In episode 3 of Build With Billd, Chris Doyle sits down with Billd’s Marketing Director, Jon Katz and Kim Grennan, founder and CEO of Axle Eight Marketing in Arizona to discuss simple, yet critical strategies contractors can put in place to move the needle for their marketing efforts to obtain more leads.
Chris: Hey guys, thank you for joining the Built with Billd podcast. Today we’ve got some great guests. We’ve got Jon Katz, our Director of Marketing right here at Billd joining us along with Kim Grennan, the founder and CEO of Axle Eight. A fantastic marketing firm out of Arizona, that we’ve work with for a long time. So guys, welcome to our podcast.
Kim: Thanks for having us.
Jon: Yeah, appreciate it.
Chris: So today we’re gonna be talking about marketing of all things. So we’ve got, you know, our customers and across the construction industry really is very relationship driven. And marketing often takes a backseat to that personal relationship with general contractor subs, suppliers, property owners, etc. But with things changing, we find that our customers oftentimes are looking for new avenues for new business and they really do need to market themselves in a way that they’re not, they’re not used to and that also, the marketing initiatives are also helping their brand and reputation as they continue to establish those relationships with with their current customers. So I think the best way to start is there is a wide spectrum of contractors and businesses overall in construction. But what what are the basics I’ll ask Jon first, like, what are they like? What do you have to have to start with as a contractor?
Jon: Yeah, I mean, it’s a great question. There’s so many different things you can do in marketing, it can get very overwhelming. I think the key is to just build the foundation. And really, the foundation starts with your website, right. And so make sure you’ve got a really, really strong website. It could be as simple as honestly one page, right? It doesn’t have to, you don’t have to deck it out. But you definitely want to have a website, you want to have your social media squared away. And again, you don’t have to focus on every single channel on social media, you don’t have to be on Pinterest, you don’t have to be on you know, Reddit, find wherever your customers are. And beyond those, it’s better to be great at one channel than it is to be on four or five channels and do them you know, in a very low level way. So I’d say social media website are key are two key areas that you definitely want to focus on and have.
Chris: And the reason we’re saying that focus on one or two is because they’ll find you either way. If you have a website, if you have one channel open through various social media, they’ll find you through a quick search. Generally they will.
JonYeah, I mean, a lot of the different social media channels are all indexed on Google so that they can find you on Google. Your website will be indexed by Google meaning if you go search for if you’re a contractor in Arizona, and you’re, you know, someone’s looking for a contractor in Arizona, and your website says that you’re based in Arizona, you might show up in those search results. And so that’ll often be saying, you know, if you’re on Facebook and your Facebook page says that you’re a contractor in Arizona, you’ll come up in the search results. So you want to do really well with one or two. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin. That’s where I think people struggle a lot.
Chris: Sure. So Kim, starting 101 starting a construction business. What’s the marketing package that you should have?
Kim: Yeah, so you absolutely want to get started with that website. Like Jon mentioned. So making sure that you’re on, you know, one of the easiest ones, the lowest barriers to entry is Squarespace. So I would start there. So you have about $12 a month to get started and it has everything you need, get the branded domain email address as well within that package, and build out that website, the bare minimum.
Chris: And Squarespace is an out of the box platform, right? So you don’t need any like skills. You just anyone can do it.
Kim: Yeah, exactly. They make it really easy to drag and drop, choose the colors and you literally are dropping the text in the copy for your service. So there’s a variety of different pages that you should include. And we can touch on all those things as well.
Chris: Right and then how do you how do you deal with things like search engine optimization, when you have a basic website are those generally out of the box for these, like various sites that you can use to to put a site up quickly?
Kim: Yes, so a lot of these website builders like Squarespace, Wix WordPress, they have different plugins that you can add on that make it really easy to make sure that you have titles and meta descriptions all ready to go. And basically all that is is when you’re searching in Google or Bing for, you know, contractors in Arizona. If you show up within those search results, you can customize how you show up within those search engine results pages. So it makes it really easy within Squarespace and Wix. If you’re using those SEO plugins, which bare minimum they come out of the box, you can add on additional plugins that are free, that can give you the ability to fine tune those a little bit more and customize it.
Chris: And Jon mentioned, like one, one page, if you were to say like, hey, that we actually want to do three or four pages, what do you think the most critical pieces of the website are outside of just your homepage that may just give you a general outline of what services are provided and contact information?
Kim: Yeah, outside of that, you definitely want to have a page dedicated to services, whether that is one full page that encompasses everything or if you want to break out your services into separate pages, that could also be beneficial from an SEO perspective, if you do take that approach. But to keep it simple, it’s one page with all your services to start is a great place to be on top of that you definitely want to talk about yourself. So in about us, or our story page is perfect. So talking a little bit about how it started, what your years of experience are, things like that will add credibility to what you’re trying to service. And we also on top of contact us which you mentioned, that’s really important. A lot of people miss this portion when they’re first starting out. They won’t even add a contact us page. So people come to their site, they’re interested, you want to make sure they have a place that they can contact you. So put your email address and your phone number, make sure that the website has a little form that they could fill out and submit directly to your email as well. Keep it easy. And then lastly, it’s really, really important. And we’re seeing this trend increasingly have a place that you can showcase your work. So whether that is a page literally called our work, where you have photos before and after photos or videos, that helps tremendously in this day and age. So that’s huge right now.
Chris: And, you know, I think, why to have a web presence and social media presence, which we’ll get into here in a little bit. It’s not just about your customers, your customers probably aren’t even looking at this. They know who you are. They saw your face. They’re on the job site with you. It’s the one and two parties removed. For example, you’ve got a property owner that’s developing a you know, retail center, and they want to see a list of subs. And maybe they have someone on their team that wants to just run some quick diligence. And they check out each sub and they see, while the electrician doesn’t even have a website, a lot of times it is that second or third tier relationship that you don’t have. And that’s where you really need to have this kind of stuff on the web for people to see. So they can often just validate the decision they’ve already made, right? So they’re not necessarily going to the website to say I want to buy from these guys. They’re saying, okay, they have a website, I can see their story. I can see they’ve been in business for 10 years or whatever. I see their work checkbox and move on.
Kim: Yeah, absolutely.
Chris: So, Jon, let me ask you, let’s take this to social because I know you have a lot of experience in social media. Before we get into what you would recommend, do you think you’d go through a high level of the different the primary channels and maybe the pros and cons of each one?
Jon: Yeah, for sure. I think when people think about social media, right, you think about Facebook, you think about Instagram, you think about LinkedIn, and you think about Twitter. I think they’re all different. And there’s a place for each one. And I think depending on your business, depending on your customer, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish might dictate which one you focus on. Instagram is a very visual platform people want to go on and see pretty things they want to go on and see cool things they want to see videos and watch videos. So I think if you have a type of business that lends itself well to before and after shots to maybe behind the scenes stuff, really cool things that most people are not seeing on a day to day basis. I think it’s a great channel to focus on and the growth in Instagram has been huge. Facebook, people want to connect with friends. They’re looking at news sources, so they do want to see news So I think content pushing out content on Facebook is key. So if you’re doing blogs, if you are writing valuable content, I think Facebook is a great place to showcase that. Less So from an organic perspective, and that kind of brings in New York, organic versus paid, which we could talk about it another time.
Chris: Why don’t you go through the basics of that organic is like, just come to you because they’re looking for you?
Jon: Well, yeah, organic is when you go and you just post on social media, and you don’t put any advertising spend behind it. So if you have 1000 followers, there’s going to be a portion of those followers that see what you published, right, what you posted. Now, if people start to share, there’s an organic component and a viral component to organic posts. But for the most part, a lot of these platforms are what’s called pay to play. You kind of have to pay to get the distribution and to get the eyeballs. And so Facebook for instance, has a very big pay to play platform to to get the eyeballs If you do need to put an advertising spend behind it. And so that’s, that’s really Facebook and Instagram. LinkedIn is really relationship based and it is industry based. So if you are in an industry where you want to build up authority and you want people to look at you, as you know, a very strong authority figure in your particular industry, I think LinkedIn is great to be posting. The great thing about LinkedIn is there is a lot of organic reach, meaning you can reach a lot of people on LinkedIn without the pay to play, you can reach people just by posting consistently, and getting your content out on LinkedIn. So I think LinkedIn is great from a relationship standpoint, building authority, building trust, if that’s what you’re looking for. And then Twitter. That’s the last one. I mean, to me, you know, I have to be totally transparent don’t have as much experience on Twitter as I do with the other three channels. But it’s much shorter, you can’t post long content pieces. It’s more timely what’s happening today. And so if there’s breaking news and things like that, you want to stay in kind of the forefront of what’s happening on a day to day basis, whether it’s in your industry or just in the world in general, I think being on Twitter could have its benefits as well. A lot of media, a lot of media on Twitter, as well.
Chris: So we connect that bill, we connect with all of our customers, which are mostly subcontractors and general contractors. So what I think is really cool, I see this a decent amount on Instagram and a little bit on LinkedIn is when our customers will post pictures of the project and their completed work. And it just shows like they’re really proud of what they did. And I think that resonates with everyone that touches that company or person so this person put a lot of work into it and they’re really proud of it. When you see it and it’s like an epoxy floor. You’re like, what the hell is that like, but you know that that actually took a lot of work and a lot of prep work and very skilled craftsmanship to lay it the right way and be level and all the right. I’m probably not saying all the right construction terms here, but a lot went into it. So I think it’s really cool when people post things like that. So that actually goes to my next question for Kim. If I’m a let’s just say I, you know, maybe a 20, person, subcontractor, concrete subcontractor, have maybe a couple crews, I kind of run and manage my business and run the crews all my own. How do you actually set these things up? And how do you stay active and posting? What are other different strategies on how to do that?
Kim: Yeah, one thing that we see a lot of beginners using, which is a great platform is buffer and it’s one that we would suggest it costs about $15 a month but what it does is you’re able to spend, call it an hour to two hours a month and just program out all of those post that you want to do for the entire month or two months, and just schedule it and set it and forget it. So within buffer, you can actually choose different media outlets. So if there’s some construction website that you love the blogs that they’re pushing out that you’d like to share on your LinkedIn or on Facebook, for example, you can have all those blogs pulled into kind of like a feed within buffer for you. And you can literally go in and select the ones that you’d like to reshare you can add your own text, let’s say we’re going to send it on Facebook, you can kind of put your own little two cents, comment on it, and then link that blog directly there and schedule it out for next Tuesday and then schedule another blog out or, you know, next Thursday or if you don’t want to repurpose other content, you can just schedule out anything you want to post out whether it’s thoughts, trends, new projects, new customers that you may have, whatever it may look like but we really really tried to support people sitting down for an hour and getting as much content created and scheduled out with this tool, you can schedule it out in advance as long as you’d like, and then set it and forget it, because it’s really about just making time to do it. Because if you’re doing it on a one off basis, it’s really easy to forget. And, you know, it’s, you want to be consistent about it. So buffer is a great tool. It’s relatively inexpensive. There’s some other ones out there too, but it’s a really great starting place.
Chris: So instead of having to create original content every single time, what you’re doing is you’re saying hey, I like these media outlets, you know, whatever it may be, and you’re picking the different stories or blogs. And you may just write one sentence about it that says a great article by so and so and then it automatically will tag the link and then it shows the activity and your contribution to it. But it’s not all the pressure of saying I have to like build all this content, you know, right away. That’s great.
So I think that the next level would be like, Who are your customers? Who do you work with? And what do they say about you? So I, this is broken out into two, you’ve got your customers that you want to host, potentially, like, what do they say about you? But there’s also all these other sites like a Yelp and Google, right that have their own review sites. So let me ask Jon, like, let’s start with just the review sites. What’s the best way to manage those and how do you get started without if you’re not doing that?
Jon: Yeah, it’s a great question. You know, if you have a site if you’re on Squarespace or you’re on Wix, or let’s say you’re a supplier and you’re on Shopify, a lot of these platforms have automatic plugins that you can use to basically start collecting reviews. Those are for your your customers, you’ll send out an email potentially Through those platforms to say, Hey, you know, we know you work with us, can you Would you mind writing us a review and those reviews will show up on your website, then there’s then there’s Yelp reviews, and there’s Google reviews. You need to register your business with Google. If you have Google and you’re registered there, you’ll have Google reviews. And really, it’s just a matter of asking customers like, hey, do you mind giving us a Google review? I’ve had so many, you know, consultants I’ve worked with and so many businesses I’ve worked with who reach out to me after I work with them, and they’re there. They Hand me the link right there that says, hey, here’s the link to go leave a Google review. Here’s a link to go leave a Yelp review. And that just builds up credibility. So when people are looking for you, they’re seeing, you know, 1520 100 positive reviews about you, and people you know, writing all great things about your service, your work, the quality, and everything like that. So it’s a lot of you just reaching out to your customers being proactive and asking them to leave reviews. Most people aren’t going to go do it. Unless it A real negative experience, which is a sad thing. So you have to kind of proactively push customers who were happy to write reviews about you.
Chris: Yeah. And the ones that are not happy will likely be the first. So that’s my next question. What are the differences? We’ve got Yelp and Google probably like a better business bureau, which isn’t a review site, but in some ways, it kind of can be what, what would you recommend when you go you go to check your business name, and you see they’re already reviews? And maybe you have like one negative review? How do you normally handle that and address that?
Jon: Yeah, I think it’s a great question. I know a lot of business owners get very scared when they have negative reviews. It’s not it doesn’t look good. When you have one review and it’s negative. Obviously, you want to then build up some positive reviews around it. Having a negative review or two doesn’t kill you. You should respond to it. If there’s a way for you to do that on the platform. It’s always good to say you know, If there’s a comment underneath the review, and you’re able to leave a comment, say, Hey, you know, I’m sorry for your poor experience, you know, here’s what happened. And we’d love to make it right and publicly show the world that you’re willing to stand behind any potential mistakes that you had made, and that you’re willing to stand behind your product and your and your service. So I think it’s really important to respond proactively. Don’t hide it necessarily. The goal, it actually shows trust, when you see 10 reviews and one is negative. So it kind of shows that you’re, you’re willing to show those negative reviews and that that’s an okay thing.
Chris: Kim, let me ask you about, like, more expanded ways to show your customer success. I know that’s something that you guys have done quite a bit of is highlighting that through, maybe not as deep as like a case study but just highlighting in general, the customers and what they have to say about you, and maybe even some photos and stuff. Can you comment a little bit on that?
Kim: Yeah, absolutely. So a really, really great place to put some of these testimonials or any quotes that you get, you know, you want to put those highlighted on your homepage even so if you have a couple of great quotes that are either from your Google My Business account or you know Facebook reviews or Yelp, take those and put them on your website. And it’s an absolute goldmine for credibility building. So I always say put that on your home homepage. You can also create a separate page on your website that’s just about kind of customer success and reviews. If you’re using Squarespace or Wix, even, you can use plugins. So Squarespace specifically has a plugin called elf sight, e-l-f s-i-g-h-t, and that pulls in for free. All your Yelp reviews, all your Google reviews, all your Facebook reviews and any other ones that you have in there. And you can customize which ones are actually displaying. So it’s a really great way to build credibility from that perspective, and then it gives you the opportunity to build additional, you know, copy or content around those stories. So if you have one great review from Facebook, for example, that you’re pulling into your website, you can then add additional context, maybe some before and after photos, if that’s relevant video, some, you know, any other additional story that you can kind of set the tone. So, you know, we started this project and XYZ this is where it started. This is where we ended, here’s kind of everything that we did. All those things are really, really huge for helping with brand validity.
Chris: So let me ask you this if if I don’t have any testimonials and you know, very relationship based like how we started, can you talk a little bit about the social norms of going out and getting that first one I know I was surprised at how, number one it’s totally acceptable number two, you almost like I’m gonna say put words in their mouths, but you can take things they’ve said and say here, I’m starting it for you. You did authorize it?
Kim: Yeah. So there’s a variety of ways to do it. What we typically start with is, you know, simply asking the question, whether that’s an email or you know, if you’re close with them, sending them a text asking them directly, hey, would you mind, you know, reviewing our business through this Google link. So when you set up your Google My Business account, they actually give you a link that you can share with anyone and it directs them exactly to where they need to go to just type in their review for your business. So sending them an email asking them about it, giving them a call, or anything like that is great, but Chris, to your point, if you know someone needs a little bit more hand holding, you can start by, you know, crafting kind of a message for them sending it over email and saying hey, you know, like we’re looking to add additional reviews for SEO purposes just for marketing in general for us. This is you know, what you would kind of told me before does this look right? Is there any modifications, they can go in and modify it? Sometimes it’s so much easier to start from someone else’s starting point. So we actually see that a lot where people if we can kind of get the ball rolling and get their, their mind churning a little bit by putting some words in their mouth. And since then, you know, they’re like, yeah, and blah, blah, blah. You know, it was really great working with Chris and Jon, they were amazing, whatever that looks like. So yeah, I’d say either just shoot them a quick message with that link, or even get the ball rolling and write some, some text to get them started.
Chris: Well, that’s great. Well, now these are, I think, great beginning steps. On our next episode, we’re going to get into some of the more advanced marketing strategies. If I could just recap here. I think the basics are absolutely. If you don’t have a website, get away stood up, don’t let the complexities prevent you from doing that there are a lot of great resources to stand something up in probably an hour or two of how to, you know, bad website is probably better than no website, as long as it has your contact information and a little bit about your company. The second is to make sure that you have at least one social media feed that you’re using. And again, that can be linked to your website as well. And the last being, let your customers who work so hard to impress and you know, you show up late to make sure you get a job completed and all the things that you do to build that relationship. Make sure that that shines on your website, and on social media and on the things that you may not host on your site such as Yelp reviews or Better Business Bureau, things like that. You want to make sure that those positive experiences are reflected there. So yeah, thanks, Jon and cam so much for joining. I think this was great stuff and really looking forward. To our next version of this where we get into it a little bit deeper.
Jon: Thanks for having us on.
Chris: All right. Thanks, guys.