Part of being in construction, and any sales-based business for that matter, is getting new clients. While existing clients with repeat business are a wonderful source of work, few clients can keep a construction firm busy all the time.
Cultivating existing client relationships is an important way to get new business. So is keeping them happy. But new clients will help determine the extent to which your business will be successful. Taking stock of your business’ capacity will help you know how many clients or projects to add at one time. Here are some ways to get new construction clients without going crazy.
1. Be Strategic With Bidding
When looking for new clients, it is easy to try and bid on every job you see. After all, we tend to see sales as a numbers game: so many queries lead to a certain number of bidding opportunities, which converts to a new contract. New contracts are always good, right?
Wrong. You want to make sure that the contracts you earn are ones which your company can do well on. They need to be profitable, as well. By sticking to your strengths and profitable projects, you can ensure that your business will have extra money. This money can be used to buy equipment, hire more staff, or otherwise expand.
Besides job desirability and profitability, consider the likelihood that you can get the job. For instance, if you know the potential client personally, then you might have an edge. This is true even if you’ve never done a project for them. It’s also advantageous to bid on projects where you have a unique specialty. Being known as a great green builder, for instance, will help land the latest LEED-certified RFP.
2. Carve Out Your Niche
Related to the last point, make sure that your business has some sort of niche. This can be anything, from sustainable development to bathroom renovations or refurbishing retail spaces for a new tenant. Carving out your niche helps get new clients because people often look for specialists. If your company is known for doing just about anything, then it will be much harder to stand out above the crowd.
Specializing isn’t as hard as you think. If your business is a general contractor, then pick a certain type of building or project that you do especially well. Besides green buildings, there are schools, factories, apartment houses, stores, and more. Subcontractors might do better at a particular type of plumbing, electrical, or masonry.
Besides your business’ strengths, consider what building specialties have the largest gap between demand and supply. By picking a niche that’s less common, but still fits well within company talent, you can increase the chances of winning a given round of bidding. In other words, you can make it easier to land jobs by decreasing the level of competitiveness for jobs you bid on.
3. Ask for Referrals
As most business owners know, happy customers are among the best advertisements available. Depending on the client type, they might brag about the great job you’ve done. Or, they might mention your company to someone who needs similar work. The latter is common for jobs like roofing, because neighbors in a housing development will often need a new roof around the same time. Be sure to encourage referrals after the fact.
Another way to ask for referrals is by asking clients if they know anyone else looking to have similar work done. This approach is effective when everyone is getting a swimming pool in their backyard. It also works after extreme weather events that force a whole bunch of people to repair buildings at the same time. Remember, with referrals you have an inside track to the job because the potential new client often knows the old one.
4. Pay For a Lead Generation Service
Besides asking around, lead generation services are a great way to find out about upcoming projects. With lead generation services, you get project information from web forms and online advertisements. While the latter lead type can sometimes be located by doing the searches yourself, getting them through a service saves you time and money.
To maximize your results, be sure to sign up for leads in every specialty that your company works. That means signing up as a commercial or residential General Contractor (or both), as well as any sub-contracting disciplines you’re willing to perform. The cost for these services is reasonable, between $75-150 monthly.
5. Always Be Looking Around (and follow up)
When you’re running errands or driving around town, keep an eye out for opportunities. Did that storefront just go up for lease? You might be able to score the renovation contract. Does a condo building look like it needs work? Check with the management office to see if they need bids. How about apartment complexes? They often need extensive repairs made, and the in-house handymen can’t always handle it. Also, never forget to look around neighborhoods where you are working.
Besides dropping in and introducing yourself, be sure to follow up with managers and homeowners you meet. Sometimes you will check in and they don’t need anything, or their needs are outside your scope. But this can change at any time. By being proactive, you can keep your company first in their mind when construction needs arise.
6. Network, Then Leverage Connections For Leads
As the saying goes, sometimes it isn’t what you know, but who you know, that gets you more work. To that end, get to know local construction-related professionals. Architects are among the best sources of intelligence, because they draw up the plans for projects and know who is bidding on them. Armed with this information, you can choose which ones to bid on.
For subcontractors, get to know the general contractors who might need your services. Even if they don’t need you, they might know who is looking for a good tradesperson. Subs and GCs alike should know local developers in their field. Developers frequently hire outside contractors to get the work done and provide the financial backing. By knowing the people who might hire your company, you’re gaining a competitive advantage against contractors who are less skilled at networking.
7. Have A Google Business Presence
If someone Googles your contractor type and location, will they find you? If not, you’re missing out on a lot of business. Unless a homeowner or other potential customer has a contractor in mind, there’s a good chance they will conduct a Google search to see who is available. Then, they’ll look at any related pages.
Your first step to business visibility on Google is with the free Google My Business tool. This area of the search engine allows you to create a listing with all your business information. That includes contact details, a summary of services rendered, and a place for reviews. If your business has a website, you can include the address as well. Once constructed, be sure to interact with visitors who respond on the GMB page.
Speaking of websites, make sure that you have one. This should include, if possible, a portfolio of work and customer testimonials. Professional certifications, association memberships, and anything that makes your business special should be included, as well. Have a major milestone? Mention it through frequent website updates. Finally, include links to company social media accounts on the website for easy following.
8. Get On Contractor Lists
For an effective long-term strategy, get your company on preferred contractor lists for institutional clients. These include apartment property managers, school districts, colleges or universities, construction management firms, malls, and more. With this kind of client there’s often a vetting process that you must pass before they will let you bid on any project. Also, be sure to pick the kinds of large clients that need the kind of work you are good at.
Keep in mind, this approach will probably not get you a job tomorrow, because you’ll have to wait for an appropriate job to come available. Except for major downturns, malls tend not to have a construction project going on every week. School districts will often do construction work during the summer. This is where patience pays off.
9. Branding, branding, branding
Finally, it’s important to be conscious of branding. Your goal is to make your business one of the first contractors thought of when a particular type of work is needed, and to do this you need to have its name everywhere. To that end, put your logo on job site signs, company vehicles, and owned equipment. If possible, have your crew wear branded work clothes such as t-shirts and hard hats. Sponsor a local youth sports team if you can afford it and pay for advertising at local events. In short, if you see your competition doing a certain type of branding, then you should be doing it too.
Getting more construction clients may seem like a daunting task, especially for owners of small contracting firms. However, with the help of these tips you should be able to beat out the competition more often. As business and profitability improve, you should be able to plan for expansion and improvements.