Author Archives: Tony
Make It a December to Remember
The holiday season can pose several additional factors that make the last month of the year an extremely difficult time to generate leads in the home remodeling industry. So much so, that it can bring a frown to the faces of many who feel they are fighting an uphill battle to book appointments. Let’s take a look at what many successful companies have done to turn that frown upside down.
Have a contest – Hosting a contest for your marketers to generate demonstrations during the first three weeks of the month is always a good idea. You can tie this contest to a Holiday bonus or perhaps to paid time off during the time that employees hours may be reduced or eliminated around Christmas and New Years. In addition to promoting this contest to your employees to boost morale, it is also a good idea to have your marketers inform prospects that they are competing in such a contest. This just may awaken the spirit of giving within them enough to make time for a demonstration during this very busy time. After all, it does not cost the prospect anything. And If they feel they are likely to get a good deal, while at the same time helping a hard working person achieve their goal, it is perceived as a win / win for everyone.
Give a reason for the season – often times prospects will procrastinate on major projects especially if they feel they have a justifiable excuse. Therefore, deferring until after the first of the year is a common objection offered by homeowners who have no incentive to act now. That is why presenting a special offer that is unique to this time frame is very advisable. Furthermore, being prepared to explain that just as spring is the best time to find a great deal on a winter coat, so is year-end the best time to shop for home improvements. The more enticing and believable your story is, the more likely it will work!
Sand Bag – Although it is a good idea to keep a regular regiment of staying in touch with your previous customers, it never hurts to allow your database of existing clients to rest a bit before making a big push at the end of the year. Many companies have put up record numbers by focusing nearly all of their efforts on past customers in the month of December. It seems that leveraging an existing relationship to buy time for a brief appointment can be much easier than asking strangers for sufficient time for a full demonstration when their schedules and budgets are maxed out!
Recash the Rehash – Just like previous customers, having a year-round approach to rehashing unsuccessful demos is a must. By the same token, making a concerted effort to resurrect any unsold demos in the month of December is extremely wise. Similar to many other special offers or promotions, the success can depend on the prospects willingness to “buy in”. Many successful rehash approaches include an enticing offer that is only available for a short period of time. There are many logical and believable reasons as to why your company is making such a spectacular offer as part of a year-end sale. These reasons lend credence to your pitch for urgency and make it a great time to exhume business from old and dormant proposals.
Like most business strategies, preparation and planning are the keys. By formulating a solid scheme in advance you too can make it a December to remember!
Boo! Day Light Savings time is less than a week away. And for those door to door canvassers who will be knocking after sun down, the change can be a little scary. There are numerous factors that can have a derogatory affect on performance this time of year, so let us address them one by one so we can best prepare for the unique challenges the darker, colder seasons can present.
Adjust Your Hours – although contact rates can be low during the daytime, the fact remains that reception at the front door is greater during daylight. Homeowners feel more comfortable coming to the front door to greet strangers when they can see them more clearly. As a result you may want to target neighborhoods with an older demographic. Search for areas with large numbers of retirees. Sometimes this type of research can be done online through websites like Zillow.com. In other cases it must be done through more in-field scouting by seeking out classic American icons from an older generation like lawn jockeys, yard gnomes, and concrete geese dressed to the nines! A strong emphasis on canvassing in neighborhoods with these types of décor will yield increased results during daytime hours. Lastly, stretch the weekend schedule! Increase the hours on Saturday and add Sunday to the weekly schedule as well. These are the only two days of the week where we are likely to reach homeowners during daylight hours. The myth that Sunday is a day of poor reception at the front door is far from true. I have tested this theory all over the U.S. including the heart of the Bible Belt. The fact is that those who would be offended by your visit on the holy day are typically at church or brunch and not at home to offend…
Dress for Success – In addition to neat, business casual attire, and dressing warm for the weather, I have found it to be incredibly helpful to wear two items in particular. The first is a lanyard I.D. badge. In addition to your photo, this badge should have both you company name and your personal name for identification purposes. Furthermore, many canvassers have found reduced harassment from homeowners and law enforcement alike by placing the word PERMIT in bold print at the top of the badge. This can be an internal permit for all intensive purposes, but the very presence of the word instills confidence if both the door knocker as well as the consumer. Last but not least, sporting a bright colored safety vest (much like road workers wear) has a tremendous impact on contact rate. It seems homeowners are much more likely to answer the door when they feel the person beckoning them may be coming from the utility company, city, or delivering a package… whatever the case it works and is especially effective after dark. To view a brief video where I discuss this topic in depth follow the link below:
Canvassing Uniform / Dress Code
Focus on The Now – Knocking on doors through an entire dark, cold, wet, winter is not something anyone looks forward to. Therefore, the tendency for high turnover at this time of year can be quite prevalent. The use of daily cash bonuses can be very effective at shifting the canvassers focus from long- term to short-term almost instantly! By offering daily cash bonuses, the employee mentality swings from that of preoccupation with the arduous task of knocking through an entire season of inclement weather, to: How can I put some extra money in my pocket today!? If you change their way of thinking, you will change their results. In the end that is the only sustainable method for increased performance.
Other valuable Tips – Maintaining good moral among the canvass crew is paramount this time of year. Some additional suggestions for doing so include strategies like team incentives that allow for early quitting time provided that the group has hit their daily appointment goal. I have found that encouraging canvassers to embrace the seasons by dressing up on Halloween and wearing Santa Clause hats during the month of December has also had a very positive effect on their spirits. Other small motivators include things like taking periodic breaks for hot chocolate to warm up and rejuvenate. On a final note, the use of colored pencils versus pens is key in colder temperatures as pens often freeze up and fail to work. Not only does this pose the obvious problem, but it can leave the canvasser thinking if my pen doesn’t even want to work in these conditions, then why should I…
Ultimately it is important to have a winning attitude. And like winning, canvassing is not a sometime thing it is an all the time thing. So be sure to embrace these valuable tips!
Diversified or Crucified!
Just as a well balanced diet provides enough energy and nutrition for the optimal growth and development of a human being, so does a properly equalized and diversified portfolio of lead generation lend to the stability and growth potential of a home improvement company. When the human body is lacking certain vitamins and minerals as result of what it is being fed, it can become vulnerable to illness, disease, or even death. I have found that a similar phenomenon is true for remodeling companies as well.
Depending upon our backgrounds and experience, we business owners often have strengths in one particular area of marketing. For example, many who got their start in the industry by knocking on doors to set appointments, have an excellent handle on that type of lead generation. However, when the daylight diminishes and the bitter cold sets in, canvassing efforts can yield diminishing returns. By the same token, companies who have found a niche in advertising on television often find themselves in a pickle when political campaigns and other factors cause normal advertising rates to sky rocket well outside the scope of affordability. Lastly, some companies thrive at trade shows with large, elaborate exhibits that really draw a crowd and produce results. These shows can sometimes contribute to a third of a company’s annual revenues. However, in between such shows the company and the staff are often so starved for business that unnecessary turnover and related issues can result from the lull in business.
To avoid these types of scenarios it is imperative that we find a way to diversify our marketing efforts with a wide array of lead types. First you will want to analyze what is working for you. Second, you will want to take a look at the downside or the negative aspect of being so dependent on that primary lead source. Then you will want to make a logical choice regarding a new marketing effort that will help neutralize or balance out any weakness associated with your current forms of marketing.
Allow me to elaborate. Many of my clients are among the top 100 remodelers in the country. Most of which do an excellent job with inbound media. Some have outstanding television and radio campaigns, while others excel with direct mail, internet, and print media. Never the less, they have all found a way to make the phone ring…. most of the time… What about those times when the phone doesn’t ring? Is it dangerous to have so much of the marketing budget devoted strictly towards inbound marketing efforts? Expert advisers would say yes!
The above may have you guessing about what types of outbound marketing are truly viable enough to help you diversify. Therefore I have prepared a short list of recent trends that have been working well for companies from coast to coast to help them proliferate their marketing mix:
- Shows, Fairs & Events
- Big Box Store Kiosks
- Local Retail Store Kiosks
- Warm Call Telemarketing (radius calling around job sites)
Once you have selected a new lead source to add to your existing assortment, there is one last thing to keep in mind. Change is difficult, even when it is what is best for your organization. Just as the body of a long-time vegetarian will violently reject its first steak dinner, so will your company struggle to acclimate towards a foreign lead source. Therefore it is imperative to persist beyond the initial struggles associated with the unfamiliar leads as they are often a huge opportunity for a healthy stable future. For further assistance incorporating and assimilating new lead sources in to your business, feel free to contact me personally.
Season of Change
The change of seasons might be an opportune time to implement a change of your own.
Summer’s gone. Vacations are over and outdoor activities begin winding down. Kids all over the country are heading back to school, where they’ll be challenged by new concepts and ideas.
New concepts and ideas are also essential to business. That’s where change starts, and change, successfully implemented, improves business systems and creates greater efficiencies and more profit
Take canvassing. Lots of companies do it. Get it right and you’ve got a system that produces measurable, scaleable lead flow. Do it wrong and you drive yourself crazy while wasting money and time. If you’re generating a fair number of canvas leads but converting less than 45% to appointments due to high cancellation rates caused by invasive and untimely confirmation procedures, here’s a suggestion: cool off.
It’s Not Either / Or
Typically, companies use two methods of converting canvass leads to appointments. They either have the canvasser return the contact information to the office for later contact by the phone room, or they require the canvasser to call the office and set the appointment on the spot with the homeowner.
Here’s a better way
Instead of asking homeowners to wait (patiently and reluctantly) while canvassers call the office to reach a confirmer, have your canvassers text, email or otherwise transmit their appointments to the office from the end of the driveway to be confirmed momentarily. The confirmer responds within five to ten minutes. Before canvassers send that information they explain to prospects that someone will be calling back within a few minutes. Canvassers also make sure tell the homeowner to be available to take that call so that they don’t have to come back to the house to verify the phone number and related information. This gives the homeowner a motive to take the call.
Do it this way and you don’t leave the homeowner and canvasser stuck on hold waiting for a confirmer to become available, which is awkward and unpleasant, especially if the homeowner’s got his or her hands full at the time with kids, barking dogs or a load of laundry.
Another plus to this system is that it gives confirmers some leeway in getting back to homeowners should they be tied up with multiple calls all at once, which happens when several canvassing teams are in the field at the same time.
One other benefit is that this brief cooling off period between the canvassers’ exit and the confirmers’ call gives prospects a few minutes to firm up the arrangement with a spouse or other homeowner if they need to. It also gives those who simply couldn’t say no at the door a chance to re-think their exit strategy and let you know that they’re actually not interested. So you’re not sending a salesperson out on one of those canvassing appointments where somebody’s there but no one’s answering the door.
One other thing
If you’re a canvasser, it can be incredibly demoralizing to watch your appointment fall apart while the confirmer puts the homeowner through the required line of questioning. You are better off having that conversation while your canvasser is down the street generating another lead.
No Train. No Gain!
Implementing this system takes scripting and training. But companies that use it convert raw leads to appointments at a higher rate. System tweaks take work, but they’re worth it. The market’s changing and so is the consumer. If your business isn’t, you’ll soon be left behind.
Feel free to contact me for more information on how to effectively convert canvass appointments.
To help new hires and trainees with a clear understanding of the word paradigm, I often start out by asking a room full of bright eyed employees for the answer to a simple question. There is a cabin full of people in the middle of the forest, and they are all dead – how do you suspect they died? I then go around the room and listen to the various responses which include guesses like starvation, food poisoning, carbon monoxide, bear attack, and the list of incorrect assumptions continues. When I reveal the answer that I was looking for, the team of people is always stunned. The answer I was seeking was a plane crash. You may recall that the area of a plane which houses the passengers is referred to as the cabin. That is why when you ask this same question to a pilot or a flight attendant they will almost always solve the riddle within a guess or two. The point is this: We all project our own personal experiences, beliefs, and values on to whatever we encounter in life. We can’t help but draw from our finite or limited perspective when examining a new challenge or opportunity.
That is why it is so important to keep an open mind and do your very best to see the big picture at all times. When caught up in the day to day grind, it easy for marketers and sales people alike to be so far in the forest, that they can barley see the trees. For example the never-ending rejection that we face in the field can cause us to feel as if we are fighting a loosing battle. For door-to-door canvassers who may interrupt a phone call or family dinner, telemarketers who’s calls are often unwelcomed, or retail promoters who are attempting to engage a shopper on the run, it can be easy to fall in to the trap of seeing it small… to feel like you are a pest or nuisance… to adopt the inaccurate perception that if they had an interest, they would have already acted upon it. This frame of mind can be very discouraging.
By contrast, seeing the big picture, like everything that transpires as the result of taking the initiative to generate business that would have never otherwise occurred is an incredibly uplifting and inspiring point of view. Allow me to elaborate. When a door-to-door canvasser, telemarketer, or store promoter generates an appointment which results in a sale, this has a positive impact on the lives of many. In fact so many that it is difficult to articulate in its entirety. This sales sales transaction not only puts money in the marketer’s pocket, but it also generates a commission for the sales person, a profit for the company, an order for the factory, a delivery for the truck driver, a project for the installer, a permit fee for the city, lower energy bills for the customer, more stable property values for the neighbors, and the list goes on and on and on. When we actually stop to think about how many people benefit from the result of our initial ambition to knock on that door, pick up that phone, or engage that shopper, it is inspiring and encouraging. Something to be very proud of, and most certainly not ashamed of.
I will never forget the day that I mistakenly apologized for interrupting a wise old war veteran who was working in his garage. He told me sternly “Don’t apologize! I would much rather have an honest man come to my front door and try to sell me something, than a dishonest one at my back door trying to separate me from something.” After all, isn’t that the proper paradigm to have when considering what we marketers do? An honest hard working profession promoting products and services that improve the quality of lives of our customers, while at the same time spin the wheels of the economy by providing work for countless unrelated industries…
Having this big picture perspective on the importance and positive impact of one’s occupation can change their paradigm all together. It is this change in paradigm which increases the over all self esteem and attitude about what we do. This can fuel an individual’s passion and conviction and increase their capacity to generate leads and appointments because of their new found understanding for what they are truly hoping to accomplish while on the job.
Be sure to present this perspective to your marketing staff and watch how their attitudes and productivity improve as a result.
Maybe, Maybe Not!
What’s in a word? A big blow off, maybe…
When home improvement marketers and sales people hear the word “yes” from a prospect, they know what to do. They move swiftly to convert that commitment in to an appointment or a sale. By the same token, when door-to-door canvassers, telemarketers, show and event staff, or sales people hear the word “no” from a homeowner in need, they’re often quick to respond with well-rehearsed rebuttals to get that lead or potential sale. But what about maybe? Where do you go with that unwelcome and ambiguous term that doesn’t mean yes or no?
There are many examples of how we as sales people and marketers encounter maybe in the field. The most common is when the prospect says something like: “Is this your phone number?” (Marketer or sales person says yes, or nods agreement.) “Great, then I’ll call you.” Ouch!
Another instance is when one homeowner claims he or she has to talk with their spouse before making any commitment.
Whatever the method, these are smokescreens or stalls are typically a a back door way to say no thank you.
These types of objections fall in to a category that I call Ugly Baby Syndrome. Ugly Baby Syndrome refers to that very human inclination to lie rather than hurt someone’s feelings. For example, imagine a new mother pushing her baby stroller up to a good friend or total stranger. Isn’t he cute, she asks. Even if that baby’s homely, the invariable response, even from those who pride themselves on painful honesty, will be an emphatic yes. That yes issues from the same spirit that has husbands, fiancés, and boyfriends complimenting their significant others on outfits they actually find tasteless. Consequence overrules the honest answer.
This tendency in human behavior also applies when an eager marketer or salesperson asks a committing question from a prospective customer. Instead of being forthcoming, and sharing their true thoughts (that let’s say they’re not completely convinced by your company or its product), they follow their natural inclination to spare your feelings by offering some facade or diversion.
How To Handle
There are two keys to successfully handling these situations. First, develop the ability to know when smoke’s being blown your way. When I train marketers I’m careful to explain that in most cases, maybe equals ugly baby.The majority of the time a homeowner who’s telling you they’ll call you, or that they need to talk to their spouse, is brushing you off. If you know that, you can prepare for these types of statements.
Second, hold them accountable for what they say. “I’ll call you,” the homeowner says. Great! What time frame did you have in mind? Oh, and which project are you likely to contact us about first? Establishing a specific priority and a timeline will allow you to create urgency in many ways. Respond this way and you’ve sidestepped a brush-off and secured a time commitment.
The same is true when one spouse defers to the other. Get them to confirm that the other party is the decision maker. Ask if they’ve ever discussed or had estimates on replacing their siding or windows. Explain that the number one topic of conversation between spouses when discussing a much needed home improvement project is usually affordability and that no one can really talk about affordability without a price. Then close for an appointment time when you can have that information provided to both of them.
Constant resistance makes marketing and sales jobs challenging. But if you don’t recognize that resistance for what it is, challenging becomes impossible. We all know the difference between yes and no. Maybe is just a little bit more difficult to manage, but you can do it with the right coaching and training.
Get Smart! Revolutionize Your Lead Generation
You could change your business in big ways just by using existing technology.
You need customers, and somehow, someway, you set out to find them. That, the need for lead generation, will never change. What has changed, and a lot in the last few years, is hand-held technology. I mean specifically the smart phone in your pocket or the computer tablet held at your side. These can, in seconds, download, email, and access the web, or (in the case of the phone) shoot a video and then transmit it. You may think of that device you’re talking into as an enhanced phone, a convenient way to read and respond to email at any place and time. Actually smart phones-projected to outsell laptops by the end of next year-and touchscreen tablets can and will have a big impact on the home improvement business by streamlining efficiencies, eliminating redundant procedures and making communication between the different departments in your business-sales, marketing, admin, installation-nearly immediate.
First off, think of your sales presentation. That three-ring binder will soon carry all the cultural overtones of the horse and carriage. With a smart phone in every other pocket, how will thumbing through the plasticized pages of that binder look to the homeowner, even the older prospect, when the company before you and the company after you come in with a touch screen tablet such as an iPad and use it to bring up their website, pricing, government sites featuring energy saving tips, etc.
Today these devices are relatively new to most people. Just bringing them into play in the sales presentation gives you an opportunity to get more of the homeowners’ attention. How about canvassers, store promoters and people working shows and events? Many companies outfit their field marketers with iPads and other tablets. Tablets make it easy to carry an unlimited amount of information. Marketers can display customer testimonials, product descriptions with high resolution photos, and before and after pictures. And they can do this instantly. Take a moment to watch this brief video clip demonstrating how to use an iPad as part of your canvassing strategy:
Smart phones and touchscreen tablets also present big opportunities for direct input from the field. Think about the efficiency you can achieve in setting appointments. Your direct marketing personnel-canvassers, show and event staff, in-store demonstrators-can enter appointments in real time, as they’re generated. This not only saves on the time and cost of data entry but gives everyone in your company an accurate and up-to-date schedule of open time slots. Office staff will no longer need to field inbound calls from marketers in the field, so they’ll be free to focus on other tasks.
One other thing. There’s a big opportunity in enlisting canvassers to take photographs and video in the field. In some case they’re simply taking photographs of bad workmanship done by unqualified contractors. In other scenarios they’re filming brief testimonials of satisfied customers that they happened to come across while knocking on doors. Check out the power of this thirty second testimonial from a customer I recently stumbled on in the field:
There are tremendous benefits associated with integrating the latest technology in to your business. If you coach and train your staff properly, outfit them accordingly, and provide solid, obtainable incentives, they will take these technological opportunities and come back from the field with more than just leads. In fact, they may just surprise you….
For assistance in revolutionizing your lead generation process, feel free to contact me as always.
Remodeling Lead Generation Marketing Seminar, May 2010
Please join me for the annaul Lead & Marketing Seminar in Baltimore, Maryland on May 17th & 18th
Certain to be jam packed with valuable information to help you achieve all of your goals in 2011
For details inquire within – Tony@TonyHoty.com Hope to see you there!
2011 What’s “In Store”
Having a presence in a big box store like Home Depot, Sam’s Club, or even local retail chains like your neighborhood hardware store, have proven to be very viable lead sources for many remodeling contractors across the country. Not only do these relationships provide small businesses with a steady flow of leads, but they also give them an affiliation with a larger more recognizable name to add trust and credibility to their cause. As a result, companies who have been able to negotiate space or the presence of their staff in these stores have been able to realize a number of benefits.
In addition to the obvious benefit of more leads, there are some additional advantages to teaming up with local and national retailers. First off, many companies boast higher conversion rates with leads from this genre. Statistical analysis indicates higher conversion rates on issued leads, demo rates, closing percentages, profitability, and retention when compared to other neblius lead sources. Furthermore, by inhabiting this valuable retail space, it allows companies to level out some of the seasonality that is inherent with the industry. Companies that have a strong focus on canvassing or show & events have a place to send their well trained staff members. They may otherwise lose these employees as a result of bad weather or an intermittent show schedule.
Now that we understand the benefits of establishing a presence in the retail arena, let’s examine in-store process as well. Your primary focus should be to develop a strong relationship with the store management. Having this rapport could prove to be extremely vital in maintaining a long term presence in their store. Therefore, it is always advisable to gain approval on your company’s practices while working in their domain. Present them with your scripts and training manuals and ask for their feedback and endorsement before you begin engaging their customers. Any changes to such policies and procedures should also be submitted to gain their consent as well. Having said that, allow me to share what some of my clients and I have found to be most successful.
Engaging shoppers can be challenging. Many consumers are in a hurry to get in and get out. And they are rarely eager to flirt with sales people. Especially when they are promoting products that are totally unrelated to their visit to the store. Therefore, effective interacting with these consumers will be crucial to the over-all success of your lead generation efforts.
The survey approach tends to be quite successful. Permit me to demonstrate:
Can I help you find anything today?
No. I’m okay thanks
Well, we are asking club members to participate in a brief 8 question survey. Would you mind helping me out today?
1. How often do you shop here on a monthly basis?
3 – 4 times
2. Do you shop for home, business, or both?
3. Are you satisfied with your over-all experience?
4. How many miles do you live from this location?
5. How long have you lived at that address?
6. Do you own or rent your residence there?
7. Do the monthly energy bills there exceed $100?
8. If you had member benefits that were free of charge to help you lower your monthly energy bills would you want to know about them?
I suppose so
Well, as part of your member benefits, Sam’s has designed a service that is designed to help you lower your monthly energy bills. We actually have a free service whereby we send a trained consultant out to your home. They take a look in your attic, at your hot water tank, and inspect your windows and doors. When they are done they will make some sound recommendations to help save you money. Some of these recommendations will just be good common sense that is often over-looked. In other cases the recommendations we make will cost real money like replacing windows, doors or adding solar energy or insulation. In any case, we will leave our recommendations behind in writing and we will estimate the cost of these suggestions and provide you with a price quote that is valid for one full year. With that in mind, are you available in the afternoons, or are the evenings better for you?
This survey approach tends to be a warmer less invasive way of approaching consumers. As a result your staff members are likely to engage more shoppers and set more appointments. Good luck in the stores this year! As always, for more training and assistance in this area please feel free to contact me.