With so much information and choice, it’s harder than ever for tradespeople and businesses to stand out. Installers therefore need to learn to sell themselves better
Funny old world, isn’t it? We now have so much access to information and news, regardless of time or location, that it sometimes feels that we are drowning in data. It is also becoming increasingly difficult to understand the quality of the information. Now that I have access to 87 TV channels, do I have access to many more good TV programmes? Or are they simply spread more thinly? Or, as we now know, are there just endless repeats of programmes to the point of despair?
One thing is clear, and that is that our sources of information have been changed dramatically by the internet, or the “information superhighway” as it was called in the early days. Lots of things have come together to make this happen, including technological developments, growing awareness and profound cultural change.
Let me share some statistics with you. Firstly, 93 per cent of adults in the UK personally own or use a mobile phone, 61 per cent have a smartphone and 57 per cent use their mobile handset to access the internet. In addition, 30 per cent of UK adults now use tablets, while tablet and smartphone users worldwide spend nearly £10 billion on apps alone. In 2014, 74 per cent of adults in the UK bought goods or services online, up from 53 per cent in 2008. This, of course, means that those people must have searched for those services and goods online.
You don’t have to be a social scientist to understand this. Just look around you in any café, train carriage or street and you will see many people gazing at screens, large and small. It has become a reflex action to reach for your phone to check for updates or to find a key bit of information. This has also had a really serious effect on more traditional information sources such as telephone directories, libraries and newspapers. As a householder, if I required a tradesman to carry out some work in days past, then I would look in the phone directory or the advertisements in my local paper. Nowadays, like everyone else, I simply carry out an internet search.
But even that is not good enough, because now we also seek some indication of quality for the goods or services in question, hence the emergence of customer reviews. Many local authorities run their own “trusted trading schemes”, with lists of plumbers, roofers, electricians and others who have all been strictly vetted by Trading Standards. Equally, there are privately run schemes operated by a variety of different organisations. The highest value is still put on recommendations by our family, friends and neighbours. Good workmanship results in happy customers, lower levels of repeat failures and positive reputational impact for companies.
But the long and short of it is that getting your name in front of potential customers is becoming increasingly more complicated. We are also seeing awareness of products becoming prompted by increasing levels of consumer marketing, so demands from customers are changing. As businesses, we have to be ready and able to serve our customers, to meet or exceed their demands and to do so profitably. Remarkably, selling is the one skill in which the fewest of us are trained.
In reaction to this, we are aiming to help our customers to address some of these issues and, at the same time, open up some new business opportunities. We will be launching two new initiatives in the spring which will bring together a number of different elements designed to provide even the smallest businesses with access to training, resources and expertise, in order to help them to adapt their approach to a changing market and increased consumer expectations. Watch this space!
One of the issues currently testing the great and good of the industry is known as the ‘performance gap’.
As the need for reducing our water consumption grows, installers have an important role to play in educating customers
The use of acronyms is rife in the modern world, and the plumbing and heating sector is no exception to this trend. The problem comes when we are talking to people outside the sector, such as our customers