13 Free Marketing Ideas for Contractors
We surveyed more than 30 contractors online to gather insight into proven marketing ideas that require very little or no budget. We call these ideas FREEWAYS. These are quick and easy concepts that owners, office staff, or even sales reps can utilize to increase the top of mind awareness for contracting and remodeling businesses. In an age when a marketing message requires a broad spectrum approach, implementing just a few of these FREEWAYS could be an avenue to accessing key niche demographics in your market.
1. SOCIAL MEDIA
Since its inception, social media has had a major impact on the building trades. For no initial investment, a business can create a company page with specific information including contact info, images, videos, offers, and company updates. It can become an outward face of corporate culture and a communication device in a give and take marketing arena. Our recommendation for foundational social media platforms to build on are Facebook, Pinterest, and Houzz. These are image-heavy sites that encourage project updates and beauty shots, but they also offer access to important demographics including hyper-local footprints or behavior-driven impressions. Additionally, all of these platforms can be “juiced” with some advertising funds to gain demographic reach.
To say online local listing pages are the new Yellow Pages would be like saying Aaron Rodgers is the new Roger Staubach. The game has changed so much over time that we don’t even recognize the old “cutting-edge” strategy. There are hundreds of these sites vying for relevancy in the online marketplace, and the great thing is, most of them are free. Even Angie’s List and Yelp, 2 of the more popular players, offer free listings with significant organic reach potential. From your Google My Business listing to Facebook and Bing, local directories can boost your organic search real estate and likelihood of being found online. Google has explicitly stated local listing impact as a component in recent algorithm updates. We recommend using a site like www.yext.com to help you evaluate your existing listings and then working through the list one by one to standardize your local listing presence.
One a side note: if you are still spending money on printed phone directories, I recommend sticking with a BOLD listing only for your core product categories.
3. PROJECT PORTFOLIO
Our sales and install teams visit homes and projects every day. Why is it so hard to get consistent quality project photos from our staff? Updating your website portfolio is cheap, if not free, and the benefits of additional project photography can be a boost for your credibility and it affords you the opportunity to “ask” for what you best. Show off projects you want more of and seekers will find you. Here are a few photography tips from RUSSCO and CraftJack to pass along to your team members.
Not only is every smartphone a pretty decent camera, but also an HD video recorder. The bandwidth of cellular networks has expanded just as the cord-cutters have surged, but the reach of video has never been greater. One great boost is that video is being promoted on every social media platform in 2018. If you go “LIVE” on Facebook, all of your page fans will be notified. Take advantage of this FREEWAY while it lasts to get your biggest splash in social media.
The most impactful videos are informative and entertaining. Share a unique unearthing from a project excavation, a complicated beam installation, or an intensive team effort on a project for the best reach. Here are some great tips from Facebook and multi-platform posting partner Hootsuite.
5. BLOG POSTS
Get noticed with a blog that epitomizes the give/take marketing opportunities of today’s Google algorithm. As we continually solidify the SEO performance of clients, we see one noticeable trend – BLOGS WORK. Not only do blog posts meet the continual content building that Google loves, but they also allow a company to cast a wider net of influence on their industry. Blogs can be detailed and informative on specific topics like StructureTech Home Inspections or they can be broad and tip-driven like Marvin Windows. Regardless of how you feel about blogging, it is the real-time content for your website and regular updates send Google a message that your site is still alive. Do I need to mention that if you aren’t taking advantage of it now, blogging is most likely a FREEWAY platform for you to contribute to as well?
Inforgraphics were the next hip thing in 2015. In 2018, they have been largely boxed out by Facebook and Instagram image size limitations, but they still play a role in creating engagement. Imagine the last infographic that grabbed your attention in a social media news feed. Mine was this millennial comparison in the ABA Law Journal and it continues to stick with me. Unique data visualization can still be eye-catching like these datasets from the Visual Capitalist. And while everyone doesn’t have the resources to create complex data visuals, there are some great FREEWAYS online that can help you create some basic, supplemental infographics like Canva and Vennage.
7. NETWORKING/ELEVATOR PITCH
One thing we continually preach to clients is to create a personal brand connection. If you ever meet me, you’ll probably find me with dark jeans, a check oxford, and a full-zip black Lion Tree Group fleece. It’s kind of like a personal name tag that can help someone identify me when my infectious personality was under-infectious. The same idea goes for those over-the-bar or across-the-table moments. Have you practiced how you describe your company?
If you’d asked me a year ago, I’d have said, “I am part of a, well, pretty much, we do marketing?” What does that even mean? I realized I was getting hung up on this way too much and I was self-sacrificing my one opportunity to tell my story. After practicing for a while, I came up with something much more in line with our services.
“I own a marketing company for small businesses including contractors and manufacturer networks. We work with our clients on everything from one-off brochure projects to complete marketing services from budgeting and branding to website design and digital ads to campaign evaluation and follow-up. Our key advantage is our design coupled with treating your website like an asset.” Those 50 words have been unbelievably helpful in getting the word out about what we do and giving me confidence in my brand.
8. INDUSTRY PARTNERS
Collaborate with other people that work everyday in your field. In some cases, you might be able to refer project to one another or help each other out in busy or slow times. We live in a society defined by fractures, and working with our competitors and business associates through associations or events can net amazing results for your business. You’ll have the ability to establish yourself as an expert or maybe you’ll meet someone with a similar vision to partner with. That’s exactly what happened in my case, I ended up working shoulder to shoulder with people I knew had the tenacity and grit to balance with my own.
9. HOST A CLASS/EVENT
In most cases, you have a showroom or a warehouse that could double as an event location. For very minimal, or even no expense, you can host an event to showcase a product or give an overview of the home building or remodeling process. You can use social media, Google My Business, and your blog to promote the event. The most successful events are informative and don’t focus on the expectation of future business. We live in a give and take advertising era and by sharing some of your expertise, people will naturally begin to respect your command of the industry and eventually work will come back to you.
If you are having trouble find employees, consider hosting a training event and have your staff or a building material supplier get the word out for you. By providing an educational opportunity for your staff, you can show off your company culture to everyone attending and maybe end up sparking a relationship with a prospective employee that could take your business to the next level.
When’s the last time you looked through the Letters to the Editor? Or what about guest blogging or freelance articles? There are more opportunities than ever to get your position out to the masses. You can write a Letter to the Editor about a specific issue or in response to an industry-relevant article. By giving your take and tagging it with your company credentials, you’ll find people notice and respect your opinion. You can also contribute to industry magazines or online forums. In doing so, you’ll be able to show your knowledge, and you’ll educate yourself along the way,
It’s really important to do your best to obtain prospective clients email addresses. Using your customer list can be a real savior when things get tight or you have changes in your business. You are only as good as your last project, but every house you’ve worked in and every client you’ve worked for can be a salesman for your business. While I wouldn’t recommend leaning on them for ongoing reference checks, I do believe that checking in once in a while can be really rewarding and serve as a reminder for that next project on their list. Using a free email service like MailChimp can be the perfect solution for keeping in contact and still looking professional.
12. HANDWRITTEN NOTES
Mark Zuckerberg has taken on a once-a-day project over the past few years. One of those projects, I believe in 2016 (actually it was 2014– oh man I’m getting old), was to write a handwritten note ever day of the year. Seems simple enough, right? On its face it might sound easy, but in reality, I recommend trying it. I did my best in 2017 to adopt this practice. I didn’t set out to write “Thank you” or “Let’s do business” notes, but I tried to send notes when a memory was triggered or a clever idea about someone’s business came to mind. I sent more than 200 handwritten notes in 2017 and while I wasn’t expecting a response, I had almost a 100% response rate thanking me or just to say “hi”. It’s an incredible way to stay top-of-mind while not being IN-YOUR-FACE.
13. ANSWER SITES
As you’re crafting your expertise or if you’re intimidated by even the thought of writing, Q&A sites can be the perfect place to hone your craft. Sites like Quora and Contractor Talk allow users to submit questions that professionals can answer. You’ll be able to help people out and gather ideas for future blog posts or social media threads. The traffic from these websites often allow valuable backlinks to your website and can be a good way to generate long-tail traffic to boost your organic SEO over time. Some of the best in the business started their businesses by sharing expertise through informational sites like these.
These are just a few FREEWAYS to advertise in a digital age. I encourage you to explore at least one of these ideas and see how it makes a difference in your business.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ben Lindberg, CR is a founding partner in Lion Tree Group, a digital marketing agency in Madison, WI. His expertise is in multi-platform brand messaging with a focus on inspiring consumers. His agency specializes in website design and comprehensive branding solutions for contractors. He regularly blogs at his company’s digital news blog: The Bark and Roar and is a member of the NARI of Madison Board of Directors.