3 Mistakes Contractors Should Avoid as the Slower Season Begins
Fall marks the beginning of the slower season for many contractors. The period between Mid November through the New Year yields far fewer consumers looking to remodel, move or expand. People are gearing up for the holidays and the new year ahead. Add to that the uncertainty that COVID has unleashed, and the supply chain issues that have slowed the market even further, and you may be looking at a lean winter.
There are several common mistakes that contractors make when tighter times approach. It may seem to make sense to cut back, lay off and lay low to avoid any unnecessary expenses, but savvy contractors utilize these quieter months to build. This keeps revenue channels open and puts businesses in a prime position to enjoy exponential growth when the hot season begins.
Top Three Slow-Season Mistakes:
Scale way back on marketing – It might seem prudent to cut your marketing budget as the season comes to a close. However, when the number of booked jobs on the schedule begins to decrease, this is an excellent time to review your marketing strategy and trim out the efforts that aren’t yielding results.
If you are losing money on print, it may be time to pause or halt that marketing.
If you are paying more for leads that you are making in jobs, it may be time to find a new lead company. There are lead generation businesses that only charge for their performance, meaning the leads they actually produce.
Google Ads may also be a viable short-term option for increasing lead volume into the winter. The team at 99 Calls is still seeing a 15 – 20% conversion rate on Google Ads campaigns. Google Ads marketing allows contractors to target specific services in selected areas so that you can get more done with a smaller budget.
There are plenty of opportunities there to gain some leads, win new jobs, and keep your team on the payroll.
Cut back on labor – Because there is a general shortage of qualified, motivated laborers in the workforce nationwide today, if you are lucky enough to have them on your team, now is not the time to furlough or lay them off.
Do what you can to keep those smaller jobs coming in, even if at lower profit margins to keep your valued workers gainfully employed.
We all prefer the big jobs and/or recurring business, but those smaller gigs often lead to larger, more valuable jobs in the future.
Not only are you contributing to your employees’ livelihood, but you are building trust and loyalty. See #1 above for ideas on getting those smaller, one-off jobs to keep your calendar full and your people working.
Take it easy and chill for the winter – It may be tempting to take a long winter nap, but here are a couple of things to do before you decide to take that much-needed vacation or rest after a busy summer.
Take a look at your SEO efforts. Are you promoting the services that you offer in the winter months now? It takes time for new content to get indexed and start ranking on Google. Now is the time to promote the services you want to offer in February and March.
Contact current customers and offer a discount when they book winter services.
Plan your 2022 budget. What are your goals for the new year in terms of growth, revenue, advertising?
Take time in the slower weeks ahead to review what’s working, what isn’t and see where you can trim the fat.
Once you’ve got these things in place, take a quick break – you’ll be recharged and ready to reap the rewards of your efforts!
If the thought of laser-focusing your marketing dollars and finding low-cost, high-value leads seems out of reach at the moment, consider trying the bundle program with 99 Calls. For a $349 price tag, you’ll get set up on SEO marketing which will grow over time, and a Google Ads campaign that can start working for you immediately.
Effective Lead Generation is an Investment – Not an Expense
Are you treating lead generation costs or prices per lead as monthly expenses? If so, you haven’t found the right company to partner with!
Does thinking about setting a “marketing budget” make you cringe? Do you immediately imagine your bank account balance going down, down, down? If you see your lead generation budget as a regular monthly expense, you may be wasting a lot of money! Expenses are car payments, electric bills, and internet costs. Good lead generation is an investment. Something that GENERATES revenue for your business, not an expense.
Most lead generation companies charge a flat rate per month and don’t promise anything in return. Yes, that’s probably an expense. But there are a few pay-for-performance companies out there that can prove their value to you month after month. In addition, many companies no longer require contracts, so you are free to take your investment elsewhere if you aren’t seeing the returns you were lead to expect.
Most Lead Generation May Cost You
The budget you set aside each month for online marketing is probably being considered an expense if you are lumping it in with your other costs. When times are tight, you might think your marketing “costs” should be the first to go. Then you trim other costs to save money. If you could generate reliable leads each month that turn into profitable jobs, your lead generation budget would become a necessary investment (and a sound one, at that!) If you are constantly trying to keep your monthly costs low by cutting into your lead generation budget, you are missing out on the potential to turn your service business into a cash cow. When leads become expenses are when they don’t produce measurable results.
Example: Say you have allotted $500 each month for online marketing of your remodeling business. If you hire a lead generation company that charges a flat rate of $500 each month and tells you they will promote your business online, get you onto the first page of Google and get calls coming in, but then doesn’t produce, this would be an expense.
If you hire a different company and they tell you that you’ll only pay for qualified leads that come in and you get to determine what a qualified lead means to you, you won’t be paying an expense, you’ll be investing in those customers who call you for a quote. And the higher your close rate, the more money your business will make from that marketing investment!
Return on Investment is the way businesses measure the net increase or decrease that comes from investing money. Return on investment, or ROI is the amount of revenue you bring in, minus the amount of money you invest to make it. So if you invest $500 in lead generation, and that turns into 6 qualified leads, and you win 4 new jobs, and each job is worth $1000 in profits, Your return on investment is $4000 (profits) – $500 (investment), or $3500. Imagine if you could invest $500 every month and watch it turn into $3500. Now that’s a solid investment!
Online Marketing and Lead Generation as an Investment
Customers use online searches more than any other means to find service businesses they want to hire. If you’re not there, front and center, with a great reason for them to call you for the quote, you probably won’t get called.
Good marketing entices customers to call you for a quote, which results in jobs, which means revenue for your business. When online marketing in the form of lead generation works in this way, it is considered an investment in your business. Even when times are tight, you don’t want to stop investing in good marketing, because it’s probably your best chance to build your revenue stream back up. Instead, start slow and build as you land more jobs. And don’t spend your excess profits. Keep investing in your business and watch it grow.
How to Increase Your Lead Generation ROI
So how can you spend less money per contractor lead? What is the best way to lower online marketing costs? Get seen and called more often and win more sales from your monthly lead budget!
Improve Your Visibility and Get More Calls
The more phone calls and emails you get from your monthly marketing budget, the higher the return on your marketing investment will be.
When you sign on for services for online marketing and lead generation, be sure to find a company with a complete package: Highly optimized lead generation sites that will rank well on Google, Bing, and other search engines and the ability to customize the lead generation site and listings with your unique branding.
As important as getting found is for getting calls, making your business attractive to potential customers is also critical. Entice your customers to pick up and call you by displaying high-quality photos of your work and pictures of yourself or your team on the home page. Offer a special promotion to motivate them to call you rather than your competitors.
The higher your close rate, the lower your costs per lead and the more leads you can get for the same monthly investment.
Here are the top 5 things you can do to increase your close rate, and thereby increase your returns:
Always Answer Your Phone: It seems so simple, but we see it all the time. Customers are impatient. They identify a need, search online and call the first contractor they see who looks legit. If that’s you and your phone rings, you are LOSING MONEY every time a call goes to voicemail.
Quick Quote: If you’re able to give a ballpark figure over the phone, go for it. Otherwise, schedule a visit within the next 48 hours to see the job and give a quote. Get in there before your competition.
Professionalism Pays: No, you don’t need to show up in your Sunday best, and actually, arriving in some work clothes lets potential customers know you’re a busy person who other customers already trust. Just change into a clean shirt to change and be prepared with pen and paper to take notes. Listen to what they are asking you to do, and repeat it back so they know you heard it right.
Offer Options: When you offer 2 or even three options for getting the work done, you’ll asking your potential customer not to choose between you and someone else, but between two or three price points from YOU. Offer a budget option, which less expensive materials and less expensive detail, and then one with the best quality. This also lets them know you are versatile and can work with different budgets.
Follow Up: Don’t drop an estimate and run. People appreciate a friendly reminder that you are available to schedule their job. Maybe even give them a discount if they can fill an opening you have in a given month. Persistence pays!
If you’re ready to really start growing your service business, start viewing your marketing budget as a smart investment, rather than a monthly expense, then find a quality lead generation team to make your monthly lead generation investment work for you. For more information on getting the most from your online marketing investment, give the team at 99Calls.com a call at 800-717-4669.
Turns out the cost per lead varies widely depending on the effectiveness of the marketing company you hire to run your campaigns.
Utilizing Google Ads PPC campaigns is the fastest, most versatile method of achieving a high volume of leads for service contractors. However, buyer beware; not all PPC marketing firms produce equal results. In fact, differences in performance are alarming and could mean the difference between enjoying a robust return on investment and blowing your advertising budget with little to show for it.
There is an enormous gap between average and superior Ads performance. According to a recent article by Wordstream, a trusted authority in measuring PPC conversion results, a full 25% of PPC users report conversion rates under 1%.
Unlike SEO, or organic lead generation, which takes many months to ramp up and achieve first-page placement on Google searches (and let’s be honest, if you aren’t being found on the first page, you most likely will not be found), using Google Ads PPC to generate exclusive leads yields much faster results.
Google PPC is an auction-style platform for showcasing businesses on the first page of searches. Rather than showing in the maps (GMB) section, or the highly regarded organic results section, Google PPC ads are displayed at the very top and the very bottom of the search page.
Ads are about scarcity. There is only room for 3-6 PPC ads on a page, about half posted at the very top and half at the bottom, under organic results. In order to achieve first-page placement on Google, you’ve got to be one of the top bidders. A high conversion rate is achieved when a large percentage of people who click on an Ad call for a quote (a lead). The more leads you receive for your monthly budget, the better your return on investment.
With Google Ads, contractors are bidding per click, meaning, they are telling Google what they are willing to pay each time a potential buyer clicks on their Ad. The goal is to pay the lowest Cost Per Click, or CPC that you can but high enough to make it into a top 3 position, at least for a decent percentage of the time. Google doesn’t place 3 companies there and then walk away. The top 3 are rotated throughout the day. What gets companies up there? First and foremost is being a top bidder.
Achieving visibility on a search is just one piece to the puzzle though. Equally as important are your click-through rates (CTR) and your conversion rates. Click-through rates are the percentage of times someone clicks on the link in your Ad to visit the landing page compared to the number of times your Ad is shown (aka impressions). If the Ad is compelling and relevant to what the person is looking for, the click-through rate will be higher. If your CTR is low, you will likely also have a low conversion rate.
And finally, let’s talk about conversion rates. A conversion for some industries may be the collection of information (email or phone number) from a potential buyer that can be added to a telemarketing or email nurturing list. In service contractor industries, a conversion is a lead. Better, with 99 Calls, it is an exclusive lead that is delivered either through a live phone call or email. The better your conversion rate, the more leads you will receive for your monthly budget or advertising investment.
Average Conversion Rate and Why it Matters
The average conversion rate for service contractors using Google Search PPC advertising is 2.35%. This means that out of every 100 customers who click on your Ads, only two to three will actually call you for a quote.
The worst-performing (bottom 25%) campaigns receive a 1% or lower conversion rate. One in four campaigns falls into this bottom category. In fact, nearly half of all people who use Google Ads have a conversion rate lower than 2.5%. Included in these numbers are the do-it-yourselfers who don’t think it’s worth paying the service fee to have a marketing team manage their accounts.
Imagine that your monthly Ads budget is $1000. If the average click for your industry costs $5.00, at a 2.35% conversion rate, you’d get 4-5 leads with your budget if you hire an average marketing company.
The best performing marketing businesses, those in the top 10% of all companies, are averaging an 11.45% conversion rate. If you were using one of them to manage your Ads campaign and had the same $1000 budget and click cost at $5.00 each, you’d achieve 23 leads. That’s over 5x the lead volume for your marketing dollars! That’s why conversion rate matters.
How to Maximize Your Conversion Rate
There is a bright side to Google Ads marketing. People and businesses in the know are able to achieve excellent results with PPC advertising. The best performing marketing businesses, those in the top 10% of all companies, achieve an 11.45% conversion rate. This is far better than the average performer with 5x the lead volume for the same budget.
A small study looked at 124 customers using Google Ads campaigns managed through 99 Calls with a monthly budget of more than $300. The Google Ads specialists at 99 Calls were able to use their in-house PPC advertising system to achieve an average conversion rate across all service contractor (restoration contractors, carpet cleaners, painters, landscapers, appliance repair technicians, electricians, plumbers, HVAC, etc.) industries of 20.43%. Using the same scenario above, these contractors would have achieved 40 leads per $1000 budget, 10x the average PPC customer.
With the increases in online competition, SEO alone often isn’t enough anymore for a growing service business. Many service contractors have turned to PPC advertising to increase their customer base and their revenue. However, with the huge discrepancy between top-performing PPC management firms and low performers, it’s no wonder that many companies have become frustrated with PPC. They have lost trust in Google Ads. They complain that they have burned through their budgets too quickly without results. When every dollar counts, it is crucial that contractors find a top 10% company to handle their Ads campaign. Using a trusted, experienced Google Partner to manage an Ads campaign can literally make the difference between getting one lead for every 100 clicks on your Ads or 20 or more!
When re-evaluating lead generation services for the painting industry for 2022, we found that there are several components that have remained the same with the lead generation vendors over the years while others have changed.
We’ve identified a few factors that have remained constant during the past three years. The first, is that painting contractors continue to express an overall goal of having a steady flow of quality painting leads and the companies reviewed below offer painting lead services. We also know that pay-per-lead services continue to be an excellent means of lead generation for painters, and are being used more frequently in conjunction with SEO or other lead services. The third factor is that painters can still count on many of the same lead generation companies that we evaluated back in 2018 with just a few exceptions. For example, the team at 99 Calls reports the same pricing for exclusive painting leads and the addition of Google Ads PPC to provide more leads faster. A couple of the companies we reported on in 2018 appear to be out of business, but almost all are providing similar services and with similar pricing.
The whole world was shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Everything we once knew was suddenly completely different. Homeowners suddenly had to take additional precautions when it came to who was in their house, some even opting to take the DIY route. Thankfully, many businesses were able to make it through the hardships and consumers are once again calling contractors for house painting.
As we continue moving towards a post-pandemic world, the revenue of the painting industry is expected to grow 3.2% over the next year. (“Painters Industry in the US – Market Research Report”) In order to make the most out of the market growth. You will need to determine what lead generation company is right for you.
There are several different pay-per-lead providers for painting contractors, but the ways in which they operate differ. In order to ensure that you get the highest return on investment (ROI), you’ll need to do your research to find which lead generation company works best for your business model. We took a look at several reputable pay-per-lead providers to help you get started.
Figure 1: How each pay-per-lead website handles lead generation, verification, and distribution
What To Consider When Selecting a Pay-Per-Lead Vendor
To select the best pay-per-lead vendor for your painting business, you should consider the following:
How does the vendor generate painting leads?
Does the vendor verify each lead before selling it to a contractor?
How many contractors are sharing each lead?
What is the price per painting lead?
There’s a lot to consider. Here’s what you should know about these specific terms:
If you have heard of contractors complaining about getting bad leads, then you’d understand the importance of lead source.
Some pay-per-lead vendors deliver higher quality leads that are more likely to turn into clients so you’d want to focus on getting prospects from those sources.
There are many lead sources – some from third-party data sources or come directly from homeowners while others are referrals.
Keep in mind that vendors who offer leads from third-party data sources are essentially buying and re-selling leads, which could mean an increase in cost.
You may need to experiment to see what works best for your business. Keep track of where the leads come from so you can focus on sources that send you the highest quality leads.
Lead Verification System
No smart business owner wants to waste his marketing dollars on bad leads. That’s why having the ability to verify leads before you pay for them is a smart way to make sure you’re spending your money on prospects that are most likely to turn into clients.
Look for vendors that have a lead verification system in place, or provide an easy and fair way to dispute bad leads, so you can be sure that you’re spending your marketing dollars most efficiently.
In the case where a lead vendor has prospects call you directly, find out how to dispute a lead. Often direct leads are recorded and reported. This allows you and the lead vendor to post-qualify leads. You should not have to pay for unqualified leads.
Exclusive Leads vs. Shared Leads
When you share leads with other contractors, the likelihood of winning a client will decrease. You may also get into a bidding war, which can negatively impact your profit margin.
The ROI of shared leads is often not as high compared to exclusive leads, which may cost more but give you a better chance of closing a sale at a higher profit.
Shared leads can work well if you’re looking for an immediate influx of new businesses and have the time and resources to compete (e.g., when business is slow).
Exclusive leads are particularly effective for established painters who have a solid reputation. Many consumers now use the internet to research painting contractors online and pick a winner based on quality reviews rather than price.
It’s not one or the other. Painting contractors can get painting leads from multiple vendors. For instance, an established painting business is likely to use 99Calls.com to generate exclusive painting leads throughout the year and use HomeAdvisor to provide shared leads during slow periods or for select high-value jobs.
Ultimately, you want to make sure that the money you invest in lead generation is paying off. Price-per-lead is an important piece of your customer acquisition cost, and you need to take it into consideration to properly optimize your ROI.
Here is the price per painting lead from our top 8 vendors:
Price per painting lead
$45-$75 / shared lead
$35 / shared lead
Small leads are free
$12-$75 / shared lead
$30-$70 / shared lead
$7-$68 per lead / Varies by location
You are only charged for the leads you receive
Appears to no longer provide leads
Varies based on package
Included with monthly subscription
Packages start at $497/month. You arealso responsible for your Google Ads monthly budget
$20-$45 / shared lead
Plus $35/month profile pro subscription
$29 / exclusive painting lead
Pay only per qualified organic lead, PPC with Google Ads is also available as a separate service
Figure 2: Price-per-lead comparison
Top 8 Pay-Per-Lead Services for Painter Contractors
After reviewing the information above, you likely have a good sense of which vendor is the right fit for your business. Below you can find more details about each vendor as well as the pros and cons of working with them to help you make the best decision:
Lead distribution system: Leads shared by several contractors.
Lead source: Forms on the website and third-party data sources.
It’s the largest and oldest contractor-matching service.
It has the largest number of contractors doing business on the platform, compared with other services.
It has a strong online presence.
It offers a user-friendly interface.
Shared leads … you’ll compete with other contractors on every lead.
The refund policy isn’t the most satisfactory. May get some bad leads and not be credited.
They have a strong online presence, but they won’t help you build yours.
You may pay for more leads than you can handle.
Advice:For every lead that you receive, the corresponding amount will be charged to your account. Manage your profile carefully and remember to turn off the paid leads feature every 14 days if you can’t accommodate clients to avoid paying for too many leads.
Introductory Price: $100 to start receiving leads.
Lead distribution system: Shared by 1-4 contractors.
Lead source: Homeowners submit a request on CraftJack website.
Lead Verification System:As soon as homeowners submit their requests to CraftJack, the system gives them a call to verify that they are in fact real customers. Any lead that contains an invalid or disconnected phone number is automatically rejected.
It utilizes a patent-pending Speed-to-Call discount. When you call a lead within 30 minutes of receiving it, you’ll get 20% off.
Shared leads … you’ll compete with other contractors on every lead
You will often have to be the lowest bid do win the job
Additional Cost: None. Only pay per qualified organic lead (SEO)
Lead distribution system: Exclusive live leads, sent directly to contractor.
Lead source: 99 Calls creates a proven Google optimized website for your painting business that gets you in front of local customers searching for your services.
Expected leads per month: Lead volume is low in the first couple months but steadily increases over the next 2 years. Customers who follow the 99 Calls system can expect 50-150 leads in the first year, and 100-300 leads in the second year.
Exclusive painting leads – customers call you directly.
Additional complimentary services such as managing online listings and reputation management. Your business is listed on prominent directories including Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, Bing Places, Yellowpages.com and more.
Free call tracking and monthly lead report to prove you are receiving quality painting leads.
Simple and easy to dispute unqualified leads.
Now offers Google Ads PPC for faster results for an low montly fee. Contractors set their own budgets.
Lead volume is low in first few months while SEO builds up
Selecting the best pay-per-lead vendor for your painting business can take some trial-and-error. While some painters get great results through one lead provider, others may have a less-than-satisfactory experience with the same vendor.
It’s therefore important to understand the needs of your business and find a painting leads vendor that meets your criteria.
Don’t forget to monitor your marketing metrics to ensure that you’re getting the highest ROI for the resources you invest in lead generation. A reputable vendor should be able to provide you with lead reports to prove you got the painting leads you paid for.