For those of you who like to save money on mailing costs, postcards are the cheapest items to mail.

However, there is a much more important reason to use a postcard rather than a letter. Your message gets seen by a simple turn of the wrist. No decision needs to be made as when opening a letter. They just look at the message without any effort.

If they are typical, your customers or prospective customers read their mail on the way back to the house after grabbing it from the mailbox. If you have sent a brightly colored postcard, they immediately see your message. They determine whether to act on it during the walk back into the home.

Having a brightly colored or a picture postcard is key. You must get noticed in the sea of white envelopes. Once you are noticed, your customers will turn over the card to view your message because it’s easy to do and almost reflexive. You have only one or two seconds to get your point across.

Your message must be compelling. It must answer two questions: What’s in it for them and why should they act?

Who cares?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen ads offering multipoint checkups. Who cares, other than those in the HVAC industry? Your customers only care that they’ll save money, be safe, be more comfortable and to a lesser extent, have peace of mind.

The 15-point check up is a feature - not a benefit. What if it was 10-point? 20-point? Would customers care? Probably not. They only care about the result of that checkup. Those are the benefits and the reasons why they should act.

A brightly colored postcard with benefits is the simplest mailing piece that you can send. And, it is very inexpensive to do. If you don’t have or want to take the time to create your own postcards, there are many marketing companies who will do it for you. Call or e-mail me for some references.

Plan to send postcards to the neighborhood or geographic area that you want to serve. This time of year, the first postcard should be a maintenance check. If people haven’t had their heating system checked, they are more likely to respond.

Remember, compelling messages with benefits save money and promote peace of mind.

Now let’s talk about commercial marketing. This might be a surprising statement - and one that you disagree with. However, hear me out.

Businesses are open during the day - the same time you are. You don’t have the telemarketing rules that apply to consumers, and you can often find information about the companies on the Internet. You can easily do your homework before you send a marketing piece or call potential customers. Businesspeople want to see you during the day rather than in the evening.

Quick tips

Here are some quick things that you can implement immediately for your commercial customers (and by the way, most of these ideas can be reformatted for residential customers):

1. Drip marketing. Drip marketing is sending a short, attention-getting message once per month. I like using e-mail for drip marketing. E-mail has no expense other than getting the e-mail addresses and creating the messages. Make sure that the message is short and contains something that will benefit your potential commercial customers. They should look forward to getting them.

2. Get to know the business press. Then when you send press releases for jobs that you have completed, they’ll know who you are and are more likely to respond. And yes, the press should be contacted by e-mail. Most editors prefer releases with digital photos.

3. Take pictures of every job and send the releases to your competitors’ customers. Let them know about your company. When prospective customers are thinking about using your company for a job, they want to see that you have done similar jobs for other companies. Pictures tell the story.

4. This is one that I’ve written about before. I repeat it because I still get stories about how well this works. Give apothecary jars to your commercial service contract customers and other good customers. These are glass jars that you put candy in. Have them printed with your company name and telephone number. Fill them in person once per month with candy. This gives you an opportunity to visit. You’ll be surprised how many additional service calls, discussions about jobs you’ll get simply by walking in their door once per month. And by the way, once you start this process, your customers will look forward to the candy each month so you can’t stop.

5. Make sure that your Web site is up-to-date. Potential commercial customers are very likely to check out your company’s Web site before awarding a job to you or asking you to bid on a job. Put bios of your project managers, service department managers and personnel on it.
Also have a list of current and past jobs with contact names and telephone numbers (assuming that your customers will give you permission to use their names).

Commercial marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. A little creativity in the use of the Internet goes a long way. It does take time. However, by making the time to do these activities you’ll build a strong potential customer base that will lead to a strong customer base.

Copyright 2007, Ruth King. All rights reserved. Write to Ruth King, 1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405, Norcross, GA 30093. Call (800) 511-6844; e-mail ruthking@hvacchannel.tv.