Attend local home center shows and other events. This can be effective on both a local and national level. It gives you a chance to meet buyers ? homeowners or property managers ? face to face, hand out some literature, and answer questions as an expert. "It's the same principle as direct mail: The more you keep your name in front the better you are," Howell says.
Track your marketing dollars. Whatever marketing approach you take, it's essential to find out which marketing dollars are working for you ? and which aren't. "Take a real hard look at where you're getting your business from," says Brad Humphrey, Pinnacle Development Group. "Make sure you're getting a return on all your advertising, whether it's Yellow Pages, direct mail, radio, whatever you're using. Find out what's getting the best return and shift your dollars to the most-effective area."
Host an open house. Designed for both prospects and current customers, an open house is also a great opportunity to turn to files of past customers. Alan Rose, Rose Paving, is a Pavement Advisory Board member who conducts an open house every year. These events, held at your office or yard, are costly and are complex (don't hold one if you can't brag about your facility).
But if you do operate out of a facility your customers would find amenable, an open house is a great opportunity to mix prospects with customers, thank existing customers, show off your place, equipment, and crew, and even expose prospects to the various pavement maintenance options your company offers.
Get involved in your customers' organizations. Note the first two words: get involved. Many of the people Pavement talked with encouraged contractors to join as many associations related to their work as was reasonable, but all said that "joining" was not a solution. To get anything out of your relationship with any organization you need to get involved, play a role, and make an impact.
Pavement Advisory Board member Bob Paradise, Paradise Asphalt Maintenance, Lee's Summit, MO, says getting involved in organizations is the first recommendation he would make, naming specifically the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) as one possible group. He says the first year he joined IREM "I didn't know a soul."
"Getting involved with that group and staying involved really opened up doors and opportunities for us, and it also helped establish relationships needed to get business and to get repeat business," Paradise says. He says he has become involved on various IREM committees, working on and donating to golf outings, and helping volunteer when the organization needs assistance. He says that getting involved with IREM lends credibility to his company, adding that many of the people he works with now have become friends. "You learn about their lives, their families, and you develop trust and you become friends, and that's all part of sales anyway.
"But that also means expectations are high," he says. "There's a level of accountability for everything you do because they are your friends."
Another organization contractors should consider is any local apartment association. The Apartment Association of Kansas City (AAKC), for example, is made up of managers of more than 30 apartment complexes. Property manager members deal with multiple properties, so a contractor who is an AAKC member is more productive at AAKC meetings than driving around the city looking for parking lots that need maintenance. Paradise says being a member of a local apartment association also helps when the manager of a property is local but the owner or final decision maker is out of state. "At least that way you might have an advocate for you, even if the bid goes out of town for approval," he says.
Mike Musto, U.S. Pavement Inc., enthusiastically agrees, highlighting his contracting company's participation in the local chapters of the Community Associations Institute (CAI) and the National Apartment Association, the Building Owners and Managers Association, and the International Facilities Management Association. Musto, who serves on the local CAI board, says it helps "in a big way" to get involved. "It gives you extra credibility," he says. Musto, who also markets vanity phone number 1-800-PAVEMENT, says having the vanity number is especially helpful when attending association's national events. "It's an easy number to remember where maybe your company name is not," he says.