Canadian Contractor

Brynna Leslie   

How to sell, sell, sell your renovations expertise year round

Canadian Contractor Marketing & Sales Business lawn sign Market postcard campaigns referrals seasonal work slowdown social media word of mouth marketing

Winter’s coming and you may be up to your eyeballs in work right now. Great, right?

But what are you doing to prepare for that inevitable slowdown in January?

“Market when you’re busy and you won’t have a not-busy time,” says Ottawa business consultant Angela Sutcliffe.

Easier said than done, right? Cold-calling and networking is a lot easier when you’re not on the job site 12 hours per day. But Sutcliffe says it’s easier than you think.


First, follow-up with everyone you’ve dropped

If you find things already are slowing down, now’s the time to contact all those people you “dropped.”

“Every entrepreneur is notorious for this – especially contractors who may be busier in certain seasons – you do all that marketing up front, make lots of contacts when things are slow, then you get really busy ‘doing the doing’ and you forget to follow up with some of the people that were interested,” says Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe suggests being up front and honest with those potential clients, even using apologetic language.

“Put it in that language that says, gee whiz, you indicated you were interested in that reno last spring, but I apologize, I left you hanging. I should have been more diligent in following up, but I got busy. Now, I’m just calling to make sure you’ve been looked after.”

Sutcliffe says the apology is effective because it’s unexpected. She adds that, with women making most major purchasing decisions in the household, there’s nothing they appreciate more than an honest apology.

Consistency is key

Once you’ve got your immediate clients lined up, Sutcliffe says it’s time to start thinking about continual marketing for your business. That means having a plan to make contact with people on a regular basis in a variety of ways.

“Most of my clients use an eight-touch program,” says Sutcliffe. “They figure out eight different ways to touch the same person over a year.”

These “touches” could come in the form of an invitation to an event, a touch-base phone call, or even an email with an article that’s helpful in some way.

“Eight is the magic number,” says Sutcliffe. “As soon as you start to implement this, you’ll see your business start to climb because so few businesses are really going out there and ‘touching’ people in a significant way.”

Here are a few ways to reach out and touch them.

Postcard campaigns

Contrary to what you may think, postcards don’t have to cost a fortune, says Sutcliffe. And done right, they can be very effective. First, think of distributing postcards monthly or bi-monthly unaddressed in the post.

Plan ahead to tap into a relevant theme for potential clients.

“If I were a contractor distributing postcards for December, I would tie it into guests coming for Christmas,” says Sutcliffe. “Maybe the bathroom needs upgrading, or perhaps Grandma’s coming and you need to make the bathtub safer or a new guest room.”

Sutcliffe says the cheapest way to print postcards can be through an online company like Vistaprint. After that, it’s a matter of going to the local post office to pay for a series of postal walks, where the cards get distributed in a number of mailboxes.

Generate your own referrals -don’t forget the lawn sign

Just as Mike Draper has noted in two articles – it’s all about the lawn sign. That’s because, if you do good work, referrals are the best and often easiest way to get new business.

But don’t rely on the lawn sign in isolation, says Sutcliffe.

“If you’ve spent several weeks in a neighbourhood on a project with a sign on the lawn, the neighbours know you’re there and that’s great,” she says. “Once you’re done the job, run up and down the streets in the area with some postcards mentioning that you’ve done a renovation for the neighbour. This way people will remember you.”

Keep communicating

If you want to stay top of mind, you’ve got to have something to say to people on a regular basis.

Social media is a great way to do this on the cheap. Build a client database on Facebook and have someone in your company post something every day. It may be a “get ready for winter tip” or some photos of a current project. (Try to avoid the hard sell). You could start an electronic newsletter. The important thing is to remind people that you’re there.

If social media isn’t part of your marketing strategy (it should be), or even if it is, using traditional ways of communication are important too. Local newspaper ads, advertorials or columns can be a great way to put a face to your business. (You can have someone ghostwrite these for you if you’re too busy). And get out there to participate and network at community events.

“The minute you stop being consistently present, people assume you’ve gone out of business or they forget about you,” says Sutcliffe. “It literally is out of sight, out of mind.”



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