The McGraw-Hill Construction report for 2013 predicts total U.S. construction starts for 2013 will rise 6 percent to $483.7 billion, slightly higher than the 5 percent increase to $458 billion estimated for 2012. This still leaves the volume of total construction starts 32 percent below the 2005 peak on a current dollar basis, and down about 50 percent when viewed on a constant dollar basis.
The opportunity pie is only growing slightly and you need to figure out how to get a bigger piece of the pie. Below are three steps you need to take to ensure you get that big slice.
Promote the use of smart controllers. Having an expertise in smart irrigation controllers provides a differentiating factor for your business. Today’s customer is interested in saving water. Last year at the National Building Owners and Managers Association meeting, we interviewed 18 leaders of commercial real estate. We received a consistent message from each of them.
They believe significant gains have been made in energy management and additional gains will not be great enough to justify additional cost. As a result, they made water management their next priority. In most cases smart controllers make the biggest impact in the shortest period of time for water savings.
Engage in social media. Our customers and prospects are engaging with each other using social media and they are making their buying decisions based on what they learn from each other and relying on sales people less. Who are you going to believe when you’re buying something? The sales person who’s pitching to you or the reviews you read online and input from your friends? A Facebook business page, an active twitter account engaging customers and consistent activity on LinkedIn should be the business norm.
These platforms are excellent for spreading the water management message. Facebook is a great place to share educational materials and user tips and connect with people who are interested in your products and services. Twitter is a great way to share resources and ideas with followers and alert them to updates. LinkedIn has a wide range and variety of groups discussing water management and sustainability.
Social media levels the marketing playing field and is an effective way to educate and easily stay in contact with thousands of customers.
Promote the value of certification. Having certified water management experts on staff should give your business a competitive advantage. The certification should add instant credibility, increase opportunities, and demonstrate your commitment to the industry. However, you achieve none of those goals if your customers and prospects don’t understand the value.
Irrigation Association and state contractor association requirements have become increasingly tougher over the last 10 years. It takes a significant time and money investment to pass these certifications. However, our customers don’t know anything about the certifications. So many times I will hear someone tell a prospect, we are excellent water managers, so and so has his IA certification.
If you think the average customer has any idea what that means, you are dreaming. Take time to create at least one sheet that explains what your team went through to achieve their certifications. It should be easy to understand, with clear bullet points showing you didn’t just fill out an application and pay $35 for your certification. Helping our customers understand the value is the first step in being able to charge a premium for the service.
This is just a good start for 2013. There is much work to do and I am looking forward to it. Contact me when you have completed these and I will help you with the next three.
The author is director of Water Management Solutions at ValleyCrest Landscape Cos.