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Connecting to builders, architects and designers12/3
What would you suggest the best way to get my name in front of them?
Would you send a marketing packet or would a simple introduction letter do?
What has worked for you?
Not knowing anything about your company, it's really difficult to make suggestions. But, if you are really just starting out, joint a local trade organization like The Home Builders Association. They have monthly meetings and that's the best way to meet builders and Architects. There will be a dinner and a chance to socialize.
I have same question but othe way around. I am cabinet designer and have expertise in cabinet vision, 2020, KCD and I planning to provide design, drafting, cut listing and estimating services. I would like to connect to cabinet makers, contractors, installers. I can go shop to shop and let them know about the services I provide but I am not sure if that's going to create any demand. I don't know how much demand online marketing will create or even email marketing for that matter. How will you do it if you have expertise in design and drafting services.
How will you do it? Simple. Do it in person.
I'll guarantee that if you don't, you won't create any demand.
And, do a LOT of it, in person. Which means a lot of rejection, every 100 cold-calls may result in 5 prospects who may buy your services. Maybe half of those will work out.
Make 500 in-person cold-calls and then maybe you can start to build your business.
Yeah, business owners are hard to contact, but it isn't at all impossible. As an owner of many businesses, I'd always give any salesman a couple minutes, and if he said anything in the least bit interesting, many more minutes.
Forget installers, they're not part of your market. Forget wondering whether on-line or email is worth anything, It ain't.
YOU need to get out there in the trenches and sell YOU and what YOU can do for your potential clients.
You'll be amazed that every once in a while someone who you cold-called on, expecting that he will buy nothing from you will say "You know, that's exactly what I want" or similar.
Yeah, maybe only one in a hundred, but the first time someone says something like that to you, you should think "Yeah, this WILL work, it IS working" and go on with renewed vigor to your next prospect because he might say the same thing.
You're probably going to have to do 500 presentations to hear from those 5 or 10 or 15 people who you didn't know before and who may be the start and core of your new business.
Lots of rejection. If you can't handle that you'll fail. You have to stick your neck way out, expecting to fail almost 100% of the time.
Who cares? The worst anyone can say is "no." No skin off your ass. And then you press on to the next guy who might say "yes.".
If you find your core guys you have your business.
It's the guy who gives up who doesn't have a business. Good luck to you.
Thanks for the suggestions thus far.
Not just starting out. I've been in business for almost 10 years. My main line of work has been a niche product direct to consumers.
In that time I've built a couple of kitchens, built-ins, bookcases etc. I have a portfolio of work, shop space, insurance, etc.
Almost all of my work has been to the retail consumer. I'm now wanting to market and work with business to business.
Maybe you should do some looking to find the sweet spot in the market AKA a niche.
The easiest way to do this is to emulate someone who is successful.
The housing market is growing which will "float all boats"
Too high end and the customers are a pain, too low end and they can't afford you.
I guess you can reach them using Linkedin. Just search by profession and location and connect with them.
Its hard to directly advertise to any of your targets. Unless you are a vinyl siding guy, or a cheap kitchen guy.
Most of the construction market is referral based. Generally you bid a project for a Builder. There is an Architect or Designer on that job. See if you can informally meet them. Keep in mind the Builder wants to be the middle man.
If you are good enough you will get compliments from them all. They may refer to you for their next job.
I would have something more than a business card ready to hand them. I use 3" x 5" card stock with our logo, company info a decent sizes picture of a nice job. The best part is you can write on the back of them quick notes, rough estimates, further descriptions of your work.
Most people throw business cards in the garbage when the accumulate.
The secret sauce with your sales efforts that will greatly increase your batting average is to send a postcard to the potential customer every month.
Nobody does this even after I tell them.
We used to go after chain retailers, the trick with them was one finding the person to talk to and then following up.
We got one chain appliance store after 2 years of mailing every month. The owner of probably the largest Levis seller in So Calif came by the office one day and said Pat I have to do business with you, you have better advertising than Levis. Same for Whole Foods and a bunch of others.
All I did was send a postcard (presorted for cheaper mailing cost).
You can NOT do this BTW for cold calls.
The way I found this niche was that an ex employee referred me to a company that built photo booths, I decided to take the contract and we ended up building several thousand of them over the course of 12 years. I thought how could I get something similiar which led me to store fixtures.
There are guys around here that sell directly to homeowners by doing a ton of newspaper advertising. There is one I can think of that expanded to a 30,000 sq ft shop. They have a bad reputation but apparently over come it through advertising.
You have to find your niche. BTW if you find your niche you can become the big fish in the little pond because your sales/marketing efforts are focused, like the Levis seller who thought my advertising was better than Levis.
You have to find advertising that works for that niche.
You have to budget for advertising every month. This has to come right off the top to ensure expansion.
Then you have to start on the hard part, expansion... where the real work is
Economics 101, best advice i have read all month. I am starting today to do just what you wrote. Same for you Pat. Thanks!
My only input is to get out there an make connections and follow up, touch base, and when you get a piggy toe in the door, over perform.
In the commercial world the vast majority of suppliers are pretty laxed and can be very sloppy. In their defense, its an expensive game. You have to do a LOT of drawings, provide a TON of information, do a LOT more drawing, and bill and ship a lot of extra material that will wind up in the dumpster.
There is so much fat in commercial work its ridiculous. I have been on jobs and seen contractors cutting up $600 dollar 15 foot 1A fiberglass step ladders that were climbed a half a dozen times and had a room built around them that the conrtactor could get the ladder down the stairs and out of the building so they put the sawzall to it and tossed it out the 5h story window into the dumpster. And they are still the biggest in town.
You have to make connections, perform, and be willing to get out in their world. Youd better have someone in the shop running the show while your driving your butt off.
Interior designers will wear you out with drawings and options on this "perspective" project and that "perspective" project and in the end none of them will ever land.
Courting architects is great if you have a "spec-able" product. If what your making can be made by any other shop, home depot, or on-site, you're probably toast in the architect world.
Courting commercial GC's can be a good game if your in a market that is not well represented here. There are a lot of small markets (ours is one) where GC's understand that small shops cant wait on their money. They can be held out for moths and months.
All of our contractors pay us 60% pre-schedule, 30-35% on delivery of material, and rarely, we will wait for the remaining 5-10%. More often than not, our service, attention to detail, and so on, we are paid in full shortly after delivery.
That has not been my experience at all./
Commercial work is very competitive and the only thing that matters is price.
I was always waiting for my money the only question was how long.
Litigation was always a possibility.
I'm in California, YMMV
Not to be provocative, just saying that commercial should be entered into with caution.
The exception was when we dealt with the owners directly.
Get out an meet. Personal contact is far more likely to be remembered than an e-mail that went to the junk folder. You have to come across as having something that solves a problem for them. The home builders association might work for residential work. At the local meetings a lot more liquid consumption goes on than does business. Small cabinet shops come & go, often because they have one or two main customers. I'm not sure you can find a niche. Its more like stumbling into one.
Whether you stumble or hunt, Get a niche.
Larry has a pretty good niche, but the opportunity cost is high.
Dave, thank you and good luck to you.
Let me mention 3 examples (all non-wood businesses) of what I was talking about and relate it to what Pat said.
1) Back when I was 19 (too young to hold an insurance license) an Aetna agency hired me. I got together with a guy a few years older who had a huge pile of years-old D&B reports on all sorts of businesses.
I cold-called 8 hours a day and set appointments for him. I had the advantage of knowing the name of the business owner. So, I could just ask if Jim or Bob or John or whoever was in. Gets you by the secretary virtually every time.
If I got an excuse or "get back to me" from Jim or Bob I always asked when I should call back. When that date comes up, now you're telling the secretary that Jim or Bob asked you to call them. Now, you're like an old friend, you obviously know Jim or Bob and he wants to talk to you.
Not only that, but Jim or Bob probably remembers you and you're no longer just some guy cold-calling him.
After a few months, I had my partner booked solid, every day. The lesson is always, always, always follow up. Relentlessly.
Some people won't like you bugging them. Others will give you points for being tenacious and indefatigable in the face of their excuse-making.
I've made a lot of great friends out of business owners who initially didn't want to talk to me any more than they wanted to talk to their mother-in-law.
Usually after I saved them 10 or 20K on their group health policy (this was the '70s.)
2) After I developed my commodity futures trading system for gold and silver, I had to market it. Did that at metals conferences. Gave away a Krugerrand, but of course you had to sign up for the give-away at my exhibitor booth.
What did I then have from hundreds of total strangers, most of whom had serious money? Everyones first and last name and phone number (this was pre-internet.)
Every salesman to whom I distributed these expensive leads was REQUIRED by me to call them and follow-up constantly and be able to prove it with their call-logs.
My best guys also often mailed their prospects updates on how early accounts were doing. Lots of follow-up and keeping your name in front of the prospect works best.
3) In the private-brand computer business (we built our own FCC-approved CPUs,) my best guy was one who knew no fear. He waltzed into one major university after another, all cold-calls, and sold them.
He gave them an alternative to Apple and Dell, etc., one where they could make one call and get them the status of anything they had ordered and solve most any problem instantly. If needed, they could talk to me directly anytime they wished.
He religiously followed-up with all of them, even after a steady order flow was established. They probably got tired of seeing his face. But, better that than they never see you again.
Always follow-up. Pat's postcard idea is an inexpensive way to keep your name in front of both clients and prospects. Not like an email that may never even be read.
To throw your postcard in the trash, your prospect has to at least read your company name. That's something.
98 of 100 may do nothing but remind your client or prospect of you and what you do.
It's the one or two where you jog something in their mind that causes them to call and say "You know, I need a ....." or "Can you do this ....." or "I wasn't sure that you were serious, but now I am."
Cold-calling is important. You never know what good stuff you'll stumble into. Follow-up is equally important. Once you have a prospect or client, always keep your name in front of them periodically, because your competition probably doesn't bother to.
I don't know your business but anytime you want to subcontract your best bet is to do networking with the contractors and stay in touch regularly. When they need you they will call. Might take time but if they like you, you will get the call eventually.