Although the booming construction industry is good for your contractor business, the healthy market brings its share of problems.
Contractors face consistent challenges anytime the industry accelerates through a growth cycle. Increased competition and skilled labour shortages keep contractors scrambling to keep up with demand.
Contractors deal with both these hurdles in the current market. Almost 372,000 businesses compete to recruit over 1 million employees in the construction industry that generates almost 4 billion dollars in annual revenue.
If keeping up with demand causes enough challenge to fill your day, how you can possibly market your business for future projects? Consistently build a contractor marketing practice that will position your business to stand out from the competition:
- Build a social media presence
- Participate in online apps and marketplaces
- Network in your local community
Social media marketing
With 79% of Australians using social media, keep one principle front and centre when marketing your contractor business:
Your customers are on social media. Meet them where they are.
Market your contractor business on social media in three stages:
- Build a portfolio
- Produce content
- Become an Influencer
Build a portfolio
To get started on social media, publish a portfolio. Take a page from other industries that have built their brands through pictures and videos that demonstrate results.
Dentists publish pictures of great smiles. Health and fitness companies flaunt the bodies of their success stories.
Remember when your grade school math teacher made you show your work? She wanted to make sure you knew what you were doing. Customers want the same thing. Use social media to show off your best work, and customers will respond.
When potential clients start to consider a remodel or new construction, they look for suggestions on social media. Social media allows customers to see the latest trends and how their friends updated their homes. Make your construction project portfolio easily accessible across all major social media platforms.
If your current portfolio is limited, or your contractor business doesn’t showcase well through photos (e.g. plumber, electrician, etc.), produce content.
The most straightforward social media content for contractors is DIY videos. Many electricians and plumbers are building brands through short videos that show customers how to self-diagnose and fix minor problems.
If you are hesitant to publish DIY content for fear that such videos will deter customers from hiring you, don’t be. Two types of DIY content don’t compete with your business, and actually lead viewers hire you:
- Small jobs that most people don’t want to call a contractor for (clogged toilet, tripped breaker, dead battery testing, etc.)
- Complicated jobs that demonstrate why viewers need to hire a professional to accurately diagnose the problem, and ensure the problem is fixed
The better content you produce, the more attractive your number is to call when a customer needs services in your area of expertise. Your online content portfolio will grow itself over time, and doesn’t run stale like print ads. Reuse and improve content as you publish it across different online platforms.
Become an influencer
If your DIY content builds enough momentum on social media that you attract followers and views, you could become a social media influencer.
No single metric establishes you as a social media influencer. But, if you develop a strong enough portfolio of content that pulls consumers to your posts, your opinion will carry weight in the social media marketing space.
When your opinion matters to a certain audience in social media, people notice and pay attention. This includes both potential customers and big brands.
As you become trusted by consumers, your organic business will grow. But, big brands will persuade you to push their tools and services. You may be offered sponsorships or free tools and services to demonstrate and promote when producing content.
As a contractor, you may have no desire to become a social media celebrity. But, building and gaining trust from followers and brands could lead to more business and alternative revenue streams.
Apps and marketplaces
A social media presence is key to modern day construction marketing, but don’t forget about the non-social media spaces of the internet.
Customers look all over the web for assistance with their renovation or new construction project. They need help coming up with a vision, and finding the contractor to complete the job.
Idea generation apps
Consumers get ideas from friends and celebrities on social media, but don’t overlook idea generation apps where customers can be overwhelmed with ideas for their homes.
Consumers can jump to an app dedicated to home renovation and scroll through thousands of ideas directly related to their project. Examples include:
Just like social media, your contractor business needs a presence on these apps and sites.
You can utilise idea generation apps in two ways. First, treat them like an extension of your social media plan. Post projects, plans, and other content. Play an active role in the concepts the viewer sees when scrolling and swiping through ideas.
Second, most of these sites and apps are free to the user, which is made possible by advertisers. Become one of those advertisers. Some offer targeted ads so that only those in your designated geography will see your ads.
If you can get in front of potential clients when they are in the brainstorming phase, you have an edge to win the business. Idea generation apps are the perfect place to participate in the beginning phases of a project.
Marketplaces & review apps
Once the customer is ready to hire a contractor, how do you stand out in the crowded market? Remarkably, only 44% of Australian building and construction businesses confirm they use social media in their marketing strategy, which gives you a chance to get ahead of your competitors.
Customers now regularly rely on crowdsourced reviews to pick the contractor that meets their needs. A growing list of marketplaces allow customers to search and filter by project type, location, price, and many more attributes. Examples include:
- Service Seeking
In addition to marketplaces, crowdsourced review sites have expanded into contractor reviews. Examples include:
- Google reviews
- Product Review
Take advantage of the the customer crowd. Set up your business profile on these apps and sites. At the very least, monitor activity around your brand on the review sites. When possible, engage with customers through feedback and reviews.
A word of caution when managing business review sites: don’t expect perfection. You can’t make everybody happy, and bad experiences will occur.
Luckily, studies show that some negative feedback actually builds trust between customers and businesses, because they suggest that the review process is legitimate.
Through social media, apps, and marketplaces; your customers are dreaming up ideas and finding contractors online. Build your web presence and meet them there.
As important as online marketing is, your contractor business is naturally local. This limits your need to market to customers all over the world. Instead, it increases the importance of concentrating on your local community. Local networking is critical to building your reputation at the local level, and being top of mind when customers need services in your wheelhouse.
Networking involves building relationships people in your local community and industry. For contractors, focus on five types of local networking.
Industry groups and associations
What industry groups and associations are best connected to the building and development industry in your local area? The answer to this question varies depending on your location. However, some typical candidates include:
- Homeowners associations
- Local contractor boards and associations
- Local trade groups and associations
Groups like these control the industry conversation in you area. They know about zoning changes, new construction bids and wins, land and development conflicts, and other topics important to your business . Participate in the conversation. Join boards. Attend meetings. Meet those driving conversations and making decisions.
Participating in industry groups is a first step in building partnerships that help you grow your business. You will meet competitors through these groups, but you will also meet potential partners.
Assume you specialise in commercial kitchen construction, and an industry partner is a commercial real estate developer. If the developer wins a bid for a new shopping centre, you might get an invite to bid on the commercial kitchens for each restaurant in the centre.
Construction industry partnerships are great, but don’t limit your partnership opportunities to your industry alone. Consider other businesses that touch your industry. When one of your customers starts a remodel, or a new home build, think about all of the parties involved:
- Real-estate agents
- Material providers
- Big box stores
- Banks, mortgage companies
Your customers naturally involve many businesses when they take out money to build, remodel, or fix a house. Look for the potential to build partnerships with these companies in addition to industry partners.
The partnership could be as simple as leaving a business card or posting a one page ad at a partner’s office.
But, you might develop something more impactful like a formal referral program with a partner contractor. The potential for partnership arrangements are seemingly endless. Always think of new ways to partner with the local community around you.
One of the best ways to build your rapport with the local community is to give back to those in need. See where you can offer your services at a discount, or at no charge, to local charities and charitable causes.
Shelters and non-profits often need construction improvements to their buildings. Many are cash strapped and such repairs are put on the back burner when budgets are constrained. If you can relieve some of this pressure by doing some basic fix work, the recipient will be thrilled and you will build a positive image in the community.
Through organisations like Habitat for Humanity, you can go a step further and showcase both your work, and your workforce through building a final product for someone in need.
Charitable work is a time-tested reputation builder across geographies and industries. As a contractor, you can provide more than money alone. You can perform the work that is needed by these organisations.
Referrals and call backs
It sounds elementary, but call interested customers back and follow up with existing customers.
You have busy seasons, but a current backlog doesn’t mean you should neglect to prepare for future business.
If someone reaches out to you, especially if they were referred to you, call them back as soon as possible. Even if you can’t manage to do the work for another year, tell them you appreciate the call and tell them the truth.
Honesty goes a long way in any industry, but especially when people are making decisions about their houses. Typically, a home is your customer’s largest investment, and the customer wants to trust you before giving you business.
Follow up with your customers after completing the project. Ask them if they are happy with the result. Make sure that nothing has broken or failed since you completed the project.
This reinforces your dedication to customer satisfaction. The next time the customer needs work, they will think about reaching back out to you. Secondly, if their friends and family ask for a referral, they are more likely to refer you.
Events and showcases
Finally, look for opportunities to demonstrate your skills to the local community. If you have a spec home, host open houses.
Offer to conduct free demonstrations at hardware stores. Look for the next building expo coming to town. Rent a booth or sign up to give an educational seminar in your area of expertise.
Become a familiar face throughout your industry ecosystem in your local market. You run an inherently local business. There is no better way to drive local business than making a physical presence in your community.
The construction industry is currently flush with business. Put some basic marketing practices in place, both online and in your local community, to stay ahead of the competition. If you start these practices now, while business is booming, you will be better prepared to win the limited business available the next time the market turns.