Marketing is an increasingly diverse but important part of maintaining and growing a construction firm. As neighbors talk less and people turn to the internet for information, it’s no longer enough to rely on word of mouth. Our marketing guide takes you through the foundations of good marketing and gives tips on making the most of your advertising – free and paid for – whether in person, in print or electronically.
Your Marketing Budget
Knowing how much you can spend on marketing helps determine what you do. Professionals suggest spending 1 to 10 percent of your revenue on promotion, which includes advertising, lead generation and follow-ups. This can depend on your specialty and geographic area, however, so check out what your competition is doing to give you an idea of what you should budget for.
Where you invest the money depends on where you get the best return on investment. Some things are industry standard, like signage on your vehicles and construction sites, mailers, a Yellow Pages ad, and a website. Other things, like Facebook ads and community projects, will have greater impact for some communities and specialties. It can also depend on your own preferences. Your best plan of action is to try several things while making sure you can track the campaigns that lead to people clicking on your website, downloading information or calling you.
Promote to Past Customers
No matter what your budget, it pays to put some money and effort into promoting to past customers. In general, it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to get repeat business, although in the construction world, that ratio might be smaller.
Nonetheless, it’s not a difficult thing to do. First, call after the job is done to get feedback and make sure the customer is satisfied. Next, plan mailings or emails) for the future to ask if they need more work done or to suggest additional projects. For example, if you build homes, a year after closing, contact those who ordered unfinished basements with a discount on basement finishing. Or you could send all your previous customers a promotion for kitchen refinishing.
Good times for these mailers are anniversaries of the job completion or a month or two before an anticipated slow period for you, such as when the weather changes or you’ve completed a big project. This way, you can keep your people employed and your revenue coming in.
Promoting to the Neighbors
“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a cliche for a reason. Sometimes, seeing a neighbor having their home improved motivates people to fix up their own homes – especially if they can see the good work being done next door. Whenever you have a job, get a few of your most people-friendly employees to walk the neighborhood to introduce your company. You can also make door hangers to hand out and leave for those not home. Finally, offering a quick estimate can spur someone on the fence into action.
Even in our increasingly online society, word of mouth is a strong marketing tool for construction firms. People naturally trust those they know more than a faceless internet ad. Plus, people who know you are more likely to recommend you to a friend, even if they haven’t hired you themselves. Joining groups like your local chamber of commerce or other professional organizations is a good start. Service groups, such as Lions Club and Habitat for Humanity, can be strong bonds to form. You might also consider sponsoring a community activity or volunteering to help with a project. If your specialty is infrastructure, participation in the community is a good way to make contacts in local government.
You are not the only person who networks. Your employees, even your laborers on the site, attend events, go to church and meet people. Equip them with business cards they can hand out in case someone asks them about their company.
Promotion in Print
The Yellow Pages is still a go-to for many people looking for construction or handyman services. Not only should you have your number, but you should check to be sure it’s up to date each year. If your competition has ads in the book, you can be reasonably sure they are getting calls.
Signage on your vehicles is like having a personal fleet of traveling billboards. When you can, park your vehicles on the street for maximum visibility, and be sure the phone number is on the tailgate or back of the vehicle so people stopped behind you can see it.
If you have more than one specialty, a great trick is to invest in multiple magnetic signs that you can switch out week to week. This prevents you from cramming everything into one sign and keeps your advertising fresh.
Finally, direct mailings have proven effective for generating new customers as well as bringing back previous ones. Be sure your ad has a clear purpose, follows your brand, and includes an incentive and call to action.
Research has shown that as many as 80 percent of consumers do online research when looking for a product or service. You cannot ignore online marketing, especially if your company does work outside its local area. There are four main aspects of online promotion: your website, social media, directories and paid ads.
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Website: This is the foundation of your online campaign. Everything else you do online should point to your website, which must be optimized for turning visitors into leads. Be sure you have a clear statement of what your construction firm does, photos and testimonials of past work, and your awards and accreditations. Each page needs contact information as well. For more details, see our guide to successful business websites on our sister site, Business News Daily.
Not everyone coming to your website will be ready to hire you. Follow-ups can help someone wavering make a decision, so you should get their contact information. The best way to do this is by offering them free, useful information in exchange for their email address. In addition to a downloadable company brochure, consider offering a guide to choosing a contractor, a checklist for preparing a property for work, a list of top bathroom trends – anything that is useful for someone looking to hire a service in your specialty. You can also ask if they’d like a personal call to discuss their project in order to get their phone number.
For your website to show up in Google searches, you need to have good search engine optimization. The most important thing is to make your website informative and useful. Next, you want to be sure it contains the primary words someone would use when looking for your kind of business. These are called keywords and include things like your specialty and your location, like in these examples:
- Best homebuilders in Layton, UT
- Kitchen remodeling, New York
- Who finishes basements in Waltham, MA?
Google AdWords has a keyword planner that helps you find other highly searched terms. Go to AdWords and put some terms into the keyword planner. It will tell you how popular the terms are and suggest related search items. These are also words you want to include in any paid advertising you do online.
Social media: Eight of 10 small businesses use social media, and 60 percent of those say they get new customers from social media sites. Take some time to figure out where the kind of customers you cater to hang out. Facebook is still the default, but if your specialty is interior design, something more image-based like Pinterest could be the place to promote yourself. LinkedIn, meanwhile, is more professional and a good place for contacts in the government or corporate circles.
Social media is not about shoving out advertising and hoping for the best. You need to treat it like a large club. Network, share other people’s interesting posts, bring in a few of your own that do not promote. Establish yourself as an expert while being personal. However, be sure to post photos and video of your projects – in progress and once complete.
A good rule of thumb is to limit self-promotion to 25 percent of your posts. The rest are about building trust. When you do promote, include a clear call to action, such as clicking on your website, where you can get the visitor’s information, or contacting you directly for an estimate.
Directories: People often look at directories for specific services. Online, these are compiled lists of services from across the country or around the world that people search for leads. In addition to well-known directories like Yelp, there are accreditation services like the National Association of Home Builders and the Better Business Bureau. Some counties and states have local endorsement companies – Gephardt in Utah, for example.
Here are four popular sites for construction and handyman services:
Paid advertising: Most search engines and social media platforms offer paid advertising. This works in two ways – pay-per-view or pay-per-click. Pay-per-view means you pay each time your ad shows up on someone’s screen. Pay-per-click charges you only if the person actually clicks on your ad. Just like any advertising, it should have a clear incentive and call to action, and support your brand.
Also, have a focused idea of who you want to advertise to. The more precise you can be in terms of your customers’ economics, location, age and interests, the more likely the ads will appear to people who are truly interested in your services. Most of the companies that offer advertising have instructions not only on how to place an ad, but also on how to make the most effective ad for your business.
Final Notes About Promoting
Branding: Whether online, in print or in person, your firm needs to have a consistent brand. You can find plenty of useful articles about developing your brand, but the key is to let people know at a glance what you do and why you stand out from the competition. Brands can also reflect personality – is your company business professional or family friendly?
Once you determine your brand, make or have made a logo that reflects it. There are plenty of crowdsourcing groups, like Fiverr, where you can have a professional brand made inexpensively. Then use that brand in your business cards, websites, signage and all other materials.
Automation: You can find a wide assortment of free and paid programs and services to help you with automating your marketing efforts. Services like Hootsuite and Buffer let you manage social media, and customer management software and lead generation services can handle the more complex jobs like turning interested contacts into contracted customers. To learn more about these services and discover the best in their categories, check out our sister site, Top Ten Reviews.
The job well done: The best advertising you can have is to do a job well. Keeping your construction sites clean makes a good impression on passers-by. Quality work done on time and within budget means happy customers, and following up to check on satisfaction makes customers more likely to recommend you to others.
While the construction industry is expected to grow in the coming years, you still need to stand out. Marketing, whether through free or paid channels, can help you get that edge over the competition.
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