Like many contractors, you may have been relying on work from big-box retailers to keep your business humming for years. But providing services for the home improvement market has become increasingly competitive—and that means it’s time to find sources of business beyond retailer contracts.
While the thought of growing new business from scratch can seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. If you take the right steps, you’ll start hearing from plenty of new clients who want to book your services. You’ll also increase repeat and referral business from current customers, ultimately decreasing your dependence on retailer contracts.
Sound good? Follow these tips to kickstart your business beyond the big box:
1. Be easy to find
When potential customers search the internet for a home service contractor in your area, you want to be one of the first to show up on the results page. If you’re too far down, they’ll never get to your listing.
In 2020, 93% of U.S. consumers searched online for a local business, according to marketing company BrightLocal.
That’s why it’s critical to 1) have an updated website to attract prospects who are looking for your services, and 2) focus on search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.
Loading up on keywords is one way to help your site rank higher. You can do this by creating interesting, relevant content for visitors, including how-to blogs and videos.
When adding keywords to your website, don’t just focus on obvious terms such as flooring installation and plumber. Think about phrases potential customers might be plugging into search engines, like how to fix a clogged toilet, why won’t my garage door open, and what to do when your sump pump breaks.
You also might want to consider buying pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google or Bing, taking search a step further. This will help put you at the top of the results page. While there is a cost associated, you only pay if you get clicks. Your dad may have purchased ads in the newspaper or in the yellow pages, but your company needs to show up where today’s customer is looking for you.
Creating a Google My Business listing will also help potential customers find you. This is easy. If you don’t already have a listing, you can and should do it today! This provides added legitimacy to your business. Go to this link, click on the Manage Now button and follow the prompts to set it up. Google will send you a verification code by text or mail, which you’ll have to enter to finalize your listing. By the way, this is free to do!
“Google My Business” listing makes your company easier to find
and builds credibility
2. Leverage social media
You can promote your business through platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, posting about the services you offer, introducing your employees, and sharing testimonials from happy customers. Facebook groups are a great way to be seen by tens of thousands of local prospects. Before and after photos allow you to showcase your work, while how-to videos position you as an expert.
Social media also gives you the opportunity to share blog posts and other resources you’ve added to your site. This all feeds into your SEO efforts, making it even easier for potential customers to find you via search.
Another benefit? Followers can share your posts with their networks, giving you a broader reach. Also free!
3. Generate leads electronically
Once they find you, you want it to be easy for potential customers to tell you what they need, request a quote, and give you their information. Web-based lead capture and management tools makes this electronic lead generation possible.
Sound like a lot of work? It doesn’t have to be. For example, Cilio CiO field service software contains built-in lead forms to automate lead capture. You use a simple code to connect it to your website so you get a note any time a new lead comes in. And everything will already be filled out in CiO—meaning zero data entry. This gives you more complete information than receiving an email based on a contact form, and is more efficient than manually transferring information from “contact us” emails into your quoting or project management system.
Sample CiO lead capture form
4. Ask for online reviews
Nearly 90% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020, with only 48% of consumers willing to consider using a business with fewer than 4 stars, according to BrightLocal. That means it’s critical to ask happy customers to review your services, whether it’s via Yelp, Facebook, Google, or another platform.
Don’t be shy. Asking for reviews will get you higher marks. Solicited reviews garner 4.34 stars out of 5 versus 3.89 for unsolicited reviews, according to reviewtrackers.com.
CiO makes it easy to request reviews. It’s all automated, with reviews integrated into your chosen site.
Positive reviews are critical: 90% of consumers read
online reviews for businesses in 2020
5. Start an email marketing campaign
Sending out emails to current and past customers helps keep your business top of mind. Use these emails to promote your services, offer deals and provide educational content. You also can track leads and easily keep in touch with prospects.
While you certainly want to attract new prospects, a great source of future business is your past clients. Send out a quarterly newsletter about your services, your company, photos of recent work, special offers, etc. Even if they aren’t in the market for your services, this makes it very easy for them to share your message with a friend or coworker who is.
Not sure how to get started? You can set up campaigns through Mailchimp. It comes with built-in tools that make it easy to pop in graphics and text. You’ll be able to see the people who opened or clicked on your message, and provide additional follow up if they seem interested. Take advantage of the free plan that allows for up to 2,000 contacts.
6. Get involved
This means being active on websites, forums, and groups in your community that are relevant to your business. This helps potential clients recognize your name, making them more likely to reach out when they need home improvement services.
Consider sending flyers, brochures, and emails to housing associations and include special offers for homeowners. For example, if you live in a coastal community and offer hurricane shutters or generator installation, attending the next HOA meeting to discuss your services is a proactive way to get your message out. Sites like nextdoor.com are also useful tools for getting the word out. You can monitor conversations, respond when relevant, and look for advertising/content sponsorship opportunities.
7. Join on-demand home services platforms
Also referred to as labor aggregators, platforms such as Handy Services and Installations Made Easy (IME) are gaining popularity with consumers, pros, and retailers. These can be good options for you to connect with potential clients. You sign up on their e-commerce platform or mobile app, verify your experience, and agree to a background check, and it’s pretty easy to get going from there. You’ll be alerted about projects that match your skillset and you can claim work that fits your schedule.
You can use this for fill-in work to keep crews busy between your own jobs, or dedicate more resources to it without the cost of lead acquisition. The advantage of this option is that there is no up-front investment from you. The platform vendors have already built relationships with retailers and consumers and simply match up qualified contractors with the work. Lowe’s now works with Handy and IME to connect customers with pros for a variety of home installation services.
8. Be memorable
After completing a job, leave something behind that will help clients think of you when they have another job or hear of a friend who could use your services. This might be fridge magnets or stickers promoting your business. Bottle openers, mugs, and water bottles are other options. Whatever you choose, remember to include contact information.
Take control of your business
As retailer contracts become more elusive, it’s critical to find other sources of business. These tips will help you keep your phone ringing and your schedule full without having to rely on big box stores.