Thursday, June 17, 2010

Households Surrounding Existing Customers Are Easy Pickin'

By Jennifer Spitzer

I think everyone would agree that once you’ve sold your services to a homeowner, other households in that neighborhood immediately become prime prospects. Afterall, they’re going to see how good of a job you did at their neighbor’s house and they're going to want the same for their home. What I’ve learned by working with small business owners over the years is that agreeing on the the strategy for converting these households to customers is the hard part. Not long ago, I had a conversation with a service-based franchise owner that went something like this.

Me: “Tell me about your radius strategy. What happens when you’re installing a new system in a neighborhood where you don’t have any customers?”

Owner: “My guys flyer the entire neighborhood. We have a preprinted card and they put one in every mailbox.”

Me: “That’s good. Then what happens.”

Owner: “That’s it. We move on to the next neighborhood.”

I think if you were to talk about this type of marketing with six different business owners, you’d get six different answers. A common theme within the conversations I’ve had has been the focus on timing. Some are of the mindset that immediate communication with surrounding households is the key while others think it’s best to wait a few weeks.

From a marketing perspective, I wouldn’t debate the timing issue because I’m of the mindset that it’s one of the most important aspects of every strategy. The big question is – what is the timing? When is the exact timeframe for when the households in that neighborhood are going to say “That’s it! I want my house to look as good as the one across the street.”

About a year ago, I had a low-voltage landscape lighting system installed. It took 8 months before all of my neighbors got one. Some of my neighbors had a system installed immediately and others waited several months. My point here is this: if you flyer a neighborhood one time immediately after providing some sort of service to a homeowner, you’re less likely to get the business when others finally decide to buy. They won’t know who you are. Of the six homes surrounding mine, I’m the only one who bought from the vendor who sold my system to me. My neighbors bought the same product... from a competitor.

What this means is business owners should incorporate frequency into the marketing plan. Put your flyers or door hangers out there when you finish work in a customer's neighborhood. Then mail to surrounding households. Then mail again in a month. Then call your customer and ask for referrals. Send someone to the neighborhood with flyers a few months after the original work was done. Repeat. Do everything you can to consistently stay in front of those prospects.

Birds of a feather flock together. That means households surrounding your existing customers have a higher propensity to buy from you than someone who’s a “general prospect”. Be consistent and persistent with your efforts and when those consumers are ready, they’ll think of you first.