I finally got around to installing QuickBooks Pro 2013 on my computer. I held off buying the new version for as long as I could. I waited for it to go on sale and I found a great deal on Amazon for $130 with free shipping. The lowest I had ever seen it was $99 last year and I didn’t buy it then because I was being cheap – frugal I told myself.

The software had been warning or threatening me depending on your point of view that I would no longer be able to do payroll or accept credit cards online, which I don’t use, or that I wouldn’t be able to download my credit card statements into QuickBooks after May 31st. Still I resisted until finally having the software sitting on my desk for at least a month, I went through the arduous process of backing up my original installation and then installing the new version of QuickBooks Pro.

I hate having to repurchase QuickBooks every three years but it’s the best deal around for running my business. I know many smaller contractors use it too for their businesses. It’s easy to use, I’ve used it for the past three years so I know its ins and outs and my accountant uses it to so if I have problems with it, I can call her and ask for help.

The thing that I don’t like about it is, QuickBooks forces you to switch to the newer version, or it stops doing some of the functions for which you bought it. At least with Microsoft you don’t have to buy the next version of Office if you don’t want to. In addition, you may not like them, but Microsoft’s marketing is so good that it makes you want to buy the next version of MS Office because it makes the benefits of using their new version appear so appealing that you feel as if you are missing out by not upgrading, QuickBooks, not so much.

QuickBooks could learn a thing or two from Microsoft. What’re you doing to make your marketing appealing? In order to make your marketing effective, you have to know your customer’s hot buttons. What do they want? What’s important to them? Then you have to determine the right kind of hook to use. In a way, marketing is almost like fishing; you have to use the right bait, or lure to catch the species of fish that you are after.  

What do you know about, your customers that’s useful in reaching out to them? As I have stated before, the more you know about your customers, the easier it is to push their hot buttons. Ultimately, you have to develop marketing programs that appeal to them.

No one can whip up a marketing program for you without spending time with you to learn about your company and learn about what your company offers. However, we can give you the steps that you need to develop an effective program for yourself. Here are five steps to consider when designing a relationship-building program with your customers.

As I mentioned before the first step is to know your customers and to find out what they want. The worst thing you can do is think you know what they need. Do research, ask questions, and find out for sure. The answers you get may surprise you and it just may give you some ideas to use for your program.

We all have competition, so study them. Find out what your competitors do better than you and try to improve on it. Find out what they do worse than you and exploit those weaknesses. That’s how you make your business more valuable to your customers. Be the best in your market and customers will seek you out because of your reputation.

You want to build a relationship with your customers and stay in the forefront of their minds. Do your competitors stay in touch with their customers? Do you? Remember the old adage, “Out of sight, out of mind.” In today’s business climate, you can’t afford to be out of mind or somebody else will get the business. Write a quarterly newsletter and mail it to all of your customers. Add valuable money saving coupons that encourage customers to come back to you. Follow up with your customers after you perform any work for them to make sure everything is okay.

Position yourself as the expert. After all you have years of experience in your trade and you are the expert. Make sure your customers know why you are the best in your field. As I always say, positioning is king, and you need to be the king of your market or niche. It’s better to be the big fish in the small pond then the other way around.

Based on responses you get from your customers be open to adding new services so that you can adapt to their needs. Remember that if your goal is to be at the top of their minds then you need to be flexible and accommodating. Of course as in all things, if you can’t make a profit, then it doesn’t pay to offer it.

If QuickBooks took some of this advice, it probably wouldn’t have so many unhappy customers. How about you? Are your customers happy? Or, are they looking for a new service company? When you are the best, sometimes customers don’t really have a choice unless they want to settle for second best, as is the case with QuickBooks.

My website contains links to all the marketing articles I’ve written for the HVAC-Talk Newsletter. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of my new book, Navigating the Marketing Maze, click here. If you need a branding consultation, a complete strategic marketing plan, or help with marketing services, call or send an email to discuss your needs.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, and social media strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping companies deliver their message in an ever increasingly crowded market by helping HVAC dealers more effectively market their businesses without breaking their budgets. Contact him at 260-338-4554, andy@fracicaenterprises.com or visit the Fracica Enterprises, Inc. website.