Like any local contracting business, the pool industry is a competitive one. Whether you’re a builder or service person, landing customers can be a challenge when you’ve got so many other businesses to go up against. Learning to differentiate yourself from the competition should be top priority if you want to win new contracts.

As a customer (and not someone in the business, like yourself), I feel uniquely qualified to recommend certain tips for impressing your future prospects. For the most part, it comes down to trust and transparency, but there are numerous strategies you can use to convince a customer you’re the right person for the job before they even meet you face-to-face.

Referrals

The first thing most people do when looking for a contractor of ANY sort is to ask friends for a referral. It’s not only convenient, but getting a recommendation from a friend offers the highest level of trust for me as a consumer because it’s not from some random advertisement, it’s from someone I personally know. It tells me, “Okay, Bob the Pool Guy treated my friend right, and I trust my friend, so I can trust Bob.”

RELATED: How to Get More Referrals

Most people will tell you that getting referrals is about being polite, honest, and doing good work – and that’s all true. But the golden key is to ASK. When the job is done and your customer is happier than ever, that’s when you politely tell them, “If you know anyone else who could use my services, please send them my way. I feed my family with this business, and every referral helps out significantly." Obviously, tailor your pitch however you’d prefer, but the point is that you have to make the point to ask for referrals so that you’re the first person on your customer’s mind when their friends bring up pool work in the future.

Trust me, customers will remember this. We understand that you aren’t a typical salaried corporate office worker and that our referrals can directly impact your bottom line. I remember every single person who’s asked me for referrals for their business, and I always try to send my friends to them when the opportunity arises.

Online

If none of my friends can give me a solid referral, the next thing I do is search online. I look for ratings on public places like Angie’s List or Yelp, because these reviews might not be from people I personally know, but they are the next best thing. The better your reviews are, the better the chance I’m going to call you – which leads to two points.

First, circling back to the point I just mentioned above with referrals, ask your customers to leave you feedback online! This is the 21st century, and you should have SOME sort of online presence if you want to be found by new prospects. Having your happy customers give you online reviews not only increases your overall rating, but it increases the number of reviews, too. As a consumer, I know I probably have better odds with someone who has 50 reviews than someone who has 5.

RELATED: The Right Way to Handle Negative Business Reviews

The second point is really more of a bonus. If you have profiles on public places like I just mentioned, that’s usually enough to hook me to call you, but having a dedicated website of your own can really push me (and others) from, “Okay, I’ll call them and see what they have to offer” to, “This is definitely the right company for the job.” A personalized website for your business shows professionalism and it’s another chance to show off your work and list testimonials from past clients. If you’re a builder, this is especially important. If I’m looking to spend $30,000+ to have a pool built, you can bet your paycheck I’m going to want to see examples of your past work before hiring you. If you have a website with high-quality images showcasing the beautiful work you’ve done, you’re not just telling me you can do the job, you’re showing me – and customers seriously appreciate visuals over words.

Transparency

It’s no secret that people appreciate honesty. The more transparent you are when we talk, the more I’m comfortable with you, which leads back to the same important principle: trust. Before the job begins, let me know what your plans are. Tell me exactly what you’re going to do, and exactly what it’s going to cost. If certain plans or costs are subject to change throughout the job, let me know! That’s not a problem as long as I know about it ahead of time. People usually have issues when they expect one thing in the beginning and the result is totally different.

Following that, if some things DO change (for example, if the job is completed and the cost was more than you originally estimated), explain why. As a consumer, I’m conditioned to think people are trying to rip me off when they charge me more for something. If you don’t tell me why, you’re just adding to the stigma, and you’re also hurting the chances of me doing work with you again in the future or sending you referrals. However, if you take the time to explain why costs are higher or why it was more beneficial to do things a certain way, I’ll appreciate that. It makes me feel like you truly have my best interest at heart and you care about the quality of your work.

Conclusion

Getting new customers can be a pain, but if you have all your ducks in a row, they’ll come swimming to you instead of you trying to catch them in your net (pun intended). At the end of the day, it’s all about trust. If a friend recommends you or I see you have awesome reviews online and a great website to back it up, you’re pretty much guaranteed to earn my business. The only real work you have to put in at that point is honesty. All in all, I’d say that’s a heck of a lot easier than traditional methods of getting new customers.

Cory Yeakel is a pool owner of six years. Thanks to his work at ProductAdvisor.com, he’s also experienced with buyer behavior and understands what customers look for before making a purchase. With this unique combination of qualifications, he knows what it takes to earn a customer’s business and ensure a long, successful contract.