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Friday, April 17, 2009

The sub trade marketing challenge

So you are marketing your subtrade services and want to find new business.

How do you get through the gatekeepers, and earn the respect for your proposition?

You may think your wisest approach is waiting for the opportunity to bid the job and you simply need to get on a prequalification list, or (worse) wait for the job to be tendered publicly.

Go ahead. Spin your wheels. Lose your money.

You haven't passed stage one of elementary marketing and sales. And you are like a large percentage of the construction industry hoping for business and wondering why you are struggling.

You need to think differently. The key is to recognize the combined power of effective relationship-building and effective marketing. When your brand (roughly equivalent to reputation) is so strong that clients think of using you and no one else, and take it for granted that your sole source quote will be fair and doesn't need to be cross-checked against your competition routinely, then you have achieved success. When you are able to chose which jobs you bid, and you know you will be profitable going in, you have hit the business jackpot.

Can this be done?

Yes, but here is an important observation after seeing some successful sub-trades at work. Two whom I have met personally, Mike Feazel in at Feazel Roofing in Columbus, Ohio and Leonard Meglolia at Bestline Plumbing in Los Angeles, say they stay away from most commercial and virtually all new construction work because they cannot see any margin or opportunity for profit in the bidding-war environment out there. (They will do some commercial projects, presumably where they can be sole-sourced.)

Surely, however, subtrades and suppliers find a way to make some money dealing with builders, developers, and owners on commercial projects. They succeed, I think because their business is at the scale where they can achieve incredible operating efficiencies and their relationships with their clients are strong enough that they can squeeze just a little more margin through scope of work or other arrangements than the neophytes trying to win bids through public competitions.

If you aren't at that level yet, consider smaller scale residential and limited-scope commercial projects where you can provide direct services to your clients; and develop your own advertising and marketing strategy to achieve this business.

Or if you wish to work within the conventional space, remember that a little energy spent learning how to market effectively will pay you really big dividends, especially if you an escape the rat race of "low bid wins the job" (and loses a fortune in the process).

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