After spending over a decade in the construction industry, Joseph Hughes founded Contractor Dynamics to help builders, contractors, and related professionals grow their businesses strategically by leveraging the web.
We recently asked Joseph to share his insight and expertise on how contractors can grow their businesses. Here’s what he shared:
Can you tell us about the mission behind Contractor Dynamics? How are you hoping to impact the contracting industry?
There are so many construction companies out there that are great at what they do, but they lack the time, interest or knowledge to market their businesses effectively. Our mission is to partner with successful contractors to help them showcase their work, market their services and grow their business, but also better connect to their target market.
We want to take great companies and make them even better while helping their customers (homeowners and business owners) find these reliable contractors more easily.
We strive to provide services ethically and in a way that is mutually beneficial in the long term for us and our clients.
What frustrations did you face in your contracting career while trying to grow your business? What were some of the biggest challenges?
One of the biggest frustrations was having to wear so many hats when growing the company. Managing the projects, the team, the office, doing HR duties, sales and marketing. Another frustration was not having enough resources to do marketing. Not being able to dedicate the time consistently to work on growing the business instead of working in the business.
From my experience, you would get some momentum in marketing in the beginning of the year which would last a month, and then it would fade out and day-to-day operations would take over. So the challenge is being able to do marketing consistently over time. That’s where a company like ours steps in to make sure the work is done month to month.
What lessons did you learn as a professional about successfully marketing your business?
The biggest lesson is that marketing is something that needs to be done consistently on a daily basis, not something you can just do once a year or before a tradeshow. Marketing needs to be done consistently in every area of your business. It’s the way you answer the phone, the way your emails are composed, how your letterhead looks, how your website looks, how you speak with your customers …
Marketing is something that everyone needs to be aware of when they go to work by asking themselves: “How can I market our business better?” Marketing is not just a layer on top of your business. Almost everything you do in your business is related to marketing in one way or the other, and that’s a big dent to every process and every area of your business.
Where should contractors begin when developing a marketing strategy? What considerations should they be making early on?
Based on our process, it starts with stepping back and figuring out what you want in the long term and why. Many people skip this part, but we see that it makes a big difference to be clear on how you want your company to look and why is it important to you.
Once you figure this out, everything else makes more sense.
The second step is to work out the numbers. How many new projects do you want to have? How many bids/proposals are necessary in order to achieve that? How many leads do you need? How many interactions do you need to have with your market?
The word MORE is not an answer. You need to be able to quantify your goals.
Then, you need to look at your competition, at other contractors in your area. You want to make sure you are not just copying what they do, but you are doing something different.
You also have to analyze your own businesses. What is your personality, how does your website look, what do people think about your business?
You have to commit the resources. Schedule things out in your calendar. Invest time, energy, money. Ask yourself what tools and training do you need, will you need to hire or outsource?
You should go through these sets of questions with your team, ideally spend a few hours getting the answers right.
How should contractors approach developing an online presence? Why is this so critical to the success of a contracting business?
Consumer buying behavior has changed. Everyone is doing the research online now. It doesn’t matter if they buy sneakers or hire a contractor. People want to see reviews, pictures, make sure it’s trustworthy. You need to be aware that people are doing a lot of research before they even pick up the phone and call the contractors.
This has changed a lot compared to how people searched for contractors 10 years ago. Now you have to show them your capabilities, why you are different, why they should contact you and why they should trust you.
Even if you are a commercial contractor and don’t really need an online presence to get projects, we found out that the website plays a crucial part in attracting top class talents. When you want to hire great people, you need to sell yourself, and a professional looking website is a part of it.
Having a strong online presence can have a tremendous impact on the growth of your business not just from the revenue perspective but also from a quality team member perspective.
Realize that a website is not the online presence by itself. The website serves as a hub, but there should be other mentions of your company online – on social media, Google Maps, blogs, etc..
You also want to make sure you are different from your competitors, so you don’t have to compete just on price. If you have amazing reviews and great photos of previous projects you differentiate yourself from the crowd without having to compete on price as much.
You should approach it by thinking differently, doing things differently and making sure you are representing your business well.
What are the dos and don’ts of designing a website for a contracting business? What should business owners make sure to include? What shouldn’t they do/include on their sites?
The website is something that’s going to represent your company for the next five to 10 years (if done correctly).
You don’t want to just have a cheap looking, templated website. Nowadays you should also require that your website is responsive, meaning it can be accessed comfortably from any device, not just a laptop.
Many contractor businesses can benefit from being more personal on their websites. Include pictures of the management team, their bios, pictures of your tracks, crew or office. Good quality pictures or even videos are great and should be included in any website.
Don’t hide behind the web, put yourself out there and it will pay dividends.
What would you love to see more contracting professionals doing with their online marketing?
Doing more of it. The contracting industry is still a few years behind the mainstream, and many business owners still don’t understand the magnitude that even the basic marketing can have on their businesses.
I would love to see more contractors being collaborative and putting effort into their marketing. Instead of just hiring a marketing company to get more business and being hands off, the owners should be involved in the marketing. They need to be getting pictures, reviews, posting on social media and being consistent in putting in the productive hours to work on the growth of their business.
What are the most common mistakes or oversights you see contractors making in developing their marketing strategy?
Most marketing plans fail because contractors have a lack of understanding of what it is. With so much information and contradicting advice out there, this is understandable. But it becomes a problem when contractors are doing their marketing alone without any qualified help.
Short-term thinking is another common mistake. The results don’t come overnight, so you need a long-term plan and, I will repeat myself, consistency.
Lack of tracking and measuring, using random strategies that are not tied together and lack of input are other common mistakes.
Marketing is simple, but not easy.
What are the must-have tools for developing a site and promoting a contracting business? What have you found doesn’t work as well?
In 98 percent of the cases, Do-It-Yourself websites don’t work. Many tools allow you to build your own website, but from our experience, this should be handed over to the experts. I can probably fix my toilet after doing some research, but I am much better off calling a plumber. The same stands for websites.
Make sure you find someone who specializes in building websites and marketing businesses just like yours.
As far as tools, make sure that everything you use is open source. You don’t want your website to be built in a way that you are dependent on that one person or company who built it. You want to own your site and be able to take it with you and make any changes you need to even if you leave the marketing firm that built it.
What online marketing trends are you following today especially for how they relate to contracting businesses? Why do they interest you?
Video is huge. It’s mainstream already, but very few contractors are using it. You can do videos of your team, your projects, you answering common questions. This doesn’t just help you stand out, it also helps you make a much better connection with your prospective clients. Plus, videos are also great for search engines!
Social media platforms are very important as well. My advice is not to try to be on all of them. Pick a few that you like and you can be consistent with and double down on those. Become really good at those and don’t worry about the rest.
After you’ve tackled your marketing strategy, don’t forget to continue growing your skills. Take our Construction Supervisor License classes for free.