When I sit down to write ads, a social media post or webpage for my contracting clients, they often don’t understand what actually, goes into their digital marketing efforts. All they are interested in is leads, customers and making money. I get it.
So, I have to explain to them how internet marketing or marketing effectively works. Over the years one thing I have noticed is how broad contractors are with their marketing. Wondering why they are not getting the result they aim to achieve. It is my job, which is tough with some contractors, is to get them to realize they are aiming to big.
Start small and work your way out, not start broad and work your way in.
It is much easier to be the biggest contractor in a neighborhood or town, then the county or state.
Aim small, miss small, spend small, get better returns.Tweet
Ok, so on my end the marketing guy, the copywriter, is to do what they haven’t done.
That is come up with buyer persona or people in their marketing area. It is much more effective to pick a target and work that segment with our marketing then it is to be vague and get lost in the crowd.
It will help you hone in on who you are writing the marketing message to and get better results because of the leg work.
The saying “If I have 6 hours to cut down a tree, I am going to spend 4 hours sharpening the ax.” Applies here.
Do thorough audience research
Here’s the basics on learning about your audience.
Learn from those who are already buying from you. Gather all of the information you can about your current customer base.
Some of the key data points you’ll want to collect are:
- Age (break it down in segments. 20-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50-60, 60+)
- Location (Sub-division, Town, County or State)
- Language (even in American this can be important)
- Income (under $50k, $50-100k, $100-200k and above $200k)
- Buying behavior (how much research do they do and how frequent)
- Interests (do they like sports, cars, TV shows, where do they shop)
- Activities (what do they like to do)
- Life stage (such as new parenthood Middle Age or retirement).
Gather what you can from your customer records, and consider confirming and supplementing that information through email surveys, online surveys, focus groups, or even customer interviews.
Dig into your website and social analytics. Social media analytics tools can provide an incredible amount of information about the people who are interacting with your contracting business online, even if they’re not yet customers. Facebook Audience Insights provides especially valuable and detailed information.
See what the competition is up to. For contractors, your local competition may not be doing much, so look at your big vendors. Home Depot, Lowes, etc.
If you are an HVAC contractor, look at what Lennox, Trane or Carrier are doing. Once you’ve gathered information about your own customers and fans, check out who’s interacting with your competition.
- Are they reaching the same target groups as you are?
- Are they reaching groups you haven’t targeted yet but should?
- What can you learn from their efforts that can help you differentiate your brand?
Identify customer pain points
What problems or hassles are your potential customers trying to solve? What’s holding them back from success or getting what they want? What barriers do they face?
One key way to find out is to engage in some social listening and social media sentiment analysis.
Setting up search streams to monitor mentions of your business, products or services, and competitors gives you a real time look into what people are saying online. You can learn why they love certain products, or which parts of the customer experience are just not working.
I am a big fan of reading bad reviews.Tweet
It’s also a good idea to keep notes about what questions your customers ask the most. Find out if you can identify patterns or common problems which your customers tend to face. You could and should have a customer questionnaire at the beginning and end of every project.
That information is money in the bank.
Identify customer goals
This is the flip side of pain points. While pain points are problems your potential customers are trying to solve, goals are positive things they want to achieve. Those goals might be personal or professional, depending on the kinds of products and services you sell.
- What motivates your customers?
- What’s their end game?
- How are they going about achieving the goals?
These goals might be directly related to solutions you can provide, but they don’t have to be. This is more about getting to know your customers than it is trying to match customers exactly to features or benefits of your product.
Even if your personas’ goals don’t relate specifically to your contracting business, they can form the basis of a campaign, or they might simply inform the tone or approach you take in your marketing.
Social listening can be a good way to gather this information, too.
Since most contracting companies, the salesman is also the business owner. You talk to real people who are thinking about using your products and services, and you have deep understanding of what your customers are trying to achieve.
Ask your customers to write one sentence that embody the customer experience with you. Ask yourself or your salesperson to list any key strategies that’s used to overcome buyer objections when selling your products or services, which leads us to…
Understand how your business can help
Now that you understand your customers’ pain points and goals, it’s time to create a really clear picture of how your products and service can help. As part of this step, you’ll need to stop thinking about your business in terms of features and dig deep to analyze the benefits you offer to customers.
In my onboard process, one of my questions is “Why should a customer do business with you over your competition?” 9 out of 10 don’t really have an answer.RJCooper
It can be hard for contractors to get out of the ego mindset—
Which is one reason buyer personas are so important. They help you flip your thinking and consider your products and services from a buyer’s point of view.
- Why should I choose your business?
- What is in it for me?
The late Dan Kennedy wrote this in his book on copywriting and when I read it back in the late 90’s it hit me hard. It opened my eyes to framing my sales copy. He wrote, what radio station does everyone listen to?
WIIFM, which stands for “What Is In, It For Me”Dan Kennedy
Remember: A feature is what your product or service does. A benefit is how your product or service makes your customer’s life easier or better.
How does getting a new roof from you benefit your customer? How does getting a new HVAC system installed by you, benefit your customer?
Ask yourself one question for each of the pain points and goals you’ve collected:
- How can we help?
The answers to this question will provide the basis for the key marketing messages you’ll craft in the next step.
Turn your research into buyer personas
Gather all of your research and start looking for common characteristics. As you group those characteristics together, you’ll have the basis of your unique customer personas.
Here’s how this looks in practice.
Let’s say you identify a customer group of single women in their 40s who live in a small town, like Netflix, have teenaged children and own small dogs.
Good—now take this collection of characteristics and turn them into a persona that you can identify with and speak to.
Give your buyer persona a name, a job title, a home, and other defining characteristics. You want your persona to seem like a real person without getting too specific and excluding characteristics that should rightly be considered part of this customer group.
This may sound corny for contractor marketers, but write down information you would expect to see on a dating site. Include pain points and goals.
Example, your group of dog-owning suburban single women, Netflix binge watchers could be represented by the persona you name Couch Potato Cathy. Rather than speaking generally about small town living and single mom, you’ll give Cathy representative characteristics that make her a real person:
- She is 42 years old
- She lives in Bridgeton, New Jersey
- She works at a real estate office
- She owns a Chihuahua named Cuddles
- She likes the Netflix show “You”
And so on.
A list of characteristics does not equal a persona. A persona is realistic description of a person who represents one segment of your customer base.
Sure, not all people in this customer group match the characteristics of your persona exactly. But this persona represents this customer group to you and allows you to think about them in a human way rather than as a data point.
It’s a lot easier to speak to Cathy than it is to speak to “women.” Or even “40-year-old women who own dogs.”
As you flesh out your buyer personas, be sure to describe both who each persona is now and who they want to be. This allows you to start thinking about how your products and services can help them get to where they want to be.
How to use personas to guide your marketing
Thinking of your buyer personas as real people allows you to craft marketing messages that speak to real people. Contractors and their marketers too often fall into using corporate-speak that incorporates a lot of buzzwords but doesn’t really mean anything. It’s harder to fall into that trap when you’re crafting a marketing message specifically for Couch Potato Cathy.
What questions does she have that your marketing message can answer?
- What social networks does she use and when? (Facebook in the morning, during breaks and while watching Netflix?)
- What kind of things does she look up online? (School stuff because of her kids? Dog stuff? Real Estate?)
Thinking of Cathy as a real person makes sure you address her priorities, not your own.
This is where your answers to the “how can we help” exercise come in. For each buyer persona, create one key marketing message that answers this question.
How does your business help this specific persona solve their problems and achieve their goals?
Capture that in one clear sentence and add it to your persona template.
Think about your buyer personas every time you make a decision about your business and your marketing strategy. When your message fits those personas, you’ll build a bond with the real customers they represent. This boosts sales, get word of mouth, while creating brand loyalty and trust.
They sense, you are speaking to them and them alone.