Thank you for coming back to our website for Part 2 of Content Marketing for Contractors! Recall from Part 1 that the advertising and marketing world is in the process of undergoing a radical transformation. Business owners, and in particular home service contractors (hvac, plumbing, remodeling companies, etc.), aren’t seeing the results they once did from traditional marketing channels like billboards, direct mail, print, radio, telemarketing, and TV (so called “outbound marketing strategies”). The reason for the diminished return on investment (ROI)? A fragmented media market, technology that helps consumers avoid advertising, and a library at everyone’s fingertips in the world wide web.
Instead of throwing more money at these “traditional” advertising channels (and creating marketing people hate in the process), contractors should instead shift gears and focus their efforts and investments on inbound content marketing. According to Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing refers to creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action. Content marketing is the savvy roofer that creates the e-book called, The ULTIMATE Homeowner’s Guide to Buying a New Roof. It works because, these days, when Susie or Joe Homeowner are in the market for a new roof, the first place they go is to Google. And when they search, “how to know when your roof needs to be replaced”, our roofer’s e-book pops up at the top of the search results.
Here’s another example. Go to Google and search “what’s the most effective form of online advertising”. Guess who comes up?
You guessed it – Blue Corona! These days, everyone has a virtual library of information right in their pocket. Consumers want to educate themselves before they call you. They like self-educating online because it puts them in control – and it’s easy! If you know your products/services and the needs of your audience, you can create different types of content that walks them right through your sales process – literally. When you do it right, by the time they call you, the deal is done – it’s just a matter of putting a face with a name and hammering out the details.
However, there’s one thing about content marketing that you must never forget. You cannot let your content become a veiled sales pitch. The minute you do this, you might as well go back to throwing money at traditional “interruption” marketing because it’s not going to work. Content marketing must focus on education and engagement – not schilling product.
A Simple Content Marketing Plan for Contractors
At this point, hopefully, I’ve made the case for content marketing. Consumers are sick and tired of being interrupted by traditional advertising. They would much prefer to educate themselves in the privacy and comfort of their own homes via the web. By creating unique, relevant content that educates (not sells) your prospects and answers their implied questions, you will increase your website’s visibility in the organic search results – putting your content in front of consumers at the exact moment of interest and intent.
Great, you’re sold… there’s only one problem… you’re a contractor, not a copywriter. And what do you really know about SEO? Most of you wouldn’t know your website’s site speed–a major factor in how your site ranks organically–if your life depended on it! Never fear – Ben is here (sorry, I’ve been trying to work this sentence into a blog post for years)! Let me help you get started. If I were in your shoes, these are the steps I would take:
Step 1: Install accurate website tracking
A content marketing campaign is like any other advertising strategy. Before you get started, you should make sure that you’re accurately tracking your website and that you have pre-campaign baseline data. At a minimum, you’ll want to know metrics like:
Visits per month
Visits per month from non-branded organic search
Number 1 organic rankings on Google
Top 10 organic rankings on Google
Visit-per-lead conversion rate
Leads per month
If you’re unsure how to get tracking set up on your website, drop us a line – we can help.
Step 2: Get a website audit
The best content in the world is never going to rank on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. if your website is coded in a way that makes it difficult for the search engines to read. Creating content is time consuming, so make sure your website is coded and structured in a way that allows the search engines to find your brilliantly written prose. I’ve yet to find a free website audit that is sufficient. For all content marketing’s benefits, speed is not one of them. Given the time, energy, and money you’re going to invest in your content marketing campaign, I think it’s worth spending $2,000 – $3,500 to get a professional website audit and recommendations report.
Step 3: Create a trophy piece of content
For most contractors, the easiest way to get started with content marketing is to create a single trophy piece of content. For example, Bruce Wentworth is a top DC architect and he has done a fantastic job using content marketing to improve his organic search visibility and generate more leads and sales for his firm. Not only is he an avid blogger – on multiple websites – he has created an amazing 160 page e-book called, From House to Home: An Architect’s Perspective on Remodeling.
For architects and remodelers, creating a substantial e-book is the perfect example of a trophy piece of content. If creating a 160 page e-book seems to overwhelming for you, you might consider instead creating a few buyer’s guides – one for each of your primary lines of business.
So if you’re an exterior remodeling company, you might create a buyer’s guide for things like:
Building your dream deck
Step 4: Promote your content and engage prospects
Once you have a trophy piece of content, your going to want to promote it, track the people that view and interact with it, and engage your prospects with additional relevant content. Before you promote your content, you need to add it to a landing page (a specific page) on your website. Although some larger contracting companies give their trophy content away for free, we recommend asking people for something in exchange for downloading your content. At a minimum, this might mean asking people for their name and email address. You might even want to test asking people some additional questions to help you segment them for future content marketing efforts – i.e. someone that says they are one month away from making a purchase should be followed up with differently than someone that says they are 12 months away from making a purchase.
Regardless of which option you choose, with respect to the mechanics of people downloading your content, you want to make sure you’re tracking things appropriately. Most contractors want to see the number of people that download their content, which traffic sources drove the downloads, what people did after downloading the content, and how the visitor engaged with the content. There are a number of analytics software programs you can use to do this. Google Analytics is free and relatively simple to use, so it’s a good place to start.
There are a limitless number of ways you can promote your trophy content. Take a look at the screenshot on the left. The big page in the middle is the landing page on your website where people can download your trophy content. The orange boxes represent related blog posts. The green boxes represent social media updates on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and the purple boxes represent your opt-in email newsletter.
So, you make your trophy content available for download. Then, you create blog posts related to various sections of your trophy content. For example, if you’ve created a roofing buyer’s guide, you might write a blog post based loosely on the first chapter – something like “How to Choose the Right Roofing Material for Your Home.” Each related blog post might have a call to action at the end of it that says something like, “Learn more – Download The ULTIMATE Homeowner Buyer’s Guide to Roof Replacement” and links them to the landing page of our trophy content.
You can publish any related blog post on your website’s blog or publish it as a guest post on another website – it really doesn’t matter – different situations call for different tactics. Spread your content around. In any event, once you publish your blog post, you might do a couple social media blurbs to pique people’s interest in reading your blog post. If someone downloads your trophy content, and they opt-in to receiving ongoing emails from you, make sure you follow up. A lot of contractors do this with a semi-custom email newsletter. If you go this route, make sure your newsletters promote other related content – blogs, follow us on Facebook, etc.
Hopefully this blog series has you convinced to make content marketing a big part of your 2013 online marketing strategy. Contractors are often quick to dismiss marketing strategies such as inbound marketing and content marketing as something best left to big companies and brands. Nothing could be further from the truth. Content marketing is tailor made for small medium sized businesses. A single piece of content created today can generate hundreds of web visits, leads, and sales – for years to come. There’s simply no other marketing strategy that delivers such an excellent return. However, content marketing isn’t easy. It takes time, careful planning, technology, and a dogged determination in order to break through the clutter.
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.
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“We are very pleased not only with the end result, but with the entire process of working with Blue Corona. The amount of patience, guidance, and knowledge that they displayed throughout the whole process made them a very easy and enjoyable partner to work with. We are thrilled with our new website, mobile site, and content management system. We would recommend Blue Corona for any website development or redesign project. ”