Earlier this summer, we hosted a technology conference, and it was a hit. This came together because the time was right for that information. A few years ago, contractors may have suspected they needed to embrace technology, but most were reluctant to do so. Today, they know they need to and are open to embracing it. They just don’t know what or how.
Technology has already reshaped contracting. For instance, when I bought my roofing company 28 years ago, we didn’t have a computer. We wrote down information from incoming calls, called homeowners back to confirm appointments and tracked job progress in a book.
Today, CRM automatically confirms appointments via email. Our production guys take smartphone photos and upload them with an app, so that by clicking on a link homeowners can see job progress. They can sign and pay for change orders online.
Improvements such as these have had the effect of raising contractor professionalism. They happened because people’s expectations have changed. For instance, if you go on Amazon and buy something, you expect an email confirmation within seconds. These types of retail practices have set a standard for how a professional business operates. You used to stand out if you engaged in them. Now, you stand out if you don’t.
You cannot operate the way you did 10 years ago. And the rate at which functions are transformed by technology from something manual to something digital is accelerating. So are consumer expectations.
For instance, a growing number of people come to contractor websites from their phones. The latest numbers show about a third. That means if your website isn’t mobile responsive, whoever’s search for a contractor in the area will be unable to read the text or right-size the images, and they will click away.
Lots to Find Out
One thing I realized from listening to conference speakers is there are a lot of contractor software products out there. Also, that it’s possible to have several that essentially do the same thing. For instance, we use Microsoft 365, but after watching the presentation on that product at the conference, I realized we haven’t implemented 90 percent of what it can do.
If we did, it would replace many of the functions of other systems we’re paying for. This insight turned out to be worth several thousand dollars since we spend a ton of money on go-to-meeting software for webinars when that function could be done by Microsoft 365, which has the same capabilities.
A Tech Investment Strategy
People came to the conference to find out what they need to know about technology, so they know how to invest in it for their businesses going forward.
My guess is that’s going to be different with every company. For instance, if you’re a sales and marketing organization and don’t do any of your own installations, you’re thinking about how to make those two parts of the business more efficient.
This can be done by establishing more touchpoints with customers from first call to post-sale, or by generating tons of new prospects via data mining. Technology will have a big impact on lead generation because you’re able to see real-time ROI on lead sources and redirect marketing dollars into activities with a greater return.
Your Competition Is There
Investing in technology is a strategic decision, one that will make a big difference in how your company performs. The best approach, as suggested by one of our speakers, might be to make a list of the functions you would most like to see improve then research available software products.
It’s wise to do this now, not only because consumers expect it, and the ROI is immediate, but also because your competition is doing it.
And that’s not just the contractor in the next town over. We are all really concerned about big guys coming in and taking market share. And by big guys, I don’t mean the big-box retail stores. They’re already there. I mean the online giants—Google and Amazon—who might find a way to sell home improvement projects online or at least control the sale of those projects.
Whether or not homeowners will buy a home improvement project off the internet remains to be seen. The fear is that if they did, it would wipe out much of this industry.
One sponsor I spoke with at the conference told me that the eyewear industry, where he worked some years back, once had the exact same concern: People would buy all their prescription glasses and lenses online, putting frame shops and optometrists out of business.
Well, they’re all still pretty much here; however, buying new glasses at one of those retail establishments is a different, faster and better process because of technology. QR