Dave Kerpen | How to Successfully Market in a Niche Industry
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How to Successfully Market in a Niche Industry

How to Successfully Market in a Niche Industry

This article was originally posted on Inc.com

A textbook example of how to do marketing right in a niche industry

So often, we read about how to do marketing right, or how to do SEO right, or how to do social media right.

But these articles are written with all small businesses in mind, when in reality, each vertical might be very different in how to best use marketing techniques and practices to achieve optimal outcomes.

I interviewed, David Alpert, President of Continuum Marketing Group LLC, a full service marketing firm that provides services exclusively to residential remodeling contractors nationwide. The interview was refreshing, to see both David’s total focus, as well as a great example of how to apply marketing techniques to a particular vertical. Here’s what David shared:

Q: Tell me about your focus.

Our focus is on a subset of home remodeling contractors that provide a full range of services like kitchens, baths, additions, major renovations, and may also provide design services. These are the remodelers I’ll be talking about.

What’s important to understand is that the marketing that works best for these firms is not necessarily the same as what works for other businesses or even other types remodelers.

Q: Has online marketing replaced traditional marketing approaches for these remodelers?

A: No, but it’s radically changed remodeler marketing, with many new marketing opportunities.

Online marketing has become a major part of marketing programs for many remodelers. For some things however, traditional marketing is still highly cost effective and should be used. We find a strategic mix of traditional and online marketing delivers the best results and ROI.

We’ve used online analytics for 15 years to measure the impact of online and traditional marketing. Doing so, we can often gauge faster and more accurately a given marketing effort’s impact versus waiting for the phone to ring, which could be months after that effort.

Q: What are some ways remodelers use online marketing effectively?

A: Online marketing like SEO, PPC, Social Media and specialty sites can be great for building brand awareness.

Online marketing helps build brand understanding, meaning the type of remodeling done, the staff, their process, what their projects look like and so on.

Building brand preference, prior to a first call or meeting, using online marketing is critical. Remodelers can also use their online presence to inspire, educate, and motivate homeowners thinking of remodeling. It can be used to get on a homeowner’s radar long before they are ready to remodel. Homeowners go online when they start thinking about remodeling, sometimes more than a year before they want to talk to a contractor. Online marketing offers low cost ways to capture contact information at this early stage and to start engaging with homeowners. This engagement can take many forms: downloadable e-books and guides, e-newsletters, social media, etc. Online marketing can also be used to maintain strong relationships with past clients.

Ultimately what remodelers want from any marketing is to generate “qualified” leads with an upcoming project. They’d rather not deal with unqualified leads, because qualifying leads can be expensive. Online marketing, if done well, is good at both generating qualified leads and minimizing unqualified ones.

Q: What types of online marketing generally work best for remodelers?

A: Websites are a must for all remodelers. They must be professional-looking and competitive with other remodelers targeting the same market segment. I can’t stress enough the importance of using the best photos a remodeler can afford, showing the type of work they sell and their market is looking for. Homeowners typically find more remodelers they think can do the job well than they want to contact. So the remodeler’s website must stand out, offering distinctive reasons to put that remodeler on their short list.

All remodelers should integrate their various online marketing efforts together and also with their traditional marketing. Every remodeler can benefit from using online marketing analytic tools. Many cost nothing to use. Today, having a free listing on Houzz is also almost a given, though a paid Houzz listing is not.

A good number of positive online reviews on key websites, like Google, Houzz, BBB, Facebook and others is very important. GuildQuality, a homeowner satisfaction survey firm, can be useful for their members in getting online reviews and also can integrate with other online marketing efforts. But you still need reviews on other sites as well.

Beyond these “must haves” there are variables that dictate what other online marketing would be best. These include: the remodeler’s size and sales volume, what services they sell, their average per project sale, their marketing budget, their market size, their competition, how long they’ve been in business, if they have a good number of past satisfied clients, etc.

SEO is generally cost effective for medium and larger remodelers but its value for small remodelers depends on their service area and type of remodeling they do. Pay per click marketing is useful in certain situations, but not all.

Social media can be useful and cost effective, helps SEO efforts, and how well it works is tied less to a remodeler’s size, marketing budget and location than SEO or PPC.

E-newsletters help maintain and extend a remodeler’s relationship with past clients, helping generate greater repeat and referral business. With prospects, e-newsletters help build brand understanding and preference. They integrate well with remodeler blogs, social media, and online reviews. This helps remodelers get even more value from their e-newsletter investment.

Q: What is the biggest marketing challenge most remodelers face?

A: To understand the top challenge it’s important to keep these facts in mind.

Nationally, about 47% of remodelers gross under $1 million in sales and only 20% gross over $3 million. Most have 10 or fewer employees. They typically have small or modest marketing budgets and little to no trained marketing staff.

Remodelers are constantly pitched by sales reps from of all types of marketing companies. Many make compelling, but often questionable, promises of success. They often show metrics that sound good but may not be a meaningful indication of success.

Also, the generations buying remodeling include boomers through millennials. Each generation has different online use patterns, makes buying decisions differently, and responds to marketing differently. On a modest budget it’s not always possible to effectively segment and optimize marketing efforts for each generation.

So the biggest marketing challenge most remodelers face is understanding enough about marketing to be a knowledgeable “purchaser” of marketing services. This includes understanding things like building brand awareness, understanding and preference, how integrating online and traditional marketing can benefit them, determining who and what to believe, how to properly assess what is working, and how to evaluate if something else will achieve the same results more cost effectively. And remodelers have to do all this with small marketing budgets that demand using the best, most cost effective mix of marketing.

Thanks, David!

You may or may not be a residential remodeling contractor. But the lessons are clear:

1) Focusing on a particular niche and specializing is extremely powerful.

2) Online marketing can work well for a small business, especially if you apply skills and techniques to a particular niche.

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