Positioning and Branding Your Construction Company

What is the one thing in your business that only you can do?

It’s not an easy one and there’s no right answer, but here’s a framework to get you thinking…

World-renowned business coach Dan Sullivan has a book called Unique Ability.  In it, he posits that each one of us has a unique talent that we bring to the world and to our businesses.  Everyone has one. According to Sullivan, discovering and fulfilling your unique ability will bring maximum happiness in business and in life.

He presents four criteria to help you find yours:

  1. It’s a superior ability that people notice and value.
  2. You’re passionate about it and want to do it as much as possible.
  3. It energizes you and other people.
  4. You keep getting better at it, never running out of possibilities to improve it.

I will add a fifth criterion – your unique ability is the thing that moves your business forward more than any other thing you do.

It is the thing that only you can do in your business – you can’t outsource it or hire someone to do it for you.

Still trying to think of yours?

The business application of Unique Ability is centered around time and energy.  We too often get caught up in the daily minutiae of our businesses – email, phone calls, paperwork, paying bills, collecting money, etc. – that we seldom have the time and energy to devote to the things that actually move our businesses forward – sales, marketing, building key relationships, developing new products or service offerings, developing a strategic plan for 2014, building systems, building an amazing team, etc.

As business owners, our time is not very well spent swinging a hammer or doing paperwork. Therefore, if we want to grow, we need to find our unique ability and spend as much time and energy on it as we possibly can.  Does that make sense?

Here are some questions to help you find Unique Ability:

  • Reflect on the past year or so in your business.  Besides external factors, what are the things you have done that have helped your business the most?
  • If you could only work 2 hours a day, what would you spend those 2 hours doing?
  • If you could magically double the size of your team right now for free, but you still had to work every day, what would you do?

What Is Your Ideal Client?

The most successful contractors, by contrast, are the ones who solve a specific problem for a specific group of people or businesses. They are the ones who truly become specialists at solving a particular problem or set of problems.

In my experience, the most direct way to grow a business is to be strategic in first identifying your goals for your business and then developing a plan to achieve those goals as efficiently and as enjoyably as possible.

Whether you’re in residential, commercial, or even government contracting, there are multiple paths that will get you to your destination.  Some are direct, some are winding and full of potholes.

To increase your chances of being on a direct path, it helps immensely to define what you and your business do best, define the problem or pain point that you solve for others, and develop a profile of your ideal customer or client.

When you are determined to solve a specific problem for a specific group of people (or businesses), you will have much more clarity in your business.

There’s a common saying in the marketing world:  When you try to market to everyone, you market to no one.  It’s kind of like trying to be a jack of all trades, but you end up a master of none.  Like an amoeba just drifting around in the sea, without any clear direction or focus.

I have been doing quite a few contractor marketing assessments lately.  After getting to know the business owner and his or her business a little bit, the first thing we drill down is who their ideal client actually is.  That’s the only way we can begin to develop a marketing game plan – by understanding what problem you solve and for whom.

When you answer those two questions – what problem do I solve and for whom do I solve it– you can begin to develop a plan to attract those ideal clients with the right message.

If you do not answer those questions, your marketing “plan” has no chance of working.  You’ll be too scattered with your time, energy, and money that you will not be able to achieve any lasting level of success.

So How Do You Determine Your Ideal Client Profile?

Start by taking some time to answer these questions:

  • Where can you and your business add the most value?
  • Where have you had the most success in the past?
  • Whom do you enjoy working with?
  • What are the most profitable types of clients or projects?
  • Who are the most accessible clients in your market?
  • Who has traditionally been the most responsive to your marketing?
  • Where are you and your team most efficient?
  • How many clients or customers do you really need?
  • How many clients can you realistically service at a high level at any given time?
  • What types of clients or projects make you most excited, stress you out the least, appreciate you the most?
  • Would it benefit you and your business to have fewer ideal clients than many average clients?

It also helps to define who your ideal client is not:

  • What types of clients do you not enjoy working with?
  • What are the least profitable clients or projects?
  • What types of projects take up too much of your time and don’t put enough money in your pocket?
  • Where do you struggle to offer good value?
  • What projects feel like you’re constantly pushing a boulder up a hill?

Identifying your ideal clients and your not so ideal clients is a powerful exercise because it enables you to spend your time and energy efficiently.  As business owners, our two most valuable resources are time and money.  Whenever we spend time or money on a less than ideal client, we are foregoing an opportunity to work with (or try to work with) someone who fits our ideal client profile.

For most service-based businesses, quality is more important than quantity. Personally, I’d rather have 4 quarters than 100 pennies.  I would rather have 4 absolute ideal clients than 100 who may not be a good fit.

Benefits of Having an Ideal Client Profile

Once you establish your ideal client profile, you’ll have a new sense of clarity and direction in your business.  Suddenly you won’t feel so mentally scattered.  You can focus your best energy on attracting more of your ideal clients, while eschewing most of the rest.  Here are some additional benefits:

  • You can more easily tailor your marketing to that ideal client
  • You have that ideal client in mind when crafting your marketing messaging, content, and media, which makes your marketing so much easier.
  • The cost to market to your ideal client, in terms of time, money, and energy, is significantly less than marketing to a broad market or marketing to everyone.
  • You can more easily become a known authority in your specific market, rather than just another player in the broader market.
  • Profit created intentionally, rather than by accident, is replicable again and again

Content Is King?

Absolutely.  And the above explanation is exactly why.  Good content benefits your market and also looks good to the Googles of the world, both of which only benefit your business in the long run.

Need Help?

If the results from your SEO efforts suck, or you’re looking to get a grip on growing your business, get in touch with us and we’ll see if we can help.

Branded Search Results for Contractors

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the past few years as a business owner is that there is the way you want things to be and there is reality.  Author Robert Ringer describes his theory of reality concisely:

The theory of reality emphasizes, first of all, that reality isn’t the way you wish things to be, nor the way they appear to be, but the way they actually are. Secondly, the theory states that you either acknowledge reality and use it to your benefit or it will automatically work against you.

Today’s dose of reality is that, whether you think it’s important or not, your prospective clients and customers are researching you and their other options online before they contact you.  Some people will even say that 80% of your prospect’s buying decision is already made before they call you.  And before you tell me that your business is all word of mouth and you don’t need a web presence, what do you think people do when they get referred to you?  As responsible and informed consumers, they go online and do their research.  Trust, but verify.

Do you know what shows up when someone searches for your company online?  I’m not talking about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) here.  I’m talking about your Branded Web Presence.  What does someone see when they type your company name into a search engine?

There are some very basic things you can do to improve the results that people see when they want to learn more about your company. These things take just a few minutes of your time and can cost you nothing.  But these are the minor adjustments that can mean the difference between your ideal prospective client calling you versus skipping over you to call your competitor with the better web presence.

Positioning Framework to Attract Ideal Clients

If you do this, you’ll instantly be in the 1%.   99% of business owners are not taking the time to think about their business strategically in this way.  So what are they doing?  They’re rising and falling with the economic tide, working with anyone who comes their way, pulling their hair out on a daily basis, never able to truly be comfortable as business owners.

A positioning statement is a marketing tool, but it is also a mindset framework that helps you think clearly about your business and why you do what you do.

Positioning is one of the foundations of any successful business and business marketing.  Positioning enables you to define what your business is and what it isn’t.  It helps you talk about your business, present your products or services, and build more meaningful business relationships.

A Positioning Statement or a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is your 10-second elevator pitch that informs your prospects what you do, how you’re different, and how they and/or their business can benefit by working with you.

There are many frameworks out there that can help construct a positioning statement.  Below I have included 2 of them and have developed 2 slightly different positioning statements for Contractor Dynamics based on these frameworks.

In general, there are a few goals of a positioning statement:

  1. Describe what you do clearly in 10 seconds or less
  2. Describe who your target market is (and imply who it is not)
  3. Let your prospect (or person to whom you are speaking) know how your products or services can benefit them
  4. Answers the ‘What’s In It For Me?’ (WIIFM) question – your prospect should not only know what you do, but more importantly, know how they can benefit from what you do
  5. Differentiate your business from your competition

When constructed correctly, the positioning statement accomplishes the following:

  1. Demonstrates that you are a smart, confident person
  2. Demonstrates that you respect peoples’ time – because you take 10 seconds to explain what you do, not 10 minutes
  3. Immediately establishes that you are not like all of your competitors
  4. Communicates that you do not work with just anyone.  You have a clear vision for your ideal customer.
  5. Starts to build trusted adviser status with your prospects
  6. Help you uncover your prospects’ business and/or personal problems
  7. Relates your understanding to the prospects’ pain
  8. Gets your prospect to talk and ask questions
Why is this important?
  1. You attract more of your ideal customers, while minimizing the time you spend with non-ideal customers
  2. Because you differentiate yourself from your competition, you minimize the chances that, when it comes time to propose your services to your prospect, you will have to compete on price alone.
  3. Truly being customer-focused and being a problem solver for your customers is a characteristic of most successful businesses.
Positioning Statement Framework #1 – Adapted from Hubspot Marketing

Framework #1

  1. We help (companies like yours)
  2. Who are struggling with / are frustrated because / unhappy that (the key here is to elicit emotion)
  3. Insert 3 problems, such as:
    1. They’re not growing as fast as they want
    2. They’re losing market share to competitors
    3. They’re not seeing return on investment, even after spending a lot of $
    4. Do you face any of these challenges?

So for Contractor Dynamics:

  1. We help builders and contractors like you
  2. Who are frustrated
  3. Because they have
    1. Invested a considerable amount of time and money
    2. On activities such as web design, online advertising, and search engine optimization (SEO)
    3. But are not getting the leads or return they had hoped for
    4. Are you seeing similar trends?

Polished up all nice and pretty:

We work with established builders and contractors like you who have invested time and money into services such as web design, online advertising, and search engine optimization, but are frustrated because they have not seen the quality leads they expected from their efforts.  Typically, they’ve hired outside agencies to do the work or have purchased advertising on their own in order to achieve their goals, and they aren’t seeing consistent results.  Are you experiencing similar challenges?

Positioning Statement Framework #2 – Adapted from the book Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey Moore, and discussed in this article

     For (target customers)

     Who must (solve a specific problem)

     Our product is a new (new product category)

     That provides (key breakthrough benefit vs. current way of doing things, solves dilemma)

     Unlike (competitor in new category)

     We have (whole product most relevant for you)

When using this framework, it is helpful to first define your Unique Selling Proposition (USP):

Competition:

Services Offered:  Website design, SEO (‘We’ll get you to the top of Google!’)

Revenue Stream:  One-off products and services with a parochial scope

Key Messaging:  Beat your competition to the top of Google

Contractor Dynamics:

Services Offered:  A system that generates inbound leads and helps you convert more leads to customers on a consistent basis

Revenue Stream:  Monthly retainer

Key Messaging:  Grow your business strategically by doing what your competition is not

So for Contractor Dynamics:

      For: Established builders and contractors

     Who Must: Get more of their ideal projects

     Our service is a new way: Generating and converting leads

     That provides: Not only more inbound leads, BUT also a strategic plan to convert more of those leads to customers

     Unlike: A web design or SEO agency

     We:  Partner with you on a long-term basis to make sure you get results from the work we do together

Polished up and in paragraph form…

For established builders and contractors who must get more ideal projects in order to grow their business.  Our service is a new way of generating and converting leads that provides not only more inbound leads, but also a strategic plan to convert those leads to customers.  Unlike a web design or SEO agency, we partner with you on a long-term basis to ensure you get results from the work we do together.

Characteristics of these two frameworks

  • They are customer-focused – they describe how our customers benefit from our services
  • They touch on an emotional pain – we help people who are frustrated because they have wasted time and money
  • They differentiate my company from a web design company or a marketing company that provides just one service, such as SEO – I am not a web design guy, an SEO guy, or the like.  I’m a grow-your-business guy.  Therefore, my clients should expect more from me and they should also expect to invest more time and money in solving their problems.  And when it comes time to submit an agreement for my services, it is clear that I am not competing with anyone else. Whether a prospect ends up seeing it this way is not 100% in my control, but at least I am defining who I am and not letting my prospect define who I am.
Positioning Framework Conclusion 

A Positioning Statement is a living, breathing animal.  It is constantly evolving.  It’s a good idea to revisit it at least quarterly and tweak where necessary.  For a business in start-up phase, it’s beneficial to revisit this monthly.

In addition to being a nice, polished cocktail party answer, developing your Positioning Statement helps you to really think about your business and get clear on your goals.  Your positioning statement should guide how you communicate, act, and conduct business on a daily basis.  Most of your messaging and marketing will be a product of the foundation that is your Positioning Statement.

Equally as important, your Positioning Statement helps you discover who you are not. One of the most fatal flaws in business is trying to be everything to everyone. Your business can’t solve everyone’s problems and you shouldn’t try to.Getting focused and positioning your business strategically does not guarantee success, but not having a focus almost certainly guarantees failure.

Action:  Put a 30-45 minute slot in your calendar within the next week to sit down with this article and develop a positioning statement for your business.  It’s one of the most helpful exercises I’ve ever done.

Growing Your Business and Increasing Your Revenue

Regardless of what type of contracting business you have,there are only 3 ways to grow your business.

There are only three ways to grow your contracting business:

  1. Get more leads
  2. Convert more of those leads into customers
  3. Increase the lifetime revenue of each customer

Sure, every contractor is unique and no two businesses are exactly the same, but the fundamentals of building, running, and growing a business do not vary from contractor to contractor.  The above three methods of growing a business have always held true and always will hold true.  Take a minute and think about your business in this context.  Now we will walk through the definition of each one and conclude with a simple method of using these three areas to grow your top line revenue by 20% over the next six months.

Lead Generation
This is simple.  Sales and lead generation are the backbone for any business.  We’re all juggling dozens of balls on a daily basis, but the one thing we absolutely cannot drop is sales.  We always have to be selling.  Without selling, no other aspect of your business matters because you will have no business without sales, right?  Since sales is something that we all must constantly be doing, we certainly need a system to ensure we don’t drop this most important of balls.  The goal is to be doing some sort of sales or lead generation at least every week, and ideally every day, in order to successfully grow your contracting business.

Conversion Rate
Conversion Rate is the rate at which you convert leads in to paying customers or clients for your business.  Again, this is a critical number to keep track of if you have any intention of growing your business.  In order to grow your business, you must improve your conversion rate.  If you are lucky enough to get 10 good leads per month for your contracting business, and you are able to convert 3 of them to paying customers, your conversion rate is 30%.  That’s not a bad number at all.  That works out to 36 new customers per year.  This number will vary from business to business, but 36 new customers per year is a pretty good business for most contractors.  Increasing conversion rate is one of the easiest and fastest wins you can have in your business.  Most of our marketing services here at Contractor Dynamics focus on increasing this conversion rate.

Lifetime Customer Value
Customer (or client) lifetime value is the value, in dollars of profit, that each customer or client is worth to you.  If you charge a customer $20,000 for a new custom deck and your overall costs are $10,000, you have $10,000 in profit.  Assuming that this customer never works with you again (highly unlikely), the lifetime value (LTV) of this customer is $10,000.  If you’re a contractor that specializes in new custom decks and this is about your average sized job, your overall average customer LTV is $10,000.  This number is extremely important and extremely flexible, which is why we focus a lot of time and energy on LTV in our Dynamic Marketing Program.  In order to grow your business, one of the things you absolutely must do is increase your customer LTV.  This can be done in three distinct, but not always separate, ways:  increase price, decrease costs, get your customer to buy from you more than once.  All of them will help you grow your contracting business. We’ll walk through these in another blog post.

Hunter owns a contracting company that builds new custom decks for homeowners.  Hunter has a fairly strong web presence, he does a decent amount of networking, and he has a nice referral program in place, so he is able to generate 10 relatively good clients leads every month.  Out of those 10 leads that he gets every month, he provides estimates to all or most of them, and he ends of closing 3 of them as customers.  So, he is successful at converting a lead into a customer 3 out of 10 times, for a conversion rate of 30%.

If Hunters’ average profit per customer is $10,000 and he’s doing 3 decks per month, he is profiting $30,000 per month.   Not a bad little business.

Now, suppose Hunter enlists the services of Contractor Dynamics or another company that helps him to tweak the dials on the number of leads he gets and the percentage that he converts into customers.  Let’s begin with a modest 10% increase in both areas.  10% is nothing dramatic.  We’re not talking about doubling his lead generation on a monthly basis, or doubling his conversion rate.  We’re aiming for a conservative incremental increase of just 10%.

So now, instead of getting 10 qualified leads per month, Hunter gets 11, a 10% increase.  In the customer conversion department, suppose we are able to increase his conversion rate by 10% from 3 to 3.3% (bear with me on the fraction of a customer here; this is to illustrate a point).  If he is now able to get 11 leads per month and close 3.3% of them, he is closing 3.63 customers per month.  His average profit per deck job is still $10,000, but now he’s doing 3.63 decks per month instead of just 3.  So now his monthly profit is 3.63 x $10,000, or $36,300.  $36,300 is quite a bit more than the $30,000 he made last month.  It’s a 21% increase in profit in just one month!

When is the last time you were able to grow your contracting business and increase your profit by 21% in one month?  And that’s just the beginning.  If Hunter is smart, he continues to work with us on a monthly basis, so we’re able to help him increase his leads and conversion rate by 10% month in and month out.  Imagine what a the compound effect of a 21% increase every single month would mean for your business this year.  I won’t bore you with more math, but I did it on a spreadsheet, and the result is staggering.  If you are able to increase your leads and your conversion rate by just 10% every month for the next 6 months, you’re looking at an ability to grow your contracting business by  70%  in under six months.  That’s by no means guaranteed, but it’s also not unreasonable to achieve.  Pretty soon, you’re on your way to more than doubling your business this year.

5 Actions to Jumpstart Your Business
  1. Contact all people or businesses that you have proposed projects to in the past 6 months.  It takes time for people to make decisions.  Hopefully you’ve already been keeping in touch with your prospects, but if not, pick up the phone and call them to see if they have questions and/or are looking to get started?  People are lazy; we need to be prompted to take action. And sometimes a simple phone call is all people need to get the ball rolling.
  2. Call all people or businesses for whom you have done projects in the past 6-12 months.  Check to see how their project is holding up, if they have any questions, and if they need anything else done.  Again, they may have things on their mind, but they’re not necessarily going to bring them up unless prompted.
  3. Send an email or postcard to your database of clients, prospects, and industry contacts with a seasonal or special offer, or just an invitation to contact you.  If you’re making an offer, make it time-sensitive, quantity-limited, or both.  Note:  Your offer doesn’t have to be a discount or a coupon (aka a financial apology); it can just be an offer to contact you, or for something you you’ve just begun doing.
  4. Update your project portfolio on your website, Houzz, or Honest Buildings.  Then, let all of your contacts know about your exciting recent work. No one likes a stale-looking website or project portfolio.
  5. Get a written update from your marketing agency.  If you’re working with an agency or a ‘web guy’ for any online marketing, request a report for the last 6 months of work and ask them to outline their strategy for the remainder of this year that is going to get you at least a 5-10X ROI.  Too many of us spend money every month on serviceswithout ever knowing what we’re getting for them.  You’re paying – you deserve to know exactly what’s going on and what their plans are.

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