Real Life Lessons Part 2

March 15, 2005

Marketing Lessons, All Day Every Day

By: Adams Hudson

It's been one full year since we renovated our small office building, employing at one point about half the trades in our town. Okay, it seemed like it.

I made you dear readers listen to my experience of how GREAT most of these folks were as "technicians" yet how they struggled with being salespeople and marketers. And I am an uneducated but eager buyer, looking for buying guidance. Kind of like 80% of your prospects.

I mainly want my problem fixed. Really. I don't care how in most cases, only that my trusted advisor (you) fixes it in a manner befitting of that trust. Quality, reliability, and EVENTUALLY but not immediately price enters the equation. Sort of like this:

National Poll Results: Top-ranked "wants" from consumers for home service contractors:
1. Showing up on time.
2. Finishing the job as represented.
3. Cleaning up.

Perturbed Marketer's note: "Cheapest price" was not on the list. Nor was, "Forgetting me entirely."

Now, seems like after you've earned the business, you might consider a call or mail piece later, as a reminder, of your proficiency. Here's the story of who did what on our Hudson Ink offices, one year later...

Plumber: Initially spent $18,400 with him. Got so excited about his quality, I used him for a shower upgrade at my home and referred him to 2 neighbors. But now it's been a year. I've not heard from him once. I can't remember his name. Guess I'll go to the Yellow Pages and try to get lucky... or is HE trying to get lucky? Maybe neither - -

Irrigation: Came in a month ago and needed me to tell him our plumber's name for some re-routing/draining issues..."Don't have a clue" I said, "Do you have someone you like?" "Consider it done" he said. "Consider me gone" I thought in reference to my status as forgotten customer. (Yet, I'm still in his "customer" files even though I just spent $600 with someone else.) Update: I find out 10 days ago that our original plumber does irrigation. Another $1800 gone. How was I - or anyone else - to know? Might've been worth a postcard.

Electrician: Spent $21,000 and change. They were incredibly well-recommended. They've stayed in touch... one time "just to see if everything was going okay"! I almost needed CPR. Since then, they've installed four additional outlets here, three lights, plus a couple of nit-picky things. They also just did $4,600 of lighting at my house. We called one company only. I've referred them often... "Locked in" I'm thinking in reference to my customer status with them, especially with the postcard series they're now sending. Impressive.

Painter: Tab was about $10,000 with them. Referred a $4800 job their way. Was so late and so irresponsible that I DID NOT refer them my mother-in-law's $11,000 job. (I never got thanks for the first one either.)

He didn't stay in touch once, even though in a year's time, our building's paint job has gotten the bump and grind. (Is this a surprise?) I'd forgive the earlier indiscretion and use him for a total touch-up since he knows the colors and did a good job. But I can't remember his name either. Oh yes, and my house is looking pretty rough on the sun-baked side. Guess I'll ask around. Maybe I'll get lucky.

HVAC: I've ranted enough about the "under-selling" job that was done. (They read this newsletter as well!) But they also took it seriously. They've stayed in touch. They're reliable. They've started a Customer Retention newsletter program. They responded to a home need instantly and we're getting them to make an upgrade here. Plus tune-ups at home and at both commercial buildings. Plus anything else I can think of.

Floor Guys: No, I don't expect the floor guys to send a newsletter, but the customer service has been so rotten, they might consider a job where they don't actually need customers. I predict they'll get their wish. I've called them back very politely four times for various problems. Yet it always sounds like we've interrupted their "Customer Annoyance Training Sessions". They've taken rudeness and blame-shifting to an art form. Their company motto must be: "We didn't do it".

They can also use that phrase when referring to the 7700 square foot (all hard-wood) renovation we plan for a nearby 110 year old building. (Yes, we're insane.)

Epilogue: We are not the largest company. I don't influence many people or many buying decisions. But I do influence my own, just like all of your customers. We ask to be treated right and not to be forgotten. We'll sing your praises. But customers who are like us don't call and complain; we're "quiet" then. You won't know when we leave. We didn't keep the relationship because there was none to lose.

So, How Does This Apply To You?
Sometimes it's the simple stuff we don't do that costs us so much money in lost sales. Sales we never knew we lost. Contacts we never made. Customers we "thought" were ours. Customers we "hoped" would remember and refer us. But whose job is that - - Theirs or ours? Hudson, Ink is a long way from perfect. We work to improve every day, and I learned from our experience. I hope you can learn from someone else's experience. (See Proverbs 9)

Stay in touch with customers. They deserve it, and so do you. Don't try and get "lucky". Be right instead.

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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