Friday

Top 9 Marketing Tips - your Yellow Pages Ad

If you’re still putting ads in the yellow pages directory every year, you’re spending a lot of money for that presence. Make sure your money is well spent. Your yellow pages ad must make people want to call you up, to request your services. As more people turn to the Internet to find a service pro, make sure you grab every homeowner still using their local phone book to find a contractor.

1 - Who You Are: What does your company do? If you're listed under "Electricians," it's reasonable to assume you're an electrician. But what do they always say? Don't assume (you know why.) State your company name and your profession in the ad. Tell us how we can contact you - phone numbers, email, and website addresses. Include your cell phone, if you think it-s important.

2 - Sell the Benefits: Nobody wants what you're selling, they only want the benefits of what you're selling. I'm looking at Plumber ads in my yellow pages. The majority list, "Copper Re-pipes, Sewer Repairs, Sprinklers, Water Heaters" and 12 other plumbing related jobs. The problem is - everyone else lists them too! One 2 page ad tells me how their guy is a "Professional Expert!" I would hope so… How will you benefit ME? Here’s a good one: "Free House Calls! 100% Money Back Guarantee on all House Calls! We Value Your Time (on the job within 60 minutes)! No Extra Charge for Weekends, Nights or Holidays!" It even says, "Se Hablo Espanol."

3 - Competitive Advantage: Benefits are great but what if your closest competitor touts the same benefits? List the benefits you have that others don’t have. If you don’t have different benefits, you need to get some. Open 24 hours? Lowest prices in town? 110% Guarantee? What's your competitive advantage?

4 - Grammar and Spelling: Make sure there are no errors. If your ad is grammatically incorrect, people will instantly assume two things: 1) you don't know any better or, 2) you don't care. Both will discourage calls.

5 - Have a "Call to Action": Don't be afraid to tell them to "Call now!" Let them know they can "Save Money" or "Save Time!" You can have them "Make an Appointment today." If you have a showroom, invite them to a "Live Demo." It could even be something as simple as "Get Started!"

6 - Don’t Go Overboard: Avoid excessive punctuation. Nothing screams desperate like multiple exclamation points!!! Or that they can save lots of $$$!!! Looks cheap, doesn't it?

7 - Don’t Get Cute: Avoid the urge to use symbols or abbreviations in your yellow pages ad. "Great Deal 4 U!" It looks like you had your teenage son text message the ad content to the directory.

8 - Cartoons: If you have a cartoon character or drawing to represent your company in the ad, make sure that character is part of your brand. Is the character on your trucks, on your website, on your business card? If not, it can be distracting. Make sure any items with your company logo match all the other items.

9 - Logo: Use your company logo in the ad, no matter how small or large. If you don't have a logo yet, get one and put it in your yellow pages ad. You’ll be stuck with it for a year, so make sure it's a good one (not something your brother-in-law drew on a cocktail napkin.) As part of your brand, put logo on everything associated with your business.

Make your money work for you. Make sure you are effectively marketing your services and your brand. If you don't, you're just throwing money out the window and hoping for the best.

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Monday

Top 8 Marketing Tips for Your Small Business

1. Have a Web Presence - Make sure you have a website, register a domain name that closely matches your company name, and make sure you can use your domain in your email address. For example, Bob@SmartRemodeling.com, where you're Bob, your company's name is Smart Remodeling, and you will be branded as a serious professional. Even if you're a "one man" operation, they don’t have to know that.

2. Consider your Brand - From the magnetic sign on your truck, to your business card, to your website and the emails you send, make sure you use the same logos and colors and fonts on everything. It's a consistent and memorable way to keep your company's name on people's minds.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Network - Whether you're just starting out or have been in business for decades, make sure your closest friends and family know what you do and recommend you to others. Give them business cards and brochures and ask them to hand them out at parties, at church, at work, and at the PTA meetings.

4. Ask for More than Referrals – Referrals are key to the construction industry, but you also need to get testimonials. Testimonials are direct quotes from your previous customers, singing your praises, and you can print them on your business cards, your brochures, and even your website.

5. Be an Expert - When folks consider you the one "in the know", they'll come to you for more than questions. They'll come to your for business. Give a "How To" seminar at the local Home Improvement store in your area of expertise. Send in a tips and tricks article to your local newspaper – they may ask you to be a regular columnist. Start a blog (www.blogger.com) and dispense valuable information.

7. Don’t Skip PR - PR is Public Relations. PR is used to get the word out about your company and services. Usually, you can send announcements to your local newspapers and local websites to let them know about changes in your company. You've hired a new operations manager, you have expanded your service area, or you're having a once-a-year sale on the products you install. Make sure the PR statement is informative, concise, and answers any questions a journalist would ask (who, what, when, why, and where.)

8. Write a Mission Statement - It’s a statement that states who you are and why you're in business. Not something saying how long you've been in business or that you're the lowest price in town. But something that says how you plan to conduct your business. You can put this on your site, on your business cards, and in the minds' of your potential and past clients.

It's important to have more than just a yellow pages ad or a membership with ConstructionDeal.com. You need to constantly be thinking about marketing your services so that you make it through slow periods, economic downturns, or just to make sure you can choose from the most profitable jobs available.


Our Most Popular Blog Posts

We've gotten some great response to a few of our blog posts here on Contractor Update. Besides our post on Top 8 Tips to Creating Powerful Business Cards below, I wanted to provide links to our other popular posts before they get pushed too far back in the archives.

Check these out when you get a chance:

Top 9 Sales Clichés to Avoid

9 Ways to Improve Small Business Cash Flow

Top 7 Sales "Killers"

Be sure to Bookmark our Contractor Update page and return to it often for new new posts, new information, and additional ways to help expand your business and make you more profitable.

Friday

Top 8 Tips to Creating Powerful Business Cards

A business card is an important tool to help market your services. It's more than just a placeholder for your phone number and company name. It's a way to make it easier for potential clients to find your business, refer you to others, to remember you, and to recall what you do.

1. Be Clear: Let them know what you do! If it's not clear from the company name, include a tag line underneath to show what your company can do for them.

2. Use the Tag Line: Call out your company's benefits. Don't list your services. Look through the yellow pages for your ad -- all your competitors do the same things as you, so list what you can do for clients (Lowest prices, Fastest Turnaround, Highest Quality!)

3. Use Both Sides: Double your real estate on the card by printing on the back. It costs more but it's a greater chance you'll be remembered. List more service qualities, list testimonials, or list your company's mission statement.

4. Consider a Folding Card: You can have business cards made up that will fold open giving you an instant brochure. You'll be able to provide more information that will hit home all the advantages your business provides.

5. Be Imaginative: Consider fun colors and interesting shapes. It doesn't have to be a black and white card. Colors might help you stand out when the potential client is digging through her purse, looking for your card. Also, think about having your business card be cut into the shape of a hammer, a drill, a screwdriver - just don't make them too large.

6. Easy to Read, Easy to See: Your contact information should not be small or be hidden. It should stand out and be easy to find. Include everything you can: phone, email, website, cell phone, address.

7. Branding: Make sure your business card has the same logo, colors, design, and font that you use on your website, on your magnetic signs on your trucks, and on signs outside your business. A consistent look and feel will keep your images branded and memorable.

8. Keep It Handy: While it's not a tip to help you make a business card -- it's important. Always have cards out, ready to go, if anyone asks. It lets them know you're professional and organized. And it's much better than writing out your company name on a cocktail napkin...


Be sure to Bookmark our Contractor Update page and return to it often for new new posts, new information, and additional ways to help expand your business and make you more profitable. Don't forget to Register with ConstructionDeal.com - for free - to review local job leads in your specialty.


Track Your Vehicles, Reduce Your Costs: GPS

It's sometimes necessary to drag you service professionals, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. Keeping up with technology is never easy. But saving money, no matter how well your business is doing, is always important. And I've a new technology suggestion that could really save your service company a lot of cash.

GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) services have descended down into the range of affordability for small businesses. If you're operating two or more vehicles, a GPS service can help you to make sure your customers are being served efficiently, can let you know where your assets are located, and can even let you know when vehicles are due for maintenance.

I've found a company you might want to consider, called Universal Tracking Solutions out of Gilbert, Arizona. They are nationwide and could help your construction, remodeling, or repair business increase the bottom line (as well as enhance safety and productivity.)

Here's how it works:

They install a device on your vehicle that will let you track it on your computer in your office. You can choose how you want the device to be configured, choosing from features like location tracking, run hours, maintenance notifications, geo boundaries, start/stop reports, speed alerts, theft recovery, and more.

How it can benefit your company:

Being able to monitor your fleet can save you money. You can cut down on overtime (by as much as 10%), make sure clients are happy that your teams are showing up on time, and cut fuel costs from 7 to 10% by make sure the right routes are followed and no personal stops are made. All this can allow you to expand your service radius to bring in more job leads.

There are several GPS providers out there but what I liked about Universal Tracking Solutions is that they are not just resellers of a product. They contract the manufacture of their own product, own the licensing and software, and it can be customized based on your application needs and do their own SIM provisioning. All these things allow them to provide you the best pricing available.

Check them out on their website (link above) or give them a call at (877) 279-8877.

Wednesday

Top 9 Contractor Sales Cliches

Many times, we hear certain phrases over and over and when we're pitching to a potential client, we tend to repeat the same cliches over and over.

You may not even hear yourself doing it, but the client could be turned off and tune out your presentation. When it sounds like "sales-speak", you can lose the trust that your reputation as a service provider has earned.

Here are some phrases to avoid when bidding on your next project:

1- "What would you say if I told you..." or "How would you feel if I could get you..." - these types of sentences just scream salesman. Talk to them about what you know - avoid the gimmicks. They'll listen.

2 - "What would it take to get you to sign today?" I can just picture an eager salesman, sitting on the front edge of the chair, pen in hand, with his tongue slowly dropping from his mouth. I have written about this before, but my favorite close has always been, "Do you have any other questions or concerns that would keep us from getting started?"

3 - "This offer is for a limited time only." People hate pressure tactics. If you can make the offer at any point in time then you should be able to make it again two weeks from now. Sure material prices could go up but you don't know they will. You're reasonably sure of it, but you don't know.

4 - "...But wait! There's more!" I laugh. No, there is not. It's all part of the same package and you've just split it up. People always hear this on the info-mercials - "Act now and we'll throw in an extra set of steak knives!" It can cheapen the value of your products and services you provide.

5 - "I won't be undersold!" or "We're the lowest price in town! Guaranteed." Problem is, you can't really guarantee it because it probably means that you do the job differently than the next contractor. Or you use less expensive materials.

6 - Consider these platitudes: "We go the extra mile", "We treat you like family", "We're professionals." My answer to every single one of these would be, "I would hope so." You're not telling me anything I haven't heard before. Make sure you differentiate.

7 - "I'm your friend. You can trust me." Really? You've been talking about a kitchen remodel for 30 minutes and you both like to bowl. Bosom buddies you ain't.

8 - "Here's what you need..." It basically means I've listened to what you've said and I'll ignore it for what I know to be much better for you.

9 - Using "always" or "never" in your conversation. It can't possibly be true for every circumstance and a generalization like can come back to bite you where it hurts. "We're always on time!" Ha! That's just plain comedy. Promise what you can deliver on. "We'll do everything we can to be on time" will go a lot longer for your company.

Be an expert. Listen to potential clients. Really listen. Pitch yourself, your skills, and your past experience. That's all you need.

Fill in the blanks: Cliches do more harm than _____, because they just go in one ear and out the _____.

Register Your Company with ConstructionDeal.com

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Friday

More "House Bubble" Construction Reports

Some housing bubble reports from Wall Street. "The housing market is looking sicker by the day. Economist Ian Shepherdson said that the housing market is so far gone that 'it's not rescuable anymore. The housing market is beyond the control of the Fed.' He compared it to a football game played on a mountaintop. Once the football goes off the edge, he said, it doesn't stop until it reaches the very bottom."

"Even the homebuilders, long an optimistic bunch, are all but throwing in the towel on the current market’s condition. 'We're running our business today as if we're in a prolonged downturn,' CEO Ara Hovnanian of Hovnanian Enterprises told analysts."

The Union Tribune. "Each of the six economic indicators, residential building permits, unemployment filings, local stock prices, consumer confidence, help-wanted ads and national economic growth, has been in negative territory at least three of the four months from April through July. 'What's been frightening over the past four months is how negative all of the indicators have turned, reflecting general weakness in the economy as a whole,' Alan Gin said. 'In April and May, all six categories were negative.'"

Contractors with AOL Accounts

This is a message to all of our contractors who have registered or subscribed with us, using an America Online account. We've had ongoing battles with AOL to get our emails through their spam filters. They've got some of the toughest around. Since we regularly send you updates about all the jobs available via email... we want to make sure you're not being left out.

My suggestion would be to add a new email account, from one of the free services, so that you can continue to receive project updates. Here are a few suggestions of some free email services, but there are several out there (Google's gmail is an option, but for some reason you still need to have a friend recommend you... not sure why.) Check them out:

MSN's HotMail

Yahoo! Mail

9 Ways to Improve Small Business Cash Flow

To stay in business, companies large and small need to maintain proper cash flow. A lack of operating capital is one of the main reasons that businesses fail. Here are some suggestions on how to make sure your building, remodeling or repair business has enough cash on hand:

1. Bill Promptly - It's easy to think about moving on to the next job, but it's important to send homeowners a detailed bill with obvious payment dates. Also, send a reminder about two weeks before the official due date.

2. Stick to Budgets - Know what you're going to spend for new equipment, equipment maintenance, and on company supplies and stick to it. It can hurt your cash flow and cut into your profit margin.

3. Offer Early Payment Incentives - You'll be surprised at how offering a 1% to 2% discount for early payments will make your clients mail out their checks in a hurry.

4. Pay by Credit Card when Possible - Do this only if you're receiving 0% credit card offers for an initial period. It's a great way to keep cash handy and you can transfer the balance to another card once the initial time period is up.

5. Schedule Payments - Pay suppliers as late possible, avoid late fees, and plan out a payment schedule so that you're not paying everyone all at once. Spread out regular payments and try to arrange alternate payment dates to work with your schedule.

6. Avoid Slow or Non- Paying Customers - In your qualifying phase, make sure the homeowners have payment options in place. If they have trouble even coming up with the initial deposit, you might have to pull away from the job. Think of the man hours you'll spend trying to collect on the job during and after.

7. Barter Instead of Cash - See if you can find a barter arrangement for services. You might provide plumbing work in exchange for a website design - talk with your potential clients to find out if they provide a service you need.

8. Don't Spend it When You Get It - Avoid the urge to spend a portion of any payments you receive. Try to find an accountant or money manager who can watch over your transactions (possible barter?) And when you've got cash, don't stick it under the mattress. Place it in an interest-earning account and let it earn money for you.

9. Maintain Timely Collection Practices - Collections are not fun, but plan for some collection activity time during every week. You don't need to be mean and nasty, but you need to provide constant reminders for payment to make sure it doesn't get out of hand.

Be sure to Bookmark our Contractor Update page and return to it often for new new posts, new information, and additional ways to help expand your business and make you more profitable.

Contractors - ready for more job opportunities in your area? Register Free with ConstructionDeal.com to view local construction, remodeling, and repair job leads.

Friday

Housing & Construction Reports

Economic reports from today:

The Baltimore Sun: "Home sellers aren't the only ones pained by the sharp housing market slowdown: So are people who build houses. U.S. homebuilders and residential specialty trade employers cut 21,200 jobs in May, June and July, usually the peak building months, according to the most recent preliminary numbers from the Labor Department. The statistics, adjusted for seasonal variations, also showed a significant job loss in March."

'Some of the larger builders have laid off as many as 30 percent of their total staff in this area,' said John Kortecamp, of the Home Builders Association of Maryland. (Builder) Chris Rachuba in Eldersburg has been getting calls from subcontractors hoping that he has more work for them, a turnaround from the days when there weren't enough subcontractors to go around. Suppliers that used to be too busy to bother with sales cold calls are descending on him, too."

The Yahoo Finance page: "Construction spending plunged by the largest amount in nearly five years, reflecting spreading weakness in the housing industry. It was the fourth consecutive decline in residential construction and the biggest drop since January 2002, providing dramatic evidence that the nation's five-year housing boom has come to an end.

Builder confidence has plunged this year as they have struggled with weakening demand in the face of rising mortgage rates. A record backlog of unsold homes has forced many builders to offer an array of incentives to reduce supplies.

Outside of housing, there continued to be areas of strength in construction as nonresidential private building activity edged up 0.3 percent to a record annual rate of $303.5 billion. Gains in July came in construction of office buildings, power plants and transportation facilities.

Public construction fell by 0.7 percent in July reflected a 1 percent decline in state and local building projects which was only partially offset by a 2.6 percent rise in federal construction activity."

TOP 7 "Sales" Killers

If you're an experienced contractor, some of these tips might seem like old news. The reason you're experienced is that you've been around the block and know what it takes to have your bid accepted. But not everyone can close every prospective client, so we're offering some things to avoid - we call 'em "Sales Killers" - when working on your next contract:

1. Lack of a Professional Presentation: if you want people to believe you're an expert and listen when you're talking with them, you need to make sure you look the part. If you're organized, prepared, well-groomed, and use proper words, you'll make an impression.

2. Talking and Not Listening: they trust you know about your service. You'll sound just like every one else if you just tout your skills. If you listen to what they want, you'll figure out what they need and you'll "hit" on what they're truly looking to have done.

3. Not Building Good Rapport: if you rush right in with facts, figures, and lay down a contract, the prospective clients will jump back in fear. Show them your sparkling personality, calm their fears, and get to know them. They'll sign on the dotted line once they trust you.

4. Talking Too Much & for Too Long: know when to say when. Give them your pitch, let them know that you will be doing quality work, with quality materials, and give them a call to action. Don't say anything else. Sometimes, you can over-talk and talk yourself right out of the bid. Give them time to make a decision. More words from you will not increase their budget.

5. Not Closing the Sale: my absolute favorite close - "What other questions do you have that would prevent you from hiring my company today?" If they have another question, answer it. If they don't, pull out your pen...

6. Skipping the Details: it's your presentation. You've done it over and over. And over again. But they've never heard it before. If you go to fast, skip the true benefits to the prospective client, they won't trust you and buy what you're selling.

7. Not Qualifying them Early: use qualifying questions as early as you can in your pitch. You'll know if the prospective client is truly serious about hiring you or if they're just trying to get a competing bid against their regular contractor. It won't be one that got away if it was never there to begin with.


Be sure to Bookmark our Contractor Update page and return to it often for new new posts, new information, and additional ways to help expand your business and make you more profitable.

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