Sales pushes while marketing persuades. And people don’t like to be pushed. They like to take time to consider options, which is why getting a grip of your marketing is vitally important to the success of your business, says Barry Ashmore.

ONE of the services StreetwiseSubbie offers to members is support with their sales and marketing. However, when we raise the subject, the reaction is broadly the same:
‘We don’t need marketing as we’re fine as we are. We’ve got lots of tenders coming in.’

But when we ask if they are happy with who they are working for, they tell us that they want to find ‘better firms to work for’. By which they mean contractors or clients that pay on time and run their jobs efficiently, because the ones they’re working for never do.

Of course, some flooring contractors we speak to understand the value of sales and marketing and manage it well. Which is why, if you’re serious about increasing your business in a more profitable way, you must take a good look at how sales and marketing will help.

Sales and marketing are commonly seen as a single function, and while this is true in terms of functionality, marketing is an engine driving business that can increase sales. It’s not just another necessary expense that you don’t give any thought to, but something that can genuinely move your business to a healthier place.

One major difference is that sales pushes and marketing persuades. And people don’t like to be pushed. They like to take time to consider options and make their own minds up about what they specify, what they buy and when, and not be sold hard to by someone who must hit target by lunchtime today.

Which is another reason why getting a grip of your marketing is vitally important to the success of your business.

Killing a few preconceptions
First, marketing need not be an expensive or arduous task but something that can make a positive impact on your businesses. So, let’s address a few common misconceptions:

And when created as a process and carried out in a strategic manner, marketing works!

Don’t tender for anything and everything
Getting onto a tender list is now easier than ever before, so please don’t think having lots of enquiries coming in means your marketing is working.

At one time, it cost the contractor time and money to find companies to issue tenders to and to brief them properly. Now, they can just email a stack of information and leave you to worry about what is they want you to tender for.

Sadly, a tender has basically become a price-driven raffle where businesses strive to be the cheapest to win the work. You don’t want to win at all costs.

Take a minute or two to think about how many tenders you pitch for. Do you tender for anything and everything that comes your way, and if so, how many do you win?

How much does it cost you in time spent being just another company on the contractor’s shopping list?

If you don’t win a tender that is right for you and you firmly believe that you were perfect for that job, do you know who did win it? Do you know why you didn’t win it? It may be that you are invited to tender simply so the contractor can say that he went out to the market for quotes – before awarding the tender to his favoured flooring contractor.

Why not look at it another way? Make an effort to identify the type of contractor or client you want to work for. One that treats you fairly. One that won’t tie you in knots with onerous clauses buried within the small print of the contract.

Any customer that pays you on time, manages contracts properly, and respects you as a supplier is someone that you need your sales team to nurture. Get alongside and really get to know what makes them tick.

Leave that race to the bottom behind and do the marketing research that’s essential if you are to find those trustworthy businesses you want to work with. Twenty reliable contacts is better than dozens you know little or nothing about.

Research pays dividends
I’ve previously mentioned that research will help you establish what type of specifier you need to talk to. Is it the architect, the project manager, or another job function that can influence your position as a creditable supplier? There are ways to find marketing lists of such people and there are some very reputable list owners around.

You can rent or buy a mailing list for direct marketing and there are many list owners and list brokers out there who will supply a list to you. However, you will need to accurately define the type of companies you want to be on that list, where they are located in relation to where you can work, their size, and more importantly, that they are looking for the type of work you are best at.

Or, would a specialist data collection service like Glenigan or Barbour ABI be better for your particular specialism, both of which are reliable sources of leads providing they’re used properly.

One criticism levelled at the likes of Glenigan and Barbour ABI is that their data is often out of date and by the time you access it, the project you are chasing is already specified. When this happens, it certainly doesn’t mean your call has been a waste of time.

It simply means you must extend the conversation to establish what other projects they have in the pipeline, and could you tender for these if they’re suitable. It’s all about building confidence with the prospects you wish to work with, and like anything worthwhile, this takes time and effort.

We have direct experience of businesses that we have helped to nail down the process of lead generation using a combination of:

As I’m sure you’ll understand, this is not a ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme but a process of controlled sales and marketing activity with an end game in mind. That of getting you into a position where you win work from the firms you actually want to work for.

Have it done for you
We know that it works. Our telephone sales expert, who presents himself as part of the company he represents, soon finds that potential customers are contacting him with invitations to tender for work. He is part of the team yet not employed by the specialist contractor he is making calls for. Instead, he may spend two or three days a month on a subcontract basis, which is a cost-effective means of managing a sales process if you do not have the have the capability to do so in house.

This approach to the sales process brings success, qualifies, and establishes a need, offers a solution, and often results in a request. And the conversations have been about capability rather than price.

Relationship marketing some call it. We believe it is common sense – based on a good knowledge and understanding of what the customer needs and how you the specialist contractor can meet that need.

This form of lead generation is effective because the information is targeted. You can specify the type of work you are looking for and in what geographic region you want to work. Then you identify the type of contracts you want, the stage of planning the process is at, and when you wish to make contact. Then, based on these criteria, you have access to new lead data that gives you the latest contract information, based on your preferences.

You can then add this information into a database – and when I say database, it doesn’t have to be a complex or expensive Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, as a simple spreadsheet will do. You can then use it to kick-start your marketing in a focussed way and nurture those contacts on an ongoing basis, adding new leads over time.

If all this sounds like too much effort, then it can easily be done for you by experts such as ourselves.

How can you be different?
Is the tender you are going for the type of work you and many others can do, or is it something you specialise in, can do well and charge more for?

If it’s the former, then it really is a lottery and one that you may be better off not winning. If it’s the latter, then it’s something you can throw your weight behind and do everything you can to try to win.

By finding ways to do something better or more efficiently than competitors you are taking the first step towards one of the most important aspects of marketing. Differentiation.

Differentiation is one thing that, when all other things are equal, can put space between you and your competitors.

For example, if you’re a flooring company that offers good quality work carried out at cheap prices, then you won’t stand out; you will be no different from the rest.

But if you’re a flooring specialist that is expert in a certain type of flooring; or has perfected a particular or more efficient way of doing things; or has immediate access to materials from stock and is ready to work ‘tomorrow’, then you’re starting to create that point of difference. The difference between winning and losing that next contract.

Knowing your capability, what you’re good at and being able to move quickly or do things a bit differently, means you have a better chance of winning that next tender. And making potential customers aware of this capability is what your marketing should be about.

Finally, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year and hope that 2022 is the year that you can move your business forward through a marketing process that will enable you to find those better companies you want to work with.

As ever, if you need help or advice about any of the things I have discussed here, or indeed any of your business problems, then do not hesitate to contact me.
01773 712116