One of the greatest ways to keep your business going is with repeat customers. But how can you do that in contracting? Sure, it would be easy if you were selling toilet paper or cereal where there’s an ongoing need. But when you lay a concrete slab, that thing’s going to be there for a long time – why would anyone need you to come back for more work?
Actually, there are lots of ways you can get more work for the same clients, and this can form a big part of your business. Let’s look at why it’s important to keep them coming back, and how to achieve it!
The Importance of Repeat Business
There’s lots of information around about how important it is to hold on to clients. This information isn’t industry-specific, so it’s not going to apply precisely for concrete or other construction industries. However, some of the statistics can at least point us in the right direction. The statistics we’re basing our information on are from Small Business Trends.
It’s Cheaper to Keep Old Clients Than to Get New Ones
We end up spending a lot more time and money trying to get new clients than getting the old ones to come back. A lot more money. Some studies say getting a new client costs five times as much as keeping an old one.
Why would that be? Well, the old client already knows us. We don’t have to convince them of anything. They’ve seen what we can do. On the other hand, we have to start from scratch with a new client, get them to know our name and convince them that it’s worth hiring us. It’s like being in those first few months of business when no one was hiring us because they knew nothing about us.
Most Business Comes from Repeat Business
Repeat business might vary a bit more for a contractor than in other fields because we’re producing work that’s not consumed. But there are some important numbers to consider about repeat business, anyway.
First, it’s much more likely to make a sale to an existing customer. There’s a 5 – 20% probability of selling to a new prospect. But the probability with an existing customer is 60 – 70%! The difference is incredible.
Also, 65% of profits come from existing customers, not new ones. And 80% of future profits are from 20% of existing customers. So an existing customer base is a key source of ongoing business.
Of course, those are averages, and they’ll be different by industry. But realizing we’re painting with broad strokes, those are still pretty convincing and show how important it is to retain the clients we currently have.
Why Would Clients Come Back for More?
The big difference for us in a construction-related industry compared to a retailer is that we’re building something that’s built to last. If we do our job right, our clients aren’t going to need a new driveway or patio any time soon. So why should we invest any energy in trying to keep them as clients?
The truth is, there’s a lot of other work we can do for the same client. And that work falls into two categories: maintenance and new projects.
Most products in our field don’t even require maintenance that often. For stamped concrete, apply sealant every 2-3 years is usually sufficient. But that’s still a job and way to generate income. While we’re not talking about making “big bucks” with it, it’s still profitable based on the time and effort we have to put into it.
The other way we can provide our services to existing clients is through additional projects. Just because you installed a new driveway, it doesn’t mean they don’t want a patio next year. A new pool deck this year could lead to a fresh front walkway during the following season. They might already be thinking of more work and waiting to see how well you do!
8 Tips for Retaining Clients
If you’re still reading, you’re probably convinced that it’s important to have repeat business. So how can you go about getting it? Here are some of our favorite ideas.
Do a good job. This might seem obvious. And of course you’re going to do a good job not just for repeat business; it’s the right thing to do. But of course, no one is going to maintain an ongoing business relationship with you if you don’t do the first job well.
Be approachable. Your client is going to be spending their hard-earned money on your service. They have a right to ask questions throughout the process – from before you start until after you’re done. There might be times it gets out of hand, but under normal circumstances make yourself available.
Respond. This ties in with being approachable. Remember to answer calls or messages. Also, respond to all criticism and compliments. Try to resolve problems but also thank people for saying good things about you. Even if the issues are public – like on social media – respond fairly and don’t ignore or erase comments.
Follow up. Keep in contact with your clients after the work is done, even if it’s just a quick call or an email asking if there have been any issues or if they have questions. Consider sending a Christmas card or a calendar at the end of the year.
Ask If They’re Thinking of Other Projects. There’s no harm in asking, right? And just the question might cause your client to voice something that had only been in the furthest recesses of their mind. At the same time, you can subtly suggest projects too, especially where you see they have issues. Maybe you noticed a crumbling walkway or a muddy yard that could use a great patio.
Encourage them to follow you on social media. If you’re using social media, encourage your clients to follow you and remind them that you’re sharing great hints and ideas there. Of course, make sure you’re already following good social media practices! This can be a great and inexpensive way to keep connected.
Offer Service Plans. An actual “service plan” might be more common in other businesses. HVAC comes to mind since there’s more routine maintenance necessary. It might not be the case too much in our industry unless it’s a commercial installation with high traffic. Still, you can be sure to arrange follow-up for resealing after two or three years. If necessary for a particular type of project, you can also create more of an ongoing arrangement. Even if you don’t have a formal contract, you can follow up around the right time to offer maintenance.
Respect the neighbours. This might not seem so obvious. But remember that your work is causing some level of inconvenience to the neighbours, even if it’s minor. That could be parking issues because your trucks are taking up space. It could be noise or dust. You might field the complaints yourself, but your client may also be getting angry calls or visits.
By doing what you can to minimize disruptions you’ll keep the neighbours happier and that can mean less stress for the client. You could even go so far when you see the neighbours to let them know what’s going on and how long it’s expected to take. If there’s complaints about your crew or work, the client might decide to avoid the hassle the next time around.
Having customers come back for more projects can be really satisfying. It’s also really profitable because it’s more economical to keep customers than get new ones. With some simple steps, you can keep your “brand” in front of your clients and have them looking for you for both maintenance and new projects. These ongoing relationships are a wonderful way to build your business!