Marketing Information, Not Scare Tactics - The 7-Power Contractor

Marketing Information, Not Scare Tactics

Among the many things I do with clients I work with over time is marketing.

One part of that work entails making them better at creating marketing that hits home with their target audience. The trick to great marketing is to know what makes that audience tick.

I must admit I was once oblivious to what made my customers tick and so both my sales and my marketing efforts fell flat on their face. But once I sought to get better, like any skill you learn, I got so much better at this that miraculously my sales and marketing took off.

Here’s a question: which comes first, sales or marketing?

Years ago at a conference, I was debating this question with a colleague and her answer was, “Marketing of course. I say that because if the phone doesn’t ring you’re going out of business.”

I replied, “A valid point. But, if you don’t know how to sell to me, your target audience, you can never market to ten Al Levis, a hundred Al Levis or even a million Al Levis.” To her credit, she smiled and said, “Fair enough.”

Wait a minute, the title of this is “Marketing Information, Not Scare Tactics.” What’s this got to do with it?


When I work with contractors, they struggle to put marketing together that communicates in an informative way and doesn’t scare people. They also struggle because much of what they write reads like it’s from a text book for whatever trade it is they do. Your customer and prospective customers don’t want to have to learn your trade to hire you. Stop!

No one is going to be insulted by your writing at an eighth grade level. In fact, most homeowners (and even commercial customers) appreciate it when we speak and write in plain-English.

One of the tasks I give my clients is to create their “10 Great Reasons to Choose Us” or “10 Things You Want from Your Contractor.”

The first coaching I give on this is to remind them that one size doesn’t fit all. So if you have multiple target audiences, you need to tailor this to fit them.

Example of different target audiences you might serve:

  1. Homeowners
  2. Real estate management companies
  3. Commercial customers
  4. General Contractors
  5. Mechanical Contractors

Understandably, what I get back as a first effort from clients is a lot of “tech-na-lize” followed by a lot of scare tactics. That requires that we go through their version together to make it more like plain-English and less frightening.

Here’s a good tip. The best way I know how to do this is to read it out loud. If the words don't flow off your tongue, change them. If it’s not a word you’d use all the time, rewrite it.

Want more help?

Whenever you want to explain something technical to someone who doesn’t necessarily understand what you’re talking about, use an analogy and use the word “like” to trigger the transition to helpful information.

Let me share a great example of this that Dan Holohan, PM columnist and a great friend, taught me years ago.

“An outdoor weather reset control will help you save money and make your home more comfortable. It measures the temperature outside and then it adjusts your heating system to run at the right settings needed. You know what that’s like?…it’s just like cruise control in your car. The cruise control adjusts as you climb a hill and it adjusts again when you’re going down a hill. That’s just like an outdoor weather reset.”


Now, let’s talk about the scaring stuff. Many contractors write their marketing materials like the “10 Reasons to Choose Us” by assailing the competition in scenarios that they hope will get customers to think if they use them their house could blow up….just kidding…well maybe….but you get the point. Right?

Scaring customers only paralyzes them. It doesn’t make them do what you really want them to do, which is to choose you or buy from you.

Don’t believe me? How about a New York Times article about how scare tactics on smoking don’t work.

Now, you can raise a point in your marketing such as, “Make sure the contractor you choose has all the necessary insurance” vs. “If the contractor you choose isn’t properly insured you’ll liable to get sued and lose your house!” You get the point. Make it positive and not negative and scary.

One good way to test that your marketing is both communicative and non-threatening is to have someone who doesn’t work at your company read it and give you honest feedback.

When doing marketing, inform — don’t scare. It’ll be a frightfully better outcome for all.

Marketing Power

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