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If You’re Gonna Advertise…Do It Wisely!

Use these “tricks of the trade”…

By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.

With an industry slowdown comes a knee-jerk reaction to cut back on expenses, especially advertising. That’s fine if you’re getting all the business you can handle. But for most pool builders, that’s not the case. Leads are down, and closings are down. And since most pool builders need a certain level of volume to keep the staff on board, this may be the worst possible time to stop advertising. In fact, when your competitors are cutting back and hunkering down into survival mode, they’re giving you the best possible opportunity to gain market share.

But here’s the rub – Few builders have a ton of cash to throw at advertising. And it’s never a good time to waste ad money. (And unfortunately, in our industry, much ad money is wasted.) So let me share with you some ideas and tips to keep you advertising without wasting money, and without breaking the bank.

TIP #1 – Every ad must pay for itself. I do not recommend you “throw money out there” just to “build your image” or “maintain a presence.” You very well may go broke! Instead, every penny you’re investing in advertising should show a return on investment (ROI) in the form of new profit. Otherwise, why waste the money? The key requirement for you to determine your ROI is lead tracking. How many leads did that $2000 magazine ad pull in? How many of those leads bought something? How much profit did you make on the sale(s)?  Did the ad pay for itself?

Here are three easy ways to track your leads by lead source:

  1. Have your sales manager, sales rep or receptionist ask the prospect. (It’s an easy question, and should already be on your lead form.)
  2. Your website inquiry form should ask the question: “How did you hear about us?”
  3. Build the tracking into your ad. You can do this with a custom trackable phone number, a custom URL, with a “coupon code,” or by “naming” your special offer. For example, your ad could promote “The Platinum Package” or “Package 29.” You could offer “The Platinum Report” or “Report 29.” Or it could say “Ask for the Platinum Department” or simply “Ask for Gloria.”

These tricks will allow you to determine how many leads each ad generates.

TIP #2 – Invest where you’re getting the best ROI. As you compare the ROI of different leadsources, you’ll see that some are producing a much better ROI than others.  Just like any other investment, you should divert your ad money away from the bad investments, and into the better performing ones. Your ROI calculations will tell you exactly where you should be spending your money.

But suppose it’s January 2009, and while you love the idea of “redirecting,” you really haven’t done any tracking? Now what? Well, I can give you some general guidelines that run fairly true for pool builders in most situations. Now keep in mind, if your message is crap, then all bets are off. But if you’ve got a decent message, then here are some suggested places where you might advertise. Based on my experience in this industry, the ad media at the top of this list have consistently shown better and safer ROI than those at the bottom:

  • Business Cards and an Elevator Pitch (At 5 cents a pop, how can you lose?)
  • Yard Signs ($400 worth of signs buys a lot of phone calls from interested buyers.)
  • Good Facility Signage (It pays forever, but only if you’re in a high-traffic area.)
  • Networking Meetings (Not for everyone, but they can work like a charm if done right.)
  • Pay-per-Click (You don’t pay except when someone actually wants what you sell. Smart!)
  • Home Shows (Very effective if you have a strategy and everyone’s trained.)
  • Referrals (You probably aren’t investing as much as you should in this area.)
  • Direct Mail (RSVP in particular can be quite effective.)
  • Joint Ventures (But choose your partner wisely.)
  • Lead Referral Services (Actually, most of these are crap, but Free Pool Quotes has been good)
  • Radio (Excellent medium, but needs a 6 month investment to work well.)
  • Magazines (Results vary dramatically; Depends on the magazine.)
  • Newspapers (Declining readership, and fewer people buying. No thanks.)
  • TV (Will burn a lot of money to reach a shrinking audience that uses TiVo. Be careful!)

TIP #3 – “Fix The Holes In Your Bucket.” You can spend $10,000 to get the phone to ring, and watch every one of those leads slip away due to other factors undermining your marketing efforts:

  • Poor salesmanship
  • Poor “phone-manship.”
  • A rundown or unkempt facility
  • A weak or “non-sticky” website
  • Lousy or non-existent follow-up

I’ll have to set aside another newsletter to discuss “fixing the holes in your bucket.” So for now, let me just suggest that you take a closer look at your processes, facilities and website. Get a fresh perspective from someone who doesn’t work for you. Give them permission to be brutally honest, and then see if you can patch some of those leaks.

OK, so everyone knows times are tough. It’s also full of opportunity. In the months ahead, some will gain and some will lose. But almost no one will stay the same. It’s time for leaders to make some decisions, and take some actions. I hope the above advice helps you make the right decisions.

Sincerely,

Brett Abbott Signature

Brett Abbott

2009 Brett Lloyd Abbott / MYM Austin Inc.  May not be used without permission.

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