Green Marketing & Leveraging the Internet
ServiceMagic.com, an online lead generation company with over 60,000 contractor members, created a series of green articles aimed at homeowners who wanted to know more about greening a variety of home improvement projects, including kitchen, bath, and basement renovations. Forty-six percent of homeowners who submitted requests for home improvement projects indicated an interest in making the project green. Consumer interest in building green projects is increasing every day, and successful building contractors are taking advantage of this trend.
Building Your Business Through the Internet
Homeowners are going to the Internet in ever-increasing numbers to find assistance for their home improvement projects. The stats are staggering. A recent study conducted by comScore, Incorporated, a leading Web behavior research firm, found that online searches to find local businesses and products grew 58% in the last year alone. That means that figuring out an online marketing strategy is no longer an option but a mandatory part of doing business in today’s world.
|Figuring out an online marketing strategy is no longer an option but a mandatory part of doing business in today’s world.|
Social Network Marketing
The Internet is creating virtual communities that didn’t exist before. Internet sites where users are able to offer a public comment or review of your work are becoming increasingly popular. This trend creates a great opportunity for your business but can pose some potential risks—the good news is that you are in much more control of how these public reviews affect your business than you might think. Make the most out of this opportunity and avoid common pitfalls by following these simple suggestions:
- Provide great service to your customers, and then ask them to write a review of their experience. Your best customers are your best advocates; this has always been true. Help your customers be advocates for you by asking them to write a review for you on a specific Web site—ideally the site on which they found you. Ask them to mention you by name in the review—the best reviews show the high level of service you personally deliver.
- Visit popular sites regularly and read what customers are saying about your business and your competitors. Listen carefully to what they are saying. This is often one of the best ways to learn what you can do to make your customers exceptionally pleased with your work.
- When you see something negative (and at some point you will), do your best to ask rather than argue. Follow up with the customer personally. Ask the customer what you can do to make the situation better. If you can remedy the problem, try to do so, and then ask the customer to update his or her review. If the customer is not responsive, many sites will enable you to post a response to a customer review. Post a response clarifying any points that may have been confusing or incorrect in the customer’s original post and publicly ask the customer what you can do to help make the situation better for him. This will go a long way toward helping potential future customers understand that you want to provide great service. Whatever you do, don’t argue with the customer publicly on the site. You may be right, but being argumentative is not the image you want to present to potential future customers.
Social network marketing will allow you to cultivate customer evangelists by creating a community on your Web site. At the same time, by joining and participating in social network communities, you have opportunities to interact with potential customers, and can create an avenue for customer feedback and experience. Customer interviews and online discussions are a valuable way to collect customers’ opinions to improve your service and product. You can also contend with those consumer vigilantes promptly—showing the entire community that you are committed to transparency in handling the customers’ experience.
Generating Online Leads and Referrals
When beginning to work with Internet-based customer leads and referrals, it’s important to learn how the Internet shopper thinks. Understanding how to work effectively with Internet-based referrals is key, if you want to convert these shoppers into buyers. Here are some tips to be more effective when responding to Internet-based referrals:
- Internet shoppers have specific expectations, and you must meet those expectations for professionalism in order to get their business.
- How do you effectively communicate your professionalism? There are several components to an online business profile that will actually win you business. Things like project photos of your past work, professional credentials, license and insurance information, and customer ratings and reviews are important elements to include in your profile. Customer ratings and reviews are referrals that will be seen by tens of thousands of homeowners interested in the services you provide. Think of it as the 21st century version of word of mouth.
- Marketing is a numbers game. Successful contractors build a sales pipeline of targeted leads and measure their return on investment.
More than ever, it’s becoming imperative to develop a good marketing pipeline. A pipeline is simply a list of homeowners who have inquired about your services at some point in the past. In order to build up this pipeline and ensure it doesn’t dry up, you need a consistent and predictable source of prospective customer leads that are relevant to the services you provide. Brevan Adams, a successful design build contractor in Denver, Colorado, says “working with online leads is kind of like going fishing. You don’t always catch a fish, but if you catch a couple of fish in 20 or 30 casts, that’s a pretty good day.”
- Using an online lead generation service can be a very effective method to target the leads you receive. You can target leads by the type of service or job and also by geographic area, often down to a specific list of zip codes.
To know whether an online lead service is working for your business, set up a spreadsheet or similar tool to capture the cost of the leads and the total income generated from these leads. Keep track on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. In fact, this tool is helpful for any advertising source and allows you to compare different advertising methods.
- Top contractors understand that there are different selling cycles for different projects, and that homeowners are likely to be at various stages of the decision-making process.
Just because homeowners aren’t ready to start a project right away, or are still in the planning and budgeting phase, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are tire kickers. Provide homeowners with a reason to use your business when they are ready to start their project.
Turning Prospects into Customers
Because you will encounter homeowners in these same situations as you begin an online lead program, the next three tips are proven methods for creating a follow-up system to turn prospects into valuable customers. It can be very beneficial to capture a consistent flow of homeowners who are in the planning and research phase of a project, if you have the tools to convert these prospects into future clients.
- Capture homeowner information into a contact database.
One of the first steps in managing leads is to create a list of homeowner contacts on the computer. Whether you use a spreadsheet or a database program, collect all of the information you receive about a homeowner, including name, address, phone, e-mail, and project notes, so you can follow up regularly.
- Immediately respond to leads, and follow up consistently with those homeowners, even if you don’t talk to the homeowner initially.
With Internet leads, one cliché rings true: The early bird gets the worm.
You can never tell what is going on in the lives of homeowners at the moment you are trying to speak with them. Consistently following up is a necessary component of working with Internet leads.
- Build value by providing tools home-owners can use.
Become a resource for prospective customers as a way to develop a long-term relationship. I have heard great examples of things professionals have done to show homeowners that they care about them and their project. For instance:
- Send a project checklist to help homeowners understand the different steps involved in their remodel, including what material and product choices they need to make.
- Does your project require a dumpster on-site? Send a note to the neighbors inviting them to use the dumpster. This is a great way to generate additional referrals.
- Send a limited-time special offer or promotion to your prospective customer list to create a sense of urgency.
- Create a quarterly newsletter with tips and advice and send it to your prospects and past customers as a way to pick up additional referral business.
You will decide what works best for your business, but these simple things can help you gain the added credibility of being a trusted expert who cares about your customers.
Use the Internet!
To recap, here are the steps you can take to find success with leveraging the Internet for online lead generation:
- Understand that working with online leads is a process. Don’t be discouraged if the first few leads don’t pan out. Learn how the system works and create a plan that works for your business.
- Develop a strong online profile. Your profile should include license and insurance details, along with photos of past projects and homeowner reviews.
- Respond immediately to online leads when they come in. You can choose to receive leads to your cell phone, e-mail, or both.
- Collect ratings from your customers. These ratings and reviews are one of the most important considerations prospective customers look through when deciding which professional to hire.
- Create a plan to follow up consistently with leads you receive. This will generate more sales from homeowners who are in the earlier stages of beginning a project.
- Measure your return on investment for online leads. Keep track of how much the leads have cost, and compare that cost to the total income you have been able to generate from those leads.
- Develop tips and tools you can send to homeowners who may not be ready to start their project right away. You’ll position yourself as a trusted expert and will increase the chances that those homeowners will reach out to you when they are ready to begin.
The tips included here are valuable insights, but they are not really rocket science. The number of homeowners using the Internet to find local products and services is growing, and by following this advice, you can be successful finding work by leveraging the Internet. Good luck!
David Lupberger draws on more than two decades of experience in the residential remodeling field, working with remodelers developing proven business systems. Through his work in the remodeling industry, he hopes to redefine the way the remodeling industry operates so that the trust between quality remodelers, their customers, suppliers, and trade contractors can be leveraged and improved.
His experience in managing customer expectations led him to write a book called, Managing the Emotional Homeowner, which has become one of the bibles of the remodeling industry and helped hundreds of remodelers improve the level of service they provide clients. He has spent nearly 4 years writing the Remodelers Turnkey Program. This series of manuals is a basic how-to text on running a remodeling company.
From his base in Colorado, he now consults with both remodelers and industry companies such as General Electric and American Express to maximize customer service relationships between all the industry partners. He travels extensively, speaking to thousands of remodelers across the country and is a regular on the seminar series at national trade shows.
For more information:
For David Lupberger’s book and manuals, go to www.turnkeyprogram.com.
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