Ten Ways to Prepare for the Next Season Now

Preparation for the next season begins now for home construction professionals, landscapers, and general contractors.

With the 2016 outdoor living season months away, it's easier to spend time and energy thinking about closing out this year by wrapping up open projects and trying to close more projects that can be completed immediately. Sure, this is necessary. But with the average buying cycle lasting over 70 days, now is the time to strategize and start executing towards your 2016 season plans. From improving your cash flow, to increasing efficiency, don't put off planning for the next year any longer. 

1. Set your goals

Consider the current year's trend, last year's numbers - and write down some hard, realistic goals that are measurable. They don't have to be the basic goals - customers, revenue (although good to include a couple of those). Think through where you really want to improve. Is it average project size or perhaps improve field productivity? Maybe it's to improve number of customers from referrals. Think through options - and make sure that whichever goals you decide on, they're aligned to everything else going on within your company. For example, if you want to reduce overhead costs but need to purchase 3 new trucks, make sure your overhead cost goals includes these equipment needs.

2. Replace bad talent

Bad talent is tough to replace during prime season since all of your time and efforts are placed into selling and closing - and then of course project management. Replacing bad talent is even harder at the beginning of the season - well, actually it's probably impossible then because everyone is doing that then and therefore your competition in recruiting is at its peak. Not to mention the need to go to appointments and get started in actual work - and you're left with a cycle of the same bad talent. Fire and hire replacements now!  Read more about finding new talent here.

3. Keep the good talent

Sure, employees love a great, competitive salary. That's a sure shot. There is a lot more than that - especially if you can't afford the best pay in town. Treat your employees like people. Be clear with your expectations in quality of work and end goals, but allow them to help organize the how to reach those expectations. Collaborate with them - ask for their opinions. Allow them to participate in areas of the company they haven't before (the winter is an obvious great time to do that). This doesn't seem like a great thing at first - why would an employee want to do things outside of their usual responsibilities? Because they are given the opportunity to grow - and to fit in. These are natural human needs. 

4. Get your photos in shape

Before the snow comes in, get your photos in check. Put your phone down and hire a professional. At Halstead Media, we believe that in the home services industry, your best work is one of your most important tools in getting you more top-notch work. And the best way to market your previous work starts with professional photography on your website - and potentially in any advertisements or portfolios.

5. Create stories about your work

After organizing your work with high resolution imagery, get background info on the projects. This helps prospects connect with your company. It reminds them that you work with people and care about them. Its an important first step in establishing a credible relationship and improves your chances of closing the sale. On the flip side, this also helps improve the closure of the completed project - it provides the finishing touch and will also help with future revenue there with increased chances of referrals. These stories will then be used online and in print. Read more about which questions to ask and when in this, related article: 7 Must Ask Items in Your In Person Meeting.

6. Consolidate your management tools

Organization efforts often start with getting new tools to help companies improve efficiency in one area or another. Eventually however there is almost always the other problem of having too many tools that don't talk to each other and therefore creating a whole brand new efficiency problem. Take a thorough look at your tools and get rid of those that add more time just to sync up with others. Then consider completely brand new tools that replace a few of your current ones with one brand new one. This is a long process -from evaluating your current needs to shopping - and then the learning curve of the new ones and obviously not a great task for spring.

7. Re-evaluate your home show participation

Home shows can be devastating to a brand, or it can help. Not all home shows are made equal. Just like any product or service, each home show attracts a specific kind of buyer (or worse, doesn't focus on any buyer and therefore has too wide of a range attending, leaving you with only a handful of qualified leads after a $5,000+ investment). Time to dig into the details with your home show contacts. Review your past performance, determine your expectations and learn about who the show targets and any changes in their marketing efforts this time around. Lastly, consider your ROI compared to other areas in which you can invest that might bring in a higher ROI. 

RELATED: HOME REMODELERS, SEE A DECLINE IN YOUR HOME SHOW ROI? WHATS NEXT?

8. Update your website

Your website is your sales rep - or several of them actually. It's your most important opportunity in driving qualified leads. Skip the traffic part, since traffic isn't great unless it makes your phone ring with projects you care about. When was the last time you updated the design or content? Websites should be updated every week, at a minimum (with new content) and less often in design. If your website is just a brochure standing around for people to look through your services, it's past time to update. Your website isn't and shouldn't be a brochure. It must be a way for prospects to connect with you - to learn about you while solving their problems. If you don't have anything like that on there, it's time! Related: Is Your Website Just a Brochure?

9. Draw more qualified leads to your website

Speaking of content, is there any? We don't mean content on your homepage or your services pages. A million words on there won't do anything for you but push people away, fast. Ongoing updates to content in your blog brings traffic in and keeps people there. Warning: not all blogs are made the same! 

10. Set up your contact system

Where are you keeping your contacts? Hopefully not an excel file. Or worse, maybe everywhere? There is no way to keep your contacts engaged (whether they're potential customers or past customers) if they're not organized in one place and labeled for immediate clarity in what type of contact they are. There are tons of contact management platforms out there. While most landscapers, home remodelers, general contractors, and landscape architects jump to Salesforce. There are ton of free options out there, such as HubSpot and low cost ones, such as Nutshell. Words of caution: go back to number 6 before selecting or replacing your contact system!

Wishing you a happy season!