Talk to anyone about promoting your construction business and you’re going to hear the words “content marketing” crop up at least once, and probably more often than that. Content marketing has pretty much taken over most forms of advertising, and it’s one of those things that, if you don’t have, you’re falling behind. But what is it, exactly, and how is it relevant for the construction industry?
Twenty years ago, the lifeblood of the construction industry was a combination of word of mouth, hours logged in trade shows, and some time spent networking at the lodge or chamber or commerce, getting to know the people who needed homes built, or the developers who could send you contract work. Life, and the industry, has become a lot more complex and faster-paced, and to really succeed in the marketplace, you need to be booked solid. But that level of busy also means you don’t have time to get out there and market yourself. And that’s where content marketing becomes your best friend.
Attention is the new currency. If you can't get their attention, you'll never have their business.
– Anoop Gupta, CEO and Co-Founder, Nextio
Taking online to the next level
Too many people in the industry still treat their website the way they did in the mid-90s, when all you needed was to just have a website – sophistication did not matter. Then – and unfortunately, in many cases today – they acted as little more than a contact page, an online brochure perhaps, or a place to put up a few gallery photos of a couple of houses they’ve built. However, customers are becoming more and more reliant on the information they find online, often choosing all kinds of service providers — and that includes all manner of contractors — based purely on the reviews left online by other clients. Most people’s first port of call is a Google search, looking for relevant suppliers in their area.
Many millennials — also known as the generation that’s building new houses and starting families — base their choices on which provider comes across as the most respected authority, and who takes a real interest in the customers who will reside in the homes. Roughly translated, that means, if you want to grow your client base, especially among the demographics that are actively looking for new homes, you need to be speaking to them in the language they understand, and that means giving them online content that relates, and that they can identify with.
In a nutshell, content marketing is focused on the softer side of the business, rather than the hard sell – it’s the side of your business that gives customers more than merely a new building. It’s the part that walks the journey with them, understands the various frustrations a new home-owner will go through, what it’s like to live in your home while it’s being built or renovated. For new developments, content paints a detailed picture of the lifestyle and surroundings. Content marketing is the voice of your company that speaks to customers and says, we’re not just going to do a job for you, we’re going to build a relationship with you.
On a more practical note, content consists of all the information and communication you put out online. But it’s more than just tweeting your news and posting pics of ongoing projects on your Facebook page. It comprises all the interesting, useful, entertaining stuff you can give your customers without pushing sales – at least not directly. Getting content right can be tricky, though, because it is very easy to slip back into the sales mentality. To help you get your content marketing right, we’ve broken down a few of the channels you can use for providing content, and how to use them to your best advantage.
1. Social Media
Think of social media as an immediate conversation – it can be a quick chit-chat while passing by, like Twitter, a longer, more intensive conversation, such as on Facebook, or the equivalent of showing your holiday snapshots, for instance using Instagram. Social media serves three distinct purposes in your content marketing efforts: firstly, it is a great place to disseminate larger and more involved pieces of content, such as blog posts, and secondly, it is perfect for maintaining an ongoing conversation with customers, potential clients and your community at large.
The third purpose of social media for your business is to help build your brand, develop a brand identity that makes you recognizable as an entity. By building an authentic brand and holding real conversations — in other words, providing useful interactive content — you are already using content marketing to start growing your contracting business.
Tip: When engaging on social media, always be genuine. Don’t try to force a call to action into every interaction, just answer questions in detail, address issues, be open and honest about how you do business and your involvement in your community. Focus on the customer in all such interactions, making sure they feel that you are paying attention to their questions and concerns.
2. Blog posts and authority posting
Blog posts on your own website, as well as articles featured on other platforms, are generally short to medium-length articles, somewhere between 500 and 1,500 words, that can convey a tremendous amount of information, while building your reputation as an authority in your field. They can range from helpful, list-style tips and hints related to the type of contracting you do, to stories that bring across your brand personality – funny experiences on a site, the time you narrowly averted disaster with some quick thinking… stories that grab and hold attention, and make people remember you.
The most important thing, however, is to not turn the focus too heavily on yourself, because it just comes across as too sales-oriented and self-aggrandizing. A good rule of thumb to work with is that at least 80% of the content you put out should be about the reader, the potential customer – things that they will find useful and interesting. No more than 20% should be about you, your company, events, projects and services. Content marketing, including blogs and social media, must never look like advertising, but rather be useful information.
To really get the message across that you actually do care about customer experiences and customer outcomes, tell stories about your clients, how an issue they had was handled, and how things are now better. When creating lists of tips, make it stuff that you’ve dealt with, that you know your future clients will want to know.
Talk to them about how to choose light fittings that they like and that serve the space; talk to them about what they can expect from a project; and talk to them about how they can make their own lives easier while doing the same for your job.
Tip: Don’t get overly repetitive in your blog. It’s perfectly fine to have a few “How To” list-type articles, but unless they’re spectacularly good and therefore a draw in themselves, shake things up, or risk becoming very boring. For example, you could have a cycle that includes one list of tips, one serious article on the industry, one more emotional article talking about a recent project, and one more frivolous article about, for instance, celebrity homes – these are just a guideline, of course!
3. Active content
For the brave, the adventurous, or those with a spirit of showmanship, there’s also platforms like YouTube, where you could post content about … well, anything really. You’re a contractor! Show people anything from how to do a quick fix on a door hinge, to basic seasonal furnace maintenance they can do at home – whatever your specific area of expertise is, there are things people want to know, so answer them.
Video falls between the intensive content of a blog or article, and the interactive nature of social media. It’s a terrific medium for building your brand and community, as well as developing a reputation as an authority on whatever subject you’re discussing. Before launching into video content, have a look at some videos for inspiration. You might be astonished at just what you have to offer.
Tip: There are more than enough video fails out there, so before you publish anything online, take the time to properly script, rehearse and film your video. While it doesn’t need to look like it was filmed in a big-budget studio, at least make the effort to present something polished and interesting. Just like a carpenter will always measure twice before cutting, there’s no harm in doing more than one take to get your video right.
4. The website
Ultimately, the purpose of content marketing is to get potential customers to your website, or contacting you to discuss a project. While a considerable proportion of people will contact companies directly through their social media, the majority still go to the website when it’s time to start getting down to business.
That’s why you need to make sure your website is a show-stopper. You can’t spend all that time, money and effort getting your social media, blog and video content perfect, only to drive customers to an out-of-date, unattractive website. In fact, you have about three seconds to reel your potential customer in once they hit your website, before they decide they don’t like it and go somewhere else.
Keep things interesting and customer-focused on the website – boring, excessively “professional” speak isn’t interesting, and potential customers want interesting and entertaining websites. Appeal to their emotions, speak to them like you would to a friend, a family member – don’t bore them with statistics, graphs and technicalities that are only of interest to a tiny group of people. Make sure there’s plenty of information that will help them choose you as their developer, primary contractor, contract manager, or project manager, but do it with character, personality and soul. Give them a gallery of professionally taken, high-quality “brochure quality” photographs of projects you’ve completed – while your smartphone snapshots may be great for social media updates, they are likely not suitable for the gallery.
Remember that while content is all about nurturing customers and building a brand, you are more than welcome to add some sales-oriented content to your website – just don’t go overboard. The more helpful content you continue to provide on the website, the longer they will hang out there, and the more likely they will be back when they need to contract you. This means more than just a good blog – it means publishing regular, evergreen information that future home-owners will find useful. It means adding case studies to your website to show how you’ve handled specific situations in the past. It means asking satisfied customers to provide reviews and testimonials that you can use to promote yourself.
The customer is the hero; not you. Case studies should talk about the customers' unique needs and how they were met. Give a shout out to the Realtor, and compliment some of the product manufacturers/suppliers and trades that brought the project home. Include a testimonial; let the customer do your bragging for you.
Tip: It’s so ingrained in us to prove our worth with long lists of qualifications, certifications and official endorsements, that it can be easy to forget that people don’t care that much about those things. While they may do a cursory check to make sure you’re legit, the big drawing card isn’t going to be your membership to some industry body the customer has never heard of; it’s going to be the fact that you helped them learn something, made them laugh, or showed them something that moved them.
It's just like dating. Brag on yourself all night, and there won't be a second date. People fall in love with your brand, and the products and services you provide, when you focus on them.
5. Nurturing your leads
As a builder/developer, your image and reputation are everything. Content demonstrates your knowledge and expertise, strengthens brand awareness, presents case studies of projects successfully completed, and generates project interest for what's coming next. Rolling out an effective content strategy can position your projects as the ones Realtors, sub-contractors and home buyers can't wait to become a part of.
For a contractor, building a strong content stream is going to do more than just building brand awareness, it’s going to help you develop and channel your sales funnel, as well, by drawing potential customers closer, step by step. Interesting and engaging social media posts attract readers to the blog; ongoing value in the blog entices them to subscribe; subscribers enjoy value from your blog and content-based emails – eventually, when you offer these engaged content consumers and white paper, an ebook or a case study, they’ve interacted with you long enough to have built trust, and will be comfortable providing contact information in exchange for the download – your first level of conversion. At this stage, it is critical that you don’t start hitting them with hard sales, but rather nurture them as a cold lead that can be warmed into a hot one with even more valuable information.
People prefer buying from people they trust and like, and the better they know you, the stronger that emotional connection becomes. Most of all, content is about making you the trusted go to name in your area. It’s about making sure that, when someone asks someone else “do you know a good contractor?”, your name is going to be the one they mention, the one they tag in social media, the one whose article or blog post gets shared because it helped someone learn something.
As you've probably already discovered, your website is not going to receive top search engine rankings and a flood of traffic simply because it exists. Almost all of the traffic to your website will come from a) inbound links from other websites, to your awesome article posts, b) search engine links from the first page of results and c) social media links. Without incredibly useful content, you can pretty much write off regular qualified visitors to your website.
True, you can buy your traffic, through AdWords or Facebook Ads, but that will become quite expensive, and it's not the same as ‘earning' traffic by being genuinely helpful and building long term value and relationships. If you have some questions, or need some help with writing valuable content, please leave a comment, or email us.