How do I approach a client about a construction project?
Before you talk to a client to suggest a construction project, you may want to lay a solid marketing foundation. This helps to establish and maintain your industry reputation, and can help you manage client expectations from the start. You can do this in several ways:
- Publish your up-to-date licenses and registrations.
- Talk about how long you have been in business.
- Show successful jobs you have completed, calling attention to the specific sectors you serve, such as home or business construction or remodeling.
- Mention any workmanship warranties, payment details, and OSHA safety plans customers might want to know about.
- Prepare sample agreements and pricing examples to show potential clients.
You can make these points clear on your company website, making sure to keep it up to date and looking nice. Also, with most people visiting websites on their mobile devices, you might want your website to be mobile friendly.
Visiting potential clients in person or meeting at the project site can help both you and your client. These meetings can help you understand how to accurately bid a new project, and it gives the client a chance to evaluate you. Having sample agreements, a portfolio or brochures showing past work, and a business card, can remove the pressure from both you and the client of trying to close the deal in a day. Even if you do not win that bid, leaving your information with a client can lead to a future job, or a referral, so long as you made a good impression.
Once you have your marketing foundation, you can also grow your existing customer relationships and turn happy customers into promoters for your company. Staying in touch with your existing and past customers may inspire them to post reviews online about your services and projects. Or it can make them want to send future work to you.
How do I keep my construction clients happy?
Completing a construction or renovation project is often not enough for today's customers. Construction companies may find it worthwhile to go above and beyond to keep clients happy. Putting effort into customer service can help construction business owners build solid relationships. When communicating with your clients, present simple visual dashboards, charts, or graphs that track your progress and timelines. Keep it simple and easy to understand.
To keep your clients happy and win more work, you might focus on providing follow up service in addition to on-time and on-budget projects. Clients love to see contractors meet goals and deadlines while staying in constant communication. Proactively following up to make sure customers are happy and the project is still successful after 6-months or a year, or two years, may provide an opportunity to bid a new project, or increase customer satisfaction and the chance of a referral. Following up shows you stand behind your work, and that will often lead to word-of-mouth referrals, especially when you may just be reminding a past client of the quality work you did for them.
Business intelligence and client management tools can help you get more work done and make the follow up processes smoother. For example, you may be able to automate the scheduling of follow up calls after completing a project.
How can I keep clients happy when I know a problem is around the corner?
Helping clients understand what to expect is important, but not always easy. It can be even harder if you run into delays, cost adjustments, or scheduling issues caused by extra work.
If you have run a construction company for any amount of time, you know it is usually better to under-promise and over-deliver. But even that can be tough when the construction industry has been hammered by backlogs and delays caused by the global pandemic. The Associated Builders and Contractors say the construction industry's backlog indicator showed material delays of eight months in January 2022. That number was down from 8.2 months in December but up from 7.5 months in January 2021.
When supply chain delays, supply shortages, and rising prices seem like the norm, construction company owners can adapt. You can find ways to solve these problems while meeting deadlines and other timeline demands.
Georgia Tech's School of Building Construction says construction companies can overcome supply problems and give clients a clear picture in the following ways:
- Plan early by ordering construction materials ahead of time. This leaves more time for delivery and reduces problems caused by delays.
- Consider new or different delivery solutions that start early in the construction project, like during the design phase.
- Work with key entities and construction partners more so you will know when materials are available.
- Use less popular materials when you can.
By putting early plans in place, general contractors and subcontractors can let customers know about potential delays or cost changes. The key here is to communicate early and often, giving your clients a better understanding of the current process and what they can expect.
Is it safe for construction clients to visit the worksite?
Construction company owners, managers, and workers know that construction sites can be dangerous. Common safety hazards when working include ladders, chemicals, scaffolding, and electricity.
Top-notch construction companies put extra work into site safety plans. They make sure their construction workers and subcontractors know and follow all of them.
But is it safe for construction clients to visit the worksite? If you want to let clients visit the site, you can make your safety steps and rules more detailed. This can give you more control over your site for these visitors. It also helps to share the site safety rules up front. Here are some examples:
- Make rules about who can enter the worksite, when, and how.
- Require visitors to wear safety equipment, such as hard hats, goggles, or yellow vests.
- Make one entry point to the site that is monitored.
- Require clients to schedule times for visiting the site.
- Clearly mark areas with restricted access, such as stairs or balconies.
Also, when you expand your construction site safety strategy, you can set rules for site visits in your contracts. For example, you may include a section in your agreement that limits your responsibility for worksite visits. To protect your business, you may find it helpful to ask a lawyer to review your agreements to confirm that they match with how you actually operate.
How can I show clients value for their money?
Sticker shock is never fun — for the construction company or the client. So, how can you keep potential clients from reacting badly when they see your estimate or proposal? Let's look at some ways to prevent this reaction while helping the client see the experience, expertise, and quality you'll bring.
- Talk about money up front. As an experienced construction company owner, you usually have an idea of how long projects will take and how much they will cost. Before you put too much work into a proposal, you probably want to know that your pricing fits the client's expectations. This early communication shows your experience and professionalism while helping you work with buyers who will not back out on you.
- Be sure to show the benefits of your work by taking the lead in early discussions. You might ask questions such as "What are your goals?" or "What are you hoping to achieve?" By asking these questions, you show that you care about their project. As a result, you help your client see you as a trusted consultant and not just someone who will be giving them a number.
- Draw attention to your experience, your relationships with providers or subcontractors, and your use of state-of-the-art equipment. By doing so, you make your clients feel good about your skills, experience, and know-how.
- Finally, let them see your project management plan. Then they will know you are working on the project in the way they expect and want. Also, this informs the client that the construction is likely to be done on schedule and on budget.
Is it legal to ask for online reviews, client references, or recommendations?
Word-of-mouth marketing still makes a big difference for customers and clients making a buying decision. This is also true in the construction industry.
Good ways to do word-of-mouth marketing include online reviews, client references, and recommendations. But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires companies to follow certain rules to protect consumers.
Here are some rules to keep in mind when asking clients to recommend you:
- Online reviews and recommendations must be from real clients who have used your services. False ones can lead to legal trouble.
- Before using a client's name or photo on your website, be sure to get their permission. You can ask for permission in person, over the phone, or through email, but get it in writing to be safe.
- The online review or recommendation must be accurate. The client cannot exaggerate results, which might mislead the public.
- You can pay for recommendations or promise discounts or free services in exchange for the testimonial, as long as you make it clear that the client has been paid for their review. Without this statement, you run the risk of FTC fines or a lawsuit.
Building a solid foundation with your construction clients takes quality work, time, and more effort even after the job is done. However, your clients are your key to success.
If you have legal questions about starting or maintaining good client relationships while protecting your business, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.