? ?And have a Sun Brite day!!?
Sun Brite Services is an active, growing business in metropolitan Atlanta that does general residential power washing. We specialize in the restoration of wood damaged by the outdoor elements. There are several approaches to effectively market a business like ours:
1. Never lose a Customer.
If you never lose a Customer, you will inevitably grow and prosper. In our business, you can lose a Customer by failing to perform up to the Customer?s expectations. This is often simply mis-communication. Learn to set the Customer?s expectations before the job starts. Educate the Customer about what you are doing and what (s)he should expect from your work. Hand out written information if you repeatedly run into a communication problem.
Another way to lose a Customer is to be inconsiderate of his work, his property or his neighbors. The Customer has exceptional pride in his environment (after all, isn?t that why he hired you?). If you don?t show up when promised, or start work before a reasonable hour, or spray the family pet, you can be sure that you?ll never be invited back.
Actually, the most common way to lose a Customer is to forget about him and move on to other Customers. This person made the decision once to hire you, and he will probably make the decision to hire you again if you remind him that you want to make him happy. We write to all Customers once a year to remind them of our Maintenance Program and to ask them for more work.
See all of the potential each Customer offers. The most successful companies maximize each sale. If you are called to give a price to restore a deck, look around you while you are there. Is there a fence or a swing set that could be done at the same time? Would the Customer be interested in having their driveway pressure-washed at the same time? Power-wash the house? The roof?
If the potential of every job was realized, chances are your sales would increase dramatically. Even more important, the Customer is less likely to call another contractor for the other work you left behind. That means no other contractor trying to steal your Customer from you when he maximizes his own sales.
Gain a new Customer every day. Advertising can be passive or active. A listing in the phone book is passive. The potential Customer must work to find you. A flyer on the mailbox is active. You are actually asking someone to call you and you are giving them your phone number at the same time. Passive advertising is the lazy man?s approach. For some businesses it might be OK, but in the service business, the contractor asking for the business is the one who usually gets it.
You are advertising all of the time ? when you are driving in your truck, waiting in line at the bank, or out on the job. Always present a good, business-like image on the job and in the community. Stop and introduce your company to the neighbors at every job. After all, your references are terrific -?you are already working next door!
Advertise regularly. Pick a media that works in your area and saturate it consistently. Most potential Customers need a number of ?reminders? (called ?gross impressions? by the Madison Avenue guys). If the message is clear and short, and a Customer sees it frequently, after a while two things should happen. 1) The Customer will be convinced by the message that he needs your service; 2) The Customer will only think of your company when it is time to hire someone (called ?top-of-mind awareness?).
Some advertising media is better than others. Reasonably-priced approaches that have worked for many companies include newspaper Service Directories, direct mail, flyers, ads in community newsletters, premium items, etc. Some of the things that probably won?t work for your small business are display ads in larger newspapers, sponsoring sports teams or community events, etc. These things are expensive, have limited exposure, or are just too costly.
Most small companies should plan to spend between 5% and 10% of their annual sales on advertising. Most have a difficult time spending this amount when they need to, and usually try to scrimp at the worst time.
Unfortunately, the cycle of sales can be the kiss of death. A company has the money to spend for advertising when they are busy and don?t need more sales. That?s really when they need marketing the least. When things are slow, and the company needs to spend advertising dollars to keep the wolf away, there is usually nothing extra in the checking account. The secret to successful marketing is planning what you want to do and how you will pay for it and setting the right amount aside for the leaner times.
If you set a marketing budget of 5%, and you plan to do $150,000 in business over the year, you are planning to spend $7,500 for advertising. You could spend a regular amount each month, but that probably won?t be enough to have a major impact on your sales in slow times. If July is your busy time and January is your slowest time, when do you actually want to spend advertising dollars? The answer depends on your goal. If your goal is to drive summer sales because that is the only time of year you can work, then spending all of your dollars in April and May makes sense. For most of us, though, a much more even level of sales would mean efficiency for labor and other expenses. In that case, spending in the fall (to raise sales September through December) and spending another chunk in springtime (to improve sales in January through April) makes more sense.
Sun Brite uses direct mail in October and January to stimulate sales to past Customers (maintenance of their work). We prospect in new subdivisions for work with premium items and flyers in March, April, and May to stimulate calls from new customers whose buying patterns have not been established yet. We do not actively target Customers at any other time of year.
Sun Brite also continuously advertises in community newsletters, yellow pages, and the Service Directory in our local newspaper year round to keep our name available to potential Customers. This year, we plan to spend about 8% on advertising ? and we fully expect to increase sales significantly over last year.