Robin offers some of his marketing tips for succeeding as a tradesmen in slow, economic times.

I was looking through old e-mails and I came across one from about a year and a half ago. In it, the person commented about a little tip I had given for marketing a business. He basically said, “It’s great that you are talking about plaster. But you are getting into marketing in some of your articles and that’s a whole different subject. My advice is stick to plaster and leave marketing alone!”

Things have changed quite a bit since I got that note. Many have commented that they have been experiencing slow times, getting more “no’s” than green lights when it comes to proposals and bids. I believe now more than ever it is quite clear that the better a person is at marketing his business, the more successful he is going to be. And I’m talking marketing from start to finish—to actually landing the particular project, doing it and getting paid, especially focusing on the time from when the homeowner is interested in having something done, to when he says yes or no.

Brawn vs. brains

I want to comment on this topic and make some observations that should prove beneficial to those who realize that running a successful business means one must not only have the brawn (the skill and ability to do work on walls and ceilings) but also the brains to know how to make the most of that talent—especially in tough times.

It’s a fact that when things are going well, we pay less attention to how money is spent on advertising and marketing our business. We are often advised and coached by others on what are effective ways to spend our money to further our reputation and get more business. But the game changes when things begin to slow or suddenly stop. The phone stops ringing, bids are not accepted and we are left sitting for a week, two weeks—maybe longer. In the times we find ourselves now, even large companies are having a record amount of meetings to discuss what is truly worthwhile in the way of promoting their businesses, what is effective and what is not. Getting the most impact for money spent is now the quest at hand.

Most of us running smaller businesses have probably fallen victim to going with the flow at one time or another, letting things happen as they will, and not concentrating on strategy that will ensure our continued success. In simple terms, doing the things that will keep us busy year round. So it’s a good time to take stock of where we are and where we’re headed with the businesses we’re running.

To write this article, I went back through some of the things I’ve learned from some recent seminars I’ve attended. I can assure you this isn’t some motivational tape mumbo jumbo. What I’m sharing are points I’ve field tested to make sure they work.

One seminar especially stands out to me. A gentleman named Jay Abraham was there to talk about business building strategy. He outlined three ways in which one can build his business:

1. Increase the client or customer base.

2. Increase the size of the sale.

3. Increase the frequency of the sale.

It’s quite intriguing to take these simple facts and build on them. Finding ways to improve in one or two of these areas by using your creativity can produce some profitable results.

Take the first point: increasing the client base. In other words, getting more customers to work for. What’s one easy way to do this? We’ve already talked about finding people interested in having work done. We’ve gotten to the point of sitting down to give them a proposal. We’ve reached the critical spot now. We should be asking ourselves a very important question: What can I do to make it easier for the customer to say yes?

There are two things I’ve been trying for more than a year now and they’ve been working like a dream.

Give them options

I have been staying away from the “yes” or “no” answer. The chances are 50/50 that you will hear a no. That’s just not acceptable. Here’s the better way of handling it: Give them options. I do this with insurance companies, real estate agents, homeowners, contractors—all those I work with. I compare the mindset that you need to adopt to a doctor sitting down with a patient who is going to have to have something done about his condition. He discusses the options.

He talks about the most extensive operation or procedure that can be done, and then he works his way back to the minimum that can be done.

Instead of proposing “one way” of doing a project, we discuss several. Maybe it’s two or three. We can do this verbally first, before ever writing the proposal. This saves tons of time on our part. We are figuring out what our patient wants to do. Depending on our strategy, we may start with the simplest and most inexpensive way to do the work. If they balk at the pricing we throw out in conversation right off the bat, we’ve saved ourselves a lot of time. If we take the maximum approach, explaining the most extensive way of doing the work, and they don’t blink an eye, than we’ve found out a lot in a very short amount of time.

I personally have found the “one-two” approach working well. When I first visit with them, I talk over the minimum that I feel should be done and then talk over the maximum. I don’t press for a decision right then and there. I’m there to plant the seed as far as what can be done. I’m educating and informing. For some people, that’s about all they can handle at one time. They want to talk it over with the husband, wife or whoever else is going to help make the final decision. My next step is to either leave a written proposal behind that explains both options in detail, including the pricing and amount of time it will take to complete the project, or to go home and fax it to them. I find the typewritten, faxed or mailed proposal gets accepted more readily than a hastily written one.

What’s nice about the “one-two” approach is that you have made the decision more of an either/or, rather than yes or no. You haven’t put them in a corner. If they just can’t do the maximum, you have given them a way to do something about it. Of course, the outcome of this type of strategy also keeps us busy.

Next time, we’ll discuss the second point that will help us avoid slow times, as well as some more of your letters. Be sure to check out W&C’s Web site and click on the link to my Web site while you're there. I’m sure you’ll like the changes that I’ve made to the site. Until then, keep your e-mails and letters coming and “Ride the White Wave”! W&C