Not too long ago, we were sitting around here thinking about ways to grow this company in 2018. Growth is a challenge because there is no template. Every company has to figure out how to grow in its own way.
Given the level of demand for roofing, siding, and window replacement services, we could easily double or triple our volume in a year or two. But since we’re booked into June and can’t install what we’re selling now, trying to do that would be a road to disaster.
And the solution—all the skilled installers we can use—doesn’t seem to be anywhere in the near future, unless immigration policy and the enforcement tactics associated with that policy change.
More Profit Via Efficiency
So our strategy for 2018 is to generate somewhat more than the $3 million in sales we did last year, but certainly not to go gangbusters. More importantly, we want that sales volume to yield the highest possible net profit by being as efficient as we can be. The way you do that is by improving performance and lowering costs. And that’s not just in production, it’s in every part of the business, including admin, marketing and sales. But production is where it starts, and ends.
Actually, we’re lucky. We have good crews. They’re fast and they’re skilled. If you were hired onto one of our crews and you were out there taking breaks every 45 minutes, you’d be gone by lunch. They’re serious craftsmen and they know how to communicate with homeowners.
We’ve worked our butts off to get the crews we have now, who usually start out as subs but become employees. Which is why I don’t take them for granted and why we’re always looking for more. If we see a roofing or siding crew out there doing a great job, we stop at the jobsite and start a conversation. (The fact that our owner is Latino greatly helps.) We figure, if there’s an opportunity, let’s take it. And we’re looking to get the best people we can. In hiring, it’s not what you’re looking for but who you’re looking for.
That holds true for admin and sales as well. Right now we’re looking to hire a salesperson. We’re not looking for a closer. A closer would turn our customer base off. I want someone who has no less than five years experience in the home improvement industry, and knows how to sell. More important still, my candidate will know as much about technology and delivering data as about selling.
That’s really what we do these days, is deliver data to the homeowner and let him or her make an informed choice. So you have to know how to work with key software programs that estimate and prepare proposals, as well as manage an online meeting to a successful conclusion, i.e., a signed contract.
LinkedIn lets you posts classified ads that it will then forward to qualified individuals working in the industries you specify. The ad just pops up in the feed of certain people identified by the LinkedIn database.
Yes, there are people out there, with jobs, looking to change companies and positions and even careers. The key is to write an ad that makes the person you’re looking for instantly recognize that this job and this company is a great fit for him or her. So far we’ve had five hits, and three seemed viable. But with both sales and admin, you have to constantly look. And we’ll be looking all throughout this year.
SEO Secret Sauce
We get contacted regularly by lead aggregators because our average deal size is high ($30,000+) and so is our closing rate. It’s because we know who our customer is. It’s the white collar, college-educated homeowner with minimum household income of $150,000. These are people with lots of sales resistance, inclined to do lots of research on the Internet before they contact a company. That’s the end of the lake where I want to fish.
So ask yourself: who’s your customer? Is it anybody who wants your product? Big window replacement companies operate with that philosophy, and they do so successfully. But if you’re not them, you may be blowing a lot of money on useless marketing, and burning up admin time on callbacks, and wasting sales time on appointments with people looking for the lowest price. On the other hand, when you define your market—you know who you are, and you know where they are—your marketing immediately becomes more effective because you know, or can figure out, how to reach your customer type.
Last year most of our leads came from from manufacturers, referrals, or our own website via SEO. When it comes to SEO, here’s the secret sauce. We do case studies on every job. It’s a system.
Say we side a house, or replace the roof, or both. We make sure our website has before and after pictures, a story told in a few sentences about how the homeowners came to do business with us, and then a testimonial about why they chose us. We include a paragraph describing job progress.
The biggie is Frequently Asked Questions. What were the most frequently asked questions on this particular job? It could be something specific to this house and this customer—“Who’s going to put my mailbox back where it was?”—or it could be a question you get from many people, such as: “How will you deal with the rotten wood?”
You’re going to have these conversations, especially if your installers are trained to communicate constantly with homeowners. Why not take it a step further and document, and then publicize, those communications?
It’s not just our vanity. That information is local and it’s relevant. Which, to Google, means everything. When Google algorithms look at all this, they think what they’re programed to think: when it comes to this particular type of work, these guys have all the bases covered.