Over the past five or six years, I've met with hundreds (more like thousands) of contractors. I always ask the question, "what's your top source of leads and new business?" What do you think the most popular answer is? If you guessed referrals and word of mouth, you hit the nail on the head (and I'm sure many of you reading this would probably answer the same way).
There's nothing wrong with word of mouth being your top source of new business. However, it does indicate a major untapped opportunity because your top source of new business should be your website.
Unless you're in an industry where you do thousands of small jobs for thousands of different people (each month), there's just no way that word of mouth and referrals can outpace your website when it comes to generating qualified leads. Your website is like a sales rep that can see thousands of people each day.
If you've read any of my previous blogs, you know that I think search engine optimization ("SEO") provides the best long-term return on investment of any advertising and marketing strategy available to contractors (and I can quantify this if you're interested in learning more). But, this isn't another blog post about SEO (per se). If you want to understand the basics of SEO, read this or this.
Your long-term strategy for improving your website's organic rankings is very straightforward: Create content that establishes your company as THE authority for what you do in the markets you do it.
Don't focus on SEO, focus on adding more value.
That's right - stop worrying about SEO. If you want to get more leads and jobs from your website, you should focus on providing your website visitors with more value. This means using your expertise to help your visitors accomplish their goals better, faster, more cost-effectively, etc. Go back and read the classic book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People." If every page of your website is a keyword stuffed regurgitaiton of the content that every other contractor has already created, you're not adding value. "Spinning articles" is not adding value - it's a race to the bottom and it's not going to help you build a lasting business.
Ways to Add More Value
There are a million ways to add more value to your website visitors, but for the purposes of this blog, I'll use one example. Let's say you're a local window replacement company. Windows, in most cases, represent a pretty big-ticket item to most homeowners. At the same time, I'll venture to say that very few homeowners really understand the differences between and best applications of the various types of windows - wood, aluminum clad wood, vinyl, fiberglass, etc. When insufficient information exists, people resort to what they understand - price.
So, you create a two ebooks: The Homeowner's Guide to Choosing the Right Type of Window" and a Windows Buyer's Guide to help ensure that your prospective customers are considering the right products and asking the right questions of potential contractors.
Quality Window & Door (the company referenced above) has created the buyer's guide, but they also have a "Wall of Windows" in their showroom. This magnificent idea has about ~20 windows from a variety of manufacturers - including windows from manufacturers they don't work with! The idea is simple - educate the consumer and help them pick the best product for their home (even if that product isn't one that Quality Window & Door sells).
Of course, you should angle the contents fo these pieces (whether they're web pages, ebooks, etc.) to the benefits provided by your company. I don't believe that overseas companies should be writing YOUR website content, so when I create an SEO guide to educate our prospective clients, I try to emphasis quality over quantity. Someone looking for the cheapest SEO service shouldn't hire me or my company. If I meet someone looking for a cheap provider, I'll happily point them in a different direction. There's no trick. I think my way is superior and I'm proud to talk about it. You should do the same for your company.
So, the next time you're about to write a page of content for your website (or oversee someone doing it on your behalf), ask yourself, "how is this piece of content adding value - is this the same crap found on every other website?" If the answer is yes, pause and re-think how you might do things differently moving forward. The more value you add with your content, the higher your website will rank organically and the more inbound links, inbound leads and jobs you'll get.
Do this consistently for 12-18 months and word of mouth will never again be your top source of new business (which is a good thing, I think).