For contractors and construction companies, digital (online) advertising presents a wide world of opportunities if leveraged properly, or can be a waste of time and money if not.In this article, we’ll discuss
What is Digital Advertising?
Digital or Online Advertising is one way of promoting your business and connecting with potential clients and customers. However, it’s centered around connecting with people online; either through a Search Engine (like Google), or a social media platform (like Facebook and LinkedIn). If you think this is a viable way to connect with new clients and customers, then digital advertising may be for you.
We can start by thinking about your existing customers. How did the majority of them find you initially? Was it from word of mouth or referrals? Do you send out mailers or advertise in newspapers and magazines? Did they find you online?
If most of your customers come from offline sources, then ask yourself if online is a good fit for your business. Would clients search online for your business? For example, if you’re an electrical contractor who mainly works on large commercial projects for general contractors, then being found online is probably not your main source of sales leads. Most GC’s don’t go scouring the internet looking for subcontractors; they have a pool of subs that they know and work with repeatedly. In this case, you're more likely to benefit from more traditional business development efforts.
Conversely, if most of your clients and customers have found you online, then digital advertising may be a potential strategy for increasing sales. You can start by searching for your own business online the same way your customers would search for you. Go to Google in a private browser and search for a few words that should lead to your business.
For example, if you’re a home renovations GC, put in “home renovation contractor” and add your city and state. Then look at the results and see where your company is listed. This is referred to as your ‘Organic Ranking’. If you’re not on the first page, then you’re probably not being found. I mean really, who looks past page two these days? According to recent research, 75% Google searchers don’t even go past page one! So, if you’re not on the first page, then digital advertising might be for you. By using ads properly, you can pay to be on the first page.
For example, if you are a residential general contractor and want to connect with homeowners in neighborhoods within a 20-mile radius of your business, then Google Ads and Facebook may be a good fit for you. Most of your potential clients take their time to research local contractors and speak with references before they hire someone for their home improvement project. Facebook may be a great way to build brand recognition, and Google Ads can be used to place you at the top of local results when they search online for contractors.
However, if you are a residential plumbing service contractor and want to be found online when people need an emergency repair, then Google Ads would likely be a good fit. People don’t typically search on Facebook when they have an emergency like a leaking toilet or no hot water. They most often turn to Google and pick the company that’s closest to them and offers the quickest response times for emergencies.
I remember just such a case from my own life. Several years ago, I was visiting my family in Connecticut for Thanksgiving and was helping with the cooking. I peeled an entire sack of potatoes into the sink, then turned on the water and the disposal and started pushing peels down the drain. After a few minutes, the disposal started groaning and the water started backing up. Oh crap, what had I done to my sister’s sink? And on Thanksgiving?!
After trying unsuccessfully for about an hour to unclog the plumbing, which was STUFFED with potato skins, we turned to Google to find a local plumber who was open on Thanksgiving. There were several companies running ads that distinctly said they were open on holidays, and we started dialing. Within minutes we had connected with a local company and a plumber was on the way to save the day. Sure, we paid extra for the holiday service, but when something like this happens the price becomes secondary to getting the problem fixed.
In my example, it was the companies that were running ads saying they were open on holidays that got our calls, not the organic search results. Why waste time calling businesses that may or may not be open? We had an emergency and didn’t want to waste time leaving messages and hoping for a callback.
So, how do you get started with digital advertising? Let’s discuss two effective digital advertising channels for construction firms: search engine keyword ads (paid search) and social media ads.
One of the first things you want to do when starting a new online ad campaign is to set your goals. Are you interested in getting real-time, direct responses such as requests for quotes or service calls? Are you aiming to drive new revenue for your most profitable line of business? Or is your goal to build awareness, focusing on the top of the conversion funnel. Perhaps you’ve recently expanded into a new geographical market and want to start building up brand and logo recognition within a 20-mile radius of your new office?
Two huge benefits of online ads are precision of targeting and the ability to track and attribute new deals to the source that brought them to you. You no longer have to ask “How did you hear about us?” for mapping out which ad efforts are bringing in the most ROI.
On Google’s search network, you pay per click (PPC) when someone clicks on your ad and visits your website. You start designing the Ads by defining the keywords that should trigger your ad to be displayed. As mentioned earlier, try to get into the mindset of your ideal client. What search terms would be the first to come to mind as they are looking for your services? From our previous example, if you’re a residential renovation contractor, your target audience might search for “in-law suite builders” or “kitchen remodel construction costs”. If you’re not ranking organically on page one of Google for the keywords that best describe your company’s offerings, bidding on that keyword through Google Ads is an effective way to get coverage for those essential keywords.
A large part of a Google Ads campaign strategy is optimizing your ads’ landing pages so that you provide new visitors with relevant, compelling information about your services and track record, and the prospect can easily figure out how to contact you. Your phone number should be prominent. Have an inquiry or consultation scheduling form on your landing page. Make sure your social media profiles are easily accessible. You can learn more about designing effective websites here.
With Facebook and Instagram ads, you can pay for Ad Impressions (views of the ad) or per click (PPC). You can create Custom Audiences for targeting and show photos or videos in addition to written ad content. LinkedIn is also a strong ad platform for B2B advertising, but you should expect a more expensive CPC when compared to Google Ads.
As experienced and successful marketers for a variety of construction companies, we hope this basic information is useful. We’d love to hear your thoughts and questions and discuss if digital marketing may be a good fit for your business.
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Ascent's founder and president, Adam Cooper has over two decades of experience in construction business ownership, sales & marketing, project management, company operations and leadership.