Many contractors find this out the hard way: It’s not enough to be good at what you do. Those who have a natural affinity for working with tools, seeing how things work and making them work better are the type that are drawn into contractor trades. They learn skills and apply them.
But then they find out – especially if they’re running the business – they need more skills. They learn about business processes and operations. Even this is not enough until they learn about marketing. Then when they get the reality of marketing under their belt, one point hits home hard: you’re never through marketing to your customers, even after you’ve earned them.
Indeed, this simple fact can be one of the most surprising truths many contractors have to face: just because you do a great job on a service call does not mean the customer will call on you again.
Some of you are thinking, “Well, it should. We rushed out there in 10-degree cold/100-degree heat to take care of them. Why shouldn’t they stick with us?”
Well, a lot of things should happen. My scalp should be holding a full head of hair. The drivers in my neighborhood should be more respectful of my need to get where I’m going. My retirement investments should be doing so well I don’t lose any sleep – or pull out any remaining hair.
But as you can imagine, things don’t always go like they should. Fortunately, there’s a lot you could do to keep these hard-earned customers. If you’ll learn and apply a few more skills.
By all means, you should give your customers your highest level of service … thus setting you apart from other “here today, gone tomorrow” contractors in town. But that’s not enough.
Acquiring the lead through effective marketing is part of the battle to secure a solid customer base. The ability to follow through with your technical expertise and superior sales skills is definitely needed. Yet, your highest level of service also must come into play after the job is done.
Every new customer is an opportunity for new business – but not just from that single “emergency need.” Every new customer also has the potential to call on you again and again, as well as recommend you to family and friends. Every new customer represents an opportunity for long-term service and profit.
So, do you: a) openly attempt to drive customers to your competition, b) not really do much after the sale or c) use a strong retention program?
I hope you picked “c.” Your job, if you want to run a profitable service business, is to look at the first call as the beginning of a relationship that will be a benefit to both of you in the years to come. The marketing answer to this need involves an effective customer retention program that keeps you in touch with your own customers several times a year. It’s as essential as any acquisition marketing you can do, and it’s not nearly as mysterious as you might think.
Effective customer retention begins right after the first job is completed – many times with a follow-up call from the service tech and/or the company owner/president just to make sure the work was done to satisfaction.
Another inexpensive element of a strong retention program is a thank-you note, as a reinforcement of your appreciation for your customer’s business. Like the phone call, it should come from the tech and/or the company owner/president within a week of the job’s completion.
The customer retention newsletter is a biggie. These are sent 2-4 times a year to build relationships and give customers rich, interesting information that is useful in helping them run their households safely and cost-efficiently.
You can even be more heart-warming in your marketing this time of year when you send low-cost holiday cards to show your customers you really care. These go out between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and the trick is to get your card to stand out from all of the other cards. That’s been our practice for years and what we recommend:
Go oversized so people will see it, usually a 5 ½” by 8 ½” is perfect. It’s large enough and inexpensive. Regular-sized cards blend into the stack and may not get read.
Besides size, send a card that stands out in message and appearance – not just a common “stock card” with a picture of an ornament and overused holiday phrases. Your message should be unique, inspiring and thoughtful. Since we were unable to find any good “contractor specific” cards, we created some you can review at www.contractorholidaycards.com. There are 12 contractor designs that may give you some ideas.
For postage, we recommend going first class. Why? Well, these should go to your complete customer list, which means you’ll get back the undeliverables, allowing you to “clean” your list. If you go “standard” rate trying to save a few pennies, you’ll never know who’s moved. The Holiday Card approach gives you a great “once a year” list cleaning with a very inexpensive piece. Makes sense.
Include “quick-response codes to drive people either to a gift or other bonus. QR codes marry the online and offline world, and give an air of sophistication. And who doesn’t love a gift -- especially during the holidays?
Retention marketing of this kind is particularly important at the end of the year, because any sales message sent between December 10 and January 12 is a waste of money. Yet, you don’t want to forget your customers during the holidays, and you don’t want them to forget you.
Holiday cards offer the best chance to address both issues while making an important customer retention contact. They get the right message at the right time to a very valuable group of people – your customer base – and in a way that lifts their spirits and expresses appreciation for their business.