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Marketing Marketing Marketing

February 27th, 2012 by

What do your marketing materials tell customers about your company?

To stand out in the industry, construction business owners must be actively involved in marketing to make a lasting impression with current and potential customers. Different tools can be used to get the message out, including a memorable logo and slogan, a strong website, eye-catching print materials and a visible trade show display. Sometimes, these tools intimidate business owners, but most strategies are not difficult to implement.

Construction Business Logo and Slogan

Your logo is often the first impression given by your company. It must be eye-catching, authentic and easily understood. It also must be meaningful and should artistically convey your brand.

A slogan should be unique, communicating in as few words as possible exactly what your company does. To create a slogan, brainstorm with your employees. What is your vision and mission? What do you want to be known for? What words come to mind when you think of your company? Describe what your company does best in a six words or less.

Also, be sure your stationery and business cards display your logo and slogan.

Construction Company Website and Social Media

Your business website must be modern, offering an inviting, invigorating and informative portal to potential clients, job seekers and community members wanting to know more about your company. It will serve as one of your company’s best sales tools if executed well.
Your site’s home page should have a strongly written overview. Also, draw visitors to your site by offering multiple entry points—post a short and powerful video, a Q & A with the company’s CEO and/or time-lapse photography of a recent project. A short, high-impact and informative video shows your target audience who you are instead of just telling them. Ask clients to give on-camera testimonials, and showcase projects completed by your company. Case studies are a perfect way to show visitors your completed construction projects.
The site should be built with a user-friendly content management system that will allow designated employees to easily make edits, additions and/or deletions. Regular website updates show the company is interested in keeping customers and the public updated on the latest happening.

Once you have a website, take advantage of search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. SEO is a process of adjusting your website’s content, structure, etc., to get your website positioned prominently in the search engines.

Optimizing a website involves using keywords. Brainstorm the keywords most relevant to your business. What services do you offer that people will search for online? One word of warning about SEO: It is a work-in-progress, not a once-and-done project. Reevaluate keywords every three to six months.

To complement your website, get involved in social media. Are you effectively and regularly using this to promote your business? Do you have a social media plan? If so, your company’s social media activities should link to your site. Social media is a great way to connect with customers and the public, but it does not replace in-person networking.

Print Materials

Authentic, memorable and informative print marketing materials, such as advertising campaigns, brochures and direct mail, set your company apart. Make a mark with materials that are visually appealing, concise and easy-to-read. These materials, like your other marketing pieces, are an important recruitment tool as well.

Advertising campaigns, whether they are online, broadcasted or in print, provide an opportunity to reach a targeted audience. The finely-tuned targeting methods of online advertising provide an increasingly popular way to get your message out to the right audience. It also is one of the most cost-effective means of advertising.

Brochures are a great way to leave the most relevant information about your company with a prospective client or employee. Feature your company’s most important aspects and impressive projects in a well-designed piece. If you are unsure what to include, think about your website. The print materials should be branded the same way.

A direct-mail campaign will target potential clients, with the intention of driving them to the website to learn more about your business. Send intriguing, clever mailings and personalized letters to get information into the hands and minds of decision makers.

Trade Show Presence

A trade show booth, designed to showcase your company, will allow you to reach customers at targeted venues. A booth can include video, print materials and case studies. Many setups are available at trade shows, from booths to banners, but always remember to prominently display your logo and slogan in the design. Be bold with your brand, and have your most knowledgeable and outgoing employees at the trade show.

Work with marketing and public relations professionals who can help carry out the most effective techniques for your company. A well-planned, well-executed plan with more than just one tactic will ensure business growth.

The Construction Sales Process

February 23rd, 2012 by

First, let’s be clear—there is no magic tactic or tool that will ensure success. Real success in sales comes from hard work, dedication and a real desire to help others. Oh, and you need a consistently positive attitude, the ability to separate rejection of your firm’s services from rejection of you as a person and a willingness to be a life-long learner.

Sounds really hard, right? Sometimes it is. But while there are no magic tools to adjust attitude or instill a strong work ethic and helpful outlook, there is a proven process that can help achieve sales success.

The Sales Process

The concept of a sales process is not a secret. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of articles and books on the subject-a Google search produced an overwhelming twenty-one million hits. Here are some specific stages in a general sales process:

  1. 1. Sales Lead
  2. 2. Qualified Prospect
  3. 3. Need Identification
  4. 4. Proposal
  5. 5. Closing
  6. 6. Deal Transaction

Seems pretty straightforward. However, before we look deeper into each step of the sales process, the image of the sales funnel might be helpful. The metaphor of a funnel helps visualize and monitor the long sales process. Wide at the top, narrow at the bottom, a funnel illustrates how leads drop away at each stage of the process, finally emerging out the bottom as a sale or project win. Each step in the sales process is like water flowing through a funnel.

Now, with the image of the funnel in mind, let’s look a bit deeper into each step of the process that feeds the funnel.

1. Sales Lead

A lead is a person or company interested in buying a service. A lead is sometimes called a “rumor” of a project. Leads are generated via cold calling, advertising, trade show participation and, according to the best business developers, networking. Finding leads requires an open mind and open ears.

The open ears part is obvious-less talking, more listening. The open mind part may not be. Consider where networking usually takes place: association meetings, conferences, clients, co-workers, etc. Now consider some not so obvious sources of leads. How about charitable events, church and alumni association meetings? Peer professionals are also a key source for leads. Listen to the accountants, lawyers, insurance agents and financiers you know. They know who’s planning projects and who’s funding them.

The key is to listen for leads wherever you are, all the time. Robert V. Coolidge of Aetna Life says, “Prospecting for leads is like shaving…if you don’t do it every day, the first thing you know, you’ll be a bum.”

Consistent, diligent listening can produce hundreds of leads a year. But keep in mind a lead is often called a rumor of a project. That’s where step two comes in and the funnel starts to narrow a bit.

2. Qualified Prospect

Different salespeople have different criteria for qualifying a lead. The really excellent ones do their homework and find answers to questions like:

  • -Is my firm qualified for this project?
  • -Have we presold this project? If not, is there enough time to presell?
  • -Does my firm have an existing relationship with the client? Is it a positive relationship?
  • -Does my firm have the staff available for this project?
  • -Is the project funded?
  • -Is there decent profit potential?
  • -Is this a desirable client? (Litigious, slow pay, etc.)
  • -Is the project already wired for another firm? (What other firms have worked for this client? Were they successful?)

Good salespeople are like detectives and keep digging for answers. The more that is known about a lead, the easier it is to qualify it as a real prospect.  The key is having enough information to make an informed decision to qualify a lead and move to the next step. Again, the funnel narrows.

3. Need Identification

This is where the “real desire to help others” personality characteristic kicks in and the ability to listen is critical. In step three, the salesperson asks the potential client questions to try to identify what the client really needs and wants. This often takes place over a series of meetings in which the salesperson works to build rapport so the client feels comfortable discussing upcoming projects, past issues and potential hot buttons.

As the salesperson learns more about the client and the project, they are able to formulate solutions for meeting the client’s needs, strategies to address the client’s hot buttons, and begin to prepare to propose to the client. Here, the funnel narrows either by the salesperson determining the client’s needs can’t be met or the client not inviting the salesperson’s firm to propose on a project.

Step 4.a Proposal

In the architecture/engineering/construction industry, the process of selling can take months to complete. Sometimes there are long discussions between clients and A/E/C service providers before finalizing the specifications. Owners usually issue a Request for Proposal (RFP), Request for Information (RFI), Request for Quotation (RFQ) or an Invitation for Bids (IFB). These requests guide the A/E/C and usually include specifications about the project, and questions regarding the service provider’s firm and team qualifications and how they might address issues on the project.

Answering the client’s questions in the RFQ/RFP completely and in the order of the RFP is critical. Addressing the specified and unspecified hot buttons and concerns is a major objective in writing a successful proposal. A proposal educates the client about the capabilities of the A/E/C in satisfying their needs, resulting in a successful project. A successful proposal results in either a win or allows the seller to move to the shortlist for presentation.

Step 4.b Presentation

While the preference for A/E/C firms would be for contract negotiations directly from proposal, the reality is most clients shortlist two or three firms to present qualifications to a selection committee first. This is where the best of the best business developers really shine. The ones who have done their homework and identified the decision-makers and their concerns are best able to coach their presentation teams to address those concerns.

The best business developers work with the presenters to demonstrate to the client real benefits of hiring their firm. It isn’t about how great is the presenting firm. It is about what is in it for the client. They also stress the importance of “connecting” with members of the selection committee. To do that, presenters must be themselves and be excited and passionate about winning the project.  In her chapter “Winning Presentations” of Marketing Handbook for the Design and Construction Professional , Dr. Janet Sanders of The Clayton Consulting Group counsels, “within the first thirty seconds of a presenter’s talk, he or she must establish rapport with the listeners and win their attention.”  To do that, presenters must “in real-life language show the client you understand and value the same things they do.”

The only way to understand the client is through upfront work-following the steps in the sales process. Upon “knocking them dead” at the presentation, the ultimate outcome for the service provider is to be selected for the project-a WIN. Now the fun really begins.

Step 5. The Close

One of the most important stages in the sales process is closing the deal or making the sale. This is where all the steps in the sales process come together in the bottom of the funnel. In his book, Secrets of Question Based Selling , Thomas A. Freese’s secret #143 states: “Closing isn’t something you do to somebody; rather it’s a mutual experience you have with them.”

Freese also points out that closing is not easy and is filled with risk.  The buyer fears making the commitment and the seller is nervous about asking for the commitment. After all, this is the moment of truth “where the seller finds out whether their efforts will result in a sale or a missed opportunity.” This is where the ability to separate rejection of your firm’s services from rejection of you as a person comes into play.

The best salespeople understand that they won’t win every project.  They understand they’ll lose more often then win. In The Sales Bible , Jeffrey Gitomer notes, “in success there are always failures.” The key is to be confident enough to ask for the sale. Sometimes the client does say yes and awards the contract. And this is where the water flows out of the funnel.

Step 6. Deal Transaction

The deal transaction is the exchange of money for goods or services. Boring? NOT! This is where the rubber meets the road. The really great salespeople understand that follow-up after the sale is equally important as making the sale. Follow-up allows for developing a continuing relationship with the client, which in turn, allows for the customer to develop trust with you and loyalty to your firm.

In Hope Is Not A Strategy , Rick Page explains, “Despite the complexity of selling today’s solutions, the secret is simple. It is about building relationships with the right people. Knowing their pain. Solving their problem. Earning their trust.”

If you aren’t follow-up after a sale and maintaining the connection that earned you the sale, you are missing the boat. So what? Long-term relationships with clients allow you to shorten the cycle of the sales process. In other words, you don’t have to spend as much time generating and qualifying leads, establishing rapport and conducting other pre-sales activities for that particular client. Shortening the cycle with one client allows more time to “fill the funnel” with new leads and the sales process starts again.

An understanding of the sales process is an important element for every successful salesperson. But understanding a theory and turning the theory into a way of life is another. The process is a guide. The key ingredient to success is following the steps in the process time and time again. That equals determination, perseverance and the dedication to succeed.

Finish Construction Jobs Faster = Increased Profits

February 22nd, 2012 by

Imagine if you could make every one of your jobs finish 5 to 10% faster. Now, think about the factors that would allow you to avoid any inefficiencies. Finishing every job early would save your company thousands of dollars in general conditions. Scheduling factors and crew efficiency can cause a project to slow down. Identifying these issues can save you time, and make you money.

Avoid these critical scheduling factors that can cause major delays:

  • -Permits
  • -Procurement
  • -Submittals
  • -Approvals
  • -Material selections
  • -Long lead items
  • -Probable delays
  • -Potential problems
  • -Anticipated conflicts
  • -Critical decisions
  • -Phasing issues

Avoid these areas that take away from crew efficiency:

  • -Superintendent or foreman leaves the jobsite
  • -Multiple trips to the hardware store per day
  • -Lack of materials or small supplies
  • -Tools break or don’t work properly
  • -Wrong equipment for the job
  • -Waiting for the right equipment to show up
  • -Smoking while working
  • -Cell phone calls
  • -Dogs running wild
  • -Late starts
  • -Quitting early
  • -Extended breaks and lunches
  • -Employees with bad attitudes
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