Lots of marketing experts tell you how to promote your business and increase sales. The trouble is, some of them are flat-out wrong. How can you sift through the good and the bad of all the things you’re hearing? For starters, it helps to know a few basic marketing principles.

Pure lead generation is NOT your only marketing goal. Some well-meaning advice givers may scream, “You always want more leads!” but that’s just not wise. I can write an ad to get you all the leads you want IF I can give the store away (seemingly) and suspend the truth to entice gullible, unqualified and possibly bankrupt leads. Is that what you want? Doubtful.

Don’t believe that advertising “low prices” is a great lead generator, unless this is the “image” you want. Use marketing to promote value. Offer a superior, recognizable advantage that your competition doesn’t and you turn prospects into customers, without price-cutting. To me, price cuts are the knee-jerk reaction of those who don’t know there are other options.

The best prospects for new business are not from some mythical “list”. They’re from your list! Most contractors go chasing the world with “acquisition dollars” when, like in the Wizard of Oz, they’re really right in your own back year. Customers spend 33% more than non-customers. Their sales cycle is shorter, they buy upsells faster, and their referral rate is 107% greater than among non-customers. You still want to spend those acquisition dollars, Tin Man? Spend time and money cleaning and segmenting your own list. It’s the best list you’ll ever have.

Two Customer-Building, Profit Pumping Tips: Send newsletters at least twice a year to every check-writing customer you’ve got. Move as many of those customers as possible to a Maintenance Agreement program. These “continuity income” dollars are like being paid to keep customers!You can have high-value customers pumping dollars and referrals your way year after year… automatically! Best tip: Spend money keeping your customers.

In Yellow Page ads, bigger is NOT always better. Sure, YP reps say this, but think of it this way: is bigger always better in HVAC systems? In marketing, as in heating and cooling, you’re going for efficiency. If your YP budget exceeds 31% (HVAC) or 41% of your budget (pure service or plumbing), you’re not getting the most for your marketing dollars.

Use these different marketing tools and tactics to build a better marketing machine in your company. You’ll find your marketing can bring leads, image, and sales almost by “auto-pilot”, so you can run your business instead.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a marketing firm for contractors. Readers can get a free marketing newsletter by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334/262-1115. You can also call Hudson, Ink at 800/489-9099 for help or visit www.hudsonink.com for many free marketing articles and reports.