Growing your contracting business requires a systematic, repeatable and measurable road map for success and continual improvement.
Ask any Frederick, Maryland area contractor that's made the leap from start-up to established viability.
If you've been a successful contractor without a formal marketing planning process, it's likely due to strong word-of-mouth and a deep spring of referrals. And that's terrific. These are always drivers of initial success and should remain a reliable source of leads and sales for your moving forward.
However, there always comes a time in a contracting company's lifecycle when a systematic strategic marketing approach--along with its meetings, bottlenecks, strained budgets and a slew of other moving parts--becomes critical to growing your company.
In that spirit, we offer up 6 marketing planning tips for contractors to help you achieve your growth and expansion goals.
One Step at a Time...But Take A Step!
If you've recognized the need for formalizing your marketing efforts in a documented, executable plan, that's a great first step.
The next step is having the self-awareness to determine what kind of plan to develop for your particular contracting focus. In other words, you need to have a sense of what your team can handle and what kind of plan best suits your current capabilities.
There are a few different types of marketing plans.
- For the most part, contractor marketing plans fall into one of two categories: tactical and strategic.
- Both types will start you down the right path by providing a structure, a cadence and a measurable record of your marketing activity. The question you need to confront is one of scope.
- A strategic marketing plan has a much larger scope than a tactical plan, as it invovles marketing research, customer profile development and potentially positioning strategy, in addition to what's included in your more limited tactical plan.
- A more realistic interim step might be to create a tactical marketing plan, which typically includes a tactical calendar and a budget.
In each case, a SWOT analysis and SMART goals are essential elements to an effective strategic or a tactical marketing plan for your contracting business.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. SWOT?
Welcome to the world of critical self-assessments.
Get your team together-customer services, sales, admin and some people doing the work in the field-and compile a list of what your organization does well, what it's not so good at (these are largely internal observations), where it can "make hay" and what could hurt you (these are external observations).
Come to a consensus and document it. These assertions should help guide your marketing planning process.
After you develop your SWOT analysis, turn your internal working group's attention to mapping out what you want to achieve during the year. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable and Realistic) goals crystallize what you want to achieve, and how you'll get there. It also provides accountability as you track performance against the SMART goals you laid out at the start of the year. Some goals for contracting companies like yours could include:
- Increasing the number of service contract agreements
- Increasing the number of positive reviews on sites like Angie's List and others like it
- Generating more work from your existing customer base
- Launching new service lines
- Increasing your contracting proposal win rate
- Expanding your contracting business into new markets
Stick to Your Calendar
Create a detailed tactical calendar and commit to it. Regardless of the campaign, type of activity or internal assignments, map out project and launch timelines so you set clear expectations.
- Since every element of your plan is interrelated, allowing deadlines to lapse and your calendar to slide is a sure fire way to reduce the effectiveness of your plan.
- Control what you can. Task key team members with holding people accountable.
- There will always be unknowns that disrupt your timelines; don't compound these disruptions with unforced errors.
Break It Up Into More Digestible Bits
Now that you have your contractor marketing plan developed and approved, break it up into more palatable chunks.
- Divide the plan into quarterly segments and then monthly reports. Your internal meetings and progress tracking should be either on a quarterly or monthly basis or both, and then these results should roll up into reports tied to your annual marketing plan.
- Large, annual marketing documents can be overwhelming, particularly if they are of the more expansive strategic type. You'll get more done by breaking it up into smaller parts.
Track the Right Metrics
Your plan won't amount to a hill of beans if you fail to measure results. During the marketing planning process create a separate working group to develop a suite of tracking tools. In most cases, this will just be a series of excel workbooks directly linked to the tactical calendar.
- Tracking effectively is not just about awesomely powerful spreadsheets or investing in new management/workflow software, though. It requires the diligence and commitment of your entire staff from coordinators all the way up through managers and department heads.
- Measurement requires both tools and, maybe more importantly, training and buy-in so that you capture the right information accurately and you can be create benchmarks to measure future success.
- Effective and actionable tracking relies on the identification of key performance indicators or KPIs. KPIs are the numbers that matter most to the success of you contracting business. Without specific contractor KPIs the numbers you track are not as impactful as they could be.
As an example, here are some standard construction industry KPIs to give you an idea of what key performance indicators are designed to track:
- Percentage of backlogs over project timeline
- Percentage of unapproved change orders
- Productivity (company)
- Profit margin - Actual versus baseline profit margin over project timeline
- Profit predictability (project)
- Profitability (company)
- Quality issues at available for use
- Quality issues at end of defect rectification period
- Ratio of value added (company)
- Repeat business (company)
- Reportable accidents (including fatalities)
- Reportable accidents (non-fatal)
- Return on capital employed (company)
- Return on investment (client)
- Return on value added (company)
- Time for construction
- Time predictability - Construction
- Time predictability - Construction (client change orders)
- Time predictability - Construction (project leader change orders)
- Time predictability - Design
- Time predictability - Design and construction
- Time taken to reach final account (project)
- Time to rectify defects
These 6 contractor marketing tips are just the basics.
It takes years to get the marketing plan development, implementation and measurements processes right. But you'll never get there unless you take the first step.
Use these best practices as general guidelines to get started, and if you need some advice along the way, get in touch.