When you want to find a phone number, service or find out information where do you look for it? If you are like most people, it’s your phone with internet access. In fact, more searches occur on a mobile device nowadays than on a desktop computer. That’s where most business advertising and promotion has moved – online.
A couple of years ago I built a website for a builder. His old website wasn’t working and it didn’t really reflect well on his business. He wanted to attract new clients. He specialised in a niche part of the market, rather than being a general all purpose builder. A lot of his work was building smaller unit developments, but he knew that there were bigger margins to be made building custom homes and wanted to attract more of those customers.
He needed a website that attracted the sort of visitors he wanted to work with, and who had the budget to work on the larger up-market projects he preferred.
Getting visitors to your website
After a couple of years of working with him his site is now getting around
500 600 now over 1000 visitors a month. Web visitors are mostly attracted through Google to several of the articles I wrote for him about what he was good at, and it is working, he is now busier than ever and working on the projects he loves best with much better margins. While 1000 visitors a month might seem like a lot to you, it has taken more than 18 months to build up to this. The most important thing for you to consider is whether you can attract the ones who need your specialist skills, and whether you can convert them into customers.
Let’s just think about niches for a moment. Think cars. You have the high end – Mercedes, BMW’s etc. Middle level Holden, Toyota and Ford etc. Lower level Kia, Proton, Suzuki and Hyundai etc. All are good cars for their price points, just different features and build quality. Each niche is competitive for their product, and are priced accordingly. In 2013 Holden sold around 112 000 cars, the smaller car makers Hyundi, Suzuki, Proton and Kia between them sold 11 000 cars, BMW just over 20 000 cars. The point here is that each niche attracts a specific type of buyer. Sadly, there won’t be any more cars being built in Australia.
Who are you competing with?
The same idea applies to builders. In Geelong there are several very competitive builders eg Hamlan Homes, who built my previous house over 20 years ago. They were extremely competitive on price, and still are, and had their process down pat. Similar builders include Metricon and Simonds to name a few. For the average builder these are tough competitors to beat on price and capability. They need to sell on volume to be profitable and you can see the effort they have to go to do this: house and land packages, incentives, building display homes and advertising widely with plenty of sales staff.
In contrast, the middle level builder or the luxury home builder may only need to build several homes a year to make a good living.
Finding your niche
My builder couldn’t compete with the lower priced builders as he would be working for little return. He needed to find his niche. I must admit it was obvious to me what that was the minute I met him. However, like many small business owners, he wanted to appeal to a range of customers so that he didn’t miss out on any work. He was nervous about this, as all small business owners would be when there’s a lot of competitors about and maybe the phone hasn’t been ringing.
If you understand my point about the car makers, you can’t be everything to everyone. You need to focus on what you are good at and be the expert in that niche. That’s the easiest expertise that you can market online and stand out from your competitors. And that’s where your website and online marketing can work for you.
The more you focus on your niche, the easier it is to market your business online and get away from competing on price.
Tradies may be good at what they do, but possibly not marketing
One thing about most tradies, including builders, is that they are all pretty good at their trade. Most are honest and like to do a good job. When asked to do a quote it takes them quite a bit of time to do, unless they use specialist software, and they try to give an honest price that won’t send them broke.
In the case of larger building companies, they often have estimators do their quoting, but with packaged home deals, the build price is pretty straight forward to quote, depending on the land.
Most single operator builders can’t really compete with these companies and be profitable. All the more reason to focus on a niche area. You narrow the competition by focusing on a niche.
Like I said, builders are good at their job, but not always so good selling themselves. They need to get help. And, as you know, you get what you pay for.
Eight online marketing tips for tradies
- Decide on your niche, who are your ideal customers. What do you expect from the web eg. awareness, phone calls, quote requests etc. This is how you can market your business and aim to increase your work and your revenue. Consider giving up on the stuff that’s getting you nowhere. And, if that’s the case, what can you lose?
- Build a website that is easy to update, works on mobile devices and gets found on Google. I recommend WordPress to do this for a commercial one if you have the funds. Find a good web developer to build one for you. But this is not sufficient in itself to get people to visit your site. You need good content or copy tuned for local and wider SEO to list you in the search engines.
If you do not have a budget, consider these sites to build your own site for a small monthly fee including all updates Squarespace or WIX
- Provide well written content on each page making sure the site reflects your niche and expertise, using words that people are searching for. If the content is not relevant, interesting or what searchers are looking for, then no one will visit. This is not to say that you write for search engines. This is old school SEO and doesn’t work. You need to provide content for people you want to connect with.
- Use good images – they tell the story of what you do. This is also content. There are plenty of good real estate photographers around now.
- Keep the content up to date and fresh. That means writing about your niche as much as possible, giving helpful advice, writing about the jobs you’ve done. In a sense, writing the stories about your business and experience. Also adding new pictures of what you have been building, the work in progress, how the site looked at the start and how it looked finished. Adding testimonials from happy customers.
- Measure what is happening with your website to see if it is doing what you planned. How many visitors you get, where they’re from and what they do. Then do something about that data. Change things on your site
- Promote your business online and offline. Social media can be helpful here including advertising
- Set your site up to target the region or local area you are targeting
Marketing your trade
Every business needs to promote itself. It will money, but there is a direct correlation between what you spend on your marketing and sales and your business revenue. In the past most builders paid several thousand dollars for Yellow Pages advertising. Nowadays most customers use Google to find what they want, often on a mobile device. And that’s where you need to direct your promotional dollars. A website on its own is no longer sufficient. You need to keep promoting it by keeping the content up to date and using any other appropriate channel to get attention. If you do have the budget, it will pay for itself over time, but not overnight.