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!

 

Happy Holidays,

Tony

Spooktacular Tips!

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!

 

Cheers,
Tony

 

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:

  • Canvassing
  • 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.

 

Cheers,

Tony

 

Proper Lead Classification

(As Published in Replacement Contractor Magazine)

Before we can begin to improve our lead generation and lead handling practices, we need to understand the very basics. So our first step will be to understand how to properly classify or categorize leads. What do I mean by that you ask? Well as an industry, home remodeling contractors tend to do a poor job at comprehending the different phases of the buying cycle in which consumers may reside. Let us explore these categories.

The primary category is the A category. Consumers that fall in this segment of the shopping process are ready to pull the trigger on their next home improvement within the next thirty days, or maybe even sooner. It is not a matter of if, but with which company they will decide to move forward.

Consumers that fall in the next category, or the B category, acknowledge both a want and need for the home project, but they just don’t see how it would be affordable at the present time. These types of prospects are often very open to an estimate for planning purposes but are not very optimistic about the likelihood of making a purchase.

Finally, the last variety of lead type which falls in the C category, is a consumer that has never really given the home improvement much thought at all. After some enticement from your marketing efforts they do recognize some benefits of ownership, however they are really only willing to sit for an estimate because you are offering some type of special, or because you just so happen to be in the area estimating other projects.

Below is a link to a video where I discuss these categories in further detail during a presentation at the Starmark Window Conference in Atlantic City:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlJ4JRljlJQ

Now that we have a better understanding of these distinctly different categories of lead classification, we will be much more equipped to handle them appropriately. Keep your eyes peeled for next month’s tips as we examine these lead types more closely…

Inbound Leads vs. Outbound Leads

(As Published in Replacement Contractor Magazine)

Want more outbound leads? Here’s what you may be doing wrong.

Think there’s no difference between inbound and outbound leads? Guess again. Inbound and outbound leads are right and left, he and she, top and bottom. All the difference that matters. Most companies that are successful at converting inbound leads—inquiries that result from media ads, the internet or mass mailings—are often terrible at converting outbound leads, that is, inquiries generated by canvassing, shows/events, store demonstrators or telemarketing. In many cases, to be good at one is to be bad, or really bad, at the other. Because companies tend to specialize in the thing they’re good at, and that they are accustom to handling.

Here’s how they’re different: Inbound leads, where the customer’s calling in response to your advertising, represent a customer at a different stage of the buying cycle. The inbound calls come from people who picked up the phone or logged on to a website because they’re actively shopping and intend to make a purchase in the near future. Outbound leads? Well, they weren’t necessarily thinking of windows or siding when they ran into your marketers at that strawberry festival or Sam’s Club or when someone knocked on their door one night. You sought them out. They’ve expressed an interest, but no way is it going to be the same degree of interest. And in fact, what often happens when a marketer generates a lead, in the field or over the phone, is that the consumer is taken off guard and schedules an appointment to look at your product without having given it much thought prior to that interaction. Treat those two types of inquiries the same and you’re throwing away marketing dollars and wasting your time.

Qualify, Don’t Crucify

There are a lot of scripts out there, good ones, for handling inbound callers. Where there aren’t so many is with outbound. Handling the outbound lead in such a way that the inquiry becomes a confirmed appointment, and the appointment a demo, is trickier. Many companies, for instance, see canvass or show/event leads converting to demos well below 50%, whereas their inbound calls convert to appointments at 75% or 80%.

That’s often due to a fundamental disconnect in the way an outbound lead is handled. If your confirmer is calling an inbound lead, he or she wants to know when the various parties that own the home can both be present, and whether or not they can set aside a minimum of 90 minutes so that your representative can fully and professionally show them the product in order that they can determine whether or not yours is the company and product that best meets their needs.

And that’s fine, for an inbound lead. But let’s say you put your confirmer on the line and had him or her explain all that to someone who answered the door when your canvasser knocked. Your canvasser at the door was Joe Friendly. “Hey,” he says, “how’re you doing? We just happened to be working in the neighborhood and wondered if you’d like somebody to come by and give you free estimate on…” The prospect says sure, what the heck, why not? It’s all very casual.

Until the phone rings. When the phone rings, suddenly there are all these very rigorous questions. Now your confirmer is insisting that both parties be there and that a minimum of 90 minutes be set aside. Your prospect smells a rat. Generally, the harder you try to confirm, the less likely it is that you will ever convert that lead to a demo. That prospect will be alienated by the inconsistency of your approach. Don’t be shocked if no one answers the door when your rep arrives with samples. The prospects are probably inside, hiding under the bed. All they did was say they might be interested in finding out something about windows or siding or roofing. And now they’re into something they probably can’t get out of without a lot of stress and aggrevation.

Soft Touch Dispels Suspicion

To set that outbound lead, you need to take a soft approach. Don’t establish rigid time frames. Tell them your representative will be in the neighborhood on such-and-such an evening and ask would it be okay if he or she stopped by at eight? Also ask if it’s likely that the two of them will be home for the entire evening, because your rep has a number of calls and may be running late. Don’t lay out all sorts of terms and conditions. It’s not appropriate. You know there’s some level of interest. Now it’s up to your salesperson to determine the extent of that interest and develop it to the point of urgency.

The selling process is also going to be different with an outbound lead. The prospect who called your office already has some idea of what the investment value of the project is. Your outbound prospect likely has little or no awareness of that. You need to emphasize the investment value of the project as well as the stability and integrity of your company. If they’re calling you, they already assume you’re reputable. Whereas if you’re contacting them, that needs to be established and confirmed. Offer a strong discount—15% or 20% is the sweet spot—in exchange for them allowing your company to showcase their home and your product.

Different Lead, Different Metric

When times were good the inbound leads flowed in and companies grew dependent on them and developed cultures and systems around them.
A recessionary climate means we have to get off our duffs and go out and knock on doors. But that’s just the beginning. In addition, it’s necessary to understand that the metrics that apply to inbound leads don’t apply to outbound. You’re not going to set the same number of appointments, or demo at the same rate, because the level of interest isn’t the same. But 50% of 100 inquiries is 50 confirmed appointments. Is that not worth something?

And what happens if the people aren’t home? If you set the lead the right way, it will probably be because they forgot the appointment or had to run out for some reason. Have your representative leave a Sorry We Missed You doorhanger, then call back. Say your rep arrives and only one of the parties is home? Measure, build rapport, and set a second appointment. Don’t denounce them as amputees because they weren’t there waiting at the kitchen table with the coffee brewed. You’ve taken one step. You’re one step closer to the sale. That’s how to see it.

Why do so many companies confirm both their inbound and outbound inquiries with the same script and approach them with the same selling system? I can’t answer that question. What I firmly believe is that we should treat these prospects differently depending on the way we came in contact with them in the first place. Click the link below to watch a brief video where I discuss this phenomenon in greater detail…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1v7GTIIEAJs

For more information on how to properly handle and convert inbound and outbound leads, call me. I look forward to hearing from you. — Lead Generation consultant Tony Hoty has been a home improvement company Owner, salesperson, and Marketer. Visit his Web site at www.TonyHoty.com or call him at 1-888-447-3969.

No Shows Appointments

(As Published in Replacement Contractor Magazine)

No Shows and so-called One Legs frustrate salespeople. But a sale is all in the way these homeowners are handled.

Someone from your company set the appointment. Your salesperson knocks. Then, knocks again. No one’s home. Sound familiar? Here’s another scenario. Your salesperson knocks, expecting to meet with John and Mary Jones. Mary’s there but no sign of John. Your salesperson reacts with surprise, then visible dismay, then spends several hours selling Mary ten windows, only to have the sale quashed the next day when John advises her that they’re way overpriced.

These two separate and distinct types of situations can mar your effort to turn leads into successful demos, i.e., those that result in a sale. Yet there’s a lot you can do to manage this kind of adversity. How a company handles these two types of challenges affects its conversion rate and its lead costs.

Knock Knock. Nobody Home.

Salespeople who encounter the Not Home prospect often get upset. How could they not? Valuable time and expense has been expended in hopes of gaining a genuine opportunity. And now they’re irritated at the homeowner for not being there and, sometimes, at the company for sending  them on a blind chase.

There are three reasons why people aren’t home for a sales appointment when they agreed to be. The first is poor confirmation, the second is deliberate evasion and the third is just life, i.e., something more important happened or came up.

Appointments need to be confirmed soon after initial contact is made and then re-confirmed the night before the visit. In both conversations, estabslish that all interested parties will be there for the sales presentation. If they aren’t there’s a good chance that whoever’s missing will come back to nix the sale. All parties present guarantees buy-in and agreement, and minimizes the risk of rescission.

A good script will know how and what to ask and an experienced confirmer will know what kind of responses to look for. Even if the prospect has agreed to a time when both parties can and will be there, re-confirm that in the same conversation. For one thing, people may be on the line but that doesn’t mean they’re listening. Keep it friendly and light, but make sure you ask that hard question, only put it another way: Will that be a time when both you and he are at home? ‘Yeah’ or ‘Umhmmm’ doesn’t seal the deal. Take anything other than a straight-forward ‘Yes’ as a no.

Sounds of Silence

Say you’ve confirmed and re-confirmed but your prospect isn’t home anyway. Whether or not you can recover that appointment depends on how it’s handled. Regardless of why they weren’t there—now it’s a moot point—respond in a way that’s light, friendly and professional. First, have your salesperson call the office to verify the accuracy of the address. Then have someone in the office attempt to contact the homeowner after sufficient time (15 to 20 minutes) has elapsed.

If there’s no response on the phone, have the sales representative leave behind a door hanger that says something like Sorry We Missed You. This makes the homeowner aware of the fact that you did uphold your end of the agreement. Include space for a hand-written note. The note can interject urgency into the situation by saying something like: ‘Now that I’ve had a chance to see your home, I’m excited to share a special a program we offer that will be a perfect fit.’ This not only piques the homeowners’ curiosity, it also apologizes for the missed appointment without putting guilt or blame on anyone.

In business to business sales, people sometimes don’t show up for appointments as well. Things come up and life happens. Salespeople understand that. Why not apply the same attitude to homeowners? Maintain rapport and you’re in the best possible position to re-book the visit for 24 to 48 hours later. Your confirmer could start by saying: Good evening, Mr. Jones. This is so-and-so from _______ company. Did you get our note?

Not Amputees

One Legger is a term of anger and disdain. The companies in this industry that do the best job of converting those scenarios into sales use a different term. They call them One Step appointments, because if they’re handled properly the company is One Step closer to a sale.

People are busier than ever today. There are more dual incomes, more activities that involve parents and kids. If you think every call involves two people sitting in the living room with a pot of hot coffee waiting for you, you’re in the wrong business. After all, when you ran into them at Sam’s Club they were there to buy pickles. So chances are you’re going to encounter One Step calls.

Wrong way to handle them? React with surprise, or, worse, irritation.

Right way? Don’t act surprised. Greet the homeowner with warmth and enthusiasm. In the first few minutes, don’t even ask where the other spouse is. Then, when the time’s appropriate, say something like: ‘I noticed there’s a John Jones as well, is he going to be available?’

From there, do a needs assessment, including measurements. Discuss the products briefly. Leave behind references, brochures and other pre-positioning materials. All this helps instill a strong desire to schedule the follow-up visit where the full product demonstration will take place.

If the homeowner wants to know why you need to talk with both parties, the best thing to do is answer the question with a question. Ask the prospect if he or she has ever heard of the Better Business Bureau. Then explain that your company follows guidelines suggested by the Better Business Bureau, which recommends that all parties be there.

Handle With Care

The home improvement industry’s good at generating leads. Many companies have databases loaded with the names of homeowners who wanted windows, siding or a roof, who didn’t buy because of the rigid way in which they were handled.

Today, the cost of an issued lead is roughly  $250, and industry-wide, about 70% of issued leads convert to demos. That makes it critical for you to streamline your procedure for confirming leads, and for handling all manner of in-home mishaps. After all, you already paid for the lead. You can either cash that check or tear it up and throw it away.

Lead Capture

(As Published in Replacement Contractor Magazine)

If you receive my monthly news letter, then you already know the power of staying in front of your clients – that is probably what drove you to visit my website in the first place… Therefore you should be able to understand that capturing your prior customer emails and staying in front of them with pertinent information is paramount! What if you do not have those email addresses? How do you acquire them. Follow these 7 simple steps:

1) Call all of your prior customers for whom you do not have email addresses

2) Describe how you have recently conducted an internal audit of all
customer files

3) Explain that you are missing a properly completed warranty card for
many past customers

4) Make it clear that failure to have this on file could possibly
nullify the product warranties for those consumers

5) Offer to email a new warranty card to them right away to ensure
that they are insulated from that risk

6) Follow up by emailing a newly created generic warranty card that
will insulate your customers on all relevant claims

7) Store the email addresses in your customer files