– By Sharon Thatcher –
For a lot of contractors, building a building is a lot easier than building a business. But there are tricks to selling your services. Gary Reichert, sales representative for Rural Builder has spent 30 years in the sales and marketing field, at various times as both a buyer and a seller. He shares his views on how to overcome the primary obstacles in marketing.
To market properly, he noted, you need to know something about your customers and their objections. What objections are they likely to give you as a reason for not buying from you, and how can you use that information to convince them to change their minds?
Reichert explained that there are eight potential causes for objection:
- Lack of perceived value in product or services: resulting in price negotiations
- Lack of urgency in purchasing: they want to think about it
- Perception of inferiority of the product: misunderstandings about post-frame and metal buildings
- Political issues: a bad economy, high interest rates, etc.
- Lack of funds: they can’t afford it
- An issue with the decision makers: he wants it, she doesn’t
- An issue with an external party: competitors and referrals
- It’s safest to do nothing: they really don’t need a building after all
Reichert believes all of these objections except one can be overcome through proper marketing. “The only legitimate deal killer is if the customer definitely just doesn’t have the money and can’t afford it,” he noted. Short of this, the most effective course is to identify the most common objections of your potential customers and design your marketing message accordingly. Once that is determined, drive the message home often and consistently in all your marketing materials.
A PLAN OF ACTION
Reichert offers these ideas for helping you build your marketing brand.
Develop a free planning guide
“Most people have never built a building before. They have no idea of the process. A free planning guide will walk them through the process. By giving them a planning guide—a resource in their hands—you can manage all their expectations,” said Reichert.
Your guide should be something the customer values enough to keep for future reference. Things you might want to include: examples of floor plans; information about what makes your buildings different (for example, the potential for a larger span than your competitors); glamour photos of your finished buildings; a page of graph paper so the customers can sketch out what they want; budgeting guidelines (price per square foot); an estimate of how long a customer might need to wait for their building (for example: ‘Allow 6 months for planning time’); your contact information; and testimonials from happy customers.
How to get testimonials
Testimonials in particular are one of the must-haves for your planning guide and other marketing materials, Reichert believes. “People are generally joiners and they want their ideas reinforced. They want to be identified with good things,” he said.
But, don’t expect your customers to sit down and write something. Instead, during that final walk-through, take note of what they like about their new building and the work you’ve done for them and suggest a specific testimonial that matches their opinions and beliefs with your message. An example: “So you are saying the clear span creates an open space that doesn’t limit you and allows you to use your space your way? Can I quote you on that?”
Advertising your message
In addition to a planning guide, advertising is an essential part of promoting your business. But what types of media are available for your message and what are the most effective for your particular business? Reichert says that can vary depending on what is available in your area and what resonates most with your customer base. The most commonly used media today includes: radio, TV, print (newspapers, magazines, flyers), websites and social media. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.
Radio: Unless you are being interviewed on a program, radio advertising is great for emotional messaging and excitement but not for sharing a lot of factual information. “If you notice, a telephone number is repeated over and over in a commercial segment, because if you hear it once, you’re not going to remember it. They have to spend 15 minutes of a 30-minute commercial repeating the number.”
TV: Reichert believes TV advertising has the same weaknesses as radio. “If you need to explain the competitive matrix between you and your competitor, or explain the length of your spans, or the diameter of your posts and why it matters, or what kind of moisture protection you use, that’s not the place for it,” he said.
Social media: “There are a number of things it can do positively. You can sit down and open up an account for nothing and away you go. It’s a good way to keep in contact for customer service and follow-up afterwards. On the negative side, it’s a crummy way to generate leads. You’re either preaching to the choir to people who already know who you are and already love you, or you’re opening up to everybody and their brother with no absolute control over what’s going on. It’s an open format. It’s out of your control.”
Emails: Reichert said email campaigns can be good, but “you have to be cautious of not overusing it. It’s too easy for people to ignore.”
Print: Reichert has experience with all forms of advertising and prefers print, whether it’s a weekly shopper, handout literature, a local paper or magazine. “Something people can look at and go back to and look at again,” he explained, “because every time they go back and look at it, the more likely they are going to accept it as a fact.”
Websites: Reichert considers websites comparable to print because “it’s basically print that sticks around, that you can control.”
In today’s business world it’s essential. “You need one, and you need to take care of it. Yes, it’s a big deal,” he said.
Before just slapping one together, however, Reichert cautioned, “You need to decide what you want it to do or it’s not going to achieve it.”
Your website can contain many of the same elements as your planning guide but you also have the space to include white papers from industry resources, and additional options and facts for customers to consider.
Be cautious not to include everything including the kitchen sink, however. As Reichert cautions: “Sometimes it gets more complicated than what it needs to be. Be specific. Know exactly what you want to address. If you try to address the broad spectrum, it’s not going to work, it’s not going to be remembered, it’s not going to do what you want it to do.”
If you employ someone to set up your website, it can get very expensive, so preplanning to determine what you want and the message you want to convey, can lessen the cost.
Just having a website, however, is not enough. With the Internet crowded with websites, you still need a way to let people find you. “That can mean the URL (the website address) you select, or making sure it’s in all of your print literature so people can find you,” Reichert said.
Marketing you can’t see
Beyond the obvious advertising strategies, good marketing really comes down to good, simple business practices. Are you presenting a good image and attitude to customers?
“Marketing includes everything from the way you leave the job site when you’re done, to how your crew foreman greets the person when they show up, any advertising you do, whether your trucks are clean. People pick up on details,” Reichert said, adding, “You want to make sure all of your details reinforce the message you’re trying to get across. Find the best message, find the best media, pound it with a hammer and keep it going.” RB