Picking the correct advertising for tradesmen can be the difference between your firm flying and struggling.
We’ve all known tradesmen or contractors that have grown their business’s to be the dominant force in their area.
You know the guy who managed to get off the tools and into an office.
He managed to scale and employ people to do the dirty work while he holidays and debates between a Range Rover or X5.
We all know tradesmen and contractors that have never grown at all and are stuck on the same merry go round of scratching for work day in and day out.
and successful business's or individuals learn these methods quickly.
The people that learn how to grow a home improvement business successfully do 2 things very well:
You're probably wondering what Tradesmen's advertising actually works and what is a waste of money?
Well today might just be your lucky day!
Below I break down over 15 years’ experience of tradesmen's marketing with substantial budgets.
I will go over each method step by step and show you the best form of advertising for contractors and home improvement style businesses.
Covering both online and traditional marketing methods, showing you what works, what doesn’t and what will kick start your business.
Let's dive in:
As you can see if you didn’t already know there is big shift towards online advertising for tradesmen. All business’s need to follow customer trends and if that’s where the customers are then you need to look at that also.
Now all of these tradesmen advertising ideas work, there is no question. Pick an idea and there will be someone out their selling what you are selling and doing very well with that form of advertising.
The list below is everything that I have worked with and what I have tried to do is show you that some are better than others, some are easier forms of advertising for tradesmen and some are very difficult.
Although with the right skill set they all can be successful ways to advertise a construction type business.
So you put SEO first when you sell SEO services!
And here’s why!
I’ve spent close too if not more than £1,000,000 on advertising for Home Improvement type business’s to local customers.
I know what customers are looking for and what kind of user experience they want when they start the buying process.
Think about it, if a customer goes online to look at buying holidays.
What do they want?
All at the click of a button.
Well someone searching for local tradesmen or contractors wants a user experience of their own they may not expect prices of a new conservatory built in their garden, or locksmith website to tell them the exact price to get in their front door, but never the less they subconsciously have a journey that they want to go on.
And they will go through website after website until its provided.
There looking for,
So what about SEO!
Ok here’s the deal:
All your customers when they’re ready to start the buying process,
I’ll say that again, WHEN THEY ARE READY TO BUY
They go online.
It’s an indisputable fact that people searching for local services use Google to find what they want. The consumer trusts google to list reputable companies high on its page for any given search query.
So successful SEO campaigns for tradesmen combined with the website journey discussed above makes sure that the customers first of all land on your website ahead of a competitors and then stick to your website (and your brand) like glue.
The vast majority of customers finding your website and exactly what they wanted on your site. That is the perfect online marketing partnership.
Capture customers when they’re ready to call.
Can dominate a local market for multiple services.
Everything can be tracked right down to the last phone call, so you know it’s working.
Get the most qualified customers locally looking at your website and brand.
Takes time, can be up to 4-6 months before SEO can produce a return on investment.
Like your industry has cowboys so does this, vet (on results) carefully and weed out the have a go hero’s
It’s not cheap, why would it be. Everything is relative. Nobody is going to be able to deliver £10k or £100k extra monthly revenue for £99! Think about it.
Every business should have a business Facebook page with no exceptions. Facebook is a phenomenon and nearly everybody uses it.
Business’s can use it in a multiple of ways, like sharing their recent projects (especially if your service is visual like a landscaper) running giveaways and pulling in referrals from other friends of the page.
The best form of advertising for contractors is one where you spend a lot less than you make, and besides from Facebook adverts the platform is free to business's so that is a good start.
Facebook is fast becoming a search engine like Google in their own right with people highly likely to seek you out on Facebook for advice, prices and quotes.
Free! That’s a good start.
If you build a big following on your page then it can supply plenty of interactions
Occasionally in low competition markets your Facebook page can rank in Google and other search engines for profitable keywords. This = free business.
Not scalable organically. If you’re a landscaper for instance and you share the very best information from your website on your page and people share it for you, your reach still won’t be enough to scale your business.
To get the best advertising results from your Facebook page you need to invest. A local business cannot get to 10k page likes free unless there are doing something exceptional, which doesn’t quite apply to our home improvement market.
Audience and reach, it’s a common misconception that if you have 100 page likes then maybe 100 people will see what you post. It’s actually the opposite, whatever you post gets measured by traction, and if its popular (likes and shares) then Facebook will it a push to more of your fans, if it does nothing, you get nothing I am afraid.
Keep your friends and family off your business page, there not your customers. They start by sharing and liking things for you.
This eventually disappears and your left with sometimes half your followers (your audience) that don’t interact with page.
Facebook see’s this and assumes what your putting out is not great and slows down your reach to your real customers who might well want to buy your services.
Facebook has a very neat and fancy advertising platform, so fancy and neat in fact that they make it easy for people to have a little try!
“Boost this post” we have all seen this right!
Because it’s so easy to get started boosting posts and running small adverts to get more likes and shares then it can appear to be the best place for tradesmen to advertise.
We have to go back to the customer journey to truly understand this.
Customers when making large purchases (anything over £100 normally) are rarely spontaneous buyers.
How many customers do you think see an advert for a local heating engineer and think my boiler is getting old I am going to ring him now, it’s not many trust me.
Customers in our industry plan these purchases, anything on the home from buying and selling a house, to a new roof right down to blinds in the back bedroom is thought of and considered way before the lead goes in.
Facebook should be in my professional opinion be used to build the brand and the Facebook page. Collect emails if you like. Anything that triggers your name when that buying conversation starts. Think about it, you have posted 30 great landscaping jobs and that customer has been keeping an eye on your page, who do you think will get the call when they’re ready for a new patio?
Can build exceptional local awareness to your brand.
Once you have paid for a big following you have them for good. You can position yourself as a THE local expert in your area.
Can promote to all on your Facebook page ridiculously cheap.
Local traders loose thousands on not knowing the how and where to use the budget.
Still can’t target people when they are actually ready to buy.
To set up a proper Facebook advertising campaign for tradesmen requires use of tools such as the power editor. This can be extremely difficult for newbies. But if you use the tools on the page that Facebook provide you WILL NOT get the same bang for ya buck.
Use adverts to build your reach and fanbase, this intern will build the brand which will eventually pay off big time.
Paid search or PPC (Pay per click advertising) is a great yet super difficult tools to use.
How you use it and with what level of skill you use it will ultimately define how much you will make or loose with it.
For starters its super powerful because like SEO above it catches people at the right point of their buying journey, no messing about, if a customer has typed Locksmith London and triggered one of your ads then its highly likely (depending on your website usability) you may well get a call.
But it is only ever an auction, not like an auction you may be used to either!
Trader one bids £5.00 for a click on Plumber in Liverpool.
Trader two bids £3.50 for the same click
Trader 1 wins right? Wrong or maybe right! It depends is the correct answer.
Google quality scores everything
And so on and so on. It’s quite possible that another advertiser bidding £2.00 will swoop and beat both, and pay less!
Like SEO it’s all about optimising and guidelines, if your ads and landing pages are the most optimised and relevant then you will be getting a lot more for a lot less.
Expert PPC management for tradesmen should be able to cover their own costs within the saving they make you. A successful construction company marketing plan will usually include PPC adverts at some point.
Can capture leads when they’re ready to buy.
Can start today if you want
Start with £75 free credit from Google.
Requires some medium to high level skills to work efficiently and scale up.
Expensive with service related keywords from £2.00 - £15 per click
When the funding stops so does the leads and calls. No long term asset is being built here.
Don’t scale up until your fully optimised, a little money wasted at the start can soon become a hell of a lot further down the line.
Most contractors and tradesmen waste a fortune of PPC advertising to the point where they believe it doesn’t work.
I was taught years ago when I hired a specialist with an amazing track record to work in one of my business’s. She proved to me that this is in fact one the best ways to advertise a construction business.
I was able to watch the changes she made to my AdWords campaign virtually in real time, and I was nearly sick with the complexity of the whole set up.
But I was watching a master at her trade in real time so no wonder I was feeling nervous.
Eventually I hired her to teach me, slowly! Very Slowly!
I don’t use twitter or twitter marketing all that much so I am going to pass this one over, I never truly bought into this platform for advertising a local tradesmen style business.
Firstly 140 characters in a tweet, why would I restrict myself to this when I can write the message freely to whatever length is suitable for message on other platforms.
I was taught early in my marketing career that not all social media platforms suit all business’s and this is has always stood me in good stead.
I have no doubt that there will be people read this and challenge my thoughts on this with tangible evidence that they have made a success of lead generation using twitter for our market .
I never said it couldn’t work, I just believe there are better options and places to spend your money if you’re a local home services professional or company.
A quote from Business News Daily, one of the biggest sites in the American business market:
“If you have interesting content, Twitter is also a great tool for quickly spreading the word. Retweeting and sharing other users' content is incredibly simple, hashtags help boost posts, and if a user with a lot of followers retweets you, your content has the potential to go viral. But with Twitter, it's important to remember to find balance — don't simply share your own links or media; make sure you are also sharing a lot of interesting, relevant content from other Twitter users and from around the Web so your audience doesn't think you only care about what your business is doing”
There’s nothing in that piece that makes me want to go out a spend money with Twitter in our niche. Other niches I have no doubt it could be explosive, but not for me.
If you want to read the whole article it’s here: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7832-social-media-for-business.html
Now this is something I certainly have experience with.
Yell sponsored listings will get you calls and leads, you only have to speak to the rep that manages your account to get a whole reel of how many calls and leads you have had.
So it works?
Well that depends on how you measure “works”
For what you get which is a place in the top 3 – 4 (depending on how much you spend) on a page for 1 service in 1 area and the page also contains every competitor that you have I personally didn’t feel like that was an avenue that set my business apart.
Did my business get an edge over the other business’s on the page?
Well possibly being higher up, maybe.
Was it enough of an edge to stop people ringing half the people on the page for a quote?
Did It provide the correct ROI and scalable solution to grow my business?
It did give me the greatest tip of my life! It tipped me off about SEO. Yell brings the vast majority of its traffic to the site via SEO. Organic rankings, then sell slots on the pages back to you.
Fast, you can be on the page for your area for your service virtually overnight if its available
Sponsored listing put you above free listing so that must have an advantage.
One service only, I had 4 cities for driveway services, if I wanted patio service’s I had to pay for all 4 again.
Contracts, Yell will expect you to sign and honour a long term contract.
Expensive for what it is.
Let’s say you’re a heating engineer in Glasgow, you sign up and you get a little box on a page that ranks fairly high for the term “Boiler service Glasgow” and you start getting some leads.
It all good.
Then a competitor gets some good work done on their site and moves up and pushes the page you’re on down, leads dry up.
Do you get a discount?
Do you get a refund?
Can you just walk away?
What do think the answer is?
Personally I would want more than a single box on a page for a good chunk of my marketing budget.
Email marketing is an exceptional tool for local business and used right can bring an excellent ROI.
I hear a but!
Yeah you need to build a list, and you need to do it legitimately, you can’t just go scrapping emails and blasting out offers, not unless you want your company email blocked or banned.
Using some of the great marketing and advertising methods for tradesmen included here to get traffic to your website from there you can capture emails. Once you have a list (try to start with at least 200+) you can promote your business, services and offers virtually for free but don’t overdo it with the selling or you will end up with a bunch of unsubscribers.
Free and a great way to build a local database.
Fast and effective at letting people know the message you want to get out.
If you had a super list and used it intelligently, you would have a fair bit control over the local market.
Takes a while to build a strong list, you need traffic first.
Takes a fair bit of skill to get the best out of it.
If the list grows big you will need to start paying for the service of delivering the emails – This is not really a con though, you want a big list!
This is my pet hate!
I have never bought into a checked or approved type tradesmen site.
Why would I?
Now I know people personally and clients that have said they have done OK with this type of service, and of course this will be true.
Their business model is not flawed, they get traffic and customers pay a membership to access calls and emails.
Good business for them, personally I know and can prove that local contractors and tradesmen can bypass that completely and land potential customers on their OWN site, not a page full of competitors but a page full of their own brand and services.
Easy for contractors and tradesmen to join
Annual fees, no long term asset built for that money. Don’t pay your gone.
Local directories are all good for local business’s. Not a bad word to say about them, just a quick word about vetting.
Check out that they are actually local and about your town or city.
You don’t want to register with loads of national directories that are low quality sites built to capture information and sell it on.
If its local and talks local then it will have local intent and visitors so get yourself on. It won’t make your business but it is a small yet solid tradesmen advertising technique that can certainly attract the odd new customer here and there.
I really loved this avenue, customers walking up to you asking for a free quote or a price, as a marketer this is the stuff of dreams! But it has to be a good deal for both parties.
I once applied for a spot in the Metro Centre near where I live, at the time I think it was the biggest in Europe and the footfall was insane.
The cost I was quoted was …… wait for it £1200 a day!
It hard for local trade companies to get past the prices.
So this is what I did: I offered my services at a ridiculous low rate to get a foot in the door and build a relationship.
When a bigger job came on the radar for us I traded the job for 14 days of advertising in the Metro Centre!
The job had a value of around 4k to me, but they were happy to trade advertising spots that they probably weren’t using anyhow.
Amazing awareness created locally for your business.
Genuinely will produce leads and new customers.
Can do it when you like, no long term contracts.
I found it really sad some of the prices they were charging, truth is they want mobile phone companies and new car stands and the prices reflect this.
Road signage is a goldmine when it comes to advertising for contractors and tradesmen. This one is short and sweet with no pro’s and cons.
If you can find a great road side spot, like a farmers field with heavy traffic then go for it.
Negotiate hard as the spot has limited value to the owner but immense value to your company or business locally.
It will provide, awareness to the brand and leads and should comfortably give you a good ROI.
What do you think would produce more calls?
1) A spot on a page somewhere on the first page of google
2) A huge billboard by the side of a motorway saying
“The #1 Landscaper in Leeds – Call Today For A Free Quote"
While you chew over that question I will tell you where the real value is:
The calls from the sponsored listing or membership site will have phoned 3-4 people minimum.
While the call from the billboard will only call you. Later they may call others but you will get first bite.
And that is a good point to remember, when spending money on contractor advertising.
Are you getting any exclusivity?
Leaflet drops work the same. If it’s just your leaflet they see they will call you, if they see a load of numbers on a page to call then they will call them all if not a fair chunk of them.
You want your customers seeing your brand, business, website and van only not others.
Can get some amazing opportunities for low cost.
It’s yours. If you get a winner your competitors cannot replicate it.
Powerful advertising locally, your brand will be remembered.
It’s a bit of a hassle getting it all done designed up and erected.
Maintenance will be tedious if you don’t do it right.
Make sure its private land or the local council will look to object.
Don’t look for advertising signs or boards, look for spots on private land and find the owner.
Usually the owner doesn’t want any hassle so tell them you will do all the heavy lifting including erection and maintenance and you will pay by direct debit.
A fair few will go for it at very reasonable prices monthly or annually.
Branding is something we find goes a miss sometimes with contractors and tradesmen.
Not every time we have seen some home services professionals that have an outstanding company image.
But we have seen others, a lot of others that think it’s ok not to bother.
An example we hear all the time is: I am a bricklayer or I am a builder what the work is like should be the only thing that matters.
And that is 100% correct but it’s also just not the way it works.
And here’s why:
If your business arrives on a Monday morning to a new customer’s home or premise’s and the first thing they see is poorly maintained vehicles and ununiformed workers.
Then straightaway regardless of how great your work is you’re on the back foot.
A switch flicks in the customer’s head and they start to worry.
If you have been recommended for the job then this could be OK.
If you have a nice website or Facebook page where the customer first found you then you turn up not resembling that nice brand at all, they start to feel like they’ve been had. And this customer can make life very difficult while trying to complete your project.
It’s vitally important for a local services business to has consistency throughout when it comes to branding.
Basic branding for tradesmen wouldn’t cost that much and will almost certainly pay for its self over time.
Let’s look at what’s needed:
Clean and professionally sign written.
It’s doesn’t have to be new but it does need to be well looked after.
The reason is this is your free advert in that street or carpark or wherever it’s parked for the duration of the job. And it works!
Neighbours see this well turned out business doing work locally and if they need something they will be sure to ask. If you look like a bunch of cowboys, then everybody will believe you’re a bunch of cowboys.
Make sure everybody is turned out in a full uniform provided by the business that displays the business and brand. Costs pennies and makes a tonne of difference.
Website or Facebook Page
See whats happening here?
The customer is being shown again and again that this is a real business that has took time to invest in themselves and cares about their appearance and how the company is viewed.
This goes a long way when the customer decides who there going to give their money too.
One of the biggest tips I could ever give to someone starting out as a self employed tradesmen looking for work is this.
First Impressions Count.
The web is highly likely the first place they will see your business and almost instantly they will pass judgement.
Rightly or wrongly they don’t have all day to choose someone for the job so a filtering process starts and the branding of the business, not the words on the on page is what will stick out.
No pro’s and con’s here, if your serious about growing your business then you need to get cracking with this. Look at your business how a potential customer would and improve it accordingly. It’s not expensive to have a small but very well presented team turn up.
Now I am a big fan of leaflets.
Door to door leaflet distribution for your services will produce ROI for some business’s but not all.
This is what you want for leaflet dropping to work.
Luxury products work well
Like conservatories, landscaping, blinds, kitchen and bedroom companies etc.
All services that the customer will be planning and looking forward too. It works so well because the customers know this project is on the radar maybe next month, 6 months or next year and they KEEP the leaflet.
I’ve had tonnes of calls from leaflets delivered the day before and leaflets delivered 3 years ago.
Where they work less is for a grudge purchase,
A purchase that the customer never expected or wanted to make. When the leaflet goes through the door if everything is working fine in the home the leaflet is binned.
And that makes it hard to get a good ROI on leaflet distribution.
The exception to all of this above and leaflets should be used here:
If you have multiple products or services. If you’re a home improvement business and can list out 10-12 services on your leaflet, then you have increased your opportunity of catching an interested party massively.
Leaflets will be very good for your business in this scenario regardless of whether it is a luxury purchase or a grudge purchase.
Creates a brand in your local area when done at scale.
Easy to scale and grow.
Offers a non-intrusive way for a customer to connect with your business.
Requires patience, a successful distribution campaign is ongoing. The more you get out the more it will snowball. We have clients that distribute 20,000 a week! But they want a lot of work so it’s relative.
Can be expensive expect to pay £25-40 per thousand the further South you are.
Prices above are on shared drops and if your posted with 3-4 other leaflets it’s OK.
If the distribution company start to raise this to 9-10 it’s a problem.
Remember branding and first impressions count, get the best possible leaflet design you can afford, you want regret it.
Solo drops (just your leaflet) are too expensive so agree that the maximum yours will go out with is 5 on a shared drop.
And DO YOUR CHECKS
If they are a reputable company, they will provide tracking and data as to where the leaflets have gone.
Go and ask the homeowners the question.
Did you get my leaflet, and how many was with it?
The homeowners will let you know if the distribution company is having you over.
This is where I started nearly 20 years ago, and by god 20 years ago this was as powerful as marketing strategy as you could find. More about me and my background here.
Today I think people hate it, and if it’s door canvass then the people hate it and the local authorities are right on top of it.
Hawking services door to door really is a thing of the past. I know some huge companies, national companies even that still use this strategy effectively so it must work but there really are better ways to connect people with your business.
Telesales or outbound sales is another solid tactic but again for our market I would advise against it.
To run a successful telesales operation, even a tiny one with 4 telesales you need to know what you’re doing.
You need systems in place to measure results, performance and ROI. Even then the results will be based on the individual skill level, training and ability to do their jobs.
Can get results if done right.
Can scale with the right team and info structure.
Powerful for follow up calls and chasing down customers that may be on the fence
High staff turnover, continuous training of new team members.
Seriously heavy on upfront costs, you have to start paying wages before they even attempt to help you generate leads.
Very few customers are happy about being cold called either by phone or at the door.
The most powerful of all, and always will be.
What your customers think and say about your business should be an ultimate priority at all times.
If you get a recommend through word of mouth, then it is the best type of lead your business can get bar none.
Unfortunately it’s a slow process to scale or grow your business. Having people speak well and recommend your business is what every owner should strive for. But in the same breath you shouldn’t be waiting around for recommendations to grow your business. Be proactive and market your business correctly and the word of mouth appraisals of your business will grow naturally also.
We shared all the points above to show that I do have a long term experience of this market and where to advertise if your a tradesmen. If you’ve read these 5,000 words then you are serious about marketing your business correctly.
For all I consider myself a search engine optimization specialist and deal primarily with getting free traffic to your website or premises, I would never advise you dismiss other options.
The truth is the vast majority of successful business’s small and large have multiple channels of advertising.
They test, test and test some more and dismiss the platforms that make the least ROI and go “all in” on the ones that do. That’s advertising folks.
Hopefully this article will help you short cut some of the avenues and save you some money testing the marketing methods I have already tested extensively for the home services market.
Make sure to comment below and let us know what works for you.
Quick note - Before the comments start, we know small businesses and one man bands that do very well from certain cheap or free forms of advertising for tradesmen. But the avenues laid out in this article are options to scale or grow your business. It’s not a debate one way or the other to what works best for a lead or call here and there.
It’s what works best to take your business to the next level
Husband, father and total fanatic when it comes to lead generation and online search. When I am not buried in a world of testing and analytics I enjoy poker, fishing and catching a game.