Google the term “home contractors”. Actually, don’t. We did it for you. In the US alone you get over 34 million search results. Splitting it up to HVAC contractors (646 million), home electricians (almost 73 million results) or plumbers (160,000,000) only makes it worse. With so many contractors out there how can a homeowner choose, and what is a contractor to do to stand out?
Joe contractor is starting to realise that the internet is a fantastic way to reach a lot more potential customers quickly and affordably. About 75% of home homeowners are online and using social media frequently, and 88% of homeowners trust online reviews. So, it’s no surprise that marketing for home contractors is going online. But just as Joe contractor has figured this out so have all of Joe’s competitors. So, back to square one.
Online advertising has become very competitive for home contractors, which begs the question: How to stand out and reach those customers trying to find their way through a sea of contractors?
One of the best ways to stand out is by offering excellent service and customer support. Which you obviously do. But how will everyone know about your excellent customer support and your infectious smile and can-do attitude? How will they know that you offer competitive pricing and quality materials? And how can you do all that without transferring all income to your marketing budget?
Enter online reviews
When online reviews first came into play they were, and still are, a game-changer for home contractors and service providers. It’s the equivalent of a massive exchange of word-of-mouth advice between potential customers, clients, and partners. The “currency” in this market is trust.
Trust cannot be bought. It must be earned, especially if you want it to have a positive effect on your other marketing efforts. According to a Zendesk survey, 90% of participants claimed that positive online reviews influence their buying decision, and 86% said their decision is influenced by negative reviews.
Online reviews don’t live here no-more
Once upon a time, businesses dedicated pages on their websites for client testimonials and reviews. Everyone knew these were cherry-picked and often just made up, but they were published regardless. Today, things work a bit differently.
Online review websites have their own guidelines to prevent fraudulent reviews. They demand user verification, for one. And unlike company-owned websites, they are not shy about displaying negative feedback and reviews quite prominently on the profile of a business.
But, what really made online review websites so successful was their ability to generate a high volume of reviews. This has made it harder to game these platforms and present a dishonest representation of a business.
As always, the bigger the success the more complex the problems. The problem starts when you realize just how many business rating websites and review platforms there are out there for home contracting businesses. There’s Yelp, Houzz, Home Depot, Yahoo! Local, Angie’s List and many many others. You simply can’t manage them all. So before you start planning your strategy for online review promotion and management, choose the websites and platforms you want to focus on.
Choosing the online reviews website that’s right for your home contracting business
1. Be where your customers are
What we’re getting at is that it’s very hard to have a an effective online presence in every online reviews website. That’s why you need to chose, and choose wisely. If you already have online reviews coming in naturally (aka organically), your first picks should be the business indexes and websites where you already have a volume of reviews and positive ratings.
Also, research which websites your customers are accustomed to using to review business and services. Don’t be afraid to ask them when on a call. Preferably at the end.
2. Be where everyone else is
Then, the one listing you simply cannot afford to neglect is your Google My Business page, where customer reviews determine the exposure your business gets on Google, and the number of stars next to its name in search results. Combine that with Google’s Home Service Ads and you’ve got yourself a great online presence with the largest search engine in the world. Google is still a contractor’s best friend so you make sure you feed it full of awesome reviews from your customers.
3. Be where the best leads are
Your selection should also account not just the amount of leads your business can get but also their quality. While Google is where most people search for emergency locksmith or plumbing services, when it comes to major renovation projects or similar endeavours, people are more likely to browse reviews on professional service provider indexes like those offered by Houzz and Home Depot.
4. Be where you can effectively get leads
The last parameter you should consider when picking your target platforms is their effectiveness in supplying leads. Make sure you know from where your leads and phone calls are coming from. Only work with websites and advertising platforms where you can trackback where leads are coming from.
That being said, if you work with a good partner and they can’t provide reliable tracking, just do it the old fashioned way and ask your customer from where did they get your contact info. Then, file that information away and refer to it at the end of every month to create your marketing report card
Getting more reviews and the art of asking
How is a review born? It is usually the result of a positive or negative experience a client had with a business or service provider. Getting people to write a negative review is easy – just give them bad service and they are sure to invest time in destroying your online reputation.
But, how can you encourage the happy and satisfied customers to spend their precious time contributing to the success of your online marketing efforts by leaving a testimonial that will encourage trust in your potential clientele?
1. Make it easy
Unless you’ve done a truly amazing job or you licked out with a very very nice client, clients don’t often seek out ways to leave positive reviews. To encourage them to do so, you should make it easy. One cool trick is to have your field techs supplied with a tablet (you can find decent ones for about $100) that they can provide to the client and ask to leave a review on the spot.
It may seem a bit aggressive but you’ll be surprised at how many react positively to this. You can also let them do it on the tech’s mobile phone. Just make sure to make it as easy as possible: navigate to the page for them and just have them write the review. Everything else can be completed by the tech.
2. Make it rewarding
You can’t buy trust, but you can sure encourage people to show it. Small, symbolic bonuses for leaving a review can go a long way. It’s important that you do not ask for a positive review but simply offer clients an incentive for feedback or a small giveaway like a branded t-shirt, which they can then wear and do your marketing for you…win win!
Even more important than customer incentives are employee incentives. Offering a bonus or reward to every field tech whose client leaves a positive review is not only a great way to encourage your employees to excel in customer service, but also ensure your employees never forget to remind customers to leave reviews.
3. Simply ask (the right way)
70% of consumers will leave a review if asked. In addition, most people will have a more positive impression from a business that cares about the quality of the service they provide. So simply asking for feedback can automatically improve the customer’s overall sentiment toward a service provider.
Some say the best way to go is personal – by calling the client up in person to get their feedback and ask for an online review. Others claim then an automated request is better, as it doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable to refuse. I believe that the combination works best. And creativity help.
Your field techs can leave a card with a link and request to leave a review. Or they can have a QR code leading to the review form printed on the back of their uniform. An automated email can request customers fill out a satisfaction questionnaire, and those who rate as satisfied can be redirected to leave a Google, Yelp or Houzz review.
Alternatively, this questionnaire can be replaced with a customer service representative simply calling the client up to intercept negative feedback and encourage the client to share their testimonial if it is positive.
It’s important to remember that there are many ways to ask, and some can do more harm than good. It’s important that you tread carefully. Never ever ask for a positive review. Ask for feedback, opinion and improvement suggestions but never tell people what they should be writing. In addition, don’t insist and learn to accept people’s inaction as well as negative reviews.
Don’t forget to tell your friends!
The taxi driver that dropped me off at home today made sure to remind me (while I was still in the car) to rate him in the taxi-hailing app. Why? Because he knows very well that his rank in the rating system directly affects his earning potential. Luckily for him, he only works with one such system – the one provided by the company running the taxi service.
You, on the other hand, need to work much harder as your customers might be using multiple services for research and need a lot more encouragement to be bothered to leave a positive review.