As a small business owner I see marketing a little differently than most people…  

Without a massive advertising budget to rely on, I have to consider any (and every) instance in which my brand comes in contact with a prospect or a client as a major marketing opportunity. From the first form a visitor fills out on our website to the final “thank you cookies” I send when their project is complete — it’s all part of my marketing strategy.  

Most people think of marketing as just their logo, business cards or a sign on the side of their truck (and maybe, if we’re lucky, their website too). While those are indeed important and essential marketing assets, they’re not what builds the reputation of your company. These are the pieces that help build brand recognition, but they won’t sell your product or service for you. 

Think about your own behavior: People make buying decisions based on the way you do business, not on your pretty logo.

Your patrons are as much a part of your marketing team as your marketing director.

Your ability to effectively communicate with your prospects and customers directly influences their happiness with the end product. You’ve heard people complain about restaurants: how the food is great, but the service is terrible. It could be the best tasting food ever — but if my four-year-old is having a meltdown because we’ve been waiting an hour and she’s getting hangry — I could care less. The disappointment in the restaurant’s process then becomes the message that other people are hearing.

So, how in residential paving can we adjust our communication and marketing to exceed customer expectations and send a clear message of excellence to our audience?

1. Invest in technology.

Marketing to Turn Prospects into Promoters - Invest in Technology - Light Bulbs plus Gears equals Bar Chart with Increasing Results

Not just any kind of technology. I’m talking about technology geared to make your process run smoother and add convenience for your customers. And no, you don’t need to run out and buy 400 of the newest computers to improve your business. We live in an era of software services, and odds are there’s one out there that will help solve your most pressing customer service issues:

Online Estimator

Oftentimes what people need most to make a buying decision is a price. Give potential customers the ability to go to your website and fill in the blanks so they can get a number on their own. Plus, you can ask them for their email address and boom: instant lead generator. Give them something that they want, and in return you get what you need: more people to talk to.

I realize that no price quote is a 100% accurate price without having the details of the project. You can, however, put the parameters in place for estimating your service: project types, square footage, material costs, man-hours, and any other measurable items. Reliable service quotes aren’t a guessing game they’re a mathematical equation. 

How do you go about this? We create quotes using FormidablePro and there are several great services out there to help you easily integrate quotes into your business, like Configure One and ConvertCalculator.

Online Bill Pay

If you don’t require people to pay you on the spot, adding online bill pay to your website is a huge step in the right direction to dissolve accounts receivable pile up and provide convenience to your customers. Plus, imagine how much you could save on admin time! Services like stripe and PayPal are great for this.

Text Alerts

People communicate digitally. Why not use the medium they’re accustomed to when communicating with them? Text updates help keep customers informed and comfortable throughout the process.  People complain (excessively) about contractors showing up late (or not arriving at all). Now imagine if you could text to confirm appointments, then text again when you’re an hour out from heading to a job, and then again when you’re on your way, so customers can know when to be home to keep work flowing. As a follow up you could also text any additional information they need to know after the service is complete (like, for best results don’t drive on your driveway for 24 hours).  Try a service like SimpleTexting to send your customers messages automatically.  

2. Deliver social proof.

Consumers will often turn to each other when faced with a buying decision. 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses and for people 18-24 years old the number jumps up to 95% according to a 2018 survey by BrightLocal. Marketers use the term “social proof” to refer to any feedback that your customers provide that is publicly visible. This includes testimonials, reviews and case studies.  

Reviews & Testimonials

Ask your favorite customers for testimonials and put them on your website. Heck, you can slather ‘em all over your marketing. Allow people to give reviews wherever it’s most comfortable and convenient for them to do so — Facebook and Google will be the most common. Send customers out an email at the time in your process when they’re happiest with your service with a link directing them to leave their review.

Reviews are valuable because they offer more than just social proof. They also show Google and Facebook that you’re a quality business. Reviews are a big part (15.44%) of whether or not Google includes your listing in their local pack (when three businesses are displayed with the map at the top of the page) and also play into how you’re shown in organic search listings.

Don’t have time for reviews or testimonials? 

Create a good old-fashioned list of references you can give to tough clients,  just be sure to ask for permission first so people aren’t caught off guard if they get a call. Chances are prospects won’t take the time to call all your references, but the act of offering that list and the fact you’re willing to let others speak to the quality of your work builds trust all on its own.

Case Studies & Photos

Don’t just tell customers you do awesome work: show them! Add case studies to your website. You can call them projects, completed work or your portfolio — whatever floats your boat. Case studies are awesome because they show potential customers how you tackle a challenge. Customers with the same problem can see you’re qualified to solve theirs, and the decision to hire you will be easier. Plus case studies help drive traffic to your site. If you can’t set aside the time to write and post case studies for your website, at the very least keep a regularly updated photo gallery with before and after pictures. Pair these photos with testimonials for greater impact.

3. Jump start word of mouth.

Residential Pavers - Marketing to Turn Prospects into Promoters - Word of Mouth - young woman with her mouth open and hands on either side like she's yelling

According to Invespcro, word of mouth accounts for about 13% of all consumer sales. That’s a decent chunk of change for your business. How will you keep people talking? 

When your neighbors are getting a service that you know you need as well, the first thing you do is ask your neighbor who they hired… Now, what if your neighbor tells you and you immediately forget the name? A wise contractor might purchase some insurance on their word of mouth marketing by investing in yard signs and door hangers that can be left at their service sites so everyone knows who performed that awesome work:

Yard Signs

Make sure these are super easy to read! Clearly state: your name, phone number and a service you’ve completed. My clients report yard signs have one of the highest return-on-investment of all their marketing purchases.

Door Hangers

Cavas the houses on both sides of the street for at least a block with door hangers. If people are out in their yard, hand it to them personally and explain the work you’re doing up the street. Door hangers can be effective on their own, but when targeted around a service site, customers get familiar with your company AND they get to witness your high level of service, pushing them closer to you when they need a new driveway. Just make sure to make it easy for these new friends to contact you: include your phone number, website and any social network you use on the hangers.

4. Make each client feel important.

Providing service after the sale is even more important than your sales meeting. This is when you cement the awesomeness of your company with your customer. You don’t have to buy customers a huge gift, just make them feel important. Always make a point to thank them for their business. Let them know that even though they job is done, they’re still worth your time:

Thank You Cards

Send a hand addressed card with a handwritten note thanking your customers for their business. (Yes, you can do it!) You get bonus points if your thank you cards are printed with your company branding. Be sure to send them within a month of completing the project, you don’t want your customers to think you’ve forgotten about them. Don’t be afraid to add personal touches to this card. You get extra bonus points for having the whole crew sign it.

Checking After Project Completion

Once a project is completed make sure to do a check in. You can do the follow up with your customers by phone, email or even by text. Ask them if they are satisfied with your service. If they have a complaint, don’t freak out — this is a golden opportunity to resolve the issue, and believe it or not the customer will think even more of you for being willing to make things right. As outlined in this article by CBS News, a customer who experiences a resolution will be even more likely to return business or recommend you than someone who doesn’t even experience a service issue at all.

It doesn’t stop there, however. This point in the service timeline is perfect for gathering data from your customers. You can ask them fill out a survey, giving suggestions to improve the quality of your service, while also revealing important information about your customer base, which may come in handy for targeting prospective customers or inside sales. If nothing else, you should reach out and let them know their satisfaction is important to you.

Takeaway: Meet them where they are.

Really consider the expectations of your prospects and customers, and figure out ways that you can meet them where they are, whether it’s offering them a way to estimate their service online or increasing convenience with online bill pay. Customers are online reading about your company, checking out your competition and trying to figure out the experience other customers have had with you. Give them the evidence they need to make their buying decision, then blow them out of the water with your awesome customer service and great communication to turn these prospects into promoters.

More about the Author

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Monica Pitts

Monica is the creative force and founder of MayeCreate. She has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with an emphasis in Economics, Education and Plant Science from the University of Missouri. Monica possesses a rare combination of design savvy and technological know-how. Her clients know this quite well. Her passion for making friends and helping businesses grow gives her the skills she needs to make sure that each client, or friend, gets the attention and service he or she deserves.

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