After establishing your overall business goals, look at the source of your revenue - your customers.

After establishing your overall business goals, or perhaps to help establish overall goals, look at the source of your revenue - your customers.

You need to know how many active customers you have. This number is easy to determine if all you do is new construction. However, from a service perspective, it is much more difficult to answer. Find out how many customers you have done business with during the past year. How many total customers are on the list? If you are like most contractors, the numbers of total contractors will far exceed the numbers who have done business with you in the past year. Call some of the customers who you haven't heard from in a while. Find out why they haven't used you. Be prepared to find out that they have moved, died or that they are using another company now in addition to telling you, "I just haven't had a need."

Do something to invite them back. After all, they still need their hvac equipment and plumbing systems check each year. The results should help you establish your marketing goals for next year.

Next look at your advertising activities. Hopefully, you have tracked results throughout the year so you know where your leads are coming from. If you haven't, this is your first goal for next year. Assuming that you have tracked your leads, you should know what worked well and what didn't work well at all. Plan to repeat the activities that worked and determine why the others didn't so that you can either fix the problems or not do it again.

Public relations

Also look at what you did from a public relations perspective this year. Public relations includes all non-paid advertising, including your truck signage, service forms and uniforms as well as donations made to charitable organizations and articles that appeared in the media. Plan on doing more public relations activities. They usually produce better results than advertising does.

Examine your trade show results. Many times, this is difficult to do, mainly because your feet hurt and you have got to get people to staff the booth for a weekend. However, trade shows are a great source of leads if you are creative with your booth and get people to stop by. One contractor I know has had a booth at his local fair for more than 10 years. He gets enough leads from the four-day event to keep him busy the entire fall season - and some of these leads become sales in the spring, too. Yes, he and his staff are exhausted at the end of the fair, but the results are worth it.

Are you getting your customers e-mail addresses? If you aren't, start now. This is a very non-intrusive way to reach your customer base for reminders and tips on home comfort.

The other advertising medium to look at is the yellow pages. This usually provokes an emotional response. I haven't found too many contractors who like the yellow pages. My philosophy is that they are something you can't live with and you can't live without them. Some contractors have found a way to live without any expensive display ads, however - with very successful results.

(Editor's note: Ruth King will be hosting "Hvacr Business and Marketing Management for Contractors" during the inaugural ISH-North America trade show Oct. 31 at the National Trade Centre in Toronto. More than 20,000 attendees from the hvac, plumbing, PVF, kitchen and bath industries in 13 countries are expected.

For more information, call Messe Frankfurt at (866) 984-8016 or see www.ish-na.com on the Internet.)

Copyright 2001, Ruth King. All rights reserved.

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