Contractor Advertising: The Comprehensive Guide to Running Successful Contractor Ad Campaigns (2021)
You don’t have to be a master marketer to craft an advertising plan that brings in new business and matches your budget. Read on to discover how to run successful campaigns on multiple platforms.
We can all agree word of mouth is a wonderful thing, right?
And so are signs you can stick in the front yard or by the curb after a job well done.
But while both of these *technically* count as advertising, they don’t take into account the most important feature of an ad campaign – an audience.
To grow your business and run a successful ad campaign you need to find your audience, whether they’re on Facebook, Google, Instagram or somewhere else entirely.
If marketing isn’t your thing, running an ad campaign might seem incredibly daunting. Who has time to research ads, figure out where or what to post, and still run a successful construction company?
Turns out you do (and you don’t need to give up your weekends to do it).
You can grow your business using the resources you have and a little bit of extra effort. Much of the hard yards come down to initial advertising set up, but that’s why we put together this comprehensive guide. to walk you through why advertising matters and how you can start using it today.
Best of all, many of these ad tips can be set up and left to run while you’re on the job site. But make sure you keep your phone on you…because it’s about to start ringing a whole lot more.
Do I need to run a construction ad campaign?
If you want regular work and new business, then yes.
Advertising isn’t a quick fix for contractors running short on work. Advertising is the foundation of successful contractors to ensure your brand is known, your company is trusted, your calendar is full of bookings, and your bottom line is healthy.
Remember, no contractor can guarantee leads forever. In a market that experiences upheaval along with the economy, real estate market, and costs of raw materials, it’s helpful to create leads and clients on tap – and advertising is how you do it.
Four questions to answer before you set up your ad campaign
The who, what, where, and when of contractor advertising will be a unique blend of factors for each business owner.
Before you set up an ad campaign, no matter what platform you choose, you’ll need to answer the following crucial questions.
How do customers find you?
If you don’t know the answer to this one, you should start asking your current clients.
Did they hear about you from a friend of a friend or look you up in the phone book? (And are phone books even a thing anymore?)
Take stock of how you are already gaining traction and then consider the cost of paying to advertise on those platforms, or whether your spend would be better used elsewhere. For example, if you get organic leads through Facebook, consider running Facebook ads. Or, if you get the bulk of your leads through your website, consider running Google Ads to bring in more search engine traffic.
Ask yourself which of your current lead-gen methods are working for you? And how much do they actually cost you? Don’t forget to factor your own time into the equation.
You’ll want to make sure that anything that is working stays part of the plan. Anything that is less than helpful might be worth cutting, at least for now, to focus on new outreach ideas.
What advertising do you already have in place?
Advertising isn’t just running a print ad in the local paper or a banner at the top of a popular blog (although that’s certainly part of it).
Advertising is also about awareness.
Just like you might find that people find you from referrals or those business cards you left on the counter at the local coffee shop, they can learn about you through your existing website and business listings.
The key here is to make sure your current advertising is working for you to their fullest potential. For example, your website should tell your story: who you are, what you offer, and how to get in touch. And any mentions of your business online should match no matter where they appear, such as a Google My Business listing.
Note: If you don’t have a website, you need to organize this before reading on. Website builders (like Pedestal) can help you create a website with ready-made contracting templates so you don’t need any experience – all in less than an hour.
When do you want to start bringing in new customers?
In a bit of a slump or having trouble getting your company off the ground? You’ll want to consider quicker contractor advertising ideas to get leads to come in faster.
Paid ads and event sponsorships can be great options for this (more on both later). You can also dial up – or down – the ad spend dollars to increase exposure when you need it most.
If the plan is to keep a steady flow of new leads coming over the long term, search engine optimization (SEO) and content can be a great fit. And you can always pair these with paid ads in proportion to your budget.
Where can you add yourself to the conversation?
Already running ads in the local paper? Great!
What about doubling down on a video commercial or radio spot?
Start thinking like your ideal customer and where your brand should be for a potential client to be more likely to bump into you.
As a local contracting business, you’ll also want to connect with your community. You can target specific areas based on certain services you offer or want to do more work in. If you’re a general contractor advertising to commercial projects rather than residential, how can you start to build up your network or get in front of these folks?
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Contractor advertising strategies to generate traffic, leads and new business
OK, we’ve asked you to ask yourself a lot of questions at this point. The result is hopefully a clearer picture of what works for you now, what definitely does not work, and an idea of where or how fast you need to advertise.
With all of this in mind, you can start to explore and implement contractor advertising strategies to fit into your unique business blend. These include:
Google Ads (Local Service Ads)
Social Media Ads (Facebook and Instagram)
Traditional Ads (aka ‘Old School’ techniques)
Let’s unpack each option and find a way to make them work for your business.
Google Ads (Local Service Ads)
It makes sense to market to the people in the area that you service. That’s where local ads come into play – you can run ads based on geographic areas.
Let’s take a common example. Someone looking to add an extra bedroom on their house may search for, “renovation companies near me” or “general contractor services”. If you provide that particular service in that geo targeted area, your ad will appear.
Potential customers can click to learn more about you, visit your website, or even call you directly through the ad.
These are great outcomes because people who may never have known your business existed can learn about you. And since they’re actively searching, they probably have a specific project in mind or ready to get started.
TRADIE DIGITAL TIP: The best Google Ads include clear contact information and concise text that says what you provide in as few words as possible.
Social Media Ads
While most users think of Google as the go-to place for paid ads, social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are giving Google a run for its money.
Sure, users may not be going to their Facebook News Feed to look for a contractor. But we all spend roughly 145 minutes each day on these platforms, and the contracting problems people have are still floating around their head while they browse their social media feed.
Why not advertise where these people are and remind them that YOUR contracting business has a solution to their problems?
With literally BILLIONS of users, you’ll want to target your Facebook and Instagram ads to your locale. You can also narrow down who sees your ads based on other criteria captured in their profiles such as age and interests.
TRADIE DIGITAL TIP: The best ads on Facebook and Instagram rely on graphics (think pictures of a job well done or amazing structure) and offer an incentive to readers (like a free estimate or eBook).
Digital is a big piece of the marketing pie, but it isn’t the only avenue to explore.
Traditional advertising, or any mass media that isn’t website based, still has its advantages.
This can range from running a commercial on a local TV station to throwing an ad up on a giant billboard along the nearby interstate. These tend to be a better fit for brand awareness rather than lead generation, but your customers need to learn about you and trust you before they’ll commit to a sale, so don’t underestimate the value of awareness.
TRADIE DIGITAL TIP: Traditional advertising should showcase a clear advantage to choosing you (e.g. pricing, reputation, speed, etc) and make it easy for people to get in touch, usually via phone.
Go local or go home.
Your customers are right there in your community, on your street, and probably at the town fair, YMCA expo, or Girl Scout Cookie Drive.
You’re already there. You just need to make it clear that your business is, too.
Keep tabs on local events by following community and association boards or checking the local paper.
There may even be a Facebook Group for your town or city. Consider reaching out to schools, community centers, and other groups and ask what they have coming up and how you can help. Sponsorships can get your logo up in lights or on signs and give you a chance to spread the word about your company.
TRADIE DIGITAL TIP: When advertising at community events, make sure to include a crisp, clean logo and easy-to-ready contact details including a website and/or phone number. You can also offer a discount for event attendees if they book a consultation before a certain date to create a sense of urgency.
As more people move away from standard cable and more toward the internet, online video is in demand.
Get creative and create a video commercial that explains what your business offers to attract attention and cash in on those engagement numbers. You can serve these up on YouTube and target viewers based on geography, interests and a range of detailed demographics.
TRADIE DIGITAL TIP: The best video ads are short, personable, and focus on how the customer can benefit (not why your company is so great). The worst crime a video ad can commit is to be boring, so focus on being memorable and offering value.
Is contracting advertising expensive?
Ideally, the hard costs of construction advertising will be offset by the new revenue you’ll generate from all your new clients.
It’s always confronting to look at a Facebook Ad campaign or Google Ad campaign and see the expenditure, but when you start to see these figures as investments to generate more revenue coming the other way, it’s easier to get started.
Contractor advertising costs are going to vary based on a few key factors, so there’s no one-size-fits-all number to plug into your budget. But you can get a rough estimate by factoring in:
Whether you run an online or print ad campaign
Whether you pay by click or impression
The competition for your target keywords
The competition in your local area
Individual fees (like event sponsorships)
Whether you go DIY, hire a freelancer, or partner with an agency
To help you budget effectively, we put together this handy table to give you a bit more guidance.
Google Local Service Ads
Avg. $6-30 per lead (direct dial)
Avg. $1-8 per 1,000 impressions
Avg. $0.20-2 per click
$750-$2,000 per month (much more in large markets)
Local TV Station Commercial Ad
$5-10 per 1,000 viewers for a 30-second ad
Local Event Sponsorships
Avg. $500 but very variable
Avg. $0.10-30 per click
How much does it cost to hire an ad agency?
You don’t have to go it alone.
You can choose to hire a freelancer or contract an agency to manage your ad campaign for you.
They’ll add on their own costs for managing your campaigns, but the time you save and the expertise they bring can generate superior results and boost your ROI.
As a rough guide, a social media marketer freelancer may charge anywhere between $15-50 per hour depending on their experience level and how many programs they’ll be managing for you. If you go this route, be sure you are both clear on the total hours expected so that costs do not balloon out of control.
Digital marketing agency costs are going to vary greatly depending on what services you need (e.g. Ad Management vs Ad Writing AND Management) and your location (big city vs small town rates). Typically, an agency will charge between 20-50% mark up on top of the hard costs of the advertising themselves.
You should get the arrangement in writing and can set a monthly budget or retainer to manage costs.
Ready to put your contractor advertising plan to the test?
What works for one company might not work for yours.
Perhaps people in your area connect with different messaging, or you have a lot of competitors and need to spend more to stand out. With a starter plan in place, you should slowly roll out your contractor advertising ideas and monitor them closely for success.
Keep and expand what works. Ditch what doesn’t.
You’ll also want to compare your ongoing advertising costs to your business growth. Leads are one thing, but if you aren’t getting new customers who pay you for projects, you aren’t getting a true return. It may take a few months to see patterns in ad performance, but the effort will be worth it.
Keen to bring in leads without the stress of running your own campaign? We’ve spent $2.3 million of our own money on Google Ad campaigns, so we know what works (and what doesn’t).