Home improvement businesses are in a tough spot. How do you find enough new customers to grow your business?
Paying for mailers, radio ads, or expo booths doesn't provide much of a return on investment. Word of mouth is great, but in an increasingly crowded marketplace, you're always wondering if it's enough.
So you're stuck. How do you get more customers without wasting money on approaches that seem outdated and inefficient?
Well, marketing doesn't have to be an elusive and expensive endeavor. Instead of blasting your message out and hoping the right people hear you, you can actually have your customers come to you — not through word of mouth but through inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing: An overview
At the most basic level, inbound marketing is really simple. It starts off with a basic premise: The internet has changed the way people buy. When customers are thinking about making a purchase, whatever it is, they start by gathering information. They do this with a computer and a search engine.
They begin by typing in questions, and they look for pages that answer those questions. They keep reading and they keep learning, all as they get closer and closer to making a purchase.
If they read a few articles on the same website, that company becomes someone they recognize and trust.
If you answer all of your buyers' questions, they'll trust you enough to buy from you.
And you won't need to spend money on an agency each month to get a handful of sub-par leads.
The people typing in questions related to your industry are way more qualified for your services than the general population who receives your mailer. Think about it: If you're an HVAC company, wouldn't you rather send your offer to someone who just Googled "How much does a furnace cost?" than to every single person in your town?
So, how do you know what your potential customers are going to search for? Start by thinking like your buyer.
Thinking like a homeowner
When homeowners are looking to make repairs or upgrades to their property, what's their emotional state? Are they excited about a new project or concerned about a nagging issue?
However they're feeling, you can be sure of one thing: they are very wary of being ripped off.
All too often, we see news stories of home services companies overcharging and underdelivering. Because homeowners have no real experience with how much a new furnace should cost, or what goes into the building of a retaining wall, they are at an information disadvantage, and they have been taken advantage of far too frequently.
Therefore, if you work in the home services industry, you are already fighting an uphill battle to win the trust and business of your potential customers.
And if you’re spending money on traditional advertising like mailers and radio, you might not be helping. According to a recent survey, 96% of consumers don’t trust ads at all.
But don’t despair. There is another way.
Nothing has a greater chance of building trust than inbound marketing, provided that you do it right.
Think about it. When a homeowner is looking into a particular home service — whether that’s building a patio, putting on a new roof, or finishing their basement — where do they turn? They start out on search engines looking for answers. They want to get the lay of the land so they can be a more informed buyer.
We believe that if your customer is asking a question, you should answer it, even if it forces you to talk about something uncomfortable like price or product shortcomings.
Here’s why. If a customer’s search leads them to your website, and they find your content to be helpful and honest, then they’re willing to trust your business, and they are more likely to reach out to you when they’re ready to speak to someone about their needs.
So, how do you know what people are asking — and exactly how you should be answering it?
Cost: First on everyone’s mind, of course, is cost. We are all skeptical when a website won’t tell us how much a product or service costs. Does “Call for price!” actually work? I doubt it. Sure, it’s hard to say exactly how much something might cost — especially something with as many variables as a new kitchen — but customers want to have some idea. Addressing cost openly and explaining what factors make that number go up and down will give customers what they're looking for.
Problems: When we make a purchase, we want to know what might go wrong. This is why we’re so drawn to 1-star reviews. Feeling informed about worst-case scenarios helps us be prepared for whatever could be thrown in our way.
Reviews: Connected to problems are reviews. This could be reviews of products or reviews of entire companies. According to Inc., 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust a review from a friend.
Comparisons: Paint or stain? Gas or electric? Whirlpool or GE? Consumers want to put things side by side to know how they stack up. Covering these head-to-heads can help demonstrate your expertise and make your potential customers feel informed to make the best choice possible.
Building an inbound marketing content strategy
So, there you have it. The Big 5 is not rocket science, but it's effective and universal. You can use these topics to form the basis of your entire marketing strategy. If you cover Big 5 topics for all of your products and services, you're starting off on the right foot.
Below, you'll find resources that can help you round out your content strategy with other focal points.
What is a content strategy?
An inbound content marketing strategy drives your content marketing initiatives, keeping you on track and focused in a way that brings customers to your site.
A good strategy includes both written and video content. We’ve found that video builds trust even faster than writing, but text can offer more depth and specificity.
Therefore, consider covering each of the topics in your strategy with both kinds of content.
Having the right teammates
If you’re serious about content marketing, we recommend diverting money you’ve been spending on traditional outbound marketing and hiring internal team members — a content writer and a videographer — to support your efforts.
Then, when you’re ready, you can begin to address these key topics in content that customers will find, value, and share.
If you're not in a place to hire, that's okay. You can do a lot of this on your own, but it will take time and energy to do it well.
Putting it all together
Our client Retrofoam, a spray-insulation installer based in Michigan, has embraced these principles and seen tremendous success from their inbound content marketing.
Here's their story:
Below, we’ll cover examples from Retrofoam and other businesses (some clients of ours, some not) that are building trust and driving sales with inbound marketing that addresses the core questions their customers are asking.
Note how the article addresses many related questions (which makes me feel like they know their buyers). It also gives a range of costs and explains how much your energy bills could be lowered by spray foam insulation.
This video is attached to the article. Notice how we immediately see high production values without feeling stuffy, overly scripted, or too salesy.
2. Being honest about problems (article and video)
Installing a roof on a residential or commercial structure is rife with variables that influence costs, durability, and more. West Roofing Systems in Ohio dives straight into the fray in this article, talking openly about the drawbacks of a popular solution: vegetative green roofs.
I love how author Rufus West is specific about problems, adding both solutions and alternatives to make customers feel fully informed.
Here in this video, they address the pros and cons of spray foam roofing. Watch how you hear experts speak while seeing action shots of roof installation, giving you a clear image of what the process entails.
3. Reviews that are unbiased and helpful (article)
Great examples of reviews are very hard to find. This is why buyers trust Yelp, Angie’s List, and other non-affiliated sites that host unbiased reviews. Still, there are examples out there.
Homeowners looking for a DIY driveway repair solution want to know they’re getting the best value for their money. A company called Seal With Ease offers reviews of products just for this reason. However, if you dig deeper, you find that they receive compensation from Amazon for recommending certain products.
That having been said, their reviews strike me as honest because Seal With Ease does not manufacture the products being sold and the article details both pros and cons of each product — not just boosting the most expensive product they speak of.
4. “Best of” lists that present numerous options (article and video)
Yale Appliance sells all manner of home appliances directly to consumers out of their stores in Massachusetts. Because they sell and service so many products, they have first-hand knowledge of differentiators and innovations that put one model above another.
Check out how Nic Dednah lists the top 10 dishwashers for 2020 in this article, taking into account cost, features, dependability, and more. Notice the beautiful photography, the many links and videos on related topics (I love the sound comparison!) and more.
Although this video covers just one model, notice the detail of both pros and cons that are presented in a way that feels directly related to the customer’s life. If you clean a lot of silverware (i.e. large family or frequent dinner parties), this might not be the best model for you.
5. Real comparisons that help buyers feel informed (article and video)
Installing a pool is a huge and expensive undertaking that is likely a purchase a customer will make only once in their life. So, how do they know they’re getting it right?
A fundamental question about your pool is the construction material. Should you go with concrete or fiberglass? Rather than just proclaiming that fiberglass pools are superior, read how River Pools in Virginia compares concrete and fiberglass, covering pros and cons of each one in this article:
I also love how author Holly Jender address cost (again, it’s at the top of everyone’s mind) by breaking down 10-year ownership expenses in a handy diagram.
Now, see the same content covered in video. Again, we see high production values and a quick, entertaining format. As viewers, we know we can go to the article for more information, but the video promises an overview in two minutes — something explained at the onset.
Getting started with your content strategy
A content strategy is a detailed, evolving resource that helps guide all of your inbound marketing. While that will look different for each company, you can get started with these basics. If you’re ever unsure about what to cover, start with the Big 5. You know your customers are thinking about and Googling questions related to these topics right now.
Lastly, use resources available online to generate topic ideas as well. SEMrush, Answer The Public, and Google Trends are all great resources to let you dive into what users are looking for.
Remember, if your customers are asking a question, you should be willing to answer it — and to do so openly on your website. This sort of transparency is key for developing trust and winning customers.
If you’re serious about using content marketing to grow your business, use the examples above for inspiration, and talk to us if you'd like to learn about how our trainers and coaches can help you take ownership if your digital sales and marketing to achieve your business goals.