To the Point Home Services Podcast

The Home Services Podcast That Gives Back

Episode 127: Value-First Marketing with a 95MM+ CMO

July 5, 2022

Episode 127: Value-First Marketing with a 95MM+ CMO

Published: July 5, 2022
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Mike Wilson, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Any Hour Services joins To The Point live in our studio! Chris has traveled to the Any Hour Services shop a few times with his wife and RYNO Strategic Solutions COO Anna Yano, and says calling it a “compound” is more accurate. Any Hour Services has grown rapidly over the last decade, with roots extending far back beyond that. Mike has been a part of their team for over two decades now, and while he didn’t start out only focused on marketing, he certainly is now.

Destined for the Trades

Mike considered himself to be pretty mechanically minded even as a kid growing up in Louisiana. He was always curious about how things worked, and enjoyed working with his hands. In high school, Mike took an elective called Future Farmers of America (FFA). In between learning about cow breed identification and how to back up a trailer, he learned a bit about basic construction that included a little electrical, plumbing, framing, and other related trades. While he didn’t jump up and go find a job in the industry, his interest was certainly piqued.

At 16, Mike found himself looking for a summer job; wanting some spending money. That’s how he initially met Wyatt Hepworth, President of Any Hour Services and former guest on the podcast! By 2001, Mike was looking for a full-time job. His wife was in school, and Mike was ready to make a move. He called up Wyatt and asked if there was work. Wyatt said yes, Mike moved out to Utah, and he started his career with Any Hour (then known as Hepworth Electric) as an Apprentice Electrician.

For years, Mike was doing a little bit of everything. He was out in the field, taking calls and dispatching, training, and even designing ads for the phone books. Over the years the company continued to grow, adding HVAC and plumbing to the mix and focusing more on service. In 2015, Mike was finally able to focus on one thing and one thing only: marketing. Things skyrocketed, and in 2022 Any Hour Services in Utah budgeted for 75MM and is on pace for 95MM!

A Value-First Marketing Strategy

In the beginning, Mike saw marketing really as a way of making things look cool. It all started with a phone book rep coming in and Mike wanting things to look a specific way. He gives Wyatt a lot of credit for being a great leader, and for seeing that talent in Mike before Mike even saw it in himself. Over the years, Mike has developed his approach to marketing to be much more than just looking cool, and it’s paid huge dividends for Any Hour Services.

Mike sees marketing as going out, finding where attention is, and then figuring out how to tell your brand story contextual to that attention.

What he means is that depending on the platform, you’ll want to communicate differently depending on your audience. Adding to that, Mike notes that every interaction with your brand is a marketing opportunity. You have to be intentional about the way you want to communicate your message, and what you want your brand voice to be. Lots of companies have had success being funny, professional, or something else altogether. What is your company’s brand voice and message, and what does it sound like?

In 2015 when he accepted the CMO position, Mike decided he wanted Any Hour Services to own the word “help” in the market. Their tagline is “No one helps more homeowners than Any Hour Services”, which isn’t a boast about their size. Rather, it’s a nod to the fact that regardless of where you are as a homeowner, whether or not you’re ready to spend money with Any Hour or not, they want to help. Mike wants to help. It could be getting you some information on how to fix things yourself if it’s simple, or it could be giving you information that will help you make the best decision that you feel comfortable with – even if that means choosing another company for service. This is part of what Mike has coined as “Value-First Marketing”. His genius is in recognizing that marketing isn’t just about sell, sell, sell – it has to be valuable to the consumer.

Mike asks, how cool would it be if you had a customer that was so into your brand that they invited you into their house every week to talk to them? That’s how he sees his marketing approach. He feels a responsibility to “extend the service call”. Some of the marketing he does might be entertaining, but he wants to lighten the burden of maintaining your home and improve things like safety and comfort. If he can be the guy that helps someone do that and not for money but because he actually cares, at the end of the day when something does actually break he hopes they’ll call him. It’s chess, not checkers.

Tell Your Brand Story Far and Wide

You’ll find the Any Hour brand on more than just truck wraps, that’s for sure. With Mike at the helm, Any Hour’s marketing extends to television, radio, podcasts, and more – even local movie theaters as a spot before the movie starts!

When Mike puts out this content, there’s always an approach that focuses on providing value to the customer. If it’s a commercial spoofing the famous scene in Psycho where Norman Bates is approaching Marion Crane in the shower, the joke might be about the shower drain being clogged. Where other companies might end the spot there and have a CTA and number to call, Mike is going to throw in a little bit of advice for the homeowner as to how to avoid a clogged drain in the first place. That’s the value-first approach we’re talking about here. So, how does Mike approach different platforms with his value-first marketing strategy?

YouTube

Any marketing agency worth its weight will know the importance of a YouTube channel. There are some pillar content pieces Any Hour Services produces, and Mike was inspired by Gary Vee’s “document, don’t create” approach. It’s about speed over perfection, and putting out lots of content instead of getting bogged down with just one really well-polished piece a month. From this, the successful docuseries Along For The Ride was born. A popular offering amongst the vast amount of content they produce on their YouTube channel, Along For The Ride is a chance to watch a day in the life of a service tech for Any Hour. It’s another way of telling your brand story without a sales pitch!

Podcast

Any Hour Services also produces a podcast called In The House. They’re nearing 100 episodes and like most of the marketing they produce isn’t about a sale. It’s a podcast about the major services in the house to inform homeowners how to better maintain and improve their property. They bring in field managers, pick a topic (like water heaters, for example), and discuss it in-depth geared towards what a homeowner might want to know from an expert’s point of view.

Email

Email marketing is certainly one of those things where some people find it works for them, and others have sworn it off. For Mike, it’s something that definitely works at Any Hour Services. Mike believes it’s not about the frequency or a flashy subject line, but whether or not you have something valuable to say to the consumer (could this be a theme with successful marketing, one wonders?). If you’re sending stuff out and no ones is getting value from it, your click rates will plummet. Likewise, sending out clickbaity titles? After a few times of being tricked, people will start ignroring you if you don’t follow through with the promise you made at the beginning of the email.

Any Hour Services utilizes Mailchimp for mass communication, and then MarketingPro when they’re targeting some kind of audience segmentation. Their content plan for emails roughly mirrors the topic on In The House rather than what calls they want that week. It’s not about a call to action, but rather about education. If they have a conversation with the consumer and it’s valuable, the hope is they’ll call Any Hour when it resonates. With this approach, their open rates are about 40-50% and their direct revenue in 2022 through May is at 1.2MM just off of the strength of their email program.

Radio

You’ll find Mike making appearances on radio stations, too. A fun tidbit about Mike? He’s pretty talented with a guitar, and he can sing too! He’s a humble guy, and feels that calling him a musician is an insut to “actual musicians”, but we think differently. He often does parody covers of popular country songs on a country station, sort of an “Any Hour Services remix”, live on the air. You can find a lot of this on the Any Hour Services YouTube channel and see for yourself. Again, just like all of Mike’s marketing tactics, being on the radio is a chance to give people valuable information – not a sales pitch. Entertainment and education often go hand in hand.

He likes to make it a point to try and get the host to ask him something like “so the homeowner needs to call you?”, just so he can say “nope”. He does this intentionally. If Mike’s on the air talking about tune-ups, 80% of the time he’s spending explaining why you want to do this, what you can do yourself, and what the manufacturer recommends. He’ll go a step further and even tell people if they have a company they trust, call them for service! Or, if you don’t know someone you trust, Any Hour Services is happy to help. This reinforces the intent Mike has with the marketing. Competitors like it too, but Mike points out that rising tides raise all ships…as well as that even if that pitch gets a competitor’s phone ringing 3 times, it’s making the line at Any Hour ring 300 times.

OTT

For some, OTT (Over-the-top) marketing may already be in your wheelhouse. Others might be encountering this acronym for the first time. OTT is media service that is delivered directly to the consumer through the internet, bypassing traditional television. The easy way to think about OTT is streaming services – your Netflix, Hulu, and the like. Television isn’t dead, but it is expensive. OTT marketing can let you sort of get into the TV game, and it’s got some huge advantages. For one, it’s often cheaper. The main thing is that instead of doing an entire DMA/whole-market approach (as one would be forced to do with TV), you can get surgical. OTT will let you target just a specific neighborhood or area code. You could even send it directly into a home based on an IP address if you wanted to get fancy about it. Mike uses OTT in addition to everything else and finds it highly useful for audience segmentation. Again, the approach here is to deliver value to the consumer. It’s not a chance to make a pitch, but rather an opportunity to get more personal with your audience to deliver some value in their life.

Your First Step in Marketing

Once upon a time, you could just outspend the guy down the street. These days, brand and marketing is much more complicated. You have to really understand not just how to get your brand story out there, but how to communicate and resonate with your target audience. Mike has found his value-first approach to be extremely effective, and it’s something that others might consider replicating for sure.

Now, the consumer has all the control over your brand reputation. When Mike speaks to his technicians, he makes it a point to remind them they are the ones that actually have control over the Any Hour Services brand, not him. Consumers form their opinion of the company based on their interactions with the people out in the field wearing the Any Hour Services logo. Mike sees his marketing as an extension; a compliment to the work they’re doing.

Your number one first thing in marketing is making sure that you have a product that is worth delivering.

If your product isn’t valuable, your marketing won’t resonate. Mike stresses the importance of curating a customer experience that is worth talking about and leaving a review! If you aren’t getting those reviews and positive interactions, you’re simply a commodity. Commodities get judged on price, and if your goal is just to be the cheapest option out there, well…you aren’t understanding the game.