Blueprints spread across the kitchen table. It was standard procedure in a family-run construction company, and growing up in a small farming community, it was all I knew. From the age of 10 I was involved in every aspect of the business, from the kitchen table boardroom, to the business end of a shovel. The only time I spent away from the business was in college, which helped prepare me for my role in the business.
Our company had done well. We always kept busy, and there was enough growth to provide me with a job right out of college. My father, ready for a break from the daunting paperwork, positioned me in operations.
We continued on a path of steady income, never up or down enough to affect our standard of living. I heard the phrase “you have it made” more than enough times. I was a typical second-generation employee, putting my time in until the “all this will be yours” dream comes due. Then came 2008.
I remember it vividly, we were focused on the wrong things. In fact, we were focusing on everything except the construction business. In 2007, we bought 12 new real estate investment properties, and used our excess equipment to start an equipment rental retail store. 2008 could not have hit us worse.
After 6 months of no new construction contracts, and drops in the real estate and equipment market, a random meeting in our rental store office changed our company forever. We asked each other what actions made us the highest profit margins. It seemed like a logical question. We built our business in the concrete and masonry industry, pharmacies, strip malls, and countless industrial rehab projects. It was our bread and butter, or so we thought.
We had decided to hang a billboard, on a property we already owned, and advertise only what was generating us the most profit. The sign is now down and gone, but the four niche services we chose defined us as a company: foundation repair, waterproofing, concrete, and masonry repair.
Within one week of hanging our new billboard, we had a job. A foundation repair job in a neighboring city that we had not worked in in over a decade. We were so thrilled by the results, we found another billboard location. This time tightening our advertising even more, limiting our service offerings to what we were getting the most calls for, foundation repair and waterproofing.
By 2010 it was clear, we needed to become a niche contractor. We rebranded our 25-year established, successful company and abandoned concrete in all forms of advertising. This new focus, along with focused advertising dollars, led us to double our average gross sales, and become a market industry leader. Looking back, without 2008 we would have never been forced to reevaluate our profits, and our potential.
Most contractors feel they need to offer multiple services to capture as much work as possible. This just spreads their advertising dollars thin in all areas, instead of focusing all their efforts, and dollars, on the two or three services that provide the highest return.
Today’s customers are becoming more likely to hire companies that specialize. In fact, we all are searching for the most experienced and knowledgeable people for our projects. Positioning yourself as a niche contractor alerts potential customers that you have been there, and are committed to the trade, or service they need.
Rebranding a company can be expensive, but here are a couple ways that you can test your niches before spending too much.
- Start with creating a specialized business card for each service you offer. When you go to a bid meeting, you should already know what type of project it is. Hand them a business card that says you are a specialist in exactly what they are wanting. If a potential client is wanting a stone fireplace, at first introduction hand them a business card that says, “stone fireplace specialist.” This line is more important than your job title, and it looks more professional to the client than a card that just says, “we do block, brick, and stone.”
- Another way to test a niche market is through social media. With all of the social media outlets, and billions of people using them, there is no better way to create direct, specialized ads. When we advertise on social media we only advertise one service at a time. Instead of highlighting our company name in the ads, we promote the service we offer. By creating these niche, or single service ads, we can manage the types of leads we receive, and focus our efforts on landing projects with the highest margins.
Niche marketing does not mean to stop offering all other services. We continue to serve our best concrete clients, and still provide masonry restoration. What niche marketing does, and did for us, is to allow you to focus on the customers, and projects that return the highest profits for your company.
Corey Adams Is Vice President of Kelly Lang Contractors, Inc. He also speaks on entrepreneurship to trade schools, and is a Certified CE instructor. If you would like to discuss business development strategies or network with Corey, you may contact him at 740-984-2517, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Words: Corey Adams