Discover the top mistakes small business owners make when trying to grow a home improvement company and how to avoid them. Plus, learn the three secrets to a successful marketing plan for business growth.
While it's crucial that small business owners focus on the positives when selling services to customers, strategy is all about fielding problems. To create a bulletproof marketing plan for your home service company, you first need to understand the common mistakes company owners make.
With the economy evolving fast and more contractors setting up companies than ever before, there's no room for outdated or ineffective business practices. In this article, you'll learn what not to do when promoting your home improvement service so you can design a strategy that maximizes ROI. Plus, discover three secrets to marketing success for contractors.
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20 Small Business Owner Mistakes
If you're looking to grow from a one-person operation to a multi location business, there are some common pitfalls to avoid. Time and time again, contractors take the plunge, set up their own business, and make these mistakes.
Setting up a successful business and inspiring consistent, sustainable growth isn't always intuitive. It's important to learn what not to do in business so you can hit the ground running and nurture success in a crowded market.
1. Regional Businesses Not Doing Market Research
For many small home service business owners, market research and marketing sound too time-consuming and lofty. Your time is undeniably your most precious resource, but without a marketing strategy, you simply won't grow.
The first step is to learn about your target market. Figure out who the best customers for your company are, and learn what the top problems they need solving are. Start by determining the age, location, status, and interests of your ideal customer. The more detail you get into, the easier you'll find it to attract profitable customers.
Next, learn about the local competitors in your industry. Determine much they charge, whether they're targeting wealthy or ordinary clients, and what their USP is. Ensure your marketing campaigns and brand have enough differences so you stand out ahead of them.
Assign a set amount of time for marketing each week and implement one or two ideas at a time. Once you start seeing results, add new techniques and maintain them consistently.
2. Inconsistent Or Nonexistent Branding
Another essential element of marketing that some contractors neglect is branding. Brands aren't just for huge companies and trendy artisan products. Your name, logo, color palette, and USP set you apart and help people remember your company.
It's important to keep things as simple as possible. Aim for a name with three or fewer words, make sure your name and logo are relevant to your vertical, and train your staff on your brand personality. For example, if you're targeting older customers, the manner of speech and approach you take will be vastly different from how you'd approach a younger demographic.
3. Disregarding Your Website
Your website is likely to be one of the first interactions a potential customer has with your business. Knowing how important first impressions are for businesses, there are some key elements to pay attention to:
- Mobile-friendly: A website that's responsive on desktop, mobile, tablet, and laptop devices is nonnegotiable. Older websites must be updated so they meet modern consumers' expectations, as more people are likely to research and shop for home improvement services on mobile these days.
- Fast-loading: If your website takes too long to load (and too long is a surprisingly short period for most people!), site visitors will bounce before they've even learned about your company. All content, including images and videos, must be optimized for speed.
- High-quality: All human beings' primary sense is vision, meaning strong visual cues are an excellent way to attract clients. Aim to use high-quality images and videos of you and your team smiling, working hard, and doing what you do best. This helps instill trust and humanizes your company, helping you appeal to potential clients on an emotional level.
4. Marketing To Yourself
One of the biggest issues many small business owners have is marketing to themselves. Instead of taking the time to develop a profile of their ideal customers, they construct campaigns that would specifically appeal to them. By defining your target audience and learning about their interests using social media and website analytics, you can market effectively to your target audience and inspire business growth.
5. Pricing Services Ineffectively
Another important reason to conduct plenty of market research is getting the price point right. It's often tempting for contractors starting out on their own to rely on cheap prices as a USP, but this almost always backfires.
You need to calculate how much you need to charge to operate at a profit and price services accordingly. Undercutting and selling below your worth is not a good business strategy. Focus more on delivering exceptional service, building a strong online reputation, and learning about your target audience. People will pay for quality and a friendly service they can trust.
6. Not Investing Enough In A Growing Company
Building a successful company requires smart investment. You can't throw money at an idea and make it work, but you can't save your way to success, either. Training and development, employees, marketing, and tools are your three biggest, most important costs, and scrimping in these areas is a recipe for disaster.
Be sure to invest heavily in marketing materials such as decals, keychains, pens, flyers, truck stickers, and door hangers. Making marketing materials that appeal to your target market is just one of the reasons branding is indispensable!
7. Delivering Substandard Service
As contractor companies vie for customers' attention, the importance of service is more pronounced than ever. Even if you do a great job technically, a shoddy manner with customers can undo all your hard work. Likewise, doing a half-hearted job but being super-polite and friendly won't get you far.
If you have employees, you must invest in hiring the right people and training them so they work to the standard you expect. Your team is only as good as you make them, so make your expectations clear and reward excellent work.
8. Getting The Hiring Process Wrong
Hiring employees the right way is time-consuming and requires careful planning. Don't base decisions on whether you like an individual or choosing the cheapest option available. Clearly define your business goals and only hire people who can help you meet them.
Additionally, design a standardized onboarding process to set expectations and instill company culture as soon as possible.
9. Managing Employees Without A System
Just as you should have a clearly defined onboarding process, you should have a code of conduct for employees. Have a system in place to ensure good work is rewarded and people who slack are supported. Keep in mind that punishment or disciplinary action might not be as effective as training and support.
10. Neglecting To Offer Recurring Programs
One of the best ways to make serious money as a contractor is by offering service maintenance programs. Like a subscription service, this involves selling a contract for ongoing maintenance, repairs, and servicing. Offering a discounted up-front price for services is a great way to sell recurring programs to customers, and it gives you a predictable cash flow pipeline.
11. Adding New Capabilities Too Quickly
Another big problem many contractor business owners have is getting carried away with capabilities. While it might be tempting to offer customers a world of options, you could struggle to make back your ROI without a solid reputation.
Our advice? Start simple, with minimal services, and focus on delivering the most exceptional service. Continue with this until you have a great reputation online and in your local community. Only then should you start adding new capabilities.
12. No Referral Scheme
Referrals are a tried and tested way of growing your company, so don't forget about them amidst all the available digital marketing options. Offer a $25 gift card to happy customers for every referral who makes a booking and reap the benefits of a job well done.
Too many contractors rely on the hope that happy clients will tell everyone, but it's a big mistake. Take the initiative, ask the direct question, and provide an incentive for successful leads.
13. Lack Of Quality Leads
If you've set up a website and Facebook page and you're waiting for people to come to you, you might be waiting a long time. Aim to use as many marketing strategies as possible to meet your target audience where they're at. Use local directories, lead generation websites, content marketing, social media, networking, and cold calling to capture as many leads as you can.
And remember, your lead nurturing flow is just as important as getting the leads in the first place.
14. Not Answering Your Phone
Once the word is out about your home service company and you're generating leads, the hard work doesn't stop there. Your manner, attitude, and actions make a huge impact on your company's ability to succeed. One of the biggest ways contractors bleed leads is simply not answering the phone.
15. Poor People Skills
Not answering the phone is one thing, but the way you speak to people on the phone is equally important. If you come across as friendly and energetic and have a can-do approach, customers will fall into your lap. Equally, if you're gruff and impolite and sound bored, it won't attract customers to your business.
16. No Appointment Confirmation
Always use SMS and email reminders, ideally a week before and then the day before a job. Be sure to make a call the day before as well to follow up on your message. There's nothing worse for business than having lots of missed opportunities for jobs.
17. An Unconvincing Pitch
When you call a lead, your pitch is everything. Use information you've gathered firsthand to tailor each pitch to the individual. This means taking a quick look at their social media page and establishing their demographic so a pitch that's customized to their needs rolls off your tongue.
18. Being Too Shy To Ask For Reviews
As the old saying goes, "If you don't ask, you don't get." And it couldn't be any truer. Reviews are a highly valuable currency and play a huge role in shaping public perception of your home service brand. If someone expresses delight with your service, ask them for a review. Simple.
19. Forgetting To Cross-Sell Or Upsell
Upselling is the process of offering relevant add-ons over and above what a customer requests. If you see the potential for jobs in their home, it doesn't hurt to point them out and offer to help — provided you don't go overboard with a hard sell. Customers understand you're running a business!
Likewise, use cross-selling as a strategy. This means sending an email three or six months after finishing a job and offering to complete any other home improvements they need. Keeping a database of upselling and cross-selling opportunities for each customer is an astute idea for contractors.
20. Not Using Data
Your website, social media pages, property databases, lead generation websites you use, and CRM are gold mines of opportunity. You can use data to learn in-depth insights into your customer base, in view of refining marketing efforts to target the type of people who spend money with your business.
Home Service Business Growth Plan
Now that you know what not to do, let's take a look at the top three secrets of successful contractor small businesses:
- Define the customer base: Defining your customer base is the key to growth. What's their income bracket? How much is their home worth? Are they frugal or frivolous with money? How old are they? What's their gender? What are their values? All this information helps you create campaigns and deliver the type of service your customers expect.
- Get the timing right: Home service jobs tend to be seasonal. Create content for social media, buy ad space, and update photos according to the season to capture homeowners' attention at the right times.
- Rely on planning and automation: Find lead generation websites that help you automate processes and use a CRM to eliminate the manual task of maintaining customer records.
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