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By Duane Craig
September 10, 2018
Contractor differentiation is becoming increasingly important for long-term survival in construction markets that are flush with competition. The difference in getting the work, or being invited to bid, often hinges on a contractor's ability to stand out from the crowd. The reason setting yourself apart can work for you is because your market is dominated by sameness.
The difference between one contractor and the next is well hidden among overused marketing phrases and the rush to simplify. Over the long term, if you don't want the story of your business to sound like every other contractor's story, you have to find a way to standout. Here are the four top ways you can make your business standout from a sea of competitors:
1. Say Something Real
Every contractor likes to claim their results are 'second to none,' or they are 'top notch.' So, where's the difference? The difference lies in communicating your value in real ways. Top notch is so overused nobody really knows what it means anymore. Is 'second to none' first place or last place? Instead of worn out marketing jargon start using phrases and words that actually have meaning. In order to do so, think deeper and get specific. For example:
Everybody's using catchy phrases with obscure meanings. When you get specific, you start a better conversation; one with actual meaning.
2, Show Real People
Your business isn't populated by web manikins who have spotless hard hats, impeccable tools and bright, all-knowing smiles. As you craft the story of your construction business, make it about real people. Show real people. Tell their stories, how they overcame obstacles on the job and how they turned an impossible schedule into a probable schedule. If they're shy, shoot a photo or video over their shoulder. When your real people become the stars of your business, your business becomes special. No two construction businesses have the same people. That's unique.
While you're at it, don't forget to tell real stories about your clients. Their stories are about more than the design and the project. How did they arrive at their decision to build? What obstacles did they face? What are the unique things about their build that fit really well with your abilities?
Don't underestimate the power of your past clients to help inform future clients about your qualities. Encourage past clients to talk with potential clients. Allowing transparency builds trust.
3. Show Real Advantages
Differentiation is alive in your business. For instance, your geographical location is an advantage based on what's close by. For one, it's near any customers in the same area. But, it's also near certain materials vendors, and it's close to specific subcontractors. The aspect of proximity creates trust and makes doing business easier. Make your location an important part of telling your business story.
Don’t forget the relationships you have are also advantages. Your subcontractor relationships, your vendor relationships, your relationships with your bankers, insurers and bondsmen are all points of differentiation—your relationships with them are chiefly yours.
When you negotiate a line of credit with your bank, you have just created a point of differentiation. That line of credit can help you gear up for a project quicker than a contractor who doesn't have access to the cash. Your roster of subcontractors might not be unique to you, but the relationship you have with them is. Assess your relationships and find the points of differentiation they offer. Use them as appropriate in your bidding, and as in-house advantages elsewhere.
4. Stack the Deck in Your Favor
Professionalism has many hallmarks; most seem far too easy to overlook in construction. However, neglected equipment and vehicles, a sloppy workforce and poor communication skills all conspire to tell customers you are not good at what you do. Like it or not, first impressions rule. A company that presents itself professionally stands a good chance of winning the first-impression wars.
Customer service is another aspect of construction businesses that often fails. Many builders know how to build, but come up short on public relations. When it comes to taking care of customer complaints, many contractors rely on avoidance. The biggest problem with that strategy is it often leads to litigation; it almost always guarantees you'll get bad press in some form or another. Provide a warranty that reflects the quality and care you put into the project. Make complaints a high priority item, and have people assigned to back you up. This way you won’t have your customers waiting until you "come back from vacation" to have their issues dealt with.
The idea of differentiation is much more than a six syllable word. It goes to the heart of what you do and how you do it. When you get it right, and you reassess regularly, differentiation translates into a single syllable word: work.
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