David Welch, president of Ben Hill Roofing and Siding Co. in Atlanta, detailed some of his company’s most effective marketing strategies, but only after taking the audience on a tour of some recent marketing failures. His goal: to help Best of Success attendees learn from his mistakes as well as his successes. “I don’t know about you, but I hate to waste money on marketing,” said Welch. “I don’t mind spending it, but I sure mind wasting it.”
He detailed his marketing plan in 2006, which was designed to grow the residential side of his business. The plan included direct mail marketing, TV commercials, sponsoring a radio home fix-it show, and a Yellow Pages ad. All of these strategies produced dismal results, according to Welch. Over six months in 2006, the company invested more than $15,000 in a direct mail program that resulted in 20 leads and only two jobs sold. When the company launched its TV commercials, hopes were high. “My biggest worry at the time was that I would have to hire more people,” said Welch. Again, the results were disappointing. Over a 12-month period, the $41,500 invested produced only 27 leads and resulted in only four jobs sold.
All of this left Welch thinking, “Wow! There has got to be a better way.” He detailed the lessons learned with his high-priced advertising in 2006. “If you really track the leads, it doesn’t pay,” summed up Welch. “Ask any ad rep to give you a guaranteed response to your marketing campaign, and see what they say. They’ll tell you there are too many variables to guarantee what the response will be, and then they’ll hand you the bill. If there’s one lesson I learned, it’s that if it costs a lot, it probably won’t work”
Where do the best leads come from? Referrals and existing customers, said Welch. “They already know you, they already trust you, and they are price conditioned,” he said. The key? “Do a better job when you get a job,” he explained. “Communicate with the customer and make them say ‘Wow!’ Be blunt and ask the customer for referrals.”
Other cost-effective strategies outlined by Welch included yard signs, door hangers, cold calling, and company vehicles fully wrapped in vinyl graphics that serve as “moving billboards.” But one of the most effective strategies was the lead group he put together.
“A lead group is a group of non-competing, like-minded business professionals networking together for the purpose of sharing information and marketing efforts for the benefit of each participating member,” Welch said. Good candidates to work with include heating and air conditioning contractors, landscapers, painters, electricians, plumbers, and a host of others, he said. “These are people who touch the people we touch,” said Welch. “You touch 3,000 people a year and don’t even realize it. If you work with a lead group with 15 members, that’s 45,000 people a year.”
The group developed a tri-fold brochure listing all of the members and recommending their services to customers. Each referral results in a lead fee, which Welch suggests should be paid to the person in the field. “The key is to get the right people,” he said. “Make sure you don’t get a bad apple. If you eliminate the wrong people, your brochure just became obsolete. You’ve got to work with quality professionals and people who know he pain of marketing and understand the group’s benefits.”