Upgrading Your Contracting Business With Technology
January 8, 2021
Nowadays, technology seems to be everything and in everything: from cars to coffee machines, most mechanical devices have received a technological “upgrade” of some sort in the past decade. While this can be frustrating to those with Luddite tendencies or enjoy a slower pace of life, most people seem to agree that there are benefits of using technology in your life. While there is always a slight learning curve involved in changing anything around, it appears to be an overall positive experience.
Lots of folks are aware of the benefits of using technology in their personal life: whether you are writing work emails or browsing through the latest flicks on Netflix, things are simply better when you have access to more. But many of these same people resist technology when it tries to “invade” their business lives, preferring to be comfortable with the way they make money now and not wanting to rock the boat. This is an understandable paradox, as we often separate the personal and professional, but will only be detrimental in the long run to your financial and business health.
The tendency is for technology to drive innovation, and without adopting certain technologies your business will be left in the dustbin of history. Especially in this internet era, where consumers can literally Google competitors, pricing and reviews all at once. Handymen and contractors, who once relied on word of mouth and simple ads to get their business, must now have an online presence in order to simply get a sustainable level of work. It is just the new reality of the marketplace, the same market where approximately 95% of home buyers also use the internet to search for the new home contractors will eventually be working on.
In this article, we’ll touch on how you can use technology to grow your contracting business to new heights that you never thought possible, but have always been attainable. You’ll easily be able to see the benefits of using technology to modernize your practices, and hopefully grow to appreciate how it adds value to seemingly everything.
Adding to Your Team: Finding New Hires Online
So you’ve already got a successful contracting business in your local area, but are looking to grow or increase your business. Unless people start requesting maintenance more or there is a big housing boom with custom home builders, you may want to consider adding a couple of specialized members to your team in order to appeal to a broader audience. Perhaps you specialize now in kitchens, but could also do bathrooms if you only had a plumber. Or an additional residential electrician would allow you to service two homes at once in the same day. But how do you find these quality individuals? The answer lies in the power of the internet to search and connect.
The benefits of using technology are no more apparent than trying to search online for a new hire. With job sites like Monster, Indeed, and CareerBuilder, it’s easier than ever to gather up a group of people that you’d love to interview for potential positions. You can think of it as digital recruitment services, and even pay a small fee to only receive resumes that meet specific criteria. Yes, there can be a lot to sort through at the end of the day and you still do have to physically hire someone, but it’s nothing like the paper and phone days of yesteryear. By upgrading your hiring process to be all digital, you can be on a job site installing cabinets and schedule an interview all within the same hour.
Going Digital With Sales and Advertising
In times past, you probably relied on customer satisfaction and word of mouth in order to promote your business. When you did a good job on a site, you may have asked the customer to engage in a bit of outdoor advertising by putting a little sign in their yard. Something to let people driving by know that the painting, plumbing, or outdoor work was done by you and your qualified team. That was great in the days before the internet because promotions were limited and local. Unless you were planning to start contracting on buildings in NYC, there was no extra benefit to putting a full-size ad in the New York Times.
But what if you don’t have plans for world domination, and would simply like to get contracting jobs in the next town over? Or perhaps expand your business to a 30-mile radius around your office? Then the signs in the yard may not be so helpful, because their reach is so limited. This is when it makes sense to go digital with sales, advertising, and promotions and reap the benefits of using technology to their fullest. Don’t worry about having to contact computer technical support in order to do this, there are lots of simple changes you can make in order to grow and expand your business without having to pursue a degree in computer science.
Nowadays, having a website for your business is a must. There is no need for it to be fancy or flashy, but it does need to establish that you’re here in the world and ready to engage in contracting business with the general public. There are many places you can go now in order to create your own website or have someone build it for you, all for a nominal fee. You can even research whether a clever domain name (the website address for your site) has been taken, or whether you’d like it to be the straightforward business name. Having a website on your business card will allow people to learn more about what you do and see your work without having to have protracted phone calls.
Another easy thing to do right off the bat is to create social media pages for your contracting business that are simple, effective, and transparent. It may seem silly, but having a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram page does a lot to show people work that you’re proud of. You don’t even have to put that much effort into it, and can simply state the plain facts about jobs that you’re doing or testimonials from happy customers. When you engage with the public on a basic level as an honest contractor, they will see the inherent value in your work and be willing to have a dialogue to see if you can help them. The benefits of using technology to allow people to see your work is apparent more than ever on social media.
Establish a Digital Rapport with Existing Customers
There is an old business saying that goes: “Your best customers are your existing customers.” While that may sound paradoxical, there is actually a lot of truth to it. Clients that you have done great work for in the past will remember your professionalism and good work when you installed granite countertops in their kitchen or put up on the screen doors on their porch. It is therefore advisable that you get basic contact information from them in order to send out reminders every so often that you are available to do work again at your same level of competency. While this can be done in a variety of ways, the benefits of using technology to reach these customers will only help increase your reach.
Some contractors like to keep their client’s address information in order to send out a flyer or promotional mailer once a year to remind them they’re available for remodels or touch-ups. This is great, but eventually, people may move and you may be inadvertently spamming a residential address. Sending out physical mail also involves buying postage, which you will have to add to the overall expenses of your business. It is much better to go digital with addresses these days, for a whole host of reasons.
If you get your client’s email address instead (which rarely changes), you can be reasonably sure that you are still sending to the same person until they tell you otherwise, with essentially no cost involved. For less than the cost of postage, you can use email list services that tell you information such as how much engagement an email got, open rates, bad email addresses (no longer in use), and much more. Especially if you are a contractor that knows the useful time limit of what they do (such as a roofing contractor), you can literally time the emails to remind past clients that the work should be inspected (such as shingles/holes on a 5-year-old roof). The benefits of using technology to establish a digital rapport with your clients vastly outweighs many physical methods for these reasons.
Online Banking, Documents, and More
If you’re a licensed and legitimate contractor, you probably have business insurance. With insurance comes dozens of documents explaining coverage, qualifiers, payment structures, and more. It can be difficult to organize and file all of these things in the physical world, which is why transitioning to paperless document storage and mitigation tactics can work wonders for your mind and business. Not only can you pay your insurance and bills online, but if you manage to put expenses on a cashback credit card or other rewards infrastructure you can actually save money while monitoring every dollar that goes in or out. All it takes is one business credit card account with online access to put you in business, and then you no longer have to carry wads of cash or checks to do simple business.
Online banking is another innovation in technology that just keeps getting better, and the benefits of using technology are no more apparent than being able to see exactly how much money is in your business checking account. What may have taken half an hour in the past through balancing a checkbook is now easily on display and kept track of by your bank (or credit union) digital account system. Stop wasting time going to the bank, withdrawing cash, or transferring between accounts by doing it yourself online.
Accepting Digital Payments
You’ve just done a simple ac installation for a client, but they want to pay with a credit card instead of cash or check. In the past, you would have had to take down the credit card number, assume the client has given you a working card and then try to process it with your merchant account later. Sometimes, it may have taken days (or weeks) to receive payment. But now, that should all be a relic of the past with digital payment providers such as Square or PayPal. Create a business account with any online pay provider and be amazed at how quickly you can accept money via multiple methods. You can even accept physical checks by scanning them with a smartphone, which will show up as digital cash in your account.
If you happen to know an extremely tech-savvy person, you can also accept alternate currencies for your business such as Bitcoin. While you probably won’t have a lot of clients looking to pay this way, it’s an important step in realizing that while cash was king at one time, other payments are around. There are many ways to pay and get paid in this digital world, and it would behoove anyone to study the many different ways that they can.
Helping You Navigate the Digital World with Ease
It can be daunting to enter the digital world if you’re new to many of these concepts. While the benefits of using technology may not always be immediately apparent, hopefully over time you will begin to see that it is simply the new world that we’re entering. What was inconceivable only ten years ago is now relatively mainstream, and that trend will only continue into other industries and markets. The benefit of being a contractor versus other lines of work is that it is unlikely your job will ever be automated or replaced by robots. After all, someone needs to be able to operate the power tools and carry heavy objects to their destination. While the days of door to door sales for promoting your business (because someone sees you outside working) are being put further in the past every day, that doesn’t mean you are invisible.
Using the internet can help achieve your dreams as a contractor, whether you’re invested in actual door sales or home improvement. They can also be a key way to connect with other businesses in the event that you want to improve your business. Working as garage door screens supplier or a roofer means that you’ll need to acquire other items from different businesses to achieve your goals. While the web is great for advertising, it’s also essential in lowering costs on your end.
While operating a contracting business may have been a more “real world” profession in the past, there is no reason that jumping into the digital space needs to diminish that. You can still have face-to-face interactions with clients, and your craftsmanship and quality of your team’s effort should ring true if you indeed are bringing your full skills to the table.
Whether you are accepting a credit card on your smartphone or posting a Facebook update of 10% off electrical wiring for the month of August, your value will always lie in the job you do and the people you help. In the end, the benefits of using technology is that it allows you to connect more with the people that you need to help so that they can assist you in earning an honest living. In that way, it may just be the most important tool you ever invest in.