The downturn in the economy was the best thing to ever happen to our company. Yes, I truly believe my opening statement. Now stay with me long enough so I can explain.
When times were great, leads poured in and prospects were ready to spend their disposable incomes on home improvement projects. Contractors were running hard and fast just to keep up with the day-to-day demands of selling, installing and collecting on jobs. Contractors were working so hard in their businesses that they spent little to no time working on their businesses.
Once lead flow slowed (or stopped), contractors discounted work to entice the prospects they still had. Panic began to set in and for some began to turn into a paralysis, stuck not knowing what to do to turn it all around.
Sound familiar? I saw contractors all over the country caught in this scenario. As director of sales and marketing at SUNDEK, I looked for a way to help our contractors. I came up with four questions I encouraged every decorative contractor to ask himself or herself. These questions will help you realize where you are and help you get to where you need to be.
1. What are my strengths?
Identifying your strengths sounds like it should be really easy to do, but many contractors venture away from the things that made them successful in the beginning. You have to work hard to identify your core competencies and live, breathe and sell them not only to your external customers but internal ones as well - your employees. The greatest marketing you can do is to get your entire organization focused and driven behind a common ideal or goal.
We found some strengths that nearly all contractors shared and others that were unique or rare. Do you possess any of these strengths?
- Meeting deadlines and staying within budget
- Great advertising and marketing that results in new lead generation
- High sales conversion or close ratio
- Quality installations that translate to an excellent referral rate
- Phenomenal customer service that begins with answering the phone and continues throughout a project
Identify your strengths and focus on the ones that are working and you're good at. Don't try to be all things to all people.
2. What is it like to be my customer?
We found the easiest thing to forget is why you got in this business to begin with. If you are like most of our contractors, you love the creative ability to bring to life an idea and turn it into a sustainable work of art. The by-product of this is to thrill your customers and meet their expectations so they will rave about you to everyone. That's difficult for a customer to do when a contractor doesn't communicate schedule changes, leaves a sloppy workplace, doesn't service them after job completion, doesn't return phone calls and makes promises they can't keep.
Pick up the phone, call your customers and ask them how you're doing. It they are unhappy, fix it. It used to be that an unhappy customer would tell 10 people about a bad experience. But today, a customer can tell thousands of possible prospects about a bad experience on the Internet 24/7/365. You don't need that kind of exposure.
3. Am I selling value or price?
The value for most contractors hasn't gone anywhere - they just stopped selling it. Why? Because the lack of new prospects and leads caused many of them to slash prices because they thought price was all anyone was concerned with and they needed the work.
Here are a few suggestions for doing a better job with the leads you have before you worry about finding new leads.
- Have a diverse product line to offer good, better and best choices.
- Make it simple for your customer to see how your bid is an apples-to-apples comparison with your competition.
- Tell each and every prospect your story. Tell them about you, your company, your employees and your satisfied clients.
- Find out how your phone is being answered. You probably put a lot of time and attention into training your sales staff but you might be forgetting about that first person every prospect talks to.
- Accompany your sales team on calls. Make sure they are asking questions and not letting a low price do the selling for them. Be sure they are uncovering a customer's needs and wants instead of telling a customer what they think they want to hear.
4. How do I get more leads?
Once you have ensured your current leads are being handled in an appropriate manner, you can concentrate on bringing in new leads. Contractors who follow these advertising tips will not only survive but thrive:
- If you can't capture and compile reports on where your leads are coming from, I guarantee you will waste a lot of money. The Internet needs to be your primary focus. It is the way people look for answers to questions about everything, especially purchases.
- It is not enough to just have a website. That website has to be search engine optimized (SEO) to appear on the first page of results from a search engine. Nearly 70 percent of Internet users click only on search results from their first page of results.
- Google is king. Get someone to help you land on the first page of good search results. It helps if that someone understands your business or at least understands the key words and phrases your customers type to look for the things you do.
- Get e-mail addresses and use a company like iContact or Constant Contact to help you with e-mail marketing campaigns and e-newsletters to help you stay in touch with existing and potential customers.
- Embrace the power of social media. Have a Facebook company page and promote special offers and projects to your fans and followers on a consistent basis. You will need to use e-mail or some other type of contact to encourage your customers to follow you on Facebook or Twitter.
- Create videos and post them to YouTube.com. Include projects and testimonials and link to your website and social media pages. You can optimize these videos to appear on the first page of search results with your contact info.
- Join sites like Concretenetwork.com and Concreteideas.com, which are industry experts in achieving high rankings for your potential subjects.
Internet leads are second behind referrals as a source of our dealer revenues. Hopefully, you can ask the manufacturers you buy from for some help with these endeavors, but ultimately it will fall on your shoulders to come up with solutions. More importantly, you will need to find some folks you can count on and trust to help you.
Remember, marketing in today's economy is not a revolution; it's all about execution.
Joe Primavera is director of sales and marketing for SUNDEK. He began his decorative concrete career "in the bucket" on an installation crew for a SUNDEK contractor. Primavera is an active member of the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) and serves on its Decorative Concrete Council; he helped launch both the DCC Awards and the ASCC Webinar Series. Reach him at email@example.com.