It used to be common practice for building service contractors to reach new clients with mass mailings and an advertisement in the phone book. Times have changed as customers embrace more technological marketing messages. While print pieces are still very much alive, today, these traditional sales materials work together with electronic media to attract new business.

The best way to get them to work hand-in-hand with each other is to create complementary materials for each. If customers locate a BSC via the Web, use the print piece to drive home the sales message. Or vice versa: the brochure can encourage clients to visit the Web site for additional information.

Print Still Important

With newspapers in steady decline, one might think that all print products are going away, but that is simply not the case. Done right, printed sales materials still have their place in a marketing campaign.

Print brochures typically include a company logo, history, service information and mission statement.

Woodley Building Maintenance, Kansas City, Mo., once used a generic brochure customized by one of their industry associations with their name and logo. But they decided they needed to differentiate themselves even more, and created marketing materials that matched their Web site for a consistent image. Today, they use a professionally written and designed four-sided, 8.5- by 11-inch brochure, which they print as needed. Its warm colors and reassuring verbiage meshes service information with company history and philosophy.

"I've heard a lot of feedback from customers about how professional our Web site, brochure and proposals look, which really legitimizes you as professional services firm," says Vice President Terry Woodley. "You have one shot to make a first impression."

Customers have so many contractors to choose from, BSCs need to do whatever they can to stand out in a crowded, competitive marketplace.

At Kimco Corp. in Harwood Heights, Ill., brochures can be customized to include information on specific programs such as green cleaning or cleaning for health as well management team information, an implementation plan and a contract.

"Customization makes customers feel that you listened, and you took the time to do due diligence," says Nathaniel Shaw, Kimco's executive vice president of sales and marketing.

To be effective, brochures should be sent after an initial consultation with a potential client. Bulk mailing to new prospects yields the same result as throwing them into the garbage can. At Apex Facility Management, in Spring City, Pa., sales reps send a print brochure along with a sample of a new product appropriate for the account after a meeting with a possible new customer, says Chief Operations Manager Dave Beto.

While a print sales piece is still effective in today's digital age, most BSCs also cater to newer tech trends and offer an electronic version in portable document file (PDF) format. PDFs can be posted to a Web site or e-mailed and then opened, read and printed.

"Half the time the process is electronic now," says Shaw. "[Customers] don't want anything in paper sent to them. It's all uploading, downloading and e-mail. Half of our national business development involves no paper."

At Woodley Building Maintenance, at least 75 percent of customers request the brochure to be e-mailed rather than mailed.

"If we send via e-mail, our sales team waits two to three days, and follows up with them," says Woodley.

E-mail requests are usually the result of someone seeing the Web site, getting a good idea of their services and level of professionalism, and then wanting to talk with someone directly, says Woodley.

If the company gives out a printed brochure, then Woodley prefers to have the sales rep visit the prospect and put it in his or her hand personally. This delivers the highest return on investment, says Woodley, especially considering printing a brochure costs nearly a dollar per piece. That can add up quickly.

Companion Web Marketing

A sales brochure is only half the marketing strategy for BSCs. Since it is most effective after meeting with customers, contractors need a way to get their foot in the door. These days, prospective customers find their service providers by searching the Internet rather opening the phone book.

Web sites need to be current — not overly complex with too many bells and whistles, yet still pack in enough information to make an impact with the customer. They should mirror the brochure, including the same design elements, information and brand identity. But like brochures, a Web site should show how distinct each BSC can be.

Apex's Web site includes their corporate history, products, services, plus cleaning tips and seasonal specials like fall and spring cleaning, and restoration for water damage.

"We try to set ourselves apart with unique products and services," says Beto.

The Internet provides limitless opportunity for BSCs because they are not confined to physical space like a print piece. A Web site could also include bios on key staff members, a blog about pertinent cleaning trends and client testimonials. It should be more than just a landing page for new clients — it should be interactive, motivating users to return to the site and engage with a BSC. Web sites should definitely include a link to submit a request for proposal (RFP).

Apex's site includes an online RFP: a two-page questionnaire on chemicals, traffic loads, surfaces, carpeting and more. Kimco has seen success from their online RFPs, as well.

"We generate a significant amount of incoming leads and inquiries each week off the Web site, and it seems to grow every month," says Shaw. "As the head sales guy it's a great thing to open my e-mail and see leads from around the country in my inbox every week. Really at very low cost, too."

Even though the Internet and e-mail continue to dominate business culture and day-to-day activity, a significant portion of the population still appreciates holding a physical document in their hands. Develop both print and online sales messages to reach all potential clients.

Lauren Summerstone is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wis.