Nothing Beats 'Shoe Leather' Marketing

Nothing replaces face-to-face, hand-shakin', eyeball-to-eyeball selling. Nothing! Yet so many contractors have fallen for the old tricks of advertisers and marketing schemes that promise to do everything for you but have the customer sign the contract. Enough is enough.

Do you need to do marketing? Yes! Do you need to advertise? Absolutely! But do not let these efforts, as needed as they are, replace getting out of the office and making as many courtesy calls as you can possibly make. Let me give you some ideas to make your "shoe leather" marketing more effective during these very difficult times.

Never leave your office without your business cards, brochures, samples, etc. Always have information about your company and services handy, but don't settle for just dropping off the marketing wares. In between your daily efforts and scheduled appointments, target zip code areas or work type and commit to stopping and introducing yourself to potential clients.

Ask for the owner, property manager, or the head of the facility or grounds.Always smile, and when you meet people stick out your hand first to shake theirs. Give a firm grip and make sure your eyes are looking directly into their eyes as this sends a sure signal of confidence and enthusiasm.

Schedule a project theme each week. For instance, the first week each month you could focus on property managers; the second week you could focus on health care properties; the third week industrial properties; and the fourth week government projects. Look at your past two to three years of business and identify these "honey holes" - lucrative and plentiful project types. Focus on these themes and work extra hard on seeking out those types of projects during that particular week.

Don't think the "themes" idea should prevent you from pursuing any projects, calls or web leads that come in off-theme. The theme is there to remind you that in addition to everything else you are doing, you should fill any crack of time by searching for those theme projects.

Prepare ahead. A week or two out from a theme week, prepare a list of names, addresses and other information you can use in your shoe leather marketing efforts. Review the list each morning and map out your day, visiting potential clients who are located in the same area of town or along a particular route.

"Press the flesh." This is an old sales phrase, and it means you should get out of your office, out of your vehicle and go directly to clients to meet them. There is still something very likeable about the sales person who is doing face-to-face courtesy calls rather than just sending brochures or postcards and hoping for a return phone call. Don't get me wrong, we need marketing too, but there is nothing that replaces a client sizing up an owner or estimator in person.

Hire an intern. A contractor friend of mine in the southwest hired a local college student to spend 15 to 20 hours a week blitzing areas in the contractor's market - basically going door-to-door - to introduce himself, the contractor's company and leave behind a brochure. In the process he collects as much personal information from the prospect as possible to help the contractor determine the best candidates for a follow-up call.

Part of the thinking here is this intern increased the contractor's leads by 100 to 300 a week. With a closing rate of 30 percent, that means he got a shot at 30 to 90 more jobs a week than before the intern.

My contractor friend pays the college student about $10 per hour and puts him in a company vehicle. Thus far, the college student has made over 1,000 contacts, turning almost 450 of those into follow-up calls from the contractor. To date, the contractor has closed about 23 more jobs! Think about this - for a little over $1,000 in wages, about $200-$300 in brochures, and about $300-$400 in gas expenses, my friend has increased his scheduled jobs by 23.

In a time when many contractors are hurting for more leads, shoe leather marketing gives you a first-hand look at prospects and may help you qualify the prospect sooner. True, you can't hit as many people in person as you could with one marketing drop of post cards, but those cards can't determine your best prospects.

And in getting out to meet those prospects, they may open up to you in person and introduce you to opportunities you would have never known about. While you do not want to spin your wheels with dead ends, don't be so quick to write off prospects that may have special situations. Work with them to develop creative payment plans, warranty programs, or other situations that benefit both parties.

Many pieces of sales information can add to the effectiveness of shoe leather marketing, but nothing can replace it. Don't be shy about getting out and pounding the pavement!