How to Find Contractor Leads on a BudgetKaren Axelton
When you run a contracting business, you’re constantly keeping an eye on costs. Labor, equipment, materials, insurance — it all adds up. And with prices for construction materials up 8.8% year-over-year, margins are tighter than ever. Spending a lot of money to find new customers is the last thing you need.
But new leads are out there, and there's business to be won as the construction industry booms. Consider this:
- Two-thirds of small general contractors (those with sales under $5M) are optimistic about their business outlook for 2018.
- Three-fourths of all contractors expect their sales to increase this year.
How can you spend less time and money trying to get contractor sales leads so you have more time to spend actually working on clients’ projects (and more money in your business bank account)?
There are many old-school ways to market your contracting business, some of which can still be effective depending on your target market. But there are also some newer ways to market your business that you may not be using, or using to its full advantage.
In this post, we’ll cover both offline and online ways to promote your business and find more contractor leads.
Get leads from your satisfied clients
Getting referrals is a tried-and-true way to find contractor leads. For a big decision like hiring a contractor, most clients will do a lot of research. They want validation that customers with their same needs found satisfaction with your business, before they sign on the dotted line. Potential customers ask friends and family for recommendations or go online and read reviews.
A lot of contractors forget about referrals as lead generation tools, because they're so simple. But they’re also very effective. You can get referrals by:
- Handing out business cards and asking clients to share them
- Following up with clients by phone or email after a project is finished to see if they can refer a friend
- Checking in with prior clients once a year to ask for referrals
If your referrals have slowed down, try new and fast ways to generate new business. In-person referrals aren't your only option though. The digital equivalent of good old-fashioned referrals is an online review.
Online reviews are valuable because they expand your network of potential clients beyond your satisfied customers' circle of friends and family. You never know who might see an online review of your construction business and decide to give you a call.
To get online reviews, make it as easy as possible for your clients to write reviews. Send them an email with a link to where they can review your business so all they have to do is click once. Pay attention to your online reviews and make sure you quickly respond to any that are negative.
Having looked for contractors in my area recently, I can vouch for the fact that a lot of them don't have many reviews. I definitely gave more consideration to those with reviews than those without, and I think most people feel the same way.
Find contractor leads through your network
Networking is another traditional way to find contractor leads. The simplest way to network is just to let people around you know what you do. Whether it's at the gym, at the local coffeehouse, or at your child's Little League game, you entire community is an opportunity to network.
Of course, you should also be networking with local business groups. Local Realtors, landscapers, your Chamber of Commerce, or property management companies. These are all go-to sources of new leads for your construction business that you may already be in contact with.
When you’re networking in person be ready to offer advice about construction-related issues or have a business card ready to hand to someone who's thinking of remodeling their kitchen. Offer helpful advice and a free estimate.
You can also take your networking online with social media. Share photos of recent construction projects you've completed or home remodeling before-and-after photos (with client permission first, of course). Join neighborhood Facebook groups and keep an eye out for people who are looking for contractors or have home-improvement questions.
Get listed in local directories
Once upon a time, all it took was a listing in the phone book to get your business’s phone ringing. These days there’s many local search directories online.
It’s estimated that more than half of all online searches are made with local intent, Search Engine Land reports. In other words, the person doing the Internet search wants to connect with a local business. For contractors, it's safe to say these numbers are even higher because people wouldn’t really look for these types of professionals in another state. That's why your local search directory listings are so important to getting contractor sales leads. Start by visiting Google My Business to claim your listing, if you haven't already done so, since Google is the most important local search directory.
Optimize your listing by filling out as much detail as you possibly can. That includes:
- Phone number/s
- Website URL
- Territory you cover
Compare these 2 examples of one contractor taking advantage of their local directory listing, and one that isn’t.
The first listing doesn’t include the company’s business hours, or a link to its website, and it has no reviews. There’s one photo, but it’s unclear why it’s relevant to the business.
Now, this contractor is maximizing the power of their local search listing. They include hours, link to website, and a review. They’ve also got lots of photos of projects for previous clients to show off their work.
As you start adding more local search listings, such as on Bing or Yelp, make sure your name, address and phone (NAP) information is consistent throughout all the listings. This includes even the smallest details, such as whether your address is spelled out with Street on one site and St. on the other.
Why does this matter? If all your information doesn't match exactly across your listings, search engines will read these listings as completely separate businesses. That will hurt your search engine results rankings.
Once you've got your local search directory listings up, check back on them every month or so to make sure all of the information is still current. If anything changes, like you move to a new office location or add another phone number, update it right away in your listings.
How to get construction leads with your business website
I’m mentioning it last, but really, your business website comes first in terms of marketing your business and attracting more leads. Why? Your business website is your "home base"—the place that all your marketing and advertising leads back to. If your website need an upgrade or you don’t have a website yet, see if a custom website design is a good option for your contracting business. If you do website you definitely want to use it to get as many leads as possible. In order to do that, your website should be:
Mobile friendly: Most people doing online searches these days grab the nearest device at hand — their smartphones. If a prospective client finds your business listing, goes to your website, and it looks jumbled and incomprehensible on their phone, they’ll just move to the next contracting business on the list.
Here’s an example of a contractor website that will look just as good on a smartphone as it will on a laptop:
If you have an email contact form to fill out on your website, for example, make sure it's easy to do on a phone. Include a click-to-call button so leads can quickly contact you for their construction job.
Fast loading: Your site also needs to load quickly — three seconds or less is the generally accepted standard. If you're not sure how fast your website loads on various devices, you can test your website speed and your mobile website speed with free Google tools. Get help from your web design company if your site needs to speed up.
Optimized for search engines: Search engine optimization, or SEO, makes your website easier for search engines to find. SEO starts with understanding keywords. Keywords are the search terms that people frequently type in to search for contractors online. The Google AdWords Keyword Planner is a good place to explore potential keywords and get ideas of what keywords your target customers may use.
You can also improve your SEO by creating web pages devoted to your specific construction services or specialties. For example, you could have have one page for kitchen remodeling, another for bathroom remodeling, and another page for room additions. This allows you to use more specific keywords on each of those web pages so you can attract people who are searching for "bathroom remodeling" as opposed to "general contractor."
If you want your website to perform, make sure it’s fast enough and prepared for search engines (including mobile!).
Traditionally advertising involved taking out an ad in the local newspaper or running a commercial on cable TV or radio. While this approach can still work (depending on your target market), it can also get expensive.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a more affordable way to enhance what you're already doing with your website SEO and local search listings. PPC ads show up along with search results when people do online searches. Sometimes consumers can't tell them from organic search results. You can see why if you check out the image below. The top 3 results are PPC ads.
Here are two reasons PPC ads are so valuable for local contractors:
- You can see immediately which ads are working and which ones aren't — unlike advertising in the local newspaper, where you might have to wait weeks to get results.
- You can target ads very narrowly using keywords related to location, specialized services, promotions and more.
For best results, you should create landing pages for your ads (as opposed to just sending visitors to your website homepage). Learn more about how to advertise on Google.
More Customers for Contractors at Less Costs
By using these five different marketing tactics, you can get contractor sales leads more easily even if you’re on a tight budget. Referrals and local listing sites are inexpensive ways to get new business for example. A website or Google ad will cost money but it can also bring money if it’s created properly. Your website should be able to collect local and mobile leads as well. PPC campaigns on Google ads can also achieve this. We hope these tactics will help your construction business get more customers at less costs.
Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.