Success Stories

Relationship Marketing With Kody B: Sue Adams

Customer acquisition is considered to be the connection between advertising and customer relationship management to acquire new customers. This customer acquisition technique is not just a philosophy or theory it’s been used for a long time and has the ultimate success rate, in other words it really works. For some reason, only 3% of salespeople or less choose to use this customer acquisition technique. Interestingly enough, these salespeople in the 3% that choose this technique are in the top 1-3% of sales in their industry.

Join Kody Bateman for this week’s Relationship Marketing with Kody B and Sue Adams!


Kody Bateman: Hey, everybody! This is Kody B. Welcome to the Relationship Marketing with Kody B. Podcast. We are very excited for this show today. We are all about just helping people out in their business, helping people to grow their business and their relationships in their business and personal life. And the better you’re at relationships, the better you’re going to be at in your business.


We live in a day and age today now where more than ever before, people do business with those they know, like, and trust. And so, you got to have a relationship marketing philosophy and a relationship marketing plan. That’s what this podcast is all about. We are very, very excited. We always have on entrepreneurs, business owners, people that are implementing true – every single day, implementing true relationship marketing principles. So we don’t just talk theory here. We talk facts and we share stories. So we are excited for that.


Without further ado, I want to introduce the guest that we have on our show today. This is Sue Adams. Now, Sue is part of a large franchise organization known as Budget Blinds. Let me tell a little bit about Budget Blinds if you haven’t heard of them. Many of you probably have. Budget Blinds is the largest window covering franchiser in the US, Canada, and Mexico. They have over 1,100 locations serving hundreds of thousands of customers.


Now, Sue is the owner of her own franchise, the owner of Budget Blinds of Black Stone Valley, out of Central Massachusetts. Sue Adams, welcome to the show today.


Sue Adams: Thanks, Kody. Thanks for having me.


Kody Bateman: How was that for a long introduction?


Sue Adams: It’s usually long one that means that name really gets on there.


Kody Bateman: Listen, we’re excited to have you on the show today. You got some incredible stories and things. First of all, tell us – I always like to know why do people do what they do? I mean why are you in the window covering business in the first place? What got you to where you’re at today?


Sue Adams: Well, I think it’s pretty funny that my husband and I were watching a random episode of Undercover Bus one day and we happen to watch this particular episode and Budget Blind was on there. And he said to me, he said, “We don’t have any window treatments. Why don’t you call and see if someone can come help us?” I thought, “OK. We’re adults now. We’re going to get window treatments, right?”


So I called and there was actually nobody really in my area that can help me. So I ended up speaking with someone who informed me about the franchise opportunity and it just skyrocketed from there. They told me about this great company, the backing up of their corporate office that we have is just out of this world. And I went to their training and I was sold. And I thought, “What a great fun job to help people transform their homes and really put the icing on the cake and turn their house into their home?”


So I’ve been in five years and I absolutely love this business.


Kody Bateman: So you are a consumer first.


Sue Adams: Yeah.


Kody Bateman: You actually purchased from another franchise owner for some of your needs as a consumer. Is that right?


Sue Adams: Well, I didn’t actually purchase from anyone first. I got into the business and then I purchase from myself.


Kody Bateman: Hey, well, that’s smart. That’s smart, right? Now, that’s a true entrepreneur. It’s like, “How do I cash in on this?”


Sue Adams: That’s right.


Kody Bateman: I know my first order is coming in. It’s coming in from me. So no, I think that’s great.


Sue Adams: Yeah, it was fantastic.


Kody Bateman: And you’ve been for five years now. Now, as a franchisee, I’m sure they give you – the purchase of a franchise is you come in and they kind of have a system for you to follow. Tell us a little bit about their marketing system. Our show is more about marketing your services and how to generate business. So tell us a little bit what did they teach you in terms of how to bring on business?


Sue Adams: Well, as you know, every day, things are changing in the world as far as marketing and social media. They do help us at corporate with a lot of the national advertising. So they do the big things. They do some big TV marketing, some radio promotion. And for us, they are just always helping us learn about the new ways of marketing. Maybe on a smaller scale, we do local marketing and some local newspapers. But also, all that social media, any type of online stuff we can do. We have our own website.


From there, we learn per territory what works best for us and how we can tweak it to find that particular marketing niche that works best for us. So …


Kody Bateman: Did they give you a budget at all for like local purchases of advertising and things?


Sue Adams: So we work up our own budget for our local advertising. We do pay into a national advertising fund, so all of us pay into that for the national advertising. But for our local advertising, that’s all on our own. And basically what we do is we get out there and we pound pavement whether it’s from going door to door and dropping off flyers, putting out the ad signs or doing any type of social media advertising that we put out on our own.


Kody Bateman: So you may or may not know these numbers. I’m not sure – I’m interested to find out how much comes in, how much business do you think comes in from the national advertising versus your local advertising versus the social media efforts? Like what – where do you think you generate the most leads from?


Sue Adams: For myself, I would probably say it’s about 70% comes from my local advertising and the other percent would come from my national advertising. And that might be different at different times of the year. Different national advertising campaigns generate more but I do get a lot from the national advertising fund campaigns.


And from my little local little newspaper that I advertise in, I get a lot there. But where I have been really putting my thoughts into lately is my personal marketing and my personal growth as far as getting more referrals. So that’s how I’ve started to sending cards and building relationships with my customers. That has really helped propel my referral business for my territory.


Kody Bateman: OK. So I’m assuming just by what you’re saying is as a franchisee, you have the most control over your personal marketing and advertising.


Sue Adams: Right.


Kody Bateman: A little bit less control over your local newspaper type advertising because that’s tied to money that you got to come up with and spend.


Sue Adams: Sure.


Kody Bateman: And then the least amount of control over national advertising because the franchisor is really doing that, you’re just buying into a fund or paying into a fund.


Sue Adams: Correct. Yup.


Kody Bateman: So let’s talk about what you have most control of which is your personal stuff. And just tell us a little bit about what does that entail? What kind of things do you do on a personal level to promote your business?


Sue Adams: So like I said, we do a little bit of pounding pavement and road route there and road walk if we are at a particular customer’s home. We will walk to a few houses next door on each side. We will drop off a little flyer saying something to the effect of, “Hey, we’re in your neighborhood. Your neighbor just worked with us. We wanted to extend the offer too.” We drop them off a coupon. We will put out the ad signs whether it’s in a customer’s home that just had their install done. We will put the ad sign in their front yard or we will drop off catalogs at local businesses. So all those things we consider them to be a little bit more of a free marketing.


Kody Bateman: Right.


Sue Adams: There’s not a huge cost associated with it. But getting out there and getting behind the coupons and being the face going in and smiling to that potential customer saying, “Here we are. We are local.” And so that’s kind of more of what we have control over and that seems to work great for us.


Kody Bateman: So yeah, so interesting. Now, social med – so you do a lot of I would call that traditional marketing where you’re – and you’re probably taught a lot of those things to do the signs, the home signs and things like that. There are probably ways for you to – do you track that? I mean do you track a referral or not a referral, a lead let’s say that comes in from somebody that saw a sign in somebody’s front yard. Do you track that stuff?


Sue Adams: I have already now. I actually have it – put it all in one place. So if I need to go back and find it, I can. But every day when I get new calls coming in, immediately I look to see how do they hear from us.


Kody Bateman: OK.


Sue Adams: And I look to see if it’s a referral or if it’s from the ad sign or if they saw my van driving around. My van is clearly marked, lots of advertising on my van. So I immediately look to that trigger point and see how they got to us because that’s huge for me because I want to see what’s working and what’s not.


Kody Bateman: OK. So, somebody hears about you in some way. They either see you on social media or they see a sign somewhere or they see a flyer. They hear about you and chances are, they may have seen a national ad about Budget Blinds. Yeah, Budget Blinds.


Sue Adams: Yup.


Kody Bateman: And so they end up calling you. So now, you initiated a conversation and hopefully initiate a relationship with that person. What kind of things do you do once the initial contact has been made with somebody that might do business with you, what kind of follow-up do you do with those people?


Sue Adams: So is this before I meet with them or after I met with them?


Kody Bateman: After – well, after you have first contact – like you’ve had a conversation either on the phone or in person.


Sue Adams: All right. So I have a conversation on the phone. We do what we call – we prescreen our customers. We find out if they are serious. We find out what they are looking for. So we ask them all sorts of questions. Of course, we ask them again how did they hear about us and we thank them. We kind of mark it down like, “All right. This campaign is working or this particular advertising is working.”


And then from there, we schedule an in-home consultation. So within the next few days or hopefully within the next week, we are going to their home and they invite us into their home so that we can show them all of our products. We can hold things up in their windows and match window treatments and colors to their home and their décor.


So in that aspect of it, they are inviting us into their home to talk about something very personal. So I go into my – I go into all my consultations with a thought of, “I’m going to make a friend today. Every single one, I’m going to go in and I’m going to make a friend.” So I go in and we could talk window treatments but I try to initiate some sort of conversation so we laugh and we may talk about their dog or their kids, something personal so that when I do leave that consult, I am able to send them a card and just thank them for their time and thank them for the opportunity to potentially do business with them or most of the time hopefully thank them for their order that I just walked out the door with.


Kody Bateman: So you send a card, a thank you card, a real greeting card, a thank you card to them whether or not they do business with you. I mean they may not do business with you but they thought enough of you to have a consultation in their home. I love your rule. And this is a rule that you play out every day of your life that is so hard to teach business people is that that concept of, “I’m going to go in and create a friend today.”


There are so many people in business that don’t understand this. They don’t – they think, “Hey, I’m in business. I’m here to do business. I’m here to generate money, income and all.” It’s all a blind spotted mindset of, “I’m here to generate income from somebody versus my occupation gives me an opportunity to make a connection without a human being.”


Sue Adams: Sure. Now, if someone were to come to my door and come to sell me something and they just came in all business and they just wanted to show me their product and go home, I might be a little turned off by that, right? I want to be able to build a relationship with someone starting by that first sales call.


Kody Bateman: It’s funny because I’m a big connoisseur of cars and anything with a motor, I’m a big consumer of anything with a motor, motorcycles, snowmobiles, cars, trucks.


Sue Adams: We have motorized window treatments.


Kody Bateman: There you go. So you got my attention now. If it has got a motor on it, yeah, I’m interested.


Sue Adams: And I have a remote.


Kody Bateman: But it’s amazing to me. So I always come – this whole relationship marketing discussion, I always come from the place of a consumer first, and I think you do the same thing. It’s like, “How do I want to be treated when somebody is approaching me?”


Sue Adams: Yes.


Kody Bateman: And I got to believe that everybody if you would take time enough to think from that perspective, it’s like how would I want to be treated? And that’s what you take into you own business. And every single time, I don’t know of anybody that does not want to be treated like  a human being, treated like a person that has needs and wants and wants to feel appreciated for who they are kind of thing.


Sue Adams: Absolutely.


Kody Bateman: And so you live that rule well. I love that concept. So let me make sure I got this straight. Your number one goal when you do a consultation and this is where a lot of people in business don’t get, I’m assuming this is your number one rule, if it’s not, correct me. Your number one goal when you do a consultation is to create a new friend today.


Sue Adams: Correct. Because if I create a new friend, I have created a relationship with someone where I think they’re going to start building trust with me. And that’s back to me where it needs to start.


Kody Bateman: Now, I want to make sure I got this straight for our listeners. So number one goal in sitting down to do a consultation, by the way just out of curiosity, what is the average? So you do a consultation. Somebody buys window recovering, what’s the average purchase, amount?


Sue Adams: Average purchase is probably about $1,700 maybe, and we are anywhere around there.


Kody Bateman: OK. So you – the general idea is you’re going to do a consultation and hopefully what comes out of it is a $1,700 average order. OK? Let’s just talk the business out of it first. So that’s the goal. I mean you set a consultation. Hopefully out of all the consultations you do, you get as many $1,700 plus orders as you can therefore you are in business.


Sue Adams: Correct.


Kody Bateman: That’s the business side. What you’re saying though is that when you go to have the consultation, the number one goal is not to generate $1,700. The number one goal is to create a new friend today. Is that a true statement?


Sue Adams: That is a true statement.


Kody Bateman: OK. Now, why is that so hard to teach people? Why is that so difficult?


Sue Adams: I don’t know. I don’t know. Everybody is different and some people just think, “I’m all business. A lot of people think, “People don’t want to hear my personal story. They don’t want to hear my personal stuff. They just want to buy something today or they don’t want to buy something today. They just want me to come in and get out of their hair really quick.”


Kody Bateman: Sue, do you think in today’s Google-based world, I mean I can Google blinds or Google window coverings and yet a hundred different options all within 15 miles from my home. I mean I can get so many possibilities for window coverings and I can learn about your prices and about your quality. Heck! I can even go see testimonials of other people and comments and good things, bad, or whatever. I know more about your product maybe than you do by the time I contact you. I mean that’s the world we live in today.


So I think you see the vision that today more than ever before, creating that friendship is the most important thing.


Sue Adams: It is. And honestly, I think I just started learning that a little over a year ago. I think that’s when I finally clicked.  I went in there and I said, “I’m going to go. I’m going to be all business and I’m going to be friendly. I’m going to go in there. I’m going to be all business. I’m going to give everybody the facts. I’m going to listen to the customer. Hear what they are telling me. Hear what they need. And I’m going to show them this is – this will help your need.”


And then finally, as I started going along, I realized that when I went into these particular customers who involuntarily we started to just strike a friendship, that’s when I understood. That’s when it hit me that the bond and the relationship, that’s where it is. That’s when they start to understand. And at the end of the day or at the end of that consult, if we’ve created a relationship and they are starting to trust me, it almost doesn’t matter what the cost for the window treatment is. They know that I am showing them and I am offering exactly what they wanted, exactly what they need, exactly what’s going to fit their needs.


Kody Bateman: So when it comes to the personal side of creating – you’re going to be professional and you’re going to share the facts and you’re going to do your job. I mean you’re going to be a consultant to them on their needs which gives you a reason to create a relationship in the first place. That’s the reason. And so, you can create it.


But when it comes to creating the relationship itself, you mentioned that you use a greeting card. And I’d like you to show us, I know you’ve got some examples there of different type of cards you send out to people, in answering this question, you can show some of these cards. But my question is, how important is the real, tangible greeting card sending to the building relationship part of this?


Sue Adams: I think it just seals the deal really on the relationship. I find that everybody – like you said, you can have five different window treatment and people come into your home. And you can laugh with all of them and then they all leave. But it’s when the next day or a couple of days later, when something shows up in your mailbox from me and it says, “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me and I look forward to working with you in the future.” I think that’s where it just moves me to the top of the list in saying, “Wow! She is thinking about me. That was so nice. No one else did that.” And it’s not that as soon as they walked out the door, I forget all about that customer and move on to my next job.


So I think it makes the person feel special. And I really think that it just helps. So do you want to see one of the cards?


Kody Bateman: Yeah, show some of the cards you send. There are some cool ones that you showed me before the show started.


Sue Adams: Right. So for someone who maybe I just meet and I just did a consultation for them, I might send them a picture of – it’s a beautiful window treatment and I wrote thank you on the front of it just across the top. Inside, I would have my – I had one I consider my business card and it has all my information on there, my website, a place that they can contact me. Then I just give them a little note, something to the effect of saying, “Dear Mrs. Jones, I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me today. I look forward to helping you dress your windows with Budget Blinds. If there’s anything else I can do for you, feel free to give me a call.” Again, I just sign it.


That might be a little thank you card but for a lot of new people that move into my territory each day and the real estate closures I listed in our Sunday newspaper. So I’m able to reach out to these complete strangers and welcome them to their new home.


So this is a card here that I might send the customers moving into their new home. It says, “Welcome to your new home.” And then I just quickly give them a little blurb about who we, “We are a local Budget Blinds franchise. We offer all types of custom window treatments. And if there’s anything we can do to help them, please feel free to give us a call. But again, we just want to welcome you to your new home.”


So I’m really just sending them a nice card saying, “Hey, welcome to your new home.” And the nice thing about these, Kody, is that they show up in the mailbox in an envelope. I can’t tell you how many postcards and advertisements that I get in my mailbox and unfortunately, they don’t even make it into my house. They get into the trash as soon as I’m walking away from the mailbox because I know they’re just going to kind of clutter up the scene in my house.


So this one is an actual tangible greeting card that comes in an envelope and I feel that the open rate and I know someone else had told me, the open rate of this, it is really about a hundred percent because people want to see, “Who is sending me a greeting card?” Because you can tell that’s what it is.


After we do an installation for our customer, I take lots of photos of their installation and I will put them on a card.


Kody Bateman: Nice.


Sue Adams: This is one that we did of our customer around Christmastime last year. This is actual pictures of her home and it says, “Thank you for your business.” And again, I just – I thank her for her business and I told her it’s customers like her that make me love my job.


Now, when she received this card, she called me and she was in tears thinking that was the nicest that I have ever she has ever received for something that she really didn’t expect any type of recognition for.


So things like that. When I get the phone calls from customers saying how they were so excited to see their own house or their own pictures on this card and that it’s hanging up on their refrigerator or it’s up in their office, at home, or they took it to their neighbor’s house to show them, this is where the impact is. It’s not with the ad sign that’s out front. It’s not with my van that’s driving by. The impact is the personal tangible touch that I have sent that customer. And it doesn’t stop with just, “Thank you for your sales call and thank you for your order.” I have other cards that I send out whether it’s throughout the year and I just try to appreciate my customer as often as I can.


Kody Bateman: Do you – what do you have on the back of those cards? Is there …?


Sue Adams: So on the back of my cards, I have – on a few of them, I have just my advertisement.


Kody Bateman: OK.


Sue Adams: It’s a picture of myself. This is the ad I put my local newspaper every week, every day. Some others I might just have a picture of myself so they know who I am. I have another that when I’m sending a card to welcome to their new home. This is another nice picture of a window treatment. And on the back of it, it just says, “Transform your house to your home with window treatments by Budget Blinds.” Again, just another way to keep Budget Blinds top of mind for our customers. When they see that, they remember the name.


Kody Bateman: It’s interesting that you saying about what kind of mail people are going to recognize to open. Smart people have done studies. Greeting card is eleven times more likely to be opened than any other piece of mail. And you touched on that, the importance of that. It’s in a different size. It’s a different size envelope. You can tell that there’s a greeting card inside of it and it’s funny because just put yourself in the receiver’s shoes as you’re thumbing through all of those #10 envelops that are typically bills or propaganda or …


Sue Adams: Or big postcards.


Kody Bateman: … postcard advertising of some kind. And then all of a sudden, you see what appears to be a greeting card. No matter what, no matter who you are, you open the greeting card first.


Sue Adams: Curiosity killed the cat.


Kody Bateman: Absolutely.


Sue Adams: You have to know what’s in there.


Kody Bateman: That’s right. And the more personalized that card is, the more effect that it has. In fact, again smart people have done studies that show that the single most powerful touch to a prospect or customer to generate business is a thank you card. And less than 3% of business people send thank you cards. And it’s crazy to me. It’s just crazy to me that this is such a hard principle for people to learn.


So listen, I got to tell you, kudos to you. I love speaking to entrepreneurs, hearing your stories. You’re out there, grassroots, even though you’re a franchisee and you spent a bunch of money to become part of a franchise, you still have to – you still are the rubber that meets the road. You’re the one that has got to go out and make it happen. And if you don’t, you don’t have a business. It’s not like you’re an employee that somebody else takes care of that. You have to take care of it. And so, I really appreciate your example and what you do out there and the way that you’re doing it.


Now, you mentioned that since you started incorporating the greeting cards as part of this that your referral rate has increased quite a bit. I mean what kind of referral increase have you gotten all for this?


Sue Adams: Well, just as I started using – sending the cards, probably since April is really when I rammed it up and started doing it a lot more. Just since April, I want to say my referral business has gone up at least 20-25% in just that small amount of time. So again, I’ve been in for five years and over five years, I would get those phone calls if they had their referral. But since April, it seems almost like every other phone call seems to be a referral from, “So and so down the street or from the neighbor and they used you and told me I had to call you because you are so great.”


And I do, I am convinced it is because I am just creating myself as top of mind awareness to these customers, I am getting those extra referrals. My thinking is I’m planting the seeds for the harvest to grow later. So the more I keep planting those seeds, the more that the referrals come to me. The more I appreciate my current customers that I have, they’re going to do the work for me. They are the ones going out there and saying, “You just have to call Sue from Budget Blinds. She is so great. She even sent me the NFL football schedule at the beginning of football season and for nothing. There was nothing else in the pile. It was just that.”


So I really think that when I appreciate the customers I have, they are the ones that send new customers my way. And that’s – I’ve seen that. Since April, I have seen it. I have seen the increase.


Kody Bateman: So what you appreciate appreciates.


Sue Adams: Yes.


Kody Bateman: What you appreciate appreciates. Yeah, very good. Well, listen Sue, we really appreciate the time you spent with us today. We know you’re very busy. We will let you get back to your daily routine there. Just as we sign off today, I always like to find out any final words of wisdom, final words of advice from you as a business owner to those listening.


Sue Adams: For this listening, so I guess again, so many people are really focused on – it’s all about big picture. I need to figure out how to be the $1 window treatment company in my search engine search. What do I do to get my keywords up? It’s really not about the big picture. The big picture is the little picture, right? It’s the little things that you can do for your current customers that help your business grow. So I really think it’s – take a step back and think about it. Focus on the little things that you can and it will move your business forward.


And honestly, Kody, not even just for business, I use this for my personal life too. It has brought me back in touch with many old friends. It keeps me in touch with my mother who lives one mile down the street. I’m able to send her a card and pictures of her grandkids. So it just helps strengthen the relationships there.


But again with business, I feel that appreciate the customers that you have. They will send you customers your way. And this is how I do it, is by a little tangible touch of a greeting card.


Kody Bateman: Well, there you have it, my friends, Sue Adams out of Central Massachusetts. Thank you for being with us on this show. This is Relationship Marketing with Kody B. And keep in mind, we have The Power of Human Connection book. It’s available at Make sure you get yourself a copy of that. I know you have a copy of it sitting on your desk there. I noticed.


A lot of these stories like you heard from Sue today, stories like this are featured throughout this book, 25 plus stories from different industries on how people are utilizing relationship marketing principles to better their business. It really is a movement. It’s a movement that’s happening in the marketing world. And have dedicated this podcast to this subject. And Sue, thank you so much for sharing with us today. You’re a true teacher. You are a true teacher and we appreciate you being with us today.


So we will see you on another broadcast of the Relationship Marketing show. We got a whole lineup of people that are going to be coming up in the weeks to come. Again, thank you to you, Sue. And take care, everybody. We will see you now.


Sue Adams: Thank you, Kody. Bye-bye.


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