Customers are looking for the right general contractor to do the big home improvement project they’ve been putting off for too long. Savvy customers seek the following when looking for a general contractor. Do these steps and you’ll land more deals.
When a home owner arrives at the point when they are ready to hire a general contractor, it’s because they realize the project is likely too complicated, too big to handle on their own. They may have even tried their hand at being their own general contractor and got in over their head.
Whether it’s remodeling a kitchen, upgrading a sewer lateral, or electrical rewiring, consumers need professional contractors or subcontractors with expertise to come to the rescue. The problem is, there have been enough reports of contractor scams on local investigative television shows to make any thoughtful person hesitant and skeptical. Hence the growth of online business directories that feature crowd-sourced reviews and ratings. In fact, getting listed in the top online business directories should be part of every contractors basic marketing toolkit.
What the local news horror stories don’t tell consumers is that the overwhelming majority of contractors in the marketplace are truly honest, hard-working professionals. Most people are happy with the outcomes of the improvement projects they embark on.
With all that in mind, read on to learn thirteen ways you can stand out from the crowd and make an impact on prospective repair, remodeling, or installation clients:
Most states require that a contractor have a license to operate, especially projects over a certain minimum. Even states where general contractor are not licensed, specific trades, like plumbers or electricians, will require a license. Besides complying with the law, becoming a licensed contractor makes you stand out favorably in the market place.
Don’t be Shy: Use your license number
Nothing says shady more than a contractor playing cute with their license number. Advertise your number widely. Use it in marketing materials, in your sites, and whenever a customer asks. Don’t be afraid of customers checking up on you via your license. Even if you have disputes, the real question potential customers will have is about the resolution of those disputes. Were they resolved?
Develop a Specialty or Certification
It’s important to keep up with trends in the marketplace, such as green building and energy efficient design, water conservation, solar, zero waste, etc. as well as the types of fixtures that increase property value. Also getting certified for your experience and expertise, e.g. as a Master Builder, will definitely help you rise above the pack. Getting certified in particular specialties will almost guarantee you the sale for certain kinds of projects. Read our complete guide on getting specialty certifications as a general contractor.
Prepare References and Use Review Sites
Be sure to line up a few of your past satisfied clients to serve as references for future projects. Have their names and numbers ready to share with prospective customers. Also ask all your clients to leave a review for you online with sites like Yelp and other directories. Make it easy for clients to leave a review of your business.
Also be prepared for potential clients to ask about your current jobs and projects, even whether they can drop by to see how things are going. Keeping your current project sites neat and maintaining a good rapport and attitude will ensure that both past and current projects will help you attract new clients.
Submit Realistic Bids and Cost Breakdowns
Some jobs will require you and other interested contractors to submit a formal bid, especially for commercial or government contracts. Be accurate on your bids. Don’t compete on price. Being unrealistically cheap will make you seem like an amateur and likely to be flaky. Instead, compete on quality and thoroughness and other unique factors that make your business stand apart.
Avoid submitting one line bids with a single total. Break down the costs of your project by man hours and materials and steps in the process. The more detail you provide of what is actually involved, the more client realizes how thorough you are and that they likely need to rely on a professional contractor to get the job done.
Put Your Estimates and Changes in Writing
We no longer live with “handshake deals” as the modus operandi of general contractors. Be prepared to provide a detailed contract on any job. This helps you, too. The more specific and clear you are, the less problems and headaches you are likely to experience when things go wrong (Murphy’s Law!)
Split Payments and Be Flexible with Forms of Payment Accepted
Never ask for all the funds for the project up front. It’s standard to ask for a deposit or half, with scheduled additional payments made as deliverables are met according to the timeline you agree on with your client. If clients ask whether you take checks or credit cards, say “Yes!” This will both help your client keep track of their payments to you, as well as improve your business cash flow!
Develop your interpersonal skills
It should go without saying, but remember to be patient with your customers’ questions. Renovation or construction projects are huge investments for the average homeowner. They need to know you know what you are doing and to be reassured that at the end of the day there will be finished project they will be happy with. Being willing to answer any and all questions will reassure your potential customers that you are trustworthy, are looking out for them and not just about a quick cash grab.
Be Professional, Forthright and Easygoing
Along the same lines, remember that clients are not only evaluating you on the technical merits of your work, but on your personality as well. Think of it from their point of view: You could be in your home or workplace, working closely with them, for months at a time. Interpersonal skills are key. If you can’t be the next greatest comedian/storyteller/contractor, at the bare minimum always be courteous!
Be Careful about Pushing Affiliate Opportunities Too Aggressively, Especially Untested Ones
Consumers are more savvy and suspicious about referrals between professionals and organizations. In some cases, such as between home warranty companies and certain types of professionals there are laws. Don’t always push a service for which you will get a commission for a referral. Are you certain the service is the best? Would you be willing to use the vendor yourself? Ask yourself those questions before sending your clients to someone for a quick payday. One bad vendor could spoil your relationships with a lot of customers.
Publicize Your Contact Information, Especially Your Business Address
Even if you never work out of an office, you should have a business address (not just a P.O. box) at which you receive correspondence, potentially accept calls and the like. This address should be on all your marketing materials like your website and business cards. A physical address will also help you rank in local search engine queries and show up on maps results that appear at the top of search engines. You don’t want to convey the impression that you are sleeping inside of your work van!
Carry Up to Date Insurance
Customers will expect you to carry general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance. If you are licensed, you will be required to hold insurance and be bonded. Wondering about how much it costs to get a million dollar liability insurance policy? See our article on contractors insurance.
Develop and Update Your Portfolio
Good contractors also carry out a photo book or can access a gallery of photos via their phone or online or through their website to share with potential customers. Let people see your work and you at work. Moreover, take pictures at different stages of a job, or before and after pictures, so your customers get an idea of all the possibilities. Pictures can replace a ton of words–use them.
Other advantages that come with time
Other factors that will make you stand out from the crowd will come in time, such as years of experience and innate flexibility and ability to accommodate customer’s unique demands (because you know your craft inside and out). Four of more years of experience is priceless. It shows customers you are well established and must do your work well in order to still be in business.
So, there you have it — 13 tactics that will make you stand out from the crowd as a contractors and help you win more bids and land more clients. More and more, your future customers are doing their due diligence before hiring a professional. Make it easy for them to do that research on you and reap the rewards.