Fueled by the growth of the Internet and the popularity of new technologies like tablets and smartphones, the number of eyeballs viewing traditional media channels—billboards, direct mail, print ads, TV, etc.—is obviously on the decline, and the effectiveness of those so called traditional advertising and marketing strategies is clearly going downhill as well.
While small architects, builders, and remodelers might be able to rely on referrals and word-of-mouth marketing to basically pay the bills, larger companies trying to take things to the next level need to find new ways to profitably generate leads and sales. Many of the old-school marketing strategies no longer produce an acceptable return. The goal of this website is to give you a broad understanding of how the marketing landscape has changed and to provide you with actionable strategies and tactics you can use to improve your company’s online visibility to generate more leads and sales from the Web.
Why Traditional Advertising Is Dying
1. The media landscape has been fractured into thousands of tiny pieces.
You have a fracturing of the media landscape. In the 1940s and 1950s, there were three TV channels. Today, most homes have more than 1,000—and this doesn’t include TV alternatives such as YouTube, Hulu, etc. Admit it—you probably have at least 300 channels at home that you’ve never spent one minute watching. I couldn’t find stats on the number of radio stations in the ‘40s and ‘50s, but there couldn’t have been more than a handful—whereas in 1985, there were more than 10,000. Today, with satellite radio and online music alternatives such as Pandora and Spotify, there must be the equivalent of more than 100,000 radio stations! At the same time, the cost of advertising, for the most part, has only increased.
Take a look at Figure 1 and Figure 2 below
In Figure 1, you have advertising costs per minute for TV graphed over time. Above, in Figure 2, you have the average minutes households spend watching TV graphed over time. S ee the problem? The media landscape has fractured into millions of tiny niches. Instead of having millions of eyeballs in a handful of places, today, you httave a handful of eyeballs viewing content distributed by millions of different channels. As a result, it’s virtually impossible to cost-effectively put your message (your ad) in front of the same number of people you could in the past.
2. New technologies are killing the returns derived from traditional advertising and marketing strategies.
Entire businesses have been built to shield consumers from advertising. On TV, you have DVRs and companies like TiVo and Netflix that allow viewers to skip over ads or eliminate them altogether. Caller ID protects you from unwanted calls from people or companies you don’t know (and don’t want to know!). Spam filters prevent you from receiving unwanted emails (although no spam filter seems to prevent overseas SEO people from flooding your inbox with promises of top rankings on Google!). Most people are sick of being interrupted by advertising and marketing, and today, technology exists that allows them to avoid much of it.
3. And finally, the Web. The Web has been the giant killer of traditional advertising and marketing.
Before the Internet, if you had to replace your roof and wanted to educate yourself about your options, you had to ask a neighbor, look in the yellow pages, visit the library to find a book, or talk to a local roofing company. Today, you can whip out your phone or fire up your iPad or laptop and ask Google! You search, “what is the most durable type of roofing material,” and you get a plethora of options to choose from.
Before the Web, if you were in a business with any level of technical complexity, you could be pretty certain that, at some point, consumers would call or visit you to get an education before making a buying decision. With the internet, you’re no longer a required part of the education process. Every consumer today has a world of information instantly available at their fingertips, and they’re not afraid to use it! This is why it’s more important than ever to create Web-based content to educate your consumers, so that they find you when they search and NOT your competitors!
The Shift From Outbound to Inbound Marketing
Traditional advertising—things like direct mail, magazine ads, radio, and TV—are best described as outbound marketing or interruption marketing strategies. The Super Bowl aside, when is the last time you actually looked forward to a show being interrupted by an advertisement. How about NEVER! Consumers are sick and tired of being interrupted by ads—especially when most of the ads are completely irrelevant to the individual (e.g. Summer’s Eve commercials being seen by a 50-year-old single guy!).
Well, whether you like it or not, outbound marketing is despised, and it is quickly being replaced by inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is an umbrella term used to refer to advertising strategies such as pay per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO). Contractors and remodelers that track their advertising are getting leads from inbound marketing at less than 40 percent of the cost per lead from traditional or outbound marketing strategies. That is not a typo so read that again. An inbound lead, on average, costs only 40 percent of what an outbound lead will cost you! The reason inbound marketing is so much more effective is because it places your business in front of consumers at the exact moment of interest (and sometimes buying intent). It also puts the consumer in the driver’s seat—giving them complete purchasing control—and it’s easy and intuitive to boot.
In short, if you haven’t already, you and your company need to get on the inbound marketing freight train—NOW!
The Rise of Content Marketing
The most popular forms of inbound marketing rely heavily on what is known as content marketing. According to Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing refers to creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action. In a nutshell, content marketing is a way to communicate with and educate your prospective customers without reverting into a sales pitch. Today’s consumers want to buy, NOT be sold to. By creating relevant, educational content designed to help your prospects make better decisions, you will naturally find your website rising to the top of Google for various keyword searches related to your business.
Here’s a simple example.
Have you ever wondered whether yellow page print advertising is worth it? Of course you have! Well, so have a lot of other remodeling companies. If you go to Google and do a search for a keyword phrase like, “is yellow page advertising still effective”, look what comes up—a case study (content) created by me and Blue Corona.
You see, we track advertising for about a hundred different companies—this includes a fair number of print yellow page ads. Seeing that we track advertising, people started to call us to bend our ear on whether they should renew their print yellow page ads or discontinue in favor of testing something new. I figured (correctly) that the people calling us represented a small fraction of those actually asking the question, so I created a case study detailing the print yellow page advertising results from one of our clients (with the client’s permission, of course).
Here’s another example.
Marcus Sheridan is one of the owners of River Pools and Spas. One of the most common questions he got daily was, “what does a fiberglass pool cost?” He thought about creating a blog post about the topic, but worried he might be undercut by his competitors. Against conventional wisdom, he went ahead and wrote the post anyway.
Today, that post ranks number one on Google for the dozens of related search queries including “how much does a fiberglass pool cost?” Marcus attributes over a million dollars in business to inquiries he received as a result of this post. How much time do you think he spends these days worried about his competition? Not much. Content marketing is at the very core of your online marketing strategy. You need it to rank well on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, to establish your company as a reputable authority in your industry and to convert visitors into leads and leads into sales. In the new marketing landscape, content really is king.
Marketing—Measure it. Improve it.
If you take only one thing away from this book, it should be the fact that you can dramatically improve the performance and efficiency of all your marketing efforts by having a system like Blue Corona’s to accurately measure and track every single marketing strategy you employ (this includes your websites). I often hear remodelers and contractors of all sizes tell me that they already track everything by asking their prospective clients the infamous “How did you hear about us?” question. Hmmm. The responses to that question are laughably inaccurate, and often times, downright misleading. You should believe it—because we’ve actually tracked it and found that as many as 50 percent of the responses to that question are simply not true or accurate.
Every form of advertising can—and should—be tracked and analyzed. Tracking is far more difficult to do with traditional advertising strategies than it is for Web marketing strategies, so as you read this book and consider shifting your advertising dollars to the Web, don’t forget to allocate a fraction of your budget to track and analyze your results. A small investment in analytics and measurement can have a profound impact on your return on investment.
But it's not just about having the right analytical and tracking tools. You've got to have a strategy and the discipline to follow it.
Most of the calls I receive each week are from business asking questions like, "how can I get more visibility for my Houzz page? or "why is this competitor always outranking me on Google?" These are all valid, but ultimately tactical questions. My response is always the same, "what's your online marketing strategy are where are you in terms of execution?" The answer is always the same... crickets.
The most successful companies take a strategic, rather than a tactical, approach—to everything. If you want to win on the web, you need to adopt a proven strategy—a framework—and you've got to have the discipline to stick with it. Let me walk you through a five phase strategy that has worked for Blue Corona and more than 100 other companies.
This is our proven process; our five phase plan to measurably improve your online marketing performance:
1. TRACK everything and make data-driven decisions.
As mentioned earlier, every marketing strategy can—and should—be tracked. There’s no such thing as a marketing silver bullet, except this process—TRACK, TEST, TWEAK, REPEAT. And no place is this truer than on the Web where everything is (relatively) easy to track and quantify. Before you make a marketing decision, make sure you have baseline data and accurate tracking in place. Then implement a test. Every decision you make with respect to your website and/or online marketing strategy should be evaluated against two metrics: clickthrough rate (CTR) and conversion rate (more on these in a bit).
2. TRANSFORM your website from a brochure into a virtual sales rep.
Too many contractors and remodelers continue to treat their website(s) as if they were a digital brochure. Your website is NOT a brochure—it’s a virtual sales rep with a built-in sales funnel. Your goal should be to cost-effectively drive more qualified visitors to your website (which is comparable to filling your sales funnel with prospects) and use special analytics tools to monitor and improve your website’s visit-to-lead conversion rates. Every website or piece of digital real estate you create must be thought of—and treated—like a sales funnel.
3. MAXIMIZE your online real estate—start with search.
At some level, the web is a real estate game. If time and money were no object, you'd put your business on every website your target prospects visit. Because time and money are scarce—no matter what size your business—you should start maximizing your real estate on search engines like Google. You should start with search because that is where people have interest and intent to buy what your selling. Only after you've got a strong PPC and SEO program, should you work on creating a robust presence on sites like Facebook, Houzz, YouTube, etc.
4. OPTIMIZE every conversion point in your sales funnel.
The typical web visit-to-lead conversion rate for an architect, builder, or remodeler can be as high as 8%. Most of my clients didn't even know their conversion rate when we first met. With the right analytical tools in place, you should always be optimizing until your conversion rates to meet or exceed the industry benchmarks.
5. BUILD authority—establish your company as THE authority for what you do, in the markets you do it.
To succeed online, you must be relevant to your target audience. Your goal is to be perceived as an authority—correct that—as THE authority. Relevance and authority are required to rank well organically on Google, Bing, and Yahoo, and they are also prerequisites to a website that converts a high percentage of visitors into leads. Relevance is somewhat straightforward and easy to accomplish—create content that is related to the services you provide. Create content that provides answers to your prospect’s questions. Authority is a bit more ambiguous, and we’ll talk about this more when we get to the topic of search engine optimization (SEO).