Never before has there been such a large amount of accessible information about the building industry. For example, this magazine offers monthly articles about various aspects of the design/build world, allowing readers to pick the brains of industry specialists and make adjustments and/or improvements to their own businesses.
Our industry is not static; it is consistently changing. Are you changing with it? If so, how are you communicating your progress to your customers? Specifically, how are you getting the good news out to your prior clients who provide most of your referral business?
Change is hard work, especially when trying to change people. One contractor with whom I work is always looking to improve himself and his business. He is not one to sit back and rest on his laurels. If there is a weakness in his company he doesn’t try to conceal it; he fixes it. But because this builder is driven by his commitment to excellence, he has made a few alterations to his business.
The challenge for him was to convey to his referral database (past clients) the improvements he had made to his business. Because these clients were no longer actively working with the company, they had assumed the company operated in the same manner as when their project was being built. These were satisfied customers, so notifying them of improvements wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, all the improvements he had worked so hard on went unnoticed by a very important segment of his sales and marketing audience.
His solution was to call past clients and ask them to lunch. On the surface, this is purely a social encounter. In fact, it was not viewed as a sales or marketing call, but rather a customer service call. Invariably, his past clients asked how business was going. This was his opportunity to educate them about the improvements he had implemented to his services, mainly the advent of web-based electronic folders customers can use to review and share project information. Expectedly, the satisfied past clients became more ardent advocates for him and his business.
The newsletter option
Some design/builders use newsletters to convey their company information to past and prospective clients. This is a wonderful resource, if you have the time and energy to dedicate to creating a quality publication. By quality, I don’t mean glossy, high-end, professionally photographed and outsourced newsletters. With current publishing software, digital photography and quick-turnaround color printing available today, you don’t have to hire professional graphic artists to produce a great-looking newsletter. However, you do need to have large, clear photographs that convey a message about your quality services, coupled with well-written articles to accompany them.
The newsletters should be consistent with your logo, contact information and overall company identity. Since you know who your audience is, focus your message on them. If the improvements you’d like to tout are about systems, write an article about how well-integrated your systems are.
Focus your message through the prism of your clients’ needs. For example, perhaps you’ve initiated a new materials purchasing procedure. While it may have been a significant change for your company, you must describe how it relates to the homeowner.
These newsletters and customer interactions are simple instruments by which you can toot your own horn. So if you have improved your business or systems, let the world — and your customers — know about it.