to help stop the run, creating opportunities for the passing game.

In the current economy, service is your running back.  It doesn’t give you the four and five figure jobs that comes from replacements or project work, but it is solid.  And, it might lead to bigger jobs down the road.

As an in-home service company, demand for you doesn’t die in a downturn, it just shifts.  In fact, service work often increases in tough times.  They avoid replacing carpeting and opt for deep cleaning.  People avoid replacing old equipment and opt for repairs. 

Do a good job on the repairs and you’ll make higher margins on the service work, plus you’ll have the inside track on the replacement.  After all, replacements can only be delayed for so long.  Think of it this way, the lifetime value of the customers who choose to repair rather than replace is higher than the value of those who replace now.

Remember too that you’re playing a local game.  You don’t have to worry about price competition from the global village, just the village idiot.  That’s no different today than last year or the year before.

The fact is people need to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  They need clean water on demand.  They need hot water.  They aren’t going to bury their backyard swimming pools.  They aren’t going to live without lights. 

People need service work.  No one needs service all the time.  But at any given point in time someone will always need service work.

And yes, DIY heats up when the economy cools off, but DIY only covers the most basic repairs.  Many repairs are beyond the skills and inclination of most homeowners.  And often their attempts result in even more work for you.

Unemployment may be high, but impact is mostly psychological.  June unemployment was 9.5%.  A year ago it was 5.6%.  It seems bad and it is bad.  However, it’s not as bad as it seems.  Ninety-six percent of the people who had jobs a year ago, still have them.  Moreover, they have money.  The savings rate is 6%.

The work is out there.  The money to pay for it out there as well.  Start marketing for it.  Try new kinds of marketing.  Focus on services and less expensive products.  Stress value.  Go on the attack.  Cut off the oxygen of the competition.  And have fun!

 

Source: Comanche Marketing. Reprinted by permission.
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Copyright © 2009 Matt Michel

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