In the midst of the recession, Wes Carver Electric, a full-service, Lansdale, Penn.-based electrical company, invested in a marketing consultant to help the business overhaul its marketing approach. Among other changes, their newly revamped website now links to customer testimonials and includes a video message from the company’s president.
“We’ve seen a steady increase in leads and sales from our Internet marketing,” Wes Carver says. But he acknowledges that attracting business is an ongoing effort, and that contractors must find new ways to attract customers and market their expertise. To advertise his new lighting design center, Carver also started offering educational seminars about indoor and outdoor residential lighting.
How Many Marketing Mediums Have You Tapped?
If your marketing strategy is too limited, it won’t produce the results you need. Many contractors don’t know where to start. To expand your customer base, combine key marketing strategies, then cross-promote among them.
1. Association Memberships
As a contractor, your target audience isn’t just homeowners — it’s also other contractors, so you should promote yourself through general and niche associations. Take it from Jim Pitzen, CR, ALA, an architect and president of Milwaukee-based Pitzen Design Ltd. Although he belongs to various architect and builder associations, he gets most of his business through the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI).
“There aren’t many licensed architects that are part of the organization, so I have done that [to make] myself unique among the rest of the competition and to stay current on business and construction trade issues and techniques,” says Pitzen, who is also a certified remodeler. In addition to the visibility associations provide through complimentary online listings and membership directories, membership also lends credibility to businesses.
“You can’t just join, pay the dues, get on the membership directory and think all of a sudden that’s going to create business for you,” says Pitzen, who’s increased his visibility by getting involved with committees and chairing trade shows. He suggests attending events to network and create relationships with potential business partners. Educational seminars and professional certifications offered by associations could also give you new areas of expertise, he adds.
Tip: Participate in webinars and speaking engagements through these groups.
2. Social Media
If you think construction and social media don’t mix, consider that World of Concrete, an annual masonry and concrete trade show, has more than 16,000 followers on Twitter. If owners want more control over how their business is perceived by others, Twitter is a good way to monitor and respond to their brand online.
When homeowners search the web for service providers, they’re looking for someone who appears trustworthy and knowledgeable. Blogs, Linkedln and other tools all help contractors position themselves as experts in their field. Carver’s Facebook page, for example, includes energy-saving tips and is accessible from his website.
Tip: Online videos and podcasts are a hot way for small businesses to gain exposure.
3. Your Website
These days, businesses are judged by their homepage. Websites convey a person’s expertise by listing select customers and highlighting their best work. Because Google searches display relevant listings for videos and audio clips, more businesses are incorporating them in their homepages to draw viewers to their site. Keep it fresh by adding new video and changing up the content.
As a remodeler, Pitzen showcases samples of his work, so he’s revamping his site to highlight a range of remodeling projects. “When someone calls my office or cell phone and gets my voicemail, it will direct them to investigate me further on my website, and they can email me from there,” he says.
He urges contractors to showcase before and after shots that show the scope of their work. “If you just show the after, it’s just a pretty picture,” he says. “The before-and-after photos help people understand the scope of the work and the dramatic results remodeling can create. I took a kitchen and removed all the walls. Without doing an addition on the house, I expanded their living space by opening the rooms, sightlines and flow of natural light. It gave the owners the sense they had more space.”
Tip: Submit your site to online directories like Yahoo! Directory (dir.yahoo.com).
Whether through email or snail mail, newsletters reach customers who may not be visiting your webpage or following you on Facebook. Carver keeps in touch with hundreds of former clients through his e-newsletter, in which he encourages people to visit for product demonstrations
But don’t assume they’ll read it — instead, include coupons and special offers. Carver’s e-newsletter offers gift certificates to people who become Facebook fans. "[After it goes out] we see a spike in traffic to our website,” he says.
Tip: Online services like ConstantContact can help you manage your e-newsletters and track results.
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