A recent survey of home renovation Contractors in Canada (Canadian Contractor, …..) asked them to identify their number one problem. Could it be the scourge of the industry – the bad clients who do not pay up or try to renegotiate the terms of the deal (more often than not, the money owed), or are overly fussy about quality of workmanship? Could it be the sub trades, who typically are as oversubscribed as the contractors: too much work and never enough time?
The number one problem was marketing. Given that home renovation in Canada is going through a boom cycle, with no foreseeable end in sight (while there are low interest rates), it is obvious that demand for home renovation is greater than the supply. On surface, many contractors do not feel the need to advertise as they are always busy (especially those working 60 hour weeks, trying to do it all!). Few contractors pause and ask – “is it the right sort of busy?” Are you simply getting the “walk in trade” – the next in queue based on your availability– or is the work the most interesting and most profitable that you can get? If you were to do the work, would you build your brand further?
That of course begs the question – do you advertise in good and or bad times?
Recently the owner of a well-established and respected home design and renovation company (more than 20 years in business) stated that they did not have to advertise, as he was the best in the city (of the more than 1,000 contractors). Of course, I saw his large signs on houses throughout many neighbourhoods, his trucks, and a full page spread in a trade magazine. Possibly, in his mind he wasn’t spending any money on advertising!
Advertising is important for, at minimum, the following.
i. By informing clients what you do and as important, what you don’t do. Many contractors who have store fronts complain about their wasted time when homeowners drop in for a chat; it is their leisure time as they research your capabilities as it is your business time. For example, advertising that you do “design and build” of high quality bathrooms will stop people from people looking for “cheap and cheerful” or even those who are looking for a kitchen renovation. Have homeowners do their research on their time and not yours!
ii. The “buying decision” needs full support: before the decision is made, during the decision and well after bills are paid. It is important to have homeowners know that they have made a sound decision well after the contract has been signed, even after money has changed hands. That psychological effect, called post purchase cognitive dissonance (aka buyer’s remorse) is well known – and very real. Advertising shows that you are an ongoing concern, viable for the long term (otherwise why advertise?).
iii. Through a steady stream of advertising, contractors can maintain some mind share with homeowners. Homeowners know that you are open for business (and possibly too busy because you are so popular), that you are an ongoing operation (you want more business), and that you are profitable (you have money to advertise). The counter is homeowners’ amnesia: homeowners forget about you and start their research, without you in mind, possibly with the last advertisement they saw.
To answer the question – when is the best time to advertise – imagine going away for 6 months (holiday, etc.) shutting down the business during that period. Most contractors would feel that they couldn’t do that, that the business prospects would suffer, that it could take more than 6 months to build up a book of business – as though starting from scratch (again). If that is the case, why do some contractors feel that they can shut their advertising down?
When you eat in a well-respected and established restaurant, one known for its fine dining, and you are the only consumer in that restaurant, do you second guess your decision? Of course, a crowded restaurant, while popular, does not promise great food. It simply shows that you made a dining decision that many others have made and so it must be OK! Popularity is important to get the business and to keep it going. Advertising is an important part of that strategy.
Advertising can be seen as “watering the plant”, where the plant is your business. It needs to be done at a measured pace – never wasteful – with quality nutrients (to extend that analogy).
Advertising can also be seen as a hygiene factor that supports all aspects of the business. To be effective, it needs to have a constant message, one that is repeated with a consistent frequency. When you advertise, you are promoting your business – this week, this month and year as well as next year.