Occasionally, we get a chance to talk to our friends in the industry about topics that are important to home pros. Recently, we sat down with Brian Javeline, co-founder of MyOnlineToolbox, to talk about the challenges of online marketing & website lead generation for home improvement companies.
The vast majority of contractors simply do not put marketing as part of their business model. They fight the process or they simply do not incorporate it into their business model. The few that accept marketing as a part of business prosper for a long time out. It’s amazing that our industry has such a large amount of companies that do not expose the full potential of online marketing. For example, one of the largest lead generation companies is in the process of acquiring another large lead generation company. And while I am not a proponent of Lead Generation Services in general, there is still a lot to learn about their proposed merger. Currently, the combined businesses of these two have about four percent of the market for home services, which gives a lot of upside. More important is the announcement exposes a big weakness in the industry, and one where the average contractor can capitalize upon.
Can you more elaborately explain the opportunity?
Yes, but it is better to use some of the explanations provided by the Lead Generation Services above since they are spending more than ½ Billion in the (Lead Generation) industry. I did not make a mistake, it is a B for Billion. During the acquisition announcement, the CEO of the acquiring company added, “We’ve only just scratched the surface of this tremendous market opportunity, given 90 percent of home improvement transactions are still generated via word-of-mouth.” One of the related executives even said “Home services is one of the last commerce categories where the vast majority of the market is still offline.” That is a huge opportunity where contractors should embrace this announcement as a clear reminder to focus on their own website marketing. The two combined Lead Generation Services have about 4% of the market. Let’s assume the other Lead Generation Services make up another 6%. That leaves for 90% of the market being still offline in one form or another, either by not having a website or having a very weak online marketing initiative.
Why do you say you are not a proponent of Lead Generation Services?
There are a few reasons. The first has to do with so many contractors thinking this is their only marketing opportunity, and that is the furthest from the truth. Unfortunately too many contractors start to purchase leads and/or advertising from these Lead Generation Services without first creating and growing their own website and corresponding online image. They can turn on and off the Lead Generation Services at will, but their own image growth should begin day one and continue on so eventually they get good quality leads to their own website. That is indispensable organic (Free) opportunities that a company should always be looking to capitalize on.
The second has to do with aggressive Terms & Conditions pertaining to the Use of Content. It fluctuates on a service by service basis, but I will bet 99.5% of the contractors who sign up for services do not read nor understand how their content is being used. And here lies a massive problem since the one massive advantage a contractor has is all the unique content that distinguishes one contractor from another.
In what specific way can the Terms & Conditions hurt a contractor?
The beauty of being a contractor is everything about their day is unique. So whether it is Customer Reviews, Job Pictures or Before-After Videos, all of this allows a contractor to create one heck of a website and online marketing machine. But instead many contractors simply give away this content to Lead Generation Service and agree to such terms like ”you grant our Lead Generation Service a royalty free, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, nonexclusive, transferable, and sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, copy, adapt, modify, merge, distribute, publicly display, create derivative works from, incorporate such Content into other works.” In simplistic terms, you give someone your information and give them the right to do whatever they want and there is no ambiguity here. And then it is followed with “you grant Lead Generation Service all rights necessary to publish or refrain from publishing your name and address in connection with your Content.” So one has to ask, if you give someone all your information with the understanding they (the Lead Generation Service) does not need to say it came from you, then who do you think will benefit? It is easy to deduce this is how the Lead Generation Services create opportunities for the higher paying advertisers by using content from the lower paying advertisers or Free signup customers. Of course I can be wrong, and I have this posted on more forums than one can count. I have always invited a response from Lead Generation Service providers but am met with silence.
Explain how you feel a contractor can become a website and online marketing machine.
Like I said in the previous reply, the beauty of being a contractor is everything about their day is unique. The Search Engines love unique content and everything from Job Pictures, Project Descriptions of those pictures, Customer Reviews and Video first need to benefit the contractor’s website. Getting the content is one thing and then knowing what to do with that content is the next. And that is why MyOnlineToolbox created a series that teaches contractors what they need to know in order to use this content correctly. From a technical perspective the phrase is called SEO which stands for Search Engine Optimization. So many items are easy to embrace and it is important to understand the basics regardless whether a person manages their website in-house, uses an independent programmer or even uses a dedicated company. Remember, the opportunity is massive and the topic is generally easy to embrace.
So many treat SEO like a mystery. Can you provide specifics to reduce the intimidation?
Absolutely, I will give you two, one technical and one non-technical.
The most popular topic for each webpage is called Title Tags, basically the headlines for a Search Engine to know the unique importance of each individual page. The best analogy is like the Title of a Book (which is your Home Page), and the Title of Each Chapter (which is all the other supporting pages). I have seen so many beautiful websites have dozens of pages that were not titled correctly for Search Engines to find them. It is like having a store front that keeps the blue neon light off so nobody knows they are open for business.
Another popular topics is Google Reviews. Google is the king of search and one of their ranking factors is based on consumers validating your business. It is so easy, yet so many simply do not get Google Reviews. So while it is not a technical topic, Google Reviews is a non-technical topic that impacts website rankings and therefore falls under the umbrella of SEO topics.
Why do you separate SEO and Marketing as two different topics?
Because SEO is just a component of Marketing. Too many technology folk think knowing SEO is the same as knowing Marketing, but they are different issues all together. A good analogy is when publishing a story. Who cares whether you use Google Docs or Microsoft Word if you do not know how to write? It’s the same thing many times when it comes to SEO. I have seen some rather smart Website SEO do a terrible job for their customers when they are really clueless about their clients type of business. A recent example is a client of mine who literally had their entire website optimized for New Home Building without an ounce of marketing towards Home Remodeling – and the reason was based simply because they have “Construction” in their name and the website people didn’t understand. Someone with a marketing background would learn the details of their clients business before jumping the gun with SEO topics.
What are your closing thoughts on Marketing and SEO?
There is no silver bullet to be successful. Continuity in marketing is what will help you build a reputation AND sustain the reputation over time. There is no one shot answer with Continuity, but rather a bucket of options to choose from. Obviously, you need to have a good responsive website ready to be viewed on either a desktop, tablet or smartphone. And yes, the website must have SEO topics addressed. Some SEO topics are easier to explain such as the topic of Title Tags. Some other SEO topics may be a little harder to explain such as the strategy of Linking. Regardless of the Website SEO Topics come the many other options that one can intermix to keep the Marketing Continuity merry-go-round moving. New content, Google Reviews, Facebook posts and YouTube videos are a handful of ideas. Having a simple plan that encompasses the basics will allow you to generate More Quality Leads for a long period of time.
MyOnlineToolbox is the #1 Online Marketing and Website SEO Education Series – Just For Contractors. The original class was created with over 100 consulting clients participating. Over time the classes evolved to include Marketing Planning to provide a strategy for a remodeling or service contractor to build a marketing machine using their website, customer reviews, social sharing including Facebook and YouTube along with positioning against their local competition. Our Client Reviews are extensive and cover a very diverse group of businesses.