Frankly, there’s a lot of bad marketing and advertising advice out there. And when it comes to Home Services Companies the two most common and useless pieces are:
- Create a USP, and
- Market to a List
Let’s tackle the Unique Selling Proposition BS first.
Why USPs Are a Waste of Time — Especially for Home Service Companies
Look, no one wants a unique plumber (or AC tech, electrician, etc.). In fact, no one actually desires any of those services at all — UNTIL they have a plumbing, AC, or electrical problem. And in the face of that problem, the only things customers want from a home service provider are:
- That they answer the phone when called
- That they’re available to come out right away
- That they’re technically competent to fix the problem properly, and
- That they are honest, professional, and pleasant
Any “unique” quality or characteristic you might attempt to claim that falls outside of those four things will end up as either
- Irrelevant to the customer, or
- Only relevant so far as they act as indexes or cues for those four things.
And notice that none of those four things could possibly be UNIQUE based on your actions alone. YOU certainly should be able to demonstrate your ability to meet these requirements. Because if you can’t then no amount of advertising is going to help you. But while you can — and should — communicate that you’re an honest plumber, you’d be a fool to claim that you are the only honest plumber in town. This is why Unique Selling Propositions are counter-productive: they actively prevent you from communicating the factors customers care about.
Why Great Messaging Is Both Simple to Understand And Hard to Execute
That customers only care about the four above-listed factors is actually the tricky part. Because those four things are simple to claim, but hard to make people believe.
All love poems are about love, but there’s a world of difference between Shakespeare and “Roses are red…”So too, all non-idiotic branding for home service businesses will be focused on those four things. But there’s a world of difference between an announcer reading copy points and story-based ads that persuade the public of your character and mission. This is why the quality of your ad matters so damn much. Not only because a great ad will help break through the clutter and ensure that you’re messaging is heard, but because without brilliant writing, your ads won’t be believed even if they are heard.
Crappy Advice #2: Marketing to a List
Marketing to a list can be solid advice. A lot of Direct Response marketers have grown rich by building tribes and marketing to them. But this strategy is of limited use for most home services businesses. Why?Because that list doesn’t exist. And for the simple reason, that demand for your services is externally motivated rather than internally motivated.
Your Services Are Externally Motivated — And That Matters
Basically, what you sell is a “grudge buy.”People don’t want to buy it; they have to buy it. And they have to buy it because of an external trigger — something that happens external to their inner desires and motivations which forces them to need what you sell. This is as opposed to an internal motivation that makes people desire what you sell. If you have trouble understanding the difference, try to imagine the customer showing off her recent purchase. If you can imagine her showing off a new car, outfit, iPhone, etc. — that’s an internally-motivated purchase. If you can’t imagine her showing off her new water heater, furnace, unclogged toilet, etc. — that’s an externally-motivated purchase.
As the examples indicate, most external triggers are a breakdown that requires repair or replacement of an un-sexy necessity. Absent the breakdown, you just can’t get people to desire what you sell. That’s the bad news. The good news is that when prospects suffer a breakdown, you don’t have to convince them to buy. Those people in need are already highly motivated to buy from someone. You just have to convince them to buy from you.
Why The List Doesn’t Exist
Bringing this back to lists, can you see how there’s no list of people destined to suffer a breakdown in the next few months?That’s why the advice to market to a list is useless for most home service companies. So while you likely have a list of customers that you market to, that’s not a list that’ll help you grow your company. It’ll help you sell tune-ups to keep your techs busy in the off-season. But you can’t grow your customer base and company by marketing to old customers. You need a way to get new customers, which is the job of advertising — making “marketing to a list” useless advertising advice for your business.
The Marketing Advice You SHOULD Listen To Instead
So if USPs are bullshit and marketing to a list is relatively useless, what should you be doing?Well, let’s focus on both a Stop-Doing and a Start-Doing list, ok?
- Stop worrying about a USP.
- Stop trying to grow your business by marketing to a list
- Stop aiming your operational improvement efforts at anything that isn’t one of the four factors that customers care about.
- Focus operational improvements on the factors that matter most to customers.
- Aim your advertising at communicating those four factors.
- Hire an advertising consultant who can create story-based ads that effectively communicating those four factors.
- Ensure your advertising consultant understands how to brand un-sexy, externally-triggered businesses.
And that’s my best advice for you, today. Good luck and Godspeed!