Establishing a customer base
Setting up a new business is never easy, especially establishing a customer base at the beginning. In this guest post, Charlotte Platzer, Communications Manager at RatedPeople.com, provides a guide to getting started.
Most tradesmen would rather be out working than dealing with the day-to-day running of a business. Starting up a business is always going to be tough, especially if you’re new to the area or haven’t got any previous customers.
While word-of-mouth is the preferred way to find work for most tradesmen, it can take a while to build up enough recommendations from previous customers to fill your diary with work. If you’re new to your area or have just qualified, getting started isn’t easy.
The traditional approach when setting up business as a tradesman has been using directories, such as Yell and Thompson Local. However, like with so many industries, finding work has gone online.
As a tradesman you can sign up to lead generation services, like RatedPeople.com, in order to find work. In the past you might flyer in your local area or advertise in local publications, and then you wait. Wait for the phone to ring. With lead generation sites you decide when and where you want to work and select the jobs accordingly; you call the customers you want to work for rather than waiting for them to call you.
However you find your potential customer you will be competing against a number of other tradesmen to win that job. To give yourself the best chance of winning the work, make sure you:
1. Arrive on time
2. Look professional; company branded uniforms and sign written vans go a long way and are an easy way to advertise your services in your local area
3. Listen to what the homeowner wants and offer solutions and suggestions if appropriate, in a language that the customer will understand
4. Send a written quote detailing exactly what you’ll do with a breakdown of the costs and a terms of agreement letter
5. Tell them how you intend to protect their home from damage while the work is being carried out, such as covering carpets with a protective layer
6. Be clear whether the homeowner needs to move any heavy items or clear an area before you start work
7. Follow up with a phone call, this will give the homeowner the chance to ask any additional questions
References are very important. Ask previous customers for a letter which you can show to potential customers, but bear in mind that you can’t give out your previous customers’ details without their permission.
When using a lead generation website to find work you are able to build a bank of online recommendations; having this information helps a homeowner when deciding who to hire. If you don’t have a good company website utilise the profile pages provided by lead generation websites to show off photos of your previous work, details of the services you offer and customer feedback. This is a great alternative to, or can complement, your website.
Give customers a business card with your name, company name, phone, address and email, so they have your details to hand when they or their friends next need work done.
Stay in touch with your customers
Keep a database of your customers’ details so you can follow up with them for future projects. If you’re a heating engineer for example, and you’ve been called out to do an emergency repair job, call that customer 12 months later suggesting a boiler service to prevent any future emergency call outs. It’s easier to retain an existing customer than to find a new one, so you should make the most of your existing customer base.