I talk to a lot of contractors every week. Some are clients, some are friends, and some are just strangers I meet in Wawa or Walmart. When the conversation comes up about how business is today they often reflect back to the good old days when they would be booked out for six months.
Well, I don’t have to tell you between the economy and the “we want it now” generation, the window that you can schedule jobs for is short and getting shorter. Most of the contractors I talk to tell me they are lucky when they are booked 6 weeks right now.
The people factor
Consumers are much more educated as to who the “go-to” contractors are in a given field thanks to sites like Angie’s List. They also know who is second, and who is third, and all the way down the list to the guy that can’t hang a nail properly.
That means that the most sought after contractors are getting the lion’s share of the local business and everyone else is getting the leftovers. Now, just because they are getting most of the work doesn’t mean they are the best, and as a business owner you need to do your due diligence and find out what that company’s weaknesses are, and then use those weaknesses against them.
This is why you need to advertise
Don’t name your competition in your advertising, but definitely create differentiation by highlighting what makes you better than they are, and let the consumer pick up on the subtlety of your ad. If they have spent any time gathering information on their home improvement project, they will certainly “get” your advertising.
It’s the economy stupid
There have been a lot of people hurt in this economy. 10% unemployment and a terrible employment outlook have forced people to stick their hands in their pockets and keep them there. This is again why your advertising has to hit the mark. Why? Because no matter what my job situation is, if my water heater takes a crap I need a new water heater. Same thing if a tree falls through my garage, ruins three cars and a driveway…don’t laugh it happened to me a few years ago! I’m still burning that tree every winter.
Your contracting company has to be “top of mind” when people get out there and are ready to buy. If you are the 1/8th of a page ad 20 pages deep into your Yellow Pages heading or your website is found on page 15 of Google, you are not “top of mind” to your prospects. Now, I am not saying run out and get a full-page color ad in the YP, but you have to expose your company to people exactly when they are ready to pull the trigger, and if your business isn’t represented when that time comes, the job goes to someone else.
My point is if you think you can just cruise through the rest of this economic downturn until everyone gets busy again, then I have some bad news for you. Smart contractors are re-tooling their businesses, they are leveraging their ability to get great talent cheap, and once consumers wash off the stench of the last 5 years they are going to spend like gangbusters and your competition will be right there to take their checks, cash and credit cards. Will you?