To find out whether there is enough demand for your electrical contracting business in your area, think about the number and type of customers likely to use your services. Then consider the level of competition you will face.
Demand for domestic work will depend on the number of houses in your area. It will also be influenced by the type of housing. Clearly the greater the number of houses nearby, the more domestic work you are likely to get. But are the houses large or small, old or new? Are they well kept or run down? Owner occupied or rented out?
Older houses may require a complete re-wire. Newer ones might need little or no work for years unless they are extended or re-modelled. All types may require the occasional installation of things like electric showers, kitchen extractor fans, security lights, alarms or additional power points. Larger houses might give rise to outdoor work such as installing garden lighting, pond pumps, electric gates or garage power points.
Landlords will need electrical safety checks from time to time on the houses they rent out to make sure that they meet the necessary safety standards.
Shops, pubs, hotels, nursing homes, factories and offices will all require the services of an electrician at some point. Identify which are most likely to use your services - a local shop, for example, might be more likely to call in a small electrical firm than a major supermarket. New businesses might need a complete electrical refit, while existing ones could be targeted for installation of CCTV systems, security lighting, burglar alarms or door entry systems. Office based businesses installing or upgrading computer systems often need network cabling installed. Many businesses will also require PAT (portable appliance testing) services from time to time.
Construction firms often sub-contract work out to electricians. You could try approaching construction firms to see whether they would make use of your services. Shop fitters and small local building firms are a potential source of work too. House extensions, loft conversions and shop refurbishment are all likely to require the installation of electrical wiring and fixtures.
Schools, universities, hospitals, offices and public facilities (sports centres, libraries and so on) will all require maintenance of their electrical systems. Try contacting them, and your local authority to let them know what services you are able to offer. They should be able to give you details about tendering for contract work and any special requirements (such as qualifications and quality standard certification) that you might need in order to be considered.
Establishing the level of competition
Once you have thought about your potential customers, you need to consider the level of competition in your area
Check how many other electricians are based nearby. A look through the relevant classifications on Yell.com and other similar online directories will give you an idea of how many electricians there are in your area. You could also look at local print directories. Do they offer similar services to those you intend to offer? It may be that you will only be competing directly against some of these businesses because you will be targeting a different segment of the market.
Try to find out more about your competitors. Sometimes you can get a good idea of this from their advertisements and websites. Try to establish:
- what services they offer
- what prices they charge
- whether they advertise any special features, for example free estimates, no call-out fee, guaranteed work and so on
- whether they offer a 24 hour service
- whether they belong to any trade association - for example the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA)
- whether they belong to an approved 'competent person scheme' for signing off their own work under building regulations (where these apply)
- what sort of impression their advertisement gives (for example, does the firm come across as small and friendly, large and efficient, good value, upmarket)
Use the Record sheets to note down the results of your market research.