August 2008: Business Building

Words: George HedleyAugust 2008 Business Building

Bug 'em til They Buy or Die

altBy George Hedley

I hate cold calls. But I love it when future customers call me. So I developed a marketing plan that doesn't require cold calls. It's more like Chinese Water Torture you see in the old movies — drip, drip, drip. I call it "Bug 'Em Til They Buy or Die!"

Three steps to get them to call you:

  • Awareness — creates interest in you
  • Interest — keeps you at top of their mind
  • Top of mind — gets them to call you when they need you.

Using my plan builds awareness of you and what you'll do for them over a time (drip).

Awareness is based upon the Rule of Seven. You must have at least seven contacts with a future customer before he remembers your name, feels he knows and trusts you, or will call you.

In my business, I use the post office to make future customers aware of me (drip). My office mails something to everyone on our mailing list at least six times per year (drip). Once is not enough (drip, drip). But we don't just mail any old boring piece of mail. We send creative, different, unique, and informative Bug 'Em Til They Buy or Die mail (drip). We use a professional design firm to keep our image consistent (drip). Orange is my branded color. Everyone recognizes my orange hardhat on every piece of Bug 'Em Til They Buy or Die mail (drip, drip, drip). I'm building awareness.

To create interest and be remembered, get different, crazy and unique. Stand out from the crowd. Be clever, creative and fun. Never send the same old throw-away pens, ball caps and notepads that everyone else sends. Send professionally created materials that consistently reflect your message.

Quality counts. Match your Bug 'Em Til They Buy or Die mail to your future customer. I use a newsletter that looks like a blueprint for our construction customers, but to attract bank investors we used traditional white stationary with blue ink. Future customers respond to the familiar.

To peak the customer's interest we mail cartoons, jokes, small hardhats, estimating grid notepads, coffee cups with hammer handles, golf tees, golf ball markers, chads from election ballots (during the Bush/Gore election) and American flags on the 4th of July. Once we mailed envelopes filled with nails and a banner, "When can we nail down your next job?" Last year, I sent postcards from Vail, Colo., with this note, "Thanks to my loyal customers for sending me skiing. I appreciate your business!"

To show future customers that we were more than a "local" company, we sent out maps indicating our project locations within a 100-mile radius. To create a perception of fast service, we mailed out "on-time schedulers." Tell future customers what you want them to remember, over and over.

It will take one to two years to get future customers to call you. Marketing is a drip, drip, drip process. It never is a one-time event. I've sent Bug 'Em Til They Buy or Die mail every two months since 1984. I've never stopped, because it works. I always get lots of future customer calls after every mailing. They call me.

And, it's affordable. We typically mail Bug 'Em Til They Buy or Die mail to 1,000 to 2,000 future customers six times per year. The average cost (including postage) is $1 to $2 for each piece we mail. Our annual Bug 'Em Til They Buy or Die budget for six mailings runs between $6,000 and $12,000. It's worth every penny, times ten.

We use a $200 database contact software program to keep track of future customers. The software sorts by address, industry, customer type or any other criteria we need. You can also create personalized form letters to mail. It only takes a few minutes to easily print 1,000 mailing labels.

We dedicate four hours every month to our Bug 'Em Til They Buy or Die mailing program. We constantly look for great ideas, articles, perfect mailing pieces and photo opportunities. To remain consistent, we've used the same professional design firm for more than 20 years. But, you can easily hire local marketing or graphic design students from nearby colleges to help you get started.

After we select and design our Bug 'Em Til They Buy or Die mail, the task of creating it in-house, using an outside promotional products vendor, or getting it to the printer is simple. When we are ready to mail, we use temporary help to print the labels, assemble the packages and stuff the envelopes.

I like the old saying, "Any plan is better than a perfect plan never executed." So, get started today, and future customers will call you soon.

Best-selling author and professional speaker George Hedley helps entrepreneurs and contractors build businesses that work. Construction company owners are invited to attend his two-day Profit-Business Building Bug 'em til They buy or die Builder Circle boot camps. For more information, call 800-851-8553, or visit

George Hedley, HARDHAT Presentations, 3189-B Airway Ave.,Costa Mesa, CA 92626.      
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