Remodelers like to tout that much of their business comes from word of mouth. And although that is something to be proud of, how do you encourage and increase word of mouth? Increase your communication and don’t only communicate to current clients, reach out to previous clients as well.
Anyone who has had a successful business has built up a lot of goodwill among their satisfied customers. Now is the time to put all that goodwill to use. First, comb through your records and make a list of names, addresses, e-mails and phone numbers of all those satisfied customers. Second, pare the list down to those you liked to work with and would like to work with again. Granted, these particular customers may not have more work right now, but the idea is to use them to find more customers just like them. Leave out those customers who gave you a hard time and you didn’t enjoy working with because you don’t want any more customers just like them.
Once you have your list of good customers, contact them to find out exactly what it was they most liked or appreciated about the job you did for them in the past. Make note of the exact words they use because those are the words you want to use in promoting yourself to potential new customers.
As a byproduct of contacting your past customers, you may discover that some of them are considering another project. Another benefit of contacting them is the fact that they may know of other people who are thinking of having some work done. By reminding them of the work you did for them, you may end up with their friend’s business.
The main reason for contacting your past good customers, however, is to survey them to find out what they look for in selecting a contractor. This information will then tell you what you should emphasize in your promotion.
In his writings on marketing, L. Ron Hubbard, stated that “It’s pathetic to realize that you might be within an eighth of an inch of the right offering without making it. Sort of like digging two feet away from the gold vein and getting an empty hole when you could have a million dollar mine.” He further states, “Working without surveys, you could spend thousands a month on promotion and lose it all. Or working with surveys, you could spend hundreds on promotion and make hundreds of thousands.”
As you comb through your records, don’t forget to include any past prospects that you never quite got around to or who slipped through the cracks. These may turn out to be nuggets that got dropped and are just waiting to be picked up.
There are as many ways to contact your previous clients as there are ways to communicate. Although you can contact them one at a time, you can also create letters or surveys to be mailed or e-mailed. Recognizing that times are changing, it is possible that you may not have collected e-mail addresses in the past, so you may have to use direct mail to reach out to some of your previous clients. Although that may seem antiquated, it is very workable. In the past few years, many of our clients have done just that. Initially, most of these clients were rather skeptical—especially about sending surveys to people they had worked with 2 to 4 years ago. All of them were very pleasantly surprised at the results. Of course not everyone responded, but they got enough responses to not only take their marketing to the next level, but many of them got additional work and referrals for additional work.
Unfortunately, one of our clients who finally started calling people for their e-mail addresses had two people who told him they thought he was out of business. In one case, the former customer called someone else to do a project. The other had a friend who had been looking for a remodeler for a home renovation project. This remodeler now knows that he has to stay in regular communication with both his current and past customers.
Although we still find remodelers who don’t have e-mail addresses readily available, many are able to get them through mailings and extraction from their accounting software. Recently one of our small clients had his family help with his mail project. Their results were well worth it. Not only did he get lots of surveys, he also got calls for more business.
In spite of the fact that many of us feel that we get “just too much e-mail,” we have to also realize that e-mail is a valid and inexpensive form of communication. Even if your clients don’t always read your e-mails, they will at least know that you are still in business. Although statistics on e-mail open rates vary greatly, we have had clients recently getting average open rates of 27 to 54 percent.
Ultimately, you will want to establish a regular system for communication with your customers. The best way to do this is through a regular e-mail campaign. Your e-mail campaign should use surveys, give useful information and also promote your services. In doing an e-mail campaign, it is important that your image is consistent. This means that your e-mails resemble the look of your website and also links to your website and any social media that you are using.—Lorraine Hart
Lorraine Hart is the president of Ideal Consulting Services, a business consulting firm. Lorraine is a past president of the NYC/LI Chapter of NARI. Lorraine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.