Are you putting your contracting business at risk?
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Business is good. You’re getting enough service calls to stay busy. You still don’t have a website or other supportive online marketing, but right now you’re too busy doing the work to think about that.
This is a very common scenario for tradespeople who have their own small business. It’s easy to get lulled into thinking the phone will just keep ringing. However, trades like electricians, plumbers, tile installers, etc. are competitive businesses. A few bad reviews online, or a competitor getting top placement on a Google search can easily make your phone ring less.
You need to have solid, established marketing in place to give you an edge over the competition and keep your phone ringing. Don’t push marketing to the back burner.
I know you’re busy … that’s why the marketing isn’t at the top of your to-do list at the moment.
Do yourself a favor and set aside about 20 minutes to answer these questions (if you don’t know an answer, that’s an excellent indication you need get a handle on your marketing sooner than later):
- How are people finding me right now?
- Who is my top local competition?
- What do I do differently or better than my competition?
- Do I have any current online listings (Yellowbook, Manta, Merchant Circle, review sites, Facebook, etc.)?
- Do I have any reviews online (good or bad)?
- Am I presenting a professional and polished appearance with any marketing materials I currently have (logo, business cards, etc.)?
Get a plan in place.
Let’s face it, as a small business owner, you probably have to wear a lot of hats. There’s the everyday business functions, plus going out on service calls and doing the work, and maybe even invoicing and accounting. Do you have time to learn how to put up your own website plus create and keep track of all the other marketing pieces (online and off)?
Here’s an analogy that should make this point crystal clear. If you’re an electrician, I bet you’ve been on a few calls where you uncovered some DIY wiring. It was probably a mess, not up to code, and might have even been a legitimate hazard. A homeowner, at one time or another, thought they could save some money by doing it themselves (or by putting off hiring a pro to have a look at things until something seriously went wrong). You know that it would have been best to hire a professional electrician right from the get-go. Now it’s going to cost that homeowner even more to fix everything.
Your website, online marketing, and marketing materials is pretty much the same – you want a pro from the get-go.
Here’s some of the advantages of going pro:
You and the pro will work though the answers to those questions above so solid groundwork can be laid for your marketing. With a professional website, proper local listings, a plan for getting and responding to reviews, matching marketing materials (such as business cards), and a strategy for your site getting found for your services in your local area, you’ll be investing in your business and helping to keep those calls coming in.
If you still want to give it a go on your own, here are some additional tips for your plan of attack:
Try to make sure all of your marketing materials match. I’ve seen it time and time again where a do-it-yourselfer creates a different looking piece for every part of their marketing. You know what this does? It confuses people. Maybe you’re using just text for your business name on your business cards and you chose a pre-made design for the cards with a generic plumbing picture and a blue background. Then you have a red logo for your truck. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? So shoot for consistency with whatever you make.
Review sites are also key when it comes to service-based businesses like yours. You’ll want to get an account on sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, and ThumbTack. Also consider setting up a Google Business page to take advantage of Google reviews and a Facebook page (pro tip: you’ll also want to be active on your Facebook page, posting relevant content for potential customers, tips, coupons, etc.). This is just a start, but it will get you going. You’ll then want to do two things: ask for reviews (every week, ask one or two clients to leave you a review at one or more of these sites) and pay attention to reviews you do get (go to your page on each site and read the reviews – it’s imperative you respond promptly and professionally to any negative reviews).
When it comes to creating a website, there are a number of DIY website builders out there. If you’re not computer savvy and familiar with marketing, this may be the one area where you really should enlist. Sure, many of these services allow you to, “create a site in minutes” but that is also usually their base level site with a pre-made design template and no changes to it. Keep in mind these builders also don’t write content for you. I can’t tell you how many DIY sites I’ve seen where they have dummy/filler text or “coming soon” with a generic template because the owner got into it and realized they were over their head or they would have to sink a number of hours into creating content and learning how to modify the site to get it to what they wanted. My best advice is to sign up for one of the popular free ones and give yourself a few hours to explore it. If you find it easy to use, here are some additional tips for getting the most out of your website:
- Make sure you know exactly who your audience is and what their problems are that you can solve.
- Make sure you use custom imagery or at least imagery that would connect with your audience on an emotional level.
- Make a very clear call to action on your pages. Do you want them to call you? Do you want them to check out some of your previous work? Do you want them to see all the experience you have? Figure that out.
- Craft your content so that it’s all about your audience. Avoid “me me me” type of language. Even when it comes to talking about your experience. State the facts, but also explain how that experience helps your target customer. Then proof it … and proof it again.
- Consider offering some sort of lead-magnet. A lead magnet is simply information you provide, typically in exchange from a potential customer’s information such as an email address. For instance, if you’re a plumber in a northern climate, put together a checklist for avoiding winter problems. Checklists, tips and tricks … basically any type of valuable information for potential customers can work. (Note: most DIY website builders will offer a way to create or tie in a mailing list, or create a form where you can place a link to download the document from the form “thank you” page … just make sure the company does offer this feature and if there are clear instructions on how to set it up).
- To get people to your site, you’ll want to invest some time in studying up on local search engine optimization (there are a ton of resources on the web … do you have time to commit to researching it?) and may even want to do some online advertising with Facebook, etc.
Sounds like a lot, huh? It is. I’ve basically covered 5 jobs above: a graphic/web designer and programmer, a marketer, a copywriter, a search engine optimization person, and a social media person. Not to mention someone who’s keen on the ins and outs of online advertising. So, while the commercials on tv for DIY design and marketing services make it sound super easy, at the very least, you’re going to be investing a lot of your time. At the very worst, you might be wasting a lot of your time and not really getting any ROI (return on investment) from all the time you put in. It’s not impossible, just difficult, so be sure to think it through.
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