Key Marketing Strategies for Contractors

Key Marketing Strategies for Contractors

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.

Contractor Marketing Tip of the Day – one of the biggest mistakes we see in marketing today is that businesses fail to put their customers at the heart of their marketing.

To many businesses, contractor marketing is nothing more than touting your products and services to anyone who will listen.

Some people call that megaphone marketing.

Megaphone Marketing = talk about your company as loud as you can and hope that people hear you and rush to do business with you.

Problem is, that method just doesn’t work in today’s world (unless you’re Coca Cola, Nike, or Apple).

Instead of focusing your marketing on your products and services, your marketing should be focused on how your customers or clients can benefit from your products and services.

Everyone wants to know how what you offer can make their lives better in some way – easier, less stressful, less costly, more efficient, more beautiful, etc.

Whether we realize it or not, we’re constantly asking ourselves the WIIFM question.

You Use Building Plans, How About Contractor Marketing Plans?

Just as building plans are essential for building a house, contractor marketing plans are essential for building a business.

It’s a funny thing.

When it comes to building a house, landscaping a yard, laying a hardwood floor, or paving a driveway, we wouldn’t even think of beginning a job without a set of plans.

Before we begin, we need to know the answers to several questions?

How much is this going to cost?

How long is it going to take?

What is it going to look like when it’s done (desired outcome)?

What factors can possibly throw us off track and how to we either prevent those factors or respond to them in the best way possible?

But why is it that, when it comes time to market and grow our business, so few of us have actual contractor marketing plans?

We think nothing of spending a few hundred here, a few thousand there, building a website, putting up some signs, maybe even renting some billboard space.

But we too often do this without a cohesive strategy to tie everything together.  No wonder we don’t see the results we want.  Do we even know the exact results we are seeking from all this advertising (beside ‘more business’)?

What if you said to yourself, ‘I want to build a big house,’ and then went and ordered a bunch of lumber, a few boxes of nails, some shingles, siding, and all the rest, and then started to build your house?  It would be a disaster.  You would never end up with any sort of house at all.  Sure, you have building materials, but you have no plan, direction, or strategy.

See the metaphor I’m working on here?  You can’t go out and buy some ad space, some radio ads, fancy business cards, and the like, and expect to build a business.

It takes more.

It starts with crystal clear goals and strategic contractor marketing plans to achieve those goals.

Make sense?

Getting into the mindset is just the beginning.

Mindset is the foundation upon which your business is built.

Get Your Contractor Marketing Plan To Take Your Business To The Next Level

The businesses that are thriving today are the ones that have learned to adapt and do things differently than they might have before.  Developing the mindset that you need to continually adapt in order to realize lasting success in business is essential.  One of my favorite analogies is that you have to be a shark.  Most sharks need to constantly swim to breath.  If they stop swimming for a prolonged period of time, they die.  Keep swimming.

These contractor marketing plan questions comprise what we call Phase I of building a marketing plan foundation for your building or construction business.

A complete marketing plan establishes the following three things:

  1. The current state of your business
  2. Where you want to go (goals and objectives)
  3. What needs to be done to close the gap between #1 and #2

Once you have these three answers nailed down, you can begin to explore the ‘How’ and implement your plan.

How to Complete Your Contractor Marketing Plan

  • Block off a good chunk of time to sit in a quiet place and answer these questions.
  • Often, getting out of the office into a new environment can spark insight and creativity.
  • Keep a notepad nearby so that when you think of new ideas for your business, you can jot them down and return to them later.

“It’s mandatory that we take the time to understand the machinery of our businesses if we are to modify that machinery to produce the results we desire.”

Contractor Marketing Plan Questions

Current State of Business

This phase of the contractor marketing plan helps you establish the baseline from which you are operating.  You need to understand your business intimately before developing your plan.

  • What are the top 1-3 products/services that are essential to your business?
  • Who is your target market for these products/services?
  • What is the primary value or benefit that you provide for your clients?
  • What differentiates you from others in your market?  What can you say that your competitors can’t?
  • What is the unique value that you bring to your market in a way that no one else does?  This is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
  • How do you communicate your USP (or value proposition) to your prospects and clients?
  • What are the 1-3 strengths of your business?
  • What weaknesses exist in your business?
  • As a business owner or manager, what is the one single thing in your business that only you can do?  If you were forced to outsource or hire for every task in your business except for one, what would that one be?

List the tasks or aspects of your business that you love doing.

Sales and Marketing Questions
  • What are your current sales and marketing activities (post cards, cold calling, email marketing, referrals, Internet marketing, etc.)?
  • How do your prospective customers or clients find out about you?
  • How many interactions does a prospect have with your business before he or she becomes a client?
  • What is the typical period of time between when a prospect first makes contact with your business until he or she becomes a client?
  • What are the most effective client acquisition strategies?  The least effective?
  • How are you tracking and measuring various marketing activities?
  • If you’re spending money on advertising and marketing, what is your Return on Investment (ROI)?
  • Do you have a system in place, such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, to track communication with prospects and clients?  Or is it just in your head and notebook?
  • How much does it cost you to acquire each new customer/client/project?
  • What are the challenges and frustrations of your current marketing efforts?
  • How many leads do you currently receive for your business on a monthly basis?  Define a lead as a prospect you provide an estimate, quote, bid, or proposal for.
  • What percentage of leads converts to actual clients or projects?
  • What percentage of your business are repeat clients?
  • How are past clients keeping your business front of mind?  Are you keeping in touch with them in any way?
Do the math

There’s power in numbers.  Knowing our numbers helps us make smart decisions that can ultimately improve those numbers.

The purpose behind the exercise we’re about to go through is to establish the foundation for a business generation process that will ensure you always have work.

I want to help you avoid the dreaded business roller coaster – busy one month and slow the next.

I know you’re probably busy this time of year, so an exercise like this is especially important, so that when you pick your head up after the rush, you aren’t wondering where your next job is coming from.

Once you understand these numbers and establish goals, you’ll be able to implement the right strategies and tools to reach those goals.

5 Contractor Marketing Questions You Should Be Asking

Here are 5 questions you should ask your marketing provider to ensure your time and money are working hard for you, instead of the other way around.

Contractor Marketing Questions – #1
What is your overall marketing strategy for my business?
Seems simple, but we see too many businesses these days that do a lot of construction marketing and advertising without an overall cohesive strategy.  As with any other business strategy, you should ensure that each prong of your marketing program directly supports your overall objectives and puts you on the most direct path to success.

Contractor Marketing Questions – #2
How is the efficacy of each prong of my marketing strategy being measured?
Again, if you’re marketing without measuring results, you’re throwing money down the drain.  You should be measuring the results of every piece of advertising, every flyer, email, phone call, etc. This can be done by way of unique phone numbers, unique email addresses, website analytics, email marketing tools, and more.  If your marketing guy gives you a blank look when you ask him about this, you should be concerned.

Contractor Marketing Questions – #3
How are people behaving on my website?
Believe it or not, there are simple tools that enable you to track user behavior on your website.  For example, at Contractor Dynamics, we know how many people visit our site each day, which pages they visit, how long they stay on the site, whether they contact us through the site, and from which page they exit the site.  It’s extremely valuable information to have.  It’s important because you can do all the marketing and advertising in the world to get people to visit your website, but if they’re not engaging with your site and converting from visitors into leads, and eventually into customers, you’re leaving money on the table.  Don’t spend money to lead people to your website to die.  Optimize your website to maximize user experience.

Contractor Marketing Questions – #4
What don’t I need to do?
In today’s world, there are countless marketing strategies and tools available to small businesses.  However, that does not mean we need to try them all.  Each small business is different, and each business needs to adapt the strategies that work best for it.  Don’t listen to the marketing guru who tells you that you need all the latest bells and whistles.  You don’t.  You need to focus on a few key strategies and do them very well.  As I’ve said before, it’s better to be an inch wide and a mile deep than a mile wide and an inch deep.

Contractor Marketing Questions – #5
How can I grow my business?
The purpose of marketing is to drive sales to grow your business.  We can always do more and better marketing.  Your web provider should always have a few ideas on how to increase your sales with effective marketing strategies.  The opportunities that small businesses have in 2013 to improve their marketing systems are countless, and due to the increased popularity of digital marketing, the costs have plummeted.

17 Quick Implementation Construction Marketing Ideas

  1.  Define Your Goals. It’s really hard to do any type of marketing without having clear objectives. Revenue goals, # of projects, # of leads, types of projects, geographic target area, and timelines all need to be defined. “More business” and “Get our name out there” usually don’t cut it.
  2. How Much Do You Have to Reinvest? Based on that per-project profit (or even per-month or per-quarter profit), how much do you have and how much are you willing to reinvest into marketing and advertising to go out and get more of them? This is a really important step, because this is what should be driving your marketing budget. Your marketing budget shouldn’t be driven by what you did in the past; it should be driven by where you want to go.
  3. Make a List of Marketing Channels, and Analyze Your List. Make a list or spreadsheet (we use a spreadsheet) of all potential marketing channels you can think of. List all the ways you have gotten customers in the past and where you would like to try to get them. Rank that list in context of how long each one will take to execute, what resources you need, how much they cost to implement, probability of paying off, etc. If you follow the 80/20 rule, 20% of your marketing channels will produce 80% of your results.
  4. Pick One or Two to Test. Let’s be honest. Unless you’re a venture-backed company with cash to burn, it’s not realistic to try a bunch of marketing channels at once. Pick one or two based on your analysis.
  5. Track & Measure- In order to know if your marketing is working, you need to track everything – phone calls, leads, sales, revenue, etc. That’s the only way to know which channels are working and which are the most successful for you. Trust the numbers; they won’t lie.
  6. Put unique phone numbers on all of your online and offline ads to measure ROI.  This way, you can track how many incoming phone calls you’re getting from each of your advertising efforts.  This doesn’t have to be complicated.  Go to a website like Kall8 and buy a few toll-free numbers for a few bucks a month.  You can have them all forwarded to your office line and your callers will never know.
  7. While you’re at it, put unique landing pages on all of your ads.  Instead of just putting your website address such as www.contractordynamics.com on all of your ads and bringing people back to your home page, create separate landing pages for your various advertisements, with links such as www.contractordynamics.com/summer.  This does two things.  First, you can tailor your message to each audience.  Second, you can track how many people are visiting each page, and therefore more easily measure the ROI on your advertising.  (I love landing pages and have at least 3 articles planned just to discuss them.)
  8. Put your customer testimonials on your website and in your print marketing material.  You can spend all day telling your prospects how great you are.  Or you can have your current and past customers tell your prospects how great you are.  Which do you think carries more weight?  Testimonials are one of the biggest pieces of low-hanging fruit in business marketing.  Need help gathering testimonials?  Contact us and we will send you our proven testimonial gathering form. Video testimonials are also great, see our example.
  9. Optimize your website for mobile devices.  50% of people in the world are accessing the Internet on their smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices.  In fact, 50% of this website’s traffic comes from mobile.  If your website looks like garbage on a phone, you’re missing out on half of your prospects.  This is not one of those do-it-yourself strategies. You should talk with a professional who can develop a mobile website or a desktop website with responsive design.  Mobile is not only the future, but the now. If you’re not mobile, you’re behind, and fighting an uphill battle.
  10. Don’t answer your phone!  What?  How am I supposed to do business like that?  Let me clarify.  If you’re the owner of your construction firm, you should not be answering the phone.  Not only is it not a good use of your time, but it’s not the most professional image to portray.  If you always answer your own phone, you’re sending the message that you’re a one man (or woman) shop.  Sometimes that can work to your advantage, but most times people want to work with established, professional construction firms.  Hire a receptionist or a virtual receptionist.
  11. Focus On One Market One way to ensure that you spend a lot of money on marketing is to market to everyone. We obviously don’t recommend this. Rather, we encourage you to sit down with your leadership team, do some analysis, and choose one specific segment of your market to focus on. You probably already have an idea about what this market looks like. Now, commit to it. If you focus on one market, you can create content and offers specifically for that market. When you create targeted content, you will be able to connect much more effectively with your message and your offers. You will build a brand and a real, sustainable business that is built on relationships, not transactions. Plus, from an operational perspective, having this focus helps you and your company focus on those projects and those clients who are more enjoyable, more rewarding, less stressful, and more profitable. Not a bad idea, huh?
  12. Create Engaging Content It’s nearly impossible to be effective at any type of marketing if you don’t have content. If you’re going to invest in advertising without using your own unique content, you’re always going to attract low-quality prospects who are looking for the lowest price. Why? Because if you give your market no other criteria by which to evaluate you, they are always going to make a decision based on price. If price is the only criteria that they have, that is going to be their default mode of decision-making. It’s a shortcut to making a smart decision. And your prospects want to feel as if they are making smart decisions, just like you do.
  13. Analyze Your web presence regardless of the type of marketing you are doing, your website and your social media properties serve as the hub for all of your online and offline marketing efforts. The goal of all of your marketing channels – radio, billboards, online ads, yard signs, email marketing – is to drive traffic to your website and to your offers. Think of your website as the hub and all of your marketing channels are the spokes.
  14. Create Marketing Campaigns (not just ads) most online advertising doesn’t work, especially Google AdWords and Facebook Ads“What? I’ve heard those both work really well, especially Facebook ads.” Well, the truth is that they can work well, but they usually don’t. And that’s because most companies treat ads as a complete marketing strategy, when the truth is that they are just marketing channels. And a marketing channel is part of a marketing strategy, not a complete strategy. And no marketing channel “works” by itself. It’s the offer and the way that you present that offer that works to actually generate leads. A marketing channel, such as Google or Facebook or YouTube, is merely a way to drive traffic to your offers, whether they be on your website or on specific landing pages.
  15. Choosing the right Keywords for your Marketing. Whether you’re a plumber, an electrician, or a remodeling contractor, choosing the right keywords for your marketing is a vital part of driving traffic to your website — and from there, to your business. It’s important to choose your keywords with care, because they help establish whom you’re marketing to and what you’re marketing to them. If you’re new to marketing, you may be wondering “what are keywords?”. Keywords, in a nutshell, are what people type in when they’re searching for a service. So someone wanting to remodel their kitchen, for example, may search for “kitchen remodeler,” “kitchen remodeling,” or even “kitchen remodeling contractor.” All of those are keyword phrases, and each would pull up a list of businesses related to the words that were searched for. You, as a business owner, can optimize your web presence by assigning keywords to your website pages and building your content around those keywords. Whether it’s naming your pages something specific, like “Plumbing Repair,” or making sure that you use appropriate keywords in your site text, you’ll be helping your site improve its chances of being ranked higher on the various search engines people use to find the companies they want to work with.
  16. Making Email Marketing work for your construction business. Email marketing is a great way to let both potential and existing clients know what you’ve been working on, provide them with any specials you may be offering, and help you establish yourself as an expert in the industry. As most peoples’ primary form of business (and sometimes personal) communication, a well-executed email marketing plan can help you reach new leads while giving you total control over who your message goes to. Unlike social media, which doesn’t always show all of your posts to all of your followers, you know that your emails are going to everyone on your list.
  17. Facebook Marketing… you know what that means for you business? There’s a ton of potential leads who want to work with you. These leads are more likely to be qualified and less likely to waste your time scheduling a “free estimate” only to go with one of your competitors (there’s no such thing as a “free estimate” because your time is taken up and you could be seeing prospects who want to work with you). Most marketing companies will sell you on what’s known as Facebook Boosting – run away from these conmen ASAP. Facebook Boosting is great for branding, but reaching new prospects in your area and converting them into jobs (and dollar signs) for your construction business requires a more in-depth, multi-layered process.

How to Market with Ideal Clients

Now that we have covered how to identify your ideal clients, as well as a couple examples of ideal client profiles, let’s get into ways to actually start reaching those ideal clients that will move your business forward.

The business owners who see lasting success are the ones who know who their ideal client is and have a plan for engaging with them and marketing to them consistently.

If you’re still not convinced that narrowing your focus and identifying an ideal client profile is one of the most effective ways to market strategically, remember that when you try to market to everyone, you market to no one.  When you cast such a broad net thinking that you will catch more fish, the opposite actually ends up happening.  Your lack of clarity and focus leads to wasted time, money, and energy.

The 4 basic steps to marketing to your ideal clients are:

  1. Identify Your Ideal Clients
  2. Figure out the problems and pains they face
  3. Develop a solution to solve those problems
  4. Effective communication that builds trust with those ideal clients

When you tailor your message to solve a specific problem (or set of problems) for a defined target market, you are able to speak directly to those people who need their problems solved.

The right prospects will start to see that value that you can provide to them, which in turn makes your services less about price and more about how you help them solve their problems.

And nearly every contractor I know would rather differentiate on value rather than price.

Here are some questions to consider about your target market:

  • Where do they spend their time – online and offline?
  • How do they make decisions?
  • What factors do they consider before making a decision?
  • Whom do they consult before making decisions?
  • What’s most important to them?
  • What do they read, listen to, watch?
  • How do they think about how the world operates?
  • What problems or pain points are they facing?
  • Where do they struggle to take action due to lack of information?

Once you identify the problems your target market has, get to work on packaging your services and crafting your message in a way that makes you the clear solution to their problems.  A key here is to not focus too much on the details – just focus on results.  If some people or businesses ask you about the details, of course you can explain the details or give them more information, but most people are just concerned with results.

Here’s a simplified version of how that conversation or your marketing message will sound:

‘We understand you are currently struggling with X problem.  We have Y solution that specifically solves that problem, which saves/makes you time/money/resources.  We’re experts at solving this problem for people like you.  Here is what it costs.  Here’s how to get started.’

There is so much packed into a 3-line statement like this:

  • You are establishing yourself as a smart person who understands their problem
  • You are establishing yourself as an expert who can solve their problem
  • You are differentiating yourself from the generalists who may also solve that problem, but probably not as well as you, because you specialize in it
  • This is a simple and direct way of presenting your solution that very few of your competitors are doing

Your communication methods will be specific to your industry and particular market.  This type of message and presentation can be baked into your sales literature, your face to face meetings, the way you describe what you do, your website, your advertising, the conversations you have at industry events, and so on.

An additional benefit of focused messaging like this is what I call referability, which I’ll discuss in an upcoming post.

This all may seem a bit daunting, and a bit limiting.  Just remember it’s an ongoing process for every business.  You will constantly tweak this as your market changes, the problems in your industry evolve, and as you learn more about your ideal clients.

This is one strategy that really helps to give you focus in your marketing and business development efforts.  Focus is one of the keys to differentiation.

The Contractor’s Entrepreneurial Myth

The contractor’s entrepreneurial myth is derived from a book called The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber.  A common belief is that a person who has a particular skill can start a business based around that skill and be a successful entrepreneur.  Gerber shows us that this sort of thinking is a myth.

You may be a good plumber.  You may even be the best plumber in your state.  But that does not mean you necessarily know how to run and grow a successful plumbing business.  Similarly, I may be good at surfing, but it doesn’t mean that if I started a local surf school that I would be successful at surfing as a business.  Make sense?

Too many people get caught up in this entrepreneurial myth.  The prescription for success, as is true in so many other areas of life, is to focus on what you’re good at and find people with complimentary skills to fill in the gaps.

Our clients love to work with us because we help them work on their business and not only in their business.

In many cases, they started their contracting business because they are great at what they do and wanted to create a better life for themselves and their families.  However, most of our clients also started their contracting businesses without much knowledge of starting and growing a successful business.

In many cases, they left well-paying jobs for a better life, but have now created a glorified job for themselves.

Actually, it’s worse than a job, because the hours are longer and the risks and stresses are greater.

Soon they become frustrated, overworked, and exhausted from trying to do whatever it takes to stay on top of things, always knowing that the minute they let up, their business will suffer.

They find themselves working so hard that they rarely have time for the important things in life, like spending time with family and friends, being healthy, and actually enjoying the fruits of their labor.  When they do have downtime, they are still worried about their business and often wondering where the next few jobs are going to come from so they can keep the machine in motion.

If that’s you, then we need to talk.  There is a better way.  And that’s why we’re here to help.  Make sure you subscribe to our blog to receive our blog posts as soon as they are published.  We’ll help you fill in the gaps.

Or if you’re serious about taking action, schedule a consulting call with me and I’ll provide you with actionable tips on growing your business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *