Construction Advertising Tips to Use Now
With so many options available in construction advertising, it can be challenging when deciding where to focus your resources. Digital marketing is the ante, but traditional channels have their value as well.
In fact, for some, a solid Yellow Pages campaign still equals a solid construction advertising foundation…believe it or not.
Construction advertising isn’t about the Yellow Pages
Evaluate your company’s specific objectives and opportunities to determine what will work best considering your construction advertising budget, allocation, positioning, and message.
Traditional construction advertising tools include things that you’ve probably concentrated on most of the time you’ve been in business.
Print advertising, personal contacts and ensuring the visibility of your brand all fall into this category. It also includes the priceless value of networking and referrals.
You may think direct mail is dead, but it isn’t. You need to target it more carefully and design it more effectively, but direct mail continues to be an effective tool.
While looking into new construction advertising tools and modern brand building, don’t automatically dismiss this tried and true form of traditional advertising. If you want to know how to use it today, let’s talk.
Signage and Printed Materials in Your Construction Advertising Arsenal
The value of a good logo that is consistent throughout your marketing campaigns shouldn’t be underestimated.
It may seem like a large expense to have these items customized and professionally designed, but it will return to you with a strong brand that encourages loyalty and builds a strong reputation.
If you don’t already have a professionally designed logo, tag line, and color scheme, consider working with a construction advertising agency to give your company a competitive edge.
Developing relationships with people in your community is the cornerstone to a solid construction advertising program. When people know and trust you, they will be likely to call you when they need a contractor and suggest your name when friends are in need of one. Networking can provide a substantial business that you would not have earned through any form of advertising, so get involved in your community. Join the local Chamber of Commerce, volunteer for projects, and sponsor events, and your company name will be well known and respected in the community.
Your online presence is an essential part of your construction advertising plan in today’s economy. If you have been neglecting this part of your marketing strategy, now is the time to make a change. When consumers need a local service provider, 85% of them go to their internet search engine rather than the yellow pages or the newspaper. Depending upon traditional marketing will keep your business from reaching its full potential.
Your professionally designed contractor website is the hub of your digital marketing plan. All other online activity will point back to your website as the source of comprehensive information and communication with you. At a minimum, your website should include these key components: gallery, contact form, location and contact information, and testimonials. This is the one channel online where you have complete control of your message, so establish your expertise and display your best work.
Company profiles on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are ideal channels for connecting with potential customers who you may not encounter in any other way. Careful management of your profiles is necessary to create a strong relationship with clients, but this pays off in the loyalty it builds and recommendations you will gain. Every time one of your pictures or articles is shared, it serves as a word of mouth recommendation.
If you are disappointed in your website traffic, a blog is the most effective way to draw people in. A blog is an essential piece of your construction advertising for several reasons. It establishes you as an expert in your field and gives people a reason to frequently return to your website. Even better than that, they will share your most interesting and informative articles with their friends through social media.
How Much Should You Spend on Construction Advertising?
I get this question a lot from contractors large and small, and while there are guidelines to follow, the only person able to answer this question is the one writing the check since it is their money.
But a great place to start when trying to figure out just how much to spend is by figuring out how much you want to make. If you want to just get by, then a minimal marketing budget with a solid referral business will do.
If you have bigger ambitions, like being the industry leader in your market, then you’re going to need to spend a lot more than that guy that just wants to get by.
Either option requires a budget
I think the last time I checked, two-thirds of all small businesses closed their doors within five years. I bet that number is higher in the home-improvement industry. Most contractors start out with some business cards, tools, and a desire to do great work. But many don’t set aside any cash to tell the world about how great of a plumber or electrician they are.
So what are the numbers?
Well, most small businesses can get away with spending between 5% to 10% of gross sales on advertising, and construction advertising is no different. In fact, many of the high-flyers in the trades spend 12% to 15% marketing their businesses.
Now, there are contractors out there that will tell you they haven’t spent a dime on marketing in years, living solely from referrals. Well, that’s great for them, but bad advice for you, especially if you’re contracting company is less than 5 years old.
New businesses need more care and feeding
If your business is 5 years old or less, then you are still a start-up in the trades, and you should plan on spending at least 15% of gross sales for the next three years on advertising.
Obviously, the closer you are to the 5 years instead of a year will play a part in this equation, but 15% will help get your name out there in a highly competitive market during a down economy.
And if you think that 15% of gross sales is too much, you have to understand that if your budget is too limited to make an impact in the market, then any advertising you will do will have less of an impact and eventually require you to spend even more money on advertising to get the same results than if you just allocated the 15% originally.
Again, I want you to understand, these numbers are subjective, but one thing I know for sure, the more you put into marketing your construction company, the more money you WILL make…if done properly!
Creating a marketing plan
Construction advertising can become a time consuming and expensive endeavor if you don’t have a plan. Making decisions as they come and assuming potential customers will share your vision don’t work as long term marketing solutions. To ensure that your brand name means what you want it to within your community, you will need to create a strategy that comprehensively supports your image and objectives.
Determine what your objectives are
The first step to creating an effective marketing plan is to define your business goals. These goals should drive your marketing efforts. If an activity does not push you closer to the objectives that you have established, you should rethink whether it is worth your time and resources. Do you hope to move into a new market segment, increase market share, or increase revenue per project? Define your goals at the beginning of your planning so that they can drive your marketing plan and strategy.
Assess your strengths and weaknesses
Now it is time to compare your company’s capabilities to the objectives that you have set. What is holding you back? Feedback from previous customers can be priceless when it comes to defining your weaknesses. Even customers who were satisfied with your work can probably share an element that they feel could have gone better. In order to reach your goals, you must have tough skin when it comes to constructive criticism. A thorough problem solving of your weaknesses can turn those issues into strengths.
Hopefully, your existing strengths are what led you to set the objectives that you chose. Customer feedback can also be helpful in evaluating strengths but look at your internal data as well. Where do you recognize the most revenue? Which projects have the highest profit margin? In what areas do you have a particular skill that is not found in your competitors? Identify your strengths and spotlight them in your marketing plan.
Consider the public image of your company
The customer feedback that you obtained in the assessment of your strengths and weaknesses can give you a clearer idea of how your company is perceived in the community. You may be surprised at the differences between your vision and that of the general public, but this will give you a good idea of where your marketing efforts should be targeted. These differences could be positive or negative.
For example, if you frequently volunteer for Habitat for Humanity but haven’t emphasized that, you may be happy to learn that people have noticed and believe that you are a leader in the community. On the other hand, you may find image issues that need to be cleared up. It only takes one vocal dissatisfied customer to spread rumors about your company far and wide. Whichever impressions you find can help you in the formation of your marketing plan.
Look for new opportunities
New opportunities in construction advertising are out there, but you may need to be creative. As the sale of new homes decreased in the past decades, many construction contractors have honed specializations in renovations, green building, and other modern trends. Is your community one in which “tiny houses” are becoming popular?
Maybe your city has historic homes that need to be returned to their former glory. Consider commercial opportunities or other possibilities available to you through your network of contacts. Constant improvement and willingness to lead industry trends can ensure that you are never the contractor who is searching for work.
Embrace innovation in your industry and in marketing tools
Just as you must look for new opportunities in your industry, you should embrace innovative marketing tools as well. Digital channels provide amazing opportunities to reach thousands of prospective customers for a relatively low investment.
A professional website is the first essential step, but you can also take advantage of social media, pay-per-click advertising, blogging, and so much more. People who are looking for a local contractor are starting their search online, so your marketing plan must include the management of your online presence and consider the various advertising and brand-building opportunities that entail.
What to do next
It always comes down to which you have more of; time or money. Knowledge plays a key role as well. For example, let’s say you schedule 4 hours each Friday afternoon to do office work, so you book time with yourself to plan out your strategy…but you don’t have a clue how to get started. OR…You have a budget that you’ve set aside to start marketing, but once again, you don’t have any idea how to get the ball rolling.
Understanding Features vs. Benefits in Construction Advertising
I talk a lot here about promoting your company’s features. And I always finish that sentence by telling you to make sure you tie your features back to the benefit your client or customer receives by doing business with you. But I got an email recently from a reader who said they were confused about the two.
So let’s talk about it!
As a marketing guy, it is easy for me to swerve in and out of the two concepts seamlessly, but if you are having trouble distinguishing between your features and benefits, then help is on the way.
Most contractors decide what business they want to start based on two things: 1) what they are good at, and 2) what they think people will buy. This usually is fine, but what most contractors fail to do is convey to their prospects why they should buy their product or service. Instead, the contractor already assumes the prospect knows, which causes the contractor to simply state “facts” about their service without representing what the value (not in dollars) is to the consumer.
So, let’s review, what are features when it comes to construction advertising?
The list below was pulled right out of The Family Handyman magazine
Remote control shower starter
Painter’s tape treated with PaintBlock Technology
Fuel system revitalize
Independently Adjustable Bed
Each feature above is a factual statement about the product being advertised. But the features or “nuts and bolts” of the products are not what is going to move people to buy, and that is where most advertising goes wrong. By providing the customer with a benefit or something of value, you can turn your so-so advertising into lead-generating hits.
For example, the benefit to the user of powerful chainsaws is less time spent cutting up trees. The painter using PaintBlock painter’s tape doesn’t have to worry about paint seeping through and ruining his job. And after a hard day bringing home the bacon, having a bed that adjusts to my liking has a better chance of giving me a good night’s sleep so I can go out and do it all again tomorrow.
What is your construction advertising saying?
Are you spending more time talking about you, your company, or your services and not enough time on how you benefit your client or customer? Then it’s time to make some changes!
Construction Advertising Strategies that Work Right Now
With so many competing marketing messages fighting for attention, it’s hard to determine which strategies are effective. Contractors have tight marketing budgets and a desire to use that budget optimally and efficiently. A carefully developed construction advertising plan should set goals and define your target customers. Your plan should include traditional marketing tools and ways to increase your presence online.
Before you can create a marketing plan that will work for your company, you need to have well-defined objectives. Who is your ideal customer? What is your market share goal? What are your strengths and how do they match up with opportunities within your community? After answering these questions, you can choose marketing strategies that drive results toward your desired objectives.
Tried and true traditional marketing strategies continue to serve construction companies well. Since your business is locally focused it is well suited to the type of tools and techniques that focus on a local audience. You can continue to use these tools to your advantage while adding digital components that will expand your company’s presence.
Is there still a use-case for the book?
The Yellow Pages is a widely debated marketing tool that varies in its usefulness. You will have to judge for yourself, based upon customer feedback, whether you are gaining customers through this channel. If you do place an ad, be sure to include your company website address as well. Take the local directory idea online and sign up for contractor directories and profiles. Register your business on Google, Yelp, and Angie’s List to capture those who are searching online instead.
Print is not dead
Newspaper advertising is another tool that will vary in effectiveness based upon your specific community. Consider including incentives for responding to ads and including your website address to measure results. Take this strategy online with pay-per-click advertisements, Google remarketing, and social media ads.
Brand consistently online and off
If your signage is used the way it should be, your company logo is well known and recognized throughout your community. A professionally designed logo, consistent color scheme, and witty tagline can ensure that people remember your name. Physical signage should be included on your vehicles and storefront if you have one, while your logo can be added to everything from business cards and yard signs to employee shirts and printed materials. This company theme should be carried online to your website. This is your most essential online marketing tool and must be professionally developed to captivate prospective customers.
As a locally-focused type of business, contractors often make use of direct mail. If you have experienced a decrease in the effectiveness of direct mail, it is time to adjust how you’re using it rather than giving it up entirely. Save blanket, every door campaigns for simple postcard campaigns targeting new homeowners who are more likely to be in the home improvement frame of mind. With a little expert input, your direct mail can be more effective than ever before. Its digital counterpart, email, can also help you stay connected with customers and encourage prospects to give you a call. As with snail mail, email should be targeted and no so frequent that people choose to unsubscribe.
Networking will likely always be an essential element of business success, whether it is done in person or online. Word of mouth recommendations are free of cost but not necessarily freely given. Building relationships with customers and people in your community takes time and commitment that is paid back in a strong brand and customer loyalty. Network in your community through local events and organizations. Online, increase your network through social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are ideal channels for connecting with clients and spreading your name to an ever-broadening audience.
Construction Advertising Tip: Resource Allocation
Any of you following me for any length of time know that I typically will avoid “branding” campaigns. I do this because I need to make sure that every dollar of your money I spend comes back to you dressed up like a $2 bill. That means less television and radio and more direct mail and online marketing. But a question I got during a phone consult last week is one I often get from contractors large and small, so I thought I would share it with you: “My construction company does so many things, what should we concentrate on?” Well, I am here to tell you that that is one of the easiest questions I get to answer:
You put dollars into the strongest parts of your business
While new products are sexy and demand attention, most successful contractors count on their old standby business lines to generate enough cash to pay bills and put a little aside before they start spending extravagantly on pet projects.
The nice part about this philosophy is that your top business lines are probably the ones you like doing most. the one that started you in business in the first place and the element of your business that you have become extremely proficient in doing while driving excessive costs out of the process.
Now you just need to focus your marketing
If you shotgun your marketing by targeting all of your business lines, you may get better results by moving part of your marketing budget towards a more laser-guided missile approach and market ONLY the strongest part of your business. This way, people will start to associate your business with a specific product or service first. This improves referrals and lowers your time to close during the sales call process as people already associate you as the best.
Let’s say you are a major remodeler, and while you do basements and kitchens and baths, you really love doing additions. There is nothing wrong with positioning yourself as THE GO TO additions contractor in the market.
You do this with your marketing and advertising as well as the types of jobs you take
If you generate a lot of business from referrals, and you keep doing bathrooms, then guess what, you are going to keep getting bathroom referrals. But make your marketing about your sweet spot and over the next 6 months to a year, your referrals will change, along with your business philosophy.
But just thinking about it isn’t going to get it done
Put an action plan in place to reevaluate your marketing during the summer so that you are ready to make changes this fall for next year. If you plan on having a display at any home shows this fall then you better get moving now!
Construction Advertising with Social Media
Social media has evolved into an ideal channel for marketing your construction business. Once thought of as networks solely for young people, various social media networks include people of all ages. Facebook has 2 billion active users each month.
The average age of a Facebook user is 40, making this the perfect social media platform. You have several other options when it comes to building your online presence. Instagram and Pinterest use picture sharing, which works wonderfully for featuring your work. Now is the time to get your business going social.
Getting started on Facebook may be the easiest first step. You probably already have a personal account, which makes it a familiar system to use. Create a business page that your customers can like and follow. You will have to find a balance between posts that are designed to sell, inform, and entertain. Even your best customers aren’t going to Facebook for a constant sales pitch, so don’t go overboard.
Use Facebook dark ads to customize advertising posts and carefully choose which marketing messages go to which audiences. Share your blog articles in order to give your Facebook friends the information they need and to increase your website traffic. Most importantly, interact. When you get comments, respond. Facebook is for building friendships, so make sure you are doing your part. You will be rewarded with increased customer loyalty and word of mouth recommendations.
Twitter is a rapid-fire social media platform and should be a valuable asset. Begin by following people you know, profiles that are relevant to your business, and anyone who follows you. Share interesting articles and pictures. Pictures captivate people’s attention and get far more shares than text posts. Retweet frequently but carefully.
Sharing others’ posts will increase their likelihood of sharing yours, but remember that everything you share reflects upon your business. Use hashtags that are appropriate for your business to make it easier for new followers to find you. With some effort put into building a Twitter following, this can become an effective and far-reaching marketing tool.
The picture-based platform of Instagram is perfectly suited to your highly visual business. Featuring pictures of your work on Instagram will establish your expertise and draw people in. Use good-quality photos and embed your company’s website address on each one. This way, your photo leads back to you no matter how many times it is copied, shared, and reused. You can develop a following by using searchable hashtags, following other accounts that are relevant to your business, and sharing a few fun pictures alongside your professional shots.
Similar to Instagram, Pinterest features photos that users can pin onto virtual idea boards. You will also find people on Pinterest because a lot of young people make use of it. Middle-aged users explore interests, plan meals, look for gardening ideas, and find anything they can imagine on Pinterest. Some of the most popular boards are dream home, renovation, and house plan ideas.
Again, you will want to use excellent photos that have your company’s website name embedded in the image. As your photos are pinned and shared across Pinterest, anyone who sees them can easily see who to go to when they want to recreate that project in their own home. For your business profile, you can create boards categorized as suits your business. For example, you could have “Bathroom Renovations,” “Kitchen Renovations,” and “Home Maintenance Tips.” When you write your blog articles, use photos that enable you to pin links to those as well.
Logo Design How-To
Pop Quiz! Name the following companies:
An Apple with a bite taken out
Even without seeing the iconic brands, you know that they represent Apple, McDonald’s, and Nike. These are some of the most powerful brands in the world, ranked by Forbes as number one, six, and eighteen respectively. But what’s the point of this little exercise, and what does it have to do with your company?
Branding is a construction advertising strategy whose goal is to set your company apart. Initially used to differentiate cattle, branding has become an important factor in success or failure. While branding isn’t as putting your name on a cow, the function is the same: to get someone to associate a logo or tagline with your product.
Branding has several goals in your construction advertising plan
The first, and most effective, is known as top-of-mind awareness. Top-of-mind branding means that when someone names a type of product, they think of your brand. Perhaps the best example of this is the Band-Aid brand; most people don’t even know that a “Band-Aid” is actually called a “bandage.”
Aided awareness happens when someone sees a list of brands and recognizes your brand. A brand with “aided awareness” serves as a kind of a memory aid and allows companies to advertise products subtly and unconsciously keep their brand in a consumer’s mind.
An example of this is Nike’s Swoop-there are tons of billboards featuring just this logo. In addition, the consumer’s familiarity with this logo means that everyone wearing a Nike shoe is advertising for Nike, as each shoe generally has a Swoop on its side.
Strategic awareness is like top-of-mind awareness, but it aims to get consumers to associate a certain brand with exclusive features or quality. This is called a “unique selling point” and can get your customer to purchase your product, even if it is more expensive than a “generic” brand.
An example of this occurs with Bose speakers. Although certain speakers are just as good as those made by Bose, Bose speakers have built their reputation on quality speakers; this means that most people will spend more on a Bose speaker even if there is no difference in actual quality or function.
Just because your business is probably never going to be as large or recognizable as McDonald’s or Nike doesn’t mean that it can’t benefit from branding. In fact, branding for small companies is one of the keys to growing a business because it can l make the difference between growing a company and a failing one, as the slightest change in sales has a larger effect on a smaller business.
Most contractors name their business after themselves or put their name in the title (e.g. “Joe’s Plumbing”). They may put a generic picture on the side of their van, but this type of branding is largely ineffective; there is a lot of Joe’s (and most likely a good percentage of them are plumbers) and lots of plumbers use a generic picture of a faucet or flood for a logo. This means that your logo won’t stand out from the crowds, much less become synonymous with quality. People will see your van and drive right by, ruining any chance to capture their attention.
When branding your company, you want to grab someone’s attention. Seeing your work truck or van should leave a subconscious memory that people will think of later. This is especially true if you are a contractor. Often times people call during stressful times.
People are going to be anxious to get their problem fixed and call the first name they see. Unless your name is “Aaronson,” this could be a problem-unless people remember seeing your brand.
A distinct logo also makes your brand look more professional. This increases the likelihood someone will go with you since people associate professional brands with quality work. If you are offering a special, associating this with your brand will increase business. If you’ve ever said, “You know, I saw that X is offering a percentage off. Let’s try them out,” you know what I mean.
There’s a reason companies spend millions each year on branding-it increases business. No matter how small your business, you can benefit from branding. Your logo should be unique and should associate you with quality service. Creating a proper brand can make the difference between a successful business and a mediocre one.
10 Tips for Successful Construction Advertising
Advertising campaigns for construction companies can be a frightening prospect. On one hand, people will only know that you exist if you advertise. On the other, a misguided marketing campaign can feel like a complete waste of resources. How can you ensure that your precious advertising dollars are well spent?
Know your audience
Many of your marketing efforts will be targeted at a specific demographic, neighborhood, or some type of definable group. The message that they receive should be focused on them. Even a postcard campaign that blankets an area can be designed to maximize its impact. It will not be worth your time or money to create generic marketing campaigns. A little extra planning goes a long way when it comes to your advertising efforts. If you do not know what your average prospect looks like, you are not ready to start your campaign.
Take advantage of inexpensive opportunities
Have yard signs in the yard of the home that you are working on. Order some inexpensive flyers and blanket a neighborhood. Ask your customers to recommend you to their friends. You don’t need a big budget to take advantage of some effective advertising methods. A small donation to community events often earns you banner space or program mention. These types of functions show that you are a serious community leader. It is advertising that also increases the quality of your reputation for a fraction of your marketing budget.
Be proud of your company name
People around the town you work in should already know your name. Show off your logo everywhere. Having your logo on company vehicles makes sense for many reasons. It looks more professional. Showing up in an unmarked white van makes some homeowners nervous. It provides you with signage everywhere you go. In fact, once your company vehicle is appropriately decked out, park it in high visibility areas. The same is true for company shirts on the job. Make your company image a recognizable and memorable community fixture.
Emphasize your strengths
You will never be everything to every customer, so focus on what you do best. Then make sure it is profitable for you because as well. This will bring in the best kind of business you want and give you a competitive advantage too. You won’t miss out on people who are looking for a contractor to do something else. But you will be the first person that they think of if your marketing materials have positioned you properly.
This may fall into the opportunities discussed in #2, but networking deserves its own discussion. Outside of work, you are a part of your community. Your kids attend school or play sports, you’re a member of a church or local club, and you have a variety of connections. As a business owner, you are always marketing to some extent. While you will drive people away with constant selling, talk enough talking about your business that people think of it when they need you. Consider expanding your current network to include other professionals in the community to form mutually beneficial relationships. Realtors, inspectors, and subcontractors can help you connect with people who require your talents.
Contact prior customers
It is easy to focus on new business, but people who have already hired you are easier to sell. Most people begin thinking about what project they would like to do next before the first is even complete. They may not be able to afford to hire for everything, but you want to be on their radar. Communication with this group should always be worded as if you are rewarding them for being a loyal customer.
Establish your business online
Hopefully, you already have a professionally designed company website. If you don’t, that is the first item on your to-do list. Now make it work for you. Write a blog, or hire a service to write it for you. Invite people to visit your website on your voicemail, business cards, invoices. Create at least one social media profile. Some networks are great for contractors due to the visual nature of your work. Interact with people online to build customer loyalty and connect with new prospects.
Choose traditional advertising with care
Digital marketing is on the rise, but there is still a place for TV, radio, and billboards. Since these channels tend to be pricy, only utilize those that you know are effective with your target audience. For example, if you market to baby boomers, don’t waste your money on Top 40 radio. Selected wisely, traditional marketing channels continue to be effective.
Don’t let advertising slack during the offseason
Don’t cut back. With fewer ongoing projects, you can spend your off-season focusing on marketing efforts.
Open your mind
Don’t get in a rut of always advertising to the same people through the same channels. Your name becomes part of the daily routine. Spend part of your construction advertising budget each year on new opportunities.
This article originally appeared on THE CONTRACTOR’S TOOLBOX