Why you should rethink your website’s importance in construction marketing

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Primera, a Chicago-based engineering design and consulting firm, won the Best Website SMPS 2014 Marketing Communication Award.
Michael Jeffries' service builds websites designed to optimize contractor lead generation. They probably won't win graphic design awards -- but that isn't their intent.
Michael Jeffries’ service builds websites designed to optimize contractor lead generation. They probably won’t win graphic design awards — but that isn’t their intent.

Last week, I had two rather interesting meetings as we prepared to publish the next issue of Ottawa Renovates magazine.

In the first, a successful mid-sized renovation contractor told me why he thinks consumer shows aren’t as effective as they were just a few years ago. “Before, we would set up, and have so many leads we didn’t know what to do with them. We categorized the A, B, and C leads in order of quality, and ended up throwing away most of the Bs. Now, we attend for three days, and see almost nothing.”

The contractor didn’t assert the show had failed, however. He speculated that many people attending the show don’t communicate or share personal information — they instead visit the contractor’s website and do plenty of research before deciding on who to call/contact.

Our second meeting, with the Ottawa Citizen’s advertising representative, included a frank discussion about declining print circulation coupled with the newspaper’s experimentation and progress in developing multiple platforms for its content, including more specialized web and tablet-based publications. (We circulate most copies of Ottawa Renovates with subscriber-purchased copies of the Citizen, in higher-income neighbourhoods. This is a rational approach, of course, to print-based advertising/marketing.)

Not surprisingly, from a media business perspective, I’ve been tasked with bringing the Ottawa Renovates website up to date. And we are doing that now. Behind the scenes, we have picked a new framework/theme, and are preparing to import massive amounts of content to give the site life, search-engine relevance, and advertiser value. The work should be ready in time for the upcoming Fall issue.

You might say, in reading this material: “I’m in the contracting, not media business. What is the relevance for me?”

There are two parts to the answer.

Conventional media hasn’t lost its value — people still read magazines and attend consumer shows — so you don’t need to nor should pull all your advertising dollars from these services. (I’m less convinced about the value of printed directories, such as the Yellow Pages, and offshoot services from the directory publishers, in part because search-engine-based advertising has replaced most of the traditional directory publishers’ functions.)

However, you need to think about the integration between the conventional media and consumer or business-to-business purchasing decisions — and here your website, along with social media — have now taken on increasingly important roles. As well, with the advent of mobile devices, websites that might have been okay three years ago, probably are now really out of date (especially if you have built them on “flash” frameworks, and/or have not designed them to be responsive to different mobile devices.)

Primera, a Chicago-based engineering design and consulting firm, won the Best Website SMPS 2014 Marketing Communication Award.
Primera, a Chicago-based engineering design and consulting firm, won the Best Website SMPS 2014 Marketing Communication Award.

The challenge: How do you create/build your website effectively?

Residential marketing guru Michael Jeffries, in materials promoting his own affiliated web design service, observes there are three typical ways to handle the website development process:

No Cost / Low Cost

Going cheap is never a good idea, especially on the web. These types of on line services tout that you’ll have an on line presence and they range from a glorified business card type of listing to a cheap looking page with Google Ads on the side.

When it comes to making a purchase decision, especially for home contracting jobs, most prospects need more to go on than, “hey, we’re here, come buy from us”.

DIY with Pre Made Templates

There are hundreds of companies offering these types of templates. The problem is that they were designed with a focus on the graphic look.

They may “look pretty”, but you still have to come up with the content for the site AND then become a self-taught SEO expert.

We are quite certain you sub out special trades in your business – why would you try to do this yourself?

Web Design Companies

Usually a full service web design company rarely has any experience or real world proven track record within the contractor industry.

Similar to the templates, their sites are graphic oriented with lots of website bells and whistles and little, if any, consideration for powerful, take action now, marketing content.

It’s not uncommon that the copy for your site is written by an entry-level person or someone halfway around the world that knows NOTHING about your industry and, more importantly, how your prospect thinks!

They may look nice and get decent rankings, but if the content is wrong, filled with generalities and platitudes – this is why you may get a decent amount of visitors but very few calls.

Remember: You want more conversion (calls) NOT more visitors.

Jeffries, of course, advocates contracting with his service — combining best website/search engine optimization practices with a contractor focus. And I think that this sort of investment (not “cheap” in comparison to the near-free or DIY options ) certainly is worthwhile, especially for contractors redirecting their former Yellow Pages budgets. There are other services with a contractor focus, as well, and I think the best way to discover these is to have conversations with non-competing peers in other markets. You can meet/connect with them through your travels and/or national associations.

Note that an ideal design for a residential contractor seeking direct sales leads may be very different from from a professional service organization or an architect, engineer or contractor seeking major multi-million dollar projects. Here, at most, the website will be the starting point for a much longer process and its value may seem more distant and less obvious in terms of business generation. On the other hand, your percentage cost in building a truly well-designed website should be relatively low.

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