Are You Running The Business – Or Is It Running You?

June 28, 2010

By Adams Hudson

My 16 year old daughter and her team just snagged a spot in the state track meet, and I, by proxy, am feeling pretty accomplished. My thinking is that those speedy genes came from somewhere and there’s at least a 50% chance that they came from me. Of course, just thinking about all of that running has me panting with exhaustion. So maybe the genes came from her mother’s side…

At any rate, running a contracting business gives you a great feeling of accomplishment and sometimes a great feeling of exhaustion! One of the biggest risks is that your attention is pulled in so many directions that you lose sight of the things needed for your survival. Like with a lot of things, the secret of success is no secret at all. To excel in business you will have to do the following three things (or your failure is relatively assured):

1. Technical proficiency: 78% of contractors come from trade or on-the-job training. Getting more training is needed to improve your technical proficiency AND to improve your ability to solve your customers’ problems. But your expertise here is useless in realizing your business goals without…

2. Effective Business Systems. This is about a little thing called money. Your financial and operations picture dictates how well or if you’re being paid well enough to stay afloat. Yet without sales, it doesn’t matter. Here’s why:

3. Marketing runs the machine, not the other way around. Your sales are directly related to your leads, which ARE your ads, and comprise much of your marketing efforts. If you have a problem with your sales, you must determine: is it a presentation problem, closing problem… or a problem with lead generation?
Good marketing brings in leads. But don’t let your understanding stop at that point. Marketing is not about getting more leads.

Wait a minute – did I hear myself correctly? Yes, I did. Effective marketing is not necessarily about getting more leads. It’s about getting the right leads. To know whether you’re getting the right leads, here are some other things you should consider:

• Cost per lead is paramount. Who cares if newspaper placement costs you $100 more if it brings you more leads per dollar? Don’t freak out about bigger postcards, first-class mail, or a bigger Yellow Pages ad. Review what the expense brings you. It’s an investment, remember?

• Fewer shoppers is very cool. When you do creative marketing, you are – by definition – making a creative offer that is typically not duplicatable. Thus, it’s unshoppable. Thus, you’ve just put yourself out of the “discounting” business to “get the job.” Please don’t make me write “thus” again, except for thus…

• Higher margins. Fewer shoppers and unique offering means you can ask and get more for your goods. Try 2%, or 5% more to start. My guess is that you won’t lose one single customer except for Mickey McCheap, and you’ve been trying to dump him for years. The rest is yours to keep. We write lead-generation ads that openly tout increased benefits without saying a word about how “cheap” the service is.

• Success through seasonal dips is what most contractors want. With great marketing, you can turn your leads off and on like a switch. HVAC, Electrical or Plumbing Agreements, system offerings during mild weather can generate repeatable income each year. Start with a tune-up or service ad first, never attempt to sell a Maintenance Agreement in broad-market media. That’s a loser. (Believe me, I know!)

• Better Ad rates, Better Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA), More “Me, too” customers all result from a steady stream of good marketing pieces. Everything from a newspaper presence, yard sign visibility, lead-generating Yellow Page ads, postcards that stand out, Newsletters people actually read – it all adds up to smart marketing, real profit and, ultimately, a successful contracting business.

In this way, you run the business instead of it running you. Isn’t that the goal?

Adams Hudson
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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