Many contractors rely on word of mouth to attract new business. But in a competitive industry such as construction, it pays to develop alternate marketing strategies. Implementing multiple ways to attract qualified prospects helps ensure that the job pipeline is always full so you can minimize downtime. It can also help to insulate your business from economic downturns. And, when you have a steady stream of new leads, you’ll be better able to pick and choose the most profitable projects.
Here are 10 construction-marketing strategies you can use to generate more business for your contracting company:
1. Develop a referral network. Chances are, if you have been in business for a while, you probably already have referral partnerships with other contractors. But have you thought about connecting with other types of businesses? Get to know your neighboring business owners and, when you hear of someone who could use their services, introduce them to the potential new customer. Most of them will return the favor when they have the opportunity. This marketing method takes time to develop, but it can be a highly profitable long-term strategy. Build your own referral network or join an existing one, such as your local chapter of Business Networking International (BNI).
2. Do a joint venture (JV). Here’s a quicker option: Find an established business with a good reputation that serves your best existing customers. For example, if you build outdoor entertainment areas, a good JV partner might be a caterer, a DJ service or a cleaning service. Create an irresistible offer that they can send to their customer list, along with an introduction to your business. This might be a free service, a free event (such as a seminar or an idea fair) or a coupon for your services. You can compensate your JV partners by paying them an upfront fee or a percentage of your sales. They will also enjoy the opportunity to offer their customers something special without having to spend a dime.
3. Do pro bono work. Relationships and trust are essential elements of good marketing. What better way to prove your mettle and establish yourself in your community than to donate your expertise to a worthy cause? When a beloved local nonprofit such as your local church, women’s shelter or humane society needs some construction work done, donating your labor can get you on a lot of people’s radar screens and result in business down the line.
4. Run a contest. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to win a dream kitchen or a driveway makeover? Pick a prize big enough to generate excitement and promote it through social media and local advertising. Also, be sure to have a nice, smaller deal you can offer everyone who responds—that way you can pick up a lot of new business.
5. Send press releases. Appearing in your local media is an excellent way to spread the word about your business and boost your credibility. It’s not particularly difficult because reporters are always on the lookout for a good story. Your business probably does many amazing things throughout the year. Get in the habit of alerting the media to your accomplishments, including activities such as the pro bono work and contests listed above. Don’t think that press releases need to be limited to awards and special events though. Even something as simple as designating an employee of the month counts. Or you can create a maintenance tip sheet related to the season and send it to the homes section of your local paper.
6. Get online. The construction industry is one of the last holdouts—many businesses still don’t have a web presence. However, this is the 21st century. Like it or not, if you don’t have a website, you are almost certainly losing business to your competitors. Bite the bullet and put one up as soon as possible. Make sure it is mobile-friendly; as of last year, more searches took place on smartphones and tablets than on desktop computers.
7. Encourage your customers to review your business online. Studies reveal that 67 percent of purchasing decisions are influenced by online reviews, and consumers trust online reviews nearly as much as personal referrals. Unfortunately, people are more likely to review a business they’re unhappy with than one that leaves them satisfied. Buck that trend by proactively asking your best customers to leave you a review. The best time to ask is right after you’ve completed the work, when they’ve expressed their happiness with the job. Don’t be shy about directing them to the website on which you’d like to see their review. Angie’s List and Google Plus Local are good bets.
8. Try Facebook ads. If there’s one place your customers are nearly guaranteed to hang out, it’s Facebook. Facebook ads can be laser-targeted to your ideal demographic as well as your location. You might have to do some testing to find out what works best, but Facebook offers one of the most cost-effective advertising programs around, so there is room for trial and error—and you can get started for as little as $5 per day. Facebook is also a great place to test ad ideas before investing in more expensive advertising.
9. Create a customer referral program. If you are already enjoying good word-of-mouth business, why not amp it up by proactively encouraging customer referrals? Offer your customers cash, gift cards or credit for every referral they send your way. Be generous: The better the incentive, the more likely your customers will refer you.
10. Follow up. The easiest business you will ever receive is repeat business from satisfied customers. Not keeping in touch with them on a regular basis is a mistake. Send them a regular email and/or snail mail newsletter to stay top of mind and alert them to special offers—chances are you will find this to be your best source of new business. Don’t neglect to follow up each job you do with a special thank-you note or a gift as well. As contractor Ryan Key says, “Showing appreciation for your vendors and clients is one of the best and cost-efficient way to market your business.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more ways to generate new business. A good rule of thumb is to do something every day—no matter how small—to attract new customers. Over time, this will generate a steady stream of new business and ensure you will always have work for your crews. What have you done lately to market your construction business?
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