I recently heard a story about a lady whose daughter was in a bad accident that left her paralyzed. So for the past 20-plus years, her mother has had to feed her, bathe her, and change her adult diapers. When my friend asked how she has been able to give her daughter 24-hour care for over 20 years, the woman simply said that you must play with the cards you have been dealt. What a great attitude! She could have said, “This simply was not fair — I didn’t ask for this. Why am I being punished?” But that’s not what she did. Instead, she has done whatever she could to ensure her daughter has the best life possible.
When I hear stories like this, I think about how it might relate to my life and my business. You see, it’s not the cards we have been dealt that matters. It is how we play those cards.
For instance, take the weather. It has been an extremely mild winter for us. I could complain that this is not fair. I work hard; can’t I get a little break?
I am sure I could call some of my friends in the HVAC business and they would agree by saying, “Jimmy, you’re right. It’s been a tough start to the year. All the suppliers are saying everyone is down 20 percent.”
So, let me ask you this: Do you want to be like all the other contractors, or do you want to step up, take responsibility, and make positive changes in your business? You need to have a marketing plan that covers the whole year — month by month, season by season — addressing what you need to do based on historical averages.
When will you start marketing for cooling tuneups? When will you begin heating tuneups? Do you have replacement specials in place and ready to go for spring and fall? What are you planning for summer and winter? Are you going to run any IAQ specials? Do you have a marketing calendar planned out for the entire year, with all the products and services you will offer in 2018?
Due to the mild winter, we pushed our marketing for tuneups out a month early. Because the demand call count is down, so are the replacement sales. We are now planning a preseason replacement special that allows customers to replace their air conditioners for only $99 a month. We had already started planning this spring promotion for replacement in January, so since it was preplanned, all we had to do was move it up a month.
There is nothing I can do about the weather, but I can adjust my marketing to give me a better chance at hitting goals. When you design a marketing plan, you also need to plan some “what-ifs.” What if we have a mild winter? We will need to adjust the marketing plan for tuneups to happen earlier. What if the winter weather lasts longer than normal? We might need to push off the marketing for a few weeks. Things like this need to be planned before the year starts.
In one of my management meetings, we were talking about the call counts and how they were down this year over last year. This upset me. My management team was acting as if we have no control over what is going on in our business. I can’t make the phone ring with demand calls when there is no demand. What I can do, however, is fill up the schedule with tuneups. I have heard one of my business mentors say hundreds of times that you can only control three things in business:
Your time — You can make outbound calls. You can follow up on missed opportunities. You can make postcards or write letters.
Your people’s time — If you don’t have enough inbound calls, what are the call takers and dispatchers doing? Have them shift to outbound calls. You can also have salespeople follow up on all non-closed status calls, or have them follow up on service calls run on older equipment.
Your money — You can move some of the marketing dollars up or around to meet the needs of your current situation.
I know we have all heard that it’s not what happens to you that matters; it’s how you handle what happens to you. To get the calls and leads you need to hit your goal, you must take the initiative to create a plan. Focus on the goal, and do whatever is needed to generate business.
Remember these four things:
Create a specific marketing plan with measurable goals; Execute your plan and measure your results against it; Change your plan if you’re not achieving the desired results; and Keep measuring the effectiveness of your marketing, and adjust it to improve the results.
It’s your business. It’s your life. Play with the cards you are dealt, and make success happen.