Considering the construction industry is largely based on relationships – whether this is winning new clients or keeping them on board – surprisingly few construction firms devote much time or money to this aspect.
Clients are how construction firms make money. Without them, there wouldn’t be any work to do. However, many companies overlook the idea of maintaining good relationships with their client base, even though this is an effective strategy in such a hyper-competitive market.
We at Construction Guide understand the importance of good client-firm relationships, and we value all of our customers – both old and new. We’ve put this guide together to highlight 5 of the most effective strategies for building and maintaining a strong client base.
Why should your clients stick around?
Before jumping into the best strategies for client relationships, it’s first worth thinking about why your clients should stick with you, or why new clients should choose your firm over others. After all, this is your unique selling point and should be the message that underscores anything you do.
The bottom line should always be that your firm offers a better service than your competitors, but why? Is it your completion rate, your success with budgets, your handling of crises, or the quality of your work? It’s highly likely that your firm already has a confident sales pitch, and this should form the basis of any client relationship you’re attempting to build or maintain.
The top 5 strategies for winning clients
At the most basic level, all good relationships are built on the same foundations. These involve getting to know one another and putting in enough effort to maintain this level of knowledge and trust.
Dating is a prime example: at the beginning of the relationship you both put in the time and effort to know the other’s likes and dislikes, and the more time you spend together, the better you know each other. Well it’s exactly the same for company/client relationships.
If you’re bidding on a new client, this can be as simple as researching them online before making your bid. If you can tailor it to their business, then this shows that you’ve already put in some effort, which will hopefully set you apart from all the other firms.
For existing clients, consider taking them out to an event. This could be sports, a nice meal, or something else, but the key is to put in the time and effort that a good relationship needs. It obviously helps to know what sort of events they’d enjoy going to before you invite them.
Importantly, though, make sure a large portion of the time you invest into this relationship is in person, rather than over the phone. Of course there might be limitations to this, but if you can set aside some time for them then it’ll really show your level of commitment.
For many construction firms, a large portion of their income comes from one or two regular and loyal clients. However, even loyal clients that stick with your business can feel put out if you’re not investing enough time into maintaining your relationship. And if they can find someone who does what you do for less, what’s to stop them jumping ship?
Never overlook the power of a quick thank you email or card sent out to your most loyal clients. It’s even better if they’re not expecting it. And while you’re not doing it as an obvious quid-pro-quo, it’ll certainly keep you in their mind when they next need some work.
Similarly, word of mouth is a cost-effective marketing strategy, and is one of the best ways for turning potential customers into repeat buyers. You might not think a thank you email could make the difference, but you’d be surprised.
It might help to rank your clients in order of generated revenue and number of orders they’ve placed with you. Also consider factors such as potential profit, potential conversion into long-term customers, and ease of doing business. Ranking clients should help you to decide where to pay most attention, but remember that you’re looking to expand as well as to maintain.
When budgeting, it can be tempting to overlook things like client maintenance, but this should definitely be a fairly big factor when considering time and money. After all, a few hours spent with a client could be the difference between one-off and repeat business.
Be proactive in how you approach clients to maintain your relationship, or in how you plan to win new ones. Consider hosting an event that you invite existing and potential customers to. This might seem like a big expense, but if it wins you one or two new clients then you’re likely looking at a profit.
Similarly, being the one who reaches out puts you in a good position with your existing clients. It shows you care about them and their business, which will be helpful when it comes to the next contract. Your proactive approach might not only lead to repeat business, but also to budget negotiations or more leniency with bids.
This point realistically goes hand-in-hand with the first; you should spend time developing an appropriate strategy that focuses on building and maintaining relationships with your clients. Although allocating funds to this type of thing might be difficult in the beginning, later returns should more than make up for this initial expense.
Going above and beyond what’s expected of your company is the first way to show clients that you appreciate their business. However, for some, this might not be enough because they might just consider this part of your service. While this is fine, it’s more beneficial for them to know they’re appreciated.
Along with delivering quality work for them every time you work together, learn to understand how they like to do business. Check they’re happy with the frequency and depth of your updates and make sure they’re aware that they can speak up at any time, and that you’re always happy to listen.
But also consider more spontaneous or non-work related ways of showing your appreciation. Try delivering updates in person, or calling by their office for a chat about their business and how things are going. Take time to learn about their life outside work, and, if appropriate, send a card on their birthday or for holidays. These kind of acts not only show your appreciation, but also make your service much more personal.
However, this point also works for potential clients too. As mentioned, word of mouth is a powerful tool, and if local companies are aware of your business strategy then they’ll be more than happy to consider you when it comes to their next construction bid.
It’s hardly new information, but everyone enjoys receiving a gift, and this is no less true for your clients. If you’re able to send them a little something every 2-3 months then this will show that you’re thinking of them, and will also help to keep you at the front of their mind.
While this might sound expensive, you don’t have to make the gifts extravagant every time. For example, it could be a hamper of coffee or wine that you’ve recently discovered, or a memento of a previous job you worked on together. The emphasis should be on the thought, not on the product.
You can always make this process easier by delegating the job to an employee, but ensure they have the right mindset to do this properly. While the gift don’t have to be massive, you should always remember that its purpose is to maintain a business relationship, and so a certain level of taste and professionalism should be expected.
Perhaps one of the most stereotypical business gifts is tickets to the local ball game. However, if you’ve got the funds then you could consider theater tickets or taking them for a meal too. Bringing several clients together, or hosting an event with old and new clients, is also a great way for them to mix and to tell each other about how good your company is to work with.
Although these 5 methods might seem obvious, it’s surprising how many companies aren’t properly maintaining client relationships. Considering how competitive the construction industry is, client relationships should be one of a firm’s top priorities. Even if a client claims to be loyal, the difference between you and a competitor only needs to be minor for them to move on.
When you make the effort to show customers how important they are, you’ll have much higher chances of keeping them around. Similarly, taking a proactive approach will help you to win potential clients over; word of mouth is a powerful tool, as is showing a new client just what their business means to you.