Don’t Let Your Business Go Into Hibernation This Winter
by Devon Osborne
As the weather changes from season to season, everyone’s needs shift with them. If you’re in the dead of winter in New England, you’re likely not looking to paint the outside of your home or have it pressure washed. As fall approaches, contractors typically see their calendars less scheduled out. You may be wondering, “How can I keep my calendar booked with jobs during the winter months to keep my business afloat?”
SEO is not always enough to keep businesses busy in the colder months. Ranking organically takes time and effort and pre-planning. To be successful during “off” times, you need to be thinking about what services you want to push months in advance if you want to be seen on the first page of Google.
If you have not modified your organic service offerings yet, all is not lost. Changing your service offerings with the seasons is a great way to keep a steady stream of revenue coming in for your business no matter what time of year. It takes just a little planning and strategy.
How Google Ads Can Help
Instead of letting your business hibernate this winter, try running a streamlined Google Ads campaign for your most profitable winter services. Doing so will help get your business to the first page much quicker. Pay Per Click Google Ads are a great tool for boosting your lead volume. By running an ads campaign, you will have the ability to promote your services more aggressively and keep your revenue stream flowing. You can choose exactly what services you’d like to allocate your budget to in order to be seen more often by potential customers and get more calls for quotes.
Some of the most popular services that our Google Ads specialists target for contractors in the winter months include:
Ice Dam Removal
Heating System Checks
If you optimize your Google Ads campaign and are competitive with your budget and bids, you will likely start to see those calls start coming through within a few weeks. There are many components to running a successful PPC campaign. If you’re not confident that you have the proper knowledge to run a profitable ads campaign on your own, consider hiring a PPC agency instead. Utilizing a company with a proven track record of getting leads using this method can save you time and money in the long run and allow you to focus on service delivery.
If you are like other small service businesses that depend on inbound leads, you likely have some experience with Google Ads, whether from your own efforts or working with a marketing company. Many business owners report having negative experiences with running Google Ads on their own. Other experiences have been downright traumatizing. The most common issue was low return on investment. Contractors overwhelmingly complained that they spend a lot of money on Ads but did not gain many new customers.
The DIY Ads Campaign
If you are not running a Google Ads campaign yourself, chances are you are buying leads from a third party. And chances are they are running an Ads campaign to generate those leads, and then selling them to to you at a huge margin. Buying leads this way can be very expensive for a small business. But so can the DIY Ads campaign if you aren’t optimizing your ads.
Running a PPC campaign on your own can be overly expensive as well. Although Google goes to great lengths to convince people that running ads is simple and lucrative, that is not always the case. Running Ads is not for the novice or the risk-averse. Online marketing is a career path that requires incredible amounts of knowledge and ongoing learning to stay abreast of the ever-changing advertising climate. That said, it is possible to learn the skills to manage your own Google PPC campaign.
There are several things that the average business owner can do if they are determined to run an online PPC campaign for their business.
Here are 11 proven points to review when working on your Google Ads campaign
1. Determine your goals. Some businesses use Google Ads to increase customer awareness of their product. Some are working to build a contact list. If you are a small service-oriented business, you probably have a very specific goal: Get the greatest number of leads possible at the lowest cost per lead. Once you have set your goal, you’ll have a better chance of achieving it because you can focus on the efforts that will get you there and ignore the noise. If you are a service business, you probably will not be investing in display ads, as search Ads produce more consumers who are ready to buy now. You’ll have to determine for yourself the definition of a lead, but the team at 99 Calls defines it as a consumer who contacts you for a quote for a service you provide in an area you service.
2. Build a solid Ad. Make sure you highlight what makes you stand out from your competition. Use compelling verbs that showcase the benefits of calling you. Google recommends creating 3-5 ads. Over time they will show the one or two most often that resonate best with your target audience. Be sure to follow Google’s policies in order for your ad to get shown.
3. Research what search keywords to use. Although it may seem like a great idea to add as many keywords as possible to bring in as much traffic as possible, that is not the case. Instead, it is better to add in high-quality, relevant keywords. Remember that this is a case of quality over quantity. Pay attention to your quality score, as the higher your quality score, the lower your cost per lead will be. The goal of each keyword is to bring in clicks from people who intend to buy services you provide. Bad keywords bring in bad searches and lead to money spent without a return on investment.
4. Determine your target pricing. Learn how much leads are going for in your area for your service. If you are a roofer in Miami, do the legwork to determine how much roof repair and roof replacement leads typically cost on Google searches. Knowing what a lead should cost will help you determine your budget.
5. Set a monthly and daily budget you can live with, but remember, you’ve got to invest money to make money. Setting your budget too low is likely to end in a loss because your ad will not be shown frequently enough to generate the lead volume you’re after. Setting a daily budget too high will burn through your monthly budget very quickly. A high budget and keywords that are too broad will result in lots of impressions and clicks, but few legitimate leads. You also should know your close rate before getting started so you can determine your actual cost to acquire a new job. For example, if you know that the going rate in your area is $50 per lead and you close one in every three leads, you will spend $150 on average to acquire each new customer. So if you want to obtain 10 new jobs this month, your budget should be $1500. You’d expect to get 30 inbound leads and close 10 jobs.
6. Remove negative keywords. You will learn a great deal by reviewing what users searched for to come to your ads. It will help you to identify keywords that are generating clicks those that don’t show intent to buy your service. You’ll want to continually review your keywords and add those “bad clicks” to your negative keyword list. In addition, decide whether you should remove your competitors’ names as negative keywords. Some contractors choose to allow, or even promote the names of competing businesses as keywords. There is some logic to this. Some business names are so universal that they are used as household names. For example, people say they are going to buy a Coke, meaning they are going to buy a soft drink. Serve Pro is a name commonly used in the restoration industry. When someone has experienced a water damage emergency, they may search “Serve Pro” because they know they need a restoration professional. They may be just as happy speaking with Joe’s Restoration Service, but that name probably doesn’t immediately come to mind. So, should you use a competitor name as a keyword? If you or your answering service have solid sales abilities and are able to turn that call into an appointment, then it makes sense to include those keywords. If this isn’t the case and you are uncomfortable receiving calls potentially intended for a competitor, then enter all competitor names as negative keywords. You’ll want to do a search of all of the competitors in your area that people may search for. As an example, the team at 99 Calls includes at least 100 names in a negative keyword list after doing research in each locale.
7. Keep it relevant. Your ad must match the page where searchers land. If you are advertising your HVAC service and are talking about AC repairs in your ad, be careful not to send users to a heating page or a general home page. If you have a landing page about AC repair services, you are presenting a highly relevant Ad and your chances of it being shown more frequently will improve.
8. Provide an easy experience for your consumers. If someone is searching for a roof repair, send them to a roof repair page. It should be visually appealing. The consumer should instantly recognize that they found the information they were looking for. They should feel confident in your abilities. They should also have easy access to you, either by a simple form or highly visible phone number to call. If you are able to further entice them with a promotion or special price, you’ll likely experience a higher conversion rate (the percentage of people who contact you after landing on your page).
9. Give them a reason to call you. Once a consumer clicks your ad and ends up on your landing page, it should be easy for them to call you with a simple and accessible phone number or form. What’s more, you’ll want to give them a reason to call. If you have images of your great work on the page, you’ll give them confidence that you can handle their job as well. You might also add one or two excellent testimonials that people have written about your service.
10. ANSWER the call! We are always amazed at the number of contractors who go through the time and expense of setting or paying to have a Google Ads campaign set up, only to not be available to answer when leads call! If you don’t answer the phone, or at least call the customer back very quickly, your efforts are for nothing. You’ve already paid Google for that click, and the potential customer is already calling the next contractor in their search. If you are not regularly able to answer your calls, having a receptionist is worth the investment. Another excellent solution is to employ a lead company to provide a system of 2-way texting, auto-responses and nurturing so that your potential customers are acknowledged instantly when you aren’t available.
11. Know when to hire an expert. Across the board, the average conversion rate for Google search campaigns is 3.17%. This includes everything from the sole proprietor carpet cleaning business owner to the top lead generation firm in the country. However, top-performing online marketing pros can garner 10, 15, or even 20% + conversion rates for service contractors. If you’ve given a DIY campaign an honest try but can’t seem to bring in the return on your investment that you hoped for, calling a reputable lead generation company can help. Check online reviews, ask your colleagues, and be sure to hire a firm you trust can deliver.
Most roofers set their sights on getting inbound leads for roof replacements, or commercial roof installations: the most sought-after types of roofing leads. What some business owners fail to realize is that roof repair leads can be equally as valuable to a growing business.
We get these questions a lot! “Why do I keep getting leads for roof repairs when I really want replacement calls? So many calls for cracked shingles or shingles blown off in a storm are a waste of time. How do I get more roof installation or full replacement leads?”
Limitations of Roofing Lead Generation
Is your goal to grow your roofing business? Are you hoping to hone in on niche areas such as commercial only or roof replacement jobs?
Focusing a Google Ads or even an SEO campaign to exclusively target people who have an insurance claim or those calling from a business is near impossible to get right 100% of the time. Why? Because people often don’t search that specifically for what they are after. They have a problem or question in mind and they type it into their Google Browser. Things like “Roof repair” or “Roofing contractor near me” or “roofing services” are commonly used search terms. Also, keep in mind that many people are wishing that their roof troubles will require repair work rather than a full-blown reroof job!
That’s where the expertise of the roofer (like you) comes in. If you aren’t willing to accept that pesky call about roof repairs, you may miss the fact that the roof is 40 years old or that it’s leaking in multiple places. All of these facts would come out during the phone investigation, or when you’re on-site taking a look at the damage.
The purpose of online advertising is to put your company front and center, on the first page of a Google search for a good majority of times in the top position of searches in the paid ads section if you’re going that route, or in that coveted top position in the maps section or in the organic search results. A great online marketing company will get you there, positioned above your competition. They will include a compelling call to action, help you post social proof in the form of some great customer testimonials and include photos of your work – anything to build confidence in the potential buyer so that you are seen as the guy who can solve his roofing problem.
Why Take the Roof Repair Leads?
Once that call is made or email is sent (AKA you got the lead), the rest is up to you. You’ll use your professionalism to ask the right questions to determine the size and scope of the roofing job. You’ll want to know the age and status of the roof and what occurred. You can then decide if you’d like photos sent or whether it makes sense to go out and have a look. You’ll also be first in line if it is determined that the roof has served out its useful life and it’s time for a replacement. And if you’ve been easy to work with up to that point, you will probably land the job.
Why Waiting For Replacement Jobs Leaves Money on the Table
Of course, those re-roof leads are gold. The lifetime value of a replacement job is way higher than a couple of repairs. However, the ROI on your investment may be just as good.
For example, for a reroof, you’ve got to send a whole team, cover transportation and breaks for all of them. It’s big money and usually done within one day or two. Roof repairs can be done by one tech or a team of two, faster and with less down time and travel time. If charged appropriately, the return can be just as high.
Factors to Consider With Roofing Jobs
Lead Cost: The average lead for a roof installation is Roof repair leads are often far less expensive to buy than installation leads. For example, the nationwide average lead cost for roof repairs is between $42 and $64 each. The average cost of a residential roof replacement lead with most lead generation companies is $100 – $180. The team at 99 Calls generates exclusive organic roofing leads for a flat rate of $49 each, whether repair or replacement. Why the lower flat rate? We don’t expect you to trust marketing companies to develop customer relationships! That’s your area of expertise! We leave it up to the professional contractors to answer the live calls and close the deals.
Lead prices using PPC are far less predictable than with organic channels. The average cost of a roofing lead via Google Ads PPC campaigns with 99 Calls is $97.
Revenue: It is very true that roof installation jobs generate much more money than roof repairs. The average roof replacement brings in $12,000, where the average roof repair comes in at $980. And those small repair jobs generally bring in just $350. That said, you’d much rather handle a reroof a day than go out on 5 repair jobs, right? It all depends. Revenue alone doesn’t give the whole picture. What matters at the end of the day is the amount that stays in your bank account (AKA profit margin).
Profit Margin: By the time you pay your labor force and the cost of supplies, many contractors have little left. An article posted from roofing.com claims that the biggest problem roofing contractors face is underbidding jobs and not making enough profits. The average profit margin on a new roof is between 6% and 10%. There isn’t much room to raise pricing on a roof installation. The competition is fierce and many people underbid themselves because there’s always someone willing to bid lower to win the job. Many commercial jobs, especially if they are municipalities, are required to go with the lowest bid. When a roofer wins a job with a low margin, they’ve got to go very lean on labor and supplies and the temptation to make cuts is very real.
How to Win With Roof Repairs
The bidding for roof repairs is often different. According to Forbes, the price to complete roof repairs is often a fraction of the cost for installs. The cost of supplies is far lower. There are also many times more roof repair jobs available than replacement jobs, and competition is much lower. A professional roofing contractor who goes after roof repair jobs can often name his price, and it’s usually bid based on an hourly rate + materials. By charging by the hour (or at least basing your bid on an hourly rate), you get to set your own profit margin. You know what your labor costs are per hour, and you can add the cost of materials needed.
What does all this mean? That you can earn more money with less time and a leaner labor force by working those roof repair leads. Completing 4 roof repair leads can bring in close to $4000. Completing one roof installation can bring in $10,000. But what if your profit margin is 25% on the repairs and 10% on the installation (which would be typical)? Your profit on the repairs and on the installation is $1000. In the end, roof repairs offer less revenue by higher margins.
Additional benefits of taking on roof repair leads:
Saying “yes” to the job gets your foot in the door to get called back for additional work. This will build your customer base and work pipeline.
Roof repair jobs can keep bringing in a good flow of revenue, even during the slower times of the year.
Profit margins may still be robust if you’ve got smaller, more agile crews
Keeping great workers on your payroll by filling days up with roof repairs will keep them happy and gainfully employed.
Roof repairs are great for the bottom line of a growing business
Is your team equipped to install gutters, siding or windows? If you provide other kinds of exterior remodeling this is your chance to upsell the customer or give them the benefit of your expert services.
Sometimes waiting for the perfect job to come along causes us to pass on lucrative opportunities in front of us. Next time you receive a call for a roof repair, think twice before turning it down. Give those less than idea leads that come your way a chance; you never know what can come of them!
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.
The owner of CSK Appliance Repair, Shawn Thompson, initially called 99 Calls lead generation through a Google search in July of 2021. He had an appetite for a high lead volume to support his goals for business growth. Shawn found 99Calls.com when he searched for appliance repair leads in Georgia and called to learn more about the program.
Shawn was hesitant at first, and rightly so. He had tried several different companies and none performed to his expectations and objectives. He felt they were not listening to him and not willing to consider his input and suggestions. As the owner of CSK, he understood that no one knew his business better than he did. He was looking for a partner who would work with him to help him achieve his goals.
We tracked CSK Appliance Repair’s performance after six months of using the 99 Calls system. We recently reviewed those results with Shawn to gain his perspective on how pleased he was with the quality and quantity of leads generated, as well as any other feedback. He mentioned that 99 Calls’ superior customer service in applying his feedback, following up on performance updates, and actually performing to get him results is what kept and will continue to keep Shawn as a customer.
Google Ads Setup and Campaign Development
Shawn has owned and operated CSK, an appliance repair company in Atlanta, Georgia for 13 years. Because he has an established business and directory listings in place, as well as SEO efforts from elsewhere, Shawn decided to have the lead generation team run an “Ads Only” campaign, rather than adding lead generation via SEO as well, (which produces leads much cheaper at $9.99 each, but takes longer, often many months, to ramp up).
The primary services he offers and chose to target are refrigerator repair, dryer repair, washer repair, oven and range repair, and all premium appliance brand repairs. To test the waters, he set his initial monthly advertising budget to $500 and raised it to $1500 after the first month, when he was already seeing results and gaining trust with his lead team.
Initial Obstacles and Challenges
Early challenges the team had to overcome were to work within a small monthly budget but also get the volume Shawn was hoping for. Once we established a reliable estimated cost per lead we were able to realistically set an accurate daily budget that could hit the maximum number of leads he was wanting to receive. One other small challenge that required frequent communication and a keen ear was to pinpoint the towns that Shawn wanted to target while staying within 20 miles from home.
Results: Measurement of Google Ads Performance Over Six Months
Shawn began his lead generation with a small monthly budget of $500, but quickly raised the budget to $1500 in the second month and continued raising his budget as high as his growth rate would allow. The chart above demonstrates normal fluctuations that we see as we set up and refine a campaign. Notice that the lead generation metrics have evened out in the most recent six months.
Performance Metrics for CSK Appliance Repair between March 2021 and August 2021 are as follows:
Total Investment: $17,152.97
Total Conversions” 982
Conversion Rate 30.20%
Average Cost Per Click: $5.27
Average Cost Per Lead: $17.47
Shawn is now working with his 99 Calls Google Ads specialist and has trusted him with an unlimited monthly budget and a $250 daily spend, which holds the maximum monthly spend to under $10,000. Shawn worked up to this budget after seeing his lead volume increase steadily month over month while his cost to acquire new customers (CPA) has decreased to a very desirable cost.
Impact of Performance on Business Growth
Shawn is thrilled that he can achieve a high lead volume each month and pay under $18.00 per lead. The rapid increase in leads, paired with expertise and professionalism that allows him to enjoy an extremely high close rate has allowed him to grow his business substantially. Since starting with 99 calls six months ago, Shawn has then hired 6 additional service technicians. He has also increased his territory to 30 miles and has established a closing rate at 90% of all leads generated from his Google Ads.
We asked Shawn in retrospect why he decided to try 99 Calls back then. Shawn said, “If you want a good suit you go to a tailor, and that is what I did, with all the research I did on companies I knew 99 Calls was my tailor”.
For more information about Google Ads for Appliance Repair businesses or for another service area business, contact the 99 Calls lead team at 800-717-4669 or visit 99Calls.com.
Diesel on Demand is an ASE-certified mobile mechanic business located in Nevada. Its owner, Corey, found 99 Calls through an online search of lead generation companies. He offers niche services that required custom content writing and a creative approach to building a Google Ads campaign to generate highly targeted customers.
Corey explained the heart of his business in this way, “We have experience working on commercial equipment of most models and engines. We offer on-site services at customers’ facilities. This saves time and is more cost-effective than having them drop off equipment and wait in line. We also offer preventative maintenance services for fleet vehicles, such as oil changes.” The ASE certification means he is fully equipped with tools and knowledge to work on a wide range and variety of vehicles.
Corey’s goal of generating more business for recurring commercial fleet services was a fun challenge for the content writing team at 99 Calls as we originally thought his business was more similar to AAA or another roadside assistance program. We learned that the primary target market for Diesel on Demand was a bit more focused. Corey strives to earn the business of repeat customers for fleet services and serve as an “on-call” diesel engine expert for contracted fleet services.
Research and Development of the Campaign
After careful research, our Google Ads team discovered that “fleet service” and “commercial vehicle mechanic” are low-search-volume terms. “Diesel mechanic” is a medium/high volume search term as it is a specialty trade and is fairly competitive. “Mobile mechanic” is a high-volume search term that may be used by people who don’t want to pay for a tow truck or by people in search of a unique experience with a roadside mechanic.
Las Vegas is an ideal location as there are many major trucking companies and a robust market for large commercial vehicles needing fleet services.
The Ads team chose the keywords most appropriate for the campaign and sent a request for our content team to write unique page sets around the chosen keywords. In this way, the pages written were expected to have high relevance because we wrote the content specifically with the target audience in mind.
We built the campaign on June 24th of this year and initially also targeted the broader “mobile mechanic” keywords so that Corey could begin to receive calls very quickly. After just a few days, we turned off the keyword group because the calls were not helpful in terms of building the repeat recurring business that Corey was looking for. It is interesting to note that the CPC on “mobile mechanic” clicks was surprisinglylow ($6.43 per click) for this small pool of data.
Given the typical conversion rate of other 99 Calls Google Ads Campaigns, we would expect that the average cost per lead would be well under $30 for mobile mechanics. We’ll use this data to work with mobile mechanic businesses in the future as the ROI on these one-off personal vehicle mobile calls, would likely be favorable.
July Google Ads Performance
Ad Groups: Diesel Services & Commercial Fleet Services
Conversion Rate: 24.62%
The total spend for the month was $440, which reflects the very niche market we targeted. The percentage of time that the ad was shown was actually quite high, indicating that we achieved maximum visibility within the market. Very few undesired clicks were recorded, which means that the goal of hitting the highly targeted audience was successful and resulted in generating the desired exclusive leads.
The Ads team achieved 16 conversions at a conversion rate just under 25%, with an average cost per conversion (CPC) of $27.50. This number represents the CPC after removing the high volume of mobile mechanic conversions and the total price increased just $6.77.
Examples of July Conversions (Leads):
Church Bus Broken
Billboard Truck Repair
Mercedes Sprinter Diesel Van Repair
Moving Box Trucks
Diesel Pickup (transport company)
Ram Truck Dealership (manager)
Ford Diesel Pickup
Food Truck Services
These are just the calls where we can make a clear analysis of the nature of the call. Our team records all calls for verification of the quality of the leads. However, when potential customers don’t leave a detailed message, we are unable to capture the nature of the lead. Corey’s relatively small initial budget yielded at least 16 qualified leads, averaging $27.50 each. Corey was quite pleased with the results from his first month of lead generation services and has made back his initial investment for setup and then some!
We will continue to follow Diesel on Demand (https://diesel-on-demand.com/) and report on Google Ads ROI as well as on the organic lead generation service that we are providing simultaneously. Spoiler alert: Month two lead volume is shaping up to be 50% higher than month one.
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.
“I’ve got $750 budgeted for marketing, but I need to see real results. How can I grow my business on a tight budget?”
Which gives the best value in lead generation; SEO or Pay Per Click?
Don’t Limit Your Revenue Channels. Here’s How to Get the Best of Both:
Start With a Well-Optimized Website
Organic inbound leads through SEO generally give you the best return on your online advertising investment because the leads are exclusive and delivered in real-time. Potential customers see your page and call you directly. When SEO is done right, businesses are showcased in front of customers who are ready to buy. When landing pages are optimized for user experience, well-placed calls to action (CTA) entice people to call for a quote or submit a form. Consumers, whether homeowners or businesses, search online for the services they need. They generally click the top businesses that come up on the first page of the search results.
Contractors who answer their phones and are professional and knowledgeable will get the call and provide a bid. If they are great at sales, they will often exude confidence and competence and win the job on the spot.
Exclusive organic leads are generally more expensive (usually twice the price) than those shared leads that are sold to 4-6 contractors, such as by Homeadvisor or Thumbtack. Paying for exclusive leads is usually worth the extra cost because the quality of leads and the potential for closing them are much higher. Therefore, your customer acquisition cost may actually be lower than getting them through shared leads. You won’t be as likely to deal with tire kickers to have to enter the bidding wars that drive down revenue and diminish your closing rate, either.
So why not just stick with SEO for lead generation if they are the highest quality leads? Ranking highly online has become more difficult in recent years. The competition to take those coveted top spots on Google’s first page is tighter than ever, and Google has designated more of the 1st page real estate to feature their own paid ads. There are still ways to get to the top, but it’s more complicated and time-consuming. That’s not to say it isn’t worth the effort.
Choosing a reputable online marketing company to help you navigate Google’s ever-changing algorithms is key, and there are a few stand-out lead generation companies that specialize in working with small businesses with lean budgets. Do your research, and check to make sure you won’t be locked into lengthy contracts or be hit with hidden fees or uncovered expenses. Find a company that charges for their performance, rather than a flat fee (whether they produce leads or not).
How to Build an Online Presence
Here are the first steps in enhancing your online presence and getting inbound leads:
1. Start with a professional website with the following attributes:
Keep it clean and simple (flash and movement cause pages to load much more slowly, which will negatively affect rankings). Load times have recently been identified as a major factor ranking highly on Google. The benchmark is getting pages to load in less than 2 seconds.
State what you do and where you do it. Sounds pretty basic, but try to avoid excessive stock photos and “catchy” phrases.
Know your keywords. What are the primary services you offer? What are the locations within your territory?
2. Build andSync up your listings (All online listings and directories should use the same company name, address, phone, etc.) Utilize the free directory listings with Google My Business (GMB), Houzz, Yelp, Manta, etc.
3. Get great reviews (It’s not enough to be on the first page of Google anymore. Those who hold the best positions usually have lots of positive reviews. Send your happy customers a link to your GMB listing and ask for positive reviews after a job well done.)
4. Keep your content fresh by adding content such as more in-depth information and original photos of your work to your website, your listings, and your Facebook Business page and post special offers to entice potential customers to call you. You can also post your specials on your Google My Business listing.
Trying DIY vs. Hiring an Organic Lead Service Provider
If you are tech savvy, have plenty of time to devote to marketing and already have a solid website, you may be able to manage these steps on your own. If you need assistance, shop for a service provider that offers low introductory specials. There are specials to be had. Some lead companies offer deep discounts to get you in the door for a low price and will work to prove their value and earn your business. Check online reviews, ask for references and go with one that has a good track record for delivering on promises.
Patience is Key with organic lead generation. It takes months to rank on the first page of Google for the keywords that pay, and even longer to see a steady stream of inbound leads. Starting with a budget-friendly lead generation program is a great way to get started on low-priced leads. This process will build over time, but it won’t be enough to grow a new business in the short run.
Another option is to find a low-cost lead generation company that can deliver leads at low prices. There are a few companies that offer a pay for performance structure, meaning you’d only be charged for the qualified leads you receive each month.
Supercharge Results With Smart Google Ads Campaigns
While you are waiting for your SEO lead site to begin delivering consistent results, you can supplement with a conservative Google Ads (pay per click) campaign. Be very careful here. Contractors’ #1 complaints with Google Ads or the companies that manage them is that they burn through cash much too quickly without seeing a return on investment. Choose a company that cares about your budget and will watch it like a hawk!
One suggestion for promoting your business as cost-effectively as possible is to begin an organic campaign in conjunction with running a conservative Google Ads campaign. This will allow the SEO component to begin to ramp up (takes 4-8 months to reap the full benefits) and will get some targeted leads coming in sooner. The trick is to have a well-managed pay-per-click campaign. If working with Google Ads sounds too expensive, take a look at this case study done by our team at 99 Calls. They helped get a carpet cleaning business found on Google searches and supplemented their long-term strategy with a low budget, well-targeted Google Ads PPC campaign to give them the best bang for their buck.
Showing in both the Ads section and the organic section on the first page of a Google search is a highly coveted prize. When people see the paid ad at the top of the page and don’t click it and then see the same company name below in the organic section, they are more likely to click that less expensive organic link. See the example here:
DIY for Google Ads?
Can I run Google Ads on my own? Sure, you can. But there are many intricacies to setting up an Ads campaign that can be very costly if not done properly. If you want to go it alone, our recommendation is to take the time to complete Google’s free online training course. Another option is to choose a company with a great reputation and low service fee (yes, they are out there, really!)
How to Allocate a $750 Online Advertising Budget
The team at 99 Calls recommends starting with organic lead generation and then supplementing with a low-budget Google Ads campaign. Another option is to begin a low-budget LSA (Local Search Advertising), but we’ll save this for another presentation.
As an example, the cost to set up both organic advertising and Google Ads PPC as a bundle package with 99 Calls is $350. We’d then recommend using the remaining $400 for your Google Ads budget. Depending on the service you offer and the area where you are located, this budget should be enough to gain solid results within the first few weeks of advertising.
Month two will allow you more funds to use for your Google budget. Once you have spent $150 in Google Ads, you will be eligible for a $150 credit to apply toward your second month. As an example, the service fee at 99 Calls is $150 or 15% of your prior month’s spend. So with that same $750 budget, you can apply your $150 credit, pay your service fee and still get $750 worth of clicks. Our expectation is that you’ll receive a healthy volume of leads over your first two months and will be prepared to use your new earnings from jobs won toward future months of advertising. Google Ads offers the flexibility to ramp up slowly or as quickly as your business can manage.
You will also notice that the cost per acquisition will decrease over time. This is because your Ads team will review all leads each day and feed results back to Google on the quality of the clicks. We’re essentially “training” Google to send you only the clicks with a high intent to purchase your services. In addition, negative keywords will be added and ads will be refined. You will benefit from these actions because as the clicks become more accurate, your conversion rate will increase, which decreases the price you’ll pay to acquire a new customer.
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!