Getting an Early Start on a Profitable Springby Doug Carlton
For some in the decorative concrete industry, this spring can’t come too early. The doldrums of winter take a toll not only on the pocketbook, but also on our creative juices as artists and promoters.
We all realize that the Christmas season does little to influence or encourage new construction improvement work. Nothing can be done about this, I’m sorry.
But we still have some very productive activity that we can engage in before spring starts in earnest.
It has been easy to overlook this in the last few years because our industry was so busy and so chaotic. Most treated early spring as if it was any other time of the year. My friends, those days are officially over.
Let’s toss around a few ideas to kick 2012 off with a boom. Now is the time to capitalize on a profit season that only comes once a year.
There’s something about the spring season, regardless of the recession, that inspires most of us to bring something fresh and new to our surroundings. The weather turns warmer (usually), days get longer, and before long potential clients begin to plan their next projects. After more than two decades of offering decorative concrete services, I can say that timing a spring promotion is crucial.
Let me explain my point here. About 10 years ago our company filmed a TV commercial using photos of completed outdoor decorative projects, with plans to air the commercial in early spring. I thought I would try to pull my local market into an earlier spring start by running the spot through February. (My typical spring demand starts in late March.)
It didn’t work as planned, to say the least. We bought spots on the local TV station and sprinkled our 30-second commercial into slots from morning to prime time hoping to hit our market on the way to work or after. Nothing. If my memory serves me correctly we had a total of nine calls and zero closed sales at February’s end. It felt like a total loss and money wasted — until March rolled around and our phone rang off the flipping hook.
People will use your services when they feel the time is right and not a minute before. That said, people will not use your services if they don’t know what you offer or if they have forgotten you.
Here are two specific strategies we have used to kick off a spring season in high gear.
Reaching out to past customers
One of your best sources of new work is old customers. I often hear from other decorative contractors that the last couple of years have brought a decline in new business. I certainly won’t argue this fact, at least for many regions. But the number of past customers you have rarely declines. Most are still around and most have forgotten about your talents and services — not all, but most. It is no longer good enough to hope past customers remember you. You must remind them somehow or someway.
Here is an example of what our company and others have found useful. Take one or two great, not good but great photos and create a postcard mailer or e-card. Yes, this takes time, but so does sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. Don’t overload your postcard or e-card with overwhelming information. Put only what you want your past customers to know. Is it that you offer an outdoor reseal or maybe that it’s time to rewax an interior floor? Maybe the card is nothing more than a great picture with your name and logo in one corner. The important thing is to remind your past customers that you are still available if needed.
Offering something on sale
Name one person who doesn’t like a bargain. Your clients are no different. Sometimes spring can be jump-started by nothing more than enticing customers with a discounted service of some kind. Remember, the goal is to create enthusiasm and promote your company’s services as professional decorative concrete contractors. Keep it simple, keep it affordable and keep it up until new work is generated from your efforts. Don’t be against extending a discount for those wanting to commit but not ready to move forward with their project. Take a deposit and exercise an agreement.
Often we contractors find ourselves unwilling to promote our work, and I’m not sure why that is. I encourage you to think outside the box if you decide to promote this spring by offering something on sale. Customers’ mentalities have changed along with the declining values of their real estate. They are looking for discounted services, especially when they realize the work you do probably will not improve the value of their property like it once would. You have to change along with the market.
Doug Carlton operates Carlton Concrete Inc. in Visalia, Calif. He can be reached at email@example.com.