So what do I find when I key in "Construction Sub Trade Branding" on Google? Not much. But I did come across this reference to Vicano Construction in Brantford -- and their page inviting subtrades to log in and apply to be suppliers. Obviously this is NOT branding for the subtrades -- but is great branding for Vicano! (And may lead to some jobs for subs not wishing to 'worry' about branding -- who just want to bid for the work.)
Sonny Lykos has sent me much useful information about branding. I am still going through his binder of material, his reference books, and other resources. Today, however, I connected the mental dots (sometimes it takes me a while) and realized that "Branding" is the answer for the struggling sub-trade; the victim of abuse and frustration; of bid-shopping and manipulation, and simply of being the low person on the totem pole in this industry.
Yet, for a very simple reason, I confidently will say that 99 per cent of the subs out there won't get it.
They won't because they see themselves as doing their trade, not as selling a brand.
Heck, they won't see it because I couldn't see it until Sonny laid on the materials and information to me. And I am in the marketing and publishing business, and read a lot, and, well, should know this stuff.
How can we expect someone who has built a business as a masonry contractor, a drywaller, or a mechanical contractor to understand branding? Heck, the company that excavates foundations doesn't think of itself as Coca-Cola or Dell Computers. "Branding" seems to be an arcane and absurd concept when your business is laying sod or stringing wire.
But if you are in any of these businesses; any of the subtrades "just doing your job", you will want to find a few minutes to figure some things out about branding, and then set to establish your brand and marketing plan.
"Huh," I'm sure you'll say. If you are a typical sub trade, you'll probably have a modest roster of regular clients, you know who they are, and you bid their jobs in accordance with your usual practices. If you are competitive, you win. Maybe you like some of your clients better than others; know who treats you well, and who tries to squeeze every cent out of you; and for the ones that are reasonable, you sharpen your pencil and give a bit better price. You get by. Marketing is for sissies. You have work to do.
But what if you could increase your prices by 20 per cent or more -- without investing in expensive equipment? And either diversify or improve your client base -- so you are less at the mercy of one or two organizations? Alternatively, you may decide you don't really want to grow -- to get too big for yourself -- but you would like to find a little more profit from your existing business. Again, carefully thought and planned branding strategies (correlated primarily with simple client service and relationship initiatives) may produce huge results.
So, the next step, is how do you get started? I'm going to assume for now that you are not the biggest reader -- and all the gobbledygook out there anyways doesn't really relate to your own business. So while it will be helpful to read some of the useful books on Branding, here are some other ideas:
- If you have ever purchased advertising in one of our publications, feel free to call me. I'll listen to your situation, and suggest options. (I promise not to try to sell you more advertising -- only a tiny portion of the branding process -- you may buy some, but that is because I've succeeded in practicing what I preach about branding.)
- If you aren't a member of your relevant trade association, or in the U.S., a chapter of the American Subcontractors Association, join. Then call and ask for support and resources relating to marketing and branding.
- You can hire a consultant. The challenge is getting the right consultant, not the BS and phony stuff that some consultants spout -- at overpriced fees. I can recommend Sonny Lykos (if he is available) and Michael Stone. Locally, you may find someone who works well with you (I use Bill Caswell in Ottawa).
Most likely, when you enter into this branding and marketing space, you will make some mistakes and possibly encounter some false starts. But it is worthwhile. Ask Sonny Lykos. He has avoided the commodity pricing trap and makes money, because he knows how to brand his business.