"Size" helps. Howell says he thinks many property managers feel more comfortable working with contractors they perceive to be "bigger" because they think "bigger" means more established and more capable. So he takes simple steps to make T & N Asphalt appear bigger than the mid-size company it is: T & N Asphalt paints and letters its trucks with the company name and phone number, relies on professional-looking pre-printed contracts, and mails bids and invoices in pre-printed envelopes.
Use a "seal of approval." Howell says he noticed some of the large paving contractors he works with have Associated General Contractors (AGC) or National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) logos on their trucks and stationary.
"I thought it looked very professional so I joined NPCA and the Better Business Bureau and we put those logos all over our letterheads, business cards, mailings, anywhere we can," Howell says. "It helps us build up our image and helps us appear bigger and more professional.
"Perceived value is the key, and we've found companies will spend more money with you if they think you are a professional, quality organization," he says. "Of course the liability is that if you look more professional you actually have to be more professional and provide a quality, professional service."
Howell says that the size of a company determines to some extent how it should approach some of these suggestions. "If you're an established contractor you might want to try subcontracting as a way to grow and get more work," he says. "If you're a smaller business you might want to work on improving your image first."