As a professional contractor, you’re not only representing yourself, but your work and your business, every second of every day. The toughest reality in being a self-employed contractor is that you – and you alone – are responsible for your business’ brand.
How do you develop a brand? You get good at what you do and you let others know just how good you are at it. While it sounds simple in theory, in practice it can be tough to get started. Here are some handy hints on building your brand and making sure people know your name.
The biggest part of developing a brand is knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. Sure, you may be proficient at drywall, but your woodworking has won awards. Market yourself accordingly: A woodworking professional who can meet your clients’ needs.
Or maybe you’re a Jack or Jill of all trades and can answer any question a homeowner may have – this is a very marketable strength and you need to put that out there. Don’t necessarily brag, but if there were ever a time to toot your own horn a little, developing your brand would be that time. Be honest with yourself, make a list of your professional strengths and weaknesses and go from there.
By knowing yourself, you can begin to formulate your publicity. Word of mouth is one of the best (and cheapest!) forms of publicity a small business can get. Make sure your clients know your specialties and make sure your business cards feature them. Eventually you’ll be known as “the masonry guy” or the “restoration gal”.
You’ve built a name and a brand for yourself based on the work that you do and the clients you’ve impressed. Other forms of publicity, including newspaper, radio, and television ads, cost money. Should you opt for those routes, make the most of them by including your brand.
Network with other professionals outside of your area of expertise – yes, outside. Building a brand doesn’t just extend to your clients, friends, or family members – it also includes the professional world. Say Joe has a job laying masonry for a client, but the walkway they ordered includes a fountain. You just happen to specialize in water features and Joe might very well remember that and call you in to consult or help with the job – all because you developed your brand and put it out there to other professionals.
Social media is an interactive game, but can be a wonderful way to share your brand with a huge audience. People no longer just want information, they want a community they can be part of – to feel like they’re part of something bigger than just themselves.
Build your social media presence accordingly. Don’t necessarily give away trade secrets, but let readers know a little something interesting about your work (for example, mention the source of your wood and provide a picture of the forest on Facebook), but also let them know when it’s time to call in a professional, ie: you.
Sure, Jane can lay down the tile in her bathroom. You can tell her how to do it, but it’s a tedious job and it’ll go much quicker and cost less in terms of frustration and potential reworking if she just calls you in for a professional job.
Promote, Promote, Promotions
One of the easiest ways to build your brand is to offer well-timed promotions for your services. You’re promoting your business and you’re letting people remember you for your qualities and services. You want them to remember your name the next time they need a wall pushed back – and you want to be their “wall guy”.
So, offer things that spark their memory – a specialist in masonry might offer customers a paperweight, or a specialist in restoration may offer an old-timey bottle opener with the business information on it. It’s all about targeting your services to your audience and making sure they know your name and love your game.