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(Marketing Strategy)

Transactional Vs. Relational Customers: Are You Attracting The Wrong People?

The most important messaging choice boils down to whether you’re attracting Relational or Transactional customers.

Jeff Sexton
Jeff Sexton
May 6, 2021
Transactional Vs. Relational Customers: Are You Attracting The Wrong People?

Note that the headline says “attracting,” not “targeting.”

People hear targeting and think media choices — are you on the wrong station, in the wrong magazine or newspaper, or hitting the wrong demographics or keywords with your digital campaigns? That’s not what I’m talking about. Who you attract depends more on messaging than media. And it has far more to do with psychographics and motivations than demographics. In short, we’re answering the questions: What are you saying and who finds that message appealing? Understanding Relational vs. Transactional Buying Modes This is a big topic, but in simple terms, the most important messaging choice boils down to whether you’re attracting Relational or Transactional customers? Now, keep in mind that relational and transaction are buying modes, not permanent labels. Everyone buys some things transactionally and others relationally. One old school example is gas. Some people pay attention to the price of gas and will go to the station with the lowest price, even if it’s a different station every time. They’re shopping transactionally. Others always get their gas from the same one or two places, because of location, lighting, brand of gas, pay at the pump options, or how nice the attached convenience store is, etc. They’re shopping relationally. Another example might be eggs. Some people buy flats of eggs to get the best possible price, because “eggs are eggs.”Others only buy Certified Humane, Pastured, Organic eggs because the health of the hens determines the quality of the eggs. But it’s not only that one’s a price shopper and the other isn’t. Here’s a summary of all the other ways they differ:

relational vs transactional

For transactional customers, getting the best deal is the goal, and time spent researching, comparison shopping, and negotiating are the “price” one pays to get that deal. For Relational customers, getting the full benefit they’re after with a minimal investment of time and cognitive effort is the goal, and they accept that paying for others’ experience, expertise, and service is the “price” that buys that benefit.

Relational vs. Transactional and The Dangers of a Business-Marketing Mismatch

To be clear, both relational and transactional customers can be profitable. But only if your business is set up to service them. Walmart is a classic example of a successful low-price business designed for transactional customers. Hence their slogan: “Always Low Prices.” And because Walmart is set up to be a low-priced provider, it works. They squeeze vendors to keep their costs low, and they make a 15% margin workable through massive inventory turn. The problem comes when your business strategy and advertising messaging are mis-matched. A business set up to service relational customers whose ads attract transactional customers will experience a lot of heartache because of it. That business will never have the low prices transactional customers demand. Plus they’ll never get the added pay-off that comes with long-term loyal customers. But before we get into how to properly attract relational customers, let’s take a look at why they’re such a powerful driver of profit.

Modeling Relational vs. Transactional Customers for Traffic, Sales, Revenue, and Margin

Consider the following a “classical” modeling of the two buying modes. Classical in that it’s simplified and idealized for the sake of maximum clarity. And also, ‘cause it’s a wee bit dated, from back when people bought Blu-Ray players and did their comparison shopping in-store rather than online. Yet, none of that takes away from the effects and dynamics we are trying to understand, so don’t let it distract you. So let’s say 10 people are shopping for a Blu-Ray player, with a 50-50 split of transactional vs. relational buying modes. The 5 relational buyers’ shopping behavior will look like this:

time to sell

Each Relational buyer goes to their trusted source for electronics or home theatre and buys the model that’s recommended to them. In contrast, the 5 Transactional buyers’ shopping behavior will look like this:

time to sell 2

Each Transactional shopper visits between three to five stores looking for the best deal (having already researched the best “bang for your buck” Blu-Ray player they want). When they finally find the store with the lowest anticipated price, they buy it.

Relational vs. Transactional Customers and Traffic

Since the Transactional Shoppers visit an average of four times as many stores, they account for a vastly disproportionate amount of store (or Web) traffic. Yet, despite this fact, Transactional Shoppers only represent half the buyers:

traffic and buyers

Yet it’s when we get to looking at revenue numbers that the picture changes even further:

dollars spent
traffic to revenue

And the real difference comes when we look at profit margins:

traffic to profit

So the answer to “why target relational customers instead of transaction is simple:**Profit Margin!**And perhaps even more important is customer loyalty. By their very nature, relational customers are loyal customers when they find a relational provider. Whereas transactional customers are, well, transactional — their loyalty hinges on price.

Where Most Advertisers Go Wrong

Given that there’s a 50-50 split between Transactional and Relational buyers for most categories, you’d expect to see a similar split between messages aimed at each buyer. Or, given the disproportionate amounts of revenue and profit generated by Relational buyers, you might even expect an over-abundance of messaging aimed at Relationals. But that’s not what you find. Instead the advertising split looks like this:

cost to acquire

90% of the ads on the air — especially ads on the radio — are advertising price:

  • Ads for sales.
  • Ads for special items at discounted pricing (e.g., most tune-up specials)
  • Ads for “loss leaders” and lead-gen offers
  • Ads claiming “we will not be undersold”
  • Even ads (stupidly) claiming “competitive pricing”

And the real problem starts when a Relational company accidentally advertises with this kind of messaging. In service companies, this seen when the Transactional ads bring in tire kickers who end up not buying, forcing the company to apply a minimum “service” fee in order to screen out the very customers they paid to attract!

Why Most Ads Don’t Attract Relational Customers

So why don’t more companies aim to attract Relational customers? A number of reasons:

  • Most relational style ads don’t sound like ads, which scares off too many business owners that want “professional sounding ads.”
  • Relational advertising requires you to “walk away from” Transactional buyers, and too many biz owners are scared to do that, seeking to be all things to all customers.
  • Relational advertising requires vulnerability and self-disclosure on the part of the advertiser.
  • Advertisers are more interested in immediate response and traffic than long-term attraction of and bonding with relational customers.

In short, you have to put out a relational message to capture Relational buyers, and relational messages aren’t just about expertise or quality. Relational messages are invariably about values and business philosophy (hence the success of Origin Stories in attracting Relational customers)And for those kinds of messages to work, they can’t be faked. That said, some companies have figured out the value of Relational Buyers. In fact, Apple does this brilliantly.

Apple as a Case Study in Attracting Relational Buyers

Think about what Apple promises its customers. It’s never that you’ll get the best price. Or even that you’ll have the most features and specs. Apple always promises that your user experience will be everything you’re hoping it will be. That you’ll for sure make the right choice with an Apple product, that the support will be so much better, and that everything will “just work.” This is messaging aimed straight at the heart of the Relational buyer. And it works, which is why they can consistently sell a relatively small fraction of total computers and tablets while reaping the lion’s share of the profits. For example, currently, Apple sells 39% of the smartphones in the U. S. while capturing 66% of the profit. It’s also why they have an army of Apple loyalists willing to buy their latest and greatest stuff, every time they release something new. So in a world of ads screaming about low prices, sales, and discounts, make your ads stand out from the crowd. And do it while attracting the most profitable prospects by advertising to the Relational customer.

(Online)
(Offline)
(Lead Gen)
(Storytelling)
(Marketing Strategy)
Jeff Sexton
Jeff Sexton

Businesses either sell $5 haircuts, or fix $5 haircuts. I’m your guy if your company fixes $5 haircuts. Working together, we'll de-commodify your business, make pricing pressure a thing of the past, and grab the lion’s share of customers willing to pay a premium for your service or product.

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Frequently asked questions

Questions? We’ve got answers.

Who does the Wizard of Ads® for Contractors work with?

Wizard of Ads® for Contractors work with healthy and growing Residential Home Service Contractors hungry to grow by multiples, like you.

You are ready, willing, and able to grow your business. You are open to change and are seeking a distinctive angle of approach to gain the time and attention of a too-busy public.

You know that lasting relationships take time, patience, and good energy to nurture and cultivate. We carefully enter into every arrangement with the intention of working with you for as long as you own your business. You prefer lasting partnerships.

You are already a solid operator. You have successfully grown your business and appreciate the impact the right brand story will have to get to the next level in your operation. You know a strong relational message takes time to gain momentum, but it’s worth the one-time short-term discomfort for the long-term gains.

Marketing cannot fix a failing business.

We accelerate what’s already happening in a business. If your business is on the rocks, marketing will only speed up the inevitable.  

You’re focused on lasting change that leads to exponential, profitable growth, not just sales at any cost. Intuitively, you know that communication that enhances every element of your customer's experience and your employee's culture is the key to your success.

How does the Wizard of Ads® for Contractors charge?

Traditional marketing agencies are designed to capture the greatest amount of revenue from a client, regardless of results. Every last item is billed and expensed to the client. Typical agency fees can represent a whopping 55% of the entire advertising budget. That means a $5 million dollar advertising budget, you would spend $2.75 million on agency fees.

Think of Wizard of Ads® for Contractors as the Anti-Agency.

Our income is not tied to your advertising budget. Our income is exclusively tied to your growth. Our goal is to maximize your advertising impact with the lowest reasonable spend. This allows you to spend only what is necessary or to put extra horsepower into aggressively growing in your market.

The genius of this model is that it perfectly aligns our motivations as true partners for exponential profitable growth without the pain of being unaffordable. Ultimately, we are confident in taking the risk of being underpaid in the first few years because we know the results always speak for themselves.

Next, we do not accept commissions, referral fees, kickbacks, or other compensation from any service providers we recommend or engage for production work. Most agencies do. This includes the 15% agency commission for media buying. This approach is considerably different from the compensation plan employed by most advertising agencies, as it eliminates any potential conflicts of interest and allows us to focus our entire attention on helping you grow your business profitably as a true partner. For example, a $500,000 annual media buy would involve a $75,000 commission that we would have removed directly from your media providers' invoices.

This is the perfect pricing model for Residential Home Services.

By tying ourselves to gross revenue, we only have one motivation. Your motivation. We have no motivation to convince you to spend more money on marketing than what is necessary, and since we are a variable expense to sales, we NEVER become too expensive to have us on your team.

In almost every case, we end up lowering the amount of money you spend. We will stay within your planned marketing budget, including your media spend, production, and our Annual Fee. Add on the fact that you get any and all commissions back for media buys and various services provided by outside providers, and you will actually save money having us on your team.

Don’t forget, we have the largest buying power in North America for media buying, meaning for every dollar you spend buying media, we only spend 27 cents on average. This stretches your reach, impact, and frequency in a way no other agency (or yourself) can achieve on your own, saving you hundreds of thousands of dollars, eventually millions, every single year.

Clients who heed our advice and embrace our Marketing Strategy quickly add $1 million in incremental revenue to their business, making your investment a smart bet and a bit of a no-brainer.  

There is no longer any guesswork, hope, or fear that our marketing strategies are going to work. If our client’s are able to abandon any limiting beliefs about marketing, deliver operational excellence, and play the long game, our marketing strategy will accelerate their profitable growth.

Wizard of Ads® for Contractors pricing model is based solely on the topline revenue of your company. It consists of an Upfront Fee and an Annual Fee. These fees are inclusive of scheduled travel, services, and all other expenditures as outlined in the Consulting Agreement.

The Upfront Fee covers the intensive Uncovery Process, the first year’s Media Buy, the Creative Process, and the Market Research while the Annual Fee goes toward implementation, ongoing creative and consulting, and next year's media buy. You get a team of 3.5 people, with direct access to a top tier Creative Lead and Media Buyer, and on-demand access to me as your Master Strategist. You will also have a full-time Account Manager keeping everything on track.

While the upfront does have an initial pinch, it is easy to amortize the investment over the many years we will be working together to grow your business. Wizard of Ads® retain clients for 10 years, on average. The sale of the business is the number one reason for termination. We actively terminate the bottom 1% of clients who are unwilling or unable to follow our strategies.

Wizard of Ads® for Contractors believes that all rewards should be directly correlated to the success of our clients. This means that the Wizard of Ads® for Contractors only receives a raise when the company achieves growth. For example, if your gross sales for the year have increased by 25%, the Annual Fee you pay us in the following year will also be increased by 25%. Likewise, if your gross sales decrease, our Annual Fee will decrease by the same percentage during the following year.

This is an exceptionally easy and fair way to track and reward success. This model was developed by Wizard of Ads® over 35 years ago and has served us well because it serves our clients well.

As a rule of thumb, we take the risk of working for considerably less than our actual value in the first few years as we help accelerate growth. This means you need to be willing to pay us exceptionally well when you start doing even better.

When should I engage The Wizard of Ads® for Contractors?

There are four key revenue stages for engagement with the Wizard of Ads® for Contractors.

  1. Under $3.6 million in revenue
  2. Between $3.6 and $10 million in revenue
  3. Between $10 and $20 million in revenue
  4. Over $20 million in revenue

Under $3.6 million in revenue is an investment in your brand. This will serve you well in establishing your brand story early on and help you with your name, logo, and truck wrap design. It's easier to create pictures from a story than it is to make a story based on pre-drawn pictures. You'll be glad you did. Everyone on a fast path to growth is.

Most clients start with Wizard of Ads® for Contractors between $3.6 and $10 million in revenue. They have often seen a natural ceiling with their leads for demand service and are looking for ways to push past the ceiling. This can only be done with a properly executed brand strategy, specifically in mass media with a sticky story.

Between $10 and $20 million in revenue, Wizard of Ads® for Contractors has some natural economies of scale. This is a sweet spot where Wizard of Ads® for Contractors can offer some added value in getting the ball rolling.

Over $20 million in revenue is actually the lowest cost point of entry as a percentage of revenue, but not the cheapest time to start with the Wizard of Ads® for Contractors. Leveraging all economies of scale aside, we have been left out of the upside along the way, so engaging when over $20 million in revenue means we have to mend a lot of fences damaged along the way. This is also where clients see significant savings in their media buys and production costs.

There are also three market sizes to consider.

  • Primary Markets are the top 50 cities in America.
  • Secondary Markets are the smaller cities in America.
  • Tertiary Markets are the more rural trade areas in America.

When considering an engagement with The Wizard of Ads® for Contractors, consider what size market you are in. For example, a $3.6 million company in a Primary Market will struggle to get the necessary reach needed to make a splash. You either have to be more patient than a larger company or spend more money to accelerate your reach.

Alternatively, a $5 million company in a Secondary Market will look like a pretty darn big fish in a medium-sized pond.

A $20 Million company in a Primary Market will feel like a $50 million company using our strategies to potential customers.

The key to remember is that the earlier you start with the Wizard of Ads® for Contractors, the lower the investment to get started. As they say, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.

Are production costs included in your fees?

The Wizard of Ads® for Contractors Creative Lead will create the ad copy, cast the voice actors, source the production house, direct the performance, pick the music bed, manage all the edits, and provide you with the completed ad for final approval before sending to air on your behalf. This is included in our fees.

You pay for the production house, actors, royalty-free music, and jingles directly to avoid any potential for markups, commissions, or management fees.

We have many friends in the industry that give our clients good deals due to the large volume of work we provide them. We will introduce you to them.

How long before a brand-forward strategy starts working?

In approximately three months of activation, we’ll just be getting live on air. In six months (3 months on air), you’ll be getting anecdotal feedback from people that you are being heard, but there will be no direct line to revenue.

After 6 months on the air, you’ll think you made the biggest mistake of your life signing up for this branding nonsense. After 9 months on the air (12 months in) you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.

At 12 full months on the air, you’ll know why you did this branding thing. Two years from now, we'll be clinking champagne flutes as you wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.

How long before we’re live?

The general guideline is 70-120 days, depending on the level of production needed and if there is a name change to your business.

This includes an onsite visit, a deep dive into research, and getting things created, negotiated, approved, produced, and live on the air.

  • Uncovery - 15-30 days based on travel. 1-2 days onsite.
  • Research - 30-60 days based on the scope of work.
  • Creative and Media Buy Process - 45 to 60 days
  • Offline Production - 15 days for radio. 30 - 60 days for television.
  • Online Production (if switching) - 60 days

This means planning for roughly 90 to 120 days in the proper development and production of a completely unique Marketing Strategy before anything hits the airwaves.

Are you exclusive?

Creatively, yes. During the term of this Agreement, all Creative Partners assigned to your Account shall not engage, directly or indirectly, as an employee, officer, manager, partner, consultant, agent, owner, or in any other capacity, in any competition of the client, including any company engaged in marketing consulting.

For clarity, the Creative Partner is defined as the individual Wizard of Ads® Partners who is responsible for creating your creative strategy and ongoing creative copy. Competition is defined as companies that engage in the same industry and business units (e.g., HVAC, Plumbing, etc.) as you. The market area is defined as the area where the marketing message naturally reaches through DMA or 60 miles from the city center of the client's service area(s).

Naturally, we exclude any potential future competition in markets where you are not currently active at the date of signing.

We do not limit Media Buyers in any market. Media Buyers get better deals for larger volumes, making it beneficial for the client to have the Media Buyer available to do as many buys as possible to secure the best deals on the client’s behalf.

Do you do digital marketing?

In rare circumstances, Wizard of Ads® for Contractors will provide specific digital marketing solutions. Wizard of Ads® has very specific Partners that provide digital services that serve Residential Home Services effectively. Under no circumstances will digital marketing services be offered without Wizard of Ads® for Contractors' core solution.

It is most likely that Wizard of Ads® for Contractors will work with your existing digital partners and suppliers. If you do not have a reliable digital provider, we would be happy to introduce you to a number of great providers that play nice with Wizards.

Do you do jingles?

Wizard of Ads® for Contractors can assist you in getting a jingle for your business. Like any other tactical element of a marketing strategy, we do not produce a jingle for the sake of a jingle.

If you do not have a story or a strategic reason to have a jingle...or an ad campaign to tie it to, do not waste your hard-earned money on a jingle. You are wasting your time and money.

When you do build a single unified marketing strategy that incorporates a jingle for a specific (often scientific) reason, we have a Jingle Wizard who has studied the art and science of jingle design.

He will score you an original, royalty-free jingle, including professional singers, musicians, and producers. He will not knock off a generic jingle from a publicly available music bed that sounds like everyone else's jingle.

Your jingle will serve a very specific reason and produce a very specific result. Have you guessed how much we love jingles yet?

Who owns the copyrights?

Wizard of Ads® for Contractors owns your copyright for two very specific reasons. We also provide a fair use clause in all contracts to ensure you are in no way limited to the access of your creative works, whether you are working with us or not.

The first reason we own your copyright is to ensure that we do not have to go up against our own creative works in other markets we serve. This means you are not allowed to lend, give, borrow, tweak, rent, lease, or sell your creative works to any other company at any time.

The second reason we own your copyright is that we can establish a one-time value for your creative works in the event that someone steals the content. Upon selling you the copyrights, you can go after the perpetrator for theft and make a considerable bounty in a slam dunk case.

Here is how Wizard of Ads® word the fair use of your copyright for as long as your business is in operation:

All writing and/or marketing materials we create for you are not works-for-hire. Wizard of Ads® for Contractors hereby irrevocably grants you, and your successors in interest, the non-exclusive, royalty-free, non-transferable, and worldwide right to use the Works in connection with the marketing of your business pursuant to the Marketing Strategy for so long as your business is operational.
How do I measure brand results?

There are a number of interesting ways to measure results. Some people like to get unique identifying telephone numbers, or create branded URLs that redirect to landing pages or the website. However, much of this is a waste of time and energy as it never tells the true story of the brand journey and how it affected the decision-making process.

Other indicators of brand effectiveness include tracking new customers, reactivated customers, or running a brand equity survey to get a sense of your share of mind. Digitally you will see direct search increase, which cannot be affected by anything digital, as well as branded keyword inquiries increase. You’ll, of course, need to get your digital people to add these to your campaigns if you hope to see an increase in conversions.

Wizard of Ads® for Contractors tracks the simplest of indicators. Top line revenue. When your branding takes effect, and the company responds in kind from the phone call or form fill-on, top-line revenue will increase. Efficacy is plotted on a T12, and total lead volume from all sources is tracked.

12 things you should know before signing up.
  1. Quality relationships take time. Branding is a long-term strategy. That’s why most contractors do it wrong, or not at all. There is always a lag between the start of the new campaign and the time it takes your customers to connect the dots. You MUST BE READY, WILLING, AND ABLE to endure this lag period. In our experience, the lag is typically 6 to 9 months, depending on how competitive the marketplace is, your company’s reputation, your budget in relation to reach, and the eight uncontrollable environmental factors. During this time, we will be helping you implement a transition plan to ease the pain. The good news is that this lag only happens once.
  2. Decisions by Committee. We completely reject the notion of decisions by committee. We work with a single, courageous decision-maker. We welcome decision influencers, but we only look to the Owner for the final decision. All decision-makers and influencers must be involved in the Uncovery and Marketing Strategy Presentation if they want to offer input in the future. It is critical that we have a 100% fully approved plan that can be defended and championed by all leaders in the organization.  
  3. Proven Strategy. That means we are not the low-cost provider. With nearly 200 home service clients and a book of strategic devices, tools, and tactics, this isn’t a guessing game for us. We know what to do to make your externally triggered grudge purchase appealing to your potential buyers. If you can deliver the goods, we can continue building relationships. If you are uncomfortable with the idea that you are paying us less now so that you can pay us considerably more once revenues allow, please do not commit. We intend to be your true partners, in sickness and in health...so long as you own your business.
  4. Automatic Payments. Everything is on automatic payments. If you struggle with managing cash flow, figure that out in your business first. We accept all major credit cards and ACH payments.
  5. We Cause Problems. If you don’t have a capacity issue now, I promise you will in about 9 months. Let’s deal with recruitment out of the gate as part of your comprehensive marketing strategy.
  6. We Own the Copyrights. All writing and/or marketing materials we create for you are not works-for-hire. We irrevocably grant you, and your successors in interest, the non-exclusive, royalty-free, non-transferable, and worldwide right to use the Works in connection with the marketing of your business pursuant to the Marketing Strategy for so long as your business is operational.
  7. Brand Building. We will be steering you to limit the use of discounts, rebates, coupons, and sales to attract clients. We know this feels counterintuitive to many, and we will clarify our reasoning. Rest assured, we have considerable experience in creating similar offers that are not damaging to your profitability, your brand’s integrity, and your preferable long-term client relations.
  8. Creative Authority. We must have creative authority over the words. You can accept copy as written or reject it outright, but you cannot modify the words yourself. If you do not like something as written, we are happy to discuss it and make the necessary change to maintain the integrity and intention of the words chosen. Alternatively, we will scrap the concept and create new copy that you are happy to get behind 100%.
  9. Proprietary Algorithm. The media buy must be structured in a very specific way, including running a full 52-week schedule. It is based on brain chemistry, not P&Ls. Once we have committed to the buy, it’s important to avoid adjustments unless they are calculated additions.
  10. Knucklehead Factor. You should expect knuckleheads. For example, when you start running ads that are certain to get attention, you need the courage to continue running those ads, even when you receive complaints. We celebrate complaints. It means we’ve made people feel.
  11. Digital Weasels. In about three months from the time your advertising campaign hits the airways, your digital marketers will show you a marked increase in direct and organic traffic. Some Digital Marketers will mistakenly claim this success as their own. Done properly, you can continue to spend less and less on digital lead generation by increasing your branded keyword online presence.
  12. Annual Marketing Meetings. Travel permitting, we prefer to hold Annual Marketing Meetings (AMMs) outside your city. Years of experience have taught us that we get better results when decision-makers are outside their sphere of influence, away from the day-to-day distractions of the office.

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