authors Jon Minnick
The 1-800-Hansons Web site was bringing in some work for the remodeling company, but it was boring and didn’t compel local homeowners to buy. It wasn’t until after meeting with an interactive design company, Ohm Creative Group, that things turned around, making the site a powerhouse in its market. By following the right steps, any remodeling company can use digital marketing successfully, increasing its leads and closing more sales.
According to research conducted by BetterContractorThanYou.com, 83 percent of homeowners are shopping for remodelers on the Internet. Of those, 33 percent say that most sites they visit are poor and don’t provide enough information. Another 64 percent were happy with the sites but said there was little compelling content to keep them on the site. The bottom line is that only 3 percent of remodeling sites are marketing themselves effectively.
“Homeowners watch videos and look at images online to help them choose the right remodeler,” explains Jay Spallina, vice president of BetterContractorThanYou.com. “They also look up specific information on products and services. If a site offers these things, potential clients have been known to spend 30 minutes or more going through these materials. Show what makes you different or special and you’ll start closing more deals.”
Like Hansons, many remodeling companies have Web sites, but that’s not enough. It’s important to take the appropriate steps to ensure effective online marketing. That online marketing then needs to be reinforced throughout a company’s entire marketing repertoire.
Step 1: Check out the competition. One of the first steps in beginning a digital marketing effort is to see what the competition is doing. Look at the content they provide to potential clients. Think of ways to differentiate what is being offered in order to stand out. Conduct Internet searches for the local market and product categories in the market. Find out which companies appear on the first page of the search. This information will come in handy later when choosing search words to purchase and to increase search engine optimization (SEO).
Step 2: Launch a Web site. Now that it is clear who the online competition is, it’s time to put together a Web site, but just slapping up a company name with a phone number and calling it a day isn’t nearly enough. It’s important to provide great content for homeowners and make sure the content is easy for them to understand. Don’t use jargon. The site also must be easy to navigate. If potential customers can’t find the information they’re looking for, they’ll move on to someone else.
“One of the first mistakes remodelers make is that although they have a Web site, they don’t know what it does for them,” says Russell. “If you don’t know what to do with it, and you aren’t providing compelling information on it, it’s probably not doing much.”
The company Web site should also act as a resource for the community. If the site talks about relevant current housing topics, gives detailed information on products, and avoids generalities, homeowners will return again and again, recommending it to friends. With a unique offering and message, visitors’ interest will be piqued, and they will be more likely to hire the company that appears to be at the top of its game.
Step 3: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Hiring the friend of a friend or a relative who has taken up Web design as a hobby is probably the wrong course of action. Realize that it may be necessary to hire a Web designer to create something that is modern and current. It’s important to avoid having a new site that already looks old and drab the day it is launched.
“People use too many template-driven landing pages and Web sites,” says Jesse Cory, CEO of Ohm Creative Group. “They look cheap and cheap doesn’t sell. Consumers think their homes will look just as cheap when the job is done.”
Step 4: Don’t set it up and leave it. Assign someone to take responsibility for the site and make sure they are updating it. Without fresh content (like recent projects and current customer testimonials), traffic will begin to fall away and won’t return. It’s also a tell-tale sign that a Web site isn’t important to a company if a sale offer is posted past its deadline date or the site is still discussing upcoming building codes that went into effect over a year ago.
Step 5: Data capture is another important part of a Web site. It’s one of the single most important tools for capturing e-mail addresses, names, mailing addresses and phone numbers of potential clients. The best way to entice homeowners to hand over this information is to offer something in return. This can be done by an exclusive offer, sweepstakes, brochure or even a free estimate. Whatever data capture method used, it should not be buried on the site, be convoluted or ask too many questions. Just capture the basics in order to follow up later.
Step 6: Track the Web site traffic. A simple analytics program can be found for as little as $30 a year. Find out how many people are visiting the site, what they’re looking at and how long they’re staying. That way it is clear what is working and what needs to be fixed.
Step 7: Create a monthly e-newsletter. With e-mails gathered from data capture, a company has an audience of homeowners who are interested in remodeling their home and are now familiar with the company. An e-newsletter is an opportunity to discuss what is going on with housing locally (like new building codes), expand on hot topics as indicated through tracking the Web site traffic and display current projects. This promotes the company and sends traffic back to the Web site.
Step 8: Engage in some form of search engine optimization. This can be more crucial in larger, competitive markets. There are many companies offering SEO packages to domain name owners. These companies will make sure that key words and phrases drive traffic to a Web site, but be ready for the visitors and be prepared to spend some money. Some companies offer SEO packages at $2,500 a month for a year of service.
“SEO is only important if you make your Web site right,” explains Cory. “If you are using SEO to drive traffic to your site, but don’t have good content and data capture, visitors won’t translate into a sale. It’s like putting the cart before the horse. You’ll get an increase in traffic, but you’ll also get an increase of people bouncing right off of your site.”
In reality SEO can be done for no money by having a good site. If a Web site is properly made, the site will already be search engine optimized. Search engine spider programs will scan a site and pick up on key words and use that information when cataloging a company. That way search engines are working for a company without really trying.
Step 9: Make sure the Web site is properly indexed. Search engine indexing, or Web indexing, collects, deciphers and stores data to expedite fast and accurate information retrieval. One of the single most important places to index a site is the top tab. If the title tag just says “Home” instead of the company name and what it does, it becomes a missed opportunity. Every page of a site should contain a proper title tag.
Step 10: Consider paid click-through ads and search-word purchases. Buying search engine text ads that appear when a person searches for certain words can have a positive effect on the amount of people who visit a site. If a site does not automatically appear on the first page of a search, a purchased text ad will appear there. This ad will result in more recognition of a business and direct more click throughs.
Another purchase to consider is key word advertising. This will result in more Web site visitors, page views and click throughs by selecting and purchasing certain popular words relevant to the industry from a search engine firm.
When one of the purchased words is placed in the content on a variety of different sites that have contracted with the search firm, it appears in a different color and/or double underlined to draw the reader’s attention. Clicking on the word directs visitors to a company’s site.
Step 11: Use social networking to keep in touch with clients. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook can be used to promote, drive traffic to and inform clients about changes to a Web site. Social networking is an opportunity to talk about upcoming home shows and offer special deals. It can also be a place to share the things a company is doing in the community and promote the latest sale. Invite homeowners to join a network on the Web site through the e-newsletter and in other marketing materials.
Step 12: Create a blog. A blog becomes a great way to make a site interactive and effective for getting people to stay on a Web site. When talking about the local community in a blog, it tells homeowners that a remodeler knows what’s going on. All else being equal, consumers are more likely to buy from the remodeler presenting themselves as an expert on a product or service.
A blog can also be used to feed a Twitter account, which in turn can be used to feed a Facebook account. That way a company only has to publish once and then broadcast across all of its social networking tools. This can be very easy to do and very inexpensive.
“When blogging though, don’t focus on sale items or the fact that you now have Low-E glass because no one is going to pick up on that marketing message and buy,” says Cory. “The purpose is to create a social community surrounding your business. Use it to get the message out about who you are as a company. Show the community that you’re real people who love what they do. That you’re a family helping other families.”
Step 13: Be prepared to spend some money. Now that the digital marketing tools are in place, it’s time to spread the news by updating all forms of marketing. That means getting the Web address on every company marketing endeavor. This includes company signage, business cards, brochures, the on-hold phone message, door knockers, etc. Any ads should focus more on the site and less on the new countertops a company is offering. The goal is to drizzle the Web site address on a lot of little things to get it out there and drive traffic.
“No one cares what product you’re putting on their house,” adds Cory, “because they’re buying your company and the work that you do, not the product.”
Teaming up with like-minded local companies can push the Web site as well. By co-op marketing with a mortgage company or offering a free oil change with every estimate, these companies push customers to the remodeler while the co-op companies receive traffic from the remodeling site.
Step 14: Follow up with potential clients in a timely manner. Homeowners are searching companies in an instant online world. They want instant follow-up as well. If a potential client is actively seeking a home repair project, it’s important that they see a company is attentive to their needs. It can be imperative to also talk to them while they are in the mind set of moving forward with a project.
The bottom line
“Don’t wait; don’t put it off,” says Cory. “One company we work with waited a year to contact us about setting up a new Web site. They were getting less than 10 hits a day. After we launched their new site, they started getting 30 hits a day and three of those turned into projects the first week. The longer you wait, the more opportunity you’re letting get away.”
The more a Web site becomes a resource for people in a community to visit, the better off a company is. It doesn’t happen overnight and takes time to develop. Give reasons for homeowners to keep coming back with fresh content on the site. Just having a Web site is not enough. It will need to be nurtured and cared for, just like a remodeling business.