In today’s world, there is an ever-increasing number of options when it comes to generating leads for a construction business. It can be a pain in the butt choosing the right one. This article aims to give you a general overview of the main ways contractors are generating sales leads for their businesses. After you read through this article, you will have enough knowledge and understanding to decide which strategies are worth looking into for your unique business and situation.
Note: There are so many options in today’s world for generating leads. More than ever I’m seeing business owners and marketers get carried away with all the flashy new tools and strategies while they completely ignore the fundamentals.
For most contractors getting the fundamentals right would bring them all work they ever need.
“That sounds great, but what are the fundamentals?”
I’m glad you asked…
The fundamental marketing set up for any business is a website that is seen by the right people at the right time and shows them what they need to see to buy. That’s it! In your average market, this is enough to bring in new business.
If you don’t have the fundamentals right, you’re stepping over dollars to pick up dimes. In other words, you’re unnecessarily wasting time and money.
If you do have the fundamental set up and are looking to expand your lead generation capabilities, the rest of this article is for you. Grab a cup of coffee and dive in. Invest a little time in your knowledge of marketing to help your business be as successful as it can be.
Table of Contents
- Word of Mouth – The Original Marketing Plan
- Reviews – The New Word of Mouth
- Google Maps Listing (GMB)
- Websites – The Bedrock of Your Online Presence
- SEO – Search Engine Optimization
- Content Marketing – Giving Away Free Value
- Email Marketing – A Gentle Helping Hand
- Marketing Funnels – The Holy Grail of Online Marketing
- Joint Ventures – A Match Made in Heaven
- Professional Clubs and Associations
- Networking Events
- Pay-per-lead Companies
- Online Home Improvement Marketplaces
- Partnerships with Big Box Stores
- Physical Advertising – The Real World
- Direct Mail
- Radio and TV Ads
For Sales, Leads You Must Have
Generating sales is a practice as old as business itself. In order to have sales, you must have leads. What’s a lead? Honestly, I hate the term lead. It’s so impersonal and non-descriptive. I prefer to replace the term lead with conversation. A conversation is a prerequisite for a sale in 99% of cases anyway. In residential construction, it’s more like 100% of cases.
So, if we want more sales, we need to have more conversations. Finding those conversations is what we are referring to when we talk about generating leads, and every business owner has their own favorite way of doing this.
One of the coolest ways to generate conversations (leads) I’ve ever heard of was done by a Remodel Contractor named Wayne Johnson. Wayne was a funny guy and a great storyteller. He was loved by his customers not only because he did great work, but because he was entertaining as hell the whole time he was in their home. It was probably a skill he developed over dozens of years on job sites passing the time by shooting the shit with co-workers.
Wayne’s lead generation strategy was unique and genius. When a big project was coming to an end, he would convince his customers to have a party celebrating the completion of their project. If they were reluctant, he would offer a small discount on the final bill. Wayne would do anything to make this get-together happen.
All of the customer’s friends, family, and neighbors were invited over for cocktails and to see the newly remodeled home. Wayne would be there to tell them all about the project. Everyone there left with a smile and one of Wayne’s cards. This strategy kept Wayne busy throughout the entirety of his career. He eventually sold his business but he’s still telling his stories, and people are still listening.
This is just one example of a creative way one can generate leads for a construction business. As a business owner or salesman finding possible future sales is a part of everyday life. If it isn’t, long-term sustainable growth will be replaced with periods of famine. We’re all familiar with the term feast or famine. The purpose of this article is to provide you with man ideas for avoiding famine and keeping food on the table all year long.
The creation of the internet has added a whole bunch of new and exciting ways to find customers or have them find you. Online methods offer a degree of scale not imaginable by people of the past. Another benefit of online lead generation is that a lot of it can be automated. For a business owner who is already spread thin, this can be just the lifeline they need to grow and scale their business.
Who am I to talk about this stuff? Good question. I’m a long time contractor who has tried it all when it comes to generating leads that turn into sales. Over time I’ve evolved into an online marketer in order to help contractors and business owners generate sales and grow their companies. Here’s a bit of my story.
Like Most Contractors, I Started at the Bottom and Worked My Way Up
For me, that meant working as a laborer for my father’s remodeling company. I remember it fondly now, but as a teenager, I always felt like I had better things to do than carrying bags of concrete up a hill or cut tile outside in the winter when it was 28 degrees out. When I close my eyes I can still see the icicles forming on my arm hairs as the mist of the tile saw sprayed all over while making cuts.
Over the following decade, I worked my way up the ladder eventually landing a job with a remodeling company in Portland as superintendent. At 29 years old I was getting the itch to go out on my own. I was ready to be my own boss. My boss at the time, Patrick Richardson of Murrayhill Remodeling, gave me a book to read called How to Profit as a Contractor which got me really excited about the idea of being my own boss and making more money for the hard work I was doing. It showed me how to set up a business to be profitable and sustainable. This book might have been what sparked the fire for me that eventually led to me starting my digital marketing agency, Adapt Digital Solutions.
Around this time, our company was experiencing the pain of not having enough sales. We lost the one job we were working on and had nothing else in the pipeline. Everything came to a screeching halt. I remember asking myself, “How can this happen?” I mean, this company had an amazing reputation and had always done great off of referrals alone. Why had jobs stopped coming in now? Why were we dead in the water? What could we do in the future to make sure this didn’t happen again?
Looking back, I don’t think there was any good reason for it. That’s just the randomness of relying on word-of-mouth to generate sales. It was completely out of our control. As a go-getter, I took it upon myself to fix this. I mean, I had nothing else to do, so why not? I found a mentor to teach me web design and marketing and got to work building us a new website. One that had a clear call to action. One that showed all the necessary trust factors that homeowners look for when shopping for a contractor. I did everything my mentor told me to do, then I used Google Adwords to get homeowners to the website.
It wasn’t long and we were busy going to meet people in their homes, looking at kitchen remodels, additions, garage conversions, all sorts of stuff. I really cherish this experience because it taught me how to sell remodeling projects. I had always been good at customer service, but it’s a different ball game when you’re meeting people for the first time and helping them make their way through the process of making their home the way they want it.
After a few months we were back on the job site, hammers swinging. It was an amazing feeling knowing that I had made it happen. I was responsible for getting this remodeling company back on track. The fact that one could purposely generate sales for a company was thrilling to me. I now saw lead generation as the one thing every business needs.
Over the following year, I was responsible for putting over 1 million dollars on the books, filling up the schedule for over a year. All this with the power of online marketing. I was hooked. This is the golden ticket for anyone running a business. To be able to harness the power of the internet to grow a business puts all the power into the hands of those willing to tap into it. When you know the steps to take to get more customers there’s no limit to how far you can run with it.
Since this all went down in 2017, I haven’t looked back. I created Adapt Digital Solutions and have made it my mission to help other business owners generate those conversations that turn into sales for their businesses and put food on their tables.
Where Most Contractors Start and Stop
Most contractors I meet started similar to the way I did. When they get to the point where they’re ready to start their own company, they continue doing things the way they were taught or picked up along the way. They do really good work not only because they take pride in it, but because they know pleasing their customers will cause them to tell their friends and families about the great job their contractor did.
The word-of-mouth marketing system feeds the contractor and he is finally self-employed. He’s his own boss. This is as far as most contractors get. They raise their hourly rate a little every 5 or 10 years, eventually making 65 an hour and employing a helper or two. This is the top for most, and that’s awesome. It’s great to be your own boss. You’re in charge of your time, your money, and your life. But is that as far as this path goes?
I thought this was the end of the road for a long time. After all, it’s where most guys find themselves until they retire. This is being a business owner, right? Actually, that’s wrong. According to Micheal Gerber in his book called The E-Myth, there’s a difference between being self-employed and being a business owner. If you’re self-employed, you probably do mostly hourly work. You’re basically a wage earner that has control over his own wage and how much he works. The problem with this model is that you are capped out by how much time you can spend on the clock. You’ll never be able to pass a certain point because there is only so much time in the day. The only way to earn more is to raise your prices, and you can’t do that forever either. Nobody is going to pay $500/hr for a carpenter, right?
In Micheal’s opinion, a business owner is someone who leverages other people’s time to expand the amount of work that can be done by the business. This can be scaled until the business owner is making however much they want to make. If you want to make 100k per year, you can probably do that as a self-employed contractor. If you want to make a million, you’ll have to scale. But how?
If you’ve never read the E-Myth, I highly recommend it. It might be a bit alarming if you’ve spent your life thinking of being self-employed as the same as being a business owner, but I promise this knowledge will page dividends. You can find it here on Amazon or at your local Goodwill store.
The question of how to scale plagued me until I read another book called A Simple Guide to Turning a Profit as a Contractor. It’s a short book that explains how to become a business owner instead of an independent contractor. It teaches you to change the way you think about everything related to your business. It’s the true guide for evolving from self-employed to a business owner and earning more with a few small changes to your mindset.
A very brief summary of Turning a Profit as a Contractor:
The first thing you’ll have to do is decide to raise your prices. In order to grow past your own capabilities, you have to hire either employees or subcontractors to carry the larger workload. You have to decide how much you want to make and add that into the overhead and cost of goods sold to come up with your bid price.
(Click the picture of the book to learn more)
You also have to decide which customers you want to work with. You’ll no longer be competing with the independent contractors who are willing to take small jobs and work for an hourly rate. You’ll have graduated to the next level, bidding on the big jobs and earning more than ever before.
This is when it becomes necessary to invest in lead generation. You need to be able to produce sales to drive the growth of your business. Growth depends on choosing the right jobs so you must have some to choose from. Gone are the days of taking every job that comes your way. It’s important to choose the ones that will help your business grow.
Relying on word-of-mouth is dangerous and cannot be the only way you get new customers. Anything that leaves you not in control is dangerous. The clear signal that it’s time to start thinking about how to generate your own leads is when you want more jobs than you have coming in, or the jobs you have to pick from aren’t the kind you need to grow your business.
When Lead Generation Becomes Important. Are You Ready?
This article is about what contracting companies can do to generate leads and sales for their business. To be clear, it’s not for everyone. There are certain reasons a contractor needs to start thinking about investing in lead generation. Some of them are:
- They want control over the flow of new customers coming in.
- They want to grow their business beyond what it is now.
- They have extra funds to invest in growing their business.
- They don’t have any new work coming in.
- The current job options are not good enough.
- They want their business to be sellable.
Here are some reasons why a contracting company should NOT invest in lead generation:
- They can’t handle any more work.
- They only want to work when it’s convenient for them.
- They aren’t interested in growing beyond where they’re at now.
- They have no interest in ever selling their business.
- They want to close their business.
Investing in Your Future: Time or Money
So, you’ve decided that you want to generate more leads for your business. There are two ways to do it:
- Invest time
- Invest Money
I believe wholeheartedly that the absolute best thing the owner of any company can do is learn how marketing works. Even if you hire someone else to do it for you, understanding human psychology and how to properly promote your business is extremely valuable. The fastest growing companies either invest heavily in their marketing or have an owner who has taken it upon themselves to handle it.
If you don’t have time to invest, then money can take its place. The amount of money depends on your goals, short and long-term, and how fast you want to grow and scale your business. The rest of this article is dedicated to the various avenues available to construction companies for generating leads and sales.
The Original Marketing Plan – Word of Mouth
This is the go-to marketing plan in the independent contractor world. Word-of-mouth should be the goal of every company. If your product or service is great, then people are going to talk about it. If it’s bad, they will talk about it even more. In today’s world, with social media and smartphones, word travels faster than ever. Everything gets shared, so paying attention to the details and keeping customers happy should be the number one priority of every business.
Referrals from past customers should be treated like gold. Make these new customers happy and they too will spread the word. In the remodeling world, it’s not that hard to make customers happy. Smile. Treat them with respect. Always stay positive even if things aren’t going well. That’s pretty much it. Even if something goes wrong, if you keep your focus on making sure they feel good, the job will usually go smoothly.
A little note on staying positive no matter what’s happening. Growing up my dad taught all of us employees to replace curse words with the word “perfect!” Whenever I would mess up I would shout “perfect!” Our customers thought we were the shit… Always striving for perfection!
One thing that some guys know but don’t do is ask for referrals. It can and should be part of the process for every project. Keep in touch with past customers. After 6 months has gone by after finishing a job, call your customer and ask them how everything is going. Let them know you were thinking about them. Once you have caught up a little and established that all is well, ask them if they know anyone that could use your services. You’d be surprised at how often they will say they do! If not today, maybe tomorrow. Staying on top of their mind is key.
Customer referrals are like a fire you can keep stoking. If you lose touch with a customer and only reach out to them 5 years later when you need a job, they might not quite remember how much value you gave them. You will have let the fire go out. However, if you keep the relationship alive by checking in once or twice a year, you will always be on top of their mind when the subject of home improvements come up. If you ever ask them for a referral they will be even more obliged to help. After all, you’re not just the contractor that remodeled their bathroom, you’re their friend that checks in with them more often than their kids… Well, maybe not that much, but you get the point!
There is a principle called the 1000 True Fans principle. It states that if you have 1000 true fans that will pay you 100/yr for your goods or services, you will make 100k per year. The idea is that you don’t have to please the whole world. By having a small, dedicated fanbase who will use your services and tell others about them, you can make a nice living. In construction, I think the number is much less. With 100 happy customers who always hire you back and tell their friends about you, you can make a very nice living as a contractor. With 200 you can build a very successful remodeling company.
Pros and Cons of Word-of-mouth Marketing
- It doesn’t cost money
- Referrals are highly trusted
- It can be influenced by your effort to build long-term relationships with your customers (100 true fans)
- You’re not in direct control
- Bad word-of-mouth spreads faster and wider than good
- It cannot be scaled, meaning it’s limited by the number of people you can directly affect
Reviews – New World Word-of-Mouth
Over the last decade, reviews have grown in popularity and usage. These baffling statistics, found at brightlocal.com, explain a lot…
- 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- 73% of consumers will trust a business just because it has positive reviews
- 49% of consumers need to see at least 4 out of 5-star reviews before they will trust a business
- 97% of consumers used an online search to find a local business
- 68% of local consumers left a review when asked
Though these statistics are impressive, reading them didn’t surprise me in the slightest. I, myself, will look at online reviews before making almost any purchase I’m considering. If there are negative reviews, I’m out. If there are zero reviews, I am skeptical and probably won’t buy if there’s an alternative with good reviews. If a product or service has good reviews, and a lot of them, I will usually stop researching and move into buying mode. Why is it that reviews carry so much weight?
I think it’s due to the nature of reviews themselves. For one, people don’t have to leave a review, so when they do, it means something. Two, typically angry consumers are more likely to leave a review than happy consumers. These two facts lead me to believe that if a business has a lot of good reviews, it’s likely trustworthy. I trust one friend, but I trust 100 strangers more. Is this herd mentality?
As consumers, we know that we only leave reviews when something is really good or really bad. As business owners, we know that good reviews aren’t typically easy to get. With this knowledge in mind, it’s easy to see why reviews can be such a powerful marketing tool.
Asking for Reviews
So, does your business have any good reviews? I hope so. If you don’t know how to ask, it’s pretty simple. Wait until a moment when you have given a lot of value to a customer. This moment typically comes along when you finish a project and your customer is super happy. Their project is finished and you are leaving their home. It’s a good day! The best time to ask them to leave a review is when they are happy about your product or service.
It’s common to wait for some time to pass and send an email with a link for them to leave a review. The problem with this strategy is that you are relying on the fact that they are still excited enough about the value you gave them to go through the trouble of leaving a review. This greatly diminishes the chances of getting one.
As I said before, the best time to ask is the moment you give them a lot of value. Something we’ve been doing with great success is handing our customers a business card at this very moment. On the card is a short and sweet message such as, “Please help us help others and leave a review at www.reviewkconstruction.com. The link goes to a special page that has simple instructions on how to leave a review and a button that opens up the exact screen where they can leave a Google review. We choose Google because we find it generates the most business for us.
Having this review funnel set up allows us to get more reviews than we were getting before and in more places since it is easier for our customers to leave them.
How to Handle Negative Reviews
My hope for you is that you don’t get a lot of negative reviews. If they build up too much, they will sink the ship. It’s hard to recover from too many bad reviews. If you do happen to get one, don’t worry just yet. Sometimes they offer the perfect opportunity to flex your customer service muscle and handle it with care and grace.
The first thing you need to do when a negative review comes in is to always agree with the customer, as long as it makes sense. You don’t have to admit fault, but agree that they are feeling bad and that you are prepared to do whatever it takes to change that. If you are able to fix this problem on a public forum and get them to change the review, this will forever work as a badge of honor for you and your company. People that check reviews are looking for the bad ones. Show them how you turned a negative into a positive and you’ll earn even more trust than you would have otherwise.
We’ve established that reviews are important, but you already knew that. Here’s another interesting statistic: 48% of consumers will visit a business’s website after verifying positive reviews. What they find on the website will determine their next step. Are they ready to buy or do they need to continue searching for the right company to hire?
Google maps – The key to getting found by local searchers
Being on Google Maps is perhaps the most important fundamental marketing tool for a local business. With the majority of consumers using Google to find their local service providers, a business not known by Google is a business not known by many.
If your construction company has been around for a while you might have a Google maps listing despite never creating it yourself. This is because Google will automatically put businesses on its map that it knows about. If this isn’t the case for you, you will have to do it manually. You can get started on this process by going to Google My Business. If you need more help, you may contact us here and we will talk you through it.
There are two main reasons why having your business on Google maps:
- Consumers using their mobile phone will be shown search results on Google Maps.
- The 3-pack is found at the top of the search result page when searching for local services and products.
The Google 3-pack is found at the top of Google search results:
Once you have a Google Maps listing, getting it into the 3-pack depends on the content found on your website. By making your website more topically relevant and geographically relevant, you can make sure your business shows above your competition.
Getting in the top 3 Google Maps listing will result in your business getting the majority of the attention from consumers searching online for a contractor.
Your Website – The bedrock on Which Your Online Presence is Built
For your business, the website is the number one place to present your company exactly how you want. Your websites are the one place you have total control and ownership of. Have you ever thought of that? You might be using Homeadvisor, Facebook, Yelp, Adwords, or many more avenues of promoting your business, but you don’t actually own any of these platforms. Why is ownership important?
Control and ownership are bedrocks of growing a successful, sustainable business. Services like Homeadvisor and Facebook change over time, and there’s nothing you can do about it. There have been countless businesses that went belly up or damn near when a service they were relying on changed the rules of the game and threw them for a loop.
Business websites are ingrained in our culture. They are part of the way consumers shop for products and services, especially home services. I’m sure you’ve heard it many times. “Do you have a website?” Customers who are considering large, invasive construction project on their home will research for months, sometimes years before they’re ready to pull the trigger. They will look through every nook and cranny of the online world to make sure they are putting their trust in the right company. We’ve had people tell us they debating between our company and another for over a year before finally choosing us. What was the final straw? The website.
If it comes down between you and a competitor, the final comparison might be your websites. If yours is outdated or even non-existent and your competitors is awesome, who do you think the homeowner is going to pick?
Your website should be the place for consumers to find all the information they need in order to trust you. This means your contractor’s license, customer testimonials, association badges, awards, and of course, beautiful pictures of your work. If your website has all of these things, you are in good shape.
To learn more about what a can do for your business, check out these articles:
- 7 Reasons Why Your Website is Important to Your Business
- Case Study: How a website saved a remodeling company in Portland, Oregon
The next 4 Lead Generation strategies are built using a website as the platform on which they stand.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Getting Found By Those That Are Looking
You’ve probably heard of SEO before. Search Engine Optimization is the act of modifying and creating website content in order to make it easier for search engines, such as Google, to index and present to those who are searching for related information. It can be easier to understand this concept by imagining you are Google.
If you are Google, what is your number one goal? As a for-profit business, the number one goal is making money. How does Google make money? In a nutshell, Google makes money when people are using online assets that Google owns. These assets include products such as Gmail, Google Search, Google Adwords, and hundreds of other products you’ve probably never heard of. Let’s focus in on Google Search.
Google wants people to spend as much time on the Google Search screen as possible. In order to achieve this, they need to make sure they show the exact information people are searching for. The better job Google does, the more people will use their search engine. Obviously, they’ve been killing it as they’ve been number one forever.
#1 goal of Google Search: Show the most relevant and accurate information possible for any given search.
Knowing this, if we want to show up on Google search, we must make our website content as accurate and relevant as possible for the topic (keywords) we want to show up for. If our website is about bathroom remodeling in Portland, Oregon, then we want to make sure we have a lot of content about bathroom remodeling in Portland, Oregon. If we don’t mention Portland, then people searching for bathroom remodeling in Portland won’t find us.
In a nutshell, SEO is about making sure website content is as relevant and accurate as possible for the given keywords a business wants to show up for. Like any career, there are a ton of techniques and strategies an SEO craftsman will use to make a website rank better. For the purposes of this article, we just need to know that showing up higher in Google search will result in more people visiting the website. What those people find on our website will determine whether or not they become leads for our business.
Content Marketing – Giving Away Free Value
Content marketing is the action of creating content with the intent of getting visitors to convert into sales for a business. It’s closely related to SEO in that content is often created in order to rank for the specific keywords the target audience is typing in when they want to buy a product or service.
The content used for marketing can be written articles, videos, podcasts, webinars, and any other medium that allows information to be transferred.
For Contractors wanting to generate leads and sales, content marketing can be extremely powerful. Many companies write or hire blog writers to consistently publish articles about remodeling and other topics related to the services they offer. When prospective customers find these articles during their online research, it allows the construction company to connect with the customer before they are even close to buying. If you can hold their hand and walk them through the research stage of their remodeling project, you will already be in the best position when they are ready to move forward with their project.
If writing isn’t your thing, videos can be equally as powerful. Publishing consistent videos on the job site talking about the projects your working on can give prospective customers the inside look they need to be able to understand the construction process and imagine what it will be like to have their own home turn into a construction site.
“But wait! What if my videos aren’t perfect?”
Here’s the thing. People don’t really care about perfect. They are more concerned with finding a contractor they can like and trust. Creating content is not about showing how perfect you are. It’s about showing how much you care about what you do and how you’re willing to go the extra mile to help your customers. Convey this information in your content and customers will like and trust you, and therefore hire you. Being perfect has nothing to do with it. I know that’s a hard pill to swallow for us perfectionist craftsmen, but that’s the way it is with consumer psychology. Forget about yourself and think about your customers.
The more types of content you produce, the better, but the golden rule is to just produce something. Something is infinitely better than nothing, and once you get in the habit of producing content, you will be well on your way to creating a long-lasting lead generation system that produces leads long after you produced the content. This method can be extremely cost-effective as the main resource required to carry it out is time.
There is a snowball effect on content marketing. At first, it won’t do anything for your business. After some time has passed and you have created a fair amount of content, the results will increase rapidly. Once the engine is going, it can continue on for a long time without putting any more gas in the tank.
To learn more about SEO for a construction company, check out this case study:
- Case Study: Local SEO for a small construction company
Email Marketing – A Gentle Helping Hand
Open up your email and what do you see? If you’re me, you see one or two important emails and 20 marketing emails from various companies. 9/10 of them get deleted, but every once in a while one catches my attention. Why? Because the headline is about something I’m interested in at this moment in time. I’ll read this rare email and ⅕ of these emails will offer a product or service I actually want, and I’ll buy it.
This is email marketing. Some call it spam. The thing is, it’s only spam until it’s something you’re interested in.
Email marketing goes hand in hand with content marketing. Scattered around your content is what we call lead magnets. Lead magnets offer the person on your website some sort of value in exchange for their email address. Once the email is collected it is put into a list. You can then send periodic emails to the people in your list that will help them along with their project. These emails can be about topics such as planning for a remodel, hiring the right contractor, choosing lights, etc.
If the owner of the email is thinking about remodeling their home, they will likely want to read these emails and soak up any knowledge found within. This positions the sender of the emails as an expert in remodeling. It also keeps them on the top of their mind so that when they are ready to move forward with their project, they are thinking of you first.
The best part about email marketing is that it can be completely automated. It takes some time and effort to set up an email campaign, but once it’s set up, it will run automatically. An example of an email marketing process goes like this:
- A person finds a video you made about a kitchen remodel and gets value from it.
- They trade their email for a downloadable ebook on how to hire the right contractor. They read the ebook and get more value. They think the author is pretty smart.
- Your automatic emailer sends them an email once per week about a different topic relating to planning and carrying out a remodeling project. It also reminds them to read the ebook.
- Your 4th and 6th email offer them a free consultation along with links to more videos you’ve published.
- They take you up on the consultation and you visit their home to talk about the project they’ve been planning for months.
- They like and trust you, and based on everything you’ve taught them, they look to you as the remodeling expert. They hire you based on massive trust built automatically by your marketing funnel.
This is a very simple example, but it doesn’t have to be more complicated than this to work. It’s all about knowing your customer and what they are going through. If you can help them through this process, it will likely turn into a meaningful relationship for both of you. Even if they don’t hire you, they will likely spread the word about your awesome content and grow your reputation that way.
You’re starting to see how all of these methods can work together. If you can implement all of these strategies over the course of a few years, your problem will never be finding work. Your problem will be handling all the work coming your way. A great problem to have if you want to grow a business.
Marketing Funnels – The Holy Grail of Online Marketing
A marketing funnel is the ultimate online sales system for a business. A good marketing funnel will attract the right customers and move them through the entire buying process all the way to the sale. In businesses such as e-commerce, marketing funnels allow for the entire business to be automated. In construction, a properly executed marketing funnel can not only attract the right customers and move them through the cycle, but it can qualify the ones you want to work with before you ever even take the time to talk to them.
The fundamental building blocks are what we have already discussed:
- A website
- Traffic (SEO or Paid Advertising)
- An Email Marketing Campaign
Getting these ideas to work together is the natural evolution for any company that is using the internet to get new customers. To help you better understand how these work, I’ll use my own marketing funnel as an example. For a business owner who is interested in setting up online marketing systems for their company, the steps go something like this:
- Traffic + Website – You are interested in learning about lead generation for your construction business so you go to Google and type in “how to generate leads for a remodeling business.” Since I worked very hard to make sure my article shows up on the top of Google, you saw the headline you were looking for and clicked onto my website.
- You enjoy the content I’ve produced and have received a lot of value from it. A button pops up that says, “Download an Ebook on How to set up Google Adwords for your Business in 15 minutes” and you click on it. You type in your name and email address to have the Ebook delivered to your email.
- You read the Ebook and learn how to set up Adwords for yourself. You might do it or not, but that doesn’t matter much in regards to this funnel.
- Over the course of the next two months, you receive an email once per week that provides a little bit of valuable information and actionable ideas on improving the profitability of your business. You enjoy these emails. They aren’t annoying or spammy and you’re getting a lot of value from them for free.
- The 5th email contains an offer for a free 30-minute phone consultation to directly discuss your current marketing system and how it can be improved.
- During this consultation you get a lot of great ideas and learn about me and why I am an expert at this stuff. I share with you some stories about business owners such as yourself that transformed their companies with my help.
- Following the consultation, you continue to receive value emails once per week.
- The end of the year is approaching and you have some money to invest in your business to avoid paying extra taxes. You decide marketing is the best place to invest because it will result in earning more money next year. Since we have already been in constant contact and you view me as the marketing expert, you decide to hire me to build you a marketing funnel.
This is how thousands of construction businesses are acquiring new customers online. They give a ton of free value up front and it comes back around in the form of qualified customers who are educated about your service. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
This was just one example of how a marketing funnel can go. Each time a person goes through it, it’s slightly different because each person and business is unique. The idea is that you can have a lot of different people going through this funnel at the same time, each at their own pace. The steps can be modified and adjusted to make improvements. Each person can be tracked the whole time so the business owner knows how many people are in the funnel and where they’re all at.
Are you wondering how this could work for your remodeling company? It took me a long time to realize how powerful this can be for generating leads. As a remodeler, it’s extra challenging to move new customers through the buying process. Each person and house is different, so no two projects are ever the same.
A common problem for remodelers is clients that either don’t know what they want or are just trying to shop around for a price without regard for the time of the professional their dealing with. So much time can be wasted when meeting with people, looking at projects, and thinking through them to create detailed estimates. The worst is when you spend 10 hours meeting with homeowners and writing an estimate just to have them stop returning your calls and emails.
A prime reason to build a marketing funnel is to eliminate the time wasted jumping through hoops for customers that are never going to pay you.
Most successful marketing funnels for remodeling companies start with Content Marketing. I use a Portland-based remodeling company called Mosaik as my example because they are absolutely killing it.
Mosaik has spent the last five years building up a database of valuable articles related to home remodeling. They get over 5000 organic visitors per month to their website. This means 5000 people search for remodeling related keywords on Google and land on Mosaik’s website. When the owner wants to increase traffic, they pay for Facebook ads and target their ideal people and locations.
Some of these visitors enter their marketing funnel by trading their email address for some sort of downloadable content. An automatic emailer kicks in and continues to provide valuable content relating to what the person was reading on the website. When the prospective customer is ready to take the next step and request a consultation, they are directed to an online worksheet where they fill in information about their project.
Information such as the age of the home, the scope of the project, and budget are addressed in this worksheet. Mosaik typically has a few of these worksheets coming in every month, so they are able to pick and choose the clients they take on.
Imagine having a stack of project descriptions in your hand that you could look through and see exactly which ones you wanted to take on and which ones could be passed on to other contractors, or just passed on. This is the ultimate luxury of any company. It can be accomplished with a well-executed marketing funnel.
The Marketing funnel is the essence of online lead generation for construction companies, but there are plenty of offline options as well. One such option is Joint Venturing with another company.
Joint Ventures – A Match Made in Heaven
A joint venture is when two businesses team up to help each other grow and scale. A classic remodeling joint venture is when an interior designer and a general contractor team up and use each other’s services to compliment each other in completing projects. They also refer each other business when their particular services aren’t needed.
If you’re a general contractor, spend some time talking with local interior designers. They are always looking for just the right general contractor to work with. You would be surprised at how hard it is for interior designers to find a good contractor. We all know of the difficulties each group has with working with the other, but those that can figure it out and make it work prosper. When a good match is made, it can be worth its weight in gold.
If you’re a general contractor and you want to partner up with an interior designer, what do you do? Check out what Patrick did in the next section.
Professional Clubs and Associations
If you are a general contractor, then you have probably heard of the NHBA or National Home Builders Association. Being involved with an organization such as the HBA gives your business the benefit of being able to advertise your membership as a badge of credibility amongst consumers who recognize this association.
Besides the reputation gains, being a part of a network like this can help a business learn and grow past its current limitations. The annual events can be a great place to partake in workshops, learn about industry trends, and create a large network of professionals to communicate, learn from, and trade referrals with.
My favorite example of taking advantage of professional associations was carried out by a friend of mine, Patrick Richardson. Patrick is the owner of Murrayhill Remodeling based out of Beaverton, Oregon. Patrick started his remodeling business 22 years ago and has developed the reputation for being one of the most honest and transparent contractors in Portland.
Patrick wants to grow and scale his remodeling company passed the $1 million per year level. In order to do this, he either has to take on a lot more projects, or larger, more profitable projects. He opted for larger, more profitable projects. Large-scale remodels on high-end homes typically require a thorough design to be done before a bid can even be made. Patrick decided that he wanted to get in with some good interior designers because he saw this as the first step for the type of clients he was after.
Patrick found and signed up to attend meetings with an organization called NWSID, or Northwest Society of Interior Designers. When Patrick showed up to his first meeting he found himself in a room with 30 interior designers. He was the only general contractor. Not to mention he was one of only a few guys… Bingo!
It wasn’t long at all before Patrick was discussing working with some of the designers. After a few months of constantly attending meetings, Patrick was regarded as a regular and was planning projects with multiple designers in the group.
The decision to join NWSID was exactly the right move for him. All it took was a small investment of time and money and he was able to completely skip the lead generation process and join forces with interior designers becoming the general contractor of choice for the Portland chapter of NWSID.
As I talked about earlier, the expression “generate leads” is interchangeable with “generate conversations.” Networking events can be a great place to find these conversations. Sure, there are your typical trade shows and whatnot that are frequented by general contractors, but have you ever considered going to other types of networking events? I’m talking about the ones that are frequented by insurance salesmen and accountants. These things are typically full of a diverse group of business owners and professionals looking to develop referral-partnerships and find new clients.
I’ve been to a boatload of these events and you know what? I haven’t seen a single general contractor at any of them. This is most likely due to the fact that most of these events are held in the middle of the day and most GC’s are on the job site working. This means if you go to these events, you will likely be the only GC there, in a room full of professionals and business owners. Some of them are likely to need work done on their home, so go mingle and hand out business cards. Answer questions and position yourself as an expert and you will undoubtedly come out of it with some leads, or better yet scheduled meetings where you can begin the conversation that will lead to the sale.
If you’re short on time and long on money, there are some companies out there that will do the legwork for you. They’ll find the prospective customers and sell you their contact information. They’re called Pay-per-lead Companies.
There are companies in every city that are purely lead generation companies. The smaller ones typically have a website and Google Maps listing and pose as a normal service business, such a plumber or electrician. They run ads and publish content on their websites pretending to be plumbers and electricians. They have their own sales funnels that generate leads for the industry they are targeting. When they get these leads, they turn around and sell them to actual service businesses.
Chances are you have been approached by at least one of these companies trying to sell you leads. Not all of them are small though. Homeadvisor is a pay-per-lead company as is Angie’s List. These companies are so large I have another name for them: Online Home Improvement Marketplaces.
Pay-per-lead is often the first step in the marketing journey for a lot of contractors. They are approached by a salesman offering them leads and they try it out because they need more work. Sometimes the system works great and the leads are of high quality. The jobs that result are profitable and the business is able to continue paying for leads.
Other times the leads are shit and the contractor decides it was a waste of money and ends the service, moving onto the next idea.
There are two major setbacks to the pay-per-lead strategy:
- The leads you get might not be very high quality.
- The flow of leads could stop at any time, so if you’re relying on them to keep your business going, you could end up in trouble. I mentioned earlier how important control is. This is one reason why.
It can be difficult to find the smaller companies that offer leads for sale, but the larger ones can be found with a simple internet search. Homeadvisor, Angie’s List, Thumbtack, these are all pay per lead companies on a giant scale.
Online Home Improvement Marketplaces
I wrote a large article outlining the specifics of how these companies work as well as the pros and cons for both homeowners and contractors. You can check it out here.
One thing I’ll say here is that for some folks these companies provide great leads and the resulting sales are profitable. For the majority of business owners that use these services, however, they find that it’s hard to make a profit on the money they invest. These services are geared towards the homeowner, not the contractor.
If it’s something you’re considering, check out this article. It will give you all the information you need in order to help you make your own decision.
Are you a contractor who is just getting out on your own? Hardly a dime to invest into marketing? Look no further than starting a partnership with a big box store.
Partnerships with Big Box Stores
You might not know this, but stores like Home Depot and Lowes often form partnerships with contractors to install the home improvement products they sell. A great example of this is cabinet installations. My father and I spent years installing cabinets for Lowes. The pay wasn’t the best, but the constant flow of jobs was nice for keeping the famine at bay. Another great perk is that if you do a good job, the homeowners you work with will often have you back to work on another part of their home. This has been a source of new customers for my dad’s company for over 20 years and counting.
If you’re interested in pursuing a partnership with a Big Box store, go to your local Home Depot or Lowes and talk to their Install Sales department. They will give you a list of requirements necessary to be in their program and let you know what kinds of trades they are looking for at that time.
There are two main requirements common among these kinds of partnerships. First, you must have a minimum liability insurance. Second, you must pass a background check and also run background checks on your employees. You can find the specific requirements here:
For a budding contractor, these programs can be a great way to get started. Even for an established company, the projects received through Big Box Stores can be a great training grounds for new employees as well as a way to keep guys busy during slow periods. Even a handyman can make a living installing a few storm doors per day. I did for a while…
One of the best parts about working with Lowes and Home Depot is that their customer is always right. This means that if anything goes wrong, breaks, or isn’t right, the store will stop at no end to make it right. It’s nice having this attitude behind you when trying to please customers. You get to be the face of the awesome customer service.
There are a few marketing practices that go back to the pre-internet days. Can you remember back that far? These tactics work as good today as they did then, so let’s talk about them.
Physical Advertising – The Real World
You see them when you pass any large construction site. A big banner on the fence with the name of the construction company and their phone number. You can even see them on residential projects in the form of a small sign stuck into the grass out by the road.
Using these signs is a good way to let the world know that you are a company and you are working on projects. Though not often, we have received calls from homeowners who saw our sign in front of their neighbor’s house. Or they saw the giant magnet on the side of our truck at a stop light. Some call it branding, but I just call it wearing a name tag.
Letting people know what you offer is the first step to getting sales. Makes sense, right? Nobody can hire you if they don’t know who you are and what you have to offer. Some companies take this to the extreme and paint their entire truck with their branding. What a great way to show off how awesome your company is… I mean, if you can afford a big-ass truck like this, then you must be doing well. If you’re doing well, you must do good work!
You don’t have to go balls to the wall, but it’s important to have some branding and show off your company. Grab some shirts for your employees to wear on and off the job sites. When Christmas comes around, buy your guys some nice Columbia jackets with your brand logo on the back. Let them proudly show off their company and let everyone know what you have to offer.
If there’s a particular area you think you might find some great customers, perhaps direct mail is the way to go.
Snail mail, as they like to call it, is still alive and well. If there’s a particular neighborhood you want to target, put together some sales flyers and send them out. There are services such as Mail Shark that will take care of everything for you.
The key to direct mail marketing is to have a great offer. Most people will throw your flyer directly into the garbage can, but a couple of them will say, “Hey! I was just looking for something like this!”
If it’s an entire city you’d like to target, perhaps mail is out of the question. You need something a little broader, like a megaphone. Or, like radio.
Radio and TV Ads
Radio and tv ads used to be the bread and butter of marketers. Before the internet, people got most of their information from these two mediums. Even in today’s world, this strategy can be effective.
Take a plumber for example. The week before Thanksgiving they broadcast a funny ad about how much food everyone eats on Thanksgiving… All these family members together eating a ton of food… Can you see where this is going?
In case you didn’t get it, Thanksgiving is the time of year where most toilet clogs happen. This smart plumber made sure a ton of people knew his number on Thanksgiving day when undoubtedly 100’s of them would need a plumber in a jiffy.
When applied creatively, tv and radio ads can generate a ton of sales. When done incorrectly it’s a huge waste of money.
Wow. If you’ve read this entire article I have to congratulate you. Not only do you have some endurance but you now know a lot about lead generation for contractors and construction companies. You have so many ideas and ways you can imagine generating more sales and building your business.
If you’re really hurting and don’t have a penny to your name, there is one more option…
Door to door. That’s right! Put a big fat smile on your face and walk door to door asking homeowners if they have anything they need help with. Surely most will turn you down, but a couple will have some work they need done on their homes. While you probably won’t get rich with this strategy, you definitely won’t starve!
Going door to door not only builds a customer base, but it builds character. Don’t believe me? Ask any Mormon. They spend a couple years of their teenage years going door to door spreading the word of God. It’s not just to spread the message, but it teaches them how to talk to strangers and be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.
That’s it, folks! Go out and try this stuff. It really works, I promise! I’ve done every strategy I wrote about and they all work. For a business owner, it’s a matter of trying them out and seeing which ones work best for you.