June 1, 2014 by JACOB STOLLER
Contractors have been slow to jump on the digital marketing bandwagon, to the extent that the typical construction website looks like…well, a construction site.
However, a new breed of construction companies, led by technology-savvy entrepreneurs, is changing the game, says Rob Melis, vice-president of operations at Indianapolis-based Construction Marketing Inc.
“The grasp of technology and marketing may not have been that important in the past in the construction industry, but it is growing, and growing to the point that it has become absolutely crucial,” he says.
For those ready to move their marketing out of the Yellow Pages era, here are a few tips from the experts.
STRATEGY BEFORE TACTICS
First of all, decide what you want. Is it leads from new markets? A high profile in a particular community? A learning environment for your customers or suppliers?
“You need to have your story figured out before you spend a lot of time on your website,” says Jason Bouwman, principal of Compass Creative, a web marketing firm catering to the construction industry, based in Stoney Creek, Ont.
The most typical mistake, says Bouwman, is “jumping from tactic to tactic” in response to news that everybody is on Facebook, somebody has a great video, or a competitor is getting great results from SEO.
Conversations with customers are critical to the planning process, adds Martin Waxman, executive vice-president at Toronto-based Thornley Fallis Communications. “It’s really important to know who your customers are, and how to simplify things.”
On the web, you’re always one click away from oblivion, leaving only seconds to show visitors they’ve come to the right place. “The first thing you have to have is that five second scan of the web page,” says Melis. “It needs to be immediately obvious what you do and what geographic area you do it in.”
The behavior to avoid is “bouncing”—the web marketing term for people who click on a site and then leave within seconds. If your bounce rate is 30 per cent or higher you’ve got a problem, says Melis.
SHOW YOURSELF AS A GREAT PARTNER
In an industry where customers become partners, it’s essential to portray yourself as a desirable teammate. Photos showing neat job sites, clean equipment and safety-conscious employees will help build confidence.
If photos aren’t appropriate, use words. “If what you do isn’t visually inspiring, the story needs to be about quality, speed, expertise or the experience of working with you,” says Bouwman.
The opposite is also true. Carelessly constructed sites raise red flags.
ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME
Your overall web presence should have a logical structure to it that allows you to easily replicate your efforts and manage your entire web presence for optimum results.
“Businesses are looking at communications as a hub and spoke model,” says Waxman, “with the hub being their home, website or blog newsroom, and the spokes being social and traditional channels…That’s how you get the story out, and that’s how you connect with people on an ongoing basis.”
CONTENT IS KING
In the past, web marketing was a black art where tricks such as hidden text, phony links and misleading tags were the name of the game.
“Nowadays, it’s about content,” says Melis. “Articles, video, things that people might search for and then look at in detail. Those things help you rank really well, and they also allow you to build good will with your future customers.”
Last but not least, don’t forget that many will access your website from their smartphones. If they have to constantly scroll, enlarge or wait for images, their visit is likely to be a very short one.
Taking on the company website may not be a welcome task, but for those who have waited, there’s good news—website technology is much cheaper, and some of the expensive fads, like flash websites, have given way to simplicity and clarity.
“Keep your site simple and easy to navigate, and make sure you put the important stuff up [front],” says Waxman. “That’s obvious, but so many people have all these bells and whistles…but don’t really say anything.”