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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We are thinking about setting up and heavily promoting (locally - central Illinois) a website that local residents can go to & ask area professionals/businesses for advice on how to do home improvement projects, landscaping, advice on new home construction, etc.

Our theory is two fold: 1 - Creating "good will" in our community & promoting local experts/businesses in various fields.

2 - Generating work after the homeowner/"do-it-yourselfer" realizes they are better off having a proffessional do the project.

We are in Peoria, IL & own the url: www.PeoriaHomeImprovement.com. The url is currently set up as a blog site (haven't done much with it) & we are going to convert it over to a "ask the expert" site.

I already have several business owners that want to be the "expert" in their particular field.

My questions, have any of you done this, or something similar? If yes, did you get any work from it?

I already realize that there will be time wasted from answering questions from some people that will never hire anyone from the site.

Any feedback or advise would be appreciated.
 

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I have this already. My website gets found by people from all over the country and world and I routinely get questions via email from exactly what you are hoping for.

It's not a productive use of my time, nor anybody else's.

You seem to have a good head on your shoulders from what I know of you here. I'd spend your time and money on direct marketing resources that generate targeted leads and not waste your time with something like this in the hopes of a nibble here and there. Marketing should be targeted not a wing and a prayer. The mentality of "well if we get just one lead" is not a viable reason to do things like this.
 

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people will respond and use as needed the experts from sites like this. Issue is the quality of the "professionals" and the amount you need to promote this. I participate in http://www.diychatroom.com/ and find that many people go there for help. Why would someone go to your site when this and many many others already offer the same service?
 

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Aside from the difficulty issues of offering advice on an unseen project...

I wouldn't want any liability issues or bad press from some HO saying "well, Home Services told me to do it like that..." when something goes wrong.

Use the website to drive business to your company, not as a freebie for cheap customers.
 

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Aside from the difficulty issues of offering advice on an unseen project...

I wouldn't want any liability issues or bad press from some HO saying "well, Home Services told me to do it like that..." when something goes wrong.

Use the website to drive business to your company, not as a freebie for cheap customers.
When the DIY makes a mistake due to not understanding your instructions you will lose all good will from them, they won't admit they messed up, rather you don't know what you are doing. Aside from the good will you will lose, you will also lose their business because again you obviously dont know what you are doing!
 

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Instead of the q&a blog thing, I would focus on perhaps offering some sort of DIY consult (for a price), for those h/o's that want to try something on their own. Then, if things go awry, you already have your foot in the door to take over the job, or the consult fee turns into a paid estimate for a new job.
 

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I've been doing this for years at Albert's Roofing and Rent a Roofer. And at DIY Chat. Never had an issue, and many, from other states I was able to help, referred people locally to me for projects. Many more just hired me.
I've gotten many leads from it, though I wasn't trying too hard to.
My site is set up as instructional and it works for me, and them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks guys, all of you have some good points & I can tell from reading your replys, I should have gone into more detail.

I recently signed an agreement with our local newspaper (yes, I know, newspapers are dying). They (Peoria Journal Star - main paper in our area) have agreed to place free standing inserts with several different companies on the flyer(s).

I sell it to other HI companies, even (limited) competitors, & their cost per insert (4 color/full bleed/60lb/high gloss stock) can be as low as 1.2 cents per home - complete! (Gives me my ad(s) for little or nothing - it's a beautiful thing).

On the flyers/inserts, we can print a banner at the top - something like "Free Advise From The Experts - visit www.PeoriaHomeImprovement.com"... you get the idea.

The HO will have to fill out a contact form (we capture their email, name, ph# & address) so this will only be targeted to local residents & allows to email & direct mail market to them in the future.

Businesses that advertise on the flyer will have first priority as the sites "experts" with a personal bio & link to their site. We will obviously have a legal disclaimer on the site.

Sorry for the long post, but I would like to hear more feedback from everyone.
 

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Interesting set up! Looks pretty impressive.

I read through some of your site and you seem to be against hiring subs.
Do you do ALL trades "in house" or through your cooperative businesses?

Do you really never use subs?
 

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Shellbuilder,

Is most of your consulting "face-to-face", telephone or email/website in the initial stages?
I try to stay with a routine,
1. Since I draw the plans there is the usual consulting about natural light, furniture use, views , etc.
2. Once I have the shell framed, I set up a meeting with customer and walk through the entire job with an aggresive size magic marker. All info, scheduling , subs , supplier contacts, inspection processes are written on the back of the wall sheathing. This info generally covers a dozen stud bays.

Frankly speaking , I despise full service remodelig. Due to recent economy I have needed to do a few full service jobs. I find no joy in working with the typical customer who can't make up their mind, hold up the job and 9 out of 10 times melt down somewhere near the end of the job. I'm no virgin to any of this , I did full service remodeling for 15 years with an average volume aroud 2 million. You guys who are good at it deserve medals.
 

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I love the idea of a question and answer blog/forum. Although many people are telling you it is a waste of time, I think that it is a great way to use Internet Marketing to get your company's name out there, increase visibility and portray you and your company as an expert in (as you said) any remodeling job out there.

You probably won't produce leads over night, it will take some patience, but it will build up your brand within the online community and you will be in a great position as more and more contractors use the distributed web to market their business.

Kudos to you for coming up with such a great idea.
 

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I say go for it!

You have opened up a great avenue for you to grow and expand your business and with the exposure that you have in place through the newspapers it could blow up very quickly.

You see what many don't realize is that marketing and advertising has changed. What worked even just 5 years ago does not work as well today. What people are looking for is something of greater value from the people they do business with. With your providing this service to your clients who do you feel will stand out in the community? ..... You will of course.

I would also incorporate an email capture campaign into these efforts. You already know that the area your focusing on is your desired audience. Once you have collected a good amount of people into your network you have the ability to advertise basically for no cost.

The other step I would suggest is something that we do. Offer a free service of some sort, tips, advice..what ever. Then as mentioned offer a consulting package where the pro comes over to give on site advice. That of course has a fee. Make it very clear however that the fee also can be applied to the project should they have you do it.

Your building trust and repour with your clients and at the same time getting them into your sales cycle...I like the idea
 

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I think it's a great idea. It seems like a great way of capturing contact information for prospective customers. Those that don't have a question will also see your company name and that only builds up your reputation in the community.

I would however try to limit it in someway say one question answered per day or week so you are not spending all your time answering questions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Alyssa, Electricohio & Carolina Handyman,

Thanks for your replys. I can tell from reading your posts that you guys "get it". My background (before HI) was marketing & advertising & I have been out of it for 10 years now - things have changed!

I view & compare our "ask the expert" site (when published) to a software companies "free trial version" software download marketing stratagy.

I also feel that this is a great tool to capture physical addresses as well as email addresses for additional marketing. Plus, creating relationships with other trades... Thanks for your feedback.
 

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I have one page on my website that's designed to handle most electrical DIY questions without making the HO do any electrical work.

Most of it is "Find the GFI that's tripped" or "How to reset a circuit breaker". Basic stuff that any HO can do, but not take any covers off or stuff like that. It's stuff that I could not charge for if I drove to their house and did myself.
 
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