Becoming a Referral Machine: Your Best Source of Advertising
From the traditional yellow pages to the advanced targeting on social media channels, your best form of advertising is actually free. It’s what we refer to as “The Referral Machine,” or more commonly known as “Word of Mouth.” This type of advertising multiplies exponentially—but the key is how successful you are in exceeding the expectations of your customers.
When a home renovation is needed, people will turn to family and friends first. Whether it’s an immediate family member, a next-door neighbor, or that trusted new friend you met in line at the supermarket who was raving about her home renovation, it makes sense that you’ll turn to those you know and trust before making a major investment. So how do you earn a customer’s trust? How do you exceed expectations? And how do you encourage your customers to refer you to others? Here are some essential components:
Start the Conversation: Let customers know upfront that your reputation is important to you and that you take pride in your ability to exceed their expectations. Encourage them to communicate openly with you and let them know that you are listening to what’s important to them—because it’s just as important to you. Reassure them that you’ll be checking in as the job gets underway and that you want them to walk away from your meeting with every question answered to the best of your ability. This friendly confidence and sincere pride for upholding a stellar reputation will allow your prospective client to feel as though this job is in good hands. Gaining their trust in your initial meeting, when, let’s say, you’re coming to give them an estimate on the job, is a critical first step.
Ongoing Communication: Once you’ve secured the job, reach out to confirm that all the odds and ends are in place and there are no unanswered questions (i.e., is the date you set up still a good time to begin the job? Do you have any other questions about the contract?, etc.). Then, continue with communication throughout the process. Whether it’s checking in to reassure them that the rain didn’t affect the new materials or that everything was left off for the day in proper order and to their liking, it’s important to show that you care and are working hard to ensure the job is done exactly the way they had hoped. That is the key to giving your customer peace of mind.
First Impressions, Second Impressions, Third Impressions…: Coming to the job site for the first time looking professional and prepared is critical, but even when the job is underway, keep appearances clean. Work clothes are understandable but having holes in your clothes, or dirty stains before the day has begun is unacceptable when you’re working in or around the home. If possible, wear shirts that represent the company so you and your team are easily identifiable and “uniform.” This is a great way to set yourself apart from so many other contractors.
Details: Be respectful of the premises. Clean up after yourself when work for the day is over. Do not leave materials lying around and make sure that there is nothing hazardous for those in the house, especially when there are kids and pets around. This includes cleaning up materials, picking up loose nails, keeping the landscaping and foliage in the same condition as when you arrived, and keeping the premises clean. If you’re entering a home, make sure your shoes are clean and you don’t leave any scuff marks on walls or furniture.
Managing Expectations: Often times, contractors will feel they’ve done the job exactly as expected only to find out that the customer was unhappy with something or expected something else to be fixed or built. Don’t allow miscommunication to be a downfall. The key to preventing this is providing a clear overview of what will be done—exactly. And having communication check points along the way to explain what has been completed—and what is expected to be done the following day—will be appreciated by your customer. Plus, it can prevent any miscommunication once the job is done. Whether by phone or in person, try to put protocol into place for when the job begins and ends with a brief rundown of what has been accomplished and what is yet to come, with room for answering any questions your customer may have.
Asking for Referrals and Testimonials: When the job is done and you’ve made a happy customer, let them know the biggest compliment you can receive is a testimonial and a referral. You may say, “I’m so thrilled that you’re happy with the job, as that’s always our highest priority. If you happen to know anyone who is looking for a roof repair or new roof, we would love to provide them with the same level of service.” You can also ask them if they would be willing to write a brief testimonial for your website. Carry around a “score card” of sorts and ask them to fill it out.
Follow Up: Setting yourself apart in your market will happen when you go the extra mile. Once the job is done, set a reminder to follow up in about 2–4 weeks to check in with your customers and make sure everything is going well and to answer any lingering questions. Reaching out weeks later will speak volumes and will certainly keep you top of mind for providing referrals to friends and family, or for future jobs they may need. If possible, add a personal touch to the conversation. (For example, did they have a friendly dog or a new baby on the way?)
Your Website: In today’s world, a website is a must. Typically, people will provide referrals by giving out your company’s name. The next step is making sure your website is up, easy to find, and easy to navigate. Have a clean, professional-looking website that makes it easy for prospective customers to reach out to you. Include before-and-after images, testimonials, and an About Us page that speaks to your expertise, diligence, and pride in a stellar reputation.