That’s a forum question relevant to readers around here — and so are the answers, in Michael Stone’s LinkedIn Construction Business Owners Group.
There’s no science in these answers, other than the possible fact that one answer could influence others. However, let’s summarize some of the responses. Note most members of this group work in the residential sector and serve consumers, though some will do smaller business-to-business projects. I won’t name individual contractors here because the group is closed (though is easy to join if you have a LinkedIn account, which you should have by now.)
BNI (Business Networking International)
Join a local chapter of BNI (Business Networker’s International). I get two to three leads per week, and the annual dues are worth it.
Networking (in a broader sense), with individual leads master-mind groups
Networking, for me, is the best way to get business. Join your local Chamber of Commerce, be involved in your business. Get three of four centers of influence in your community and have lunch, breakfast of whatever once or twice a month. Twice a month a banker, real estate broker, a CPA and I have breakfast. We meet with the intent purpose of helping each other grow their business and community. Ask and it shall be given.
Canvassing is a very effective method of generating jobs. However it is difficult for some people to get out of their comfort zone and go knock on a door. Also if you are so inclined to do this check the local town and state ordinances for peddling some require a permit. Another good way to generate leads is to get on the old phone and cold call in areas you are either working in or have done work
Yuck. I hate canvassing and show the worst side of my personality to anyone who dares knock on our home (or if they dare, office) door. However, I’ve written some more objective thoughts about the process here.
For me, the best forum has been Rotary. The caveat here is Rotary or any “service club” has a long nurture time (as in years). I joined Rotary for business; I stayed in Rotary because I liked the folks and the mission. Several years after joining my Rotary club; I had gotten very little; then suddenly the projects came pouring in. Rotary has been responsible for many millions of dollars in projects. Just as important, Rotary put me into situations to network and be introduced many of the power players in my community. Once I had the clients, then I began to actively market to those past clients and help them be my advocate. My past client get newsletters monthly, postcards quarterly, and phone calls and/or emails.I have become very good at my Fuzzy File – any sort of personal information on them; birthdays, anniversaries, parents/kids birthdays –they get birthday cards sent by me with handwritten notes; I note their interests and hobbies and sent various notes article etc of interest on those things. Anything I can do that makes them know I’m thinking of them they return that acknowledgement in referrals. I also find out about their businesses and try to refer prospect to them too.
This reflects my belief that relevant client-focused associations are ideal marketing methodologies, especially for larger, longer-term business, especially in the business-to-business sector. I recall well my decision to stay the course with the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) in the third year of my business, without any measurable results (and at the height of the major early 1990s recession). Relationships and direct business through the association has been one of my company’s best lead sources. Ottawa Renovates, for example, originated there. But you need to focus on giving rather than taking — and be patient.
Rotary, of course, plugs you into the business leadership network, especially in smaller communities, as would Chambers of Commerce. In larger cities, yo may find neighbourhood-based service group and sporting/community associations to be effective and, in the business-to-business environment, relevant specialized associations.
Home and garden shows
In the Portland area I’m a big fan of our local home and garden shows. if you stick with it you can be very successful.
(followed by this posting)
The home and garden shows do work but you have to stick with it. I read somewhere that the average homeowner will attend four years of a home show before they “pull the trigger”. I have talked to some future homeowners for two or three years and then go to work for them. You have to continue to be seen for them to realize you are a stable, reputable company.
Indeed, most marketing is not a quick fix and results improve over time.
Previous client communication: Cultivating referrals and repeat business
We continually keep in contact with our past clients and suppliers in the form of a newsletter and various marketing campaigns. This is an excellent way to spend you time, energy and marketing $ especially if 90% of your work comes from referrals and repeat business from past clients.
Personally, this is my favorite, underutilized marketing approach.
Great client experience with referral follow-up
Remember to always do quality work, use quality materials and don’t take short cuts to save a few bucks and communicate with your client from start to finish keeping them informed of what is happening. This will eliminate them from asking you a thousand questions and it will also increase their confidence in choosing you. They will gladly then refer you to family, friends, co-workers etc…
I have done this from the beginning and have been busier each year with more referrals every year. I do not do home shows because they are usually tire kickers looking for the cheapest price and we are never the cheapest or the most expensive. I also do not participate in BNI groups as the return so not worth the time, since most of them want a referral before giving one. I also know nothing about how they run their businesses so I would not want to jeopardize the relationships I have with clients by referring them.
The golden rules
- I represent myself in a very diverse manner;
- Stay with in the letter of law;
- Form relationships with licensed contractors that you can place in your brochures;
- Join the right organizations for you business BBB is a good start 70 per cent more consumers are likely to do business with you. This is one example;
- I represent myself as a material wholesaler and remodeling company;
- If you have a showroom big or small its great to invite a potential customer in for a meeting it shows stability builds trust as well as you are saving them money on materials;
- Giving back to the community is a great way to get to know people, gain respect and new leads,
These time-tested marketing approaches make sense. Note that they all provide the opportunity for one-on-one communication and relationship-building. Third-party media,websites and the like aren’t on the list. But that is reasonable, because few people will make their final decision for a major AEC project because of external media alone. People will want to know and trust you first (though I wouldn’t under-rate the effectiveness of a well-designed website with an effective call-to-action to obtain leads and references.)