When owners start a home improvement business they typically plan and budget for things like lead generation, computers, office supplies, employee salaries, rent, equipment, electricity and phone costs. You need these things to have a viable business. However, there is often no plan for marketing. This translates to – there is no budget for marketing, particularly when it’s a smaller company.
Marketing should also be in that category of “must-haves” for both short and long term success of the business. The problem is often a resources issue. Can a business afford a full-time or part-time employee to do marketing? Can they afford the costs of things like a website, SEO, advertising, social media and all other communication initiatives to “get the word out” about their company? Or can they afford to do it themselves?
As you plan your business, it really is important to make marketing a budget and planning item in the overall plan for your company. Do not make the mistake of considering marketing a “nice-to-have” item but make it a vital part of your operation. There is no doubt that your competitors are making their marketing initiatives a priority. You do not want to fall behind others in your industry and then, find yourself playing catch-up. That is never an effective marketing plan!
Here are some things to think about and prioritize for your business:
- Marketing Plan – The best way to see the full picture of the potential for your business and growth, is to plan for it.This is the best way to make sure ALL your efforts are working cohesively together – it is laid out in a plan. This planning can help you maximize your efforts and can also serve as a “checklist” of sorts, to be sure you are doing all you can to maximize your marketing initiatives. It helps you budget for the month, quarter and year.
- Brand Identity– Every company knows they want to “be the best in the industry” or “be a thought leader” or “provide the best service”. The magic is differentiating your company from the field of competitors through your unique messaging, your defined mission, and your value proposition. Have you made a conscious effort in defining these elements of your company?
- Website– Think about how you make your purchase decisions or the decision to engage a company who provides services you need. Today, decision-makers research products and services online before they ever pick up a phone to call your company. This means, before you even know a prospective customer exists, that they have done a majority of the research. The numbers vary from industry to industry, but it is estimated that 50-90% research is done before engaging a company. Google calls this ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth). A website is your part of the internet universe and your 24/7/365 “salesperson” where customers and prospects can learn more about your company. A website also provides credibility and legitimacy, showing your company will continue to be in existence for a long time.
- Communications – How do you reach a potential customer? You can send a letter, postcard, brochure or a unique promotional item directly to them and make a memorable impression. Direct mail/marketing is not dead, contrary to popular belief. You can use available digital methods such as email marketing. Often traditional methods are more memorable. People like to touch and feel in their hands. If you don’t communicate to the public, chances are prospects will never find out about your company.
- SEO– Search Engine Optimization is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. Your website and the valuable information you provide on your site is an important piece of the SEO puzzle. But other factors in addition to your website also help in the SEO effort – including your social media efforts/channel, your online content, blog posts, advertisements, images and videos, among other things. SEO requires a consistent marketing effort to be successful.
- Relationship Building, Referrals, Past Clients – Networking face-to-face is still valuable to the health of a business, although very traditional. Referrals are one of the best ways, and least expensive, to build a clientele. Past clients are like the hidden treasure. They are already a client and hopefully an advocate for your company. Trust is the number one factor in why people make the decision to hire your company whether it’s for a product, service, experience or all the above.
- Social Media – Marketing changes constantly and taking advantage of all that new technology has to offer makes so much sense for companies in business today. Engagement and accessibility are keys and social media plays a big part in that. Social media is often where decision-makers start their research process. They often ask for recommendations from their networks, and they return the favor by giving recommendations. It’s a valuable modern-day channel for content distribution, which includes photos, videos and any other helpful information. Social media’s reach is one that didn’t exist even 10 years ago.It is the digital version of the old-time “word-of-mouth”, but it is much more expansive, in far larger numbers than ever before.
- Content – This is one of the most important key pieces of marketing and brand awareness in today’s world.Again, think about how you make purchase decisions or how you decide to engage a company for services you need. You look for information that companies (you are considering) have available to you. Through content you can educate customers and prospects. This content can be a brochure, blog post, trends in your industry and many other valuable pieces of information. Photos of past projects, and videos of projects, products or processes are very powerful and convincing. The possibilities are truly endless, and they engage your audience.
- Customer Service– This is a very under-rated aspect of a business, unbelievably. This is the frontline of your business and often the individuals who manage the customer service part of a business are not trained properly, don’t understand fully about the company brand, mission and value proposition, and do not have all the valuable information that should be available to them as a customer-facing employee. One of the best ways to have a happy customer, retain a happy customer, and gain an advocate for your company is to provide an exceptional customer experience. This is and should be one of your most important elements in your overall marketing plan.
An equally important part of tying all these marketing initiatives together into cohesive marketing efforts is combining both traditional and new marketing methods, finding the perfect mix for your company. Remember – no two companies will have the same plan and same mix in order to be successful.
These marketing elements only skim the surface of the importance of marketing and marketing planning. But having a plan, outline or roadmap is a great place to start and a great place to continue to build upon.
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