Jesse Kreisman is digital marketing specialist and design consultant for Alco Products, an exterior replacement and remodeling company in the Washington, D.C., metro area.
Like other home improvement companies, lead generation is the lifeline of our business, but it’s changing so fast that it takes extra effort to stay on top of it. For us, traditional lead gen was all about mass mailing as well as some combination of canvassing, referrals, print advertising, home shows, and the occasional radio or TV ad spot.
All that’s changed. Online advertising is popular and because there’s a wealth of info available on the web, customers are now more educated about product options, they know the basic terms related to our products—U-factor, R-value, solar heat gain, etc.—and they often already have a clear idea of what they want. In response, the Alco Products website today is much more comprehensive. While we have broader “entry pages” for consumers just starting the process, we also have specific pages with more in-depth product specs for educated consumers. And we talk a lot on our site about what sets our company apart. Many of our competitors sell very similar products, so we highlight what makes us stand out—number of years in business, being licensed and bonded, the extra steps we take for the install, our upgraded warranties, etc. That way, when a consumer has two similarly priced quotes, they have other info to review that may help them decide.
Currently, our mix of lead-gen tools—in order of importance—looks like this: pay-per-click (PPC) ads; organic traffic (SEO); our referral program; Facebook and Houzz; our newsletter to existing and past clients; and Yelp and other social media.
PPC: When it comes to using PPC ads to generate leads, consumers are turning to Google and Bing more than ever before, so having a PPC presence is super important—especially since the ads are shown above organic searches. Most remodelers simply use their homepage as an advertisement, but you need a landing page instead of a homepage for PPC ads. These landing pages are essentially ads themselves, conveying information directly related to the ad/query the web user searched. Studies have shown that the less relevant the page is when clicked, the less likely consumers are to fill out a Contact Us form or to call. Landing pages are an opportunity to create a specific web page that directly relates to the ad and draws in web users.
Facebook and Houzz: Although it used to be for the young, Facebook is now more widely used by homeowners in our customers’ age range. Having a review featured on Facebook can serve as a great validation tool. We’ve found Houzz to be a very visual form of gathering leads, since it’s specifically for contractors to showcase their work with images so homeowners can get inspiration. As a result, leads that come to us from Houzz are highly design-oriented and, in our experience, are looking for larger transformations. It’s not that one platform is better than the other, they’re just different.
Referral program: In addition to PPC, SEO, and other online lead gen, we’re also reinstating our referral program and working old clients. Those customers provide two lead sources: themselves for other needs, and referrals to friends and family. We’d overlooked this a bit in the recent past, but with new customer relationship management (CRM) software, we can efficiently keep a record of clients, put them in our referral program workflow, and regularly send them tips and information. We can also record clients by job and send them news about our specials or information about our other services. We don’t believe in the hard sell, and instead try to keep our name in front of customers through newsletters, holiday greetings, etc., that include viable tips.
We’ve used Solve360 and AccuLynx, but have settled on Improveit 360 as being best-suited to our CRM needs. Through our research, we found that many construction CRM programs are specific to one area—commercial, roofing, siding, etc. Improveit encompasses a bit of everything, which works for us.
Lead Response Challenge
At Alco, we don’t use sources that sell multiple leads, such as QuinStreet or Home Advisor. If you’re a smaller shop without a call house, you’ll miss out altogether on getting the lead. In fact, I’d say this is the biggest issue a smaller business faces. The companies that successfully use these sites are generally bigger and have call centers that can immediately respond.
At Alco, any leads that come in through PPC or web forms are emailed to various people in our company whose responsibility it then is to respond ASAP. Different people are responsible for responding to forms requests depending on the time of day, which is the best way we’ve found—as a smaller business—to handle this. Phone calls that come in after 6 p.m., unfortunately, will go to voicemail, and we just have to return those calls first thing in the morning, but generally, later leads coming in are through web forms. Voicemails go to email with our system, and if someone sees it’s a lead, they’ll call as soon as they possibly can.
Customers today expect a near-instant response. It’s a challenge, but that’s just part of how lead gen has changed. We may not have the people power for always providing an immediate response, but we hope that by setting ourselves apart form the competition in other ways, customers will trust us with their business.