Branding is more than a logo or slogan. Branding is how you choose to present and identify your business. It includes, but it is not limited to, how you handle customer service, your primary business color, your trucks, your uniforms, etc.

By having a strong brand, customers should think of your company when they have a need. With internet growth and the decline of mail, printed media, and radio, how to reach people is very fragmented.

I am always skeptical when an advertising or marketing company is hired to brand your business. Contractors simply don’t have enough money to brand like Coca-Cola or Ford Motor Company. I have always favored niche marketing for most contractors. For smaller businesses, pure branding is best performed at point of sales with job signage, truck wraps, etc. For a typical residential contractor, it might cost a fortune to be well known as the contractor of choice throughout a metro market such as Chicago or Los Angeles. However, being a neighborhood favorite is a very doable marketing goal.  

Commercial contractors who try to be everything to everybody also struggle. New commercial construction tends to be price driven, but trying to get onto select bid lists or targeting specific industries can make sense. For commercial marketing, building a targeted list can be extremely effective. However, it is doubtful you can buy such a list, as each facility has a different title or method for purchasing contracting services. To have a good marketing list requires calling, emailing and verifying to create an accurate hit list.

Contractors tend to have a bucket marketing mentality. If the bucket is full, they are fat and happy, but all contracting buckets have a hole in the bottom, called production. As production empties the bucket, they wait until the bucket is almost empty and then rush out to fill the bucket. The problem is there may not be any jobs available at the moment. Successful commercial marketing has to be ongoing and backlogs carefully tracked.

Marketing should also be strategic. If all of your work is new construction, how can you hope to manage your schedule as new construction schedules fall victim to other sub performance and weather? Target is more than just gaining sales; it’s gaining sales that are the most manageable and profitable within your business plan.

Commercial sale success is about relationships. The difference between someone shopping your bid and negotiating with you is a matter of intent. The intent being, are they trying to get you the work as a preferred contractor or are they just trying to beat you up on price? Don’t become a bid factory. With electronic prints and bid requests, it is easy for a junior person within your customer’s organization to merely chuck proposals at you.

To make matters worse, in many of your customers’ organizations, the person gathering the numbers is not the decision maker. Be slower and more strategic in your quoting process. Quote less and focus on where you have a chance. This is particularly true with large new construction projects as addendums, and changes may require you to estimate the job four or five times before the contract is rewarded.

There is no question digital advertising can drive leads and the marketplace is going in that direction. Facebook, Instagram, high internet review ratings all make sense for residential. Many people constantly have their face buried in their phone. However, it does no good to build an internet presence if phone calls are poorly returned.

I recently needed someone to take over our grass cutting and lawn maintenance. We called seven companies with high internet ratings and not one of them called me back. Several had expensive digital ads. I am sure they were busy and not taking on new customers, but I will never call one of them again. Even if you are too busy to meet the demand, returning calls makes sense. Don’t kill your brand by not returning calls. A residential roofer may get hundreds of calls from a hurricane and be totally overwhelmed. However, if you originally put the roof on and you don’t call customers back, you can quickly kill a brand that took years to build. Hire a temp or someone to sort through the calls.

Make sure you have a professional webpage and Google your company (not from your computer as you will get a distorted response). Try various keywords such as “repair,” “coatings,” etc. and see if you still come up. Does Facebook and Instagram work for commercial sales? I’m not so sure. I do not think the facility manager at a Fortune 500 company looks to Facebook to hire a contractor. I do believe such social media can be helpful when hiring employees. So, follow the age-old adage of measuring what works rather than just throwing money at the challenge.

There is no miracle branding strategy, but using a little common sense can go a long way in helping you succeed.