Best Ways for Contractors to Get New Customers
Running your own business as a contractor is a great way to break free from the traditional boss/employee model of business. You can make more money, write your own schedule, choose your own clients, and enjoy the freedom of being your own boss. Unfortunately, when you’re a contractor in the field, you have to do all the other stuff as well—like find and secure new customers. And, without a well-known company name associated with you, doing that can be a little more difficult than you’d like to imagine.
Thankfully, digital marketing and mobile technology have even the playing field a great deal. Now contractors can quickly, easily, and cost-effectively market their skills and services to potential customers with readily available (and powerful) tools. So, if you’re just starting out as an independent contractor and are in desperate need of new customers or if you’ve been at it a while and would simply like to grow your business (and boost your bottom line) here are 6 ways you can get new customers.
1) Get Referrals
Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools and contractor can utilize. People are 90% more likely to trust and buy from a company referred to them by a friend. Think about it. When you need something done at your house, you ask your friends, family, and neighbors who they’ve used in the past. Why do you do that? Because they have real experience with these contractors and you trust their advice.
The same goes for the friends and family of your current customers. Their word goes a long way toward convincing new customers to work with you.
How to Do It: Ask. It’s that simple. Then follow up in a few days or a week with a nicely worded postcard, email, or telephone call.
2) Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Social media is an essential marketing tool for contractors in any industry today. Not only does social media function as digital marketing material, it also helps you improve your business’ SEO and natural search engine results.
From a marketing standpoint, showing photos, stories, and customer reviews of work you’re currently doing or creating little helpful tips for people attracts visitors to your social profiles. After all, a potential customer has to be exposed to your “brand” as many as seven times before they ever decide to “buy” from you. Keeping your name at the top of their minds is the best way to ensure you’re the one they call when they need an independent contractor.
Plus, social pages are—well—social. Your customers and potential customers can easily share your pages with their networks. The key is to be useful, entertaining, and interesting.
From an SEO standpoint, Google and the other big search engines (which 51% of mobile users use to find new companies) place a tremendous amount of importance on inbound links from social sites. That means that the more traffic you have coming from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the others, the higher your business will rank when potential customers search for your services online.
3) Organic SEO is the Way to Go
You can engage in relatively low-cost digital advertising with social sites like Facebook and big search engines like Google but 70%-80% of customers searching online focus solely on organic search results.
What are organic search results? Organic results are results that search engines have discovered by “crawling” your website rather than results you’ve paid for. Essentially Google “reads” the content on your site and categorizes it based on keywords. When searchers look for these keywords, Google delivers relevant results. The process is quite a bit more complicated than that but that’s the general idea.
How do you get great organic results? Create a steady stream of solid content (blog posts, photos, videos, etc.) on your website that address the keywords you want your business to be associated with. For example, if you’re a gardener, post photos of jobs you’ve completed, tips about how to treat pests, and ideas for designing flower beds.
4) Improve your Online Ratings
If you’re doing business with an online presence (which you should be), online reviews on sites like Yelp!, Google, and Facebook are absolutely essential. In fact, one study found that 91% of people read online reviews and 84% of them trust those online reviews as much as they do the opinions of close friends.
But how do you control what your current customer write about you?
- Always do your best work
- Develop “Soft Skills” (sometimes called people skills) in order to give customers a better impression
- Ask for the review—70% of customers will write a review when asked
- Manage bad reviews with thoughtful and actionable comments—ask what you can do to make things right
There are any number of networking events in your local area that a smart contractor should attend. From the chamber of commerce events to charity fundraisers, from school functions to holiday gatherings—any event can become a networking event.
Getting out and actually meeting people in the community is a wonderful way to let people know who you are, what you do, and how they can get in touch if they need someone with your skills. Always can business cards with you!
6) Become a Walking Billboard
Branding is a great way to create a recognizable “look” for your business. By using the same logos, fonts, phrases, and color schemes on everything related to your business (from your uniforms to your business cards to your signage, to your car/truck/van) you become the advertisement.
Make sure your brand is easily identifiable, is centered around the services you provide, and regularly uses all the information that people need to find you (including your website, telephone number, business name, etc.).
You can even use branded promotional items as “leave behinds” (like pens, coffee mugs, sticky notes, etc.) so your name and logo remain at the jobsite even after you’re gone.
Always Be Mindful of the Impressions you Create
As a contractor, you always need to be aware of the impression your company is making at every stage of the job cycle. Getting new customers isn’t the end of the workday for you. You have to constantly impress them. Roughly 80% of customers will switch service providers after having a single bad experience with a company. So, once you’ve earned that all-important opportunity to showcase your skills, maintain that high level of customer service all the way through the job and beyond.