Written by small-business expert and author Michael Stone
In a conversation with a new client recently, the client stated, “We don’t advertise, never have!”
“We don’t advertise” is well meaning mischief at its worst. It cuts your company off from a large pool of potential clients who are looking for a contractor to help them get their job built. Contractors who don’t advertise are often operating under a false perception of how good they are. Their mindset is, “We’re so good that anyone with an ounce of common sense will surely call us when they need us!” That’s wishful thinking at best.
Now I understand that some of you might not be advertising because you have all the leads you can handle. It’s true that in some parts of the country, in today’s economic climate, you’re getting more than enough leads from referrals. Stay with me and I’ll explain why you still need to be advertising.
When you don’t advertise your services, you greatly reduce the number of potential calls you could be getting. This can push you into thinking you need to try to sell most leads to keep money flowing through the company. When you think that way and your potential client mentions they are getting other bids, it’s easy to start wondering how you can keep your price down to get the job.
When you advertise your services, you’ll get even more leads, and that allows you to be picky about your jobs. You can charge the price you need to charge, or even more if the market will bear it. You can choose to go on sales calls only in a certain area where you’re advertising, rather than having to travel to wherever the referral might be. You can take the kinds of jobs you make the most money at, rather than attempting to sell jobs that aren’t as profitable. You can walk away from clients who appear to be a problem, rather than having to gamble that they’ll be reasonable in the long run.
I’ve said many times that the primary reason construction-related businesses fail is because they don’t charge enough for the work they do. Gang, if you’re not advertising, you’re missing a chance to get the price you need and then some, while also picking and choosing the clients you want to work with, the jobs you want to do, and the area you want to work in. It doesn’t get much better.
Let me add a thought that many forget. It’s been said that a company will lose about twenty percent of its contacts every year. People die or move, new businesses with your skills move into the neighborhood, the kids are old enough to do the work, etc.
You need to be continually rebuilding your contact list. That requires a diverse advertising strategy, which is a conscious effort to stay in front of the buying public. When you don’t advertise, you’re effectively throwing a camouflage blanket over your company, and only those who know who and where you are can find you.
Finally, and you’ve heard this from me before, it won’t always be this good. We don’t get a warning before the economy goes to pot. If you aren’t easily found on the web, or continually in the public eye with your advertising, when the economy goes downhill you’ll go down with it.
If you’ve got more leads than you can handle, that’s great. Don’t burn bridges. Handle every lead by returning every phone call and responding to every email. You don’t have to set an appointment for every lead; you can have tighter guidelines when you qualify the lead over the phone. If the job doesn’t sound right for you, “We don’t take those types of jobs, it’s not what we’re good at,” or “That type of work isn’t what we normally do.” If it’s too far away, “We try to avoid jobs that are more than twenty miles from our office.” If you’re booked solid, “I’d like to help you but we can’t get out there for another few weeks.”
If you’ve got more leads than you can handle, you should also be charging more for your work. That allows you to hire someone to help respond to your leads and to manage your advertising.
A good advertising program, which I believe includes a well-tuned website, will get you far more leads than word of mouth. The more leads you get, the better you’re able to pick and choose the jobs that you know and can make good money on.
Don’t try to handle your advertising by yourself. Pay the pro to do what they do best, so you can focus on what you do best. Get your jobs sold, built and collected. Make some money. Make things better today, and stabilize your company for the long-term by advertising and letting folks know you exist.
“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.” — Mark Twain
This article originally appeared here.
Michael Stone, author of Markup & Profit: A Contractor’s Guide, Revisited, Profitable Sales: A Contractor’s Guide; and the DVD class “Profitable Estimating,” has more than five decades of experience in the building and remodeling industry. Stone offers business management assistance to construction-related companies in the U.S. and Canada with books and training programs available on his website, as well as coaching and consulting services. He can be found on the web at www.markupandprofit.com and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1-888-944-0044.