8 Key Tips to Care for Your Customer Hotlist

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By Mark DeFrancesco

In December 2008, I stumbled across an amazing statistic. While updating our scheduling system I realized: exactly 17 of the 374 total customers accounted for 74.8% of all my gross sales.

This statistic was so amazing to me that I spent the next few days simply repeating it to myself and to most of my family and friends. I kept thinking: “What would my business be like if I had only served those 17 key customers?” If I had given them more of my energy, attention and focus, would I have had higher profit margins, lower stress and a better overall business model?

Immediately, I created my "hotlist" which consisted of these 17 key customers. I opened my Google calendar and set a monthly repeating event that read "Call Hotlist Customers." Then I set out to wow these customers—and expand my hotlist.

8 Key Tips to Wow Your Past Customers

1. Call your hotlist monthly. This is the script I currently use but anything similar will do:

"Hi Jim, it is Mark with MDF Painting. How are you? I am just giving you a courtesy call to see if you have any projects you need my help with. I value you as a customer and I want you to know I am here to help you anytime in any way that I can. Thank you!"

I think a personal phone call from the owner works best; however, it is better to have someone on your office staff call than not to reach out at all.

2. Give away something that is actually free. During our slowest month of the year I often reach out to past customers and offer a free bathroom painting or a free Painter for the Day. Many of my customers are so shocked by our generosity that they offer to pay us for additional work or they write us a great online review. This gesture of gratitude helps keeps our best past customers happy and our best painters working in the slower times.

3. Stay in constant contact. We currently mail a printed newsletter every month. This gets expensive but has proven worth the time and money. We also email our monthly newsletter via MailChimp. We stagger these newsletter formats so that every past customer hears from us approximately every two weeks throughout the year.

In addition to our monthly newsletters, we do two phone call campaigns to all our past customers each year, one in late February before our spring season and the other in late August before our winter season. These calls are to check in and see if clients have any projects that they need our help on. We normally will not offer a discount but we will offer priority scheduling.

4. Basic end of year gifts. Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas we find a small gift to send to our past customers in a holiday card. We have given away vouchers for discounted winter work, $5 Starbucks gift cards and other assorted coupons in a card that is handwritten.

5. Custom end of year gifts: "Hotlist Style.” I make specialty holiday baskets with homemade cookies, private-labeled homemade wine and a gift card to a restaurant or a cash visa card. These custom gifts are hand-delivered before Christmas to everyone on our hotlist.

6. Always give a referral bonus. Every single time a past customer refers us to a potential new client and it leads to a landed contract, we give them a VISA cash card from GiftCards.com worth $50 to $100. We also list their name in our monthly newsletter and publicly thank them.

7. Friendly email and call after estimate. When our estimator is on-site quoting a job that came in from a past customer referral, the estimator will call and email the past customer directly immediately after finishing the quote. The call and email script I use is:

“Hi Jim, it is Mark with MDF Painting. I appreciate you referring me to Jane—she seems like a great person! I hope I have the opportunity to work with her on her painting project. Please let me know if you ever need anything! Thanks!”

I find that leaving this voicemail and email oftentimes leads to the past customer contacting their friend or family member directly and singing our praises, which helps close the job.

8. Strict follow-up system. This is extremely important when dealing with past customer referrals because you want to give the potential client the same perception of extreme professionalism that the past customer has experienced. My follow up system is simple:

  1. Ask for a next step agreement at the time of the quote if the customer doesn’t contract the work immediately. This involves setting up a day and time when you get permission to make a follow up call.
  2. Make the follow up call at the agreed upon day and time. The call should be followed up with an email and a handwritten note, all of which ask “what has to happen for me to get you into our work schedule?”
  3. Continue with a series of 3 phone calls (spaced 5-7 days apart) coupled with 3 emails and 3 handwritten notes.
  4. After 3 follow ups, we close the lead in our system and add it to our monthly newsletter list.

Mark A. DeFrancesco is the president of MDF Painting & Power Washing and founder of PainterMarketingTool.com, a website design and marketing service for painting contractors by painting contractors. Learn more at www.PainterMarketingTool.com.

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