What separates you from your competition? How do you stand out from other contractors?
According to my most successful contractor clients, it’s your willingness to answer questions from homeowners.
I don’t mean answering questions on your own time or whenever you get around to it, and I don’t mean giving half-baked, under-researched answers when a question comes your way. I mean proactively answering questions through numerous real-world and digital channels with detailed, researched responses.
I mean giving answers a homeowner can’t get from their DIY enthusiast friends. I mean answers only a savvy contractor can give.
The Hard Truth
If providing detailed answers sounds like something of a time sink, that’s because it is.
It takes time to properly answer questions from homeowners. Though it might seem like a pain in the butt if you’re not already approaching questions from the point of view I’ve learned from my clients, I can tell you that it’s worth the time you put in.
It’s an investment.
Giving detailed answers isn’t a waste of time, it’s an investment of time. And it has everything to do with your marketing and how you present yourself to local homeowners.
Tackling Homeowner Questions
You probably spend a good deal of time dealing with tire kickers. Answering their questions can be exhausting. You know your hard-earned wisdom isn’t going to result in a new job, because those people are just looking for exceptionally cheap labor, done quickly, and done with high-quality results.
The truth is, those homeowners aren’t your ideal clients. They don’t want to pay for your hard-earned expertise, or the quality you can provide. They want to funnel a small amount of money towards something that isn’t real; cash for unicorns.
Not every conversation results in a job, and not every job will work out– that’s the reality you live in.
These homeowners are cheap. Cheap people always want the cheapest answer. You have to trust your gut and weed out the people who aren’t going to sign the contract, as well as the people who might sign the contract, but will enact a serious drain or your time, resources, and overall sanity.
But difficult, complicated questions also come from your ideal clients. These homeowners want details. When you supply those details, you further earn their trust and loyalty. These people aren’t tire kickers, they’re just interested in your mutual success. Your success is profit and a job well done; their success is an upgrade to their biggest investment– their home.
The question-askers are your best customers. They’ll become your biggest advocates. When you provide a satisfying answer, they’ll feel important, and they’ll get to know you and what sets you apart from your competition.
Word-of-mouth, either in the traditional sense or in the form of online reviews, is vital for you as a contractor. Giving detailed answers to a homeowner’s questions, and even soliciting questions from them, will win them over almost as much as a job well done.
You will get these demanding questions both, on the job and before the job. It can be tempting to mitigate the time you spend on questions before you take a job, but these are often the most important questions. Again, use your gut– but you can learn a lot about a homeowner/potential customer by the kind of questions they ask.
When it comes to on-the-job questions, you might not always be there. Your crew might have to field some questions. They know how to do their job, but they might not be prepared for every single question a homeowner might have– and that’s okay.
If they don’t know the answer, they can just say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” and either get in touch with you or figure out an accurate response.
When it comes to answering questions, a BS answer is much worse than admitting you don’t know and that you need to do the research.
Beyond all of these specifics, answering in-depth questions establishes you as an expert. It separates you from the contractors who get annoyed with questions. It shows you care and that you’re just as invested as the homeowner in a job well done.
Finding Homeowner Questions
Answering incoming questions establishes expertise, but I want to look at this from a marketing perspective, too. When you prove you’re an expert, you’re marketing yourself. And marketing isn’t just about sitting around and waiting.
There are a few small things you can do to find some questions to answer. And to field some incoming questions you just don’t have time to answer yourself. Despite best intentions, time is never on our side.
A few places to find and answer questions:
- Reviews – Check your reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, Angie’s List, and other platforms, regularly. Respond to all of them, even if it’s just to leave a heartfelt thanks. If you feel the homeowner poses an unanswered question in their review, answer it. The whole world can see your reply.
- Replying on Social Media – According to this research, “7 in 8 social messages go unanswered by brands in the first 72 hours, which [Sprout, the publisher] likens to not answering your phone at your place of business.” Respond to questions on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and any other social media platform you use. Monitor them regularly.
- Finding Questions on Social Media – In addition, Twitter has a robust search feature (here’s a guide) you can use to find and answer questions from homeowners in your area.
- Quora and Houzz – Sites like Quora and Houzz allow people to ask questions, and questions about home improvement projects are huge. You can answer questions on Quora and use it to your advantage (more on that later), but Houzz will allow you to actually respond to homeowners in your area. You can answer questions posted on the general forums, but you can also post images/project descriptions and people will ask questions directly on those images and project posts. Always answer these questions. Houzz has a quick writeup on the process here.
You’re probably thinking you don’t have time to seek out questions to answer. That may be the case.
If so, I suggest you empower someone on your staff to answer those questions for you. Someone on your office staff is a good choice, as are your top salespeople. Make sure their answers are in line with your company values, and in line with what you’d say to a homeowner, face-to-face.
If they don’t know the answer, they can always send you a quick text or have a quick chat with you on the phone.
When you seek out questions in the digital world, you’re actively marketing yourself to homeowners. They might not be ready to start a job right away, but you’ve left evidence of your expertise in more places than just your own website.
Marketing the Questions
Now we’re getting heavy into the marketing. Once you’re answering incoming questions, and seeking out questions in the digital wilds, you can put them to good use.
Here are a few ideas:
- Blog Posts – Google loves fresh content on your site. Every time you get a thoughtful question from a homeowner, make it into a blog post or a video. You can delegate this task to office or sales staff, too. If one homeowner had that questions, others will, too. They’ll be glad they found an answer via content on your website.
- Proof – Blog posts and videos can be time consuming, so there’s another way to use answered questions to your advantage. You can simply take screenshots and post them to either social media or a page on your website. It helps if you write a bit of content around the screenshots and, if time and space (140 characters go quickly) allow, link to the original post.
- Refer – Are you getting the same questions repeatedly? You’ll always want to give an answer, but if you’ve written a blog post about a question you’ve received and you get the same question from a homeowner, you can always say, “I answered that more in-depth in a post I recently wrote,” and refer them to that page. That gets them to your website (again), where it’s easy for them to click over to your services page or jobs gallery. You can always link them to the original forum, Houzz, Quora, or social media posts, as well.
Obviously, paying this much attention to homeowner questions is time consuming– but it’s a great investment because it sets you apart from your competition and proves your expertise.
In addition, it:
- Builds trust
- Fosters engagement with homeowners
- Makes homeowners feel important when you give an in-depth answer
- Bolsters word of mouth, both in the real world and the digital world
- Proves the value of your services
Providing great answers to homeowner questions is what contractor marketing is all about. If your answers are more detailed and delivered with more skill than your competitor’s answers, you’ve done some of the best marketing work you can possibly do. It’s time consuming, but it’s a great investment for contractors.
To your marketing success!