Establishing Your Marketing Plan
Welcome to 2016! It seems to me like a great time to plan for the months ahead so, in this edition of the Executive Report, we want to discuss one of your favorite subjects. Almost inevitably, when we get a group of contractors together, the topic of conversation turns to marketing and LEADS! Especially, NOT ENOUGH LEADS! Contractors seem to ALWAYS be adamant that they just do not have enough good sales leads.
Funny thing though … when you ask those same adamant contractors what their PLAN is for getting leads, things often get very FUZZY. Unfortunately, a failure to PLAN for leads will most assuredly lead to a DEFICIENCY of leads. As we start off 2016, we felt that this is the perfect time to discuss how to develop a Marketing Plan, so that you can have enough LEADS to make your business successful in the new year.
A Marketing Plan, though, covers a lot of territory. We will discuss the major topics in this issue of the Residential Metal Roofing Executive Report but please expect us to dig more deeply into these topics in the future as well. And, as always, give me a call or drop me an email if you ever want to personally discuss this topic in more depth.
So, below are things to consider when developing YOUR 2016 MARKETING PLAN.
PLAN FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR. First of all, your Marketing Plan must be a plan for the ENTIRE year. Even though your business will have cycles, it’s critical for the structure of your business to strive for developing a steady pipeline of leads throughout the year. Contractors who just do things to try to “drum up a few leads” when they most need them find that their business volume is as sporadic as their leads. And, they end up with much higher lead costs than do contractors who plan for more consistency and stability throughout the year.
KNOW YOUR GOALS. Do you want to grow your business this year? Scale it back? Maintain status quo? Do you want to do more jobs? Fewer jobs (while perhaps even growing your total sales number)? Is there a particular product you want to focus on, perhaps due to its profitability, exclusivity, or installation crew availability? You must know what you want to accomplish in 2016 before you can write your plan to accomplish it! Start out by sitting down and writing out your specific goals, both personally and for your company. A failure to plan is always a recipe for failure.
CONSIDER WHO YOU ARE TARGETING. Each year brings its own nuances. For example, we know that in 2016 many homeowners will be consumed by presidential election news. You may wish to target those homeowners who you think are least likely to be slow to make decisions because they are consumed by the election. You also have economic issues to consider – if a major employer in your area is having a good year or a bad year, you may want to adjust which homeowners you are targeting. If home improvement financing is readily available, again, you may want to adjust who you target. Targeting a particular demographic of customer does not mean that you don’t accept business from others. What it does mean is that you do all you can to get your company in front of, and to be attractive to, that target audience.
KNOW YOUR NUMBERS. For each type of advertising you have done in the past, you need to know your numbers. What sources were your most expensive raw leads? What sources developed leads most likely to generate sales? This requires careful tracking and record keeping. The discipline required by this is, in my experience, the NUMBER ONE FACTOR in determining those home improvement companies that successfully grow and prosper compared to those that never quite make it off the ground.
ANALYZE YOUR PREVIOUS YEARS’ LEAD COSTS. In writing a Marketing Plan, you need to know what each raw lead cost you in the previous year, and then furthermore what your cost was per lead that resulted in an appointment, as well as per lead that resulted in a sale. In determining this cost, look only at your actual marketing cost – what the advertising costs you as well as any direct labor involved in the lead generation and advertising, such as people to distribute flyers, work home shows, do cold calls, etc. Other costs will be figured into your overhead costs for your company. You can use these costs as benchmarks for this year’s Marketing Plan. Keep in mind that, if you want your company to grow, your lead costs will likely increase and you will need to figure that into your selling prices.
ESTABLISH A MARKETING CALENDAR. Have you ever noticed the advertisements you get from furniture stores? They are EXPERTS at tying their promotions and messages to specific times of the year. You can do the same thing. Sit down with a calendar and determine in advance exactly what you will promote each month in terms of your advertising and social media. For example, if April is the bad month for storms in your area, talk about the wind resistance of metal roofing during that month. As another example, if you want to honor veterans, consider offering special pricing and discounts for veterans in November. Each month should have a theme, especially for your social media and your website blog. It keeps your content fresh, exciting, and relevant at all times.
DETERMINE WHERE TO SPEND MONEY. Based upon your previous years’ numbers, the audience you want to target, and any special circumstances going on in your area, you need to determine where to spend your advertising dollars. Home shows? Direct mail? Phone room? Radio? Television? Festivals and fairs? Metal Roofing Alliance? Internet? These are all options and each one has options of its own. Your goal is to not be afraid to spend but to be able to spend your advertising budget in ways that you know will be predictable and effective. Looking for fresh advertising ideas? Check out this list from Qualified Remodeler.
REFERRAL MAXIMIZATION. Most contractors will say that their “best” leads are referrals from past customers. Then they will say that referrals are “free” leads. We challenge you on that! If referrals are your best leads, then devote part of your marketing budget to paying attention to your past customers and maintain a relationship that makes them WANT to give referrals to you. Have a specific Referral Maximization Program as part of your 2016 Marketing Plan.
EVALUATE AND ADJUST. Throughout the year, you must always track your numbers. This includes what your lead costs are, what your closing ratio is, etc. Give things a chance to work but, at some point before you drain things too dry, if a particular advertising media just isn’t bringing in the numbers you need it to, then re-direct your dollars to lead generation methods that are being effective for you. There’s no point beating a dead horse.
BUILD YOUR SELLING PRICE. Use your Marketing Plan and your budgeted lead costs to build your selling prices. The only contractors who can spend money on advertising and lead generations are the contractors who know they are bringing in adequate funds to support the necessary advertising. If you know that your lead generation costs 13.5% of your annual revenue, then each and every job you sell MUST allow for that 13.5%. Each and every job sold without that 13.5% is bringing you closer to failure rather than closer to success.
MAKE SURE EVERYTHING ELSE IS IN WORKING ORDER, TOO! The best Marketing Plan in the world will not bring success. All other areas of your business must be operating with excellence as well. Is your phone being answered correctly? Are your crews respectable on the jobsite? Is your sales team hitting their desired closing ratio? Do you know exactly what your costs are? A successful home improvement company is a fragile thing … it requires constant perfecting, analysis, and adjustment.
I hope that you enjoyed this issue of the Executive Report. Please feel free to contact me at 1-800-543-8938 ext. 201 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to discuss how to build your 2016 Marketing Plan.
Todd Miller has spent his entire career in the metal building products manufacturing industry. He is president of Isaiah Industries, an organization recognized as one of the world’s leading metal roofing manufacturers. Todd is currently Vice President of the MRA (Metal Roofing Association) and a Past Chair of MCA (Metal Construction Association). Through his website, he strives to raise the bar on standards and practices to provide property owners with the best possible products for successful roofing projects.
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