10 Tips for Marketing Your Contracting Business
You’ve mastered all the skills necessary to be a great cement mason and to pour amazing stamped concrete. You’re setting up shop on your own. The future seems bright! And then you realize – there’s more to all this than just cement. You have to have all kinds of business skills as well. The most important one may be marketing your business.
Sure, there are a lot of other skills you’ll need as well. Managing a team is one of them. Bookkeeping and accounting are others. But if you don’t know how to market your business, you’re not going to have any work to give your team. And all the numbers in your ledger are going to be written in red ink.
There are a lot of tools you can and should make part of your marketing toolbox. Some are “old school” and others are definitely 21st century. But by combining several techniques, you can build a great business. So let’s have a look at some great steps you can use to grow your business!
Advertise While on a Job
You don’t have to completely separate time spent on advertising from time spent on a job, which is great! In fact, it’s pretty easy to convert your time on the job to time to advertise as well.
One simple way to do so? Your vehicles! This is something you may be doing already. Are your trucks “branded”? Do they show your logo, name, phone number and website address? This by itself is a form of advertising. Anyone driving by can notice your business and pick up your contact information right there. If you happen to be working in an area that’s visible from the street, they’ll have an even better idea of who you are and what you do. Of course, be sure to keep your vehicles clean and well-maintained, because that speaks volumes about your business as well.
Another step along the same lines is adding a sandwich board or other type of sign in front of your project. By this, I mean something temporary. This might seem redundant after talking about the trucks, but actually, it gives you a much higher chance to be noticed. For one thing, it’s more unusual. Vehicles are parked along the street or in driveways all the time. A sign stands out. Also, it may be easier to read than what’s on your truck. Think of that great ad on the back of your van – and all the time you spend with the rear doors open, making the sign unreadable!
Something else you can do is to leave door hangers in the neighborhood where you’re working. You may be able to make a simple one up yourself (office supply stores sell printable templates). Or you can have a designer draw up something a bit fancier. You and your team can deliver them or you can hire a teenager or someone who needs a few bucks. Just be careful about delivering them – at least in the US, mailboxes are for post office mail only. Also be sure to avoid aggressive dogs and obey no-trespassing signs!
This technique might take a bit more effort. Depending on your personality type, it could be a ton of fun or a real annoyance.
Networking means getting out to meet people and make connections. There are tons of chances to do that all around us.
Do you belong to a synagogue, church or mosque? That’s a great opportunity. Get to know the people around you. Talk to them before or after services. Spend a little extra time moving beyond your usual circles.
Community groups like the Lions, Rotary and similar organizations are another great way to make connections, especially with other business owners. They, in turn, may be looking for your services for their own homes or their places of business.
Membership in your local Chamber of Commerce or other similar organization can be a big help too. This can help you become known to other businesses. It can also help you in getting recommendations from the chamber itself.
A lot of this is simply about building relationships, getting to know people and letting them know who you are and what you do. Get some business cards printed up and don’t be afraid to give them out at meetings. Go to the ribbon-cuttings for new businesses. Shake hands and smile a lot. It’s almost like being a politician – except in business, it’s essential not to make promises you can’t keep.
Use the Phone
An old friend used to say all the time, “The phone works both ways!” whenever I’d complain that I hadn’t heard from him for a while. And using the telephone properly – for both outgoing and incoming calls – is an awesome marketing tool.
Do you miss the days when you could call a business and get a real person on the line? So do most people. It’s important that, as far as reasonable, you have a real person answer your phone during regular working hours.
You’ve advertised your number on your truck, on your print ads, on your business cards. When people call, they want to connect with you, not a machine. Now, that doesn’t have to be you personally. If you can afford to hire an office assistant or secretary, that’s perfect!
If you can’t have someone in the office all day to answer calls, an answering service is another great choice. Many service charge a flat monthly fee plus a per-minute cost for basic plans. It will give the appearance that someone is actually working in your office, and you can call in at your convenience to check for messages.
Another choice is to answer the call yourself. Yes, even in the field! Just have your office number forwarded to your cell phone. That way your clients do get to talk to you and you can set up a time to visit them or call them back.
That takes care of incoming calls; let’s look at outgoing calls now.
Using the phone to follow up with clients is a great opportunity to uncover the next project. A simple call after a job is done can thank them for their business, ask if there have been any issues, and check to see if they’re thinking about that new pool deck or walkway still.
You can also ask if they know of anyone else who might be in the market. It never hurts to ask for a recommendation to a friend or neighbor!
One last thing on the topic of phones: don’t discount the Yellow Pages! It might seem that everyone searches online now, but there’s still a good number of people who prefer to let their fingers do the walking. An ad there can have a big return on investment.
Digital Marketing: Websites and Social Media
We’ve mentioned internet-related marketing a couple times in passing so we really should take a look at its importance. There are basically two great ways you can market your business online: a website and social media.
A website is an opportunity to share a lot of information and images about your business in one place. You don’t need a huge site; a couple pages will suffice. You can always expand it as time goes on. Just be sure to have your contact info on it or include a contact form – preferably both. And since our trade is so visual, a photo gallery goes great. Sharing more information later – like adding a blog – can help down the road..
It is possible to create a site yourself, but having one professionally done can help make sure it functions more smoothly. It can also be tough to rank in search engines like Google, so you may want to have someone help with that. Or you can just rely on people visiting your site based on seeing your web address in your other advertising. However, being well-positioned in Google’s local results can be a huge support for business.
Social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer another great avenue for reaching people. Remember these are “social” – it’s another form of networking, in a way. They’re great avenues for sharing pictures of your projects. A platform like Instagram is especially great for that.
Sharing information, images and fun with your audience and answering their questions can go a long way to reaching new prospects. We go into how to promote your business with social media elsewhere.
Marketing your business is a key to success. You don’t need a Coca Cola-sized budget to do it well. The simple steps we’ve highlighted here can be a huge part of your marketing plan. Using at least some of these will give you a huge boost. Most of these just require an investment of some time and a minimal amount of money. But they’ll definitely pay off!