Branding on a budget for remodelers

Six steps to brand building without breaking the bank

March 07, 2011

Anheuser-Busch spends 17 quad-zillion dollars a year to pound their brand and their product attributes deep into the cerebellum of every man, woman and child on the planet. Nobody is immune to impression from this kind of massive branding machine. You can achieve that same kind of astonishing, you-can-run-but-you-can’t-hide branding for your company, too.
First of all, you have to realize that because Anheuser-Busch is trying to reach every man and woman in the country, they are forced to spend the really big bucks. They spend a fortune on store displays. They spend gobs of cash on ballpark and arena signs. They back up the Brink’s truck for hundreds of millions of impressions on TV, radio and online. And at the end of the day, it works for them.
But stop and think about that for a minute. Let’s say you’re an average 40-year-old guy like me that watches football on TV, enjoys a modest amount of network and cable television, and does an average amount of magazine reading, radio listening, online surfing, ballpark attendance, and so forth. Here’s the salient question: How many impressions do you think I get for Bud Light in a year?
Let’s assume for a minute its somewhere in the 50 to 100 times range. Here’s an interesting question for you, and your marketing: Is it cost effective for you to put your message in front of your targeted prospects’ faces 50 to 100 times a year? In many cases the answer is yes.
Take the case of a company in Colorado I recently spoke to that sells (yawn) copiers and copier service. They currently have absolutely no marketing program whatsoever, and instead rely entirely on a couple of sales guys. During the consultation, I found out that the average customer was worth $400 in gross margin per month; or $5,000 a year in gross profit. Further probing revealed that there were between 1,000 and 2,000 companies in their geographic area that were sufficiently large to provide that $5,000 a year profitability.
Unlike Bud Light, you don’t need tens of millions of customers to make a ton of money. All you have to do is know exactly who you are trying to sell to, laser focus on them, and then pummel the daylights out of them with your marketing message. This is micro-branding. Let’s take a look at how the copier company could micro-brand itself. The same ideas will also work for exterior replacement firms.

Step 1: Make A List — Get a list of all the companies that are good prospects. They probably already have the list. It’s the same one their sales guys have been badgering for years. If not, purchase the list from a list broker or do some research online and figure it out. They need to put some effort into combing through the list to make sure they have the right address, the right contact information, and as many e-mail addresses as possible. Let’s assume they come up with a list of 1,000 companies and 1,500 contacts.

Step 2: Allowable Cost Per Sale — This is massively important: they have to figure out how much they are willing to spend on marketing for each new customer acquired. If you figure the average customer is worth $5,000 GP a year and stays on board as a customer for three years, that’s a $15,000 lifetime value per customer. If this were you, how much of that $15k would you be willing to spend on marketing? Remember, we’re talking gross margin here — not total sales. In my book, 10 percent is a no brainer. Heck, I’d even go 20 percent. Or, stated differently, if I handed you $15,000 would you be willing to pay me $1,500 for it? How about $3,000? Uh, yes.

Step 3: Set The Overall Budget — OK, so we’ll spend $1,500 per new customer on marketing. The next question I have is “How many new customers do you want?” Let’s say their answer is 15 new customers a year. That equates to a gross profit of $225,000 (over three years) and a marketing budget of $22,500 to $45,000 (to be spent over the course of one year).

Step 4: Decide What To Spend The Budget On — Let’s cut that budget somewhere in the middle — say $36,000, or $3,000 a month. I always favor a postcard and e-mail campaign. Not just because they’re cheap, but for postcards, they also pack a wallop, especially if they’re written properly (see step 5).  If we spend 50 cents per postcard on 1,500 prospects, that would cost us $750 every time we sent out a batch. If we start with a $36,000 total budget dividing by $750 per batch means we could send 48 postcards per year per prospect. Then let’s throw on top of that another two e-mail sends per month (24 total) and we’re talking a grand total of 72 contacts per year. That’s Bud Light territory.

Step 4.5: Hedge Your Bet If Necessary — Not willing to spend $36,000 on something unproven like this? Don’t fall to temptation and downsize to one mailer a month instead of two. Instead, cut the number of contacts from 1,500 to 750. That’ll only run $18,000 for the year. How about 250 prospects for the year for $6,000? The idea is to prove the concept, then roll it out bigger later. Iron-clad marketing rule No. 1: Never risk more of a budget than you can afford to lose. Same thing goes here. Rule No. 2: When in doubt, lower the number of prospects, not the frequency of contact.

Step 5: Killer Copy — Create well-articulated, powerfully stated headlines and copy that look great and sell even better. If they’re going to send 48 in year, they’d better come up with a good 15 to 20 unique cards to minimize repeats. Same thing for e-mails. Integrating some of that info (and look and feel) into the website would also be helpful. The messaging should focus on why this company is better and different and better than who they’re currently using. The cards should administer consistent doses of case studies, social proof, evidence and thought-provoking headlines to wear down the prospects. In a nice way, of course!

Step 6: Let Gravity Do Its Job — Now it’s as simple as throwing the marketing pieces out there six times a month and letting nature run its course. Through the principle of “Accelerated Discontentment,” the prospects that are ready to buy, right now, will raise their hands immediately, and those who still don’t recognize enough pain with their current situation will be constantly reminded and educated where to find greener pastures. This works like gravity — the pull of this kind of persistent pounding is absolutely inescapable. It’s only a matter of time.

Rich Harshaw is CEO of Monopolize Your Marketplace, a marketing consultancy based in Dallas. Over the past 15 years, many top exterior replacement companies have come to rely on his marketing ideas to drive leads for their sales people. To learn more call (817) 416-4333 or e-mail

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