Business tips for tradies from The Block’s Darren Jolly

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The Block’s Darren Jolly gives his insights on common mistakes tradies make that can cost them business and his top tips for tradies to improve their reputation in the eyes.

What do people look for when hiring tradies?

Two thirds of Australians actually don’t know what to look for when it comes to hiring a tradie, according to new research from business directory True Local. So, for many people (myself included), first impressions are key and that’s really what it can come down to. Things like punctuality and attire can have a big impact on people’s decision making. More people are also turning to the internet as a trusted source of information – so having strong reviews to show that your services have been tried, tested and approved by others, or even a business profile generally is going to give you credibility and a trusted edge over other businesses.

I also have a personal check list of things to look out for to make sure I’m hiring the right person for the job, which I would recommend tradies take note of:

  • Make sure your qualifications are readily available. People will feel more comfortable hiring you if the can see upfront that you’re fully certified.
  • Punctuality – When you turn up on time, it shows how reliable you are.
  • Quote accurately for your time and services. The chances are you aren’t the only quote they’ll get. If yours is reasonable and accurate customers will realise. If you undercharge, people will think they’re getting sub par work, if you overcharge people will feel they’re getting ripped off.
  • What’s their overall attitude? You could be master craftsmen but if you come off as surly or unfriendly then potential customers will think you’re going to be a headache to work with. In some cases you’ll be in their house for weeks and they’ll want someone they feel comfortable being around.

What are the most 3 common mistakes tradies make that can cost them business?

  • The first mistake tradies make with their business is underestimating the impact of their online presence. Recent research from rate and review site True Local shows that nearly 66% of Aussies check a business listing and read up to five reviews before making a decision. As more people go online for help, it’s important to break down the anonymity screen that sits between consumers and tradies.
  • Secondly, not displaying adequate photos online can be another pitfall. People want to get a sense of your work and who you are before they invite you into their home. This can be a really easy step to prove your skills and put you ahead of the competition.
  • Not returning phone calls or turning up on time is probably the third biggest problem. People understand that some jobs can take longer than expected and you get held up. A quick call to your next appointment to let them know you’ll be late will go a long way to show them you’re reliable and easy to communicate with.

How can tradies improve their reputation in the eyes of consumers?

It really comes down to how you interact with the customer and how reliable you appear. Your customer has already begun to decide whether you’ll be reliable as soon as they look at your business listing and read customer reviews. The more information you can provide up front, the more peace of mind your customer will have, as they know you have nothing to hide and are proud of your work – the more reliable they’ll see you to be.

This includes photographs of previous work, proof of your credentials and potentially even a video of your business on a site like True Local. It can make a huge difference and be the deciding factor for many consumers looking for a tradie they can trust.

Importantly, with people reading more reviews to help decide which tradie to hire, asking customers you have worked to leave an online review about their experience is a great way to share your abilities with future customers.

Why is it not good enough to only have a profile? 

The online space is becoming much more competitive – these days, every business has an online profile. However, even though there is a lot of information out there for consumers, True Local’s research has shown that 3 in 5 Australians still don’t know which questions to ask in order to separate a good tradie from a bad one. This shows that consumers are finding it difficult to sort through the information available online and find the answers they need, in order to make a final decision.

It’s not enough to only have an online profile. You need to make it easy for consumers to find what they’re looking for, and go the extra mile to build up your profile so that it stands out from the crowd.

At the very least, your listing should have professional blurb describing your business, and don’t underestimate the importance of this. It will likely be the first thing any potential customer sees on your page, so keep it concise, engaging and directly relevant. Highlight your special areas of expertise, and focus on just what it is that sets you apart from your competitors.

What’s a better way to make a good first impression and form trust with possible customers?

Online – Video is the clearest, quickest and simplest way to show your customers exactly what you’re capable of. It allows you to demonstrate your products and services e.g. talk about the areas you work in – any special skills you have, but also through video you can show your business values and brand personality, so that a prospective customer can get to know you and your staff. This is something that can make a huge difference.

Finally, I would say that high quality before and after photographs are a huge asset for any online profile. Customers want to see the kind of work you can do, particularly for big renovations or aesthetic jobs like tiling and painting. If you can provide proof of your past work, it shows you know what you’re doing and are proud of the standard of your work.

In person – Customers will notice if a tradie takes pride in their work. First impressions are a good gauge of this. If you’re a tradie who presents themselves well, people will see you as more likely to be more professional and reliable and will ultimately trust you to do a better job. If you’re turning up in a beaten up, dirty, old ute and don’t look as though you care too much about doing the job, people won’t want to hire you. I always want to make the best impression with my clients, and I expect the same from tradesmen who want my business.

Reliability is also very important for first impressions, and starts from the first phone call you make to a tradie. There’s nothing that annoys me more than a tradie saying that they’ll meet you at a certain time to do a quote and not coming, or showing up late. People value good customer service, and a lack of reliability can make or break a tradie’s chances of being recommended for jobs in the future. If a tradie is late or doesn’t return my calls, they’ve automatically made a terrible first impression in my books.

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