By John Tyreman
Facebook. Google. Twitter. Yelp.
Email marketing. Ads. Blog posts. Paid search. Organic search.
When it comes to marketing your home services business, the marketing options are overwhelming, causing some service professionals to throw their hands up in dismay.
But a new report sheds some light on the best path forward. With responses from 724 buyers of home services, an August 2020 survey looked at how homeowners approach finding a plumbing or HVAC contractor and reveals some key marketing actions service professionals should take.
Understanding a service buyer’s journey
It’s helpful to understand the process a customer goes through before they contact you—and what they do afterward. There are five phases to the journey:
Realization — the moment when customers recognize they have a problem to solve.
Education — how customers gather the information they need to make a decision.
Evaluation —the criteria customers use to see if a service provider is a good fit.
Decision — how customers decide on who to work with.
Advocacy —when customers feel compelled to leave a rating or review online.
Whether it’s an urgent matter like a frozen pipe or a routine issue like seasonal HVAC service, what customers do first when they enter the Realization phase is key. Most consumers surveyed reported that they either called a past provider (40.4 percent) or went online to find a business that could help (42.3 percent).
As a service provider, your goal for this Realization phase should be to turn people from the second group into members of the first. These buyers have a greater customer lifetime value, and their return business and online advocacy will drive your business for years to come.
The power of online reviews
Next up are the Education, Evaluation and Decision phases, in which the buyer gathers information and finds a provider that will be a good fit. How will you help a buyer find you and understand how you can help them? Online profiles with stellar reviews.
After first realizing a need, nearly 60 percent of buyers under the age of 55 went online to find a provider, and more than half of respondents (53.8 percent) reported using online reviews to select a provider. While TV and radio ads are common marketing investments for home service providers, building the right online presence is a more targeted approach that uses your customers’ experiences to draw in new ones. An added benefit of online reviews: Unlike radio or TV ads, online efforts offer more insight into who is finding you and how so you can do more of what works.
The Advocacy phase of a buyer’s journey can be a little tougher to manage. Unfortunately, consumers are less likely to leave reviews for their plumbing or HVAC contractor than other service providers – only 36.5 percent of respondents. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can do a lot on your end to bring in reviews.
Getting more online reviews for your business
If your potential customers with the greatest lifetime value are likely to look for providers like you online, but buyers in your industry aren’t as likely to leave reviews, it’s up to you to nurture that activity.
To encourage online reviews:
● Be where your customers are. Forty percent of the respondents who did leave online reviews left them on Google, making it vital for you to have an optimized Google My Business profile. You should also have a business profile on Yelp, where 18.5 percent of respondents said they leave reviews, and on Facebook, where 71percent of respondents said they are active users. It’s free to create profiles on all these platforms, though you can pay for various enhancements if you wish.
The study showed that nearly 30 percent of buyers only talked to one service provider before hiring them. If you make an effort to create a robust profile on these sites, you’ll build brand awareness and have the first crack at a very eager audience.
● Respond to all reviews, especially the negative ones.
Dealing with negative reviews is essential. Many times, customers simply want to be heard. The worst thing any business can do is ignore negative reviews. Prospective customers pay attention to these negative reviews, but if they see that you took the time to respond and address the concern, they’ll view your brand more positively. Taking the time to respond to positive reviews as well shows buyers that you’re engaged and approachable, making them more likely to contact you.
● Ask your customers.
Don’t be shy—make sure you and your team are actively asking for reviews. Direct technicians to ask for a review at the end of a service call and provide a leave-behind card for customers that lists the sites where they can share their thoughts. Include links to your profiles on these sites in your follow-up communications such as emails or texts and ask customers to review you there. You can even offer an additional incentive when customers make the effort to help you out.
Build your online profiles and they will come
While marketing might not be your favorite part of running your business, it’s vital to your survival and your bottom line. Understanding the key phases of how a buyer finds a plumber or HVAC service provider like you is the first step to building a strong online presence. Once you make sure your customers know where to find you online and review their experiences, they’ll help make spreading the word about your business a whole lot easier.
John Tyreman is a seasoned marketer with experience conducting market research focused on buyer behavior. The data in this article is part of a broader study on consumer behavior across various service industries. John has appeared on webinars, podcasts, and authored hundreds of blog articles. Connect with him on LinkedIn.