April is Contracting and Home Services month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! This means that in addition to our usual posts with tips on connecting with customers, marketing strategy, and growing your business, we’ll be sharing insights specifically for local contracting and home services professionals. If that includes you, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get down to it. If not, don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing our usual resources that can help you effectively market your local business. And keep your eyes peeled, your industry might be the one we feature next month!
Even with an estimated excess of $1072 billion projected to be spent on new construction in the US this year, it can be a struggle for independent contractors to maintain a pipeline of new clients. Unfortunately, many contractors only worry about promoting or marketing their business when they have a lull or are in between projects. A busy schedule is no excuse! Use these twenty suggestions to formulate a comprehensive marketing strategy that will continue to drive new customers to your business.
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- Use yard signs to advertise on your customers’ lawns while you’re working on site. This shouldn’t be an issue for most customers, but as a courtesy be sure to check prior to putting it up, and respect their wishes if they say no. Make sure you place the sign somewhere prominent where passersby can easily see it and be able to take down the number or website.
- Let your trucks and equipment to advertise for you. Be sure to clearly display your business’s contact information on both the sides and back of the car for maximum exposure. Or better yet, order custom magnets that have subtle layout variations so they’ll continue to catch the attention of people around town without growing stale or fading into the background. When you’re not onsite or using a truck, try parking it in high-trafficked areas to give your business more exposure.
- Maximize your daylight hours on site and save the business/marketing and administrative work for after hours. This will optimize your efficiency and balance the demands of on-site work and marketing efforts.
- Get involved in community events and organizations. Network with influential community leaders or join town clubs (Rotary Club, Knights of Columbus, Elks Club, Kiwanis, etc.) and attend Chamber of Commerce meetings as well. The Chamber of Commerce will also sometimes be asked to provide recommendations to townspeople, so make sure they get to know your business. You can even go one step further in number five and…
- Sponsor a little league team or community event to get good exposure for your business, while creating a positive association with some good will and an investment in your hometown. Local businesses are the pillars of any community, sponsorships are a good reminder of the important role they play.
- Use business cards to your advantage. Put one in every estimate, quote, invoice, or bill so that your customers can easily keep your contact info on file for the future, or share with a friend looking for a similar quality of service. You’ve worked hard to deliver on a beautiful remodeling, your customers friends are bound to notice. Make it easy for them to share your information. Give them a few extras to distribute to friends. And invest in ordering them for all employees to turn them into ambassadors for your company and cast a wider net in your area.
- Make sure you’re conveniently reachable. Your outgoing voicemail message should state your website and office hours so they can continue their research instead of skipping ahead and trying the next business on their list. If you’re really worried about missing a potential customer’s calls, consider forwarding your business calls to a work or personal cell phone after hours. Or, use a service that tracks incoming calls to your business and provides contact information so that you can follow up with them as soon as possible.
- Stay top of mind with previous customers, sending occasional emails to check in. Perhaps it’s been years since you last worked with them, but they may have a new project they can use your help on. Make the decision easier for them by re-engaging periodically so that you’ll be in front of them and on their mind when the timing is right. This can be a birthday email, a newsletter or a sporadic check in, but don’t forget to ask for a referral, or remind them that you appreciate them in case they know someone planning a remodel.
- Partner with other home services professionals to create a referral network.
You know better than anyone that most of these projects require more than one skill set. Partner with local plumbers, electricians, roofers, floorers, etc. to cross-market each other’s businesses. Of course you should do your due diligence to ensure they maintain a high quality of work worthy of your word and reputation. These help not only other business owners like yourself, but also save your customer time researching and reading reviews in order to find the right person for the job. You might want to consider distributing flyers or one pagers to everyone in your referral network so that when they begin work with a new client they can provide them with a folder of all recommended tangential services. Offering an exclusive discount or promotion for each other’s clients may make the decision even more compelling for them.
- Utilize intelligent marketing automation technology to keep current customers engaged, and drive new business. Signpost does this by automatically by sending out emails and SMS messages (text messages) to your customers that are likely to be brand advocates for you asking them to give you feedback, testimonials, 5-star reviews and referrals. It also allows you to send out new customer and loyalty offers.
- Know your audience and keep updated on cutting edge trends and innovations. As you already know, different things matter to different clients. A new, environmentally-friendly practice or material may be just the differentiating factor that a customer is looking for. So, taking the time to learn and adopt these cutting edge methods could help you win more business.
- Frequently evaluate and refresh your website. Make sure to update customer testimonials or quotes to keep them current. Outdated testimonials or reviews make customers question if the quality of work has declined in the time since these were obtained. You can cycle through a few different variations, and make sure that they are under a year old. Make sure that your logo and website design looks modern and not outdated or clunky. Take notice of other sites you think have a great design and layout in order to pinpoint the aspects you like and draw inspiration from them for your site. Make sure it’s optimized for mobile, meaning that customers visiting your site on a mobile device will be greeted with fast load times and pages that scale responsively to the smaller screen.
- Set aside the appropriate resources, meaning both money AND time. It can be challenging to allocate some of your hard-fought budget to marketing and advertising initiatives, but even more difficult to find the time to dedicate to customer acquisition strategy and tasks. The Small Business Administration recommends spending 7-8% of your revenue on marketing, and most business owners also devote an average of 20 hours a week to marketing tasks. Without putting in the time, you’re unlikely to see tangible returns. If you’re short on time, consider investing in a marketing automation technology that will do the outreach and connect with customers for you.
- Focus on building client relationships. Make sure that you or your crew is always punctual, and that you or another representative of the company is always responsive to their various communications. Respond to emails, calls, and texts as soon as possible. We all know clients that take advantage of this policy, but do your best to remain patient and ease their concerns or answer their questions. Making customer service a priority will delight customers in an entirely different way than delivering quality work. Both can be equally important factors when it comes time to recommend your services to a friend or family member.
- Establish yourself as a thought leader or expert. Start a blog or a newsletter of practical advice for small home improvement projects, or basic remodeling. Draw on your expertise and experience to answer common questions and warn against various dangers, issues or pitfalls to avoid. Your audience will be grateful for your assistance, and will keep your business at the top of their list the next time they have a project that requires a professional. You can even shoot quick tutorial videos on a smartphone and upload the files to YouTube or your blog. If possible, connect with local newspapers and magazines and contribute a byline or guest author an article with some good advice on the topic. It’s ok to reference your background or experience to speak to your qualifications, but avoid a hard sell here, which readers (and even more likely the periodical’s editors) will find off-putting.
- Focus SEO efforts on the hyperlocal. SEO is often an uphill battle, so if you want to maximize your chances of getting a favorable ranking in order to get found, don’t waste your time targeting broad keywords. These will force you to compete with large, nationwide corporations. Instead, focus on terms that differentiate your business and frame it in the context of your community. This is especially helpful for discovery in searches with local intent (think “Contractors near me” or “Contractors in Lakeview”). A good example would be “roofers with solar options in Chelsea” so your business has a better shot of being included in Google’s “three-pack” of results.
- Run a clean worksite. Nothing shows off your professionalism like a tidy worksite. It emphasizes your commitment to safety of both the property owner and your crew, and reinforces the organization of your operation. This allows everyone driving past to see what they can expect if they hire you, and your prominently displayed yard sign provides your contact information to get the ball rolling.
- Make sure that your business listings and info is consistent across as many various online directories as possible. This helps to boost your online presence, and page ranks for search engines. Varying information can be confusing for customers doing preliminary research. Here is a great list of free directories to get you started.
- Keep your social profiles up to date and post consistently. If maintaining numerous different profiles is too daunting, just focus on one or two. Having a couple of active profiles is much better than a slew of neglected pages. Facebook and Google My Business are great places to start with active communities. Share before and after photos of current and past projects, or blueprints for future plans.
- Set up a referral program for past customers. Offer a special discount or rate for new customers that were referred and be sure to send a small, “thank you” gift as a token of your appreciation to your past customer. Promote this when you send out check-in emails to your customer base.