The Contractor’s Guide to Finding (and Winning) More Construction Bids
Cost estimating is the lifeblood of your business, and it’s of vital importance that it be done correctly. After all, only 31% of all projects came within 10% of their budgets over the past three years. But in addition to bidding jobs, you need to find more projects to place construction bids on in the first place. Where do you look to find new projects? How do you go about finding more work to keep your crews working productively through the year? In this article, we’ll cover several popular options in terms of places to find new projects to bid on so that you can keep your company profitable.
1. Build Your Network
Though you may think of networking as something that you do when your business is new, it’s important at any stage of your business’ lifecycle. Networking makes it easier for people to think of your business when they have a construction project in mind. This can happen through a number of different channels. Given the difficulties in regular socialization that happened due to the shutdown orders around COVID-19, many professionals have moved on to non-traditional forms of communication to continue networking.
Whether you meet up with a group of like-minded individuals every once in a while, have an online discussion group you regularly participate in, discuss industry topics with others at regional or national conferences or reach out to potential contacts on your business’ social media profiles, chatting up your business with other people helps you stay in the foreground of their minds. This allows you to get a solid feel for the different individuals you’re building a relationship with so that you can tailor your company’s marketing messages to their specific needs.
These events also give you the ability to present your company’s unique selling point, whether that is expertise with unusual materials, dedication to superior craftsmanship, creativity in meeting customer’s needs while remaining within budget, and similar aspects of your company’s selling points to numerous prospects at once without having to actively work on selling them in the process.
2. Stay in Touch with Associations
One great option to get the latest word on what’s happening around town and across your region is your local builder’s associations. AGC, ABC, and many more are a wealth of information when it comes to knowing about what kind of projects are coming down the pipe. But what makes them such wonderful resources to tap when you’re looking for more projects that are seeking construction bids?
For one, they hear the gossip and rumors from every angle of the industry, which allows them to stay on top of what’s going on in the area. For another, they’re also the place that many companies come to when they’re looking for construction companies to build their projects. As our world starts moving closer into the design-build format rather than the design-bid-build style of contracting, being among the companies that your association thinks of when a project is upcoming will become more and more important.
But how do you make sure your company is the one that is being considered when these situations arise? Take an active part in your local association, whether by serving on local boards, sponsoring local events, or just stopping in or calling on a regular basis to see how things are going. These types of activities will keep your business at the forefront of their minds the next time a new project is coming up to bid or allows them to mention it when they have you in front of them or on the phone, rather than having to wait until there’s an announcement made with regards to the project.
3. Work Clients for Referrals for Construction Bids
Your clients can be a goldmine of future business, but only if you handle the process correctly. Nobody likes to receive an endless stream of phone calls, text messages, or emails But how do you ask your clients for referrals without seeming pushy? How can you pursue these often lucrative prospects in a way that will win them over and create a wealth of opportunity for your business? Here are a few possible options to consider.
Offer a reward to both the client and the referral. What’s a new project worth to you? Can you knock 5% off of the project’s cost without losing money? Can you provide the referring client with a gift card to a local store or offer money off of a future project? If you’re able to offer something that makes it worth it to the prospect and the client that refers them, you’ll often find a warmer reception when you’re talking up the project with them.
At the end of a successful project, offer to host a housewarming or similar party for the customer, on the condition that a few people from your company be able to attend to chat with the attendees. During these conversations, you can find out exactly what the prospect likes and can talk up that portion of the project to see where their interests lay and whether they’re ready to start a project themselves or would be interested in looking at a project down the road, in which case you can offer to follow up with them. By socializing with the prospect in a casual environment, you’re more likely to get a warm welcome than a cold call from a complete stranger.
4. Create Networking Events for Architects and Planners
Where do projects come from before they’re bid? Architects and city planners. It makes sense, then, that if you have a good relationship with these people, you’re more likely to hear about upcoming projects that will need construction bids down the road. But how do you get to know the people who are at the forefront of new projects that you want to get your construction crews onto?
One option to think about is creating networking events for architects and planners in your area. This could be an evening having dinner at a restaurant to chat up the industry’s issues among those directly involved in it, an ongoing online discussion forum focusing specifically on the challenges of a virtual happy hour through Zoom, or a similar platform where some of your people can be involved in the overall conversation. This makes it possible for them to make the connections needed to help make your company the one that these professionals will turn to when they need construction bids for a project.
But beyond networking events, developing these relationships can take place at other times. By starting to form relationships with these professionals at networking events, you can develop these relationships long into the future, allowing you to expand your company’s influence and grow your reputation as a leader in your local and regional construction industry. This reputation in turn will grow your company further by making it the one that architects and planners turn to for both construction bids as well as design-build projects.
5. Check Out Bidding Websites and Databases
Another source of projects for construction bids that has grown significantly over the past couple of decades is the use of construction and bidding websites and databases. Originally available as physical mailings, the companies that offer these services have mostly moved online, giving you instant access to projects that are coming up in your area, including the relevant information about the design firm, owners, and, if applicable, general contractors involved in the project.
There is a wide range of these websites available, many of which will provide you with a range of options for sorting and qualifying the projects they have available on their platform. This provides you with good access to a range of commercial projects, but most residential projects will not show up on these websites, which limits their usefulness for residential construction firms. The exception to this is extremely large luxury housing projects, multi-family homes, and subdivision projects with large numbers of very similar structures.
These websites can also be somewhat limited because they will only list commercial projects of a specific size, possibly cutting out smaller commercial projects, such as smaller restaurants and shops. Depending on your company’s specific focus, this may make the cost of these websites, for the few leads they produce, an excessive expense with a poor return on investment.
6. Host a Special Promotion
One way to find more projects for construction bids is by hosting a drawing, such as offering a certain percentage or dollar figure off of a project, or a free project for the winner of the drawing. However, if you do go this route, be prepared to have to wade through a number of leads that will be poorly qualified as they are looking to get something for free. This can be very frustrating for your sales team, but you can expect to get some good leads out of the process as well.
In lieu of a drawing, offering a special promotion for a very limited period of time, such as at a local or regional trade show or expo, may produce much more promising results. This allows you to ensure that the contacts you receive are already considering a project very seriously, typically with the resources to pull such a project off. Leads such as these will present you with much better prospects, giving you many more leads to pursue for construction bids.
Either of these options can provide you with a wide range of prospective leads, but they will vary greatly in the quality they represent. Depending on your company’s overall focus, these type of promotions could also be worked towards commercial and industrial construction firms, by tailoring the events and message to a different audience. An industrial exposition, trade show or conference provides you with access to a completely different demographic.
7. Frequent Local Contractor and Architect Haunts
In some parts of the country, many contractors and architects will frequent specific businesses for breakfast before starting the day, for the lunch hours during a mid-day break, or later in the day for drinks or an evening meal. This is often a location that has been established by tradition, as generations of past contractors and construction professionals began meeting at the location decades ago.
If you can discover what this location is for your local contractors and design professionals, you may be able to network with people there to build these relationships. This can be as simple as showing up for a daily or weekly chat with the locals, letting your company’s purpose circulate through the community.
If you are able to find these locations, offering to host occasional events there may help your business gain ground quickly in the industry, especially if you are just getting established and have not yet had the opportunity to explore other options to grow your business. However, this investment may take a while to provide a solid return, which can be a difficult cost to bear for younger businesses that have not yet become established in the local construction culture.By taking these different options for finding more projects for construction bids, you can keep your company working effectively. But if you find those projects to bid, how will you get the bidding done? Estimating software can be problematic to learn and operate effectively, and at the same time, may miss issues that human estimators may be able to catch, while human estimators can be difficult to find when the labor market is hot and have a cost that may become difficult for your company to bear if the market quiets down. One great option to consider is 1build’s expert cost estimating service to help you save money while bidding more jobs, providing you with the perfect balance point for your company’s growth and profitability.