Inflation is upon us. Raising costs of materials, fuel, capital equipment, employee wages, and therefore, prices. When the population begins to anticipate raising prices, they change their behavior. This is a well-researched and documented shift in the willingness of consumers to part with their money. The Wall Street Journal outlines it here. And we both know it’s not coming. It's here. That means rising interest rates, negative stock market returns, and a general discontent in the economy. While many smart business owners have capitalized on this meteoric lift in revenue, there are those who decided fancy cars, big houses, and bloated fleets and facilities were the solution to this unbridled growth. Ever the optimist, I believe that the residential home service industry is not as susceptible to reversals and recessions as many other discretionary purchases are. This is good news…and bad, if your business isn’t preparing for the downturn now.
REAL ESTATE LOCATION #1
The absolute most critical place that you want to shore up your location is in the heart and mind of the customer. If you don’t occupy the heart and mind of your prospective customers BEFORE they need your thing, you will not stand a chance of maintaining (let alone growing) your lead flow in a downturn. To be a landmark in the mind you need to do some very essential things, including:
- Say something interesting enough to get past Broca’s area of the mind.
- Show (not tell) the imagination of the prospect who you are as an entity.
- Inspire action in the decision center of the brain, which, by the way, has no ability to create words.
- Maintain a frequency that allows your memorable message to seep from the electrical short-term memory to the chemical long-term memory.
Roy H. Williams teaches us that when you capture the heart of the customer, the mind will surely follow. I imagine it as the excited partner in a relationship (the right brain), so enthralled with the thing and emotionally invested in it, that they cheerfully beg the more serious and practical partner (the left brain) to let them buy it. What is the left brain to do, but please their partner. How do you do this?
These are the principles of brand building. While your competition foolishly believes that branding stops at a logo and truck wrap, you know that the most essential aspect of your brand is your authentic story. A story that stands 600 ft above the competition. A story about the things you believe in and the things you stand against. About the injustices of your industry. About the mercy you hold for those in need. About the things you do that your competitors don’t immediately shout, “ME TOO!” The better your message, delivered at the correct frequency, the more lavish the real estate you take up in their mind. The lower the frequency, the more squatters will move in and start enjoying your lovely residence. The worse the message, the less impressive the property. Let’s all agree you’d rather hang out in a lavish mansion than in a pedestrian suburb. With great humility, I would propose that The Wizard of Ads® are legendary storytellers and Marketing Strategists who would love to build a palatial brand in your customers’ hearts and minds.
REAL ESTATE LOCATION #2
The second most critical place that you want to shore up your location is in the virtual world. No, not the metaverse (yet). Rather, you want to have a secure and robust digital presence. When a pipe bursts, the hot water disappears, a sewer backs up, or the air conditioner dies, only the most powerful brands immediately come to mind. This research reinforces the fact that dominant brands are far and few between.
More often, in the face of catastrophe, the second step after mitigation is a trip to The Googles where they frantically look for the first option that seems legit. With a solid branding strategy, your PPC is like General Custard, making one valiant last stand. This is, quite literally, the zero moment of truth. For the companies with no branding, the only strategy being employed is of the Hope variety. I hope I paid the most for the click. I hope my company came up above the fold. I hope I show up at all. I hope that the customer clicks on my equally boring ad over all of the other boring ads. I hope that I can answer the phone when they call. I hope that they are willing to pay my dispatch fee. I hope I can make payroll this week. For the companies that have branding, but are still facing an “Undecided Prospect”, your odds have increased exponentially. When they see and recognize your name, your brand has gravitational pull. When they recall your jingle, a brandable chunk, or flavorful truck wrap, the gravity intensifies. When they look at your 4.8-Star rating, their suspicions that they know, like, and trust you are confirmed. When they click onto your website and your mass media messaging and the website messaging match, they know they’ve found the right place. When your CSR answers the phone with echoes of the brand message, the prospect rests, assured they are in the right place.
David Packard (of Hewlett-Packard) famously said, “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department”. Mr. Packard is our Patronus. As your brand breaks the seal between name recognition to becoming a household name, your general appeal goes up in your trade area, bypassing PPC altogether. There really is no cheaper click than no click at all. These are the customers who convert on the first sit at a higher average sale and profit. Why? Because **you’ve earned their trust.**And with the rising costs of clicks, and a wary population worried about inflation, you’re well-advised to get your brand story, image, and presence in order while you have the healthy resources to invest into doing things right.
Why branding first? Simple. The more space you take up in the heart and mind of the client before they need your thing, the less likely they are to look elsewhere, like PPC. For those who are still undecided will make their way to The Googles, where you have the last opportunity to stand out in the Sea of Sameness. If you have a meaningful brand, you increase your likelihood of winning the click. If you don’t have a meaningful brand, you have to pay dearly for the opportunity and take your chances that the universe steers them into your gravity well. The vastness of options on Google are comparable to the vastness of the universe itself. Branding gives you the advantage.**Can I just do branding? Absolutely not!**Branding on its own does not convert the customer into a call or appointment. It’s like telling everyone that there’s a party at your place, but then not giving them a map (or address) to find you. You have to be accessible online because that is where people go to find you. If they know you, but still don’t have your brand top of mind, you need to be where they go to look. They might just recognize your lovely face and click through to say hi.
It doesn’t matter how great your beer is if it’s not on the store shelves when they get there.
The next few years could very possibly be telling for a number of residential home services business owners. Pretty much anyone can succeed in an explosive market. Only the wise entrepreneurs will thrive in a recession. Do you have a brilliantly defensible position? It’s time to build your brand’s War Chest. Call us if you don’t.