Like many contractors, James has made several adjustments to fit the struggling economy. “You need a crew that works more efficiently and gets the job done faster,” he says. “You don’t want to pass it on to your people and make them more responsible, and you don’t want to push your crew too hard and talk too much about profit margins. If you have good people they are already doing the best they can.”
While James encouraged his crews to find more efficient ways to complete the projects, he also encountered challenges with pleasing his clients. Due to the struggling economy, 1-800-Asphalt encountered more difficult clients.
“It was almost like people didn’t want to spend their money, and they complained about getting the work done,” James says. “It was hard to keep people happy. I’ve always tried to go back and fix something even if it wasn’t our fault.”
Completing those repairs even if it wasn’t 1-800-Asphalt’s fault was squeezing the profit margin, but James believes in taking care of his clients ensuring their happiness with a project. “They’re going to talk to their friends and say if we did a good job,” he says. “For probably 10 years most of my business was word of mouth. You have to keep that integrity and ethic until things change.”
Utilizing new forms of marketing
It is fairly standard to have a Facebook page or Twitter account, and the capacity at which these new forms of social media marketing are used vary from contractor to contractor. With James and his wife as administrators, 1-800-Asphalt maintains an active Facebook page.
“During the day I get out of the office and go into the field to check on jobs,” he says. “If I’m driving by a job the guys just completed I’ll stop and post it to Facebook. If I’m talking with a customer I’ll mention adding us on Facebook, and I’ll tell them we’d love to see their comments. They can also see the work we do.”
Along with his posts to Facebook, James also encourages his employees to post pictures of completed projects. James has one truck driver that takes pictures regularly during projects and posts the photos at night when the work day is finished.
Another new marketing platform 1-800-Asphalt is breaking into is utilizing QR codes. A QR code is a matrix barcode that is readable by various smartphone applications and redirects users to a specific web page. “I just purchased some warning tape that we use on driveways after we are done paving,” James said. “It’s a 3-inch tape that says 1-800-Asphalt with a QR code that directs users to our website. I am trying to take advantage of the new technologies people are using.”
Keeping it personal
Maintaining one-on-one communication with clients and potential clients continues to be an important part of business for James. While he has noticed the decrease in personal attention from his own vendors, he remains focused on providing his clients with a personal touch.
“We are still trying to keep this personal,” he says. “You can still talk to someone. If you have a complaint you can talk to me, the estimator, or the foreman when the job is being done. We try not to delegate tasks and take care of things until the job is done.”
Along with providing personal attention, James has been able to keep up with the growing demands of providing fast-paced project bids. “Because of the way information is being done now, a personal connection seems to be missing,” he says. “If your business is like mine, don’t lose the personal touch.”