From marketing we understand that it takes less money to maintain our customer base than it does to develop new customers. While this seems to make sense for businesses that produce or sell "perishable" products like food, clothes, maybe even cars, I always found it rather difficult to apply this thinking to construction. Boy was I wrong!
In more than twenty years in the construction industry, both as a contractor and consultant, I have realized time and time again the reality of increasing business from my number one "prospect"…my current customer. Yet I continue to get requests from contractors on how to grow their revenues through developing new and creative business development strategies to capture new customers.
Now, we certainly need to maintain an effort to drive new business but too many opportunities slip by us to increase our revenues, and our profits, with those customers who we have performed work for in the past. Let me share a few techniques and approaches that may help you to raise your revenue this year by going back to a proven "fishing hole."
1. Gain the Vision of Your Customer
Getting a clear picture from your customers about what their building or project objectives are should be an effort made during the selling phases leading up to the first sale. If the project is commercial, will there be additional concrete needs? What are the expansion projections? If the job is for a residential customer, will the customer be looking at additional add-ons or improvements in the future? Don't be timid when it comes to identifying future opportunities that your customer may be looking at in the future. If you don't ask the customer might mistakenly assume you really aren't that interested in more work.
2. Strive to "Partner" on the Development & Budgeting Effort
Nothing ties a contractor to a customer better than having been part of the actual development phase of the project. Whether you can assist the customer develop a more inviting patio design or you can provide a more efficient method to put the columns in place, being part of the development of any project gains you greater respect and long-term opportunities. Likewise, working as the financial consultant on developing a practical budget with your customer allows you to get close to the real emotional side of paying for the project. Once you enter the "inner sanctum" of the customers financial world there is little else that they will be shy about discussing with you.
3. Personalize Your Follow-up and Stay-in-Touch with Customers
This combination of efforts continues to be the leading reason why more contractors fail to get more work from the same customer. Follow-up moves to contact the customer about work that is in process to see how they are doing and what they are thinking. If the customer shares their desire for additional work in the future follow-up gives you license to call or e-mail them on a consistent basis to keep your name and desire in front of them. Even if you have sales people who made the sale it is important that you contact the customers. Often, an owner brings even greater interest and intensity to the relationship. Many contractors will send out generic thank you cards and letters, perhaps even putting new customers on their newsletter receiving list. While these efforts keep your name out there they are not of the personal nature that brings greater "likeability" to you and your company. Touch your customers…personally.
4. Host Customers for Your Company's "State of the Union"
Once a year you should host a breakfast or luncheon where you invite some of your better customers to share with them your firm's direction and commitment to your customers. This is a good time to invite your customers to share their needs and expectations about where they are going. I've facilitated many of these luncheons, often called "Lunch and Learns," for contractors across the United States and the response is always very positive. You can always hold more than one of these luncheons a year and simply better segregate the customers you want there. The customers actually enjoy the luncheon since they will often fall into conversations with other customers who have also enjoyed your company's work results.