See last month's issue for the first part of this two-part article. Also, please refer to physical copy of National Driller for sample solicitation letter and press release topics (as referred to in the article).
6. Under-promise and over-deliver.
Tell a client that you'll have something done in a week and it takes 10 days, you're a bum. Tell that same client you'll have it done in two weeks and it takes 10 days, you're a hero. Same performance, different perceptions.
Why, oh why, does nearly every contractor do exactly the opposite? Time after time, contractors make unrealistic promises just to land a job or mollify a disgruntled customer. Then they wonder why people don't trust them.
A successful contractor is one who exceeds the customers' expectations. Go easy on the promises, but knock yourself out to do even better than you said you would.
7. What is your USP?
What makes you different than the rest of your competitors? What is your "Unique Selling Proposition"?
Too many contractors answer that question along the lines of "we do quality work at a fair price." That's a clich?not a USP. A USP needs to be something specific, documented and not claimed by every other firm around. Here are some examples of genuine USPs:
A. Lowest price. This certainly qualifies as a unique selling proposition. You may not be able to make any money, but the lowest-priced firms always have plenty of work.
B. Worked successfully with the client before. Your history with a client is something nobody else can claim, or take away from you. It's probably the most powerful USP of all.
C. Testimonials/referrals from satisfied clients. The next best thing to a work history with a client is when a third party recommends you.
D. Longevity. A track record that goes back a long way adds to any firm's credibility and reputation.
E. Favorable publicity. An article about your firm in the local press or industry trade press is a mark of distinction. Play it for all it's worth.
F. Awards and honors. Same as above.
G. Winning personality. If people like you, you bet that's a USP.
H. "We're the only one in our market that ? Complete this statement, and you'll have your USP(s).
8. Solicit testimonials and referrals.
If you're any good at what you do, from time to time you'll have people writing a letter complimenting your performance. Treasure those letters. They have a mother lode of marketing value.
But don't wait for clients to take the initiative. No matter how satisfied they are with your performance, most are too busy or too lazy to take the time to write. Make it easy for them to offer testimonials and referrals. Every time clients make a verbal statement praising your work, follow up with a letter thanking them and asking for permission to quote them. (See sample testimonial letter.) Don't ask them to write the letter. That's intruding on their time. Just ask them to sign their name to words that approximate what they said. Almost nobody will say no.
9. Publicity is free advertising.
The advantage to advertising is that you can get your message across with certainty, at the time of your choosing. But given your druthers, wouldn't you rather gain that advantage for free?
Your marketing program should include regular press releases on everything your company does that could be considered remotely newsworthy, especially in the communities where you do business. I've drawn up a list of potential news release topics. Don't worry if the media will not run all of them. It's worth the price of postage just to keep your name in front of editors.
10. People always turn to the "experts."
One reason it's worthwhile to keep your name in front of the media is that's how you become known as an "expert" in your field. These are the folks whom news reporters call for comments and background when a story breaks in a particular industry. You don't necessarily have to know more than anyone else in the field. Just be accessible-and develop a knack for talking in short, easily understood "sound bites."
Another way to impress them with your expertise is to become a published authority on topics in your field. You don't even need to be a good writer. You can always hire a freelancer to put your thoughts into words. Here are some topics you could write about that would establish you as an expert in the eyes of clients and the media:
11. You already know your best prospects.
Most businesses look to grow from the outside in. They spend a lot of money trying to convince strangers to do business with them. While some of your marketing efforts should go toward attracting new business, your best return on dollars spent will come from your existing customer base. Build a marketing database of everyone who has done business with you and keep in touch with them regularly through mailings, phone calls, e-mail, etc. Instruct your project managers to contact old clients periodically to obtain the inside track on new projects underway or in the planning stages.
And while you're at it, build personal relationships with your clients. Business becomes not only more profitable, but more fun when you turn your customers into friends.