Working with other professionals can help you build your business
By Lane Mangum
You already understand the value of well-known business building techniques such as a professional image and good service, setting customer expectations and meeting them, and getting referrals.
Now you are looking for ways to jump to the next level. You can expand your business exponentially using the powerful principle of relationship marketing.
Marketing is not just advertising. Marketing is everything you do to promote your business, from networking to your website to sending Christmas cards to past customers. Relationship marketing includes all the ways that you use relationships to promote your business. For a concrete business, this means partnering with other professionals who can help you build your business.
Who are these professionals? This depends on your business focus. They could be custom home builders, general contractors specializing in retail upfits, architects specializing in restaurant design, or, in the case of concrete countertops, kitchen designers.
Lees take the example of custom home builders. Your community probably has a chapter of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). You can join this association and attend meetings and networking gatherings where you can meet custom home builders. These builders can introduce you to their high-end clients who would love to learn about the beauty and versatility of decorative concrete.
For this retail countertop project, the contractor got the job because of their relationship with the general contractor.
Let's take the example of custom home builders. Your community probably has a chapter of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). You can join this association and attend meetings and networking gatherings where you can meet custom home builders. These builders can introduce you to their high-end clients who would love to learn about the beauty and versatility of decorative concrete.
Another good example is general contractors specializing in retail up-fits, or the remodeling of an interior retail space for a new store. These stores often use stained or polished concrete for their floors and concrete for their countertops.
If you can meet contractors who specialize in this type of project, they can keep you apprised of new opportunities that appear in the plan room without you having to check all the time or join the Associated General Contractors of America. By networking with your local NAHB chapter, you can find out which contractors specialize in retail up-fits.
Restaurants are a perfect setting for decorative concrete. They often use stained, polished or stamped concrete for flooring. In the kitchen, they sometimes use epoxy coatings that wrap up the base of the wall, to meet restaurant sanitation codes. Restaurant bars are an excellent place for concrete countertops, and the countertops can even include an integral spill tray with embedded drain grills.
Your town probably has at least one architecture firm that specializes in restaurant design. The AIN's directory of architects is an excellent place to find out what firms' specialties are. The guide fists AIA member firms, how many architects work there, recent projects, and what percentage of their projects are residential, commercial, government, etc.
Kitchen designers are the ultimate partner for residential concrete countertops. Your community probably has many kitchen design firms or cabinet
shops of various sizes. You can find kitchen designers by looking in the Yellow Pages and simply calling around to find the ones who specialize in high-end clients that are candidates for custom concrete countertops.
An easier way to build business
Relationship marketing increases your ability to reach customers, increases your selling power and increases the power of your marketing dollar.
When people decide to do a large project that potentially involves decorative concrete, such as a new home, a new pool or a kitchen remodel, they generally do not specifically seek out a decorative concrete contractor. They rely on professionals such as general contractors or kitchen designers to find and recomend products and resources for them. If you align yourself with these professionals, you increase the number of potential
customers you can reach. You will find customers that you otherwise would not have found. And, because a professional is recommending you and your product, you On credibility with the customer. A recommendation from a professional is almost as strong as a referral from a friend or family member.
When a professional does recommend you, they often act as a virtual salesperson for your company. For example, suppose you make concrete countertops, and you have a good relationship with a kitchen design firm. You have a oountertop on display in their showroom, and they have several color samples to show customers. Once you get to that point, the process usually works as follows: The kitchen designer faxes you a drawing of Mrs. Smith's kitchen and asks for a quote.
You put together a quote (within one business day - remember, that designer's potential customer is waiting for that quote) and fax it back. A few weeks later the designer calls you and tells you that the Smith kitchen is a go. 'Me cabinets have been ordered and will be installed in 3 weeks. When can you template?" That kitchen designer has just sold die job for you.
Working with professionals not only makes selling easier and more scalable but it also does the same for marketing. Marketing is the art of reaching potential customers to tell them about your product and your company. If you have to reach homeowners directly (beyond public relations), you need to spend a lot of money to teach a lot of people. You're faced with Yellow Page ads, postcard mailings, home shows and the like. These marketing venues are costly, not very targeted and not very convincing.
Some other benefits of relationship marketing:
• Marketing through professionals is inexpensive. Usually the only costs are samples, perhaps displays, and joining local chapters of associations. You need only market to a small group of professionals, and they will in turn market your product to the groups of potential customers that they reach, multiplying your reach. And marketing to that small group of professionals costs only your time and energy.
• Marketing through professionals is extremely targeted. They are exactly the people who are in the position to recommend your product to potential customers and bring you highly qualified leads. A lot of "tire kickers" go to home shows, but only people who are actually planning to build a house work with custom home builders.
• Marketing through profssionals is convincing. You understand the power of referrals: They are convincing because someone else whom the customer trusts is testifying to the quality of your product and company. Marketing through professionals has the same power because those professionals are a trusted adviser to the customer. Having someone else talk about how great your product is is much more convincing than you talkng about how great your product is.
Think about what type of professionals are involved in the projects you do, and get out there and convince them that your product and service are worth recommending to customers. Whether they are custom home builders, general contractors, architects or designers, working with them will increase your ability to reach customers, your selling power, and the power of your marketing dollar. The result will be an exponential increase in your business with only an incremental increase in your costs.
Tom Ralston can be reached at Tom Ralston Concrete: 241 Fern Street, Santa Cruz CA. Tel: (831) 426-0342 or by visiting www.tomralstonconcrete.com.