Saying that you need more leads or more sales does not create the environment that will bring qualified leads to your company.
It does not ensure that you are going to do business with the maximum number of leads that meet the type of customer you want (top tier customer). That customer must fit into your system of doing business, have the money or credit to pay you and be at a margin of profit that is appropriate to your business plan of profit.
In order to accomplish the task of finding your "top-tier customer," your company must:
1. Focus on Marketing:
Focus on branding yourselves with the image that you want your company to be known as in the market place. Marketing doesn't just happen. It requires that you define where you want to be, the type of customer that you want, a minimum dollar budget and a standard of what a "good" result will be within a given timeline. And it doesn't take tens of thousands of dollars to market your company.
2. Target Lead Generation:
Define who your "top tier customer" is and target the web, your social network, your realtor relationships, your architect relationships, your banking relationships and any advertisers to that customer. Your expensive brochures and other "leave behind" marketing materials are useless unless this process is adequately defined. Again, it won't cost you a large amount of money to target your lead generation effort.
3. Fix Your Selling Process:
Use a sales method that you constantly reinforce and it will reinforce your "customer promise" and your branding. Make it emotionally driven. There are multiple methods and hybrids of methods that work, but if the method is "features and benefits" rather than "emotional selling," it won't work. You must be interested in the customer, ask questions, define what differentiates you from the competition and define what the customer can expect when they work with you (customer promise). If your sales process doesn't address emotion, you will simply "get what you get" rather than "get what you want."
4. Use Information:
Create a database of all lead and past customer contacts. Establish a disciplined follow-up process to contact and re-contact all leads and past customers which may lead into new projects. Profile your leads based on your target "top tier customer" pertinent information. If you've accomplished steps one through three, you will feed your future lead generation and current branding. It is critical to develop lead information that exceeds your competition, to understand how to use that information and to follow up in order to increase your revenue. Doing this will move your company from being a "work horse" to a "gorilla" in your market.
The two main tools you need to create leads and sales are
- A Website
Nearly all potential customers will visit your website, whether referred by a friend, architect, neighbor, realtor or ad. Their initial perception of you is critical. Your website design must be easy to read and brand you with your "customer promise." You must show images of your past work, testimonials and articles from your newsletter or "blog." Offer "comfort information" in your blogs and newsletters that convinces the reader that you are the builder for them.
Budget for an "ad word" campaign, create links to your website, produce "blog" articles routinely, blast an e-newsletter and improve your search engine optimization (SEO). All these things will bring potential customers to your site inexpensively, and it furthers the branding of your company and "customer promise."
Encouraging your satisfied customers to provide positive information about your company on sites such as Angie's List, the Franklin Report or other builder evaluation sites, serves as a potential link, revalidation of your branding and a lead generator. Some web services such as the Franklin Report, are regional and specific to the high-end residential market, while a more generally available site such as Angie's List will serve to reinforce your quality of performance.
Your leads may not increase, but links to their sites will enhance your status with the search engine companies, increase your ranking on web searches and decrease the cost of an ad word campaign. The more links, the more blogs, the greater the content of your website, and the more web posted public relations you receive, the more potential leads will be directed to your company.
Once you have established your basic lead generation process, the next step is the "selling process." In simple terms, have a selling process, reinforce it, measure it, drive it on emotion and don't allow your process to make you appear as a commodity (on price alone) unless that is your sales plan. All sales processes require commitment, reinforcement, continuous training and use over time to establish it as your method. There is no magic about a sales method; it requires time and consistency in application.
Change of selling method will rarely make you lose business if it is tested before implementation, but it won't get to be "good" for a year or more. The good news is that few of your competitors will have a disciplined sales process. All that is important to your customer is how they "feel" about the experience of working with you, not what your sales process is.
The last part of your selling process is identifying the correct margins and price. The combination of price and margin should not leave revenue or profit "on the table." Keep a balance between design, margins, selections and change orders. Maintain quality, value and timeline. If you do not reduce your estimate to an accurate comparative process to your job costing, if you don't differentiate your revenues and costs from the selections process and change orders from the base home estimated, you will have lost a strategic part of your arsenal of information to pinpoint your market and profit margins.
Construction Business Owner, November 2008