What is lead generation, really?
Leads are people. They are special people. The type of person that needs your product or service and has entered your radar is considered a lead. Anyone that you talk to that could become a customer in the foreseeable future is a lead.
It’s easy to get sidetracked with sales terms like leads, prospects, etc. But, it’s critical to remember that these are just people who need what you have and as a salesperson for your company it’s your job to find a win-win situation for both of you.
If you are new to sales or just trying to get a better handle on lead generation for construction companies, then you are in the right place. In this article, I’m going to talk about the most popular forms of lead gen and how you can take advantage of them to get more customers for your business.
One thing to note is this: A lead is just the first step in the sales process. It’s important to have a solid understanding of your sales process so you know exactly how to lead people through it. I wrote about the sales process and some of the pitfalls when it comes to selling home improvements here.
This Article Will Compare Passive Lead Generation with Active Lead Generation
By the end of this article, you will have the information required to create a plan of action for getting more sales for your construction business.
There are two main types of lead generation:
- Passive Lead Generation
- Active Lead Generation
Passive Lead Generation
Passive lead gen methods are things you can do that will naturally bring new prospects onto your radar. These are ways of attracting the right people that need your services.
Leads brought in through passive methods are the easiest to convert into paying customers because they are chasing you. The dynamic is set in your favor from the beginning so it’s best to make sure you have these strategies covered before you start implementing active lead generation techniques.
Active Lead Generation
Active lead gen techniques are best used to assist your passive lead gen strategy and fill in any gaps that might be leftover. That is because active techniques require a direct investment in order to work which can get very expensive, especially when left unchecked.
Each part of the sales process becomes more critical when you are paying for leads, so I’ll talk a little bit about what those parts are and how you can make sure they are optimized and working correctly.
Passive Lead Generation: Setting the stage for success
If you provide amazing customer service and a great product, you are already on your way to generating leads passively. Marketing is often looked at like its own department like it is in a lot of companies, but great business leaders realize that marketing happens in every action the people in a company make.
The most powerful form of passive lead generation is Word-of-Mouth.
Hopefully, you get some customers through word-of-mouth because your customers like to brag about how amazing their contractor is. If you don’t get many referrals, you should try and figure out why.
- Are you charging too much?
- Are your customers happy with the service they receive?
- Do you keep in touch with past clients?
- Do you ask for referrals?
Studying word of mouth and figuring out how to make the most of it is important for any and every business. You might look for ways to create a buzz about what you’re doing, but at the core of your business is the experience your customers have when working with you. Great customer service = more referrals. It’s okay to ask once in a while too… “Hey, do you know anyone that could use my services?”
Some contractors make it a point to call past clients every once in a while just to check-in and see how things are going. Staying top of mind results in better word-of-mouth lead generation.
After word-of-mouth is made a priority, the next most important lead gen tool is your website.
An Outstanding Website
Your website is like your main salesman, especially if you an independent contractor with little or no payroll. You are busy and can’t always be out there promoting yourself so your website is your number one asset for this purpose.
These days the web is the first place people turn to either find a company or to learn more about one they are considering hiring. If you don’t have a website that covers all the necessary bases then you are likely losing customers to competitors that have figured this out already.
An outstanding website has:
- A professional appearance
- A personal touch with pictures and details about the people that make up your company
- Details about your proficiencies and specialties
- High-quality pictures of your work
- Easy and intuitive navigation
- An easy way to contact you
Having a website that has all this will go a long way to turning visitors into leads and then customers. Even after you bid a project, homeowners will be on your website comparing your company with other bidders. Make sure your’s tips the scale for the final decision they make.
Making your website easy to find on Google Search
You’ve probably heard of the term SEO before. It stands for Search Engine Optimization.
Basically, it’s a standard way of operating a website that results in making it easier to find on Google. I won’t go into too much detail here because it’s rather complicated and can be difficult to understand. In fact, some people spend their entire careers focusing on this one area of internet marketing. Some details relating to SEO are:
- How a website looks on a mobile phone
- How long a website takes to load (preferably less than 3 seconds)
- On-page signals to Google robots to tell them what each page is about
- What other websites on the web are linking to your website
The best way to think about SEO and websites is this:
Anyone can build a simple website with a website builder just like anyone can install a tile shower. But, the difference between an ameteur job and a professional job is huge and only understood by the professional. The proof is in the pudding.
There is a reason why professionals like myself build websites for clients. A website I build will be much easier to find on Google because of the way I build it and the details I pay attention to. You won’t know this for a while after the website is built, just like you wouldn’t notice a shower leak until it had been leaking for a long time. If you’ve had a website for a long time and it’s never brought in any leads, it’s probably not built correctly.
You wouldn’t recommend a homeowner install their own tile shower just like I wouldn’t recommend you build your own website.
Google My Business (Google Maps)
Google Maps is something every single local business in the world is using or should be. The ones that use it right are getting more customers in their local areas.
This is because Google Maps is proximity-based. This means that if I search for your product or service on my phone when I’m close to your location, you will show up on the top of the search results.
For construction companies, this is gold. Don’t you want more customers in your immediate area? Why try to get customers on the other side of town when there are people searching for your services in your neighborhood?
I wrote a comprehensive article about setting up a Google Maps listing the right way. It’s free and can be done with minimal time investment.
As a side note, get as many reviews as you can on here. This is the best place for you to get the most out of customer reviews.
Yelp, Thumbtack, Porch, Houzz, etc.
These third-party business listings are a great idea after you already have a great website and a Google Maps listing. I don’t recommend paying for their premium features, however, signing up for a free listing and adding a link to your website is a fantastic idea.
It is possible for these third-party websites to bring in some customers for your business. The real magic is that by linking to your website, you’re signaling to Google that your business is legit and that will help people naturally find your website. This is a SEO trick and something all local businesses should be taking advantage of!
If you take the time to create free listings on these websites, make sure you put your best foot forward. Fill them out completely and include a lot of nice pictures. If you aren’t going to do it right, it’s better not to do it at all. When someone is researching your business you don’t want them to find a bunch of half-completed listings… It makes you look like you can’t finish anything.
Truck Magnets, yard signs, billboards, t-shirts, and other offline logo placements are great for generating awareness about your company.
If you are going to be working on a job site for a long period of time, stick a yard sign out by the road. Then, make sure you appear as professional as possible for people driving by.
We’ve had dozens of people call us to talk about a project because they saw our yard sign at their neighbor’s house. They saw us show up at the same time every day, act professionally by not smoking cigarettes all day, and keep a clean job site. The combination of these things led them to become our customers too. Being on the job is like being on stage. You’re always being seen by someone. Make that someone your next paying customer.
This lead generation technique hammers home the principle that you ought to be thinking about marketing at every step of the way. If you are always marketing your business, you never have those times where you are desperate for work.
How to make the most of passive leads strategies
I call leads generated through passive methods inbound leads. This means the person found you and is coming after you for your service.
This is a great position for you to be in as a salesperson. They want what you have so you can dictate the way the process unfolds.
This means you need to have a process in place for handling these leads. Having a consistent way you proceed to a sale is a great way for you to identify what works well and what doesn’t. It also allows you to come off as in control and on top of it. The confidence that comes with a solid process is what makes sales more than anything.
Set your possible customers up for success by calling them back immediately and clearly communicating what they need to do in order to secure your services. Remember to make it as easy as it can be for them to hire you and they will more often.
Active Lead Generation Methods
Active lead generation methods are those methods that require a direct investment or either time or money. These are techniques you can use when you need work immediately and don’t have time to wait around. They can also assist your passive lead gen channels and allow you to fill any holes and make up for any weaknesses your other strategies have.
What you gain in speed you lose in cost. Active methods are much more costly and therefore require more care and attention to find success with.
The first active lead gen technique I’ll talk about is advertising.
Pay-per-click Advertising on Google Ads (Formerly Adwords)
First of all, pay-per-click is exactly what it sounds like. You pay Google each time someone clicks on your ad. When they click, they are sent to a web page of your choice, usually a special page on your website with the purpose of getting them to contact you about their project.
Google is the best place to advertise for local service-based businesses. This is because when someone is searching on Google, they know what they want and they typically want it now. As a salesperson, wouldn’t you rather talk to someone that wants what you have now rather than someone that might want it later?
It’s also possible to advertise on Facebook, but it’s a different ball game and not something I recommend business owners do for themselves unless they are ready to invest a lot of time and money into learning.
Google Ads, or Adwords as it used to be called, is pretty straight forward when you do it right.
Interested in a mini-course showing you how to run Google Ads for yourself? Comment below and let me know!
Some things to keep in mind when using Google Ads to generate leads for your business are:
1. Choose your location carefully
You don’t want to be advertising to people in NYC if you live in San Fransisco… Using the location settings to isolate where your ads are seen is critical. Start with a small local area and see what leads you can generate. If you need more, extend further out. My philosophy is if you can fill your schedule working in your neighborhood, then why would you drive across town?
2. Choose your keywords carefully
Start with keywords that include your city name. These are called location-modified keywords. Here are some examples:
- +contractor +los +angeles
- +kitchen +remodel +los +angeles
- +handyman +reno
By adding the + you are signaling to Google that you only want to bid on a keyword combination that includes some variation of this keyword. If you don’t include the + sign, Google will let you bid on any keyword it thinks is related. This is a surefire way to bid on all sorts of keywords that aren’t going to generate leads for you.
By including the city name you are capturing people that are looking for a contractor in your area. If someone just types in kitchen remodel, they might just want to see pictures or get ideas. If someone types in the city, they are more likely to be looking for someone to build their new kitchen. These are the people we want to pay Google to send to our website.
If this stuff doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry. You can ask questions in the comments and I’ll answer them.
3. Choose the words in your ads carefully
This part is really simple. Say exactly what you mean in your ads. If you are a kitchen remodeling contractor in Reno, Nevada, your advertisement should say exactly that. Tell people what to expect if they click on your ad.
Kitchen Remodeling Contractor | Reno, Nevada
Jim & John Remodeling Co.
Take a look at some pictures of our past projects and get to know our team. When you’re ready, fill out the contact form and we’ll come meet you at your home to discuss your project.
An advertisement that says something like that is simple and straight to the point. In my experience, this is the best way to get results for home improvement advertising.
The internet is plagued with advertisements that are unclear and that lead to pages that don’t relate at all to what the advertisement said. This is why, to a lot of folks, Google Ads has a reputation for being a huge waste of money. It’s not Google’s fault but rather the person who set up the ads who are to blame.
4. Measure your results
Like everything you do in your business, you want to measure your results so you know what works and what doesn’t. When it comes to active lead generation, measuring is crucial and simple to do.
If you hire someone to handle your marketing, make sure they are measuring everything and reporting back to you. Then, take the numbers they give you and run them against your financial numbers to see where the most profitable actions lie.
Buying leads from lead resellers like Homeadvisor and Thumbtack
The easiest way to get leads is to buy them from someone else that has figured out how to generate them. Like in construction, easy rarely means best. I urge a heavy dose of caution when going this route. I’ve done a lot of research on these home improvement lead resellers and the consensus is that they are not worth it. My personal experience matches the findings of the above-linked article.
That doesn’t mean they don’t work for anyone. It just means that you should be very careful and consider trying the other methods in this article before relying on this. Otherwise, you might end up in a hole you can’t crawl out of like so many folks I’ve talked to during the last few years.
Once a month I talk to someone who is suing one of these companies for thousands of dollars because they feel ripped off. Don’t be one of those people.
Door to door lead generation
The thought of going door to door might make you uncomfortable, but I think it’s one of the best ways of getting your name out there, especially in the beginning when you’re just starting out.
Everyone respects the hustle and this method allows you to target the exact neighborhoods you want to. If you go door to door in a 1-mile radius around your house I can almost guarantee you will get some jobs and probably make some friends.
You don’t have to be pushy. Just go ring the doorbell, maybe bring a small gift or peace offering, and say,
“Hey, my name is Chuck and I’m new to the neighborhood. I am a general contractor who specializes in remodeling and just wanted you to have my card in case you need any work down around your house.”
That’s it. My dad did this 25 years ago when he was just getting started in a new area and it fueled his construction business for years. In the internet age when everyone is trying to exploit the scale that the internet brings, the personal touch goes a long way when it comes to making a great first impression.
Direct Mail Lead Generation
One of the oldest methods of lead generation that still works today is direct mail. There are marketing companies that specialize in most industries that are ready to make the process simple and easy for you. There are little tips and tricks you can use to make this method more effective but the most important part is targeting. Companies like Lead Concepts can help you determine the best way to go about your direct mail campaigns and save you time and money in the short term while maximizing gains in the long term.
Getting the Most Out of Leads
If you are investing a lot of time or money into generating leads, you need to make sure you are getting the most out of your investment. Here are a few tips to help you maximize your chances for success, especially if you are paying for leads.
Call people back immediately
When you see a contact form submission come through or see a voicemail notification, call them back immediately! Not an hour later. Certainly not a day later. Now!
You might have some wiggle room when people contact you organically, but if you are advertising, or especially if you are buying leads from a company like Homeadvisor, you need to call back immediately.
You might not know this but companies like Homeadvisor sell leads to multiple companies at the same time. That’s why it’s like a race to see who gets there first. I don’t like these situations at all because they really put you at a disadvantage from the start, but that’s just the way it is.
Studies have proven over and over again that responding within 5 minutes is the best way to close a sale.
Follow up relentlessly
Following up is so important. I can’t stress it enough. I wrote a lot more about it in this article:
An analogy I like to use for following up in sales is this:
Buying a lead is like buying a steak dinner. It’s expensive. Following up with a lead once is like taking one bite of your steak, shoving it aside, and ordering another. It’s a good way to go broke and stay hungry.
My philosophy on following up is to continue to do so until the prospect either talks to you or asks you to stop. No harm, no foul, we have mouths to feed and the world belongs to hustlers, not people who are afraid to follow up.
Measure your results
I said it before and I’ll say it again. Keeping score in any game is the only way anyone knows what’s going on. Business is no different.
Find ways to track your lead generation efforts all the way to the sale and beyond. After a while, you should be able to look at your business and know exactly what’s going on. You should be able to show someone else exactly what’s happened in the past and what you expect to happen in the future. If you can do that, you might have a sellable business, and for a lot of us, that is the goal.
Thanks for Reading
I had a lot of fun brain dumping the words for this article and I hope you got some value from it. If you’ve read this far, you likely have some questions. Please ask away in the comment section below and I’ll answer them as quick as I can.
I look forward to discussing the topic of lead generation for construction companies with you.