You Have A Small Company With Limited Resources…
Here’s How To Outcompete The Big Guys.
“I’m 49 years old, I just took out a second mortgage on my house, I just got a business license and opened a checking account… and now I need to know what to do next.”
My new client—we’ll call him Jake—was counting on me to help market his new window and siding business. He’d spent his entire life in and around remodeling, including a 6-year stint in his late 20’s running his father storm window business into bankruptcy. Since then, he’d spent the last 20-or-so years working for others window companies doing everything from selling to installing to keeping the books.
Now, in bold David vs. Goliath style, he was venturing back out on his own to start a new company.
As usual in these kinds of situations, Jake wanted to know about where to run ads for the least amount of money possible. Or how to conquer the home show. And how to generate as many home improvement leads as quickly as possible.
And as usual in these kinds of situation, I had Jake step back, take a deep breath, and THINK SMART.
Because the fact is David can beat Goliath. They lack many advantages, to be sure: money for marketing, an existing customer base, and brand recognition to name three big ones. But small companies are a lot more agile and don’t have to worry about “turning around the Titanic” to make changes in their company, either. And given that a huge part of the contractor/construction marketing battlefield is now played ONLINE, they have just as much chance to win as anyone.
IF they have the right plan.
Here’s the advice I gave Jake; it’s the same advice I’d give you if you run a small home improvement company:
1. Focus On The Customer Experience: Get out a piece of paper right now and jot down 5 things that customers HATE when doing business in your industry. Since you’re a remodeler, your list should include things like long sales meetings, high-pressure sales, poor communication, jobs that take longer than expected, unexpected price changes, and unfriendly or unsightly workers. Your list might be longer or different. Now figure out how to eliminate those things.
Hear me loud and clear: there is no easier way to get new customers and get referrals than by making the customer experience thoroughly delightful. Be easy to work with. Be kind and courteous on the phone and in person. Show up when you say you will. Have nice looking trucks and clean uniforms. Over-communicate—send more text messages, emails, and phone calls than you need to. Make your sales appointments short. Give written quotes on the spot. Honor them. Let people know what they can expect—in writing. Then follow through.
Sadly, while these things are easy to do, they’re also the kinds of things that small business owners tend to neglect. They’re the kinds of things that don’t seem to make that much of a difference. They’re the kinds of things—when neglected—that make you look like “just another remodeler.” Don’t be perceived as “just another remodeler.” Be a superstar! It’s 100% your choice.
Cost: NONE. Very little or nothing.
2. Create An Identity: I’ve spoken and written so many times about the need for a clear, concise, powerful identity in your contractor marketing that I’ve lost count. The definition of identity is: Words, phrases, & images—articulated with power, precision, and passion—that instantly & definitively communicate who you are, how’re you’re different & better, and what customers can expect when doing business with you.
If you don’t have an identity—and there’s a 99% chance you don’t—you are automatically spinning your wheels and everything else you do will massively under-leveraged. It’s like trying to run a marathon with a 75-pound backpack strapped to you. Why would you do that!?
For more information on Identity, watch this webinar.
Cost: CHEAP. Monopolize Your Marketplace can help you do this for a few thousand dollars, and paid over time. Others don’t even offer it. Don’t even try to do it yourself—not a good idea.
3. Create A Killer Home Improvement Website: All remodelers, no matter how big are small, rely heavily on their website. But it’s even MORE critical for small guys because the big guys at least have a reputation that they can lean on. They can get away with simply creating a “nice looking” website with a little spit-shine on it and people will have confidence in them. You? Not so much.
Your contractor website should be bold, assertive, and confident. Nobody wants to do business with a little wishy-washy dude they’ve never heard of whose website looks like everyone else’s. Here are 5 examples of crappy little sites that I pulled randomly off the internet. If one of these is yours, sorry, but it sucks:
The sites above lack at least 3 or 4 (if not all 5) of the Five Elements of Conversion-ability that are mandatory to turn a maximum number of lookers into buyers. Here they are:
- Professionalism: You can’t show up to a wedding wearing cut off jean shorts and a t-shirt. Your website can’t show up to the party looking like your 7th grade nephew built it for computer class. It has to pass the “first impression test” or you’re dead meat.
- Identity: As stated above, it’s the cornerstone of your entire contractor marketing program. No identity in your home improvement website is the kiss of death. Plan on staying small forever.
- Headline Funnel: The headlines on your website must be written in a way that allows readers to quickly and easily learn what you want them to know (i.e., your identity). An effective funnel allows you to stack headlines on top of each other without looking visually messy, and communicate your MOST IMPORTANT points quickly and concisely.
- Social Proof: A healthy dose of customer reviews, customer references, and jobsite photos (and case studies) will give your prospects confidence in your abilities. Neglect social proof at your own risk—it’s non-negotiable.
- Evidence: You should make bold claims about your abilities… then back those claims up with proof. If you claim to have the most energy efficient windows, show the prospect examples and explain what that means. If you say you’ve got the strongest roofing materials, create a video of you shooting a potato cannon at it. Your business is on trial, and your prospects are the jury. Make sure you give them EVIDENCE to prove your case.
Here are a few examples of GOOD websites that utilize the Five Elements of Conversion ability; study them carefully:
Cost: CHEAP. $5,000 to $15,000 for a good website. Reputable companies will develop the site and content and let you pay for it on monthly installments, often for as low as $200 a month until paid off.
4. Implement A PPC Campaign: Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) for contractors is a terrific idea because it allows you to tap into the huge volume of internet traffic that is ALREADY searching for what you sell. But be careful: one of the biggest mistakes small remodelers make is implementing their PPC campaign BEFORE THEIR WEBSITE HAS BEEN FIXED of the problems listed above. Stated differently, if you pay money to drive traffic to a site that is a piece of crap, don’t be surprised when you get crappy results.
Learning the ropes of how to effectively run your own PPC campaigns is tricky, and it’s easy to mess up. Having a great website first is only one of many elements that will factor into your success. Others major items include writing good ads, choosing the right keywords, and proper bidding. PPC is one of those things that is best left to experts—the money you pay them is usually 10% to 20% of the ad spend. But if they are 2 to 10 times more effective at driving leads, then it’s an absolute no-brainer. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. PPC mastery is A MUST for all small remodelers and construction companies.
Cost: CHEAP. You can get a PPC campaign rolling for as little as $250 to $500 a month, then grow it as budget allows. Your goal should be to spend as much money as possible on PPC.
5. Work Your SEO: Next on the list of non-negotiable, must-do marketing tasks is mastering search engine optimization (SEO). If you’re a contractor who’s been living under a rock, SEO includes activities designed to get Google (and other search engines) to rank your site as high as possible for your important keywords.
SEO is a fairly complex subject, and beyond the grasp of many normal business people; that’s why I have conducted webinars called The Non-Nerds Guide To SEO, PPC, and Social Media. Here are the basics of the basics that you need to know:
- Nerd Coding: Each page of your contractor website needs to have behind-the-scenes coding that tells Google what it can expect to find on that page. This is often called “SEO Setup” and is ideally done at the time your website is built.
- Fresh Content: Google rewards websites that consistently add fresh content on relevant subjects. This can be done through a blog—the key is to consistently write new and fresh and interesting articles. Not one or two—fresh content forever.
- Links: When another website links to your website, Google takes notice. Then it evaluates the link to see if the linking website is popular and if the page being linked from has content that’s relevant to the page being linked to. The more popular the linking website, and the more relevant the content of the two pages, the better.
- Online Reviews: Reviews are a great way to give social proof to your prospects (see above), but also a great way to continually add fresh, relevant content. Google loves online reviews the way Homer Simpson loves beer.
- Social Media: Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with people, but it’s also a great way to create links (see above) from Facebook to your website. If people actually, you know, click on those links, that’s even better.
- Videos: Google owns YouTube, so videos posted there will have a positive impact on your search results.
- Avoid “Black Hat:” Black hat techniques are those intended to fool Google into thinking that your content is newer, fresher, better, and more relevant than it actually is. As a rule, Google is going to crush you if you try this stuff. Beware of SEO “Gurus” who claim they can get you on the first page and guarantee it—they’re usually selling sketchy solutions that will hurt your standing with Google.
Cost: CHEAP. Depending on where you’re located, the service should cost from $250 a month to $750 a month. Larger cities have more competitors and therefore require more work.
6. Intelligent Mailings: You should only move to this step if you’ve spent all the money you need to on the other items (above) and you still have money left over. If that’s you—congratulations! Now consider sending mailers and emails to your past customers AND your past prospects… these are both fertile areas where you can find lots of business just piling up, waiting to be liberated. Without going into too much detail here, just know that your customers will send you plenty of referrals and repeat business IF they had a great experience with you (#1 above) AND if you have a strong identity (#2 above), AND if they actually remember you exist. That’s why you’ve got to just reach out and constantly remind them “Hey, remember us?” It’s literally just that simple—but you have to make a plan and DO IT.
Past prospects are also ripe—the #1 reason prospects don’t buy is that the price you quoted them was more than they had mentally budgeted for. Sure, some will buy from cheaper competitors, but a lot of them will decided to wait and buy later when they can afford it. If you fail to continuously reach out to them, you will miss opportunities out the wazoo.
Cost: MODERATE. It does cost money to mail stuff. But start small, and don’t expect too much too soon. Be consistent, and be patient. You will see this pay off.
7. Foot Soldiers: Put on a shirt and tie (yes, shirt and tie) and go knock some doors. I’m not talking about a massive canvassing assault; I’m talking about 2 to 10 homes a day in neighborhoods where you know your products are needed. Then do this: Create a huge, oversized $1,000 bill (17” x 7.3”—email if you want help on this email@example.com) and knock on a door, take a step back, extend the bill when they open the door, and say “I’d like to give you $1,000.” The big bill will interrupt their “get this guy the heck off my porch” pattern. Then say “I was just down the street working on a job; I noticed your siding was looking a bit worn out; we sell the highest quality siding and I can give you a quote on how much it would cost to replace yours in about 40 seconds. Want a quote, or should I just keep moving on? If you want a quote, this bill is worth $1,000 off.” Hear me now, believe me later: this works like gangbusters.
8. Home Shows: Take that same big bill to the home show and use it as a magnificent interruption tool. The opposite side of the bill should feature your identity.
Sure there are other things you could do—but I wouldn’t really bother with them. Advertising? Why would you waste money on that when you can get all the home improvement leads you need from the internet, existing customers, and door knocking? None of this stuff costs that much money, and all of it is necessary and effective.
After an hour and a half on the phone going over these strategies in detail—with the bulk of the time spent discussing point #1 above—I couldn’t tell if Jake was dazed or dazzled. I got my answer when he simply said, “Thank you, thank you. I have bet my house on this business. I finally feel like my faith is going to be rewarded.”
Indeed. With a good plan, David to can survive and thrive… and who knows, maybe even beat Goliath into a demoralized, quivering pulp.
© 2014 – 2016, Rich Harshaw. All rights reserved.