Selling to Consumers with Marketing Automation

Previously I used Las Vegas as the backdrop for what I deemed to be sure signs of the coming economic recovery – call it my own “Vegas Consumer Confidence Index”. Closer to home I am witnessing yet another sign that, despite all other indicators, there is compelling evidence that Home Services companies should continue actively marketing to consumers.

The value of Route Density to SMBs who provide Home Services
On most weekday mornings (and some weekends), shortly after 7:00 AM, I am greeted by the hum and thrashing of lawn mowers as one of five (5), yes five, different landscaping crews descend on my neighborhood to cut, edge, and trim every living plant in sight. I do not live in a gated community or otherwise “affluent” neighborhood, which brings these questions to mind:

Question: As American savings rates are off the charts and middle class consumers have cut back on most discretionary spending, what makes Home Services businesses like lawn care or pool cleaning continue to be viable?

Answer: I think this can be summed up by saying that “consumers, regardless of the economy, will continue to pay for work that needs done if the work is either difficult, undesirable, or requires special tools and skilled labor”. I know I fall into this category.

Question: Why are there 5 different companies serving my small corner of the world, when “owning a neighborhood” or having “route density” is not only more profitable for these businesses, but the green thing to do as well?

Answer: Imagine the reduction in fuel costs and transportation time if a crew could work in a single area all day. Way back when I worked for a budding lawn service (I passed on “investing” and now the guy is in early retirement with 25 crews in a 2 county area, but that’s another story) we typically spent our morning in one neighborhood and our afternoons in another. We were able to mow twice as many yards if we could stay put in a single area.

These principles hold true for companies providing any type of service delivered at or in a consumer’s home, whether one-time like decorating, home improvement, or closet systems or recurring like pool cleaning, lawn care, pest control, and housekeeping.

SMBs selling to Consumers can Generate New Business with Automation
In the past, many Home Services crews have been known to put a sign in the yard, blanket the neighborhood with door hangers, or even resort to dropping a clear plastic baggie with a business card and some gravel at the end of my driveway (now that’s bootstappin’). These approaches are all attempting to accomplish the same thing – enter the Utopia of multiple clients in the same neighborhood, and in some cases do a decent job. The rub with these methods are:

1.) With Yard Signs, exposure is limited to only those that pass the house, and is not specifically targeted or personalized. And there is a limited life span – the sign will not be there very long.

2.) While door hangers can be personalized and targeted if a data source is put in the mix, most don;t put forth the effort and door hangers do require some additional effort or costs to have the hangers distributed. A third party can distribute them for a fee likely bundled in the overall cost of printing, or the business can have workers perform this task, but aren’t they better used actually serving customers?

3.) At first glance, the clear plastic baggie with a business card and stones seems like a clever solution since the crew can just drive around and drop the bags on driveways as they pass through the neighborhood, but I would argue that the cost of the bag, fuel, time, business card, and the labor to assemble these “kits” combined with the lack of personalization and targeting and the poor brand image that might result, make this an unattractive option for entrepeneurs with their sights set on growth.

Set it and Forget it
Made famous by Ron Popeil, this direct response anthem for his Showtime Rotisserie Grill has a place in consumer marketing through the use of high quality data and automated marketing solutions. Imagine if each and every single-family homeowner in a neighborhood were to receive a full color, personalized postcard with a compelling offer, within a 2 days of a Home Services crew being in the neighborhood, then several more times over the next few months, long after the crew has left – AUTOMATICALLY. As you know in marketing, with frequency, recall and ultimately response, improves. The mechanisms that support this would be the Home Services business providing the addresses of their customers on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, from which a mailing list of the neighbors would be produced and queued for automated mailing.

An extension of this concept can be deployed using what we call Trigger Data, such as New Homeowners or New Movers. These segments of the population are ripe for services as they settle in to their new digs. In the case of New Homeowners, they are credit worthy and ready to decorate, fix up, and furnish their new home. I have even seen the use the birth month of a consumer to trigger an automated offer mailing in the month prior. The possibilities are endless!

My favorite is a “have you seen this car” postcard featuring an image of the same make, model and color of a vehicle recently purchased by a neighbor. The card goes on to talk about the low prices, incentives, and the great deal my “neighbor” got at the dealership. Good stuff.

Here is a great video featuring my colleague, MySalesHero, as he helps a contractor apply these principles…

I look forward to your comments or questions.


What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas? Let’s Hope Not!

I just returned from a short trip to Las Vegas.  Sin City.  Entertainment Capital of the World.  Capital of Second Chances.  Marriage Capital of the World.  They say “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, but for the economy’s sake, let’s hope that’s not true. 

For a late shoulder-season trip, almost off-season, I would describe the environment as very brisk.  Nearly every taxi line, lobby front desk, and the sidewalks of both the strip and downtown were flowing freely with visitors.  Granted I have seen it busier, but it was the 1st week of June and well over 100º by midday.   

Each casino I visited seemed to be brimming with consumers, joyfully throwing money down for a chance to make it grow.  As I watched (and participated) I thought to myself that it seemed a lot less risky than the market right now and was a welcome distraction from a) the situation in the Gulf as I live in SW Florida, and b) the situation in the NBA Finals as I am from NE Ohio – Go Cavs!   The pool scene was no different.  Dozens of cabanas lined the pool decks, fully sold out at more than $300 per day, not counting bottle service, water misters, TVs, or extra chairs.  What? People dropping $1,000 a day at the pool?  What recession?  What oil spill?  It’s Vegas baby! 

We have all heard that “noticeable” economic recovery trails the actual shift in fundamentals by about 6 months.  It appears to be that time in Vegas, and I’d say the rest of us are getting closer to actually seeing consumers freely spending everywhere.  

It is very important that marketers get positioned in the minds of consumers for the recovery.   It is crucial that you continue a dialogue with your customers even when they pull back spending or stretch the time between purchases so that you do not risk losing them to a timely offer from a competitor.  And prospecting in a down market can be very fruitful ground as many companies stop prospecting when the economy is in the tank, leaving the door open for you to be top of mind when the recovery takes shape.

So my advice is to double-down your marketing bets – then watch your business grow.

Even Girl Scouts get it when it comes to sales & marketing…

I ran across this blog post and wanted to share.  The author took what every good business does (or should do) and adapted it for a group of Girl Scouts to execute and suceed – enjoy:

Radio versus Direct Mail for the SMB

So this morning, like most mornings, I am enduring my 6 mile commute to the office listening to the radio.  Traffic is littered with work trucks as usual.  Many of these trucks represent small businesses, or if there is a national “brand” attached, it is still likely run by a local franchisee.  Anyway, on the radio I hear a commercial for a pizza place I have never heard of, and to my amazement,  this pizza shop is located more than 25 miles from where I was currently sitting at a red light between my home and the office.    When I got to the office I looked up the company and as suspected, they indeed a local, one shop small business.  So why in the world would the vast geography and broad demographic of radio appeal to this business owner?  Does he not understand that in the world of delivery pizza, it’s all location?  Why wouldn’t he simply send a coupon to every house within his delivery area?  I am not sure what a radio spot costs these days, but several years ago a firm I worked for ran some radio spots and it costs several thousand dollars to produce the ad and have it played several times a day for a couple of weeks. 

The one-to-one impact of direct mail is very powerful and if you can reach the right audience with the right message you’ve got gold baby!  For a Pizza Man that might be a simple, inexpensive resident/occupant list, or for a home remodeler it could be more targeted at homeowners with a new equity line.  

On the flip side, I also get a lot of curious direct mail pieces that might play better on the radio or TV, but that’s another post…  

Until then here is a video from MySalesHero that compares Yellow Page ads to Direct Mail….

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