Truly Understanding Your Ideal Customer: Home Service Contractors
In order for a home service contractor to be competitive in today’s home services environment, business owners and managing partners must build their strategy around a core understanding of their ideal homeowner. This article will detail the home service buyer’s journey from prospect to customer and beyond.
Prospects: The Home Service Buyer’s Journey
Long before a homeowner signs a contract with your business, they go through a process of research and learning to evaluate alternative home service contractors to solve their problems. Some paths are short, some take time. But they’re not all the same.
While the home service buyer’s journey may differ from industry to industry, I’ve identified five stages common across local contractors:
- Awareness: This is how homeowners become aware of your business and brand.
- Education: This is the stage in which homeowners are starting to notice your brand and decide if they want to know more.
- Sample: This is a stage that many local contractors neglect, but now that I think you have the solution, can you prove it?
- Purchase: The buying experience itself is an often overlooked touchpoint in the local contractor marketing process, but it must be as intentional as everything that led to this point.
- Refer: Every contractor business loves referrals — most get referrals for good work done, but few intentionally generate referrals.
Stage 1: Awareness
The reality is, your local contractor marketing won’t pick up real momentum and grow until you’ve mastered the “awareness” factor.
The key here is to research what your ideal prospect reads, listens to, where they hang out and spend their time online and off. It’s also useful to identify any triggers caused by some type of lifecycle or home cycle event:
–Birth of a baby
– No heat or air condition
–Death of a loved one
–Summer with warm weather
–Natural disaster damage
(Hint: focusing on identifying what these triggers are with your current home service customers is the best way to immediately grow share of awareness.)
The first impression of your business or brand can come through many ways today: website, ads, direct mail, content, networking, public relations, referrals, social media.
Successful awareness always comes from narrowly defining your ideal homeowner and then choosing the right communication channels that has their attention: eyes and ears.
Stage 2: Education
Trust is the single most important element and always at the heart of every transaction.
Today, education is the price of admission into a homeowners world and gateway to trust. If you’re not consistently educating on the questions, concerns and needs of your prospects and customers there’s a really good chance you won’t get found, stand out and gain the kind of trust needed to make a sale = grow your local contractor business.
How can you educate ideal homeowners that your local contractor business or brand is competent, credible, and trustworthy?
- SEO —Dominate the entire page one for a search on your company name and core services.
- Branding — Be visible. Be consistent. Use the same branding across online and offline. Because familiarity breeds trust.
- Free Visits — People often misinterpret a free visit as a way to show what your service does — it’s not, it must first be a way to show you understand their problem. Fix this part!
- Develop Case Studies and Success Stories — Your contractor business track record will shape their opinion.
- Public relations — I believe someone else who says you are super talented more than I believe you telling me that. Seeing your name penned by others or reading a piece you contributed to a publication I respect send huge trust signals.
- Consistency — This is a tough one. I guess this is actually a rallying cry for process documentation, but know that one of the greatest eroders of trust is an inconsistent experience. How do you make sure I get the same experience every time and every place?
- Content — what content are you offering freely that takes our relationship to an entirely new level now that I’m really paying attention?
- Sales process — This might be another call for consistency, but simply having a process for when a homeowner completes an online form or requests a free estimate is a start. Even better, what could you do that would blow me away in response to my hinting I might need what you offer?
Stage 3: Sample
This is a marketing question that many neglect. Although you may have created the perfect home service there are times when homeowners need a date before committing to the entire purchase.
It’s essential that you find ways for homeowners to sample your products or expertise. You can do this by creating a try before your buy option, creating an unheard-of guarantee, a low-cost version, creating a free or low-cost experience of your knowledge or expertise through a 30-minute consultation, audit or evaluation or presenting educational seminars.
- Demonstrations — The demo shows up here again because now I just might want to know how the thing is going to work for me and my team — this is a different kind of demo, but it still needs to be about me and my team.
- Freemium offer — Is there a way to let me try it for half or full-day first?
- Starter offer — Is there a smaller version that would give me a greater sense of why I can’t live without you and your services?
- Switch offer — It’s painful to switch — what could you do to make it fun and risk-free?
- Proof of concept — Personalize something just for me so I could see just how great life and home will be when you’re my contractor.
- Events — Events are also a pretty good way to let someone see what it might be like to work with you — an event can be a consultation with a husband and wife at a home show where you provide advice and direction for upcoming projects.
- Conversion materials — Blog posts and handouts are great in the start, but now you have to personalize and demonstrate your process and results for me.
- Upsell process — Okay I’ve tried it out and I love it, but now you want me to pay? What have you done to hammer home the value and let me see that I would be a fool to not jump in full time now?
- Incentive program — Sometimes you’ve got to have a plan to sweeten the deal to get me to act today — let me bring a friend, give me annual pricing or surprise with me something more than I was expecting.
Building trust is such an essential element of business success and getting your foot in the door with low barrier entry offers is one of the keys to moving prospective homeowners into full-fledged customers.
Stage 4: Purchasing
Once homeowners have narrowed down their shortlist of potential contractors, there will be criteria they use to make a purchase. We like to think of this as what ‘tips the scale’ in favor of the winning contractor.
For this stage, the focus is on educating and keeping the experience high but from the standpoint of a new customer. What does your proposal process look like? Have you kept the expectations really high? Do you have an onboarding process? Do you have a transition phase that’s clearly mapped out? Do you have a welcome letter so that you can train and set the expectations and make sure that everybody knows what to do when something doesn’t go right?
How you orient your customer with your business once they say “yes” is a touchpoint that is often overlooked, but shouldn’t be.
Think about what your customers now have access to when they say, “yes” in the form of content, resources, training, personnel, time, reviews, updates and events.
- New customer kit
- Maintenance information
- Welcome letter
- Night before call
- Project review
One of the most important things for creating happy customers is setting expectations and orientating customers. You’ve worked so hard to get in front of these customers and to win their trust, so you want to continue to hammer home your value.
Stage 5: Referrals
Understanding your ideal homeowner is ultimately about referrals — happy customers. Generating referrals boils down to developing a formalized process. It’s important for you to systematically and automatically integrate referrals into everyday interactions with prospects and customers.
- Gift certificates
- Referral video
- Homeowner association presentations
- Training with a strategic partner
- Work order forms with a referral offer
Today content is the new referral, and it comes from someone who hasn’t used your services.
Perhaps they heard your strategic partner speak, follow your social media account, tuned in to a local radio interview, scanned through your photos on the website, read your blog, or follow you on Houzz. They’ve personally sampled and experienced your work, and when given the chance to recommend a contractor, they automatically think of you.
So a steady stream of content can not only lead to direct opportunities but can create additional referrals along the way. Any contractor that wants to get referred online or offline and ultimately generate business by way of referral, needs to get serious and strategic about content.