What’s the secret weapon? Marketing—possibly the most misunderstood word at a concrete batch plant. Don’t wrinkle your nose and move on. Instead read on and profit handsomely.
To put it simply, marketing is the process of introducing your goods to the people who need them. In our industry, those goods are concrete.
So what’s the difference between sales and marketing? Sales is the process of generating orders by persuading others. Marketing is the process of generating leads by informing others. You generate leads by making your company and your product known to potential customers—by creating a trusted image in the marketplace.
What is your current image in the market? How are you perceived by your customers and potential customers? Say you have a concrete batch plant and 10 trucks. You sell concrete when contractors get a job, right? Well… unless you’re in the unlikely but enviable position of being the only ready mix producer in your market, your customer has choices, lots of them. In times like these, some predictable things begin to happen:
• Pricing becomes uncomfortably competitive.
• Competitors travel farther to deliver those loads. (Perhaps into your territory?)
• Customers become more demanding.
How do you separate yourself from the crowd? How do you get potential customers to try your product while keeping existing customers satisfied and in the nest? Following these steps will give you a good start on creating an extremely powerful business tool.
1. Get them at “Hello”
How are people greeted when they call your operation? Your customers can spend their construction dollars anywhere, so your staff should be building confidence in your customer service. I know, I know, we’re in the construction business. People aren’t nice to each other. This is a rough, in your face business. People don’t mind being treated like this, it’s expected. Give me a break folks! Everyone wants to be treated well, including your customers. Put a smile in your voice and make them feel like they’re your most important customer… because they ARE! Call your company and see how they answer the phone. You might be in for a BIG surprise. If your operation isn’t making the caller feel important or welcome, chances are another ready mix concrete plant will.
2. Say “Hello” again!
How do you know if your customers are getting what they are paying for? Did you call and ask how the job went? Did the delivery professional get there on time? Was he courteous? Did he clean up after himself?
Yes, I am suggesting that you or someone that you trust on your staff call every person who bought concrete from you. Don’t stick your head in the sand. Customers know things about your business that you need to know. Not everybody is going to follow up, and that’s what will separate you from the crowd. At first, you might not like what you hear. Stay with it and “fix” what’s broken. Are your concrete delivery professionals consistently late? Is your slump inconsistent? Are your people being rude? Use this feedback to repair those issues and before you know it you’ll be on your way to dominating your market. You are using a significant marketing tool by calling every single customer every single time, nipping problems in the bud and building stronger relationships along the way.
3. Sell quality.
This one is critical. Are you selling the best, most consistent quality concrete in your market? Every market has low-price producers who are selling concrete as a commodity. If you want to compete with them, the last thing you should do is get down in the dirt and start a pricing war. Instead, offer your customers an alternative. Give them a quality mix with exceptional support and follow up to ensure they’re satisfied. Explain how the QC department at your concrete batch plant ensures that your customer is getting a technically advanced product. Have an open house every so often. Invite your customers in to see your operation and the investment you’re making to have the best concrete in the market. Make sure your customers are telling everyone they run into what a consistently great mix you provide on-time, every time.
4. Premium products command a premium price.
Low pricing is a poor substitute for knowledge, quality, skill and customer service. No one can sell products below market pricing indefinitely and survive. Don’t play the low-price game. Read this paragraph over until you commit it to memory. It’s that important.
The recession’s effect on construction budgets make any edge you can find worth having. The least expensive one is the smile in the voice! After that initial good impression, the smart producer keeps the ball rolling by delivering quality concrete and monitoring all of the basic building blocks of good marketing practices.