Marketing can be a pain. It can feel like swinging blindly in the dark, hoping to luck out and stumble upon a system that works.
Not marketing is even worse, and a one-way ticket to closing up shop for good.
Tradies aren’t exempt from the age-old struggle, and you can easily find yourself in any number of unfortunate situations.
You might have the staff, equipment, and processes down pat, but no customers to put them to work. You might have brilliant ideas and a clear set of desired outcomes, but no direction for executing them. Or, you might feel like marketing may as well be rocket science, and that success is a remote possibility.
If you’re having a hard time finding new leads, we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide to help you make sense of your marketing.
This guide was written by tradies, for tradies, and is rooted in examples lifted directly from tradie experience. Likewise, we’ve done our best to make it reader-friendly, and designed it to cover both traditional and modern marketing practices.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the Ultimate Guide to Marketing & Lead Generation for Tradies!
Part 1: Understanding Your Brand
The first stop on our tour through the world of tradie marketing is understanding your brand.
What is a brand?
A brand is much more than just a logo and a catchy slogan: it’s the set of factors that give your business an identity and a personality.
A set of logos might be the first thing to pop into your head when you think of your favourite brands, but you could also call to mind excellent advertising, valuable community work, or even a funny Twitter account.
Brands are about recall
Logos, taglines, and other elements of a brand are designed to keep a business fresh in the minds of potential customers. Staying top-of-mind like this is particularly important when a business operates in a very competitive field—you have to stand out, or risk losing out to competitors.
Having a catchy name, a consistent visual identity (ex. a colour palette, a logo, a signature font), and maybe even a sharp slogan can help keep your business fresh in the minds of would-be customers.
Brands are about values
Every business has a set of values, whether they know it or not. If a tradie business tries its best to guarantee a job-well-done, then they value reliability. If a business works to deliver solutions in as short a time as possible, then they value speed.
In a way, your top-selling points as a business point to the values that drive your brand. It pays to figure out what these are so that later on, you can work towards communicating them in your marketing.
Brands are about products or services
Brands that stand the test of time are known for the dependability of their products and/or services. More than recall and values, brands thrive when they’re associated with great customer experiences.
Maybe it goes without saying, but the one most crucial aspect of your marketing is to have an excellent track record as a tradie business.
Finally, the act of branding refers to marketing activity aimed at developing and communicating your brand to an audience.
Why does knowing your brand matter?
When you familiarise yourself with your brand, you gain three important advantages.
1. You simplify your marketing
Marketing is all about possibility. The directions you could take are limited only by your creativity, which is a big advantage when you’re looking to stand out.
However, having limitless options can go from promising to problematic very quickly if you lack a sense of direction. We’ve seen plenty of businesses give off confusing messages and signals because they lacked a unifying factor.
That unifying factor could easily be your brand identity. You nip a lot of problems in the bud when you have a clear idea of things like:
- What sets your business apart from others like it.
- What market do your products and services appeal to.
- Which channels do your potential customers frequent.
- What colours and shapes best represent your business.
- What tone of voice works best for communicating with your audience.
- What icons and images make it easy for audiences to remember your business.
Having a brand saves you the trouble of starting from scratch every time you want to run a new marketing strategy. Instead, you can build new campaigns around an already-established set of rules and materials and cut straight to generating new leads.
2. You have an easier time standing out in your field
We instinctively look to brands when we want to understand our options in a market.
In a competitive field, your best bet is to compare your business against your competitors to see if your messaging is:
- a) more compelling
- b) clearer
- and/or c) more consistent than theirs.
This lets you make small, strategic adjustments over time, and eventually take a spot above the rest.
If your business isn’t minding its branding, then you risk losing ground to competitors who get their point across more clearly (that point being, “Spend your money here!”).
Simply put, you have to know your brand to know how to improve it. If you don’t know your brand, then you don’t know what changes need to be made in order to be a more prominent player in your market.
3. You get to have a more consistent presence
By now, you’ve likely tried a handful of things with your marketing: different logos, different tones, or different ways of describing your services.
Trial and error is fine to an extent, but inconsistent branding can make it difficult to stand out and achieve brand recall. Customers take well to consistent branding, and keeping an eye on your brands puts you in a better position to achieve consistent marketing over time.
This means you’re more likely to stay top-of-mind, and that you’ll have an easier time coordinating with marketing firms and consultants. Rather than starting from scratch, you can simply hand your marketing people a brand guide—that makes things much faster, much simpler, and much more consistent.
Knowing your brand’s target audience
The best and most effective way to understand your brand is to understand the people for whom the brand was built: your target audience.
Who are they?
It’s crucial that you get to know the different people living in the areas you service. A demographic understanding of your target market will go a long way towards figuring out how your current brand is doing, and how it should be doing.
Since marketing is, in large part, a numbers game, you want to know things like:
- What age range do most of your potential customers fall under?
- How affluent are the neighbourhoods you service?
- What’s the ratio of residential buildings to commercial establishments?
This lets you make smarter, more targeted marketing decisions. For example, if you know you’re more likely to service younger entrepreneurs or homeowners who are more likely to look into a business’ reputation before making an enquiry, you’d want to build a brand around positive reviews and open information.
Strategic marketing should be the goal for any tradie, and you can’t work strategically without first gathering the right information.
What are their problems?
The kinds of people who take on the services of a tradie business need something. Whether it’s a repair job, power cleaning, construction, or a simple inspection, they have one reason or another to reach out.
Knowing what your audience needs starts with obvious things like this, and then goes deeper. The client looking to repair their roof might be having problems with leaks. The family looking to repair their AC units might be suffering in the summer heat.
Isolating these root problems make for more compelling marketing. It spells the difference between, “Just another home repair team,” and, “The go-to business for summer repairs.”
Problem-spotting takes your marketing a step further: instead of going the obvious route and selling your services, you sell a better quality of living.
What are their preferred solutions?
Building the right brand to reach your audience means figuring out what they value in solutions—though this is easier said than done.
The average customer’s decision-making process is tricky to narrow down. People take many factors into consideration, and each person weighs them differently.
In the market for tradie services, some key factors might include:
- Years of experience
- Reliability of service
- Time to job completion
- Ease of communication
We recommend taking a look at the customer feedback you’ve gathered over time, and do some research into your market. More often than not, you’ll be able to tell what factors led to your past sales, and what kinds of people live in your area of operation (Are they affluent? Does the weather hit them hard? etc.)
Shaping your brand identity
Building a strong brand might sound like a vague and complex job, but it breaks down into a handful of simple parts.
1. Your visual identity
When it comes to branding, looks do matter. The visual identity of your brand can serve as your first impression, and the secret ingredient to staying top-of-mind.
A logo is a unique icon that represents your business, or a stylised version of your business’ name.
Your logo’s design style will depend on what kind of services you provide; home builders might aim for the impression of sturdiness, repair specialists might want to go for something simple and industrial, and tradies who work with electronics might do better with a more modern look.
We recommend sourcing a range of options to choose from, and inviting people who resemble your ideal customers to weigh in on which sample speaks to them.
Your brand’s colours are also a big factor. You’d do best to read up on colour psychology: the unspoken rules for deploying colours to communicate ideas. To give a few examples, people are conditioned to associate pastel colours with design businesses, green hues with health and wellness, and pink with femininity.
Earthy colours and strong, bold colours are a smart bet for the trades industry as they can communicate sturdiness, dependability, and safety.
Finally, your business should have a set of photo guidelines for your marketing collaterals (like your flyers, ads, and website). It’s an undervalued step, but it definitely pays to plan rules for things like composition, as well as the kinds of subjects worth publishing.
People on the internet have grown used to a certain quality for the media they see, which means poor quality will set you back. Have high standards for your photo media and you’ll look far more professional than competitors who don’t.
2. Your values and selling points
Values and selling points can be synonymous for a business—after all, if you claim to value something, it’d show in the quality of your service.
When brand-building, decide which among your solutions are worth showcasing. These are the services you offer that you either a) perform better than your competitors, or b) perform exclusively (i.e. services your competitors don’t offer).
People also tend to favour businesses that serve as a one-stop shop. This is especially true for the trades industry: when people trust your business with assets like their homes or cars, they’re likely to turn to you to fix their gadgets or electronics. If you can prove expertise in each of your verticals, then playing wide can be a great strategy.
Likewise, if you have processes that are worth mentioning, you can and should use them to forward your brand. You benefit when people learn to associate your brand with things like speed, cost, and extra value, so work the ones that apply into your brand elements (ex. taglines).
Finally, your branding direction should reflect and specific outcomes that your business excels at delivering. If have a track record for fixing the un-fixable or if the houses you build are meant to last for generations, feel free to let the public know.
3. Your brand’s tone
Just as people have different musical tastes, markets can favour certain tones of communication. It’s a simple enough concept: you’re more likely to choose a lawyer who sounds like they could defend you in court over who sounds like they’d be a riot at parties.
It boils back down to the idea of matching your leads’ expectations. If you present yourself as the business they were already looking for, and it saves you time explaining how a morbid sense of humour, for example, relates to building a person’s first home.
On the topic of matching expectations, do choose a tone that’s consistent with how your business operates. If you have a friendly, cheeky voice on Facebook, it’d only disappoint your leads to discover that your staff are all stern and no-nonsense—so you could say it takes a whole business to maintain a tone.
The specifics of your tone are up to you, though we advise including the following features:
- Empathy. Tradie businesses often handle assets that are near and dear to their customers, so giving off the impression that you’re invested in their happiness and success will go a long way.
- Expertise. Whether you’re serious or sarcastic, it pays to show that your business knows what it’s doing. This is particularly important for businesses that want to incorporate humour into their tone: jokes are no substitute for know-how.
- Openness. There’s a lot that could go wrong when it comes to tradie work, and your customers know this. Put them at ease with the impression that your staff are easy to talk to and proficient at communication.
Part 2: Digital Marketing for Tradies
Why Digital Marketing?
There are a lot of reasons why digital marketing is crucial for success.
1. You reach more people
As of January 2019, 87% of the Australian population was on the internet. That’s over 21 million people browsing, posting on social media, and using search engines like Google.
Today’s businesses have the potential to reach more people than ever before, at lower costs than people would’ve thought possible back in the day. Digital marketing means tapping into a wealth of customers, and competing to be the business that people choose out of the dozens of others.
2. You track results better
Smart marketing hinges on information: the more you know, the more fine-tuning you can do.
Since digital marketing happens on modern platforms, data-collection (and even some analytic tools) are built into the apps and websites you’d use to perform it. This is a marked improvement over traditional marketing (e.g. billboards, flyers, etc), where it’s tough to track how many people see your ads, and how many conversions each marketing tool generates.
Digital marketing lets you know things like how many people see your ads, what kinds of people see your ads (filtered by age, marital status, and other characteristics), and which of your ads are generating the most results.
3. Your customers can reach you faster
Digital ads, social media posts, and online listings let viewers take valuable actions in an instant. In fact, you could test this for yourself: try Googling a business near you, and see how easy it is to give them a ring.
Every digital marketing channel (at least, every channel that matters) allows you to attach interactive buttons (called “Calls to Action”) that prompts a phone call, email, or redirect to your website.
4. It’s easier than passing around flyers
Digital marketing is, by and large, much easier than traditional marketing. Once you make it over the knowledge gap, you’ll find that creating and running campaigns can be done from the comfort of your own living room.
Running a Website
Why run a website?
Websites are a necessity in the world of digital marketing. In a 2018 report by the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, it was found that 75% of consumers make judgments about businesses based on web design. Your customers are bound to look for a website, and are more likely to choose your business if they find a good one.
What makes for a good website?
Information is the first order of business in web design. Your website must be informative and organised in a way that makes it easy for your site viewers to find the answers they’re looking for.
The following information should be present on your site:
- Your operational info. These are your working hours, areas of operation, and other important facts about how your business runs.
- A list of your services. The obvious question any site visitor would have is, “What do they do?” Include a comprehensive list of services, paired with short but effective descriptions (fit your branding features here!).
- Your contact information. Naturally, you want site viewers to get in touch with you. Make it easy for them by including your active phone numbers, your email address, your physical location, and a form they can use to send you messages directly from your site.
- An “About” page. Site visitors might be interested to get to know they story of your business and the people who run it. An “About Us” page is a good way to communicate your brand values, demonstrate your experience, and reassure your audience about the quality of your staff.
Other information (like a Blog) can come in later, but these are the necessary components for a website to be considered as functional.
A good website is also persuasive. You want copy that’s short (nobody has time to read anymore) but compelling: punchy and impactful words that speak about the value of choosing your business.
Back up your claims with case studies and statistics like your time-to-completion, your customer satisfaction rating, and other metrics that prove your team does great work. Testimonials and reviews are also a compelling thing to keep on your site—just be sure to keep them authentic.
Finally, a good website increases your visibility. The point of a website is to reach more customers, so designing your site to rank well on Google is critical.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of building and populating a website so that it achieves a high placement on the front page of search engines like Google. SEO is a broad topic with plenty of considerations, so we recommend you chase down quality resources and stay up-to-date.
You can find more details about running a website and other related lead-generating techniques in our guide to inbound marketing.
Social Media Marketing
Why be present on social media?
As of July 2019, roughly 60% of Australia’s population count as active users on Facebook, and around half the population log in daily. It’s an understatement to say that social media is a popular forum, and that doesn’t even touch upon the fact that social media advertising is an increasingly advanced industry.
There’s simply a lot you can get done by marketing on social media, and we guarantee that your competitors are also well aware of the fact.
How do you make the most of social media?
Given the massive reach and constant connectivity that social media affords, you can and should use the different platforms to make your presence known to potential customers.
Posting content on a regular basis is the most common form of social media marketing. Your social media feeds are an opportunity to do one or more of the following:
- Position yourself as an authority. Know something about home repair or electronics maintenance that the average person might not? Share that knowledge and show your potential customers that your business knows its stuff.
- Update your market about news and promotions. If you have special offers, new services, or other important information you want to share with both potential and former customers, social media is a great way to spread the word.
- Collect and feature customer reviews. Facebook lets you set up an official page for your business, which includes a feature for collecting and showcasing customer reviews. If you’ve been providing quality service, social media helps you let the wider public know.
- Be an active member of your community. Tradie businesses are local businesses, meaning they tend to service specific areas. There’s a good chance that people from those areas are on social media, and so a strong presence makes it easier to listen in on their needs, and stay top-of-mind.
On the subject of community, a clever move for your social media marketing could be creating online communities for the areas you service. For example, you can use Facebook’s Groups feature to start a community centered on auto repair and maintenance.
Communities tend to run themselves, and if you choose to set one up, your job will be to enforce the rules of the community (rules which you set), approve new members, and participate as a helpful guide.
In return, you get a boost to your reputation as a business that actively takes care of its community, and serves as a beacon for people to make new acquaintances and attend to their shared interests.
Finally, running ads on social media can be a big boost to your efforts at finding new leads. Social media ads let you target your ideal viewers based on factors like their age, location, and interests.
Targeting a “lookalike audience” takes things even further: you can upload a list of email addresses belonging to existing customers, and sites like Facebook will scour through their entire user base and show your ads to people with similar characteristics.
When designing a social ad, we recommend using colourful, clear, and interesting visuals (either an image or a video) with minimal text on the media proper. Save that text for brief captions that put your best brand features forward, and speak directly to the market you’re after.
For more information on how your tradie business could thrive on social media, check out our dedicated article here.
Email Marketing Campaigns
Why engage in email marketing?
Email marketing is a direct and personalised form of marketing. With it, you can launch targeted campaigns with features like:
- Different value propositions. If you have too many brand features, announcements, or selling points to include in a single piece of ad material, email marketing can help you roll those messages out over time in separate campaigns.
- Precise targeting. Most email marketing tools let you create specific categories for different recipients you might be targeting. If you have a long list of emails, you can instantly run campaigns targeting cold leads, engaged enquiries, former customers, and other segments in your market.
- Engaging content. Today’s emails are more than just digital letters: they can resemble full web pages loaded with media, hyperlinks, and other elements that make for more engaging reads.
How does Email Marketing Work?
- Identify your market segments
- Assess each segment’s needs
- Create appealing emails
- Analyse and then optimise
Identify your market segments
The various emails you’ve collected over the course of doing business each fall into one or more categories. Figure out which categories matter the most (ex. “Blog Subscribers”, “Top Referrers”, “New Homeowners”).
Assess each segment’s needs
More often than not, there are a handful of needs that your segments share in common. For instance, contacts whom you know own second-hand cars might need frequent reminders to get a tune-up—and maybe it just so happens that your shop has a limited-time discount on oil changes.
Create appealing emails
Your subject line, signature, and everything in between should be written and designed to appeal to the market segment you’re targeting. Nobody opens emails with fishy subject lines, and nobody reads through boring emails when they can help it. For the best results, aim for quality content.
Analyse and then optimise
Test different subject headings, email structures, and images when designing email campaigns to see which permutations draw the most attention. Email marketing tools usually have built-in reports and analytics dashboards, so mind the data if you want to strike gold with your emails.
Email marketing is great for engaging new leads and, more importantly, keeping existing customers loyal to your business. Master the form, and watch as the benefits come rolling in.
Part 3: Traditional and Referral Marketing
Now that we’ve wrapped up digital marketing, you should know that traditional forms of marketing aren’t out of fashion just yet.
Traditional marketing may be slower and less precise, but a lead is a lead—and any way to reach a new customer is good for business. Besides, people aren’t online 24/7: there are plenty of places you could find the kind of people who’d be thrilled to see the solutions you have to offer.
In a similar vein, referral marketing is the practice of finding affiliates who are willing to do the work of finding leads for you. By partnering up with dedicated affiliates, or simply offering a token reward for people to recommend you to friends who are looking for a business just like yours.
Tips for Traditional Marketing
There are plenty of methods for advertising your business offline, each deserving of an article of their own.
Instead of going through them one by one, we’ll prepare you for basic marketing activity and give you ideas for further digging with this handy list of must-follow tips.
1. Location is key
This is where your research into your target market comes in handy. When running a traditional marketing campaign through flyering, renting a billboard, or posting a newspaper listing, we recommend featuring them in places and periodicals your market is sure to check.
Prime real estate would be near hardware stores, car dealerships, or other locations of relevance to people who are likely to need your services.
Figure out where your customers might also spend their day-to-day lives, and find placements that hit their daily routines. Centres of community activity (like parks, gyms, and popular dining establishments) are very likely to see members of your target market at least a handful of times in a given month.
2. Get Creative
Just like the digital space, the real world is full of ads and distractions. You’re competing against other businesses, the distractions of being in a public space, and even digital ads—just think about how much time the people around you spend on their smartphones.
It pays to stand out with exceptionally well-designed print materials, or run a clever gimmick (try integrating your offline marketing with digital assets!) to catch your viewers’ attention.
3. Keep text to a minimum
We can’t stress this enough, but people nowadays aren’t fans of reading. When it comes to the best communication strategies for ads, less is more: shorter and more impactful words will beat out chunks of text by a mile.
The three goals of text on an ad are simple: attract, engage, inspire.
Attractive words draw the reader’s attention. These are “power words”, usually in big and bold typeface, meant to catch the eye and inspire further reading.
Engaging words establish a personal link with the reader. They’re words like you and we, or statements that demonstrate that the ad “gets” where the reader is coming from and what they need.
Finally, inspiring words present a clear call to action: buy now, call us, inquire inside, and the like. These should take a prominent space in your ad—in fact, the whole thing should be designed to draw the reader’s eye to your call to action.
If you can find the right words to attract, engage, and inspire, then anything more may be wasting your time. Any further information can be found online, or gained directly from your staff.
As we’ve mentioned, there’s more to traditional marketing than these tips and you can find more resources online. If you don’t have the time for that, however, these should do good in a pinch.
Tips for Earning Referrals
There’s an active side to referral marketing (affiliate marketing), and a passive side (referral-seeking). Affiliate marketing involves sourcing agents who are tasked with reaching out to potential leads on your behalf. Referral-seeking, on the other hand, involves making sure that the customers you handle end up spreading the word about their experiences.
Referral marketing takes effort and strategy. We’ve pulled together a few tips to get you started
- Treat Your Customers Well
- Compensate Your Affiliates
- Reward Your Referrers
Treat your customers well
This tip (more of a rule, really) applies to both active and passive marketing. Treat your customers well, and more customers will follow.
It goes without saying that a customer who has a great experience with your business will be more likely to go the extra mile and share the news with a friend. It’s a great bonus to have on top of the fact that you’re performing your job with integrity and passion.
For affiliate marketing, however, the wisdom behind this tip may be less clear. Put simply, give them the guarantee that they’re advocating a great business. Not only is it good for the conscience, but people are generally more comfortable speaking for causes they believe in.
Compensate your affiliates
Your affiliate marketers will obviously expect a commission for any sales they land you.
The exact price is up to you and what you feel inclined to offer, though we advise a moderate amount: enough for each successful referral to feel like a victory, but not so high that they wouldn’t want to aim for volume.
Reward your referrers
Now, if you’re willing to invest in affiliate marketing, you may want to consider a token reward (either a small commission, or a discount on future service) for former customers who send new business your way. It’s a great gesture, and may land you repeat referrals.
As you can see, there’s a lot to take in when it comes to marketing and lead generation for tradie businesses. We’ve written a bunch of other articles on the subject, drilling down into the specifics of core marketing techniques, as well as marketing opportunities for specific kinds of tradies.
For our parting words, we recommend that you keep calm and work at a learner’s pace. You have ample room for error (especially since many marketing activities require no initial cash investment) and the lessons you take away will pay for the mistakes many times over.