By Jason Polka
The great news for home improvement contractors is that homeowners are expected to spend close to $340 billion on repairs and improvements by the end of 2018, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies projects. That’s an increase of 7.5 percent from estimated 2017 spending. For homeowners, the kitchen is the most popular room to remodel, followed by bathrooms. With such a strong market, it’s important for plumbing and heating contractors to “make hay while the sun shines”, and capitalize on this uptick in demand.
As you think about growing your contracting business, you’ll want to make sure you capture as many business opportunities as you’d like to have. To manage your business growth, you need to be able to control the flow of new customers. When you’re ready for more work, it’s ideal to ramp up the new customer leads so that you don’t end up with down time. But many plumbing and heating contractors are so busy doing the work they don’t have time to manage a marketing team. Nor do they have the interest in managing marketing on a day-to-day basis. So, they take the new customer calls as they come, without having the ability to control when they come, or whether the calls they get are from the types of customers they even want to serve.
For contractors that don’t want to ride the seasonal wave of ups and downs, there are dependable tactics for gaining control of new customer acquisition without taking on the task of sophisticated marketing and lead generation yourself. Contractors can get the customers they need, when they need them, by following a few practices that allow them to enjoy more opportunities to grow, with greater choice in who they work with and the projects they work on.
1. Outsource the toughest part of the process. Getting new customer leads is the hardest part of generating new business and keeping your business stable. It requires creating awareness for your business among homeowners in your area who are interested in starting a remodel project that is a fit for you. Luckily, this is something that can now be turned over to experts who will provide you with interested homeowner contacts so that all you will have to focus on are setting appointments and sales. Think of this as a faucet of potential business that you can control, so that as you foresee a slowdown of business, you can increase the flow of new, interested homeowners who need your services.
2. Respond to your leads quickly. Once you get a lead, it’s important to have the would-be customer feel like you’re responsive and eager to serve them. The best results go to contractors that respond to a lead in five minutes or less. A quick response may mean that you are in front of the homeowner before your competitor, or it may show that you care enough to not keep your customers waiting. Either way, you win.
When plumbing and heating contractors manage to generate new customers and contain customer acquisition costs, this creates a sustainable, predictable business model.
3. Be persistent. Contractors who place up to six follow-up calls to homeowners interested in a remodel get the best success rates. So, even though a homeowner may not be available or they seem out of touch, they’re still likely to be interested.
4. Capture the home owner’s permission to stay in touch. Even if a lead isn’t ready to set an appointment or start a project with you now, you should gain their permission to add them to your database as a contact. If you nurture them by staying in touch with regular check-in emails over the period of a year, a certain number will convert to customers when they are ready to begin their project.
5. Deliver a quote promptly. Your ability to respond to home improvement job leads with a prompt quote will be interpreted as an expression of your overall quality of service. A quick response portends quick service, which will take a winning position against a competitor that takes longer to create a proposal.
When plumbing and heating contractors manage to generate new customers and contain customer acquisition costs, this creates a sustainable, predictable business model. Then, it’s just a matter of defining how many customers your contracting business can serve in a given period of time, and investing in getting them on board. When your company growth is controlled, and you have the ability to acquire customers at a rate that’s best for your business, you are free to grow with less risk, and more peace of mind.
This strong home improvement market can be a boon for a contractor’s business. It’s the best possible time to take advantage of demand and grow your business so that it becomes more solid and sustainable over time. And that’s the best way to protect from becoming vulnerable, should things take a dip in the opposite direction sometime in the future.
Jason Polka is the CEO of Modernize, a company that uses business intelligence software to connect homeowners with contractors. Jason has led numerous initiatives to identify and execute new service and differentiated product opportunities within the contractor referral market. Modernize is the largest provider of leads for window replacement, solar installation, HVAC and roofing. The company’s business model is designed to simplify and remove any friction from the process of hiring a contractor.