As the saying goes, a jack of all trades is a master of none. Trying to be all things to all people means it’s unlikely that you’ll be expert at any of it. We don’t expect our dentist to perform brain surgery (even though our heads contain both a brain and teeth), yet some companies continue to market themselves as the right choice for everything from replacing a screen door to remodeling an entire house. What kind of message is this sending? Contractors hoping to attract a wider audience may find themselves being eliminated by prospects looking to fill a need that they may believe is beyond the scope of a generalist.
Figure out what you do best. If you’re not already doing so, start tracking profitability on categories of jobs. Do you do better with kitchens than bathrooms? Additions than basements? Jobs between $15,000 and $50,000 rather than over $50,000? Whatever criteria are appropriate to you, start measuring.
Choose Your Target Customer
Have you been particularly effective with lawyers? Engineers? Professional couples? Families with kids? Retirees? Jobs within a five-mile radius? Projects in a particular town or county? If you haven’t been classifying jobs this way, make a list of criteria and start tracking the attributes of successful and unsuccessful jobs, looking for patterns.
Assuming you’ve identified your target market, what can you offer that’s different from your competition? Given the number of contractors cutting corners by using shoddy materials, unlicensed subs, and uninsured “subcontractors” who are really employees, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that you can’t compete on price alone.
Get any group of remodelers together and ask them why their company is special and you’ll hear about how long they’ve been in business, how beautiful their results are, and how reliable they are. The problem is that these claims (justified or not) can be made by most companies and your prospective clients lack the experience to ask the kinds of questions that would reveal the truth.
Tackle Your Prospects' Concerns
What are people afraid of? They’ve all heard horror stories about contractors who take a deposit and then disappear, of shoddy workmanship, erratic appearances, jobs that go over budget, over schedule, and jobs that start at one “low, low price” and then end up with exorbitant costs due to change orders for things that should have been included in the original contract.
Back up your claims with specific examples. People love stories. Tell them about how you dealt with one customer’s free-roaming pet python. Have customer testimonials, and don’t be shy about prompting your customers. If you’ve done a good job, they will want to sing your praises, but they’ll be grateful for some hints about what will be most useful to you. (It also makes their job easier!) Vague comments like, “Jim did a really great job” are less impactful than specifics such as “Not only did the job come in on time and on budget, but the level of cleanliness maintained by Todd’s crew was phenomenal” or “Kim came up with some design tweaks that allowed us to get much more than we hoped for yet still stay within our budget.”
Refine and Define Your Message
As you focus on marketing, it’s important to have a well-defined message about who you are and what you do. Do you have a mission statement that clearly defines you’re your core purpose? Do you know your core values? Think about why clients hire you over your competitors–in essence, what makes you special. Use that information to strengthen your marketing efforts and build your brand promise.
Pick three to four attributes that you want past customer to use when describing your company to their friends. Some examples are quality, integrity, honesty, timely, communicative, innovative, dedicated, and transparent. All these certainly sound like excellent attributes, but too many for a concise marketing plan. Determine what’s important for you to communicate to potential clients.
Once you can clearly define your core values and your target client and job type, you can use that to create a marketing plan to attract clients that will provide the biggest bang for your marketing dollars.