Running a home service company is hard work. Whether HVAC, plumbing, roofing, or more, you’ve got a lot to contend with between keeping customers happy while avoiding losing good employees (and weeding out bad employees). The last thing you want to stress over is getting a consistent source of leads without spending a fortune of money. I want you to throw gear on your truck, not money down the drain.
This guide will help you short out the junk from the gold nuggets of marketing wisdom for whatever place you may be coming from. Whether you are just building the foundations of your home service company or have formed a solid business, this guide will help you get more from your marketing dollars.
Let’s jump in.
Where are you in your business?
- Just starting out. I don’t have ton of cash for marketing efforts. (Go to Service Plan 1 Section)
- I’m established. I can drop between 1,000 to 5,000 a month on marketing. (Go to Service Plan 2 Section)
- We are a pillar in our community. 6K+/month on marketing is status quo for us.
Service Plan 1: Low budget Start
Before we jump into the details, remember there is a lot of truth in the old says, “The person who can afford to spend the most on marketing wins.” There is no long-term viable approach to marketing your business that is cheap. And the marketing game IS a game you have to engage in if you don’t want to be crushed by your larger competitors.
The goal of this approach is to get ENOUGH business to SURVIVE and then have enough cash to move to Service Plan 2 (see below).
SP1.1 – Networking
For some of you, this is a no-brainer. For other, this may be a novel concept. If you already know the importance of networking, there may still be aspects you haven’t considered. If you know nothing about this approach, prepare to meet you favorite initial marketing tactic.
Ultimately, networking-as-marketing is simply joining local networking groups to form relationships with people from who you receive referrals.
If available in your area, BNI is actually a great place to start. Yes, it costs money, but the return on investment and the training they give is top-notch. I don’t know of any service company that doesn’t quickly make their money back from joining a BNI chapter.
The other most logical place is your local Chamber of Commerce. Depending on your region, the quality of your chamber event will vary.
Beyond that, the types of events vary by your city and your willingness to put yourself out there. From civic groups, to charitable organization, and religious organizations. Local builders associations are often another good place.
No matter your source of networking you need to keep the following things in mind:
- Have your business card and professional appearance ready—there is no need to get something crazy expensive but have a card ready to hand someone if they ask. Plus, a professional shirt with your logo on it. Emphasis on professional, a t-shirt doesn’t count. First impressions really do matter.
- Be ready to jump when someone passes a referral—you may be shocked at how quickly someone tosses you a lead. If you can quickly meet the needs of those first few leads, you will establish trust and find that people will start giving you a steady source of leads.
- Be realistic about leads—if you are in a booming construction market with a shortage of labor of course you’ll get leads quickly, but if the local economy isn’t great don’t be shocked if it takes time (though if the local economy isn’t down I question if you should be starting a home service company in the area your chose).
- Be willing to GIVE leads to people you meet—I mentioned BNI earlier, one of the best things about that group is their concept of “Giver’s Gain.” If you help other people it will come back to you. Call it Karma. Call it Luck. But don’t say there isn’t truth to it.
SP1.2 – Social Media
Let’s start by stating that social media can be a trap if you let it. The ROI of social media marketing is often abysmally low. That said a good approach to ALL forms of marketing is test and verify. Depending on the types of relationships you have and the size of your community, social media can be helpful.
Simply posting about the availability of your new company and asking your friends to recommend you can be surprisingly beneficial. Though note, that this has incredible fast diminishing returns. So while it is a good thing to do early in launching your company, it won’t have much effect later. Your relationships on social media are limited and it won’t take long to tap it out. Once your friends and acquaintances know that you have your business, there is little to gain from constantly posting to them on social media about it. If they know someone, they will refer you.
That said, many people forget to ask friends and family. Don’t make that mistake. Social media is a good place to quickly reach out to your personal network. Make the most of it.
SP1.3 – Mailers
Depending on the nature of your business and the economics of your local market, mailers can be a surprisingly effective way to get leads. I’ve seen a case where a pressure washing company exploded their business just using flyers in mailboxes.
Here is the key to making it work: DON’T JUST TALK ABOUT YOUR COMPANY.
First rule of marketing: No one cares about you. (And that’s OK)
People are interested about “what’s in it for them.” And that requires having a solid “hook” for your mailer. (In fact, this is true of ANY type of advertising.)
Here are some examples of what I mean:
- HVAC Company: If you or your children suffer from allergies, a duct cleaning can help reduce those sneezes and sniffles.
- Home Cleaning Company: Spend less time cleaning your home and more time with the people you love
- Pressure Washing: Double the curb appeal of your home (a great hook for hot real estate markets)
- Painting Company: Let Your House Feel Like a Home
A strong hook will greatly improve your odds of people taking note. Here are some other tips:
- Use a strong visual to grab people’s attention (think through the types of mailers that cause you to pause and look to get some ideas)
- Don’t use tons of text. Use bullet points to convey the big ideas
- Talk about how things benefit your potential customer vs just describing your work (i.e. “get a list of options to improve your home’s air quality” vs “our technician inspects your HVAC system”)
- Zig when other zag—another tactic is to just have a mailer that is simple and looks like a letter, this can be risking but if you or someone you know has good copywriting skills it can work wonders
Service Plan 2: Growing Your Marketing Base
Once your ready to drop 12K or more a year on marketing, you have a lot of options. And that can be its own problem. Ultimately, you want to be able to outspend your competition but that is based as much on effectiveness of spend then volume of spend. And the problem of a lot of options is not know where to put your money. This service plan goes over the key essentials you want to master.
SP2.1 – Your Website
Technically you can get your website up to spend on a low budget. But every hour your spend trying to sort out a website is an hour your aren’t on a service call or managing technicians going on service calls. In the early stages, a mediocre website slapped together with Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress is OK. But to make the most of your money it would be wise to get a professional or agency onboard.
Here are the big things you need done:
- Professional design and technical implementation—it needs to look good, be easy to navigate, have compelling copy (i.e. words), and load super-fast on a smart phone
- Search Engine Optimization—your site needs to have all the SEO work done to it to get the most love possible from Google, while SEO can be a big waste of money (link) there is utility in getting the foundational work done on your website (Note: avoid long term contract for SEO work, just get what needs to be done for the initial website build. 95% of the time any “monthly” SEO work is a scam OR doesn’t have a useful return on investment)
- Technical maintenance—not knowing what to do when your site goes down sucks, make sure you have someone to take care of it, many hosting companies sell services to take care of this for you
Here is the thing, a website probably won’t MAKE the sell, but it can BREAK the sell. Get the basics covered and you’ll be good to go.
SP2.2 – Master Search Advertising
For a home service company, the bulk of your potential business will come from Google. At least for the foreseeable future.
That means you need to dominate Google. And Google is a pay-to-play marketplace (hence my lack of emphasis on SEO). There are 3 keys things you need to have in place to make your move on Google.
- Claim your business on Google. (Google it…no seriously there are tons of article on how to do this)
- Join the Google Local Services program (if possible)
- Start spending at least $500/month on Google ads.
Giving the amount of free info on how to claim your business on Google, we won’t cover that here.
Google Local Service is a relatively newish program, and at this stage I don’t have a lot of meaningful things to say other than it is useful now. Once more and more companies adopt Google Local Services, I don’t know how good it will be, but right now it is cost effective for my clients.
With that said, let’s jump into the biggest thing: Google Ads
Given that there are entire courses dedicated to Google Ads I can only cover so much here. Let’s just mention some key things you need to consider:
- Don’t trust auto-generated ads—take the time to create ads with a human brain (and remember the need for hooks, see SP1.3 for more info about hooks)
- Make Google rotate ALL your ads (don’t let them auto-optimize)—this will let you know which ads work and which ones don’t, kill the ads that don’t and focus on the ones that do
- Test things for at LEAST 3-4 weeks before making a decision—one week of data isn’t enough to make an informed decision, obviously there are exceptions so use your best judgement
- Set a time to check it weekly—you don’t have to babysit Google ads, but you definitely want to keep an eye on it
- Focus on mobile-friendly ads—people are often looking for your service on their phone, MAKE SURE TO USE THE CALL EXTENTSIONfor your ads
- Only use one keyword per ad group—this will make it easier to know which keywords are most important for getting customers
Service Plan 3: Becoming a Local Legend
Once you’ve gotten established, mastered mailers (SP1.3), got your website squared away (SP2.1), and dominated Google search (SP2.2), it’s time to use your marketing dollars to become the first name people think of when your type of service is needed.
The overarching goal of this “service plan” is to do a 50/50 split of your marketing money between branding (aka awareness of your company) and direct marketing (like Google ads/mailers/etc).
SP3.1 Search Ad Domination
In service plan 2, I recommend starting to master Google ads. Once you have a big enough budget, I recommend looking at attempting to dominate your competition by outbidding them on ads. If you’ve been smart and created a solid website while strategically testing you ads, the last “lever” you can pull is to claim more of the “Google pie” is increasing your bid.
Like anything related to Google ads, testing is imperative. The goal is to increase you bid until you start getting diminishing returns in relation to percent you are outranking your competition in ads. (There is a section is Google ads that shows you the percent of a keyword you own in relation to your competition.) Once you stop gaining a higher percentage you can stop upping the bid.
The big no-brainer caveat to this is you obvious don’t want to bid so high that the cost of obtaining a customer is no longer financially viable.
The reality is people turn to Google to quickly find a vendor to solve their problems. And the more you pay Google (not blindly paying, but thoughtfully) the more love Google will show you. (They have to pay their stockholders and employees.)
SP3.2 National Branding on a Local Budget
Want people to think you are everywhere on the Internet without spending millions? It’s possible and the answer is video. Between YouTube and Facebook you can get your company name in front of your local audience at a fraction of the cost of TV and radio ads.
It is strange, but I’ve noticed that local brands that advertise on YouTube get INSTANT respect. I can only conclude that because so many huge national brands advertising on YouTube that when people see your company they unconsciously think, “Wow! They can afford to advertise on YouTube? They must be a super-legitimate company!
Take advantage of that perception for your own company.
Again, I recommend around 50% of your spending on branding. And I recommend it in this order:
- Billboard (Yes, billboards are useful)
- THEN Radio and TV (But no more than 10% of your marketing budget)
To, keep costs down, you need to take advantage of what’s called RETARGETING. It allows you to advertise to people multiple times at set intervals without spending tons of money. This gives the perception that you are “everywhere” without actually being everywhere. The how and what of retargeting is beyond the scope of this guide and you will probably need to have a professional digital marketing specialist set it up for you.
SP3.3 Leverage Your Videos for Direct Marketing Too
While the primary utility of the videos will be to establish your company as a household name in your service area, you can still use it for direct marketing. Just realize that it doesn’t always convert well depending on what you are trying to offer. (The real key to conversion is the offer. No amount of “marketing dust can make up for a bad offer.”)
Given that you will be setting up a presence on YouTube/Facebook for video ads, you should go ahead and set up some direct marketing campaigns via video. The best ones are for low(er) cost service you provider. (For example, an HVAC company could do a duct cleaning.) If that isn’t something you have, then a standard X% discount for people who book online can get some traction.
SP3.4 A Solid Message
If you are going to spend money on marketing on billboards, YouTube, etc. It is time to bring in the experts. Very few people can build a home service company AND be masters of video marketing. The best way to maximize the impact of your videos, billboards, and more a solid theme and consistent message is CRITICAL.
I live in North Alabama and Cook’s, a local pest control company, has the slogan “We Treat Your Home with Care.” It’s a brilliant approach to marketing and they have dominated the local market. They also paid a veteran branding expert a nice sum of money to help them create their message and slogan. And yes, they even have a jingle.
While you don’t necessarily need to pay a Madison Avenue veteran like they did, you probably do want to find someone with some experience or at least a deep understanding of marketing and messaging.
And no matter who is making the message you want to keep it consistent across ALL your avenues of marketing. This will explode the impact by an exponential curve.
So where do you take it from here? Well, you can check out some of the other Marketing Mechanic guides. Or, if you want a mega-dose of wisdom, sign up for the 21-day “tune up” email series.
If you want help from a live human being, set up a free 20-minute consult with Brandon, the Marketing Mechanic. You can schedule it here.
And remember: STOP WASTING MONEY ON BROKEN MARKETING!