How to Expand a Builder-based Business
When marketing to builders, you don’t always need the level of brand identification and marketing materials that you need to establish trust and credibility with end-users.
Given the current state of the housing market, there is no question that this is shaping up to be a challenging time for custom- and showroom-based companies.
It's particularly tough on those with business models based on selling through builders.
Many dealers I've spoken to in the past month realize they need to change their strategy to address the residential market and they are seeking marketing solutions to serve that objective.
What most of them don't realize is that the process of building a successful mid- to high-end contracting business requires both an initial reinvestment in their brand presentation and a period of several years to cultivate a client base that can eventually generate enough referrals and repeat business to keep the pipeline filled year round.
The fact is that when marketing to builders, you don't always need the level of brand identification and marketing materials that you need to establish trust and credibility with end-users.
Once you've developed a relationship and proven yourself on the job, your builder-based business can expand.
When you're marketing to individuals and referral partners, however, you need to revisit and usually reinvent your company name, logo and tagline to be more consumer-friendly.
Then you need at least a four- to six-page Web site that explains your services and shows examples of your work and a suite of support materials.
This should include classy presentation folders, professional business cards, some form of leave behind materials, a classy portfolio of your work (or a sizzling laptop presentation) and, ideally, an eye-catching truck wrap.
Then the work begins.
Unfortunately, unlike pure retail, there is no magic marketing bullet for attracting high-end custom clients.
The most effective way to reach your new target customer base is by developing relationships with networking and referral partners, all manner of people and professionals who already have relationships with the very customers you want to reach.
The best referral partners are well-established, high-end designers and architects. Though it can be challenging to break through secretarial barriers to capture their attention, it's worth patience and persistence since all you really need is one or two solid relationships to start generating steady referral business.
For those who want to grow their lighting and shade control business, creating relationships with fabric studios and lighting designers can also produce excellent results.
The same holds true for Realtors, plumbers, electricians, flooring and window companies and general contractors who get to know, like and trust you enough to refer your services to their clients.
It's true that this process takes time and effort. Experience, however, shows that it will pay off.
Armed with professional marketing materials and a list of the right mix of potential referral partners, six months of intensive calling and meeting with a wide assortment of contracting professionals can start the ball rolling and lay the foundation for years of new business — all generated by referrals from a widening circle of trade partners and satisfied customers.