Need some help improving your electrical service business? Just ask Mister Sparky (AKA Patrick Kennedy). As the owner of Mister Sparky, Inc. in Atlanta and the president of Electricians' Success International in St. Louis, he knows a thing or two about the industry.

What can I do to market my service business, and what are some add-ons I can offer to help generate business when I'm slow?

It can be difficult to succeed with direct mail, but if you target your existing customers with a specific offer, you can achieve some success because you're tapping a group of people who already know you.

Some add-ons that come to mind are lightning and surge protection. Many homeowners have simple surge protector power strips, but few have proper protection on their panel box(es), cable line, or incoming phone line. Other great safety add-ons are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and GFCIs. Make sure you educate your customers about the safety benefits of these items in your marketing materials.

Other areas to look at are cosmetic enhancements like landscape lighting, recessed lighting, or outdoor flood and motion sensor lighting. When marketing these add-ons, don't try to highlight more than three items in one mailer. You'll only muddy the message.

Besides direct mail, you may want to look at TV advertising. (I'm assuming you're already in the yellow pages.) Cable TV is relatively inexpensive compared to the networks, and you can target a very specific part of your market area.

You still want to reduce those slow times, though, and marketing can't always get the job done. The key is to find a way to get into your clients' homes on a regular basis to keep driving revenue until business picks back up, and that brings us to our next topic.

How can I put together a service contract based on my customers' needs?

Start by changing your phrasing. No one likes contracts, and your customers could be scared off when you ask them to sign one, so call them agreements or plans. With that being said, service agreements are a great way to lock your clients into a long-term relationship with your company, and so few residential electrical companies offer agreements today that you'll really stand out.

Very few places/companies can assist you with this process, so I suggest developing your own agreement. Mister Sparky has offered a service agreement for many years, and based on our experiences, I would recommend a couple of items for any service plan for the residential electrical industry.

By focusing your agreement on safety, you'll be able to address your needs and your clients' needs. In particular, safety inspections are a great way to offer additional products that will enhance their home and increase your sales at the same time. Homeowners want to feel safe in their home and know you'll be there when they need you. For that reason, priority service is another great benefit to offer your agreement members.

Start by offering them an annual or bi-annual safety inspection. This should include inspecting their electrical panel(s), searching attics and basements/crawl spaces for open splices, checking for GFCI compliance with the current Code, and testing their smoke detectors. We frequently find improper wiring or breaker sizing when someone trades their old A/C unit for a newer, more efficient model, so keep your eye out for that as well.

As an extra added service, you could also provide batteries for their smoke detectors on each inspection and change out any blown light bulbs for free.

To be successful with agreements you also need marketing and training. Most homeowners don't think they need a plan, so you must show them how your plan will protect their home and family. That takes solid presentation materials, marketing to back it up, and training for your team to present it. It's a system that can yield tremendous benefits for you and your clients. And by emphasizing safety — be it with service agreements or your marketing — you'll have happier clients and higher revenue.

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Illustration by Clint Metcalf