How to Allocate Your Marketing Budget — For Contractors
As a contractor, you know that marketing is important. Maybe you’ve already invested in print advertising or TV spots in the past, or purchased leads through various services, but what was the return on that investment? Kind of hard to know exactly, right?
Well, with digital marketing it’s much easier to track the results of your investments. But where do you start?
Where is your site’s traffic coming from?
Invest in a Strategy & A Solid Platform
Don’t just start throwing money at AdWords because you heard it would get you leads quickly. The first step to making sure you’re not wasting your money with anything is to plan. Sure, that plan might change, but it will give you an initial guide to follow as you try to accomplish your business objectives.
When you sit down to think about it, you might realize that “more leads” isn’t necessarily your goal — at least not all year round. For example, if you’re an HVAC contractor, you might notice that you are overbooked during the summer months, but as soon as the fall hits you’re twiddling your thumbs. You might also want bigger jobs that involve installs or long-term maintenance plan signups and not just one-off service calls.
On the other hand, you might be a solar contractor who relies mostly on purchased leads. You might still feel like that’s a worthwhile investment, but you’re curious about what results you could achieve through other channels.
All of that information will be essential to forming a strategy that will keep your marketing on track and ensure your invested dollars are being used in the right places to get you closer to where you want to be.
Once you have a strategy in place, it’s time to determine if your website is helping or hurting you. Having your company’s site built on a solid platform, especially one that’s tailored to your particular industry, can be the difference between some results and true growth.
Content Marketing Feeds SEM & Email
We’ve seen many of our clients find immense success with SEM campaigns that are built out, optimized and managed by our expert PPC team. With low CPLs for everything from solar to HVAC and home performance, we know that when done right, Google AdWords and Bing Ads work.
However, what you probably don’t know is that without the right content on your site or the appropriate landing pages, you’re actually limiting and potentially hurting your SEM efforts. So investing in content marketing is necessary to ensure that you’ll be successful with your SEM, as well as email campaigns. Not only will content marketing help with those paid initiatives, but it will also improve SEO on your website, so you’ll grow your organic traffic and lead volume. If your budget is really limited for content marketing, be sure your landing and service pages are truly optimized first. Then make sure you’re getting at least one piece of fresh content onto your site monthly.
In terms of email marketing, you’ll need to set aside some budget each month for a reliable email solution (we personally recommend MailChimp). The rest of your budget in email marketing should be dedicated to design, content and reporting, so you can see which types of emails and which campaigns are performing. Fortunately, email marketing is one of the most cost-effective digital marketing channels and one that when done right, has a high return.
Remember, investing in help from the experts, especially with PPC, is the difference between actually getting high-quality leads and simply handing over hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for nothing. This means your budget will not only need to take into account the actual ad spend, but also the management cost. While it might seem like just additional money you have to fork over, with the right team of specialists running your campaigns, you’ll see an even higher return on your investment. Plus, you’ll have someone to comb through the data and make optimizations that will make your ad spend work that much harder toward getting you exactly what you’re looking for.
If you want a definitive answer on how much you should be investing in SEM ad spend, well, that depends on quite a few things. More competitive keywords for services like solar will require a larger investment. It’s also important to take your service area into consideration since you won’t have to spend as much to reach people in central Iowa as you would have to spend if you were trying to reach potential customers in the San Francisco Bay Area. For example, the cost per click for the keyword “AC repair” is about $8 in Iowa and upwards of $18 in the Bay Area.
Social Media Advertising
We’ve seen proposals other marketing companies have made to contractors for upwards of $3,300 monthly for Facebook advertising. While Facebook ads might be great for selling shoes or jeans, throwing that much money at them when you’re selling a service at a much higher price point isn’t going to get you the same result.
Many of our clients have an ad spend of about $200-$500 on Facebook and reach large targeted audiences, drive traffic to their site and also increase brand awareness. Between content, management and ad spend, initially, you probably shouldn’t be investing more than about $800 each month.
Local SEO & Review Management
Local SEO and reviews are two major factors that will help your business show up on search engine results. In order to make sure your other digital marketing efforts don’t go to waste, it’s important to keep some room in the budget for managing them. From regularly building citations and increasing directory presence to requesting reviews and managing any negative ones that happen to pop up, you need to have someone actively working on your company’s local SEO and review management. The larger your business and service area, the more money you should be dedicating to these efforts.
It Doesn’t ALL Have to be Digital
We know that digital marketing works for home performance, HVAC and solar contractors, but that doesn’t mean you have to drop other marketing avenues. For example, we find that print marketing for review cards works especially well to generate more online reviews. Make sure your offline messaging and design match what you’re presenting online — brand consistency is important.
Focus on the Data
Regardless of how big or small your marketing budget is, you need to follow the numbers. While it will generally take a few months to see what’s really working, once the data is in you can adjust your digital marketing strategy and budgets for various channels accordingly. Continuously optimizing based on the reports is the only way to grow your business while making smart decisions about your marketing investments.