When do I not advertise? That’s the real question…

If you have higher aspirations to grow your company, you may be inclined to go online or observe what your competitors and notice that they seem to spend a significant amount of money on advertising. After all, as a home disaster restoration company, no one usually plans on calling you, as a matter of fact, your company is up there with getting a tooth pulled and other “pleasantries” of daily life that may at anytime sucker punch someone in the face.

Top of mind is key, your top priority

So, you know you need to be TOP OF MIND so when people come home from a week long trip to find water dripping from the upstairs bathroom, they’re going to have to call somebody — and fast!  Well, if you haven’t been pounding the airwaves and building in a repetitive message to remind people to associate a home disaster with your company, they will probably turn to the internet.  This means they will be using their smart phone to find a home restoration company.  They may be ready to get a few quotes or they may be feeling their situation is so hopeless the first human that answers the phone will get the job.  The hell with insurance, they don’t want mold damage from a flood!

Are you spending at least 5% of your sales on advertising?

I’m aggressive when it comes to the fact “success begets success” that means people don’t want to do business with losers or someone they’ll second-guess.  You have no choice when you enter the advertising arena to go for the gold and expect nothing less!  This means at a minimum you need to spend at least 5% of your sales rolling into new efforts to get more business through advertising.  If you’re new, that could be as high as 20%, sometimes even higher!  Being aggressive earlier should pay you more dividends than spreading it out and thinking like the tortoise.  Let’s be a tortoise with rocket pack, okay?!

Without a serious advertising budget, don’t advertise — seriously

So, if you can’t sustain a marketing campaign for at least a year because you don’t have the budget, do not invest in advertising for just two months.  There is a simple formula I would recommend using to figure if you are at least meeting the minimum standards of advertising performance in your market to continue spending money on airtime and other advertising.

At a minimum, ask yourself if you can advertise 12 months consecutively and reach everyone in your market at least once

That formula is very simple, some may argue it’s oversimplified, but to me, I think it helps guide many as a minimum to stay top of mind in your market as the company people call if disaster strikes.  It’s GRP — “Gross Ratings Points”, and if you can hit at least 100 each month all year long, I think your advertising will gain traction.  This means you will, at least mathematically, reach every individual in your market at least one time throughout the month.  This is not an ideal way to measure, but it puts things in perspective, at least you know how much your minimum will cost you so you can see if you can at least do the minimum to ensure a high likelihood of getting a positive ROI on your advertising investment.

Advertising is always an investment, not an expense

If you are unsure, do some research, save your money and get the other parts of your business in order that is within your budget reach first.  The increase in sales and referrals from this approach will hopefully give you more capital and momentum to invest in real advertising later.  It may be much later, it depends on your market circumstances — your competitors, how long you’ve been established, how well you’re networked in the community with the “socially influential” AND how well you’ve penetrated the long term memories of the people in your market with you advertising device(s).

Get these 5 things in order before you even think of advertising

Before you go out and spend at least 5% of your sales, get the other things in order.  Do you have the personnel and infrastructure like a call center to handle any new expected in flow of calls?  You better be prepared.  Here are 5 things you need to have before you even consider advertising:

1.  Do you have a fully smart-phone friendly website

Guess what, the internet is huge.  That’s why this is first, it’s going to be even more important for your business in the future.  People will come home to a disaster, do you think they’re going to go inside and log onto the internet with their home computer and look you up?  Are they going to search for the yellow pages?  No, they’re going to jump onto their smart phone and type in “home restoration service” and hit “Call” to the first company they either recognize or comes up with at least 3 stars off Yelp.

2.  Can you receive calls 24/7?

If you can’t answer each and every phone call that comes in with a live person who has excellent phone skills and a great bedside manner who can make people feel they are your company’s top priority, then fix this problem next!

3.  Are you networked with the local fire stations and insurance adjusters?

If you don’t have people in your company who have built a close rapport with local people in the insurance industry and fire safety, if you don’t donate at least 50 fire extinguishers to the local fire department each year, if you don’t have contacts with local homebuilders, you should consider spending your time and resources expanding these grassroots initiatives in your community.  Here’s a test for your company, if I walk into a fire station and ask them who they would recommend for a clean-up job after a fire, and no one mentions your name, then I ask them if they’ve ever heard of your company and no one has, you need to rethink your marketing approach.  You need to strengthen your inner circles within your community first.  You need to set goals and budgets that will achieve these things before you spend a cent on television, radio, or newspaper ads.

4.  Are your sales already sustaining your goals?

You may already be happy where you are.  Referrals come in steadily, new business comes in ebbs band flows, but thinking about your future and saving money for a rainy day is a luxury few have.  If you’re in this situation, save the money for a rainy day or when you are in a position to be able to anticipate slower times might be coming.  This could mean you might need to expand your service offerings so you can be diversified to weather a storm.  You might be better off diverting money you wanted to spend on advertising towards these efforts to diversify your company.  Perhaps expand into mold detection or explore certain home contracting and remodeling on top of your restoration business.

5.  Are you ready to invest the money and stay the course?

You’re already being proactive when it comes to advertising, you’re doing your homework.  It’s important to make sure that your sales goals are realistic and that you give your advertising at least 6 months to make a difference.  After two weeks, you can’t be reactive and throw in the towel and make imaginary assumptions like  “Since I’ve been advertising, phone calls dropped 20%,” as if that’s not part of your usual fluctuations and business cycle in your market.  No, if you are giving credit to the fact that only after two weeks advertising affected your sales that much, aren’t you making the argument that advertising is powerful and really does make a difference?  I would find it hard to believe that if you did start advertising that it would affect anything in two weeks going in.  Remember, the type of advertising you need is TOP OF MIND.  Sustained, repetitive, so people can recall your company and what you do.  This takes patience.

Sure, there are ways to sustain market presence and increase top of mind awareness, perhaps you should consider going full bore the first 3 weeks, then go every other week.  Can you sustain being on two major networks and at least 4 major cable networks on this schedule?  Can you score the paltry minimum of 100 GRPs each month for an entire year?  You might want to give yourself some latitude, since some markets are really big, consider using the GRP in a single zone or perhaps two in your immediate service area first?  There’s plenty of options and flexibility.  I know of more than one company that spent $2,200 per month and achieved the phone calls and sales goals they were looking for!



Restoration Advertising

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