0200: The Definitive Guide to Online Marketing for Contractors
Joseph Hughes was interviewed for the Contractors Success M.A.P. Podcast and was very generous with his time and provided some extremely valuable insights for how you can market your Contracting Company. The article below is a recap of some of the precious gems he shared on the podcast.
As a construction company owner or manager, you’ve undoubtedly faced some frustration with marketing your business effectively. Maybe you’ve invested in marketing and web services, but haven’t gotten the results that you expected or were promised. Or perhaps you are so overwhelmed with the amount of information out there, often conflicting, that you haven’t decided what you want to do yet.
Trust me, feel the pain. I spent over a decade in the construction industry prior to starting Contractor Dynamics. Word of mouth is great, personal referrals can be the best source of new business, but we all know that there is a huge opportunity to leverage the web to grow, or even sustain, our businesses. But you’re a contractor, not a marketing guru. You’re already wearing too many hats and working too many hours. How are you supposed to make sense of all the options available to you, know whom to trust, and develop a marketing plan that’s actually going to get you results? I’m going to walk through a very simple outline that will help you better understand the different types of online marketing available to you as a construction business owner. But first, a quick background…
Why Should I Listen To You?
After growing up in the construction industry, I founded Contractor Dynamics in 2013 to help builders, contractors, and related professionals grow their businesses strategically by leveraging the web. Our team has a passion for helping contractors navigate the tricky world of online marketing and use the web as a tool to transform their businesses. Contractor Dynamics understands that best-in-class construction companies lack the time, expertise, or interest to stay on top of trends in the fast-changing world of online marketing and market their business in ways that ensure long term growth. Because we have been working exclusively with contractors for years, we have developed powerful and proven solutions to deliver more leads and more customers to our clients. We work with clients worldwide who understand the importance of investing in their businesses to differentiate, generate more inquiries, and to win more quality business.
Contractor Dynamics stands out from other web and marketing solutions because:
- We work only with contractors.
- We deliver results and detailed reports monthly.
- We have no long-term contracts; instead, we believe in earning our clients’ business every month.
Although we offer a full range of marketing options, our core services include website design & development and organic online marketing (SEO).
Contractor Dynamics publishes weekly guides on the best practices for marketing a construction company, and we have been featured on Houzz, Yahoo Finance, Huffington Post, Small Business Trends, and Equipment World, among other construction industry publications. 3 Online Marketing Strategies for Contractors Explained
If you’re like most builders and contractors I know, you’re always looking for ways of generating more business – more projects, more customers, more sales, more growth.
We all know there is not shortage of options to help you market and sell better. There’s online marketing, offline marketing, in-person marketing and sales, automated marketing, and dozens of other avenues for you to pursue.
But, lacking reliable information about your options, you get overwhelmed and either don’t do anything or try a couple random things to see if anything sticks, right?
In most cases where contractors are trying to grow their businesses, there’s not much of a cohesive strategy. It’s more of a spray-and-pray scenario or the shotgun approach to marketing. And in most cases, marketing without a foundation of knowledge and a strategy just doesn’t work. Sure there are exceptions, but generally the companies who dedicate themselves and their resources to developing a strategy and sticking to it are the ones who are able to get the next level.
By the end of this guide, you should have a good idea of whether online marketing is appropriate for your business and whether it’s something you want to invest your time, energy, and money into.
To start, I want to provide some context to marketing and include some recommendations that will help you gain an understanding of not only marketing, but your business as a whole.
Lead Gen Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum
Any type of marketing or lead gen should be a part of your overall business plan and strategy. Too many construction companies try random marketing tactics and strategies in an attempt to quickly generate leads. But that seldom works. Lead gen works best when it’s one part of your strategy, not the entire strategy. More on that below.
You Can’t Completely Outsource the Growth of Your Business
Look, I get it. I know you’re busy running your business – managing projects, managing employees and crews, ordering materials, compiling bids, and dozens of other things. You wish you could hire someone to just grow your business while you focus on the day-to-day. But that’s not possible. Well it is if you hire a full-time employee who knows what they’re doing, or you hire an contractor marketing agency for $10,000 a month. But, even then, you’re going to need to be involved at least somewhat in marketing and growing your business, if it’s something that’s important to you.
Marketing Is an Investment
I don’t just say this because I run a construction marketing agency. It’s true in any area of business and life. If you want to be fit and healthy, you go to the gym. If you want to make dramatic changes in your business, you’re going to have to invest time, energy, and money, and more likely a blend of all three. If you‘re smart and you have time, you can do this yourself. Most contractors I know are pretty darn smart, but they lack the time or interest to do it themselves.
I like to use the analogy of a homeowner trying to sell her own home (For Sale By Owner). Sure, it’s possible, and if you do it well, you can save the 4-6% broker commission. But when you hire a broker to sell your home, you’re hiring them to market it well and ideally get a higher price for it than you would have gotten yourself. You hire them because that’s what they do for a living and, at the end of the day, your net gain will probably be higher selling with a broker than selling by owner.
Know Your Numbers
This is crucial if you are looking to grow your business. Knowing your numbers helps you make long term decisions, not short term decisions. Where is your business now? Where do you want it to be? How many projects per month or quarter do you do now? What is the target number? How much is each one of those projects worth to you? At what rate do you convert leads into clients? How many leads do you actually need? This is one of the first things we go over on our initial phone consultations with prospective clients and we recommend the exercise to anyone.
Attract, Convert, Deliver
These are the three pillars of any service based business. You need to ATTRACT qualified prospects to your business, you need to be able to CONVERT a percentage of those prospects into clients or customers, and have to DELIVER a quality service consistently.
Lead generation only covers the Attract part. You still need to have systems in place for Converting and Delivering. If you don’t have these systems sorted, all the leads in the world aren’t going to help you. You can’t dump leads into a business that isn’t set up to handle them properly.
This is also why quite a few contractors I speak with don’t really need help with lead gen. They need more help with Converting and Delivering on the leads they’re already getting. Again, lead gen doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s one piece of the pie.
Three Online Marketing Strategies for Contractors
Now that we’ve established those smart business tenets, let’s get into some nuts and bolts. These are not the only three avenues available to you – there are dozens more things you can do online and offline to generate new business. These are the three most popular online marketing strategies for construction companies and related professionals. We’re going to lay out what you need to do these things properly so you can make more educated decisions.
Social Media Marketing for Contractors
- Yes, it works. But not overnight. It takes time to build up a following and engage with your local market.
- It’s difficult to measure the Return on Investment (ROI) because social media marketing is not really a straight lead gen strategy. Social media marketing will bring your business, but not directly or immediately.
- You must be consistent with it, as with everything else.
- It’s much more than just posting your latest projects and blog posts. You need to engage with people and other businesses to build a following. There are tools like Hootsuite that allow you to schedule your posts, but at the end of the day, this does little to engage with your market, unless you already have a strong social media presence.
- Social media is increasingly important for SEO. In one of our recent podcast episodes, we talk about why this is the case. Basically, Google and other search engines are now assessing your overall web presence, not just your website.
- It’s very difficult to completely outsource this. As we wrote about recently in our Facebook Guide for Contractors, the best social media marketing is when it’s personal, real-time, and engaging. We usually recommend you do it in house, as there tends to be a disconnect when outsourcing it to someone outside your company.
- If you don’t have the capability to do it in house, you’re probably wasting your money if you’re paying some large national company $149/month to do it for you. Sure, they’ll come up with content (that they’re also using for hundreds of other contractors) and post daily to your feeds, but what is that really doing for you? If you need to outsource it, plan to spend $500-1,000 per month to get it done right.
Pay Per Click (PPC) / AdWords for Builders and Contractors
A widely popular one, mostly because the big national agencies pitch it like Kool-Aid to small business owners. But it’s seldom done right. Here’s why.
- PPC is an ongoing strategy, not a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing.
- A proper PPC campaign has dozens or hundreds of different ad variations and is being managed by someone or a company who is constantly testing new ads, discarding ones that don’t work, and tweaking the dials to improve results on a monthly basis.
- Most contractors who invest in PPC drive traffic to bad websites. Ideally, you should have targeted landing pages to drive your paid traffic to. Your website must be set up in a way to convert the site visitors into actual leads for your business. Driving traffic to a bad website is a waste of money.
- Unless you have no competition, spending $10/day isn’t going to work. Because you’re essentially bidding on digital real estate, you need to spend enough so that your ads get placed in prominent positions (on top, not on the right side). To do so, you ideally want to start in the $1,000-2,000 range for monthly ad spend. On top of that, you should be paying someone who knows what they’re doing to manage your campaign. Typical fees are 10% of monthly ad spend, with a minimum of $750/month for a good agency.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Construction Companies
Yes, I know – you’ve been burned in the past. Maybe even more than once. That leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you read those three letters – SEO. I even try to avoid using that term because it immediately raises peoples’ defenses. Here’s the scoop – it does work, but it’s not for everyone. Doing it right takes a LOT of work and is expensive. And again, I’m not just saying this because my team and I make a living from it. Do your homework. Ask any reputable SEO agency that is willing to show you current and past client results and they’ll tell you – SEO is a grind.
- 90% of SEO is done horribly wrong. But there are many unscrupulous SEO companies out there making money by ripping people off because it’s an easy sell – get your website to the top of Google and your phone will ring off the hook. But that’s far from the truth. Plus, it’s not easy getting your website to the top of search engine results.
- Most contractors who are paying for SEO don’t have a website that’s set up properly. Your actual website and the content on your website are the drivers for all of your SEO efforts. There are certain things that need to be in place on your site in order for you to see any sort of success with it. We do SEO audits for contractors every day and we use a 24-point checklist to go through their site. In rare cases do we see a site that is set up well for SEO.
- Websites aren’t set up properly because most contractors are only paying a few hundred bucks a month. And that’s just simply not enough to get results.
- As is the case with PPC, you need to have your site in order before you attempt to drive traffic to it.
- SEO includes lots of on-site work and a lot of content. Content is the driver for your optimization efforts. If your current SEO agency isn’t adding quality content to your site on a monthly basis, you’re spinning your wheels.
- To see lasting results from SEO, you’re going to need to spend a minimum of $1,000 – $1,500 per month. Yes, there are thousands of companies out there charging much less, and some of them may even work well. But I’d be skeptical of most of them.
- SEO is not for every business. Again, the numbers must work out for you. If you’re an electrician with a small crew and your average project is $300, you’re probably not going to see an ROI from spending $1,500/month on SEO or PPC. If you’re a remodeling contractor, however, and your average project is $25,000, then it becomes more legible how you can see a 5-10X ROI on your monthly investment. We actually decline as many contractors as we propose service to, simply because most contractors either aren’t ready for SEO or their business doesn’t have a high likelihood of seeing a return on their dollars invested.
Three Construction Marketing Strategies – Wrapping It Up
While skeptics may think I wrote this article to try to get you to spend more on marketing, my only goal is to educate you about the options available to you when it comes to generating new business. I’m being sincere when I say that it frustrates me to no end when I talk with contractors who spend their hard-earned time and money on marketing tactics and agencies that just don’t know what they’re doing. I’m not saying Contractor Dynamics has all the answers – because we don’t. As of the writing of this article, we only specialize in two things – Custom Websites and SEO – because we want to do what we do really well, rather than try to do many things halfway good.
Online marketing is not as easy as it once was. Even as recently as three years ago, it was relatively easy to game the system – put up a simple website with a phone number on it, build a bunch of low-quality links to it, and you’re golden. Google has been tightening their screws and raising the bar every quarter for the past few years – that’s what you do with $40 Billion in cash. Thus, getting exposure online takes more time and effort than ever. And that’s one reason it’s not for everyone. There are dozens of ways to generate new business. If social media, PPC, and SEO aren’t for you, perhaps there are other avenues that can help you get to the next level. But if you do want to make an honest effort at generating new business online, my top two recommendations are: have a strategy and have a budget (of time, money, and commitment). Once you have those two foundational pieces in place, the sky’s the limit. How Can We Help? If you’re looking for help with this stuff – whether this makes sense to you and you think you’re ready to get started, or if I just confused the heck out of you – HERE are the ways we may be able to help you.
Thank You, Joseph Hughes.
It was a pleasure having you on The Contractors Success M.A.P. Podcast.
Perhaps we can convince you to join us again in the future for another one.
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