Since you’re reading this, let me say thanks for reading Concrete Decor magazine and congrats on being a construction survivor. As you have noticed, our numbers have declined, but as always, the strong have survived, and this includes you, my friend.
Now let me ask you — what is your plan to keep new work coming your way? My suggestion is to look closely at three developing trends that affect our industry.
Eight times per year I look at this magazine from cover to cover, amazed at how our industry has been hijacked by true artists. This level of skill, along with a few creative marketing ideas, should keep fresh money coming into your bank account.
However, if you can’t find profitable jobs where you can show your skill, experience and training do little good. The times, they are changing, as the old saying goes, and if you want to keep busy, I have three suggestions. Here we go.
Trend No. 1: Market yourself to the “buy local” crowd
The decline in the construction industry has motivated many contractors to travel into new markets, and they’re willing to discount services in an attempt to keep busy. The last thing a local contractor needs, especially in a recessed economy, is outside competition moving into their local market. The best remedy for this is to promote your company as the local flavor with a stable track record. Not only will this protect your local market from predator competition, but it will also create a strong sense of community. The growing trend, regardless of region, is to protect local economies supporting local services and businesses.
A big part of the decorative concrete business is providing samples of colors, patterns and so on to prospective customers. This task is easier for contractors working within a local market than for competition from miles away. Make this type of customer service part of your consultation by promoting your quick turnaround of samples, answers and warranty issues. Local decorative contractors build life-long customers compared to out-of-area contractors who are only looking to fill a gap until things improve. Promote yourself as the local choice for decorative concrete.
Trend No. 2: Provide quality
Somewhere down the line most of us fell into the mindset that cheap is good. It’s not. Why buy two cheap products when one will last longer, be made better and be produced locally? Frugality has replaced frivolous. Customers will be buying less of everything and they will be looking for services and products that last.
My contracting business in the Central Valley of California knows all about declines, but what we have found effective is promoting affordable decorative services with high-quality products and skilled workers. If a customer inquiring about a reseal is price-sensitive, we inform them we offer the best sealers available at competitive prices. Talk about the competitive pricing but clinch with quality.
I have looked through hundreds, maybe thousands of contractors’ picture portfolios and they all have one thing in common. Bar none, every picture book features quality work done on quality jobs. Rarely do I see a contractor showing off an “affordable” project promoting how cheaply he or she completed it. Quality will stand the test of time, through recession and recovery. Promote, produce and sell quality.
Trend No. 3: Market to the wealthy
My decorative company has kept a list of several hundred active customers, but in the last year or so, the majority of them have slipped into a more inactive role. My guess is that many of these inactive folks are striving to keep their heads above water, and buying my services is far from their minds. But this is not the case with all our customers. Some of our wealthy clients call daily looking for decorative ideas and improvements.
It’s funny how markets change. For example, for several years, our business heard little from our farming clients. In fact, they were so quiet we thought most had closed shop and moved away. But after commodity prices shot up late last year and early this year, our phone started ringing, with farmers on the other end looking to spend money. This is a perfect example of how the money flows.
Another truth of the matter is that folks with money realize contractors are willing to do something unheard of not so long ago — negotiate.
I have had the opportunity to work for a handful of self-made billionaires over the years, and I’ve noticed they have a few things in common. They are very intelligent, very confident and very against wasteful spending. To sell services to the wealthy a contractor must provide quality, provide service and justify price. Leave out one of those three and find yourself looking for new work.
The perfect profit storm
In a perfect storm, several situations intersect, creating a unique occurrence of some kind. My goal is to formulate a workable plan that creates a perfect buying storm of fresh business for your decorative company. The best way to make this happen is combining all three trends mentioned today.
So many contractors e-mail or call asking how to break into a decorative market that would be willing to spend money on their services. My suggestion is to promote yourself as a local business providing quality work, with a big marketing focus on the wealthy.
Doug Carlton operates Carlton Concrete Inc. in Visalia, Calif. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.