Construction and home improvement companies get a bad rap. Yes, there are people (in all professions) that take shortcuts, overcharge and fail to show up or complete projects. You want to differentiate yourself from a crowded marketplace. To stand out from a sea of mediocre companies, you want to look professional and let people know right away that they can trust you with their most expensive and personal possession- their home.
What are customers looking for? What inspires confidence and signals to potential customers that you are trustworthy and competent?
Surprisingly, it’s not landing million dollar contracts, having dozens of employees or spending thousands of dollars on top-of-the-line apps and project management systems. If those things help you do your job, they are valuable. But even a small business with a small budget can build a solid reputation. Focus on these areas to see the best return on your investment for increasing your reputation and sales.
Online consistency The first place people go for information is online. If they can’t find you or find information that hasn’t been updated in the past decade, they will think you are no longer in business. Make it easy for people to find you and all the information they need about your business by having a well-managed online presence. This includes:
- A website that is easy to use, well-designed and gives useful information about the services you provide
- Social media profiles that highlight your best work and give visitors an easy way to get in touch
- Industry profiles that have accurate contact information
- Email addresses that reflect your business, not a generic Gmail account
- Dedicated phone number for your business that can also receive texts
- A logo that you use on all communication and profiles
Make sure that all of your contact information on all sites is the same and up to date. If it’s confusing, people will move on to another company that makes it easier to get in touch. Give people lots of options for contacting you as well. Include a phone number, email address, chat options and social media messaging handles.
Show off your expertise
Make it clear on your website and profiles that you are the best person for the job because of your experience and expertise. Things that should be prominently placed on your website and profiles include:
- Certifications/ Licenses
- Membership in professional organizations
Other things customers are looking for is your style. They want to see pictures of things they want in their own home. If you remodel kitchens, show some of your best designs and allow people to dream about what might be possible in their own home. Provide a variety of styles and designs. Include small projects as well as large renovations to display your range of skills. Before and after photos will catch the attention of potential customers as well.
Keep in touch with customers and potential customers. Even if someone has not hired you yet, maintain a relationships with them so they trust you to work in their home in the future. Ways you can keep in touch with customers include:
- Social media
- Email newsletter
- Talk to customers of on-going projects regularly
You understand this process because you live it every day. For homeowners, it can be confusing when there are several people doing multiple jobs inside their home. Let them know what to expect, the people that will be present and a timeline for the project.
This doesn’t just apply to your own paperwork. Give your customers something they can refer back to any time they have a question. Consider creating a packet you can give to new customers that explains everything they need to know about the project. Include information specific to this project like the budget, timeline and subcontractors involved. Tell them why you are doing things the way you are and not just what you are doing. This will result in more confidence in your work.
Also include general information about your business and trade. Make sure they have a way to quickly and easily contact you if they have a concern. Provide information about materials you use, the tools and equipment that they may see and why you may need to work in other areas of the home.
Keep your use of acronyms and industrial jargon to a minimum. Chance are your customers don’t know what it means and will end up confused about what is happening. It can also lead to miscommunication where the customer is unhappy with the finished product.
Respect your customer’s time. Show up when you say you will and don’t assume they have unlimited time to complete the project. Homeowners often feel that they are at the mercy of the contractor and are unsure when they will show up or leave. Be the reliable home improvement specialist.
Prove that you are unique
What do you want your business to be known for? The simple answer is good work in your area of expertise. But get more specific than that. Do you want to be the go-to for bathroom remodels that include large shower enclosures? Or should people who are looking for an electrician to design and execute the lighting for an outdoor entertaining space call you?
Even if you are a generalist like a general contractor or handyman, you can have a specialty. Maybe your team is available 24/7 or you specialize in understanding how your oceanside environment affects the structure of your home. Maybe you are the friendliest contractor in town, never forgetting a birthday and sponsoring the local little league team. Get specific about what you offer to your customers. This is what people remember and will be searching for when they are ready for home improvement projects. In the age of the internet, people aren’t usually looking for “someone who does floors.” They want to know they are working with a flooring contractor that specializes in installing hardwood floors in old homes just like theirs.
Just knowing these things about your business and clearly communicating them makes you stand out from the crowd. You may not be the trade pro one person is looking for, but they will respect the fact that you didn’t try to coerce them into hiring you for a project you aren’t qualified for. Plus, they’ll remember an interaction with you and can recommend you to someone else based on your specialty.
Writing down these specifics will help you steer your business and better communicate with customers. Put your mission and vision on your website to clearly communicate who you are and what you do best. Having this clearly in writing will also help you make the best decisions about expanding your business, investing in marketing or equipment and what your priorities are for business goals.
Get customer reviews
You may have been told that your local business will rely on word-of-mouth recommendations. This is still true, but these recommendations take a different form than they did 20 years ago. Home owners may occasionally ask their neighbors, but more often they are asking the internet. Potential customers want to see that others have had a good experience with your business and would recommend hiring you. Posting feedback on your website and social profiles gives visitors the chance to see that you are highly regarded.
Some sites, like Facebook and Home Advisor, allow users to leave feedback about their interactions with a pro. If you have positive reviews, share these comments on your social media profiles and website. Also ask customers for feedback. Most are more than willing to report their satisfaction if they know where to post it. Send them links to the best places to put reviews so others can see it.
In order to increase your sales, land more contracts and eventually command a higher price for your services, your business needs to look professional. Customers will not be willing to pay a premium if you don’t take your business seriously. With your professional skills, you deserve to be seen as an expert and to be paid what you are worth. At trades.org we want to see your business succeed and grow. We know how to improve your reputation online and on the job site. Let our team work for your team.