As a roofing contractor you end up juggling a lot of balls, so when someone mentions you need a marketing plan it becomes one of those things that gets put on the back burner . . . and then, well, eventually just fizzles out.
You've only got so many hours in a day, right? But what if I were to tell you that without a marketing plan in place you could be at risk of losing some of your roofing customers, restricting your growth, and ultimately wasting your budget; no business owner can afford that.
Before I get down to the nitty-gritty of how to implement a simple marketing plan (and what to avoid), it's worth understanding what a marketing plan is, because, quite honestly, even for those of us in marketing it's not the easiest question to answer.
Put simply, a marketing plan is a thought-out way to educate your customer on what makes you different, and why they would want to buy into you.
So, where do business owners go wrong when it comes to a marketing plan?
The most ineffective marketing plan I come across time and again for small business is when an owner hears that they need to be out there doing marketing and they immediately think that means being present on social media.
What happens next is the owner finds someone younger than themselves who understands the platform to go and create their marketing.
The problem with this is they hire someone who is a “poster” and not a marketer – they post photos, add a caption, and job done...but not really.
This strategy is what is known as an awareness campaign and often leads to disappointing results. While this works for brands that have billions of dollars like, say, Coca Cola, because it reminds people they exist, for a small company it's not the best use of resources. There's usually nothing in that campaign that makes a smaller company stand out as unique and so they are forgotten about by the next scroll.
What's a simple, proven strategy to focus on instead?
What I've found most successful is taking your marketing budget – the money you were going to pay that young person – and instead sitting down and asking yourself, “What can we create that is an unexpected experience for our customer group?”
You see experiences evolve into a story that can be told not just on social media, but by word of mouth...and that is the most powerful marketing tool out there.
If it's an intriguing story, you don't need to put a ton of money behind it, people will naturally share it and you usually have guys on your crew who will be proud to post about it, too.
Take Red Bull as an example. Most people will remember back in October 2012 when Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner flew into the stratosphere over New Mexico in a helium balloon before free falling in a pressure suit and then parachuting to earth. Exciting, right? Exactly what the brand is known for. The team at Red Bull sat back sipping their coffee while all the world reposted and talked about it.
Of course, it doesn't need to be that grandiose an experience, and you probably don't want to be endorsing heavy objects falling out of the sky as a roofing expert anyway.
Another example, on a smaller scale, is the contracting company in Istanbul that was building a series of ‘Artful Living’ complexes. They had a minuscule marketing budget for a project of that size, so the person in charge of marketing thought, “What can we do differently that no-one else is doing out there? How can we create something unique?” So, they took their budget and wrapped a bunch of their construction vehicles on site in bright flamboyant colors. It shouted, “Living Artfully” (it’s always great to think of one or two adjectives to describe your business or project). Everyone wanted their photo taken in a down market when no one else was selling.
You see marketing has changed, and so too has our approach. Only a few years ago marketing was interruption based (did you know, the average person gets bombarded with more than 10,000 marketing pieces a day? If there’s a breaking point, my best guess is we reached it long ago). Today, the big trend we see is that marketing has shifted to building a community – those brands are growing because they are creating something of value for the specific market they choose to serve.
Now we’ve delved into the background, it’s time sit down and talk about exactly how you can go about doing this.
Before we start, I suggest throwing the idea of the annual marketing plan out the window. The 90-day plan is where it's at. It allows you to be flexible enough to shift when opportunities arise and still have goals.
First, decide the UNIQUE trait you want to be known for.
For Red Bull, it’s extreme action. For the Istanbul development group it was living artfully. The adjective you choose becomes the filter for the experiences you create.
What is your customer getting from you that they can't get from anyone else?
Second, decide WHO, specifically, you want to serve.
Who you pick becomes the community you are serving. If you give them enough value, they will become your raving fans.
Marketing in 2021 is about talking to a very specific market. Think, Millennial homeowners living in the NW part of the city.
The better you know your community, the deeper you can speak to their specific needs, and create experiences they will resonate with.
Lastly, create an experience that shows your community WHY they want to work with you.
Creating an unexpected experience that is in line with your unique traits will showcase to your community that you are innovative, and that you have taken the time to bring them value that other companies haven’t.
You want to give your audience a story to tell. The more interesting the story, the more likely they are to share it.
I’m sure you’d rather have people choose to talk about you for free than pay to put marketing in front of them they ignore.
Danny Kerr is Director of Assessment at Breakthrough Academy. See his full bio here.