Monday, September 26, 2016

We're Not Innocent Anymore


Note from Adams: I purposely delayed this editorial. Was a hard one to write, at least until the end. Here goes.

My son was born on 9/11.

He turned 9 on ‘that’ 9/11, and had football practice that day. It was a bright Alabama day, blue skies completely and eerily unpierced by the presence of airplanes. Parents sat on aluminum bleachers, creaking with each anxious shift, speaking in hushed tones of suspended disbelief, most with folded arms. Any feeling of laughter felt guilty.

I’d returned from my first ever speaking engagement the day before, elated from the experience, which quickly diminished to triviality. Celebration felt guilty. 

You know where you were too. Though we’d like to forget, each time we remove half our clothing in the airports under scrutiny of eyes trained to spot the ghostly outline of your favorite pocket knife you meant to remove, you’re reminded. 

But here’s what did NOT feel guilty
  1. Wanting to help the cause. Wanting to spread yourself too thin, to give more, to send more, to pray more. And conversely –
  2. Wanting to kick the living organs out of something or someone. Maybe that was a guy reaction, or an American one. Not saying that feeling was right, but it seemed to offer solace.
That’s what I felt. Recently, watching some of the 15-year anniversary documentaries stirred both emotions, and like the Italian dressing bottle’s contents, I couldn’t make the bell pepper bits separate from the onion. They all swirled together until I just couldn’t watch anymore. My mind went to terrible places, unsettled places and that horribly infertile field called worry.
 
But once distant from the images, there was good. Like, lots of it. 

Watching the firefighters, police, paramedics, responders of every type seek to help total strangers. Watching a city covered in the dust and debris from a zillion pounds of Portland cement begin to clean up the aftermath one truckload, one wheelbarrow and eventually one dustpan at a time was absolutely inspirational. 

And you, dear contractors, are featured heroes too. While the nation watched politics, posturing and policy develop, somebody had to get the blooming water running again
Somebody had to untangle the god-awful miles of wiring and get the lights on. Somebody had to clean the air, condition the air and comfort the uncomfortable masses. 

Water. Light. Air. Seems God referenced those early on. Pretty valuable stuff, people. If you ever, ever, question your value, just consider your remarkable contribution to these cornerstones of civilization.  

That’s what was refreshingly (though inversely) idealistic about that time: We were pretty much reduced to “stuff that really matters.” 

The routine – so willingly cast aside before the tragedy – seemed like paradise. Churches – so easy to find fault while analyzing two sentences buried in Galatians – were filled with those offering prayer, thanks, support. 

I don’t remember seeing anyone making a statement during the National Anthem, or debating about gender-swapping rights, or proclaiming the cops weren’t doing their jobs well. (Maybe it’s worth walking a mile in their ballistic vest on a nightshift first?) 

Anyway, I could go on. And the cool thing is:

We, as in America, did go on, and will go on. 

Our family just celebrated my son’s 24th birthday in New York. Visited the memorial. Saw Hamilton. And remembered. It’s the struggles that make you tougher. By Sunday’s end, I was reminded that the key to achievement is not individual genius, but collective tenacity to pursue what’s important.

Here’s to you, contractors. Here’s to you, America. We will not forget.

Adams Hudson

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How to Map Out Strong Conten


Can you influence a prospect in 7 seconds? 140 characters? 23 words? Your answer better be yes if you want to win friends and influence people in a marketplace that’s got a microscopic attention span.
With prospects, you’ll get an initial 10 seconds of time – tops – to grab their attention. That’s about 23 words, or the length of a tweet. For a broadcast message, you’re down to 7 seconds. For copy, a lot of readers stop at the headline. If that.
So what does it take to communicate? Consistency. That way, as your messages are shortened or broadened, they all communicate the same thing – affirming your image and brand.
Once someone becomes aware of you and enters your “content funnel,” the amount of time they’ll give you increases. It breaks down like this:
·         7-9 seconds – headline, tweet
·         2 minutes – info graphics, videos, blog posts
·         5 minutes – magazine articles, long webpages

·         20 minutes – white papers, webinars

Your goal is to get your prospects to consume larger pieces of content as they move toward your products and services. And you need to keep the message consistent throughout. What will help?
Create a map A message map is a one-sheet tool that defines what points you want to emphasize on a topic and how you can support your points – whether you’ve got one minute or 10 minutes of attention span. It’s basically your main message, 3 supporting statements, plus supporting detail.
Remember: who is the message for? Your customers. And they want to know: “what’s in it for them?” Put benefits in your first 9 seconds so that the customer knows what you can do for them and why they should contact you. “We keep you comfortable year-round” is a basic message, for example. But you add more when you…

Make your supporting points – Create three supporting statements that relate to and explain/ prove your main message. That would look something like, say: “We keep you comfortable year-round through expert installation and repair, innovative energy efficiency and friendly, personal service.”
This first map is your main message – the one that should be included in everything you do. And it should stay within the 9-second, 23 word cut-off. From there, the amount of detail and supporting information varies based on the type of content and where it fits within your content funnel.  

If you need some assistance mapping out the perfect message, email a Hudson, Ink Marketing Coach today at coaches@hudsonink.com. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Fishing For Some Answers

Growing up, I fished a lot. Since my father died before I could remember, my uncle stepped in to be my surrogate. Plus, he needed someone to back in the trailer. And deal with the bait. And drive the boat. I was more than willing since I had some ‘learning’ to catch up on. 

Lots of days, the trip was valuable even if we caught nothing. This came in handy more often than I admit to other fishermen. We had a good time talking out in the sun and discussing, as he said, “which one of the 4,812 reasons the fish didn’t bite today.” As a career writer with Readers’ Digest,he had a knack for phrasing. 

The top reasons – for which the fisherman had no influence – were the usual, such as water temperature, presence of food and whether or not we were so blooming hot we had to move the boat or else we’d burst into flames.  

Yet the esoteric reasons for not catching fish were casting ability, bait presentation and lure retrieval. All this was the fisherman’s choice.  

We eventually arrived at an honest conclusion. Shockingly, it impacts your marketing and your business, every day, even among your customers and employees.
 
A NOT-SO PROFOUND OBSERVATION
When we didn’t catch fish, it was due to the uncontrollable reasons. When we did – you guessed it – it was skill, pure and simple.  

My Uncle Allen has long since passed away, but the lesson stuck. We’re all fishing, all the time. In the upside-down logic of human behavior, according to fishermen, we let the outcome determine who gets the blame for it. 

Could be we’re fishing for a better job, deeper love, more respect, fewer hardships, more money, less stress, more peace.  Okay, throw in rock-hard abs, whiter teeth and a magnetic personality. 

“The reason I lost my last job,” said a recent applicant, “was because of my dumb boss and his stupid ideas.”  (This same stupid guy is among the top franchisees of a company in the Fortune 1000.)

A televised weight-loss competitor said on the air, “It’s a fast-food conspiracy that keeps us fat. The food is too available, too fast and it smells good.” Pause for smacking plump lips. “Plus, the prices are pretty reasonable. Something’s wrong there.”  

What? To me, those are the very mission of the company. I was waiting for her to say ‘addictive,’ which all of us in business are still looking to achieve. As soon as I can figure out how to get people hooked on Hudson, Ink, I’ll let you know. I’m not above attempting hypnosis. 

So, what are you looking to ‘fix?’ And is that fix within your control… or outside of it? 

Do you believe your increase or decrease in leads is solely due to the weather? Partner with the weather by forcing early season adopters. Tempt late season procrastinators with closeouts. Increase your efficiency in peak seasons to do more with fewer people. There are ways around this.

Do you believe your town is “just not big enough” to grow your business? Then add up the cumulative sales of all your competitors. That’s your market. You just figure how hard you want to work to go get it. 

Do you feel marketing is a waste of time and effort, because your sales ‘really’ come from ‘word of mouth?’ Then name ONE company that’s successful without marketing. Wait – if they have a sign, a logo or can be found online, they’re marketing. 

Do you believe just having a website is ‘good enough,’ and if people want you, they’ll find you? Then consider that 64% of home service sales are now researched online first, before they ever call you. Also, your online reputation can turn hundreds of leads from EVER calling you in the first place. Your web marketing must enter the ‘new’ phase of human behavior. 

What’s your biggest marketing problem or challenge? Don’t hold back. We all have them, me included. (Contrary to my publicly manipulated reputation, I falter and stink up the marketing joint too. But don’t worry – you don’t pay for those, I DO. The information/advice you get here was gathered from a variety of blunders and experiments.)

So how do you end this sentence: “My biggest marketing challenge is…” Click to send it to us. We’re happy to lend guidance. That’s why we’re here.

Free advice: Keep fishing. But it’s impossible to catch anything with your bait still in the boat.

Happy Fishing,
Adams Hudson

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Generating More Leads for Less Money?

Who doesn’t want more for less? Certainly in marketing, we’d all want more leads for less investment. But that assumes the leads are of equally high quality, right? Does anyone want to spend less money to get more poor quality leads? Let’s assume that answer is: “Don’t be ridiculous.”
Lead cost is serious business. As often cited, it takes $275 to $325 for a contractor to earn a customer. So how do you balance holding down costs while bringing in quality? Consider these steps:
Measure. What gets measured gets done. You cannot manage cost and quality of leads without some accurate numbers. If you want to determine a lead’s cost, you have to measure where the leads come from. This means tracking paid search leads or online leads, as well as pursuing more hands-on research: asking callers where they heard about the company or the offer they’re calling about.
Divide the cost of the marketing investment by the number of leads generated, and you get a basic cost for each lead. (“Basic” because you can’t always account for how much your TOMA advertising, non-credited referrals and other promotion have kept your name in the market at the time the customer responded to your marketing.)  
Define success. Put meaning behind those numbers. What is a high quality lead worth to you? No two organizations answer this the same way, especially in contracting. It’s imprecise to separate the specific value of a lead from the possible lifetime value of a customer. You could say, for instance, that a lead for a new system is worth more than a lead for a tune-up. Yet we also recognize that over a customer’s lifetime, tune-ups can lead to installations and installations can lead to tune-ups. Additionally, one of the first steps for evaluating the quality of a lead is to distinguish between raw inquiries (which include every contact generated by marketing) and accepted leads, which is the group within that group that is actionable.
Determine the best value. Obviously, the goal is not getting a lead – the goal is getting a sale, which can involve an entire process. Therefore, you need to understand which leads are truly sales-ready, which require significant additional marketing effort, lead nurturing and sales support and which don’t close at all.
In particular, it’s good to identify marketing leads versus sales leads. These have different characteristics. Marketing leads may need to be nurtured and cultivated depending on where they are in the buying cycle. They’re leads that need more information and more time.  Sales leads, on the other hand, are further along in the buying cycle and decision-making process, and they’re ready for the sales team.
While it can be difficult to predict exactly how a lead will turn out, hindsight is 20/20. Look at your past leads to help understand which lead tactics, channels and media are truly valuable and which, even if they are cheap up-front, cost more and deliver less in the long run.

Target effectively. Sharpen your aim. Once you understand the market you’re targeting, build campaigns around those segments – using a mix of offline and online strategies. Remember, it all works together. For example, a Yesmail study found that Facebook campaigns had a 50% lift when supported by email, and a 100% lift when supported by multiple email campaigns. Likewise, Twitter campaigns had a 20% lift when supported by email, and a 40% lift when supported by multiple email campaigns. As a retail example, another study showed that online marketing results in 18% lift for in-store purchases. 
If you need help figuring out the best way to generate more leads for less money, contact a Hudson, Ink Marketing Coach today at coaches@hudsonink.com. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Brand Basics: Aligning What You Say with What You Do

A successful brand communicates credibility, clarity and consistency – making sure that the way your company (brand) is portrayed is the way it behaves. A successful brand calls for clearly defined values differentiating you from your competitors. And these qualities should be consistently applied, across all customer experiences, starting with the marketing.

Create a clear and concise marketing message. Portray your unique value proposition. Push benefits, “what’s in it for them.” Then back it up with guarantees and risk reducers. And give them a clear call to action.

Refine your website strategy. Make sure your website is ready for engagement. Create landing pages with clear messages. Be responsive with autoresponders, and be able to enter prospects into an email nurturing campaign. Also, provide free resources such as online videos, reports and blogs that increase your credibility as an industry expert and build trust with your prospect. Also, a big part of your website strategy…
Perform keyword optimization. Identify the right prospect for your company, then identify the search terms they will use to reach you. Obvious for your industry – heating and air conditioning, electrical work, plumbing, plus your city. After that, brainstorm for more.

Generate leads through squeeze pages. Look for ways to grab at least an email address from visitors to your site, such as through a squeeze page strategy. Request an email address for access to a how-to video or special report or top 10 tips on whatever.

Place non-qualified leads into a nurturing program. Sales-ready leads go straight to sales. But if they’re not ready to buy, or if sales sends them back, place them in a nurturing program where they can continue to receive nurturing contact, especially a series of email messages. Stay active in social media platforms. But also remember to integrate online and offline. Follow-up phone calls, plus real live notes and letters will be included in your lead-nurturing strategy.  

If you need help making sure your brand is consistent across your company, let us know. Email a Hudson, Ink Marketing Coach today at coaches@hudsonink.com. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

What's the Point of Creating New Content?

This question – or a marketing-consultant-sounding version of same – is one of the key questions you should ask about your content creation. The point here is simple: If you’re going to create content for your website by which you intend to establish your expertise in your industry, you need to define your content’s purpose.
And it needs to be something other than, “I want to show everyone how smart I am.” We take it for granted that we would all be duly impressed by your intellect and expertise. However, as with all things marketing, the focus of your content marketing is not you, but what’s in it for your customer.
While your landing pages and other parts of your website will have lead-generation and conversion as a goal, your “expertise-enhancing” content in your blogs and reports and videos will often focus on how to “help” the customer rather than to “sell” the customer.
Which means that a more appropriate purpose for your content creation is, for example: Helping homeowners run their homes more efficiently. Or: Helping homeowners make smart choices about their home upgrades.
The other part of defining your purpose is knowing who your content serves. For your residential services, that audience is homeowners within a market area. Thus, your content should be geared to customers in your climate, region, season and any other distinguishing qualities for your community.
With purpose defined, create a mission statement – one that includes your target audience (homeowners in your city/region), the information you plan to deliver (home improvement ideas) and the expected outcome (time savings, cost savings, improved efficiency).
That means it could look something like this: Showing homeowners in how smart choices for their homes can save time, money and energy.
That’s how to keep your content focused, which helps you choose good topics and ensure your relevance. Otherwise, if you lose focus, you lose creative steam – and your audience. 

If you want some help on creating interesting content, reach out to a Hudson, Ink Marketing Coach today by emailing coaches@hudsonink.com

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Coffee and Consequence


 I had my semi-annual meeting with consultants in what has half-jokingly become the “Secret Syndicate.” Fittingly enough, we met in an Italian Restaurant reserved months in advance.

The waiter was incredibly attentive. Responded to half-empty wine glasses with a silent, refilling flourish. Accepted the incredibly complex request of one of our pickier Italian members. (He asked something like, “I want al dente pasta, but don’t insult the prosciutto; I’ll know if you do.”) Our waiter took pictures, making sure the lighting was right, and that my head was actually visible in the photograph.

The meal was superb. Conversation and connection abounded. Toasts and plans made. My standard writer’s Manhattan clinked gently as I thought fondly of my departed family of writers who preceded me. For the waiter, a well-deserved 20% on the $770 meal.

Then something happened. His unassailable customer service shriveled against an idiotic policy. A small chink caused a fissure in the evening, prompting conversation and shaken expectations. My marketing coach Dan Kennedy often says, “Little hinges swing big doors.” Never more true.

After I had signed the check and calculated the tip therein, my partner in conversation smelled the espresso. “Ahh, that smells great,” he said looking up at the waiter, with check folder now in hand. “May I have a shot?”

“Sure” said the waiter. Then he did the unthinkable. 

He extracted my now signed copy of the receipt, and said, “I’ll print you up a new one to include the coffee.”

My jaw left chin marks on the table. All of ours did. My espresso-desirous friend was agog. “Did he really just do that?” he asked with incredulity. “Did he just risk a $155 tip for a $3 cup of coffee… on a $770 bill?”

Yes, he did.

And I had to refigure and re-include his tip when he brought it back. I probably should’ve impugned the act with greatly lessened total. Yet, countering his near sabotage of the tip was my decision to disallow pettiness to color this grand evening. Perspective. As I handed the check folder back, I saw him, the management, their idiotic policy and the restaurant in an utterly different light. So did those who witnessed it.

This incident has never left my mind because it taught me an important lesson I’ll never forget. Small things matter. Your otherwise perfect service call goes up in smoke when a size 11 mud print lands unapologetically on the Oriental Rug. Your flawless furnace installation results in a frustrated callback when you forget to tell the homeowner how to use the thermostat. Your $3,000 panel replacement is a riddle of confusion without labeling the circuits.

Give your team members the authority to exercise intelligence when a small missile of discontent is launched, or better yet, train to avoid it entirely. Don’t just fix the equipment; fix the customer.

After the Italian restaurant fiasco, I had lunch with my retired psychologist neighbor. It was his 78th birthday, and my treat. We finished a great meal and always captivating conversation. (Not many of my lunch mates regularly quote Dostoevsky and Maritain.)

After the check was presented and totals totaled, my friend said in eerily parallel fashion, “That coffee smells great. If my young friend has time, I’d love a cup.”

He looked at me for approval – and if you know anyone who can dismiss the birthday wish of a wizened friend, I don’t want to meet them. So with a nod, the kind waitress trots off and brings back two cups.

“Please add that to my bill,” I encouraged.

“Are you kidding? It was my pleasure.” And she turned away. She may be surprised to see an extra $10 bill on top of her ticket, with the words, “Mine too.”

Small things matter.

Adams Hudson