2012 was a year of change
So 2012 was a bumpy ride for most of us in the Construction industry and like most I am sure you have come out the other end in 2013 feeling bruised and sore. You will have had to make changes to the way you work and adapt to forces that are outside of your control and have a long hard think about what you offer, who you offer it to, and how you can make the connection between the two better.
The main thing that became clear in 2012 is that specialist contractors can no longer rely upon traditional methods of estimating and bidding alone, as the ones who did found themselves struggling up against those who had embraced the new age in which marketing, branding and relationships between company and client play a vital role alongside the traditional.
The construction industry has changed to adapt to client needs and expectations, as it always has and always will. And it’s the specialist contractors who are open to these changes and adapt accordingly and quickly that always get ahead of the game.
Why are some of us stuck in the mud?
Surveys have shown that the vast majority of specialist contractors who use Yellow Pages for their advertising admit that the ads just don’t bring in the amount of sales that they used to, if at all. But the majority also admit they cannot say for sure as they don’t actually track their sales in any way, so they don’t know where the new clients are finding them.
This is a worrying flaw in today’s industry as marketing has become vital to the growth of businesses, but so many don’t understand and are too stuck in the mud to even try to understand, which is damaging their future in an industry that is overtaking them.
How Specialist Contractors Can Keep Up
You as a specialist contractor have a distinct advantage over standard businesses in that you have the ability to go out and find new clients. You don’t have to wait for the phone to ring or the new client to walk through the door and you don’t have to hope that someone will recommend you to their friends to gain new custom.
Specialist contractors also have a unique advantage. In today’s industry when prospective clients need any kind of construction or building work done, the first place they go to find the company for the job is online, meaning if you have a good online presence and some digital marketing you have a massive advantage in your market.
The best way to test your online presence is to use a search engine to search your specialist area and where you operate in the UK, e.g. “remodelling Derby”. What and who comes up on the first few results? You, your competitors, a larger national company? When potential new clients search for your company on a popular review site, such as Yelp, what do they see? Try looking at your website (if you have one) on a smartphone. Does the site appear at all and if yes, is it well converted or does it not work well on mobile?
Whether or not you have a solid online presence, don’t think that is enough to get by, you are still in a service orientated “people business” where good relationships with your clients, old and new, are vital. Being online is a good start and the best way to get your company name out there, but securing the client requires some time and effort put in to build the relationship and keep them satisfied and turn them into return customers.
At its core, contracting is about an agreement between two people to get something done a certain way. People. face to face, human hands shaking human hands. As convenient as email, websites, phones and faxes are, the construction industry is built on personal relationships. And in this age of digital and online we can often forget that.
Get out of your chair and go out and visit your clients. Show your face, shake their hand. Say hello and remind them of your connection. Call personally if you can’t go visit them. Make it a point to personally connect wherever and whenever possible. Make personal relationship building and networking a cornerstone of your marketing process.
Make it your priority to really get to know them and their needs and focus on letting them know you understand and can give them what they want. Listen closely to what they say and how they say it. Clients want to be heard, understood and respected. They want you to be able to make their dreams come true, and they are willing to give you money to make it happen. Show them you can.
So just take a moment to step back and really think about how you communicate and relate at the moment with your client. Who have you not kept touch with? How do you interact with the people you are in touch with at the moment? How can you improve on those areas?
Customer retention, business development, and basic relationship building are the key components to the growth of your construction company. Don’t just make them a priority, make them the way you do business.