Interview with Tara Jacobson with Marketing Artfully | Contractor Marketing Podcast Episode #5

February 20, 2014

Today’s contractor marketing podcast is with Tara Jacobsen of Marketing Artfully.

Tara has been in marketing since 1999, starting at a web hosting company, which at the time she barely knew what the internet was, let alone the technical backend of how websites work. Over the last 15 years she has spent way more than the 10,000 hours required to get really good at marketing, currently providing speaking and consulting services for small businesses, real estate and manufacturing industries.

What Is Direct Response Marketing

Contractors have been using run of the mill flyers for years and they are fine, but Direct Response marketing requires that any marketing materials do more than provide a list of services, they HAVE to have some kind of call to action. The call to action means that someone is prompted to do something after they see the website, magazine ad or postcard.

Direct response is not a kind of marketing but a style of marketing where your focus is to have something happen after the advertising piece is seen. It can be as “normal” as a coupon in a magazine ad, although this is not optimal as discount ads bring in customers who are shopping, looking for a bargain. These types of customers are “right now” buyers.

As long as there is a rock solid plan to turn these price shoppers into repeat or ongoing customers, everything is great. Tara mentioned that she has had numerous contractors and trade people come into her home and has only ever had one send anything after the visit. Some suggestions she had for example were a chimney cleaner could send a followup with:

  • Postcard thanking her for her business
  • A magnet that she could put on her refrigerator with the company contact info and phone number
  • Wintertime chimney weather-proofing tips
  • A personal thank you note

Getting repeat business from current customers who are used to paying you truly is picking the low-hanging fruit!

Even though Tara came in on a discount coupon, they could have easily turned her into a repeat shopper for an annual fireplace checkup (but they never asked). If you are doing yard work, make sure to remind your customers when it is time fertilize or aerate their lawn, sprinkler guys could send a message at the end of summer to “blow out” the sprinklers and at the beginning of summer to do an inspection and turn them back on.

Getting Into The Conversation Early

As a marketer, you need to be in the conversation before your customers are looking to buy. You want to tell them what they need to know BEFORE they start shopping around to your competition!

Tara has a free giveaway that she has handed out over 1,000 times in person and which she uses as a free giveaway on her website, 100 Free Marketing Ideas. This free offer keeps her top of mind when people are thinking about marketing because they print them out and use them all year!

Contractors could have a free offer like that including:

A planning guide for cabinets (keeping the customer out of Ikea and working with you)
A flyer showing how to choose the best paint colors (a good neutral brown, should they use Sherwin Williams or Bayer)
A laminated card showing how to unplug your toilet that they could hang on back of the toilet

As a marketing play it would be much better to have 100 people request a free planner than to sell 3 cabinet jobs because then you have the chance to carry on a conversation with way more people who turn into long-time customers.

Educational Approach To Marketing

There are some specific parts to this kind of educational marketing programs.

1. The way they get into your system (website, postcard, ad)
2. How they are going to contact you (email submission, phone call, visit your location) – a great free email database to start with is
3. A followup program to keep them updated with your product and services (for the cabinet installer this could include backsplash trends, shaker versus colonial cabinets, glass front doors or not)

Now this sounds complex, but a true direct response program could be as easy as putting a flyer with the little phone numbers cut across the bottom in your local UPS store. Offer your free item and tell them to call you for it!

The main thing to remember is that they are not actually looking for your product or service. Someone with a dirty roof doesn’t want a pressure washing company, they just want a clean roof.

Figure out the top 10 problems that your company can solve, and write a marketing piece with a solution to each. Things that are going on in your marketplace that will get consumers to call you, a free recording, postcard, email or even a hand delivered flyer.

Three Kinds Of People In The World

We have had people question why someone would hire you when you have already given them all the information about how to do it themselves. Tara says that there are three kinds of people in the world:

1. Do It Themselvers – These guys were always going to go the DIY route so you didn’t lose anything there
2. Collecting Information – Some people just like to collect information, without ever implementing anything and…
3. People who have made the decision to hire you! They come to that decision before they pick up a phone or write an email because of all the great information that you have provided.

But wait, there is more business there! The DIYers will show the really great things they have done and tell their friends who might not be so skippy about doing everything themselves. Some of the DIYers will be your best referral sources!

Direct Mail

Direct mail (postcards or letters) has fallen out of favor with companies in the last few years, leaving the playing field wide-open for you to dart in and pick some new business. The cost has come way down (Dave spent $350 for 1,000 postcards recently). Pair that with the Every Door Direct program from the USPS where you can send mail for as low as $.17 per piece and you have a super effective marketing campaign!

To reach Tara, please check out her free offer, 100 Free Marketing Ideas or her main website,

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