Driving Effective Lead Generation With Referrals, Marketing, and Maintenance
By Kevin Nott
Lead generation is what drives any business.
Yet many business owners and managers in the service contracting industry leave lead generation to chance. Instead of implementing demonstrated processes to deliver reliable, predictable results, they send out the occasional e-blast or direct mailer and wait for the phone to ring.
Some common misconceptions often prevent service professionals from taking control of lead generation. Many think it’s just too hard or the effort isn’t worth it. Others assume only people with a particular personality can successfully drive leads. Some mistake lead generation for cold calling.
Ultimately, successful lead generation is a process. It takes effort to set up and maintain. But the work more than pays for itself. What’s more, anybody can do it. A lead generation system truly works when the whole team is involved, from sales to service technicians, support and management.
The best source of effective leads is referrals. That means getting customers to talk about your company to their friends and neighbors. Typically, this won’t happen unless you ask them to do it.
A strong referral program rewards customers for recommending your company and is an important mechanism for generating leads. The essential elements of a strong referral program include:
· Incentives: Offer customers who directly refer new business to your company a reward, such as a $100 gift card or prepaid debit card. This is an excellent investment for a potential lifetime of revenue.
· Monitoring: Every owner should watch lead sources regularly. It’s easy and affordable to install software to determine where incoming calls come from. Additionally, ask new customers how they learned about your company.
· Buy-in: Team members who are excited about their jobs and enthusiastic about their work are effective ambassadors. Instead of simply marking off a checklist at the end of a service call, they’ll engage with customers in ways to encourage them to share your company’s name.
Too many owners and managers believe marketing is a direct pipeline to new business. In other words, thinking by scheduling an email campaign or promoting a social media post, the phone will ring off the hook.
That’s not the case. Marketing is a key part of a good lead generation strategy, but you must be realistic about its purpose and effectiveness.
Marketing is about making an impression, so your company is top of mind when a customer needs service. This can be as simple as a banner at the local ballpark or your company’s name and logo on a school play program, or you can invest in more sophisticated tools such as social media posts or pay per click campaigns. Either way, ongoing marketing helps build your company’s brand awareness throughout your service area. Over time, you can be confident that name recognition will drive new business in areas you’ve saturated with your branding.
It takes proper timing to turn brand awareness and name recognition into new customers. The odds are slim you’ll place a door hanger or send an e-blast the same day someone’s plumbing springs a leak.
One way to control timing is to plant seeds. Training technicians to discuss the condition and age of the system they’re working on can be a building block for planned equipment replacement.
Many customers rarely think about their plumbing systems, so giving them a reason to associate service with your company is part of a long-term strategy for generating new business. You can jumpstart planned replacement jobs by planting seeds throughout your relationship with a customer.
A company that doesn’t embrace maintenance agreements as part of its culture misses a huge opportunity. Planned maintenance is one of the best, most effective drivers for lead generation. They are the hidden gem of the service industry.
Companies that connect with customers through maintenance agreements have a unique advantage. In addition to regular maintenance calls, those customers are likely to call their maintenance provider for any other service.
To maximize leads, the entire team must be on board. Every team member is the face of the company to someone. Even if you’re in accounts payable, the vendors in your service area are potential customers. How you treat them could plant a seed for a service call one day.
Treating customers right must be part of your culture. When a customer calls you and says, “I just got off the phone with your dispatcher. They treated me better than I’ve ever been treated by a service company,” that’s lead generation and a referral seed! That customer may have already called, but after an experience like that, they’re much more likely to come back—and to tell someone who trusts them your company will take care of them.
Kevin Nott has been actively involved in the HVAC industry since 1992 and has been a Profit Coach with BDR since 2010. He has served as owner, general manager, CFO and controller of multiple service companies, and a territory manager for a large HVAC distributor.