Business Growth

Getting Paid - Chapter 3: Attracting the 'Right' Customers

Not every trade business is built to go the distance.

It’s a grim reality that can’t be ignored if you want yours to stand apart from the rest. Thousands of trade professionals call it quits on owning and operating a business every year. Some cite a lack of work as the culprit, some say it’s a failure to compete in a tight market, and others say it’s the inability to break even on jobs.


But one issue underpins them all in some way or another, profitability.

This is the third in a series of six articles, written for the trade professional who wants to run a business that creates profit and continues to thrive where others fail. You’ll learn everything you need to know about getting paid, from measuring your success and creating new opportunities to bringing in the ‘right’ customers and fine-tuning your cash flow.

Large-scale owners and operators, stick around! Our getting paid series isn’t just for small trade businesses and their owners. Our guide on getting paid is a powerful resource for all trade professionals, whether you’re going it alone or running a large team of technicians and office staff.

Each chapter will cover a different part of the ‘getting paid’ process, packed full of tips, advice and processes you can implement today.

Let’s continue the conversation around getting paid by discussing attracting the ‘right’ customers.

When you break it down, a customer is just a stranger who wants your skillset and is willing to pay for it. Viewed like this, realistically, every customer is ‘right’ for your business. But as we covered in the previous chapter, this isn’t always the case.

If you’ve worked your trade for a while, you’ll no doubt know if a customer is ‘right’ by interacting with them. They’re the ones who are agreeable during quoting, don’t push their luck asking for discounts, and always offer you a cuppa when you arrive at their home or business.

But for many trade businesses, this kind of customer sounds like a pipe dream, and consistently getting clients that even come close to this level of quality can sometimes feel almost impossible. This chapter aims to equip you with the strategies and ethos necessary to seek out ideal customers, amaze them with quality work, and keep them returning for years to come.


But we can't begin without a change in mindset.

At the start of Chapter Two, we called the interaction between your business and a client an exchange. Now that we’re discussing your ideal customer, seeing the connection as a partnership is more fitting.

Think of your ideal client as a business partner; they control the finances, and you run the operations.

The first thing you’d do when taking on a partner is ensure they can easily contact you to discuss work. According to a 2018 survey, nearly half of Australians agree that connecting with tradespeople online can be significantly quicker than traditional channels. So maybe it’s time to move away from physical listings and print advertising to focus more on digital avenues. 

Even digitally connected trade businesses likely have many ways of improving their online presence. Update your Google My Business listing and make sure all the information is correct, then add a few recent pictures of your business premises, team, or fleet to catch the eye of searchers.

Don’t make the internet your sole focus for bringing in quality customers, though, as it robs you of the opportunity to interface with clients in a more personal way. Many say that the days of phone calls are over, but that just means fewer people are exploiting the opportunities that picking up the phone still offers. 

Why not try providing an over-the-phone price guide for your services? Customers call up, give you a rough approximation of the work, and you give an equally rough ballpark figure. With one quick interaction, you’ve just built positive sentiment with a potential customer, screened them to see if they’re ideal and, best of all, it might lead to some profitable work down the track.


When you’re out in the field providing a quote, you can always employ a bit of psychology to screen your customers further and determine whether they will be the kind of client you want to do business with. Broadly speaking, you’ll run into either price or quality-oriented customers. We’ve covered the former already in Chapter 2; a customer that’s obsessed with nothing more than getting the best possible price regardless of your bottom line. On the other hand, quality-oriented customers are far more likely to be the ‘right’ kind of client, which will show up the second you start chatting with them. 

Start by asking them about the finished project and then create a conversation around the quality of materials and how they contribute to the calibre and longevity of the work. Great customers understand, as you do, that high-quality work pays for itself in ways that cheap-as-chips work never can. If a prospective client is interested in knowing more about top-quality work, it’s a good indicator that you’ve got a fantastic potential customer on the line. 

Many trade business owners shy away from this kind of customer interaction because they worry that customers hate tradespeople who try to get them to spend more money. We’ll bust this myth in Chapter 5 when we take an in-depth look at upselling and cross-selling, but for now, reject this thought.

Good customers want good work, and a great customer understands that this means paying what’s asked of them. Remember, this is a partnership, which means each party works together to achieve a common goal.

The ‘right’ customer should help you deliver work you’d be proud to feature on your website or social media accounts. If they share this vision, they’re the perfect fit for your business and will help you in your mission to get paid more.

And there’s more demand for this kind of service than ever before.

Turn on the television, and you’ll quickly start drowning in a sea of real estate and renovation shows. Customers across Australia watch these types of shows all the time and are often inspired by the lavish lifestyle laid out before them. If their heart is set on that same level of quality and luxury in their home or business, and you can provide it, then why would price ever factor into their decision-making?

But now you’ve landed them as a customer and given them a great experience, how do you keep them coming back?

Whether it’s a reliable after-hours locksmith (we’ve all been there) or a preferred builder for renovations, customers like to settle on reliable tradespeople they’ve had good experiences with. You’ve probably got a couple of them yourself, those lifelong clients who keep calling you back because they know and trust your professional name. You can stake your livelihood on dedicated repeat customers, and growing that trust with your wider customer base doesn’t take much.

Start by fine-tuning what keeps customers returning to your business and work your way up from there. If you sat down and quickly looked at your operations, you’d no doubt discover dozens of small initiatives you can execute to turn new customers into recurring ones.


Here are just a few ideas to help you get started.


Say you charge a diagnostic or quoting fee. Start waiving it for repeat customers and watch as they flock back to your business time and time again for that little bit of extra value. You could also look at turning your job documentation into a retention source. Some clients struggle to recall what trade work they’ve previously had performed on their home or business. Start offering them all the photos you took during the job for later reference, and you’ll quickly build the kind of trust that gets you another call down the track.

Post-sales service is another often overlooked customer retention component in the trades sector. Many trade professionals see the handover of a finished job as their final point of contact with a customer. But it doesn’t have to be by any means. Start thinking about how you can re-engage with previous customers and get them invested in more work, and you could start creating more top-quality jobs than you know what to do with. 

The execution of this strategy is simple - complete the job, give the customer a few weeks to enjoy it, and then make contact via phone or email. 

Ask them how they’re going and whether they’re happy with the completed work. Or, in the case of maintenance and repair, ask if everything is going ok. You should not fear backlash or negative interactions if you’ve previously highlighted them as the’ right’ customer and your work is solid. Previous customers will love that you’ve gone the extra mile to check in on them, and this opens the door to ask them if they have anything else that needs doing in future.

After all, your goal is to foster long-term relationships with repeat customers. Why would you wait for them to contact you again when you can be the one who takes the first step on their behalf?


The better you get at screening and profiling customers, the easier it will be to make proactive leaps of logic like this, and the payoff is immense. We call this type of observation ‘Customer Patterning’, and it allows you to take a closer look at customers you’ve dealt with in the past and use what you learn to predict what they’ll want in future.

Say you’ve recently completed a deck for a client, and they were over the moon with your work. Three weeks later, you’ve decided to pick up the phone and check in. You know from careful observation that clients you’ve completed decks for in the past have often contacted you again to have you build a covered area over the deck to turn it into a year-round space. Instead of leaving it up to your customer to arrive at this conclusion themselves, why not mention it? Don’t be pushy. Just offer the advice that your clients in the past have gotten a lot more out of the space with the covered area, then leave it with them. If they come back and are keen on the project, you’ve just created work for yourself with a simple phone call and a bit of a chat, plus you already know they’re a great client to work with!


You can run a similar strategy if you work in maintenance and repair instead of new infrastructure as well. Say you’ve just finished fixing a plumbing problem for a great client and noticed some other issues while you were solving the initial problem. You know clients like the one you’re dealing with wouldn’t want to leave issues like these to the point where they become problems, so you note these issues for later. Now when you do your complimentary check-in a few weeks later, take the time to mention the issues you found while completing the job. If you play your cards right, they’ll greatly appreciate your care for them as a customer, and you might score a job fixing those problems for the low price of five minutes on the phone and a bit of extra diligence.

As with most other things to do with running a successful trade business, the more time and diligence you give to customers and their patterns, the more it positively affects your operations.

Being an expert in your trade is one thing, but being an expert in what customers want from your trade is something else entirely. In a competitive work market where everyone is at least a competent tradesperson, the one who takes that and applies it to what their customers really want is the one who stands apart from the rest.

It all sounds like a lot to take in, but at the end of the day, it all begins by bridging the gap between you and your best customers. Ask them questions and learn what they want from you and why they chose you specifically to get the job done right.

Master what we’ve laid out in this chapter, and you won’t need to consider attracting the right customers. 




Because they’ll be falling over each other to get through the door and do business with you.


But for now, congratulations are in order! You’ve made it halfway through our Getting Paid series! In Chapter 4, we’ll take everything we’ve learned so far and begin the all-important process of refining how your business deals with customers directly (yes, we only scratched the surface in this chapter). Until then, good luck on all your trade business profit endeavours!

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