Markup & Profit

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Promoting Your Business

Aaron Rosenthal sent the following note late last year:

"Would you care to have a section on business promotions within your electronic newsletter, for we who work alone and spend more time on the site than invoicing/sales calling/estimating/planning and rarely get concentrated time to look at the newer ideas of promotion of leads?"

Thank you Aaron, good request. I will share with you some of the things that have worked well for our coaching clients this last year. Not all of these will work for everyone, but they are certainly better than no advertising at all.

But first, I have to make a quick comment.

Invoicing (or billing) is a no-no. Put your payment schedule in your contract and get paid on that schedule. If you are doing handyman work, it should be part of the contract that all money due is paid before you leave the job site. There should be a penalty clause in your agreement (15 to 20 percent of the total) if they tell you, "I will send you a check" or "Send me an invoice and I'll get a check out to you".

Second thing, for those that work by themselves, remember that you can only work so many hours a day on the job. That means the best you can do working on jobs is make a living, possibly a good living. You will never make enough to retire on. If you want to make money in construction, you must grow and expand your business so you are running the business, and hiring others to do the work.

Okay, now let's talk about how to get your phone to ring.

The best advertising method we've seen is giving out one business card a day to someone you do not know. Over a given period of time it is the least expensive and highest rate of return of any advertising you can do. Your business card MUST have the following:

- Your company name
- Your name
- Your address, city, state and zip
- Your phone and fax number and possibly your mobile number
- Your email address and website.

All this should be on the front of your card. On the back of your card you can include your company slogan or specialties. The front should be reserved for a clear message on how the reader can reach you. Your phone number should be on both sides of the card (if both sides are used).

In 2006, I collected about 1,200 business cards from attendees at classes and seminars I conducted. I get business cards from only about 35-40 percent of those attending. Sometimes, I only receive a piece of paper with the contact info handwritten on it. I assume that many of those who don't give me a business card don't have one with them. Your business card is as important as your credit card - "Don't leave home without it".

Of the cards collected, many don't have any address information. If that sounds like your business card, let me ask you a question. If I were your customer, and I wanted to send you a check, where should I send it? Make it easy for your customers to contact you - include your address.

Second best means of advertising is a website. You must have a website in today's market place. Many who have the money to spend on remodeling or for a new home do their research on the Internet first. Contractors tell us that their customers research on the Internet long before they call a contractor.

Unless you have extensive training in website development, don't try to do your own website. Time and again we hear from contractors who are getting few if any calls from their website. When I ask who designed the site, it is almost always "I did". These same contractors holler loudly when firemen, schoolteachers, and others with large blocks of time away from their real jobs do their own remodeling or build their own homes. Pay a pro to do what they do best, and you do what you do best. Websites can easily produce half or more of your leads. Make your site a quality one.

Job signs and vehicle signs are still very good lead producers. Let's take it one step farther. Do you (or your sales people) visit at least 20 homes in the immediate area where you have a job sign displayed during the course of a job? You will get your highest rate of sales per contact doing it. During the approximately 30 years I actively sold remodeling, I often canvassed the neighborhoods around the jobs we had working. I would get at least one sale for every 22 to 24 doors I knocked on. That is one sale in twenty-four contacts. What other type of advertising can you do that will get you that high a rate of return for either time or money invested?

Have you thought of putting before and after pictures of your jobs on the side of your vans? One of our contractors told me he has before and after pictures of a nice kitchen remodel on his van. He has had people follow him to job sites and ask him if he would come to their home to talk about their kitchen remodel. If you haven't tried it, you will never know if it will work for you.

Aaron, above, mentioned that he was sending an electronic card to potential customers. I think that is a good idea. Add a note that it is a one-time mailing and apologize if you have inconvenienced them in any way. Or how about sending a quarterly newsletter?

One more idea for those interested. A good friend of mine, Dave Lupberger now works for Service Magic. He told me they are making many changes to the way they deal with both contractors and the buying public. Here is what Dave said in a recent email:

"I'm trying to help Service Magic develop a 5 or 6 step training program to help contractors be more successful using the 'SM system.' I've been putting together individual training modules with the following content:

1. Getting Started
2. Setting Up Your Online Profile
3. Managing Your Leads
4. Qualifying Your Leads
5. The Powerful Presentation Portfolio"

I have known David for many years and if he is involved with anything, it is going to be done right. So, if you have tried Service Magic before and it didn't work for you, you might want to take another look at the service they provide. They are trying their best to eliminate problems that some had in the past, and with David on board I would not hesitate to recommend you check them out.

Another good lead generating system is a direct mail campaign. Here again the success of the campaign will depend almost entirely on the piece that you send out. Whatever you send, it should be built around addressing your customer's three basic fears. If you don't address those three fears you will be wasting your money. Don't pick just any ad agency to do your mailing piece. They may have a big name in your city or town but if they have not done a mailing for a construction related company, you will end up paying for their learning curve. Find somebody that has done it and can prove their success.

I received an email recently from a young guy crying the blues about how bad business is/was. One of his biggest complaints was that his advertising simply did not work. The only leads he got were from people who were price shopping, looking for the cheapest deal. (He wrote his own ads by the way.)

Well my friends, if you are getting that type of response, then you are advertising to the wrong people or you need a major overhaul on your advertising piece. Focus on the clientele that know and understand that one gets what one pays for. Those people are out there in buyer land; you just have to find them.

We wish you well in 2007. I hope you have your sales goals set and an advertising program in place to make the sales happen. Remember, cutting back advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.