Aug. 18 2011 12:34 PM

As I reflect back over the first half of the year, I keep scratching my head, saying, ‘Boy, is this a crazy year!” This is after talking with contractors, distributors, manufacturers, sales reps, etc., which keeps me informed about what’s going on in our industry. Are sales up? Have we kept our costs in line? Are we making a profit?

We’ve had, and are still having, extreme weather conditions in many parts of the country, and that has put a tremendous burden on our industry. In many areas of the country, it took a long time to get up and moving. To be sure, Texas is going through a drought, the Midwest has had a plethora of rain—now a heat spell—and the Northeast had snow up to their eyeballs, then rain, and now heat. It kind of makes it difficult to work outdoors in those conditions.

Couple that with a still weak economy and we find ourselves walking a very tight line. So what can we do, as small companies to keep our business going? Some contractors have reduced the size of their crews; others have cut some crews out completely. By cutting down on staff, we can survive. Because we have smaller or fewer crews, we can stay busy and in some cases, even build a backlog.

But the truth of the matter is: we need sales. We’ve probably cut our costs down as far as we could, and to stay in business we have to generate more sales. Make no mistake about it, what was taken for granted a few years ago now takes work. We must remain focused on the important aspects, and pay attention to the details. If we don’t, slowly but surely, things will slip away.

One of the best ways to generate new sales is from referrals. It’s a great way to add new customers with very little cost. Perhaps you can offer some sort of incentive to your existing clients if they refer someone. I know of a few contractors who have added new customers and are now quite busy, just from referrals. Other contractors have managed to do some creative marketing that has caught the attention of prospective clients and have added some new customers that way.

Whether through creative marketing, i.e., email marketing or incentives, etc., the important thing is to focus on adding new customers. Even though we’re going through a soft economy, there is business to be had. You need to get your share.

Stay aggressive in developing marketing techniques that will help you add clients one by one.