Are you frustrated with online marketing for your local service business? Do you know you’re good at what you do, but feel out of your element when it comes to websites, social media, and search engines? Or you’re overwhelmed by all the choices to spend on your marketing budget, while each choice sounds like it should work to get good leads only not to pan out.
I built a website for a kitchen remodeler who would have benefited from a pro doing marketing for him. He was frequently stuck in year-long contracts with marketing services that produced no leads. And he would forget this the next time a slick-talking salesperson came through the door. It was frustrating to watch. He was good at remodeling kitchens but missed growing his business with more effective marketing.
Since 2000, I’ve run a digital marketing company, concentrating on building websites and doing search engine marketing. In recent years I’ve also been actively involved with local service companies that do concrete, woodworking, painting, and hauling. I’ve sold projects, answered phones, and got my hands dirty doing the actual work. I still have a woodworking company where I make furniture.
As a marketer, I like to think of myself as a player/coach – someone who understands what it’s like to talk with customers who want things done at their homes.
I’m offering four top tips to help you get ahead of your competition by making sure your marketing foundation is strong to allow you to start killing it with your sales.
1. Build a website that converts visitors to leads
When I was searching for a driving school for my daughter, I came across two that were nearby. One cost less than the other, but their website was ugly and had spelling errors. To me, this reflected on their quality of instruction and even the safety of their cars. I ended up paying $100 more at the second school because it had a modern design to its website and writing that was professional.
Unfortunately, people judge businesses by the design and content of their websites. They just do. That’s why you need a stellar, professional-looking website that draws in visitors and converts them to clients.
There are a few items to look at when building a website:
Price. If you take an honest look at your site and realize it needs an overhaul, don’t fret too much about the cost. You can spend serious money, but there are ways to build a website that won’t break the bank. And website platforms like WordPress’ prices have gone down while the beauty and function of their sites have gone up.
I launched a website recently for a local flooring company that was about one-third of what it would have cost 10 years ago, and – bonus — it looked better than it would have back then, too.
Content. Use text, photos, and videos to show off your business. Take time and think about what makes your business the best and use that content — anything that tells your unique story and why the visitor should contact you. A well-written website will reflect how you take care of clients with your service.
Also, don’t be afraid to hire a professional if you don’t feel comfortable writing content or taking pictures and videos for your site. You want your website to look the best it can and sometimes that means hiring someone to help you.
Contact Info. Make your contact information stand out. This is not the time to make your phone number difficult to find or your contact form difficult to fill out. Here are two important things:
- Have your phone number stand out on every page of your site and ask visitors to call you today.
- Make contact forms short and sweet and put them on every page of your site
Don’t build your website and forget it. Make sure you update it regularly with fresh content.
2. Build a database and market to it regularly
Don’t rely on your customer’s memory to remember the name of your company. Sometimes people just forget. We want them to keep you at the front of their minds to call you for work or recommend you to others, and one of the best ways to do this is through email newsletters.
Your emails don’t have to be long. I normally will have an introductory paragraph, a link to one of my blog posts, a service highlight, and then something funny.
For example, if you are a tree service company, you can write a newsletter with tips on when clients should do certain services to enhance the beauty of their yard. You can also talk about spring cleanup or when to trim your trees. And then offer a coupon for your services. If you’re a regular blogger, you could use the content you create in your blog for your newsletter.
I like the idea of offering discounts to email subscribers since you’re not paying to win them as a customer. This is one of the easiest ways to get repeat customers because they already know and trust you.
I also like using MailChimp for sending out newsletters. It’s simple to use, and they give you good stats of how people interacted with your newsletters. The program also easily manages anyone who wants to unsubscribe without you having to do anything. And I just learned last week that you can connect it to your QuickBooks, so contacts are automatically added to your MailChimp database, and you don’t have to do them by hand. Pretty slick.
Also, one of the tricks with MailChimp I do is resend the newsletter two days after I send out the original newsletter to those people who didn’t open it the first time. I’ve never had anyone complain about this, and I usually get a 15-20 percent open rate on the second send.
The main thing is to be consistent. Send out that email or newsletter. Attach that coupon. Tell that story. And use the contact information that you get from your website to help build your database.
3. Actively pursue social media
Social media marketing is a great tool for being in front of customers, word-of-mouth advertising, and reaching new people. Encourage your customers to share about your service and recommend your business to their friends. Encourage your friends to do the same.
However, be judicious about what you share on social media. Nobody wants to be directly sold something all the time — there are already enough sponsored ads on Facebook. I’ve even stopped following companies that were always trying to sell me something. It’s okay to share about specials you’re running or new services you’re starting to offer, but don’t do this with every post.
What you should do though is:
- Sprinkle in helpful tips and even personal stuff.
- Make personal connections and be a resource for your followers.
- Share how you solved someone’s problem or made their home more beautiful.
- Post before/after pictures.
Finally, don’t end each post with, “If you need us to paint your exterior, give us a call today.” People are smart enough to figure they can call you. Make sure your contact information is up to date on your social media – including website, phone number, hours, and email. Like on your website, you don’t want to make it difficult to find you.
Used well, social media can help draw in your customers. I always get the most reaction on my personal Facebook page when I share about the pieces of furniture I’m building with my woodworking business. Two weeks ago, I delivered a live edge tabletop I made for a friend who saw on Facebook the other work I’ve done. Social media works!
4. Use the search engines to your advantage
Years ago, I did marketing for a tree service company. When we started together, they had an outdated website and no search engine presence. Today they are one of the largest locally owned tree services in Denver. They’ve done this by dominating on all three areas of the search engines – organic search engine optimization (SEO), local SEO, and pay per click advertising.
Working with search engines is foundationally for the purpose of getting leads. Sometimes it means getting visitors to your website and other times it’s having searchers call you from your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business).
To show up on organic search, I would recommend hiring a professional to do this for you. They have the tools to figure out what keywords people are using to find someone like you and the ability to set up your site with those keywords. And then they’ll get links to your site. There is an art and science to good SEO.
Local SEO is something that is easier for a non-professional to do. This regards your Google Business Profile. These profiles show up near the top of the search engines when someone types in a search phrase that is related to a local area. When you click on the listing, you will see the information about your company — reviews, photos, map, and other information.
If you haven’t done so, claim your Google Business Profile and then start adding information to it and asking your customers to do reviews for you.
If you don’t have time to do this, then a professional can oversee this too. They can optimize your profile for the search engines and develop a good system of getting reviews and photos posted to it. This is something I’m more of an expert on than the regular SEO.
The last thing is pay per click advertising, which works like this: You bid on a bunch of keywords, and you pay that bid price for someone to come to your website when they click on your ad.
There are things I like about pay per click:
- It allows you to market your company on a greater variety of keywords than you can write in regular organic SEO.
- The results are more tangible and easier to track than SEO.
- You can turn your marketing on and off — if you are getting too many leads, then you can stop the marketing for a while.
- You can target your ads to just a local area, which is called geotargeting.
The downside is that there is a high learning curve to learning how to do this successfully if you’re planning to do it yourself. This is another service I would suggest outsourcing to a professional.
In conclusion, getting leads through digital marketing can have a significant effect on the health of your business. Some things you can do yourself and some I would suggest outsourcing to professionals.
The absolute best thing you can do is provide great service and great products with excellent communication with your customers. This will often get you further than being a great marketer as you build your reputation and business. However, online marketing isn’t going away anytime soon, so find what pieces work for you and your business, and use those to help your business stand out online.