A few years ago, a big Yellow Pages ad was sufficient to generate a base level of call volume large enough to support a plumbing company — my how the world has changed! Increasingly, the Yellow Pages are referenced by a geriatric audience. Consumers under the age of 50 avoid the Yellow Pages and turn to their friends for advice first, then to the Internet if referrals fail.
Newspapers are another media that's being followed by an increasingly geriatric audience. More and more consumers get their news from the Internet. USA Today's daily readership is approximately 5 million, making it the best read newspaper in the U.S. This pales in comparison to the Drudge Report, which exceeds 25 million Web site visitors on slow news days. Not surprisingly, newspapers are folding across the country.
Viewing habits of cable and broadcast television are also changing as more consumers buy digital video recorders. Currently DVR saturation is 17% of households nationwide and exceeds 25% in metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and Dallas. According to Forrester Research, 92% of consumers skip ads when playing back a digital recording.
Even music radio is impacted as listenership is increasingly challenged by digital music players, podcasts and satellite radio. Of broadcast media, only talk radio continues to hold its own.
Let's face it — we're looking at the end of advertising as we know it, but this isn't a bad thing. Personally, I welcome breaking the shackles of the Yellow Pages and look forward to deploying a new media mix, consisting of the following advertising and marketing vehicles (tweaked for your company, culture, market and target demographic).
Trucks: Your mobile billboard will continue to be one of the more effective means of promoting your name within your community. Keep your message concise on the sides since people have only seconds to view your marketing message before the side of your truck flashes by. Market on the back of the trucks because bored commuters stuck behind your vehicles will read a back-of-the-truck message. Consider using rolling LED license plate holders or large magnets to run special promotions, rotated monthly.
Direct Mail: Direct mail will remain one of the more effective means to place promotional messages in front of targeted homeowners. Effective direct-mail marketers mail consistently and target existing customers with an existing relationship more often than prospects with no relationship. Consider shared mail for prospecting and consumer newsletters for existing customers.
Door hangers: The tried and true door hanger is still an effective means of targeting neighborhoods and providing radius marketing around service calls. Door hangers are great tools for distributing refrigerator magnets, which give you a semi-permanent presence inside the home.
Tagging and stickering: Valve tags and service stickers will continue to be effective tools to encourage existing customers to call you for future service. Sticker and tag every possible appliance, such as water heaters, disposals and the inside of toilet tanks. Be sure to include discount offers and trade-in values.
Home shows: Home shows can be effective sources of new customers, especially if used with an oldest appliance contest. If you aren't familiar with oldest appliance contests, contact me and I'll send you everything you need to run your own contest free.
Web sites: Company Web sites are as essential to businesses today as business cards are. Make sure your Web site screams your services to area consumers who search for local plumbers on the Internet. Starter Web sites with your domain name are available for as little as $20 a month for Service Roundtable members (other groups offer similar services). Be sure to drop your AOL or Yahoo e-mail account and use one with your company domain.
E-mail marketing: In contrast with direct mail, e-mail marketing is virtually free. Start collecting e-mail addresses now and use a service like Constant Contact, iContact, etc. to send family and friends coupons, special offers, homeowner tips and other information relevant and interesting to consumers.
Search engine marketing: One of the more existing and promising new forms of advertising is search engine marketing (SEM). With SEM (e.g. Google Adwords), you can limit your exposure while also lowering your customer acquisition costs.
Directory listings: The major search engines all offer free listings for companies. This helps consumers locate nearby companies. Expand your presence by listing every employee's home address as a branch location.
Social media: The latest form of online marketing is social media. Become familiar with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs. To be truly effective, social media requires a time commitment. If you lack the time or inclination, assign responsibility to someone in your company. If you lack the personnel, you should at least create a company listing where possible and link back to your main Web site.
Affinity marketing: Affinity marketing is simply promoting your company through groups of people sharing a common affinity, such as a school, church or charity. The charity promotes you to its patrons, and you make a small donation to the charity whenever one of its patrons does business with you.
Networking: One of the oldest and least utilized marketing methods is basic networking. Get involved with one or more than one service and civic club like Rotary, Lion's, Optimist or Kiwanis. Join a leads club.
Attend Chamber of Commerce meetings. Breakfast shouldn't be eaten in the kitchen and lunch shouldn't be eaten at your desk. Instead, break bread with groups of community influencers that you can build personal contacts with and increase company brand awareness through.
Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable, www.ServiceRoundtable.com. Follow him as ComancheMktg on Twitter, and subscribe to his marketing newsletter at www.ComancheMarketing.com. For a free copy of Matt's “Oldest Appliance Contest,” e-mail him at Matt.Michel@ServiceRoundtable.com. You can reach Matt toll free at 877/262.3341 or call his mobile at 214/995.8889.