It’s not an issue if I became a digital contractor, but When. If When Not soon, your company will eventually fade from the public eye.
This is the reality many companies faced a decade ago, and digital imperatives are catching up fast in the construction world – even earthmoving and heavy-duty/highway contractors with a small client base.
According to Brett Sutherlin, a “digital entrepreneur” is someone who uses all available technologies, especially technology that enables you to reach more customers, better partner with suppliers and hire a first-class skilled workforce. Technology such as GPS, BIM, and telematics are also important, but their value and necessity depends on the work you do. Not everyone needs to control a GPS machine. But the technology you need to market your company is important to every type of contractor.
Sutherlin is the founder and CEO of Lead Revenue, a website and digital services company, and the founder and CEO of fusionZONE Automotive. Dozens of automotive and industrial customers, contractors and dealers have helped advance their digital game. We asked him how entrepreneurs can get started and master the new world of digital marketing.
“It’s about exposure, it’s being found,” Sutherlin says. “Ninety-nine percent of our efforts go to appearing first and foremost on Google. If you are not there and you are not found, that is one of the main reasons why there are no customers.”
1. Start with Google
Sutherlin highly recommends Google My Business, a free app that enables businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across the Google ecosystem, including search and maps. With it, you can help clients find your business, tell them your story and edit your business information. You can also read and respond to comments from your customers and post pictures that show what you’re doing.
When your Google My Business and social media pages are set up correctly, and you regularly feed new content to your website, you’ll start seeing results. “Content is the key to Google, and that’s the key to really appearing and driving relevance,” says Sutherlin.
When you create content and posts on social media, you increase your relevance with Google and really help find your business on Google. “It’s all the first step. Without traffic, there’s nothing else,” Sutherlin says.
Brett Sutherlin2. Customer education
A big part of marketing is educating customers, says Sutherlin. For a paving company, education can take the form of web posts showing customers how to prepare pavers for the winter, how to create a paving budget or what to expect when paving crew arrives.
“This is what will separate you from the guys who are constantly trying to sell seriously,” says Sutherlin. “Once people read your blog articles, they’ll probably go deeper and read more than one of them.”
“You want to provide a wealth of information to the customer, first and foremost, to make them comfortable,” Sutherlin says. “Be that knowledge base where people go to learn. Once that happens, they will dig deep into your website, look at all the products and services you offer, and eventually turn into a customer.”
3. Low cost advertising
Google AdWords and Facebook are both great ways to target specific customers and spread your message, says Sutherlin. Google AdWords is a pay-per-click online advertising platform that allows advertisers to display their ads on the Google search engine results page. Retargeting on Facebook shows your ads to people who already know your company through Facebook or Instagram.
“It’s great to find customers on Google and then retarget them with social media, because once they see your name five or 10 times, they’ll remember it versus just seeing it once on Google,” says Sutherlin. “This is a punch that I love to use. And it has some great results for our clients.”
There are no particularly expensive platforms. In fact, $5 a day can be enough to keep your business message in front of potential clients, says Sutherlin. “Facebook is pay-to-play. If you don’t have a budget, you can only potentially reach 1 percent of your audience. But even a small budget will yield big results because ads target a very specific and local audience, and aren’t broadcast to the entire world.”
4. Social media recruitment
Almost every contractor struggles to find skilled employees. Lots of contractors rely on word of mouth, asking employees to spread the message, but you won’t find a bigger or better word of mouth than your social media presence.
“Recruiting today is an extension of your marketing,” says Sutherlin. “You want to show how satisfied your current employees are within your company and post that on social media. Post something like Five Facts about why you want to work for ABC Company and then link back to employee comments that talk about the company’s culture.”
Brett Sutherlin5. The importance of images
Photos and videos are a big part of getting your information by Google. In addition to checking your text, Google robots read the metadata behind your images and boost your search engine rankings accordingly. And don’t forget that YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world, says Sutherlin.
“Research has shown that if you have more than 100 images in your Google My Business list, your calls will increase by 500%, and your website visits by more than 1,000%,” says Sutherlin. Not neglecting it.”
The research cited by Sutherlin was conducted by Brightlocal and can be found here: https://www.brightlocal.com/research/google-my-business-insights-study/
Brett Sutherlin6. Don’t put it on and forget it
While a lot of the functionality of any website is automated, making digital communication work for you still takes a lot of work.
“You need a writer who can come up with new content daily and touch up on weekly hiring,” says Sutherlin. “A lot of hours go into it. I think it would be a full time job to have a writer on the staff doing what is necessary to be front and center in the eyes of Google.”
Once your website and ad awareness programs are up and running, you need to collect data and measure results, says Sutherlin.
Track things like incoming calls, requests for directions, form submissions, information requests, the number of times an article or blog has been read, and the amount of time spent on the site. A good website gives you all of these metrics and among them, you can measure what works and what doesn’t.
Brett Sutherlinadapt or disappear
“In the past decade, car dealers who didn’t embrace digital marketing, and who stuck to old newspaper ads, disappeared,” Sutherlin says. “I think that’s going to happen in construction,” he says. “From a digital perspective, construction lags most companies by about a decade. But if 96% of people start searching online, contractors will have to have a digital presence there to grow.”
If you are looking for examples of building contractors working in the digital realm, take a look at the links below to a few of the sites Sutherlin has developed for contractor clients: