I've been on my own now for 4 1/2 years as a commercial contractor, but word of mouth isn't spreading fast enough anymore and my business is starting to dry up.
I looked into advertising for the first time ever, and I don't know, it all seems bad! phone book is to expensive and I'm sure it doesn't work for commercial jobs all that well. I've looked into a online lead generating site called... S*rv*ce Ma*ic, and now i'm thinking it was a big mistake because the sales person just won't leave me alone, very pushy.
Does anyone recommend creating a company website for growing business?
Since posting the message i looked into the cost for developing a website..whoa! nevermind. It's not the cost itself ($450) it's a matter of hosting the thing, even with a shared server i'm looking at $49 per month plus promotion costs such as AD Words, Pay-per-Click.
I'm not very technical, when it comes to the internet mostly i just stumble onto what i need by entering "keywords". Like; Free, Advertising, contractors, directories. I found quite a few "free" sites I joined and a new one a friend actualy told me about (in california) he heard it on the radio in L.A. if you use the promo code "Direct" you get a free listing upto 20 zipcodes anywhere (all 50 states).
As long as they are free, I'll join all of them! If it's cool has anyone collected a list of Free website Directories?
I am the web geek for our HOA (esteroriverheights.com) and I pay $39 a month for far more web service than we need at web.com. I have 400 mailboxes, several gig of online storage and a bunch of other stuff we will never use. You should be able to find a web host for $10-15 a month for a modest web site. I am not much of a web designer so our site is pretty rough but I think we do have some decent local content. I am somewhat hamstrung by the fact that most of our residents are not computer literate so I don't really get much traffic.
As for actually generating leads, I think you will run into the same problem. The internet is not the first place people look when they want an electrician. As more people get used to shopping online that could change.It might be worth a few bucks to dip your toe in the water but I wouldn't go crazy.
Traffic is what it's all about, having an idividual website sucks 'cause unless you pay big $$$, your on page 1,039 of a search.
Directories (free ones) will hopefully get better traffic, than an individual website, and ones like service trades claim to match me to the homeowner(in my case commercial PM) based on Location,industry,specialty and size of job I'm willing to take. the only "problem" is; I could only set up a profile under ONE category, they say it's because there are too many "Handymen", that's why everyone gets One pick.
I (unfortunatly) tried Servicemagic after all, and got my first lead today, I called about an hour after getting the e-mail and the homeowner (I need the work) said that they were not going to do anything anymore. so far, I'm out $99 for the sign up and $12 for the lead, I'm set up to get 3 per week, $50 limit, wish me luck!
You can bump your page up on the list with decent meta tags but Google is not a fair search since people buy their position on a search. That is why most google searches return an Amazon ad, a Ebay ad and a few others in the top 10 hits. I use scroogle for ad free answers
Thanks greg, I'm out there whoring myself to Servicemagic to get work for my subs and...oops! I'll leave that topic for "GC/Sub relations" but thanks for the back up!
I'm working on a list of free online directory listings, try that one I mentioned earlier (ST), use the promo code "DIRECT" or "KFI" i'm not sure which gets more coverage area. I have about 4 others..so far. (only national sites make the list)
I hate to always be the one who pisses upon the idea of lead generation sources, but having been burned several times, I can't help but add my two cents here. Direct mail is by far the biggest waste. Think about it, you throw most of that stuff in the trash yourself, so why in heaven's name would you think that your magic piece of junk mail will be spared from the shredder? Never waste your money on that.
Yellow Pages attract shoppers, period. Yes, there is a very good chance that you will get a call from all of these shoppers, especially if you have a large and colorful ad. So will your competitors. The guy that is ten pages back with a dinky quarter-column ad will beat your price because his ad costs 1/25th of what your's does. Your big ad brought them to that section in the phone book and they are going to keep flipping pages until they find the price they are willing to pay. I'll be that it won't be yours.
Oh, don't get me wrong: That giant ad will get you the emergency calls on the day of the Super Bowl when half of the receptacles at a local sports bar aren't working. You'll probably make enough money on that service call to cover the cost of your Yellow Pages ad for that month. (I'm being a bit sarcastic if you didn't notice). Every other day of the month, you probably won't be the hero for saving the day.
Newspaper ads? Those are more valuable to use as kindling to start your fireplace going.
Flyers that are handed out or left upon doors or car windshields? NOPE. You also run the risk of trespassing complaints or littering law violations. Figure upon one in a hundred to result in a phone call, and that might not be someone looking to do business.
Companies that sell lists of property managers seeking contractors, offices that are moving, etc. are perhaps the worst. They bait you with a half-dozen sample listings and yes, they are legitimate. The problem is that these people have already found someone. Still, it looks promising since they will confirm that they did just move, or they did just find the contractor they were seeking. They might even go as far as to confirm that they did this through the help of "Joe the List Seller".
Funny how these list people always seem to want about $500.00+ in order to get a current list. When it turns out to be dead material, they are usually nowhere to be found. Many of them don't accept credit cards, but they will accept a purchase order from you. That way, when they sell you a list of junk and you don't pay them, they can go after you and screw up your credit. At least with a credit card, you could try to have the charge reversed. The list sellers who have been approaching me lately have been from outside the country, further complicating any chances of refunds or legal recourse.
The sad fact is that if you have to pay people to get people to come to you, then you are doing it all wrong. It takes years of hard work and laborious marketing on your own to make people line up to buy from you. Once you get it right, you could be the only name in town when someone needs an electrical contractor.
Think about it as a typical consumer: You are driving along miles of desolate interstate highway when the next exit says that there is a McDonald's or "Larry's Good Cookin". I'd say that it's safe to assume that the general public will go with a name that they know and the line will be wrapped around the McDonald's store.
Personally, aside from trade affiliation, I've never heard of any of the electrical franchises (at least not advertised), like Mr. Sparkie. I guess I haven't been paying attention. I will say that it is unlikely that anyone has not heard of "Roto-Rooter", "Orkin Pest Control" or "Owens-Corning", since they spend HUGE amounts of money on national TV advertising for their dealers. I'm sure that buying into those franchises is exceedingly expensive too.
Of course, as the old adage goes, you have to spend money to make money. Easier said than done in my opinion. Still, I think it's a lot easier to work with influential people at a local level to work your way up into being a recognized name. It will take years, but the solidity of the base that you develop will be much stronger than the handful of customers that you paid more to get than you profited from.
The most important thing to do is to get your reputation and phone number out there. Pay extra to get a "good" number, like "29-SPARK", something that people will remember. Better yet, pay for a toll-free number (not only does it make you look bigger, but it attracts business from other areas and it's inexpensive). By all means, do NOT just advertise a cell phone number. Everyone knows the cell phone exchanges in your area and will also know that it is almost impossible to track down a contractor using one as their sole source of communication. A business person will see this as an easy escape route for a shady contractor.
Think about it: A cell phone can easily be prepaid with no way to track the owner of the number. Even a post-paid cell phone account can have the bills sent to a PO box. There is no protection for a potential client in the event that their contractor fails and leaves them with nothing but cell phone numbers and PO boxes. By all means, make sure that your published telephone number is ALWAYS answered by a live body. An answering machine or voice mailbox during business hours is the easiest way to tell a potential new customer that you have way too much business to take their call. This also encourages them to keep dialing until they reach a live body.
I know that this sounds cheesy, but when I first started out on my own, my dad connected me with a woman who was bound to a wheelchair and was looking for a way to make a few bucks. She had been an office manager, but due to a car accident, couldn't go back to work for the better part of a year. I forwarded all of my calls to her when I was out, she answered them promptly and professionally and gave me the time to keep the customers from continuing to dial. I gave here enough general information to exchange with them that they felt that they had reached the right contractor. Her most favorite line was "Your application sounds like we might want to have the president contact you directly. He's in a meeting right now, but would you mind if I have him call you back in a few minutes?" It worked remarkably well. Hey, I even hired my little teenage sister to work as backup. It's amazing how much you can put resources that are already at your fingertips to work for you if you just think about it.
Never take a new customer call from a job site. After you have followed my advice above, go outside to the privacy of your vehicle or somewhere private to return their call. Do NOT answer call waiting under any circumstances! Tell them that your meeting is wrapping up soon and you will get back to them by morning. Always gather their information, including phone, fax and e-mail address, even if you don't have a fax or an e-mail address yourself. You will sound much more professional to them. If you do have an e-mail address, please don't use an AOL, MSN or Yahoo! address. Anybody can get one of those in five minutes.
A professional web site with good key words to link searches to your specialties or geographic area is the way to go anymore. Paying for a professional web site design can easily cost you over $1,000.00 and hosting/key words (META tags) can also cost you money. By the time you pay for a web hosting service, figure on another $50-100.00 a month. Still, it's a lot less expensive and MUCH more effective than any form of paper media for advertising. Not to mention, you can pick and choose what and where you want to market and change them on a whim, where as with printed advertising, you are stuck with what you were thinking at the time until next year.
Just speaking from experience after 25 years playing the "which advertising" game. Sorry for being so long-winded. I hope that someone might get something out of my years of advertising mistakes.
I agree. There is no quick way, short of hard work and beating the bushes, to get you name out their and attract business. Like it or not you have to sell yourself every day and with everyone you talk to. Let them know how good your work is and how professional you are. Give out business cards. They're cheap to have printed. Go Go Go.