By David H. Martin

Marketing is how you support sales, all year long. For decades, the techniques and strategies for promoting the water treatment dealer business hardly changed  at all. That meant you could tweak last year’s marketing plan, eliminating what wasn’t working so well. But you were always selecting from the same universe of traditional media: newspapers, radio, TV, occasional mailings and a schedule of local event participation, from home shows to mall events to county fairs. Today you have many more options. Most of these are technology-driven techniques that promise better-targeted marketing, affordable one-to-one opportunities to educate and influence and better accountability than ever possible with the more familiar mass media. The important thing is to try something different this year to reach out to new prospects and to stimulate sales among old customers, and generate referrals. Get out of your comfort zone. Here’s a short list of ideas and resources worth exploring for 2014.

Online all the time
While your website is still the hub of dealer marketing today, customers on smartphones and iPads can find you from anywhere, anytime. Make sure your web page format can accommodate mobile users. Two ways to direct people to your website are through search-engine optimization or organic listings and paid search listings sometimes called pay-per-click. You need to understand and leverage both channels to attract maximum traffic to your website. Google and Yahoo-Bing are the leading search engines, which together have over 90-percent penetration. How do they work? With pay-per-click, a dealer pays a fee per keyword for each time his search result is clicked. Google and Yahoo have instituted a bidding process, wherein companies wanting the same search term compete by paying a higher price than their competition for a selected word or phrase. The company’s listings are then displayed in the order of how much they bid for that position. It’s hard to beat Google listings and ads. Yet new research shows that custom Facebook ads for your business, combined with paid search-engine ads, can improve your performance on Google by 30 percent. So don’t overlook Facebook. Some dealers have even found business using and Since their costs are affordable in most cases, don’t be afraid to experiment.

Never stop improving the company website
Chances are good that you could improve your website, and hence, increase your site’s traffic, by adding promotional offers, perhaps including online coupons. Every website upgrade should include professional search-engine optimization to make sure you are getting your share of qualified visitor traffic. Recently, customer testimonials have become an especially powerful word-of-mouth component that can give your referral program an elevated online dimension. Video is today’s hottest online enhancement, thanks in large part to Dealers are showing off their personalities with locally produced video tours, giving visitors to their website confidence they are dealing with a real person. It’s also a way to bring your customer testimonials to life for added credibility. Consider adding a company blog or company Facebook page to encourage more communication with customers and prospects who enter your site.

Update email marketing lists
Review the email addresses of all your past and present customers. Then collect email addresses of new prospects you meet at home shows and other community events. One easy way to get new addresses is to offer free drawings for attractive prizes in your home-show booth. Try something new! Email a link to a new custom video to draw viewers back to your website. Using your lists, you can develop a valuable data base for making regular promotional emailings. Consider adding a quarterly enewsletter with stories on community water issues. Leveraging email must be taken with care to avoid offending customers who might mistake your messages for spam. Purchasing outside, so- called permission-based email lists is not recommended by many marketing experts. Building your own custom emailing list is much safer and offers a far better means to build a productive customer relationship and solicit referrals.

Take a fresh look at gift cards
Unlike the old-fashioned paper certificates, gift cards are much easier to use, easier to track remaining balances and harder to lose. Consider instead the customized, one-time-use debit card. While gift cards are redeemable at the store or website of the issuing merchant, prepaid debit cards may be used any place that accepts credit cards. Now dealers can customize them with personalized color photos. If you visit you can create your own Mastercard or Visa gift card with a picture of you and your employees.

Overwhelmed by the fast pace of change?
Consider going outside for help in planning and executing digital marketing in 2014. I talked with Naper Solutions, an online marketing firm that works with many small businesses, including dealers who sell in the home. Here are some of their electronic marketing tips for dealers in 2014:

  • Facebook, teamed with paid search marketing is emerging as a powerful, affordable combination. Facebook ads provide targeted reach, with paid search enabling direct response from ready-to-buy prospects.
  • Mobile marketing is growing explosively, with peopleaccessing the web from everywhere. Dealers need help to make sure their websites have been reformatted for the smaller screens on mobile devices. The good news isadapting a website for mobile devices is not an expensive proposition, even with professional help.
  • Remarketing is a dynamic tool for dealers who want to electronically follow prospects who visit their sites via electronic display ads that appear spontaneously. Remarketing code needs to be installed on dealers’ websites and set up through their AdWords accounts.

The bottom line is, you should look for a professional that can help you explore and expand your options on the electronic media front.

Like to streamline your business?
Applied Management Group, Inc. (AMG) works with water treatment dealers and business managers nationally with advanced management consulting and training programs to grow their business. One of the company’s key missions is to train dealer service people on what to say in front of the customer and to give them the tools to be effective in sales lead generation. Their service-to-sales development program, called PROTEC, is not designed to convert service people into professional sales people, but to develop more referrals and new business opportunities.

Want to find a new niche in 1014?
Ray Schwarz, owner of Countryside EchoWater in Arlington Heights, IL, tackles problem water (including hydrogen sulfide) and low water pressure, in addition to equipment sales. Looking ahead, he sees growing demand to provide water conservation and monitoring services to customers, even in his relatively water-rich Midwest market.

Don’t be blinded by the fast pace of change! And don’t be afraid to try something different in 2014.

About the author
David H. Martin is President of Lenzi Martin Marketing, Oak Park, IL, a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404 or by email at [email protected].

Start planning now
The best way to assure you have a steady supply of sales leads all year long is to plan for it.Then follow your plan.

  • Begin by detailing a concise plan of all your projected marketing activities for 2014.
  • List all the activities you plan to use in 2014 to promote your business and develop leads and sales.
  • List all consistent effort marketing activities, perhaps including newspaper, yellow pages, radio or TV advertising, direct mail, website, email marketing, search marketing or other techniques you plan to use on a continuous basis.
  • Budget limitations will determine just how much consistent effort marketing you can afford. Assign prospect or customer labels to each activity in your plan, with an eye for balancing efforts between those aimed at new prospects and past or present customers.
  • Determine a monthly budget for consistent efforts as part of your planning process.
  • List all the special promotions you can think of. Many will necessarily coincide with community events, which afford the opportunity for you to promote quality water and service. They include home shows, health fairs, community art fairs, races, picnics and other venues that not only provide opportunities to develop sales leads, but create goodwill.
  • Don’t forget to cultivate your reputation as a community water expert by offering to speak on contemporary water problems at fraternal and other meetings.
  • Blend old media and new for an integrated marketing program that creates valuable synergy (2 + 2 = 5).
  • Can you stretch your budget with low-cost promotions at local races and other community events where you provide quality drinking water for participants and spectators?
  • Can you count on key vendors to supply you with quality marketing materials and cooperative ad funds?

Why mobile web marketing makes more and more sense
Today 1.2 billion people access the web from mobile devices, including smartphones and electronic tablets.

  • Mobile web adoption is growing eight times faster than 10 years ago.
  • One in three mobile searches have local intent versus one in five on desktop PCs.
  • Mobile users spend more time on mobile devices than they do on PCs or TVs.
  • 28.5 percent of all emails are opened on mobile phones.
  • One quarter of all searches are on mobile devices.
  • Social activity commands 91 percent of mobile device Internet access.

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