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For local home service businesses, not many advertising and marketing strategies can beat the web. It doesn’t matter whether your goal is increasing brand awareness, improving customer service, or generating more leads and sales, all of the most cost-effective and efficient options are online. It should come as no surprise then that contractors investing heavily in online marketing are reaping enormous rewards. Many home service businesses are growing at impressive rates—despite an economy that is recovering at a painfully slow rate.
But while contractors from almost every trade—flooring, HVAC, plumbing, remodeling, roofing, etc.—universally agree that the web is where it’s at for advertising, not many taken the time to define specific goals or a web marketing strategy to achieve them. An even smaller number of contractors are accurately tracking the results they do receive, and practically no one is maximizing the data that’s available to them.
As a result, increasingly there are two categories of contractors:
- Those with a set of defined goals, a strategy and implementation plan, and the analytics tools necessary to make data-driven decisions and
- Those fighting for the scraps left over by these companies.
Which category do you fall into?
You’re probably thinking, “this web geek has no idea what it’s like trying to run an _______(flooring, HVAC, plumbing, roofing, etc.) business!” Actually, I know a lot more than you might think, but you’ll have to call me to verify that. The good news is that there are a lot of home services businesses that haven’t quite got their act together yet either. Taking just a few steps in the right direction can result in a big lead over your competition.
If you’re still on the fence about the importance of the web, humor me and review each of the mistakes below. It’s one thing to not have a kick-ass, awesome, totally optimized web presence, but it’s something altogether different to have a great local business with a web presence that’s costing you sales and hurting your brand.
Here are five easily overlooked mistakes home service contractors make with their presence online:
Mistake #1: Your Website Is Missing the Basics
Whether you own a flooring, HVAC, plumbing, remodeling, roofing, etc. business, it’s a big mistake to treat your website like a brochure. No matter what type of business you own, you should think of and treat your website like a virtual sales rep. An even bigger mistake than treating your website like a brochure is treating your website like an outdated brochure!
If you’re going to treat your website like a brochure, the least you can do is make it a good brochure.
This means including:
- A prominently displayed phone number and an accurate address
- Multiple ways to contact you – phone number, contact forms on each page, and a main contact page
- A general overview of your company with a company history, photos of your staff, trucks, etc.
- A complete (and accurate) list of the services you offer
- Several compelling reasons why prospects should choose you
The list above represents the minimum you need. When people visit your website and have a difficult time finding your contact information, frustration follows. It’s okay if your website isn’t living up to its potential as a lead generation monster, but it’s not okay for it to harm your business with each new visit it receives.
Mistake #2: Your Social Media Strategy Is Socially Awkward
Did you join Facebook before, during, or after college? If you’re like most home service business owners, the answer is after—some of you probably still don’t have an account! The average contractor spends far more time on a golf course or boat than on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, so it should come as no surprise that most have no concept of how to use these sites to market their business! Social media websites can be beneficial to your home service business, but before you integrate them into your web marketing strategy, you must take the time to understand the nuances of each site. This starts with actually using them like your customers do.
For example, at present, promotional posts on Facebook are far more likely to piss people off than to turn them into customers. The only exception applies to companies in the hospitality and entertainment industry, but that’s not you. If, as an example, you want to promote your HVAC / plumbing business on Facebook, you’re going to have to find a way to make your posts entertaining and/or funny. Take a look at the screenshot at right. Four Seasons Heating and Cooling does a TON of contests to engage and build its fanbase. Look at the comments in the lower portion of the screenshot—their efforts appear to be working!
Do this well and you can earn top of mind awareness (TOMA) at a fraction of the cost of traditional media. Do it poorly and you’ll still have TOMA, but it will be in the form of people that think you suck.
Here are some basic social media best-practices for home service businesses:
- Create a profile page for yourself and your business on each social media website (keep your personal stuff mostly separate from your business)
- Make sure the information contained on each of your company’s profiles is accurate and up-to-date
- Set up alerts so that you know when people talking about your company via social sites
- Respond to people that contact your business via social sites (i.e. someone that posts a message to your Facebook wall)
- Customize the content you post on each social media site (in most cases, what you post on Twitter isn’t appropriate for FB)
- When in doubt, keep it out!
At present, social media websites are not going to deliver any where near the return you can generate from web marketing strategies like SEO, PPC, and email. The primary reason to create social media profiles for your business is to protect your brand and set yourself up for the future.
Mistake #3: Your NAP Citations are Wrong
A lot of contractors and home service business owners are asleep (giggle giggle) at the wheel when it comes to the accuracy of their NAP citations. All jokes aside, having incorrect NAP citations can cost you business and tank your local search rankings. What are NAP citations? NAP stands for Name Address Phone Number. NAP citations are created in a variety of ways. For example, adding your business to the a yellow pages website creates a mention of your company’s name, address, and phone number. Have you ever joined a local chamber of commerce and entered your business contact information to be listed in their member directory? If the directory is crawlable by Google, this is another example of a NAP citation.
You may not think it’s a big deal to have your business listed on one website as Ben’s Plumbing Company, Inc. and as Ben’s Plumbing Service on another but these subtle differences matter. You should strive to make sure that all of your NAP citations are as consistent as possible and be sure that the information listed is correct. This is especially important if you’ve ever moved locations, switched phone numbers, or expanded your business to include new trades (i.e. the HVAC company that adds plumbing to its services).
It’s not uncommon for data aggregators like Axciom, Neustar, and InfoUSA to get your information wrong. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if the inaccurate information were limited only to their individual websites, but what most business owners don’t realize is that these companies syndicate or share data with thousands of other sites. For example, Local.com gets their business listing data from Axciom. If Axciom has your info wrong, so does Local.com.
Why does any of this matter? After all, who really uses Local.com? The real problem with having inaccurate NAP information scattered around the web is that Google and other search engines use this information to validate certain attributes of a company. When your information is inconsistent or wrong, your local search rankings will almost certainly suffer. For local home services businesses, this is a disaster.
As a service, Blue Corona can perform an audit and give you a complete overview of how your business appears online and we can also help you make all of your NAP information consistent across the web. If you’re small or you’re the DIY type, you can get a good feel for how things look on your own by heading over to Google. Search for your company by name, address, or phone number. Click through the results and you’ll likely be amazed at what you find.
Every time you find incorrect information, add the site info to a spreadsheet. Be sure to identify the source of the data (for example, maybe InfoUSA is the real provider of the info and they would be the root-cause of the problem). On another day, you’re going to have to reach out to the appropriate sites and give them the right information to display.
Mistake #4: You Have No Reviews
Having reviews from (real) customers can mean the difference between winning and losing a new customer, but most local home service contractors have no formal strategy for generating feedback from their prospects and customers. According to local search expert Mike Blumenthal, this is a big mistake. Blumenthal believes you should integrate the feedback/review collection process into your overall business operations in a holistic manner and we agree.
How do you do this? It’s easy. For example, if you own a local remodeling company, you could call each client personally after the completion of each job. If there was a problem, it’s far better to catch it and address it early. Negative reviews typically come after the client has tried to vent their frustration and no one was listening.
With so many local home contractors having almost no reviews, it makes sense to take a proactive approach. Even a handful of reviews can be enough to differentiate you from your local competitors, and they’re not difficult to generate. As an example of how easy collecting reviews can be, we know one local plumbing company that has setup a website reviews.exampleplumbingsite.com. They direct all of their customers to this website to provide feedback. If someone submits a negative review, they reach out and nip the issue in the bud. If they receive a positive review, they publish it to their website and reach out to ask the person if they wouldn’t mind adding their review to sites like Google+, Yelp, and other local, review accepting directories.
Mistake #5: Your Website Has No Personality
Your web presence should convey the personality of your company. What this means depends on the type of company you own, the industry and area you’re in, and your company’s culture.
Almost no matter what type of company you have, if I were you, I would:
- Have an About Us page on your website that tells the story of your company
- Use photos of real employees vs. stock photos on your website
- Upload pictures from your company parties and events to your website and Facebook page
- Have your social media website profiles match your overall brand, website, etc.
Some consumers hire their (flooring, HVAC, plumbing, window and door, remodeling, roofing, etc.) company specifically because they want to support a local business. If your website is filled with generic, made-for-SEO content and pictures of this guy (see below – this is one of the most popular stock photos that comes up when you search “plumbing contractor”), you might miss what would be the equivalent of a lay up sale:
Conclusion & Takeaways
If you own a home service business and you’re interested in growing it, few advertising and marketing strategies compare to the web. At the same time, very few contractors are taking any where close to the full advertising and marketing advantage the Internet offers, so it doesn’t take much to gain a significant advantage over your competitors.
If you’re not quite ready to go “all-in” with online marketing and create a clearly defined strategy, you should at least make sure that your web presence isn’t hurting your business.
If you’d like a sense for what you might be missing with your current online presence, submit your website for a free analysis:
If you’d like help creating a killer blueprint to use the web to grow your business, drop us a line and set up a consultation with one of our web advisers!
About The Author:
Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
View more blogs by Ben Landers