Trade is changing fast, with online listing and review sites expanding the reach of word-of-mouth recommendations and customers increasingly finding tradesmen online.
This makes your brand – including your reputation and how you promote your business and stand out from the crowd – especially important.
What will persuade people to hire you above other tradesmen?
When you’re working up your marketing materials or putting together your online profiles, concentrate on your main skills rather than going to great lengths to appear as a ‘jack of all trades’.
Next, think about what will make you stand out amongst the other people working in your field, for example:
- Do you have an unusual combination of specialisms?
- Do you have experience working with a particular material or in unusual locations?
- Are you offering to cover a wide geographic area or work awkward hours?
- Are you happy to be flexible and try your best to fit in last-minute jobs?
- Do you offer an up-and-coming service or use a cutting-edge technique?
It’s really important, of course, that you live up to these things once you’ve sold yourself based on them.
Building and retaining a good reputation
There are some relatively simple things that you can do to develop a good reputation and get people talking about you in a positive light. These are some of them.
Always respond quickly and politely to queries from potential customers. Even if you can’t do the job, still send a reply and try to offer an alternative date or even suggest another tradesman.
Be as punctual as possible. If you are running late (even just a little), ring the customer to explain and apologise.
Talk things through
Explain the work that you’re going to do and the parts or materials you’ll be using, and provide a quote that’s as accurate as possible, both in terms of how long it’ll take and how much it’ll cost. And if it starts to look like the job will take longer or cost more, tell your customer as soon as possible.
Find a good time
Let your customers know in advance if you need to do work that’s particularly noisy or dirty and see if there’s a particularly convenient time to do it.
Keep things tidy
Always keep your workspace clean and tidy away tools when you’re not using them. When you’ve finished the job, get your customer to confirm that they’re happy with how you’ve cleaned up.
End on a good note
When the work is finished, spend some time showing your customer what you’ve done and carefully explain any aftercare or follow-up. Make sure they’re satisfied with your job and tell them that they can contact you with any problems.
If your customer is happy with your work, explain how they can review you online and give them some business cards to give to their friends.
Smooth over bad situations
And if your customer is unhappy about something, keep your cool and try to resolve the situation without getting angry or frustrated. Sometimes it may be worth offering to do additional work or giving them a discount to smooth over the situation.
Backing up your brand
Think about the assets your business has that will reassure potential customers that they’re dealing with a trustworthy, professional tradesman. These are some of the most important ones:
Not only is insurance important for protecting your business if anything goes wrong, but a good tradesman insurance policy also shows potential customers that you take your responsibilities seriously and you’ve got back-up if you face a compensation claim.
Public liability insurance is the key cover for tradesmen. It covers compensation claims that are made by a customer or another member of the public if you’re held responsible for injury or damage.
For example you take a break while working on a house and leave your tools lying around. Your customer trips over the tools and makes an injury claim against you. The compensation claim can take into account medical bills and lost earnings, and legal fees can be very steep too. Your public liability insurance would cover these costs, up to the limit of your policy.
Remember to keep your public liability insurance documents handy, as some customers may ask to see proof that you’re insured before they hire you for a job.
You can add other insurance covers to your tradesman insurance too, including employers’ liability cover if you’ve got any employees, and tool insurance to cover your tools if they’re stolen or damaged.
It’s also important to highlight your relevant qualifications and experience when you’re cementing your reputation.
These are some of the key certification schemes and trade associations. Remember to mention the ones that you’re part of on your website and in your marketing materials, as it’s a great way to promote your trade.
The Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS)
[CSCS] certifies tradesmen including bricklayers, painters and plasterers, and you can apply for a card that reflects your level of skill and experience, for example ‘skilled worker’ or ‘manager’.
To get a CSCS card you need to prove that you’ve got the required level of training and qualifications for your trade, which usually means sending copies of your qualifications, offering an employer reference, and taking a health and safety test, although the exact requirements and the type of card that you’re eligible for will depend on the type of work you do.
Note that not all trades are covered by CSCS. If you’re an electrician, it’s the ElectrotechnicalCertification Scheme (ECS) that you should apply to for an industry card, and if you work in plumbing then it’s the Joint Industry Board for Plumbing Mechanical Engineering Services (JIB-PMES).
Most industries have their own trade association, and membership can bring credibility, advice and support, networking opportunities and a larger pool of potential customers. If you’re in the building trade you can apply to join the National Federation of Builders(NFB) or the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). For other trades there’s the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors(APHC), the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) and a whole host of others, including bodies for roofers, window fitters and asbestos removers. Many trade types are accepted by the Guild of Master Craftsmen.
Each association will have different membership fees and benefits, and some bodies are more respected than others, so it’s worth talking to your friends in the industry and digging around on forums to see whether fellow tradesmen find these associations useful, and whether their membership has helped to boost their customer numbers.
TrustMark is a government-endorsed quality mark that shows your work has reached a particular standard. One of the big advantages is that once you’re part of the scheme, your business will feature on the TrustMark website and partner sites, and customers will be able to find you when they search for a trustworthy tradesman. Rather than applying to join TrustMark directly, you have to join through a scheme operator, such as a trade association or a chamber of commerce. You can find out which scheme operator is the right one for your on the TrustMark website.
Gas safe register
If you carry out gas work, you’re legally required to be on the Gas Safe Register, which replaced CORGI as the official registration body in 2009. Registration currently costs £362 plus VAT for one year, and you can sign up on the Gas Safe website. Customers will then be able to find you when they search the database of registered engineers on the Gas Safe site.
Considerate Constructors Scheme
You can register a construction site or your construction company with the Considerate Constructors Scheme. This means you sign up to a code of practice that includes consideration for cleanliness, the community, safety and the environment.
How do you build your brand as a tradesman? Let us know your tips below.