I spend a lot of time working with contractors on projects around two common questions, which are really the same question: “What do I use to market my construction company?” or “What marketing works for contractors?” 

Recently, during an interview with a trade magazine, I was asked what I thought contractors should be doing online to help build their businesses. I thought you might like to see the answers before the publication hit.

I’ve compiled the suggestions into eight bite-size chunks that you could implement over the course of a week. I say “eight in a week” knowing full well that there are only seven days in a week, but on one of those days you actually do nothing. (Keep reading, I’ll explain.) 

The takeaway here is this: Most of these action items don’t have a sunset. They aren’t campaigns or projects; they are the new daily rituals you need to adopt to be successful. Here they are.

8 Days to Getting It Right Online

Day 1: Fix Your Website
I want you to keep in mind that your website is the ante. If you’ve ever played poker, you know the term “ante.” If not, the ante is the cost or the price you pay just to get into the game, and if you don’t have a website (or you have a bad one), then you need to fix that first.

Your site should:

  • Be representative of the great work you do by looking professional.
  • Do a reasonably good job of converting the traffic that comes to it.
  • Be responsive—almost 60% of all Internet consumption takes place on devices other than desktops or laptops, so if your site isn’t responsive, you’re not even being seen.

If your site is missing any of these things, this is your first and most important opportunity. Your prospects are too savvy and expect much more from you than some janky contractor website template you got for free with your hosting plan. You need to have a proper site!

Day 2: Know What Opportunities to Pass On
With more than 20 years’ experience working exclusively with contractors, I’ve formed some deep opinions about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to promoting home improvement businesses. For example, if you know me for a second you know that I have pretty much no interest in off-page SEO (search engine optimization).

I think spending any money on a campaign that could be rendered useless because another company changes its algorithm is a waste of time and money—and worse, it’s a lost opportunity to use those dollars elsewhere. So knowing when not to do something is just as much a strategy as knowing when to do it.

Day 3: Remember That All Social Media Isn’t Created Equal
We lump social media sites together like crabs in a basket, when in all actuality they have different functions and should be used differently. I don’t mean images on Instagram and video on YouTube different; I mean an actual use-case for each platform. So let’s kick it off with Twitter.

Day 4: Expand Your Reach With Twitter

Twitter is PR, no more, no less. Twitter is about engaging and talking to people you wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to reach. It’s about conversations and engagement—which is PR, not advertising, not yet.

You see, the numbers from Twitter just don’t prove (to me) that there is real opportunity here for contractors in terms of spending marketing dollars. But you should absolutely use Twitter as a platform to help spread your message and start conversations.

Day 5: And With Google+

Google+ gets lumped into the same category as Twitter … a PR play. Google+ is great for conversations, but there’s no ad platform unless you have 1,000 followers. Second, the traffic going away from Google+ to destinations (that is, your website) is minuscule, which is good for Google because it means people are interacting on the platform, but it’s bad for your website. Until a real advertising platform kicks in and the traffic leading away from Google+ to your own website increases, Google+ is all about PR.

Day 6: Use Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram/Houzz, Etc., for Branding

The next strategy I’m going to talk about lumps many of the remaining social media platforms together because they all function the same in terms of marketing your business. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and even Houzz, are branding opportunities for contractors. These platforms are meant to take your content (video, images, text, etc.) and turn it into branding campaigns, that’s it.

Hard selling is frowned upon, and advertising on these sites either doesn’t exist yet or isn’t converting enough to truly call them advertising platforms. Remember, they are great for branding and driving traffic to your site, but they won’t do well in terms of advertising spend until they figure out local.

Day 7: Advertise Using Google

Google, not Google+, is where the advertising is happening online. With search, display, video (via YouTube), social (via Google+), and mobile (via Android) all under one roof, Google is where you need to focus if you want to run ad campaigns online. Just because Google beat you five years ago for $100 on a badly run pay-per-click campaign doesn’t mean you shun the network forever. Time to put your big-boy toolbelt on and figure it out.

Day 8: Generate Content. Blog!
The last piece in the “2014 marketing matrix for contractors” is content. If you understand this one crucial element, you’ll own the keys to the kingdom in your market.

Content is the engine that drives search to your site and brings user engagement to your brand.

That’s fancy marketing speak for “You should write blog posts as often as you can because search engines eat it up and you get to position yourself as an expert, not a salesperson, which helps convert leads at a much higher rate.”

Now, I think it’s important to also give you a one-sentence takeaway from the customer’s point of view—one that should solidify the fact that content truly is king, and you need to be in that business if you’re tired of paying for advertising:

Blogging works because the most popular searches on Google are problem-solving questions, not branding.

That should be all you need to realize that:
1. Everything starts on your website. 
2. Most of social media is about branding, which helps with reach, impressions, and long-term lead generation. 

3. Content helps you get found online. It’s what helps you become a resource, not a salesperson. And content closes the deal.

I hope you take this information to heart. I’ve spent many a weekend reading, learning, testing, and managing campaigns across the Web so you don’t have to. But you need to get started. Fix your site, start using social media better, and if you aren’t blogging, start!