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“Of Lions and Antelope…”

Using “Follow-Up” to Survive Tough Times.

By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.

An increasingly popular question I’m hearing lately is “How are things going in the rest of the country?”  And the answer I’m hearing is pretty much the same: “I’ve never worked so hard in my life.”

What we’re seeing is that the business is still out there, but there’s less of it, and it’s a whole lot harder to get.

It’s kind of like what happens when there are too many lions and not enough antelope.  All the lions get hungrier, and a year from now, there won’t be quite as many lions around.

I’m sorry; am I getting too graphic here?  I don’t mean to be pessimistic. And I certainly don’t want to sound like Chicken Little.  Hey, I’m as optimistic as they come. But the truth is – this has been one tough downturn.

And unless you happen to be just now stepping into the peak of your season, then whatever your volume is right now, you can expect it’s probably going to go down from here.

I suppose if you have to choose between being “a hungry lion” and “a lion that isn’t around anymore,” you’ll probably choose “hungry.”  So now the key is to control “how hungry?” It’s time to be a smarter, faster, and less-hungry lion.

In 2006, when we were all fat, dumb and happy, my team and I embarked on a marketing test of pool builders in the Austin area. I asked a homeowner in SoCal to call twenty Austin pool builders, and tell them they were moving to Austin to build a house. Texas is hot, so naturally they wanted a pool built with the house. (Very common here.) The results were shocking at first, but soon confirmed to be commonplace throughout the country.

Nobody followed up.

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A big fat juicy antelope was moving to Texas with at least half a mil in equity. But the lions weren’t hungry, so they didn’t bother with follow-up.

Now, in 2009, builders are paying a lot more attention to follow-up. But not all follow-up is the same. Pestering phone calls are a start, but you could do better. I recommend something more along the lines of a series of informative e-mails, letters and postcards, in addition to the occasional phone call from the sales rep.

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Your prospects are much more receptive to this type of info. The cost is insignificant compared to the value. (At a buck a postcard, you’re talking less than $10 per highly-qualified prospect.) And if the pieces are well-written, they will steadily build a case that helps the prospects understand why they’d be a fool to do business with any pool builder other than you.

What this means is that while all the builders continue to fight over the diminishing number of antelope, more and more of the prospects are gently and continually persuaded to do business with you.

And that makes you the smarter, faster, less-hungry lion.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go get something to eat.

Brett Abbott Signature

Brett

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

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