Why Some Contractors Can Raise Their Prices But Most Others Can’t
If you are a contractor or remodeler who has been selling on price to close work, you may have a difficult time raising prices as the economy improves. I say this because as a result of selling on low prices during the recession you may have created a "low price brand" image in your marketplace. Referrals and prospects who know about your brand will be expecting low prices and will not buy from you if your prices are higher than they experienced and or were told by your referring past customers.
Can, will you, rebrand your business?
Perhaps by selling on low price during the recession you have doomed yourself to remain there. You can of course re-market your business to create a new brand, but that will take a whole new strategy than you have used in the past, and it will also cost lots of money. Keep in mind it will also take much longer to replace or correct a brand than creating the right brand from the get-go. Rebranding may not be an option if your low prices didn’t or doesn’t generate enough gross profit to pay for doing it.
Also, if you’re a great carpenter without any real professional sales training and sales skills, you will probably not have much luck raising your prices because you don't know how to sell to begin with. Think about it. That lack of sales training is probably why you had to drop your prices during the recession just so you could sell something.
And, if you are a contractor who relies almost exclusively on referrals and word of mouth, and don’t do any marketing, you are not likely to get enough leads to take the risk of raising your prices.
Why some contractors will have success raising their prices
However, those contractors with great marketing and sales skills, those who charged enough during the recession to bring in the gross profit dollars needed to keep doing and pay for great marketing and sales systems at their business, are in a great position to raise their prices. When a contractor does strategic marketing, and does it well, that contractor gets far more quality leads than the business needs. If you have more leads than you need you can typically afford to take the risk of raising your prices because you can afford some “no’s” when you have plenty more leads to pursue. And, if you have professional sales skills the risk isn't as great.
So, here’s my advice if you have been selling on price
- If you are close to retirement, say less than 3 or 4 years to go, don’t bother. The investment needed to fix your problem will require both a lot of money and time. Any marketing strategy can take at least 6-9 months before you will see quality and sustainable results. And that’s if you do it right. If you try to do it yourself through trial and error it could take much longer or might never make enough of a difference before you are ready to retire.
- If you plan to remain a small company, only worried about generating enough work for yourself and maybe one other worker, I suggest you work really hard creating and nurturing referrals. This is a good low cost option but it does take a lot of your time. You’ll need to spend time calling your previous customers to let them know you’re still around and would love to get more work from them. I suggest you also let them know you would appreciate their referrals. While you have them on the phone get their email addresses and permission to send them information about your company via email. If you can do this you can take advantage of low cost email marketing strategies to stay in front of them and remind them about referring you. If this works for you and you get enough quality leads, you will also need improved sales skills so you can raise your prices and still sell enough work. If you can pull off selling at higher prices use the money to expand your marketing strategy beyond the email related tactics.
- If you have a business that is already doing at least $500-700K worth of business, but you are not making enough money, I suggest you find a coach and or a mentor who can help you. For a business of that size you really need the help of a pro who can help you strategize what to do before you do it. My experience working with contractors in this position is that there is typically much more to fix than the marketing and sales functions of the business. The most common challenges I see with these businesses is a lack of understanding of the costs of being in business and how to properly price projects so they include the money needed to pay for things like marketing and sales training. Sure, it will cost money to hire that person. However, if you hire the right person to help you he or she can really speed up the process and help you control the cost of doing it. The right person will also be able to refer you to other resources you need will to make the changes. On the other hand, if you try to do it all on your own, you might just end up right where you already are.
- My last suggestion is for those contractors who won’t do any more marketing and won’t improve their sales skills. If this describes you and your business I suggest you consider the option of getting out of the game before it’s too late. As the economy improves savvy and committed business owners will be doing what it takes to beat out and even eliminate their competition for the high margin customers and projects. If that happens in your market you will need to stay selling on low price. My experience working with contractors in this mindset has shown that these contractors often live from check to check and most will never be able to retire. I suggest you consider the option of a job at a company that already does good marketing and knows how to sell. These businesses will be growing as the economy improves and will need the talents of good carpenters and project managers. If you find the right company to work for you will probably make a lot more money, have a whole lot less stress in your life and your new job might even include a company sponsored retirement plan.
Some final thoughts
If the survival of your business has been a constant battle and or struggle for you, deciding to proactivily change what you do, rather than waiting to see if your business can make it or not, might just be the best option for you and those you care about. Changing what you do can include working on your business or seeking a job opportunity. Either option is a good one, you get to decide.