Sometimes getting the work you need involves first creating opportunities for your sales force to cash in on. That groundwork is often laid well in advance of any sales, so payback can't be expected immediately. For contractors looking to create sales opportunities, here are some tested approaches to consider.
Refocus on marketing and sales. Guy Gruenberg, Grow Consulting, says he spent much of his time with clients last year focusing on marketing and sales earlier than ever. "Mostly we're creating a marketing action plan, giving some structure to what many contractors are already doing or are considering, so it's not just hit or miss marketing," Gruenberg says.
Focus your marketing. Gruenberg suggests identifying the top 10 or so prospects you want to do business with and then pursue that group hard. Questions to ask as you define that group should include, do you want to work with them? Do they hire contractors? And do they pay their bills? Once you narrow the group down work to learn who the decision maker is in each company and work to set up a meeting with that person.
Market around a theme. Create a longer-term promotional effort based on a single theme, such as gambling, baseball, or movies. All marketing efforts are then tied by that theme, and special themed gifts are sent regularly to a targeted list. "I guarantee that if you follow this through by the time your salesperson walks through the customer's door everyone there will know who he works for," Gruenberg says.
He says most of his clients' recent marketing efforts have been creative direct-mail efforts focused on getting the name in front of a customer or prospect as opposed to making a sales pitch. "We've stayed away from pictures of potholes in favor of attention grabbers," he says, mentioning one campaign that included a Happy Groundhog Day pencil that fits in a #10 envelope. The tagline on the pencil mailer was 'Now is the time to sharpen your pencil for work you haven't done.' So far it seems to have worked pretty well," he says.
Build relationships. "People want to do business with people they have relationships with. Honesty and trust are paramount in this day and age."
Broaden your marketing approach. Pavement Advisory Board member Nick Howell, T & N Asphalt Services, Salt Lake City, believes that the more a contractor can get his name out in the community the more secure the community feels about hiring him. So he tries a broad variety of marketing approaches including sponsoring local sports teams (his company name is on their uniforms), and T & N Asphalt is an official sponsor of the Salt Lake Bees Triple A minor league baseball team affiliated with the California Angels of Anaheim. As official sponsor a brief commercial is read over the ballpark's public address system while the company logo appears on the park's video screen.
T & N Asphalt also participated in a local parade, driving its clean and lettered dump truck along the route, tossing candy to the spectators. "I don't know if we got any work directly from it but we know we had a few people who called after they saw us there. That kind of thing helps give us some credibility and helps get people over the fear of 'asphalt guys' who often don't have a great reputation. It makes us more visible, makes us look more professional, and shows we're involved in the community, that we're not going anywhere."
Reconsider phone book ads. While Gruenberg isn't saying no contractor should advertise in the Yellow Pages, he does think money can be better spent elsewhere. "Phone book ads just don't produce very well," Gruenberg says. "When people do call from a phone book ad they are generally price shopping and they usually call a number of the ads and give the job to the lowest-priced contractor. Most contractors would be more successful diverting dollars from their phone book ads to other marketing efforts."
Consider radio advertising. "It's not very expensive and we had one radio spot that we know turned into a $12,000 job for us," Howell says.