Unexpected Marketing

By Ruth King

Most clients expect some type of communication from your company at Thanksgiving or Christmas. However, unless you contact them or unless they have a problem, your company does not even enter their thought processes.

Do the unexpected. For your maintenance clients, a monthly communication is best so that you retain more of these clients. It can be a combination of emails, postcards, and gift cards. You can get this done for you cost-effectively and automatically so you don’t even have to think about it (kking@ continuityprograms.com).

Communicate with non-agreement customers at unusual times. Get back into their thought processes. Here are five ways to do this.

1. An "I Love You" postcard during February. It's Valentine's Day.

It’s a great time to say thank you with a $25 off coupon for any of your company’s services. This includes maintenance agreement renewals. Send this postcard to loyal customers—those who have bought from your company in the past year and it can be part of your maintenance retention program. If you send this postcard to a prospective customer it looks like a bribe. Or, since they never have bought from your company before, it will be trashed simply because it usually is the wrong time of year to truly need heating or air conditioning services.

2. A Fourth of July postcard.

This is a patriotic postcard. Celebrate our country’s birth and buy American. Include an service call or other offer on the postcard. Send this postcard to prospective customers. It’s the time of year that an air conditioner might break down so they will be paying attention.

3. A New Year's Card.

After the holiday season if you send this card in a colored envelope, people will still be paying attention and open it thinking, “Who is sending holiday cards out late?” The message should be “Thank you – we appreciate your business.” Send this card to everyone who used your company’s services in the past 18 months.

4. Referral surprises.

Always ask how a new customer heard about your company. If it was from a referral, then do something for that referral source. Depending on whether it is a service referral or an equipment purchase referral determines the amount of the referral surprise. It might be a letter with a $10 gift card to Starbucks, a gift certificate to a great restaurant in your area, a box of cookies, a Visa gift card, a plant, or another memorable thing. If it is a gift certificate to a great restaurant in your area, many times you can negotiate with the owner and get 10 gift cards for the price of 8. This lowers your costs. If you give a plant, they are a permanent memory of the referral—as long as the client waters it. They will have the memory for years to come.

What if a customer gives you many referrals? By many I mean as many as one per month. At the end of the year you might send them a “Shock and Awe” package (the famous marketer Dan Kennedy coined this phrase). In the shock and awe package is a thank you letter plus other things like gift cards, a cup with your company name on it, magnets, pot holders, jar openers, grocery pads, and other things that the customer can use that tie her to your company. You deliver it in a big box, which gets their attention.

5. An open house.

Take your slowest month of the year and have a Thank You Open House. Have a “meet the company” afternoon. Invite customers and potential customers for lunch and see who is behind the phones. Everyone is there—and each can explain what they do. Let a client explore the inside of a service and installation truck. Demonstrate the blower door test. Meet the people who answer the telephone, etc. The reason you have the open house in a slower time is so everyone can be there. Assuming the open house is from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., you can schedule all employees to be in the office. Have door prizes. Many suppliers will donate hats and other items for a raffle at the end of the open house. And no, the winners do not have to be there. However, they do need to appear to enter the raffle.

Then, announce the winners in your newsletter. If possible, take a picture of the winners. These make great press releases and information for your marketing pieces.

You will find greater bonding with your customers, and you probably will sell service, maintenance, and equipment, assuming your experience is similar to others who have done this.

These five unusual ideas will help you keep a strong, growing client base.

Ruth King is a management consultant and trainer to the plumbing and HVAC industry. To purchase Ruth’s new book, The Courage to be Profitable, visit thecouragetobeprofitable.com.

Ruth King is the author of The Courage to be Profitable. For more information, visit TheCouragetobeProfitable.com or email rking@ontheribbon.com.