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The simple fact is, people managed to hire a trades person before the internet was invented.
This is pretty conclusive proof that digital marketing is not the be all and end all of business. But things are changing.
While word-of-mouth, repeat business, advertising and many other factors will likely continue to be important factors in growing your tradesman business, it's important to keep up with trends and to be active in the places where our customers are active, i.e. the Internet.
So here’s the conclusion nice and early for those hoping for a miracle marketing idea: While the internet does allow you to garner some of those recommendations online, as well as compete for more quotes and reach a wider customer base, without a great service in the first place, the internet is only going to work against you. So effectively, it's no different to how things used to be, back in the Dark Ages… before Facebook… and even before Myspace.
Over the next few sections, I’m going to talk about how to make the internet work as hard for you as you can make it. We’re going to go through some simple (and touch on some not-so-simple) techniques that can help you stand out against your competition.
There is a lot to potentially do, so don’t get overwhelmed. Start small and most importantly, if it works – do more of it!
Let’s say I live in Colchester and I need a plumber. When looking online I’m probably going to use a search term along the lines of “plumber near Colchester”, or “plumbing repair in Essex”.
Getting your website returned in location based searches like these is one of the most important things to do when marketing yourself as a tradesman online, because most of your search traffic will be location based like mine was.
Registering your tradesman business with Google (or other search engines) and setting up a Google+ profile will mean that you’ll show up in searches based on your area and also that customers will be able to find out your business contact details, and even click to call directly from their phone, straight from the search results page.
It’s a quick, one off set-up, with the added benefit that more of the leads generated will be close to you, saving you travel time and petrol! But don’t get your hopes up to quickly. Many businesses are already taking advantage of this no-brainer service, so if you haven’t got onboard yet, you’re behind the curve.
As with most of the topics we’re going to discuss here, each one is worthy of a whole library. Designing and maintaining a website, however, is certainly one of the biggest. Suffice to say it can be a bottomless pit of time and money which big businesses can spend literally millions. However, for smaller budgets at first just set your sights on matching and then bettering your nearest competitor.
The Importance of Responsive Design
If you’re setting up a new website do not overlook designing it to be responsive to the different devices viewing it. This means that the parts of website will resize and respond correctly depending on whether the viewer is using a computer, tablet or mobile phone. Conservative stats available online will show you that 30% of all your traffic will come from phones and tablets and as smart TVs and watches come in and out of fashion this is only going to rise in the near future. Having a website that performs badly on a common device will lower the rate at which you convert visitors into leads and sales.
When setting up a website, or updating an existing one, most important is to start small and simple and expand on what’s working. Start by deciding on your exact aims for the website. You can safely assume most visitors will be looking for info about what you do and how to contact you. Don’t make it difficult for them to find these details. They should always be present from the home page, and every other page after that too. Bearing in mind that most people will be viewing multiple websites, the next most important thing is to highlight why they should choose you. To do this make sure you include pictures of the work you do and testimonials from previous customers. How you display all this depends greatly on the size and layout of the site and the type of work you do but even with the most simple, one page website, this should always be included.
The simpler you can keep your website, the easier and quicker it will be for your customers to make a decision. Remember – you’ll have a few seconds to sway them before they move down the list of pages to one of your competitors. Once you’re up and running though you can use your website analytics to see what works and test out new pages and ideas.
Website analytics are various services that will track the metrics of your website's performance. In their simplest form they will tell you how many people are viewing your pages, how long they stay on each page, which pages cause most people to leave and which pages cause most people to stay or buy. Over time, you can use these stats to understand what is working for you, and where your customers come from i.e. searching via an search engine, via a link from an article written about you online, from a review site etc. If you plan to develop your site over time, this information will provide the factual insight as to the how and why.
Understanding your keywords can give you a huge advantage in capturing search traffic (customers coming to your site from search engines) and helping search engines understand precisely what your service is, therefore sending highly targeted traffic (better conversion for you).
A very simple example is if someone is looking for a carpenter in Cambridge they might search “Carpenter Cambridge”, but what if they searched “Cabinet Maker Cambridge”, or “Furniture Maker Cambridgeshire”? Understanding the volumes for these different search terms can allow you to skim traffic from competitors and directly target certain trades or niche jobs. When setting up a website this research is important because it will inform the pages and layout you use. It will also allow you to optimise your website further and will be the back bone of a content marketing strategy in the future. Here is a great article for understanding what free keywords tools are available online.
Making Social Media Work For You
How many times have you seen a friend on Facebook asking for a recommendation for a tradesperson? I’ve seen it countless times and just last month I recommended my dog walker to someone in my village’s Facebook group.
Examples like this are the closest equivalent to ‘real world’, word-of-mouth recommendations. So, make sure your profiles are tidy, with clear contact details, and importantly, that you reply to every query. This is the easy and free part to digital marketing. You don’t need to spend money, or even much time in creating a very simple online presence, so without very little effort, you can still get a trickle of business just from having a profile, encouraging your friends and previous customers to recommend and share your page, and hoping that once in a while, new customers stumble upon your page.
How to use Social Media Platforms as Search Engines
YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites have become very important in terms of capturing search traffic. What this means is that you’ll find customers are searching these social media sites for information - sometimes instead of using Google or Bing.
Having said this, many people fall into a trap of believing that social media is a magical source of endless free business. Of course, not all of it costs money, but doing it well does take some time, and that’s time you could be using for something else. That means you should be sure that’s where you want to spend it.
With social media (and much of digital marketing) ‘Content is King’. But what on earth does that mean?
As we’ve discussed, simply having a profile will allow your friends to recommend you, but growing your profile competitively means you need to post, regularly, and your posts need to be interesting and high quality. We’ll be talking about content marketing a bit more later on but basically, you need to create content for your posts. You need pictures (and video if you can), you need information, humour, offers, you need to find and share other interesting content - and you mustn’t ever be boring.
Remember, as a tradesperson, you’re making, building, fixing and creating everyday. Showcasing what job you’ve just finished and what you’re working on can be great quality content and can serve well to showcase your skills. Show off a little!
There are many resources out there on how to optimise posts and tweets, when you should and shouldn’t add pictures, what time of day to share, which sites are best for certain demographics and all the info you could possibly need, but for the stats in the world, you won’t get new followers unless you’re consistent and you project personality into what you do.
Websites through which customers can find and hire tradesmen are not free and can be time-consuming, but with patience to build up your profile they can provide a reliable stream of revenue. Digital marketing is rarely a quick win game—time and effort can deliver impressive results as long as you don’t get caught up in believing the hype that everything is free and instant. You’ll tap into local customer bases you might otherwise have not if you provide a fantastic service, collect great reviews, and don’t spread yourself too thin.
www.trustmark.org.uk is a not for profit, government licensed organisation which allows users to search by type of job and location to return results for trusted tradespeople in their area. Becoming registered and verified differs between trade and location but it costs around £400 a year, which includes membership, monthly fees and auditing costs.
www.mybuilder.com is an online marketplace where customers can find quality tradesmen they can trust. Customers post a job that tradesmen can then express interest in being hired for. You only pay for jobs that a customer shortlists you for. The website has a feedback system that rewards excellent work and allows tradesmen to build an online profile that can be immensely helpful in building an extensive client base.
What is Content Marketing?
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
In a nutshell, this mean creating videos, tutorials, guides, articles and social media posts around the industry and type of service you provide. The goal is to draw a larger amount of traffic to your site from people looking for advice in these areas. Whilst they are there though, you can expose them to your services, present offers, collect subscription and mailing details and generally offer a positive experience in the presence of your brand.
Producing content like this can be time consuming but at the same time it can produce outstanding results. Good quality content can set your website apart from others, it can give you a personality online, credibility in your field, improve your website and conversion and not to mention can greatly boost your search engine ranking against other websites for services in your area.
Mobile phones can record in good enough quality now-a-days for you to be adding videos directly from job sites. This means that as you work, you could be posting short explanation videos of what you are doing, and not all the content even needs to be your own. Content curation is the act of using the internet yourself to collect together all other great content around a subject and post an article on your site, simply sign posting your viewers in the direction of what they are looking for.
We’ve all seen titles like “10 best sites for hiring a car”, or “5 great articles on getting fit”. If you are an electrician, why not “10 best YouTube videos for wiring a plug”? This article is easy to create and will help give your customers a positive experience whilst on your website, with the ultimate goal of helping them choose you over your competitors.
So let’s go back to the quote from earlier – if it works, do more of it.
Digital marketing has many many faces, and depending on your location, budget and industry, some might work better for you than others. Experiment with what works for you, once you find something, worry less about all the other possibilities and look at how to keep doing and growing that thing, more and more efficiently. Track it, test it, prove with facts that it works and watch these metrics as you push further growth. Marketing your tradesman business online isn’t a guessing game. You can provide yourself real return on investment for you efforts. Get to know the analytics of your website, the metrics of your social channels, the open rates of your emails and focus your time and budget on the things that clearly grow your business.