6 Reasons Why Internet Marketing Isn’t Working For Your Home Improvement Business

Posted by | June 16, 2010 | Conversion Optimization, SEO | 2 Comments

Three Deep Marketing has a large home improvement client base.   We work with a variety of home improvement companies that are truly a cross section of the industry, helping them with their internet marketing and lead generation needs.  These home improvement companies include some of the largest  companies in the country, as well as companies that are strong regional players in their local markets.

While paid search management (PPC) is usually the first service we engage with a client, we actually offer a full compliment of services, including:

The main objective across all of our services is to use technology to develop a pipeline of cost effective inquires (prospects) for our clients.  Through this experience we have realized that how those inquiries are handled by the Client will have a dramatic effect on the success of any Internet marketing effort.

With that said we’ve developed this list of the Top 6 Reasons Why Your Home Improvement Company Isn’t Getting As Much Business As It Could From The Internet.

1. Your website sucks

Our team looks at well over 100 home improvement websites each year.  The rules for websites have changed over the last 10 years, unfortunately most of the contractor sites we see haven’t kept up and look like they haven’t been touched since the early 2000’s.  A modern website should be built with search engine optimization (SEO) as a primary goal.  That means optimized title tags, header text, meta descriptions and plenty of fresh, engaging content that is useful to your prospects.  (Content copied off a manufacturer’s website doesn’t count!)

Statistics show that over 80% of all product and service inquires now start online.  Can those prospects quickly find your company through the search engines – most importantly Google, who has 80% of the market share in search? Does your website put your best foot forward in telling your story?  Once a prospect gets to your site, does your site have a strong call to action on it?  Do you have site analytics installed and does someone monitor those stats routinely?  Setting up conversion tracking on a site is essential; once you know the percentage of visitors actually convert into prospects you can start to test new offers to improve that statistic.  Because one of the primary factors that the search engines use to rank websites for relevance is inbound links — what other websites are linking to your site?

2. All politics are local and so are most searches

Over the last two years local search (LSEO) has become an even more important consideration for the Internet savvy local business.  Local search is commonly referred to as the “map” or the “ten pack” of companies listed at the top of an organic search.  For a company that does bathroom remodeling in St. Paul its essential that he show up “in the map” for that keyword search, because the existence of the map pushes all the organic listings down below the fold.

Our home improvement clients have asked us “How do we get listed on the map?”  There are reams of articles out there about LSEO, but the Reader’s Digest version is that it takes a concerted effort of:

a.)    Claiming your listing on Google Places.

b.)    Optimizing your listing by including a complete and keyword rich business description.

c.)     Claiming other Free listings on local directories and pointing the links to your website.

d.)    Soliciting links to your site from other reputable websites that you do business with.

e.)    Soliciting online consumer reviews from your satisfied customers.  This one is likely the most important!  Google places a high value on consumer reviews.  If your customers are happy with your work, they likely would be happy to write an online review – but you have to ask them and likely show them where to do it.

We maintain that a well rounded internet marketing strategy consists of a search-optimized website with good content and calls to action, a well optimized Local Search Strategy and an aggressive Paid Search campaign.  But what if…

3. Your Paid Search program is hemorrhaging money

This goes back to point number one.  We find most home improvement contractors who attempt a paid search campaign on their own start by sending traffic to their website homepage.  (The one with lousy content, no call to action and no conversion tracking.)  You know that you are getting clicks because Google is charging your credit card, but you aren’t getting many leads.  As a result you quickly form the opinion that “PPC advertising doesn’t work.”

The problem is that unless you know for certain what your website’s conversion rate is, (and most sites we look at have conversion rates less than 1%) sending traffic to your website is throwing money away.  We coach Clients that a better tactic is to develop a standalone landing page and send their PPC traffic there.  While the purpose of a website is to inform and educate, the purpose of a landing page is to engage a prospect and convert (meaning fill out the form to request more information.)  Statistics show that 50% of visitors to a landing page leave within 8 seconds, so you don’t have much time to state your case and get them to convert!  We’ve tested just about every conceivable offer and have developed best practices that depending on the Client have resulted in conversion rates between 5-15%.  One of our larger home improvement Clients spent over $60K on Google paid search advertising last month.  His campaign had a 7.27% conversion rate – meaning he generated 877 PPC inquiries, not counting phone calls which we usually track on a campaign as well.  This company had direct marketing costs from PPC alone of under 10%, meaning they sold in excess of $680,000 just from PPC last month!  When you factor in the phone calls as well he likely sold in excess of $1mm.  Clearly, if implemented correctly paid search advertising works!

4. Your phone response time on internet leads is too long

This one can kill you if you aren’t on it.  Think about your own experience, if you send in a request for more information online when do you want to get an answer?  Tomorrow…?  Next week…? How about..Now!  Online shoppers measure time in minutes, not days.  If you don’t have a system set up to respond immediately to an internet request you are missing the boat.  By the time you get around to contacting the prospect the odds are likely that they will have found someone else to do their home improvement work.

5. Your phone staff treats internet inquires like any other lead

A call in from a media campaign and an internet inquiry are not the same thing, and shouldn’t be treated the same way.  A person calling you requesting an estimate is much farther down on the buying spectrum than an internet shopper who is researching their project and requested the informational report on your website.  (Oh, you don’t have an offer for an informational report on your website?  Refer to item number 1 on this list about Calls to Action!)

That isn’t to say an internet inquiry can’t be set into an appointment.  An internet lead just needs some finesse on the part of the appointment setter.  You can’t just call the prospect and say “We got your name off the internet and we’d like to schedule a time to give you a free home improvement estimate.”  Taking that approach will scare them off more often than not.  The top home improvement industry consultants refer to an approach of “Selling the Value of the Visit” in order to increase appointment setting efficiencies.  This step is crucial when it comes to internet leads.  It is also essential to have a good CRM system in place to manage the calls and contacts you make with these prospects, because if you don’t set a lead into an appointment immediately you should be able to nurture them along with other marketing methods like email marketing and direct mail marketing and so that when they are ready to set an appointment – you’ll be on the top of their minds.

6. You are over qualifying your inquires

Over a year ago, we set up a call center that takes call in inquires from paid search landing pages, and immediately responds to internet email requests and sets appointments for our Clients because we realized that there was a tremendous opportunity to help Clients overcome problems 4 and 5.  One of our home improvement Clients so far this year has sold over $800,000 off the internet with a fully loaded marketing cost under 6%, including PPC fees and call center fees to Three Deep.  This Client is well on his way to selling over $1.5 mm off the Internet, which would triple the amount of business he’s generated any other year from the internet.  We have another Client who’s business was up 150% over his best 1st Quarter by utilizing our call center.  These results can be directly attributed to calling Internet prospects immediately with a scripted appointment setting methodology and using a CRM system to manage them.

It’s not surprising how many home improvement companies we talk to that tell us they have a problem generating enough appointments.  Cost effective lead generation is the number one problem facing the home improvement industry today.  Industry best practices would define a qualified appointment as a prospect who:

a. owns their home

b. has a need and an interest in the product

c. agrees to have all homeowners present

d. agrees to give a representative an hour of their time.

We’ve found too many home improvement companies who as a matter of course ask qualification questions over the phone about the size of the job, the prospect’s budget, financing, time frame for doing the job, number of other estimates the prospect has had before deciding whether it’s “worth their time” to set the appointment.  At the same time they complain that they don’t have enough leads and that their marketing cost is too high – notice a pattern?

Here’s an idea, if someone has reached out to you over the Internet asking for help on their home, and they fit a. b. c. and d. above – set the appointment and go see them!  A good home improvement salesperson is an agent of influence not an order taker!  Let the sales rep do his job, that is to show and demonstrate your products and talk about your company.   You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!  If you increase the number of demonstrations you can do per day, your sales will increase and your marketing costs will decrease.

This is a pretty long list and to implement all of these items likely will represent a change in culture for a lot of companies.  However, times have changed.  Media advertising isn’t working as well as it used to; neither are direct mail or newspaper ads.  The yellow pages are on the endangered species list.   For home improvement companies to survive and thrive in the future, they are going to have to embrace Internet marketing – for it represents the single largest opportunity for lead generation and revenue growth today.  The home improvement companies that we work with have realized this and are experiencing tremendous success by knocking down the six items mentioned in this post.

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