Construction Business Management

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Marketing Your Construction Firm on the Cheap

If you're a smaller contractor, don’t make the mistake of thinking marketing and business development apply only to the big guys. A marketing program is needed to make your company known to your potential customers and give them reasons to do business with you. And even if you intend to stay small, you have to stir the pot of potential customers.

Following is a description of inexpensive marketing materials, actions, and ideas that have worked for me.

  • Brochure. Prepare a professional looking color brochure consisting of a single page or a double- or tri-fold that fits in a standard business envelope. The brochure tells who you are and briefly explains why a prospective customer should do business with you. This is intended to present only enough information about your company to generate interest.
  • Letter of introduction. Create a standard letter draft for prospective customers on your computer that you can tailor as needed for the specific company you're contacting. Your more-targeted letter takes over where your more general brochure ends. Try to limit it to a single page. Use a standard black font, white or off-white stationery, business-letter format, and a laser printer.
  • Web site. A well-designed Web site is a must. It is an effective way to introduce your firm to prospective customers, as well as job seekers, bankers, and other business connections. It can include extensive information about your firm, and the reader can select the parts he or she is interested in. If you’re not qualified to create a top-notch Web site, have it done by a professional. This will be the most expensive tool in your marketing program.
  • Contractor Qualification Statement. Most owners require a formal statement of your qualifications, so have it ready to go. A form usually accepted by all parties is available from the American Institute of Architects. The Associated General Contractors of America has a similar form.
  • Business cards. Present just the facts. Avoid odd-sized cards, fancy typeface, and cards with a blank line for a name. Give every employee his or her own business card with their name printed on it. They are inexpensive, signify professionalism, and show that you value the employee.
  • Jobsite sign. Place a company sign on your jobsites if allowed. You can have your name, phone number and colors printed on weatherproof Tyvec® and mount the sign on plywood. Order multiple copies printed in a run for economy. Be sure the sign is framed, installed plumb and level, and presents a professional appearance.
  • Logo. A logo becomes associated with your name and colors. Web-based logo design centers such as www.logoworks.com are professional and economical.
  • Prepared employees. In small firms, the owner of the construction company usually heads up the sales and marketing effort but every employee is a sales and marketing representative. Each one should be armed with a stash of the firm's promotional materials and prepared to tell the company story in a few words whenever the opportunity arises.
  • Introductory letter. Send a complete marketing package and introductory letter immediately after you make a new contact — while your conversation is still fresh on his mind.

The author of this article, Nick Ganaway, was a successful general contractor for 25 years. He is a consultant in Atlanta, Georgia for contractors and other small business owners. Nick has described how to set up and manage a construction business that is profitable, enjoyable, and enduring in his book Construction Business Management: What Every Construction Contractor, Builder & Subcontractor Needs to Know.


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