Will you get the phone call or will your competitor?
Why should they call you instead of your competition? There better be a compelling reason for YOU to get the call, or many of you really don’t need to exist!
I ask this question at every “Soaring with Eagles” or “Ramp It Up Now” course that I teach around the country, and repeatedly get the same silly answers. Usually it is “great service” or “we care more” or “we have the latest cutting-edge” doohickey tool!” Blah blah Blah. Bottom line: everyone claims to offer great service or have the latest Binford 5000 machine but that isn’t enough to justify your business existence.
Have you ever heard anyone tout poor or average quality? Just telling the world you have great quality won't do it for the majority of potential customers.
Sure you can offer the cheapest price and that may make you different from everyone else in town, but eventually someone will either beat you price or you will go out of business. In many businesses, there's always someone willing to go out of business faster by pricing below cost and hoping to make it up on volume. One contractor looks pretty much like every other contractor so differentiation is critical! Sadly, today, choosing a contractor is less a selection than a game of eeny, meeny, miny, moe. It's just a random action. This explains why, in the past, so many contractors scrambled to grab the first three positions in the Yellow Pages. Of course we all know Yellow Pages are almost dead, so now what is your strategy?
Since there is so little differentiation between similar companies, it becomes a serious challenge to create a clear brand position for your company. Defining a valid differentiator for your company can make a huge difference. How you are perceived in the marketplace should be crystal clear and unique from all others, with nobody else making the same claim. That doesn't mean no one could make the claim, but they are far less likely if you dominate that position.
In reality, it doesn't matter whether other companies can make the same claim, but who makes it first and loudest is the one that gets the bragging rights. You must market you company, and shout about your differentiation or uniqueness. If you aren't marketing it you won’t grow, (and probably will shrink or go out of business) and failure to properly market your company is like winking in the dark, because you may know what you're doing, but nobody else does.
Building and solidifying a strong brand position isn’t that easy and most contractors need help doing it.
Developing a winning brand position involve several key ingredients. I’ve said many times that you must know your client’s issues, pains, challenges, frustrations and concerns. Without knowing these, you have no way of creating a strong position, and less likelihood that you will create raving fans.
Learn what customers consider painful about your particular service or industry and take a position countering it. Find out what scares customers most about calling a company like yours! Is it showing up late? Is it the risk of open-ended pricing? It is how the technician will treat your property? Is it a contractor taking advantage of a homeowner's lack of knowledge about your products or services?
Associate your company with a social cause. A contractor in Northwest Indiana operates pink trucks with the Susan G. Komen logo. He donates a percentage of his net profit for that truck to the Susan G. Komen foundation and positions his company as the contractor supporting a breast cancer cure. Another of my clients has a mascot dog named Barkley that is featured in programs to support the Humane Society and other similar animal rights causes. Charities could range from school charities to feeding the homeless. Green causes may revolve around energy or water conservation programs, or wild river charities. You can even build a position as a company that only installs products made in America.
You could write a “how to” book giving the basics of a specific project. Sure, some of you will say, “If I tell them how, then they won’t need me!” How wrong you are. Lowes and Home Depot routinely hold “how to” workshops and yes, they want to sell products, but I know that often the customer hires one of their subcontractors to do the work anyway. The vast majority of quality customers think they want to know how to make a repair, but few actually do it. They hire the contractor they consider expert in that field. By using this credential, you position yourself as the expert, which is a very significant reputation to hold.
What awards has your company won? What training have your people received? How have you been recognized by experts (or as experts)? What publications have you written, or been featured in? Create a position by declaring yourself to be a specialist, rather than all things to all people. Rather than try to serve an entire major metro area, focus on one county or one large suburb and claim it as yours.
Do you have points of distinction you could build a position around? Are you the oldest plumbing company in your area? That's a position. Are you the biggest company? That's a position. Are you not the oldest or biggest? Maybe you're the oldest or biggest "family owned" company. You can make "fun" a position.
The idea of identifying a real differentiation between you and your competitors is critical to your survival, and one of our specialties is helping you identify that differentiation and then implement it in your market.
Dick Wagner is a Disaster Restoration and Commercial Marketing Consultant. 419-202-6745