Those Who Fail To Plan, Are Planning To Fail
By Frankie Botelho
The ideas, concepts, and insights taught in this section have been fine-tuned during 30 years of experience working with hundreds of restoration companies and making thousands of outside sales calls. It will teach you how to implement a time-managed program where you can get more results from one salesperson than other companies using several sales people. One of the keys to the success of this program is that we show you how to reach hundreds or even thousands of contacts in your target markets in the first year alone with only one person.
This is a real “living program” that only gets better as you continue to understand and experience the benefits that it offers. It can be used in part or in whole by the company owner or by hired employees. We can document many of our client companies doubling their business in the first year. Not in 18-24 months…but in 10-12 months!
No matter whether you are a carpet cleaner, restoration contractor, mitigation or remediation expert doing water, fire, smoke, or mold damage repair, the first thing that you need to understand is that above all else, you are in the marketing business. No matter what you sell, how you sell it, or who you sell it to, it all begins with the proper understanding of the marketing process.
The following definition of marketing comes from a book that I highly recommend to you—“Secrets From The Lost Art of Marketing,” by H. Brad and Alan J. Antin:
“Marketing is what gets and keeps customers. The true foundation upon which all great marketing is built is the unselfish desire to do good for your customer. The actual marketing, on the other hand, is simply making sure that they know about it.”
You must understand, support, and take action when it comes to marketing. Many business owners are forced to close their doors for good, or worse yet, struggle year after year only to get deeper in debt. The reason they failed is that they did not adhere to a consistent program.
Almost any program would have worked for them if only they would have taken some type of action consistently. Effort, without results, is still failure. Does this sound like a contradiction? It might be, but even worse, procrastination is failure without effort.
This Industry is changing rapidly. The insurance side of the industry has changed since 9/11/01. The cost of P&C insurance will continue to affect both the restoration contractors and the insurance carriers. Equipment manufacturers have been coming up with new methods of mitigating water by using a whole new generation of equipment
Change is the only constant that you can count on. Are you ready to change?
Marketing Made Easy
Whether you are a single business or a multiple operation you must market from the bottom up. Bottom up marketing to the insurance industry, means that we start with the agents and then work our way up to the distinct managers, sales managers, and regional managers. When working with the claims side we start with the adjusters and then work our way up to the claims supervisors
There is no reason to start at the top and work your way down when you are working your local market, as opposed to working on a national level. Even if you are a member of a major franchise organization you must still use the bottom up method. Top Down marketing occurs at the corporate level when you have multiple locations and can meet the demands of a nationwide insurance vendor program. Whether you are on a list, or not, you must still make the calls.
Remember, “Out of sight—Out of mind.” When they don’t see you or hear from you, they won’t remember you.
And equally important is not only how you will deal with outside influences to your company’s success, but inside forces as well. For example, how will you measure success? Think about that, it can be a goal, a target to reach and a gauge against which you can measure the success of your ongoing efforts. Jot down a few ideas now—keeping in mind that you can change your thoughts as you progress (when they send a rocket to the Moon, there are thousands of course corrections before the actual landing, but, landing on the Moon always remains the ultimate measure of the success of the mission.) If you don’t have a measurable goal, you won’t have a cohesive, unidirectional company. You need everyone and every resource (every horse) pulling in the same direction.
What specific talents, strengths, and resources are available? You may have resources and assets that either you don’t know you have or have underestimated.
Many modern sales and marketing experts will tell you that the “Customer is King,” and that the consumer is the singular most important person to your company’s success—and as far as the fact that if the customer doesn’t buy, you don’t get paid, they are right. But, I believe that you have someone even more important, whom you might have overlooked.
When I asked Steven LaVelle (you’ll find some of his material elsewhere in this book) who he thought the most important person in the success of your company was, he said, “Well, if it isn’t the customer, I guess it would be the boss or the owner. If the boss is not happy or is unethical or lazy or uninspired, the rest of the company will reflect those feelings and attitudes.” Again, I agree with the concept, but believe that you still have an asset even more valuable than a good boss or an ineffective one. It is the employees!
Your workers are your eyes and ears. They are on the front lines of your efforts and they will know what programs are working, which ones aren’t, what the customers are saying and where they are getting resistance. They will know (before you do) which machines are functioning the best and which ones are notorious for needing onsite repair. They will know where to kick a malfunctioning gadget and what their wives overheard at the local beauty parlor. One guy may have seen a recent television show or newspaper article that got him to thinking about a new customer base. An administrator may recommend a young woman over a seasoned veteran for a promotion because he has seen her perform consistently better in several arenas (which may have escaped your notice).
When your entire team knows how you measure success and what is needed to provide that success, they become not just one asset, or useful in the one position they fill, but a living, breathing, dynamic force that, together, can increase your bottom line and overcome obstacles that would cripple less coherent companies.
What is the, “Major driving force?” that moves your company? May I recommend the book, “Success Forces,” by Joseph Sugarman? To each man or woman, these forces may seem different. One person may say, “I am the major driving force within my company,” another may say, “Our company’s success is based on hurricanes, when they come, we are successful, when they aren’t we have to scramble—so Mother Nature is the driving force in my company,” another may say, “We are a Christian based company, if a deal isn’t moral or ethical, or if the people we have to deal with are cheats, its no deal,” another may say, “All our negotiations are ‘win/win or no deal,” and still another may say…what?…what do you say? What is the major driving force for you?
Many carpet cleaning professionals entered the restoration business in order to make considerably more profit and to have a much wider customer base. They have found that by being able to offer these new services, they have much less “down time,” and are far more active even during the “slow seasons.” Some believe that their success is derived directly from having good relationships with adjusters. Others think that their advertising and promotional efforts are what have put them “ahead of the pack.” I have seen little companies that have made themselves look and act like corporations many times their size. I have seen innovative and clever promotional techniques that have pulled in a lion’s share of unique, niche, markets. But, in every case, the consistently successful companies have learned how to “ride the waves” of the forces around them. If they can’t get on an insurance company’s list, they find other ways to market. If they don’t have the “presence” in the market place that some of their larger competitors have, they “work smart, not hard,” they find ways to creatively make themselves seen and heard. But they always, always, believe in themselves, their product, their company and the good work they do—the sleazy, little guys who do “bait and switch” schemes and who out-and-out lie to their customers are gone very quickly.
The companies, who are driven to success, rarely try to compete on price. They don’t have to. Think about it, if you shop at a grocery store and have heard from friends that the store-brand chicken breasts have made them sick, and you have heard this from two different sources, then you see the store brand chicken breasts selling for ninety-nine cents a pound and right next to them there are national brand chicken breasts, selling for a dollar and half per pound—which would you purchase for yourself, your spouse and your kids?
In our industry, cheaters, liars and thieves are usually the amateurs who are quickly removed by the market forces that are constant and unforgiving. The true professionals last, survive and thrive, even in slow times.
Where Do You Start?
You need to develop a plan. First we list our profit centers. They are defined as the products or services that you offer.
Examples of Profit Centers:
- Carpet Cleaning
- 24 Hour Emergency Services
- Water Damage
- Type 1. Clean Water
- Type 2. Grey Water
- Type 3. Black Water
- Odor Control
- Mold Remediation
- Fire Damage
- Contents / Electronics Cleaning
- Fabrics Cleaning (wardrobe)
- Smoke Cleanup
- HVAC / Commercial, Industrial, and Residential
- Cleaning for Health
- Dust downs
- Groomer / Rake
- Pet Urine Removal Products
Your profit centers lead you to your target markets
What other services and products do you offer that are not listed above? How do you make your money? What is your training, expertise and credentials? What new services are you qualified to add?
Your most important and profitable target markets begin with the Insurance Industry and continue through what I call “The Big Eight”.
- Insurance Agents
- Insurance Adjusters / Claims Departments
- PRM – Property Real Estate Managers
- General and Sub Contractors
- Home Inspectors
These eight target markets expand into 22 of the 50+ target markets that are available to you.
When you understand how DMP works as a marketing tool you can add #9, “Any And All Businesses” to your list of The Big Eight. You don’t even have to concern yourself with the entire 50+ because now everyone, every company, and every opportunity can become new business.
Once you determine who your target markets are, you must then develop time-managed programs that answer the question “What’s in it for them? You also need to develop programs that answer the question “What makes you different from your competition?”
Your profit centers lead you to your target markets. Then you and your employees implement the strategies that this plan offers. You personalize the strategies by developing programs for each target market that answer the question “What’s in it for them?” In looking at what’s in it for them you must ask these questions. “What does our competition offer?” “What do vendor lists require?” “What makes us different?” “What do our technical and personal skills give us that is better than our competition?” “What about our location, facility, and equipment?” “Where does this position us in our market?” “Are our credentials better, or different? “Are we a one-stop shop, or a specialist?”
Everyone you are doing business with these days, no matter what target market, wants a no-hassle relationship.
Who is the Most Important Person To Your Business?
I know I mentioned this before—most people think that the customer is the most important person to their business. But, unless you have satisfied employees you will never have satisfied customers! The most important person to your business is your employee and it is through each of their eyes that you focus on your customers. Computers and budgets don’t run companies…people do. As far as the business owner is concerned, employees and customers are equally important. Before you can have a Preferred and Valued Customer program you need a Preferred and Valued Employee program.
Learning how to get the most out of your employees is also part of your marketing campaign. Just like keeping an existing customer is cheaper than finding a new one, keeping an employee is cheaper than hiring and training a new one. The longer your employees stay with you, the longer they can benefit you! Keeping an employee past their first year will double or triple their production.
The more you and your employees learn…the more YOU will earn!
- “What benefits do you offer your customers and your employees now?’
- “Are you keeping your employees so you can grow and make money?”
- “What kind of meeting and training schedules do you adhere to?
- “Who are your best employees and why?”
Your employees must be listed among your most valued assets. Nurture them, train them, make them strong and they will become dedicated to your vision.
To get the most results out of your marketing program you must allocate your time properly. To be time-managed you need to have specific “In Days and Out Days”.
In Days are used for your preparations, taking care of your Needs List items, and handling office functions. Out Days are for calling on your target markets. Statistics show that the best days for making outside calls are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. This leaves Mondays and Fridays as your In Days.
Over the years, our experience has proven that when making outside calls you must use a 60 day rotation. Insurance agents are the foundation of your marketing program. For this reason you must dedicate every other month to calling only on agents. The intervening month is for making calls on all other target markets. We designate Agent Month with a circle, because it is forever. The Intervening Month uses a rectangle with a 5 day calendar inserted.
Definitions of the program tools that are used for efficient time management:
- DRRM – Direct Response Rotation Management used when making outside sales calls
- VPSA – Visit, then phone to set an appointment.
- MPSA – Mail, then phone to set an appointment.
- PHONE – Client follow-up and customer service.
- FAX – Quick and inexpensive contact with particular target markets.
- EMAIL is also becoming a popular form of communication, but be sure that the recipient reads his (her) emails himself, and is actually receiving your transmissions. The other drawback of emails is that often they don’t have the immediacy of a FAX or telephone call (they can sit there for hours or even a day or two before they are read, depending on the habits of the recipient).
Two other areas that need to be discussed are your weekly itineraries and your master calendar. Every Friday (In Day) you are to do an itinerary for the following week. You must then place this information in your master calendar for the entire month / year. More information on subjects relating to time management is included later in this article.
Many businesses are disappointed in the results that they achieve because they don’t realize that everyone, including their competition, has improved. They have improved in areas of quality, customer service, price, and even re-engineering. Time management gives you an advantage over your competition because it allows you to be far better organized.
A part-time effort brings part-time results. Time management brings you profits.
Once you have completed your itinerary, which (as you can see above) is not a time consuming project, you need to add it to your Master Calendar. Your Master Calendar is a large, month to month, calendar that documents your activities. Always keep your past calendars as you will need to refer back to them for planning next year’s activities, as well as budgets.
This article is not about spending a lot of your money on fancy brochures, complicated handouts, or expensive lunches. It is about getting out to hundreds or even thousands of targeted contacts and answering the question, “What’s in it for them, by doing business with you?” You must saturate your local target area using a 50-80 mile radius from your location. This is a form of “branding” that, during the first year, sets your foundation. Understanding the fact that you will have hundreds or even thousands of contacts the first year, also tells you that you will need hundreds or thousands of info packs the first year. You must include the costs of all handout material needs in your budgeting.
This program is the most effective and the most affordable way to increase your business. For what you would spend on one full-page ad annually, in a major market phone book, you could pay for a full time sales person, all of their training, and all of the collateral materials that they will need for handouts. Plus, after the first year you will have hundreds (or more!) contacts in your database that you will continue to work and benefit from.
Without a commitment to consistency and a total follow-up plan, time will rust all of your programs and the foundation that you have built.
What are you spending your money on now for marketing, sales, and advertising?
In the carpet cleaning industry you focused largely on reaching individual consumers and possibly some business owners, hotel managers etc. In the restoration industry you are branching out to include insurance agents and adjusters—it is still advertising, but to a different audience and with a different product. You still focus on benefits and relationships—but now your target market has a different agenda and you market to that.
By no means should you neglect your old market. After all they made you successful in the first place. Just remember that the insurance people are used to a certain way of doing things and are looking for different benefits than your past customers. Find out what they are by visiting them, talking to other restoration professionals, and even reading some articles from the restoration industry on the Internet, get a feel for the business and you will find that your marketing efforts are easier and more fruitful.
And finally, what I have done is to paint you a picture, in broad strokes, as to how to get started. Nothing happens without a good, solid business plan. I think it was Benjamin Franklin, who once said, “Those who fail to plan are planning to fail.”
I would like to add that there are dozens of fine points that you will learn along the way. For example, plumbers are a fine resource for referrals, but what happens when a plumber, whose client has an inch-deep swimming pool where her living room used to be, refers the client to you, she likes you, she shakes your hand and tells you that you have the job—but, the adjuster shows up and says, “Well, this guy isn’t on our list, so I recommend you go with someone else.”
Now what? That is the sort of thing in which I have become an expert, and if ever you find yourself in that situation (or if I can be of service as a consultant or as a trainer in your company) don’t hesitate to call. We’ll talk free for fifteen minutes, then, if you think I can be of service…
See how easy it is to get clients? Be honest, be real, offer a thing they need, at a reasonable price, give them a demonstration, or testimonials or any other kind of proof that you can solve their problem, and chances are—you’re hired!
Oh, and by the way, the answer to the question about the woman who came to you by way of the plumber—you got the job, not even a high and mighty insurance agent can change that, but don’t be surprised if he offers you the opportunity to get on his “list.”
Should you take the offer? Give me a call (916) 929-6966 or email me FBotelho9@sbcglobal.net …I’ll tell you the answer for free. Who knows what great things might happen next?