13 Free Marketing Ideas for Contractors
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 free marketing 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 and immediately get into contact with your network. It can become an outward face of corporate culture and a communication device in today’s give and take marketing arena. Our recommendation for foundational social media platforms to build from are Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Houzz, and now TikTok. These are all image and video heavy sites that showcase project updates and beauty shots, but they also offer direct access to important demographics including radius targeting and behavior-driven impressions for “homeowners”. Additionally, all of these platforms can be “juiced” with some advertising funds to gain demographic reach – something we recommend, even on a small budget.
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 Yelp and the newly rebranded Angi Leads, 2 of the more popular players, offer free listings with significant organic search 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, at most you should be doing 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 do 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.
Pro tip: Before and After photos have the most influence on prospective remodeling clients.
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 now an everyday part of every social network. 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. And don’t forget to try out TikTok for video posts – it has recently overtaken YouTube for the most hours watched per day by consumers.
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.
Website Tip: If your website is built with a user-friendly platform like WordPress, you’ll be able to create posts without the help of an outside website professional.
Having a robust Google, Facebook, and Better Business Bureau review presence isn’t just important, but consumers expect it. You can easily develop a program to ask your existing clients and contacts to post an honest review of their experience with your business. However, make sure the reviews you are getting are honest and go into as much depth as possible. Just like with Amazon, there are sham reviews out there and some businesses are trying to jump the line by creating fake reviews. To combat this, Google and Facebook are use artificial intelligence to prioritize more valid reviews.
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 half-zip black Lion Tree Group pullover. It’s kind of like a personal name tag that can help someone identify me when my 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 to mid-size businesses focused primarily in the construction and manufacturing industries. We work with our clients on everything from one-off brochures to complete marketing services including budgeting and branding to website design and digital ads to performance reviews and follow-up. Our secret sauce is our design approach and developing your website into asset.” Those words have been unbelievably helpful in getting the word out about what we do and giving me confidence introducing our 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 finding employees, consider hosting a training event and invite other industry professionals to attending. Then 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 every prospects 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 or Klaviyo can be the perfect solution for keeping in contact and still looking professional.
12. HANDWRITTEN NOTES
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken on a once-a-day project for each of the past few years. A few years ago, he challenged himself to write a handwritten note to someone every day of the year. Seems simple enough, right? Try it. I did my best a few years ago 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 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, especially in a limited social world, like the COVID shutdown.
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, NextDoor, Reddit, 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 create valuable backlinks to your website and can be a good way to generate long-tail traffic to boost organic SEO over time. Some of the best in the businesses started their business 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 past member of the NARI of Madison and Safe Communities Madison-Dane County Board of Directors.