Referral Marketing 101
At its core, referral marketing is all about cultivating a community of fans and encouraging that fandom to spread far and wide (or more specifically, wherever your target audience may be).
Sure, people may listen to you when you talk about your business, but when you have people outside of your organization signing your praises, that’s when heads start turning.
It’s all about generating that street cred.
Referral marketing has become a particularly hot topic this last year. In 2020, 54% of homeowners referred to friends and family for their contracting needs – an increase of 11% from 2019.
We’ve spent more time home and in front of our screens these last 12 months than ever before. What does that mean for contractors?
Homeowners are not only investing in projects, but also research and planning. Pre-pandemic, 30% of homeowners conducted essentially zero research before submitting a lead. That statistic has since dropped significantly to 20%.
This isn’t terrific news for those in remodelling business because it means homeowners are exploring their options. How can you impress these leads and snatch up their projects before the next guy comes along? A kick-butt referral marketing strategy, that’s how.
Encouraging customers to speak on behalf of your brand, and sharing their brand experience, is more persuasive than any promotional ad campaign or advertisement.
In fact, 92% of consumers trust referrals from friends and family.
Not only are referral leads high quality leads, they come with a much lower price tag than leads found through paid or search advertising campaigns. This means low hanging fruit with more than likely high-conversions. If that doesn’t scream opportunity, we don’t know what does.
We’re sharing the ultimate checklist when it comes to elevating your referral strategy (and you know we threw a few extra pro tips in there too!)
1. Give Homeowners Something to Rave About
This may come across as common sense, but we’re tossing it in for good measure.
The key to having successful referrals is creating the ultimate customer experience no matter the project. You always want to leave your customers speechless (But not speechless enough that they can’t recommend you to a friend!)
Don’t meet customer expectations. Exceed them.
This will set your business up nicely to rake in those highly sought after reviews and 5 star ratings. Referral marketing isn’t limited to just neighbours, but how potential customers perceive others experiences with you as well. Delighted customers become brand advocates, will likely be repeat business, and beef up your social proof.
How contractors can exceed expectations
There are many ways in which contractors can exceed homeowners expectations and get those 10 star reviews!
Here’s our top 3 ways you can get that “WOW” factor from every homeowner you complete a job for:
Streamline the Experience
You’re not building just another kitchen. You’re helping bring the vision of a cozy, inviting, yet functional space to life – where your clients will share family meals and entertain friends. When discussing the hopes clients have for a particular project, it’s all about creating a narrative. Keep your radar open for opportunities to offer custom design or individualized workflows – anything that will help cater to their specific vision.
We suggest leveraging innovative tools, such as Ingage, to help homeowners truly visualize their finished project during the sales process. Ingage is a contractor’s secret weapon for creating showstopping sales presentations to get homeowners onboard from the very start. Plus, it comes in handy when creating before and after shots!
Destination Motivation is another service contractors can use to create additional value for homeowners. They offers travel based incentives – whisking your clients off to dream vacations while you hold down the fort and finish your job in time for their return. You don’t have to ask me twice!
Streamline The Experience!
Consider integrating industry tools and tech into your workflow. Financing tools like Hearth, photo sharing platforms like CompanyCam, or a messaging app like Hatch to stay on top of customer touch points. Not only does this showcase that you’re well versed and up to speed with industry happenings, but that you also want to make their experience as smooth and pleasant as possible.
Did you know that delighting customers and stellar reviews go hand-in-hand? After price, 37% of homeowners are impressed when contractors have the online reviews and ratings to back it up.
Where there are stellar reviews, leads and sales aren’t far behind. If you’re curious about growing your contracting business through customer relationships, we suggest checking out the experts at gFour Marketing.
Communication Is Key.
Whether replacing a roof or redesigning a brand new kitchen, it’s imperative that you are always on the same page as your clients. When you have a greater understanding of their unique needs, you’re better equipped to pinpoint opportunities to suggest new products or services as they travel along the customer journey.
Pro Tip: Communicate early and communicate often. Particularly when it comes to establishing homeowner expectations, realistic timelines, and discussing any potential roadblocks. Yes, you want to exceed homeowner expectations, but you also need to clear the air at the beginning about what may or may not be possible given their specific project.
2. Use a Referral Management System
Why work harder, when you can work smarter?
Adopting a referral or reputation management system is a great investment to give customers that extra boost to leverage their fantastic experience with you. Regular communication operated by systems to remind customers to leave a review or referral are powerful tools to beef up your strategy, in addition to word of mouth.
Using a referral management system means you can track who is leaving reviews and referrals. Perhaps there are jobs or projects where people feel more compelled to leave a referral upon completion vs others. But that’s only scratching the surface of the insights you can gather through this sort of technology.
Why Do homeowner insights matter?
Marketing is all about attracting your next customer.
Ergo, understand the homeowners needs and wants, your marketing will practically take care of itself (well, almost). Take it a step further by enlisting the help of an automated system, which can help uncover golden nuggets of information about your customers. Information which can help shape your marketing moving forward, such as;
- How did people hear about your business?
- Were there any hesitations in the buying process?
- Were any competitors considered?
- Is the purchase a need or a want?
These are all valuable insights when it comes to considering the positioning of your company, which services and prices you want to advertise, or which social networks your customers are more likely to use (and possibly refer to friends!)
Pro Tip : The right tool will take tasks off your plate while giving you back time and data to influence how you do business. If you’re looking for an extra hand to get those reviews and referrals rolling in, we suggest checking out NiceJob. They are the reputation marketing pros, trust us!
3. Delight homeowners beyond closing
Your investment with a customer doesn’t end when the job or project is complete. Regularly check in with clients, add them to a newsletter, or simply let them know you’re available and how they can reach you in the future. The more you nurture, engage, and communicate with homeowners – even beyond closing – the more important and valued they will feel.
And who doesn’t want to feel like a rockstar?! Nobody, that’s who.
Not only will these gestures keep you in their good books for future jobs, but also on their radar for when somebody they know is in the market for a contractor.
Do you have the right processes in place?
You’re an established entrepreneur in the trades. Things are going well, business is good, and you’re ready to elevate your industry game to the next level.
But how do you get to that ‘next level’? The business savvy and industry know-how you’ve acquired has helped get you where you are now, but things will inevitably start to plateau unless you shake things up.
While scaling operations from grass-roots to the big leagues might seem intimidating, you can keep your business well supported by having the proper systems and processes in place. Plus, your customers will also reap the benefits.
For example, creating a fully loaded onboarding process to hire top tier talent. A workflow that attracts candidates who will fit within your company, that minimizes turnover, and churns out employees who delight customers.
Not only will thoughtfully planned systems grow your business in a sustainable manner, it creates the optimal experience and results for your customers.
Check out what our awesome partners at Breakthrough Academy have to say about scaling through systems and operations!
4. If you’ve got it, flaunt it!
If you want to create real buzz about your business, don’t forget to put your stamp on it – both literally and figuratively.
Top off any project with some eye catching yard sign or hit the surrounding houses with some door hangers.
People notice when a neighbor builds a new brick wall or patio (people are nosey, it’s human nature) This is a perfect opportunity to get your name out there – we’re talking instant brand recognition and exposure. Plus, elevating the professionalism of your team.
When executed correctly, it can literally sell your services to the customer and impact their decision making before you have even established a relationship with them.
Promotional material can include things such as ;
- Business cards
- Promotional signage
- Door hangers
- Work bags, t-shirts, measuring tape, hardhats (AKA the fun stuff)
All of your promotional material should feature your name, logo, and contact information!
Promotional materials are low cost-marketing initiatives (mass distribution) that can offer serious ROI.
Believe it or not, 89% of individuals who receive promotional advertising from a company can recognize that brand for an average of 2 years. Plus, people tend to keep promotional material around for 6.6 months. Having your logo and brand on their radar will be key to instigating referrals.
Pro Tip: General rule of thumb is to bring enough to cover that outreach, such as the number of guests you anticipate at a tradeshow, then anticipate an extra 25%. It’s always better to have a few extra door hangers or flyers ready than be caught empty handed.
5. Network With Other Contractors
While your business may install the best roofs, or remodel the nicest kitchens, odds are you don’t do everything under the sun. And that’s what makes a business successful – knowing that you do, and doing it well.
Customers who are working through a list of home improvement projects will likely mention to you other renovation plans they have in mind. And if a project doesn’t fall under your scope of expertise, there’s an even greater chance you’ll get a, “Is there anyone you could recommend?”
Offering to introduce or recommending someone you trust in the space makes you appear professional, knowledgeable, and trustworthy to your customers. All important factors for landing those gold star reviews and glowing recommendations.
It’s a give and take. If you’re known for putting a good word in for other professionals, they should be more than happy to return the favour.
As the saying goes, you’ve got to network to get work.
So how can you get to know other industry folks in your area?
- Search and request to join any industry specific local Facebook groups/communities
- Follow hashtags on social media related to your speciality or area
(ie.#contractorsofIG, #homeremodeling, #roofersofIndiana, #contractorsofPA, #rooferlife)
- Keep your eyes peeled for any relevant networking or industry invents, such as webinars
- Simply ask around or do a Google search
Pro Tip: See if you can catch any emails or names from a webinar you attended and add them on LinkedIn. This is an easy way to connect with other like minded contractors and initiate some collaboration! Even if the contractor isn’t in your area, chances are they might know someone folks who are!
6. Create Content With Other Industry Pros
What are the other folks in your space doing? Is there someone who shares a similar work ethic, values, or interests whose audience might also fit your demographic?
Suggest teaming up with those other industry players – whether that’s creating content like a webinar, podcast, or an exclusive offer or promotion.
Here are some examples of how we’ve teamed up with other industry pros in the contracting space:
While you may not see gigs falling in your lap right away, it widens your net of potential leads who are already active in the home improvement space. Collaborating with others is also just a great opportunity to learn more about industry happenings while positioning you as a thought leader in your own right!
Let’s say you’re interested in hosting a podcast featuring industry experts like yourself. You’ve done your research, and have found some individuals who you would love to collaborate and join forces with – but how do you get the conversation started?
Don’t worry, we’ve been in those exact same shoes. If you’re able to find their email address, or direct message on social media, your message could go a little something like this:
Content Outreach Template
“Hey (THEIR NAME),
My name is (YOUR NAME) and I’m the (CURRENT POSITION) here at (COMPANY NAME).
(Follow this with a quick introduction about your company, any synergies/similarities, why you felt compelled to reach out, and what you’re asking of them).
If you’re interested in participating, here’s how it will work ;
(List your detailed process, questions or topics included, timelines, and any accompanying assets/social media copy to share)
Our goal by creating this content with you is (EXPLAIN GOAL)
We have some great other industry speakers in the pipelines, and we know our audiences would love to hear from you!
All the best, (YOUR NAME)”
Pro Tip : When it comes to collaborative content, make sure both parties share it on all their social channels. This will improve your online presence, boost SEO, in addition to uncovering possible leads.
7. Make It Easy
What makes referral marketing tricky is that part of it is out of your hands. Unlike strategizing ads or creating campaigns, you can’t force your customers to recommend your services to others.
What you can do, however, is have a very easy, user-friendly process in place that makes leaving referrals, reviews, or ratings a no-brainer. This is an investment of the customer’s time, so use it wisely.
If you exceed customer expectations, like we touched on earlier, clients should be more than happy to participate. That is, unless they’re expected to fill out an endless form or answer a magnitude of questions.
It’s also vital that you express gratitude towards customers who participate in referral marketing. In addition to uncovering potential leads, being able to gather and dissect the customer experience is vital to any business looking to stay ahead of the curve.
Are you really communicating?
A recent study from Modernize found that 23% of homeowners would opt for a different contractor instead of one whose sales process exhibited a lack in communication. That means almost a quarter of homeowners, and their projects, could slip through your fingers!
Ongoing communication with customers is the key to success.
Not only is it simply smart business, it’s particularly crucial for referral marketing. The reality is that as a service business, you’re only as good as your last project or job. And if your clients’ expectations weren’t exceeded (ie. they feel as though they were misunderstood, not kept in the loop, didn’t feel prioritized) don’t expect to get any glowing referrals any time soon.
We’ve all experienced dealing with businesses who only communicate during the sales and closing cycle, right? And if we need to get in contact with them after the fact, it’s like a wild goose chase.
Leaving your customers in hot pursuit is no way to win referrals. Besides being proactive when it comes to solving potential issues or roadblocks, effective communications minimizes that from happening in the first place.
When you do it right, that’s when referrals will come knocking on your door (Instead of the other way around!)
Pro Tip : Messaging platforms are a great way to streamline communication processes with clients, without asking much real work from your end (No, we’re not joking – these tools really do exist!) If you’re ready to optimize your two way communication with customers, we recommend checking out Hatch.
Execution: What Matters Most
Referral marketing helps your biggest fans get the word out about your brand. By accessing your existing customers networks, you open the floodgates to quality leads and more deals.
Let’s do a quick recap, shall we?
There you have it, folks. Now, go knock some customers’ socks off and get those referrals!
Want To Know More?
If you’re ready to wave goodbye to inconsistent lead generation and start scaling your business, we’re always happy to talk contractor marketing!