Do you remember the last job you lost to a competitor? I remember mine vividly because, despite my best efforts, I simply could not convince my prospect to choose my company. No matter how much evidence I presented, they remained unswayed.
While sometimes there’s nothing we can do, more often than not, there is, and it takes place early in your marketing efforts. Contrary to what many people think, most of what it takes to close a deal occurs long before you get to the final negotiations, and by that point, your prospect’s mind may be mostly made up. Often, no amount sales ninjutsu will change that.
In order to build a foundation that will enable you to convert more prospects into clients, you need to be able to clearly answer four questions. Your answers to these questions will define both your digital marketing and offline marketing efforts.
What do you do?
Despite this seeming like an incredibly simple question, it is one that most people answer poorly. This is because most people are buried in their own business, so they view things differently than their clients.
The “thing” you do is not really what you do. That’s just a task you perform to achieve a particular outcome.
It’s sometimes difficult to get outside of your own perspective, dismiss your often legitimate biases, which are based on your own knowledge and personal experience, and look at your company the same way a potential client would. But it’s also incredibly worthwhile because it helps you to close more sales, often at a higher price, by differentiating your company from competitors and clearly presenting your value.
I had a client, a forensic architect, who struggled with this. If you were to read his old website, you would simply think he was just another guy who designed buildings, but in reality, he was much more.
As a forensic architect, he’s the guy they call in, when something goes wrong, to determine how another architect screwed up and figure out how to best fix it. So, not only is he qualified to design a building, but he also possesses an extensive knowledge of everything that can go wrong with a building and how to avoid it.
After rewriting his website copy to focus on the value rather than the tasks, it was made clear to potential clients that his true value comes from the fact that his unique knowledge and expertise enables him to help clients avoid delays that could be caused by construction complications. That’s something many general contractors complain that architects don’t do, and because delays affect their reputation and eat into their profit, it’s something they want to avoid at all costs.
We also explained how he helps his clients to avoid future problems with their building that other architects might overlook, or not even be aware of. This is equally important to contractors, but it’s even more important to the client, who will have to deal with their building for the next several years, or even decades.
So you see, you’re not just performing a task for your client, you’re solving a problem for them. By clearly explaining what problem you solve, you’re positioning your company from a value-based perspective, rather than being commoditized like many of your competitors.
What specialized knowledge or expertise do you have that would differentiate you from your competitors? Identify and highlight that, and you’ll achieve a significant advantage over them.
Who do you do what you do for?
A lot of contractors are generalists, which means they will build almost anything for mostly anyone as long as they can afford to pay. While I understand the mindset behind this, it places them in a strategically weak position.
Here’s why—clients need to believe that you understand their needs completely, and if you’re a generalist, they never will. On the other hand, when you specialize, you develop a greater understanding of the nuances of the market you specialize in, and that helps to differentiate your company from competitors.
I know it seems counterintuitive to take a position that is certain to turn some potential clients away, and I even fought against this concept for many years myself. But it’s proven that when you focus on a highly-targeted niche, you develop a reputation as the authority in that niche, word of mouth spreads more quickly, and your marketing becomes significantly more effective.
Your marketing message must be tailored specifically to your niche in order to truly connect with them. This type of focus engages them on an emotional level, which is incredibly powerful, but it also means that people outside of your niche are likely to disengage. For example, marketing your expertise in building hotels will not appeal to people who want to build a hospital, and vice versa.
The more tightly you can define your niche, the more effectively you’ll be able to engage with them, which helps you convert more into clients. It also enables you to present your marketing to the same people more frequently at the same cost, which builds brand awareness while creating the perception that your company is larger and more powerful.
What niche can you focus on? Do you want to be known as the authority in building restaurants, warehouses, large office buildings, or something else? Define a target market and become an authority in that niche to make your company the only logical choice.
What makes you the best for them?
When I was a kid, I was told by my mother, as most mothers did, that I was special. I quickly learned that meant nothing in the real world. Everyone claims they’re the best, and everyone else views those claims with an enormous level of skepticism.
Because of that, you need to present compelling evidence to potential clients that your company is the best choice for them. Unfortunately, most of the industry awards don’t mean anything to your clients. What matters here are criteria like a specialization that applies to them and unique skills or capabilities that your competitors lack.
In the previous section, I talked about how a specialization can help you get dramatically better results from your marketing, but it also plays a huge role in proving that your company is the best choice.
I think it’s easy to understand why a client in Tampa would feel more comfortable hiring a contractor who only builds restaurants throughout the Tampa Bay Area, rather than one who usually builds small office buildings in Spring Hill. When you specialize, you have the ability to help your client avoid common mistakes and get their business up and running faster, often closer to budget.
Unique skills or capabilities can often play a big role in what makes you the best as well. Interior water features are a great example because many contractors do not have the experience to build them perfectly, which eventually results in water damage and added costs for the building owner down the road. A proven skill or capability can potentially make your company infinitely more valuable when it’s an essential part of a client’s building.
What unique skills or capabilities do you have that your competitors don’t? Use that to demonstrate that your company is the most qualified to serve them.
Why should they trust you?
I think it’s common knowledge that people do business with people they know, like, and trust, and while many contractors make a trustworthy impression when meeting someone face-to-face, they usually fail to do so online.
This is because they take the wrong approach when it comes to writing for their website and social media by being bland and making it all about themselves. You’ve probably seen it yourself—the website copy starts off, often written in the third-person, talking about when the founder started the company and how many years they’ve been in business. It goes on to talk about some industry awards and maybe even the founder’s involvement in the industry and community. It might even list the self-attributed character traits that the founder is most proud of.
Here’s the thing—no client cares about any of that.
First of all, you need to write in an engaging, but grammatically correct and typo-free manner, while talking about the challenges they face and demonstrating how you can solve their problems. Remember, you’re trying to connect with them on an emotional level to build rapport and trust so you can move them to the next step.
This applies to everything from the copy on your website all the way down to your company’s posts on social media.
Online reviews, such as those found on Google My Business listings and Facebook business pages, are also a powerful tool for building trust but are drastically underutilized by contractors. They are powerful because they provide social proof from other people who are usually pretty similar to your potential clients.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking reviews are only for B2C companies. In reality, there’s no such thing as B2B because every single sale, no matter how large, comes down to selling at the individual level. Even when you’re dealing with a large board to close a multi-million dollar deal, you still need to sell every single decision maker involved in order to close the deal.
That being said, if I’m a potential client and I look your company up on Google, what will I find? How do you think I’ll perceive your company if I see no reviews, or worse yet—negative reviews? On the other hand, how will my perception differ if I find a bunch of glowing, positive reviews? What people find will set a powerful and often lasting first impression for your company, so you need to leverage this valuable asset.
Another factor in building trust is third-party media, which could include large business publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc., as well as smaller industry-specific publications. Being quoted, or better yet, having a column in these type of publications helps to further establish you as the authority in your industry.
I’ve used this approach to demonstrate my own expertise when it comes to digital marketing through my regular columns in Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Land, and you can do the same with publications in the construction industry.
Think about it like this—the editors of the top publications in your industry are some of the people most capable of evaluating your qualifications, so if you’re a contributor there, do you think a potential client will have much doubt in you?
An added benefit here is that as you become the go-to authority in your market, various publications will begin seeking your opinion, resulting in increased media exposure. That builds upon itself over time to create even more exposure for you and your company.
What are you doing to show potential clients that they can trust you? Write in a way that builds engagement, begin earning reviews online, and consider becoming a contributor to top industry publications, and their doubts will diminish greatly.
Jeremy Knauff grew up in the construction industry, and today he runs Spartan Media, an agency that specializes in digital marketing for the construction industry. His company provides web design, search engine optimization, social media, and more, to help companies create more exposure, earn more customers, and build the business they deserve.