I was surprised on a recent Service Nation Alliance advisory board call when I learned that half the contractors on the call had some form of business development or community engagement manager. These people were responsible for networking, social media, reviews, and reputation management. Let's take a look at these business development opportunities.

Networking

Less than 3% of residential contractors belong to a service club like Rotary, Lion’s, Kiwanis, or Optimist.  It’s a shame. Service clubs are filled with community centers-of-influence. These are people engaged in the community who others turn to for recommendations, such as selecting a good contractor. Moreover, contractors are under-represented in these groups. Join one, become the contractor that everyone in the group knows, and you are likely to get all of the referrals from members of the group.

Service clubs don’t even take much time. Most meet over breakfast or lunch. This makes it feasible to join more than one.

 

 

Service clubs are only one aspect of networking. Every town of any size has numerous leads groups. National groups include Business Networking International (BNI), LeTip International, and Netweavers International. In addition, there are many local group. These groups exist purely for networking and lead generation.

The networking role of a Business Development Manager is to join one or more service clubs, joint a leads groups, attend chamber of commerce functions, and other events. Inevitably, the business development manager becomes the public face of the company. Ideally, the owner would take this role, but if that’s not happening, appointing a business development manager is the next best thing.

Social Media

Social media is difficult to outsource without losing the company’s authentic voice. When outsourcing works, it’s usually performed by an account executive who manages social media for a small number of clients whom the account exec becomes intimately familiar with. That’s impractical for most contractors, so they either use mass market services or try to manage it in-house. When managed in-house, it’s often done poorly.

 

The business development manager takes charge of the company’s social media, writing the company blog, selecting the platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.), placing the messages, and engaging the public. This person should be adept at clear writing, already be active in the social media arena, and work to stay on top of the tools and techniques used to make social media work for your company.

Reviews

Online reviews have skyrocketed in importance, though the importance of the different review sites varies by city. Getting happy customers to provide reviews, however, can be problematic and contractors need to be careful they do not compensate consumers for reviews.

The business development manager can help with reviews by making happy calls and asking satisfied customers if they would be willing to write an online review. If the customer agrees, the business development manager emails them a link to the review site.

In other cases (e.g., change-outs), the business development manager personally visits customers to perform a system review. After the operation of the system and the need for annual maintenance is explained, the business development manager asks the homeowner to do an online review on the spot using a tablet or laptop the business development manager brings. In addition, the business development manager asks the homeowners to stand beside their news furnace or condensing unit and give a video testimony, which is uploaded to your company's YouTube channel.