By John Tyreman
An estimated 1 in 4 Americans are expected to work remotely in 2021, meaning homeowners will have even more time to evaluate their living situation and address the home improvement projects they put off in recent years.
It also means fewer homeowners will drive their car long enough to hear radio ads or see truck signage on the road. They will likely stream shows on “Smart TVs” with no commercials instead of watching cable television. Generating new business for residential contractors isn’t the same as it used to be.
Traditional marketing channels like TV and radio simply don’t have the impact they once had. It can also be painful and often inaccurate to measure the impact of these marketing investments. For contractors, this presents an opportunity to increase focus on using digital channels to drive new business.
In August of 2020, Silverback Strategies conducted an original research study of 724 US adults who had recently purchased a home service contractor. The purpose of the study is to better understand how today’s buyers find, evaluate and select home service providers so that residential contractors can make more strategic marketing investments.
Today’s Buyers Find Contractors Online
The study showed more than 60% of buyers under 55 years old went online as the first thing they did when they realized they needed a contractor. Most commonly, buyers turned to search engines like Google on their mobile device. Other buyers used rating and review sites like Angie’s List, various social media platforms, or went directly to a service provider’s website.
The study also showed that 96% of buyers reported being active on at least one social media platform, mostly Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram. These platforms can be effective channels to build brand awareness and generate new business. In fact, 10% of home service buyers reported using social media to find a contractor when they realized they had a need. An active social media presence is an important component of attracting the modern buyer.
Respondents older than 55, on the other hand, were significantly less likely to go online and 2x more likely to contact a past provider, citing “trust” as the top reason why. This shows that delivering great service and building relationships with customers can lead to extended lifetime customer value. Residential contractors have an opportunity to capture new generations of customers online and retain them for years to come.
Build Brand Awareness to Gain an Advantage
Residential contractors with established brand awareness have a distinct competitive advantage. Across all home service industries, nearly 30% of buyers only spoke to one service provider, who they ultimately hired. This varied slightly by industry, with buyers more likely to speak to only one company for services like plumbing, HVAC or bug & pest.
In other industries, like residential construction, landscaping or real estate, nearly 40% of buyers had conversations with two service providers. In such cases, companies have an opportunity to highlight relevant aspects of their company that sets them apart, also known as “differentiators.” Clearly articulating these differentiators in marketing material can help buyers select the right service provider.
Establish Trust through Customer Reviews and Showcasing Past Work
Outside of cost, reading customer ratings and reviews was the next most common way buyers evaluated home service companies. In fact, reading these reviews was a top criteria for each home service industry studied. Customer ratings and reviews are critical to building trust with modern buyers.
Relevant past performance was another top criteria used to evaluate service providers. Residential contractors can showcase imagery of past work on the company website and in marketing materials to help buyers visualize value.
Residential contractors must have an active presence where target customers spend their time. Then, these companies can establish trust with buyers through key marketing messages, customer testimonials, and examples of past work — all of which can be packaged in a variety of ways, depending on the platform or medium.
Contractors can build brand awareness and generate new business at scale on digital channels like Facebook and Google. Then, sales representatives or estimators can reinforce key messages and differentiators when speaking directly to prospective customers. Core principles remain the same, but if service companies want to grow their business in today’s environment, digital marketing should be a primary focus.