Written by Mark Buckshon
Should leads services be part of your marketing picture?
The simple answer: It depends. If you expect leads services will take you directly to profitable projects, you will be disappointed. However, if your expectations are realistic and you use the services in a highly disciplined manner you wll likely find their fees to be reasonable.
Within non-residential markets, there are some large, well-known leads services and others that focus effectively on regional markets. We work closely with Databid.com, which has a powerful leads service for Ontario, and in the US, also serves the Chicago, Illinois market area. Some services specialize in residential and home service contractors, and their stories are especially controversial.
The leads services love-hate relationship
You most likely have a love-hate relationship with leads services. In some cases, you receive exactly what you want– useful leads for real business. Unlike conventional paid advertising, your results are tangible and immediate, and you can go to work right away to convert the leads into business.
Unfortunately, leads services are not perfect. They often sell the same information to several competitors, diluting the leads’ value. Once the project is ‘open for bidding’ you must be prepared to fight against others who may have entrenched relationships. In many cases, the project is already ‘wired’ for another business, and you don’t know it. Leads services may provide information about people who lack interest in your service or are cheapskates.
Many residential contractors complain on Internet forums such as Contractortalk.com that the leads services rarely co-operate in refunding or replacing invalid leads. The complainers often fail to understand what the services can and cannot do.
You need to decide if the cost per lead is worthwhile. In many cases it is. But watch your back – the competition is just behind you (if they haven’t reached your potential client first.)
Leads services are great sources of data you to strategically plan marketing initiatives.
Say, for example, you are interested in working on hospital renovations within Ontario. You have your own network of contacts and associates – possibly gleaned from previous experience, vendors and suppliers, and relevant associations.
Leads service reports provide additional data. You can uncover names of architects, engineers and other professionals preparing plans and discover sub trades and general contractors. You may learn about projects which could require your services later.
You can use this information to make connections, track your competitors and plan your strategy.
Figuring out where to build your relationships
You can use this information for relation-building. For example, consider sharing information from the leads service with someone in your network who might benefit from the knowledge (of course respecting the leads service copyright). This creates much good-will and encourages reciprocation.
For consumer-oriented services, learn which neighbourhoods provide the most useful leads, and develop your own marketing strategies to follow up and find the leads without the services. You can also share the leads information with allied trades and professionals, again allowing for any confidentiality obligations in your contract with the service. They will return the favour.
Leads service guidelines
Here are some leads service guidelines:
- Give the service enough time to prove its value (at least three months) but don’t tie yourself down to a long-term contract to reduce your per-lead cost until you are sure the leads are good.
- For consumer leads, review postings on forums such as Contractortalk.com. You will learn about their pitfalls and pluses.
- Consider construction association services. You may use physical or electronic plans rooms to review project documentation.
- Beware of leads services representatives who use hard-selling tactics, especially telemarketers. Effective services attract and retain loyal clients. Check with your peers in non-competitive markets.
Measure your results
Measure and track your leads service results. You should know your cost per lead, conversion rate and the value of business generated per lead. You can input this information into your annual budget to effectively plan your marketing strategies.
This text is excerpted from Construction Marketing Ideas: Practical Strategies and Resources to Attract and Retain Clients for Your Architectural, Engineering or Construction Business, which is available at Amazon.ca or through the Construction Marketing ideas blog.