You’d think these were boom times, judging by all the pavement maintenance work that is going on. Some might say this pavement maintenance buzz is not surprising, but this is a buzz with a difference. It lacks the “go for it” gusto of pavement maintenance in true boom economies. This time, most homeowners and businesses are approaching pavement maintenance jobs with unusually rigid financial constraints. Phones are still ringing, but the customers who call want smaller projects. Jobs take longer to sell. Even past customers are calling around and price-shopping for contractors. These days, if the price pushes the budget over their price ceiling, many clients table the job – for months, a year or permanently. Many residential and commercial clients are postponing non urgent maintenance jobs, as well, if the estimates seem steep.
Get used to this. It’s likely to continue to at least for the first half of 2011. To keep your company strong, I recommend the following five techniques.
Develop and implement a dynamic marketing plan aimed at establishing dominance in your niche. When prospects consider pavement maintenance their knee-jerk reaction should be to pick up the phone and call your company. Use advertising, mailings, slogans and signs to drive home the message that your company is the clear choice in your region or specialty area.
Even if you avoided bidding wars before, you are in them now. You probably are competing not only with similar companies, but also with contractors that easily can underbid you. “Silent competitors” are the customers themselves, they may decide not to utilize your services at all after discovering that their wish list exceeds their budget. Manifest your company’s competence at every opportunity. Although price is a high priority in today’s pavement maintenance market, customers will still demand reliability, trustworthiness, expertise and skill. Educate clients about the price-quality-service connection. Sell value. And be flexible. Work through the budget with prospects, moving them toward doable, satisfying projects while winning their allegiance. Be patient; they might deliberate for months, but stay in touch.
Offer total service for repeat clients.
Don’t give repeat customers a reason to hire any other contractor for any pavement work. Contact them and let them know you can take care of all their pavement needs, from asphalt repairs to complete parking lots or driveway installations, from crack sealing to sealcoat. This reminder might be all they need to drop other contractors off their list. Besides, your call might nudge them forward with projects they have been contemplating.
Make it easy for customers.
Don’t let clients be scared off by the pavement process. Reinforce your reputation for on-time, on-budget, well-supervised, well-installed jobs. Be the company with the answers. Offer consulting services, including design, and engineering, even if you have to subcontract them.
Be a diligent manager.
Monitor your company’s telltale financial indicators, such as lead costs, estimate versus actual job costs, and overhead. When the numbers veer off track, immediately make changes to bring them back on course.
Gary Goldman is a leading consultant in the pavement maintenance industry and forum moderator at Pavemanpro.com. Contact Gary through his web site at http://www.garysgoldman.com or visit the business forum.