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Stand Out from Your Competition — without Advertising

Originally published
Originally published: 6/1/2017

Consumer survey reveals top three ways to capture the attention of a prospective customer.


Why is it that 80 percent of the contractors I talk to — no, make that 90 percent — tell me they need more calls? Over and over, I hear contractors from New York to Sydney say they’d be doing great if they could just “get the phone to ring.”

You’d think getting the phone to ring would be easier than ever. There are more places to advertise than there have ever been, and with the advent of social media and “inbound marketing,” customers should flock to your company like magic whenever they have the slightest need.

If only it were that easy.

It takes a lot of money and/or effort to get someone’s attention at just the right time so they call you, and not the other guy. Competition is fierce, and when it comes to demand service, the customer doesn’t have a lot of time to be picky.

How will a homeowner even know you exist, and if she does, why would she call you to repair her air conditioner instead of any of the other companies in your market?

To attract new customers you need to stand out from the crowd. For some, running an ad is the only hope they have of “standing out” — and that hope is slim indeed.

It’s become more difficult than ever to get someone’s attention with traditional advertising. Mail may never be opened, people fast-forward through commercials and creating a pay-per-click ad that “stands out” is pretty much against the rules.

Because of all that, traditional advertising can be costly, ineffective and maddeningly unpredictable. But there are other ways to get someone’s attention.

Recently, Service Nation Alliance conducted a survey of its members’ customers, and got back thousands of responses.

One of the questions asked of these customers was: What works best when it comes to getting your attention? There were three answers that came up more than any others.

Online Reviews

According to customers, the first way you can stand out is through online reviews. The typical shopper puts a lot of faith in those star ratings and testimonials.

A company with a lot of positive reviews has a big advantage over one that doesn’t. Unfortunately, there may be no way to generate enough reviews to catch up to some of the more established companies. After all, you can’t simply go out and buy a bunch of 5-star reviews (right, Google?).

Without a doubt, you should strive to create happy customers and good reviews, but you might never have enough to be the company that stands out from the crowd.

Credible Promise

The second way to stand out is by offering a credible, appealing promise. Potential customers want to know what’s in store for them when they call your company (peace of mind is a big selling point).

A slogan or tagline or unique selling proposition can draw people in. That’s a great way for a customer to differentiate between competitors when she lines them up side-by-side; but how do you get into that lineup?

How will she even know your company exists or that you have the most appealing promise if you aren’t visible to her? For your promise to attract new business it usually means you have to spend more of those erratic advertising dollars.

Your Fleet

The third way to stand out offers more hope for the average contractor. It’s your truck.

A large percentage of respondents said your company stands out when your trucks are frequently in their neighborhood. That’s true, but only if your truck catches their attention.

It can’t look like all the other white vans in the neighborhood. White vans blend in. They might as well be invisible to consumers.

There’s a reason white vans are associated with kidnappers — kidnappers don’t want to be noticed or remembered. They don’t want to stand out. They want to blend in. When it comes to white vans, remember: they’re good for kidnappers, bad for contractors!

An even larger percentage of respondents said your company stands out when your vehicles are clean and have a distinctive wrap, lettering or style. Now that’s something any contractor can do, and if done properly, can make your company more noticeable and memorable than even your biggest competitor.

There are really creative designers out there who can make your trucks unforgettable and turn them into “rolling billboards” — just look at HVACR Business’ annual Tops in Trucks Fleet Design Contest.

The impact is immediate. You won’t believe how quickly people start telling you they “see your trucks everywhere” as soon as you put one on the road. I’ve seen it happen over and over.

If you navigated to in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you’d find “The Company with the Little Red Trucks” — A-abc Appliance & Air Conditioning. At their peak, A-abc did about $12 million in residential service and replacements. The same volume of work would generate $20 million today.

A lot of that could be attributed to those red trucks. Do you think Ahron Katz was onto something with that tagline? It didn’t take him long to realize how powerful those trucks could be from a marketing standpoint. He knew how to use them to drive sales.

Those trucks were not only easy to spot, they became an integral part of the brand. People all over Dallas would see them everywhere they looked; either driving down their street or prominently displayed in their phone book, mailbox, TV or pretty much anywhere else Ahron could run an ad.

An image of the truck appeared on everything they produced. When combined with A-abc’s credible, appealing promise — You’ll be astounded by our service or you don’t have to pay a dime. — it created an unmistakable, successful brand; all because he used red when everyone else was using white.

You may not be able to attract enough reviews to get someone’s attention, and there’s a good chance your promise is barely being noticed. Based on the survey, the best way most contractors can stand out is to ditch the creepy, windowless, white van and have your trucks outfitted with a professionally designed wrap that is unique, eye-catching and memorable.

If you really want to ramp up the effectiveness of your truck, add your “credible, appealing promise” right next to your logo. And, when your phone starts ringing, don’t forget to ask for that review!



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Stand Out from Your Competition — without Advertising

Consumer survey reveals top three ways to capture the attention of a prospective customer.