Category Archives: Customers

Bug ‘Em Til They Buy Or Die!

I bet you hate to make cold calls. Thankfully, over the last ten years or more, you didn’t need to cold call, market, or sell much to win your share of contracts or profitable work. The phone just kept ringing and you stayed busy. You also like it when potential customers call you with jobs to bid or propose on. This ‘old school’ marketing plan of letting your reputation speak for itself and waiting for referrals to grow your business used to work. Now it doesn’t.

In today’s tough work environment, that old school marketing plan doesn’t work. So in the new normal of less work and more competition, you need to make outbound sales calls and implement a marketing system to keep your pipeline full of potential projects to bid. The following is my simple marketing system that doesn’t require cold calls. Instead, it’s more like a form of that Chinese water torture you saw in the old movies — Drip! Drip! Drip! I call it: ‘Bug ‘Em Til They Buy or Die!’

‘Bug ‘Em Til The Buy Or Die’ marketing system:
1. Create Awareness Of Your Company
2. Pique Potential Customer’s Interest
3. Stay at Top of Customer’s Mind
4. Generate Inquiry
5. Get Belly To Belly / Face To Face
6. Convert a Bid or Proposal Into a Contract
7. Develop Customer Relationships
8. Get Referrals

The 8 step ‘Bug ‘Em ‘Til They Buy Or Die’ marketing system is designed to move the prospective customer through all eight marketing steps without a single cold call. The goal of this system is to get potential customers TO CALL YOU versus you calling them.

The ‘Bug ‘Em’ system builds an AWARENESS of your company and what you can DO for customers over a period of time. Drip! Awareness is based upon the ‘Rule of Seven.’

The Rule Of Seven
You must have at least seven contacts with a potential customer before they:
– Remember YOUR NAME
– Feel they KNOW YOU
– TRUST you
– Will TAKE ANY ACTION towards you

To grow both our construction and speaking businesses, we use the trusted U.S. postal service to make potential customers AWARE of us. Drip! We mail something to everyone on our mailing list at least 4 times per year. Drip! Drip! Once is not enough and we don’t just mail any old boring piece of mail. We send creative, different, unique, fun, factual, caring, and informative articles, photos, postcards, white papers, mini-brochures, checklists, and guides. We use a professional design firm to keep our image consistent. Orange and blue are our colors. Everyone recognizes our orange hardhat or our blueprint background on every piece of mail we send out. Drip! Drip! Drip! Now you’re creating and building AWARENESS. Everything you send out must do one of three things:

– Pique customer INTEREST
– Create a Perception of VALUE
– Reinforce customer RELATIONSHIP

To pique customer INTEREST, you must send out something different, crazy, funny, eye catching, bold or unique. You want to stand out from the crowd and make a statement. Try to be clever, creative, and fun enough to create the ‘WOW!’ factor. Never send those same old throw-away pens, ball caps, and notepads like everyone else. If you send out cheap stuff or tacky give-aways, your potential customers will think you’re cheap, have low standards, and not financially strong enough to handle their work. Send professionally created materials that consistently reflect your image. Quality counts.

Match your mail-outs to your customer targets. We use a newsletter that looks like a blueprint for our construction customers. But to attract bank investors we use traditional white stationary with blue ink. On a mailing to lawyers we sent out messages on legal pads and when we mail to meeting planners, we use a theme based on helping them make THEIR meeting a success. To attract investors for real estate development projects, we send out aerial photos of the neighborhood along with pictures and renderings packaged in typical real estate folders. Potential customers respond to the familiar.

To peak their INTEREST we also rotate mailing out cartoons, jokes, small hardhats, mini CDs or DVDs, estimating grid notepads, paper clip holders, coffee cups with hammer handles, business card holders, post-it notes, golf tees, golf ball markers, and American flags on the 4th of July! Once we mailed envelopes full of nails with the banner: “When can we nail down your next job?”! Last year I sent postcards from Maui, Hawaii with the note: “Thanks to my loyal customers for sending me skiing. I appreciate your business!” The best things to mail are items that pack flat, play big, and will not be thrown away. Don’t forget to put your name and logo on all of your ‘Bug ‘Em Til They Buy Or Die’ mail.

Only send what your customer:
1. Will READ
2. Needs TO KNOW
3. WANTS
4. WILL KEEP

Remember your goal is not only to create INTEREST, but to create the right kind of interest in YOU. Be sure that your mail creates the right perception of VALUE about your company ans how it does business. You have to tell your potential customers what you want THEM to REMEMBER ABOUT YOU. Don’t assume customers know what you know about you. To show potential customer targets we were more than a small “local” company, we sent out maps indicating our project locations covering a 100-mile radius. To show we were qualified in a new business market, we sent out photos and resumes of key managers with years of experience in this “new for us” area. To create the perception of fast service, we mailed out “On-Time Schedulers” and photos of projects with the headline: “Another Successful Fast-Track Project”. Decide what perception of VALUE you want to present to your customers and tell them about it – OVER & OVER & OVER! Continue reading

Do-Over #2: Diversify, Market & Serve Customers Sooner Than Later!

When business is steady with lots of bidding opportunities coming your way, it’s easy to keep busy working for a limited number of customers doing the same type of projects. This business model works during a good economy. Once you establish a few repeat customers, they continue to feed you work to bid on. You don’t have to go out and find new customers. You don’t have to market or sell. You don’t need an updated brochure or impressive website. And you don’t have to have a customer service or follow-up program. Work is easy to get: wait for the phone to ring, pick up a set of plans, and go bid the job. If you bid enough, you’ll get your share.

The second most popular “Do-Over” I hear from seasoned business owners is they wish they would have built up a broader base of customers, worked on many different type of projects, and developed a solid marketing and referral program that delivered diversified types of profitable work. Today I hear sad stories of underground contractors who kept very busy only doing private housing tracts for a few homebuilders. I also hear similar stories from contractors who didn’t want to mess with government jobs because of all the added paperwork. And I hear stories from companies who didn’t add any extra services like green technology, design-build, post construction services, or maintenance to attract and keep customers. These companies are now left without any customers. Continue reading

The Business Do Over!

In sports, the coach gets to start over every season. Winning coaches look at their past records and make positive decisions of what they need to drastically change and achieve better results. If they continue to play the game the same as they did last several seasons, they won’t continue to build and win. They have to look at how they play the game, players, coaches, methods, offense and defense, training, strategy, and tactics.

Now imagine it’s your turn to start a new season. You are the coach of your business and want to keep your job and make a lot of money for the owners. What should you do differently to win the game of business? What tough decisions should you make? What new plays will you call? What players should you replace? Where should you play the game and how? Will you keep doing what you’ve always done or decide to do whatever it takes to grow your business and make a profit? Below is the list of the top “Do-Overs” I hear from the many business owners I have surveyed.

Do-Over # 1: Invest Sooner Than Later!
When your business was busy, you didn’t have enough time to stop and look for investments. And you were growing, so most all of your cash-flow went to fund your company’s growth. The snowball effect was keeping you excited as your business got bigger and bigger. It was like a shot of adrenaline as you did more and more work. The more you grew, the bigger you wanted to get. Volume is addictive, so you bid work too cheap and never missed an opportunity to grow or gain a customer. Everyone thought this gravy train would never end. Continue reading

Low Bid Gets the Job In Public Work

In public works construction, the low bidder usually gets the job and there is little or no room for sales strategy or tactics. The best way to be the low bidder and awarded a contract is to have the lowest possible costs and the most efficient construction management and field operation possible. To keep your costs lower than your competitors, your field crews must be lean, productive, and well trained. There must be no downtime, job problems, quality issues, coordination conflicts, or mistakes. Your subcontractors and suppliers must also be supervised and managed tight without gaps in scheduling, productivity, conflicts, or quality. This can only be accomplished with diligent leadership, accountable management, and ongoing training focused on productivity and efficiency.

Now you are in the sales business!
In private work, it takes a lot more than just bidding and negotiating to win contracts. You’ve got to give customers a differentiating reason to hire your company. It’s not just about the price, inclusions, and exclusions. Now there are too many competitors who can do the same job as your company and will cut their bid below their cost to get a job. To win more contracts at your price, you must face reality. You are not in the construction business. You now have to also be in the $ALES business! Continue reading

Win More Contacts At Your Price!

Every construction company business owner wants to charge a higher price for their services and products. And especially today, I’m sure you are looking for the magic ingredient that will give you more jobs at your price. But why should customers award your company a contract? In this tough economy there are less jobs to bid and more competition. Many of your competitors are pricing jobs at prices lower than their costs. They are trying to keep their doors open and crews busy hoping something good happens soon. Ask yourself this question:

Why should customers award your company contracts at your price or higher than your competitors?

It is what it is!
Perhaps you are starting to realize that it’s not what it was. The new economic reality is here to stay for at least 3 to 5 years. If it hasn’t hit you yet, get ready. Just a few years ago you could do a pretty good job and get lots of work from your customers. But today, your old sales strategies won’t get you enough work to stay profitable. It takes more than doing a good job, producing quality work, and bidding projects per plans and specifications to win contracts. Now, you must do more and offer something different than your competitors to win contracts. You need to renovate, innovate, change, improve, and upgrade your estimating systems, bidding strategies, proposal format, presentation methods, customer contact approach, marketing plan, and sales tactics to be successful today.

I started my construction company in 1977. At that time there was not a lot of competition and getting work was relatively easy. Through my business contacts, I could find a nice job to bid, call the customer, meet them, get a set of plans to bid, do the take-off, estimate the job, and then turn in my proposal with a reasonable mark-up on it. A few days later I would call to see if I could meet with the customer to review our bid. At the meeting we would negotiate the terms, inclusions, exclusions, and agree on a final price. Simple. 

Do your customers want more?

Joseph owns a residential landscape company doing new installations for homeowners. He mainly works on referrals from custom home-builders, architects, and past customers. Sometimes his company is busy and other times he waits for the phone to ring. By chance he was asked to do some hauling for one of his contractor customers. In the past he didn’t pursue this type of business because is was a nuisance and disrupted his operations. But this got him thinking about how he could expand his revenue sources.

Joseph decided to set up a new division that focuses on service work. He moved his chief estimator into the role of division manager to build the customer base, added a service manager, and put a bookkeeper in charge of managing the accounts. He started by asking his customers what other type of services they needed on an ongoing basis. His homeowner customers trusted his company, liked their work, and actually wanted his company to provide more ongoing maintenance for them as well. They asked for weekly lawn and garden service, annual weed removal, yearly tree-trimming, winterization service, and annual irrigation repairs. Some of his customers owned pools and also wanted his company to do their pool service, maintenance, and repairs. Some customers had young children and wanted swing sets and playground equipment installed. Some wanted new barbeques installed, fencing added, stables for their horses built, cages for their pets, and patio covers added. Some customers asked him if he installed annual holiday lights as well. Some customers even wanted his company to offer debris and junk removal and hauling. WOW! All that business and Joseph hadn’t even thought about providing it for his customers. Continue reading

Where are you headed?

Are you really ready to hit your goals, earn more, work less, and live the life you want? It would be crazy to board an airplane without a flight plan or destination. Or try to swim upstream in a rapid rushing river. Or drive a car blindfolded. But this is how most business owners run their companies. They don’t have a specific destination or road map to get where they want to go. They work as hard and as fast as they can trying to make headway against all odds. And they don’t know where they’re going. This causes frustration for the owner, managers, and employees who try to fly faster, make a lot of waves, and go around in circles.

You know what you need? You need something to shoot for. You need a goal. Here’s a goal you have been striving to reach for years: Keep doing more! When you keep doing more, you stay busy and never run out of things to do. That’s like being capsized in the middle of the ocean aboard a small rescue dinghy and the captain keeps yelling: ‘Paddle faster!’ Never mind where you’re going. Never mind if you’ll ever reach land. Just paddle faster until you run out of food, water, or energy. And then you’ll die worn out, tired, and broke.

Why do you need specific direction? In order to achieve the results you want, you must know where you are going and why.

“If you don’t have specific written targets and goals,
you’ll never have to admit you’re a failure!”

You can continue living the lie, staying busy, and offering excuses about your progress. You’ve heard all the excuses: ‘It’s the economy, bad employees, lousy customers, cheap competition, or some other problem out of your control.’ Or you can decide to stop making excuses and do something about your condition and future priorities and plans. In order to get your business to work, earn more, work less, and live the life you want, what will you have to do to improve your:

– Sales Volume
– Profit Margin
– Market Share
– Cash-flow
– Wealth
– Effectiveness

To achieve your targets and goals, you will have to make major changes how you do business and strive to be the best in your market. At FedEx, flawless service is the NORM, not the goal or the exception. Walmart expects NO mistakes from its suppliers! If their suppliers don’t make it easier for Walmart, they go elsewhere! To be the best, you’ll have to improve your company operations, systems, management, administration, employees, estimating, pricing, marketing, sales, and service. Take a hard look at how your company is doing at your sales, profit margin, market share, cash-flow, wealth, and effectiveness. Do you, your managers, or employees specifically know? What numbers are they aiming at? Numbers tell you how well you’re doing. You will need a new set of measurable standards to see if you are improving, on track, and headed towards being the best in your class.

Mediocrity Is Not An Option! Earn More, Work Less, Live Life!

Business owners want their companies to deliver the results they want. Do you know what you want? I’ll bet at the top of your ‘want’ list is more money, more freedom, more time off, more wealth, and more fun! You want to build the best company in your marketplace that makes more net profit than your competitors, has excellent managers who run your company, loyal customers who give you most of their work at your price, allows you to build equity, generates passive income, and gives you several months off every year to enjoy your life.

But do your everyday actions, activities, and priorities deliver what you want? Probably not. Most continue to do the same destructive things which keep you from ever achieving your dreams and reaching your goals. You continue to hire the wrong people for the wrong reasons and don’t have a training program to allow them to perform at their best levels. You try to save as much money as possible by controlling every purchase, delivery, and installation instead of focusing and investing in marketing, sales, and building customer relationships. You continue to win business by offering the lowest prices instead of providing more value or services than the minimum required to keep your customers somewhat satisfied. You get projects and tasks completed with your constant supervision, micro-managing, and telling managers and employees what to do instead of utilizing written systems and guidelines for your people to follow. You are the business and won’t let go, delegate, or empower people to make decisions without your input or approval.

Is your company mediocre?
Are you really willing to do what it takes to get your business to work the way you want it to? Or are you stuck, afraid to make a move, unsure what to do, unwilling to try new things, not able to trust your people, and comfortable with mediocrity. Mediocrity is owning a company that makes little or no net profit, competes on price, doesn’t have a unique differentiating factor from their competition, and doesn’t deliver what the business owner wants. Are you satisfied with being mediocre, average, achieving less than your potential, and continuing to struggle to keep it afloat?

OR, do you want to:
-Be the industry leader in your marketplace?
-Sell more than low price to win customers?
-Make lots more money than your competition?
-Have the best people run and manage your business?
-Be the owner instead of the overworked boss?
-Generate lots of passive income from your investments?
-Have plenty free time to enjoy family, friends, and fun?

I believe the decision is easy.
You just have to decide to make it, and move towards it.

Do you need help moving your company from mediocre to exceptional?  Email me for a FREE 30min phone consultation and let’s see where we can begin making improvements to grow and strengthen your business. Email me at: gh@hardhatpresentations.com with 30min Coaching Session in the subject line of your email.

The Sad Truth About Small Business Owners

Talk to 95 out of every 100 small business owners with less than 100 employees and follow their progress for 10 to 20 years. You will hear the same sad story repeated over and over. They work too hard for the effort and risk they take. They don’t make any real money or have enough left over to invest. They can’t stop working or take much time off to do what they want. They can’t find any good help. They sell low prices to get most of their customers and revenue. They’re out of control and spend too much time putting out fires. They wish they could start saving some money and can’t figure out how to make their business better.Only 5% of small business owners will ever become wealthy or financially secure.

Why? 95% don’t implement the 8 key success factors that guarantee you can get your business to work for you:

1. Have a Passionate Vision
2. Written Clear Targets & Goals
3. Structured Organization
4. Accountable Responsible Management Team
5. Operational Systems Run the Business
6. Hit the Numbers & Make A Profit
7. Unique Delivery System
8. Pro-Active Sales & Marketing
9. Seek Wealth Building Opportunities

What key are you missing in order to help your business reach it’s full potential?

Why Companies Fail!

The number one cause of small business failure is when the owner doesn’t make the necessary changes required to build and sustain a successful company. They continue to tread water and do business the same way they always have. What do entrepreneurs do when they face tough times and need to make some big changes? They do something! Anything! They try new ways and work different. They start moving and call the necessary plays to win in any environment.

You have to make tough decisions. When one of your subcontractors asks to get paid for the 27th time without a signed change order, give him the right answer: “no!” When your project manager is over-budget again, replace him with the right person. When one of your 20 year superintendents doesn’t fill out his timecard correctly for the 8th year in row, give him one last warning to do it right or don’t come back. When a family member employee isn’t cutting it, do the right thing and let them go. When your estimator makes another mistake on the bid, replace him with the right person and the right software. When one of your long time customers doesn’t pay you on-time again, tell them never again and start looking for the right customers for you. When your accounting manager gives you the monthly financial statements four months late again, find the right controller who will do the right job. When you catch one of your employees lying to you or stealing time or money, eliminate them and find the right people.

You have some choices to make. You can ignore reality and continue to tread water by sitting and waiting for “it” to change and hopefully get better. Or you can make a decision to do and work differently. In other words, be an entrepreneur and get back to building, or do nothing and hope for change. Here is a small list of 15 changes you can make to ‘re-entrepreneur’ your company:

1. Preserve cash now!
Postpone purchases except those which will make you money. Invest in marketing, your website, sales, and customers.

2. Cut overhead now!
Hold a contest for your employees to find ways to cut your overhead by 25%.

3. Keep the best & fire the rest!
Now is a good time to get rid of your poor performing employees or those with bad attitudes. You can easily find great replacement people who want to do an excellent job.

3. Control job costs now!
Hold an all field meeting and ask for money saving ideas. Reward the best ideas with an incentive. Have them think about your general conditions, labor costs, productivity, safety, and schedule.

4. Get out of debt now!
Meet with your banker and work out a plan to pay off all of your high ticket loans. The interest rates are now lower. So consider consolidating all of your loans into one low cost payment plan.

5. Cut equipment costs now!
Get rid of every piece of equipment you own that doesn’t make you a profit every month. If you haven’t used it in weeks, sell it now. You can always rent equipment when you need it.

6. Subcontract more now!
Why keep extra crews sitting around waiting for the next job. Make a deal with another competitor to share your crews to keep your costs lower.

7. Add profit centers now!
What can you do to expand your business? A roofing contractor started a pallet company and now does over $1,000,000 in pallet sales.

8. Add new project types now!
To grow you must expand your project types. Go out and land some new work in new territories and project types.

9. Buy real estate now!
Seek opportunities to turn your built-up cash reserves into wealth building investments. Start buying a small rental property you can fix up with your expertise and crews.

10. Seek better subcontractors & suppliers now!
The slow down gives you the time to find better subcontractors and suppliers who will give you better service and lower prices. Do it!

11. Get close to customers now!
Go and visit your top 20 customers this month. Take them to lunch or to a ballgame. Get to know them better. Ask them how your company can offer more services to get more of their work.

12. Find new customers now!
Make it your urgent goal to find at least ten new customers in the next 3 months.

13. Offer more services now!
What else can you offer your customers to get more of their work? Consider design-build, pre-construction services, total team approach, partnering, maintenance, build-to-suit, joint ventures, asset management.

14. Bid more work now!
You will need more work to keep your total profit margin at the same level. Gear up to bid at least 33% more projects.

15. Have more fun!
Make a decision to stop whining and complaining about the economy, the market, your competitors, your customers, the President, or your current situation. Be positive. Look for the good in everything. You attitude is your choice. Choose to be happy.

Are you acting like an entrepreneur?

When you look at successful businesses and how they succeed in good times and bad, you’ll notice they are focused on building their business. They focus on hitting their numbers, making a profit, increasing their stock price, purchasing or investing in new markets, seeking joint ventures, growing their revenue, finding new customers, buying new businesses, developing strategic alliances with other companies, or finding new business ventures.

Today is a great time to approach struggling competitors and ask if they would consider joining their company with yours. The strong will survive. The weak shall perish. Why not take advantage of the opportunities right in front of you and do something to be successful?