Marketing is a tough game. In my own outdoor lighting design and installation company, Enlightened Lighting, I’ve tried everything from ValPak to Home Mag to radio ads. I’ve tried Google Adwords, targeted remarketing, Facebook Ads, Houzz, Home Advisor, and other online marketing campaigns. I’ve tried selling lighting bundles and good/better/best packages. But after 18 years of trial and error—with a heavy emphasis on error—I finally learned the “secret” to marketing. It’s simple, but it transformed my marketing: I needed to learn who my real customers are.
As you surely know, there are a lot of people out there who are simply looking for the best price on a 5-10 fixture outdoor lighting system. We don’t turn our noses up at these clients, but in 2011, I had a paradigm shift that changed the way I approached my customers.
I had just sent out 10,000 eight-page catalogs and the very first customer I received from this marketing piece was a successful, recently-retired business owner. He was planning on hosting a wedding for his daughter at his beautiful stone, colonial-style house. He wanted it to look stunning for her big day.
We spent an hour and a half walking the property and discussing how I could create a lighting design that would make the property look amazing. After giving him my design ideas, we spent 10 minutes discussing which products we were going to use on the job. He told me, “Use whatever product line you would want to light up your house.”
My final design came out to $25,000 and— without hesitation—he wrote me a check for the full amount. He said the reason he went with my company over all the others was because he thought my designs were better.
This stuck with me. It changed the way I interacted with my customers.
From then on, when I met with my clients, I stopped focusing on packages and promotions and turned my focus to outdoor lighting design. My marketing changed as well. Instead of trying to outdo the competition with discounts and lower prices, I turned my focus to showcasing our projects and amazing designs. I stopped offering my customers different fixtures to choose from: I simplified their decision-making process by focusing on custom lighting designs and offering heavy-duty fixtures that would last them for years and years to come.
I realized my real customers were interested in great outdoor lighting designs, not getting the lowest price. But then the question became: how do you reach out to these customers? Here are three items you may want to consider:
YOUR AUDIENCE MATTERS
With high-end, direct-mail marketing, you have control over who receives your mailers, and with the right mailing list, you can start targeting high-end clients in more affluent areas. You’ll also be surprised how effective word-of-mouth marketing and referrals are after you’ve completed an installation in an upscale neighborhood.
YOUR MESSAGE MATTERS
By marketing my expertise as an outdoor lighting designer and highlighting the high-quality fixtures we use, I was able to sell bigger projects to customers who wouldn’t try to haggle down the price. I also received fewer calls from unqualified leads and people who were looking for random electrical work.
YOUR BRAND MATTERS
How you present your company to your clientele is important. When you send out marketing pieces, you only have a few seconds to grab a customer’s attention, so you want to make a good first impression. In my own marketing, I’ve found that professional photography has been an incredible asset. Even if you don’t have a full-time photographer on staff, hiring a professional to go out and take shots of your best installations is worth the investment. Marketing may be a tough game, but it’s a game you can win if you learn who your real customers are, focus on what makes your designs unique, and stay the course.