Contractor smiling down at phone reference

Contractor Business Tips: 6 Referral Sources To Get Your Phone Ringing

Wolseley PRO Pipeline Blog

Let’s be honest, most of us would prefer to go into work every day and just have clients call us to solve their problems. That way our technicians would be busy every day and money would flow steadily through the company, stress-free. Unfortunately, that's not the way it is and probably never will be. However, there is a way to close that gap: referral marketing. 

Referral marketing is a low-cost but often overlooked method for generating business for contractors. As the name implies, it simply a matter of getting other people to refer your services to their clients. These individuals usually have a certain degree of influence with their customers and often provide them with either a list of suppliers or make specific recommendations. The following is a list of six referral sources that you should get to know in your community so you can become their go-to supplier. This is not an exhaustive list, but simply a primer to get you to start thinking about the possibilities

1. Real Estate Agents

Most major cities have thousands of real estate agents. Even the smallest of towns usually have a dozen or so. What they all have in common is that they are dealing with any number of consumers who are either selling or buying a home on a daily basis. Each and everyone of these homes has plumbing and cooling and heating mechanicals that should be checked or repaired prior to or as a condition of sale.

Getting in front of these agents can be simply a matter of inviting them to lunch or buy them a coffee. (See my article on my A Coffee a Week Strategy). To really turbo-charge this activity, contact the business manager or lead broker of a real estate office to find out if they offer Lunch & Learns. Lunch & Learns are an opportunity to get in front of all the agents at that location at the same time, for nothing more than the cost of a few sandwiches.

What’s their motive? When you consider how fast most transaction happen, time is of the essence. They need people they can depend on to be there when they need them. Becoming visible within the real estate community can be a wonderful revenue generator, provided you can be responsive to their needs and are dependable.

Industrial Fans Drying Out Home To Restore Water Damage

2. Restoration Companies

These companies are usually called in by insurance companies after a flood, fire or natural disaster. How many of their projects require remedial or replacement work done on the plumbing or HVAC equipment? Even if there is no damage to the mechanicals, they should be inspected and/or cleaned once the renovations are completed to ensure that there’s no hidden problems.

Swimming Pool Pipe Repairs

3. Pool Companies

Pool heaters are included in the installation of new pools in many areas of the country in order to lengthen the swimming season. Who do they use to run the gas pipe and do the final hook up? Who do they refer when a customer calls and their heater isn’t working? Why can’t it be you?

4. Insurance Agents

Much like real estate agents, these individuals are in touch with an untold number of homeowners and commercial property owners every week. Certain policies require that the mechanicals are inspected regularly. Some insurance companies for condominium corporations require all gas furnaces in every unit to be inspected and cleaned every couple of years.

Since many townhouse complexes are also condo corporations, they want to take every precaution to avoid any problems that could impact the entire complex, such as sewer backups. With the increased incidents of flooding, installing backflow preventers may lead to a serious reduction in their insurance premiums. Having a conversation with these insurance agents just might open the door to these properties. When you think how many units there are in a townhouse complex, this could be a lucrative piece of business.

In addition, can these agents refer you to a client that has had a claim that required some kind of renovation but not a major restoration? Again, sitting down to a coffee or a lunch and learn and having an open dialogue may uncover untold opportunities.

Real Estate Or Insurance Agent Shaking Hands With Client

5. Property Managers

Property managers come in different sizes and shapes. Many are small one person operations that are responsible for many single-family dwellings or small apartment complexes on behalf of their owners. These individuals haven’t got time to be chasing after suppliers and prefer to deal with one specialist within each trade. They also want fair pricing and responsive service. With upwards of a couple of dozen units under their jurisdiction, getting to know these individuals can become a wonderful source of ongoing revenue.

Don’t forget, some of the larger ones oversee condominium complexes (see point 4).

Electrician Installing Pot Light In Residential Home Standing On Ladder

6. Other Trades

How about electricians and other specialty trades? How often are they on a call and overhear a customer comment about needing some form of help with their mechanicals? Supplying them with a handful of your business cards that they can hand out when necessary is a great opportunity. This can be a reciprocal agreement whereby you also have their cards. When you consider the value in having someone bird dogging for you, providing some form of finders’ fee for every lead they pass on is pretty inexpensive.

Next Steps

Implementing some of these suggestions is not difficult. When you consider how much time you spend driving between jobs or quotes, why not make it a habit of just stopping by these places of business and dropping off a few business cards and a brochure as a way of introducing you and your business to them. While you’re there, just ask who you would need to speak with then follow up with a phone call the next day to arrange a meeting or a coffee.

Will everyone give you business right away? Probably not, but you should keep in touch with them because you’ll never know when their current supplier will drop the ball.

As many of you know, being in business is not a passive undertaking. It requires active engagement on many levels, all the time. Start looking for opportunities to create referral sources because for those willing to step out of their comfort zone, the rewards await. The choice is yours, you can either let things happen or make things happen!

Greg Weatherdon is a small business expert and author of Get More LIFE Out of Your Business. He also produces The Small Business Minute Podcast, available on all major platforms including iTunes, Google Play and Spotify. Visit for more information.

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