Relationship Marketing is Alive - Maybe!

route marketingRoute Marketing Is Dead

...is the title of the last article I wrote for R&R mag online.  Many of the calls and emails I received asked if I thought they should completely quit marketing to insurance agents or adjusters or plumbers.  The short answer is No.  More accurately is: HOW you are marketing – (what you are saying), because cookie marketing won’t get the jobs you need and want.  Wasted route marketing is what I keep referring to as Stop, Drop and Roll.  Simply put, it is when the “marketing rep,” (and I use that term loosely) is more concerned about how many Stops they are able to achieve in one day, or week/month. They just Drop off a bag of donuts and Roll on to the next Stop.

Some owners think that the shotgun blast approach - requiring the rep to hit as many Stops as possible – somehow increases the likelihood that the Stop will automatically produce work!  I continue to be amazed at how many restoration contractors want quantity over quality. Quantity equates to less mental effort, less skill, less commitment and creates an illusion that “busy” is better; and that type of marketing certainly means fewer deep relationships.

Relationships are the glue that keeps the client close to the marketer / restoration company. Relationships are what make the prospect want to refer work to the marketer. Relationships are what help overcome the occasional “bad” situation that develops during a project.  I don’t advocate that you quit visiting prospects – quite the opposite! Just be absolutely sure that you and your marketing reps understand how important the Relationship connection is to what you really want to achieve.

Since it is clear in almost every “marketing for dummies” type book, that relationships are the key, the challenge is: what are the steps, the process, and the methods, to develop valuable relationships.  An old boss (sorry Jack – didn’t mean it that way) used to tell me that we really don’t want all the potential customers; we only wanted 10% of them. What he meant was that first: you can’t get All the customers, second: you don’t want All the customers, third: there is the old Law of Diminishing Return that goes something like this; 10% of the good customers will yield you 90% of the sales. And yes, I’ve taken a very liberal literary license with this idea, however, the point to be taken is; don’t waste your valuable time (something you can’t buy more of) trying to hook all the fish in the sea of prospects.

Most important are the Steps and Methods you use to develop these relationships.  So often the rep visit to the prospect goes something like this: “Hi, I’m Frankie with BigDog Restoration. Let me tell you a little about BigDog. We answer our phone 24/7/365 and we are IICRC certified and we care more about our customers, and we have uniforms, and no tattoos and logoed trucks, and a really cool thing is we are the only contractor in the area that has the Binford Ultra 5000 SuperSucker machine so we can dry your clients’ property in 15 minutes or less.”  Or some baloney like this.

There are several fatal flaws in that approach which gets you into immediate trouble. First, your competition is going to go out and buy the Binford Screamin Meanie 6000 Ultra Fast SuperSucker, so all of that effort (and money) is now wasted, therefore promoting equipment won’t buy you long term business. Second, the prospect really does NOT care about your business, does NOT want to know the details of your business! Third, if you haven’t learned this yet, it’s NOT about you!

real valueI can’t impress upon you enough that the prospect cares about their business, their opportunities, their sales, their profit, their quality of life, their success, etc.  OK you think, then I’ll just go in and say “tell me a little about your business” or some other fatal comment. If you have to ask them to tell you a little about their business, then shame on you.  You should already know a LOT about their business, having done your homework on that prospect and industry. You should already know which prospects can send you jobs; know which ones have the potential for a reasonable volume of work to send you, know about the challenges and issues facing the prospect, and how you can help them get what they want. For example, it is no secret that many insurance agents are struggling to retain clients, in part because of the big shift to internet purchased insurance. You ought to know this already and then demonstrate to the prospect that you understand this, and that your company-focus is on helping the agent with client retention. They are then far more likely to want to do business with you. This is just one of a hundred (thousand) ways to bring value to your prospect in advance – just one of so many ways that you are helping them with what they care about; (their sales, their profit, their quality of life, their success).

Poor route marketing IS dead, but Relationship building is not. Stop, Drop and Roll marketing is a shotgun blast into the air – you might get lucky and hit a low flying bird once in a while but that’s not reliable and certainly not profitable.  I love the saying “even a blind squirrel importantfinds a nut once in a while.”  Don’t let your marketing rep be out there blindly hoping to “find a nut” and think they are really doing a good job!

It is also no secret that most restoration contractors are experiencing a shrinking book of the smaller residential losses / jobs. (If you just got on a third party program, you may have the perception that you are finally seeing that long sought-after increase, but I am not hopeful that it will be long term considering all the radical changes happening in the insurance claims industry).  Plus, you probably joined the TPA program because you were experiencing less and less smaller residential work that used to be your bread and butter. 

It is very important – especially since our society is dramatically changing, to have a marketing process where your reps utilize a specialized sales program to “see the right people, say the right things, provide value-in-advance, and recognize that the prospect cares about their own issues – not yours.”   In addition to these specialized sales and marketing methods, it is my belief that for mitigation and restoration contractors to survive over the next 10 or 15 plus years, they will need to implement a very methodical and targeted strategy to develop commercial work. This means creating the opportunities NOW to get referrals from commercial property managers, facilities managers, schools, colleges, hotels, large churches, hospitals, etc before your competition does! And make no mistake about it… your competition is aggressively going after this potential work, signing up commercial properties in anticipation of that future disaster that could strike their facility.

Recently, I had a client bemoaning the fact that all the “out-of-town, out-of-state contractors, including all the national multi-office companies swarmed in to New Jersey and New York after Hurricane Sandy and took all of what this contractor thought was going to be hurricaneher gravy opportunities. She thought her ship had come in, only to find out the competition smashed a hole in her figurative ship and she floundered in the water without getting all the work she had hoped. An on-going strategy of methodical marketing, developing emergency response plans for the commercial prospects in the region, would have put her securely in a position of having the most profitable jobs already in her portfolio. The out-of-staters wouldn’t have had the heyday they got. 

If the “local” contractor had previously developed a locked-in, committed, commercial client base, she would have had first pick of those losses. Society is dramatically changing the way business is done, the way they interact with people, the way they refer and recommend, AND the way they hire contractors.    

Is Relationship Marketing Alive?

Author:  Dick Wagner