Customer retention strategy, referrals, & reviews for contractors

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Whether you’re a sub-contractor, custom home builder, or a commercial developer with a well-established brand, retaining your clients and position as a preferred partner is critical to giving your company predictability and flush with a robust project pipeline.

Fostering business in the built environment has come a long way from handshakes over steak dinners or on the back nine at the country club. Your business competitors employ data and problem-solving interactions to land your client. Keep your contracting business’ client relationships strong by utilizing the three R’s: retention, referrals, and reviews. This will boost your customer retention strategy, grow your business with clear feedback and direction, and keep your competitors at bay. 

Retention: Customer retention strategies for contractors to keep the sales pipeline full 

While acquiring a new sale or client is exciting, the sales process is known as a “sales cycle” for a reason; the work never ends. Once the contract is signed or the sale is closed, transition into the customer retention mode of your marketing strategy. Remember a customer’s lifetime value and make your marketing decisions and strategy based on their potential in the future. Especially in the building industry, getting back on a project manager or purchasing department’s short list of preferred vendors is an ongoing, earned process. 

I saw this firsthand at a recent home builders and contractors networking event. A plumbing vendor who did several projects for a local production builder suddenly stopped getting work contracts. This plumber has increased his staff, vehicles, and equipment to handle more communities, but his expected pipeline ran dry. This plumber had to start all over, reintroduce himself to a contact he met at the networking event, request face-time with the decision maker, and sell his way back into acquiring bids. The contractor lost money in not retaining the client and increased operating costs in anticipation of unsecured business. 

Your customer retention strategy is the organized and intentional efforts your built environment business creates to build customer loyalty and improve customer value post-sale. Your customer retention strategy will give you repeat business, word-of-mouth referrals, and follow-up marketing opportunities. 

Digital marketing efforts contractors can use to stay top of mind

What your customer retention strategy looks like is custom to your clients. All businesses should have an evergreen strategy for communicating with customers post-sale. This marketing retention strategy can include the following:

  • Weekly or monthly newsletters summarizing company news and through leadership composed and sent only to customers
  • Social media posts that engage with customers, specifically
  • LinkedIn newsletters
  • Customer-only appreciation events such as golf outings, meals, or digital webinars
  • Company news articles, including bid announcements, project case studies, industry news, and certifications

In addition to regular planned communications, your company can enhance the customer’s experience as part of the post-sale process. For example, if your client is a production home builder, you can stay engaged in their operations by attending their grand openings and sponsoring production team training and appreciation events. For a supplier retaining a contractor client, sharing new technology or giving them the “inside scoop” of new products and techniques can prove your business is an invaluable asset to their operations. From a simple email campaign to the purchasing team with insider info or a video demo using one of their job sites that you co-brand - your inclusion and interaction grant your business further credibility and marketing exposure. 

Scheduling an email or phone call to check in with your clients periodically is a task you can complete through your CRM. The team at Illumine8 can help you automate these tasks and reminders in HubSpot and design templates to make this process less daunting. Using a CRM will ensure you capitalize on opportunities and achieve accountability among your sales and customer service teams.

Staying top of mind by investing in relationships and authentic interactions can help you avoid the awkward interaction the unfortunate plumber experienced. Illumine8 can help you understand your client’s personas and decision-making to help you develop a customer retention strategy, even outside of “the box,” to increase the lifetime value of your customers by continuing the conversation with them post-sale. Your customer retention program will be tracked in your marketing software, such as HubSpot, so you can schedule your program, track your activity, and review your customer retention rate metrics.

Referral: generating referrals in the built environment

Nothing makes a business owner happier than hearing they landed a client based on a referral. It is pure euphoria to know your business has made an impact and earned a client’s trust. A customer from a referral is also usually “the best” type of customer in terms of retention and acquisition cost. According to a study by the Wharton School, 78% of respondents state that their referred customers are more loyal than any other customers acquired from different marketing channels.

There’s no universal blueprint for creating a perfect customer referral program. Just as your customer retention strategy is personalized to your client, planning and implementing a referral program requires a further look into how you acquired your current client and what they can offer from their referral network. Though the built environment is competitive and not always the best at sharing contacts, there are still opportunities for referrals in how you present your “ask.”

One way for a business in the built environment to grow its referral network is to make the specific connection itself. Broadening your definition of referrals to not just customers but also your industry partners can lead to more business and just as loyal clients. This method requires identifying your prospect first, doing homework comparing both of your networks, and then working your connections.

For example, if you are an HVAC distributor working with a particular home builder and you’re looking to grow in your new home construction business. Instead of going through your current contact for a referral to a competitor home builder, see if you know other vendors in your shared network to make the referral. You can identify these connections through LinkedIn, builder association networking events, and visiting the job site. Maybe you know an electrical contractor that is the preferred supplier for your prospect or working for both builders; Start the conversation with the mutual contact, request the referral, offer an incentive, and track the connection in your customer management software. We recommend HubSpot.

Word-of-mouth referrals are the most personal form of marketing and require a unique and intentional touch. The tight-knit community in the built environment requires fostering relationships, making connections, and specific networking when your referrals are business-to-business. 

Review: generating positive customer reviews to increase customer retention

Just as your referral program requires intention and a particular approach for your business, acquiring reviews and feedback in your sales cycle is an essential step to collecting data on the success of your business.

While business-to-consumer businesses have review opportunities through Yelp, Google Business, and Facebook, built-environment business-to-business companies benefit from acquiring surveys and testimonials for feedback and content. 

One way to quickly gauge feedback is by collecting a Net Promoter Score. An NPS implementation gathers feedback ranging from -100 to 100, giving data on customer satisfaction or willingness to recommend your product or service to others. This method quickly gauges a customer’s overall satisfaction with your company’s product or service and helps determine the customer’s loyalty to the brand.

Illumine8 incorporates NPS in follow-up surveys and helps you collect KPIs or Key Performance Indicators in our customer retention approach. By understanding your company process, customer interactions, and sales cycle, we help you develop a customer feedback survey and testimony collection process that tracks your progress and benchmarks your sales team’s performance. Illumine8 can then use the data acquired to customize your messaging and procedure and train your sales team.

Closing the sale or winning the bid for your built environment business is just scratching the surface of your sales and marketing cycle. While you got to this point by delivering excellent service and messaging, leveraging the three R’s: retain, referral, and review, your building environment or contracting company will grow with predictability through customer loyalty, an expanded network, and feedback data.

Looking to implement effective customer retention strategies? Book a consultation with one of Illumine8's marketing experts to get started.

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