For professionals in the business of home repair, creating advertising that both looks great and works can be a tall order. Sometimes fabulous looking TV commercials just don’t generate leads. Other approaches, like loud inexpensive radio promos, might generate some immediate leads, but end up hurting customer’s perception of the value and quality you provide in the long run.
No matter what home repair category you specialize in – roofs, siding, HVAC, windows, foundations, even landscaping services – you have to find a balance of creating quality advertising that helps generate leads for your sales team at the same time it builds your brand and lays the groundwork for future sales. This is true no matter if you’re making TV and radio commercials, newspaper ads, direct mailings, trade-show brochures, Internet banners or any of a million other materials created to motivate potential buyers.
So how do you create advertising that helps truly build your business?
To answer that question, it helps to start by understanding what advertising can and can’t do. Like any tool you work with, advertising serves specific functions. If you try to use it, or measure its success, outside of what it’s meant for, you’ll end up wasting time and money. From a positive perspective, advertising created with the right uses in mind can help set up both your prospective customers and your internal team for terrific success.
Creating Advertising for Maximum Impact
As a tool in your marketing toolbox, advertising is most effective when it’s used for any of three different jobs or goals: 1) Educating; 2) Brand Building; 3) Offering. In fact, most advertising does a combination of work in all three categories. Marketers can vary the “weight” of emphasis on each goal to tackle specific marketing objectives. Let’s look at each of these three things that good advertising can do.
“Educating” homeowners is the first and most powerful job your advertising can do. At the very simplest level, your advertising should educate your prospective customers that your product/solution is even available. Customers who don’t know you exist, can’t buy from you. Going a step farther, your advertising can also teach homeowners about topics that make buying from you look like a smart decision. Advertising can demonstrate problems that your services can solve and tell them about the solutions available. You can point out trouble signs to look for and quantify the costs of ignoring them. Finally, you can teach them why doing business with your company is better than buying from the competition.
Differentiating yourself from the competition is a big part of the next job that advertising does well: “Brand Building.” Your brand is the total of all the impressions – both positive and negative – that prospective customers have about your company. Advertising can’t create ALL the impressions, but it can help provide customers with positive images and ideas to associate with you. This includes helping support your brand position and your brand personality. Ultimately, a strong brand can help customers prefer doing business with you over your competition. For more information on these topics, see our Ultimate Guide to Brand Building for Home Repair Pros.
Finally, in the job most directly tied to lead generation, your advertising can “Offer” specific products, services and promotions. Offers can be as general as “call us for a quote on your new roof” to as specific as “homeowners in zip code 68144 who call for a quote before midnight tonight will get a free 70-inch 4K TV with paid installation of a new slate, tile or metal roof.” Obviously there’s a lot of middle ground between those extremes.
The key to successfully using offers in your advertising is balancing simplicity with specificity. At its core, every offer is made up of two parts, “do A” and “get B.” Your audience will weigh the benefits they’ll enjoy from “B” against the difficulty or cost they incur from doing “A.” Keeping that calculation easy and making the result sound like a great value will help your advertising offer generate results.
Lead Generation and the Sales Funnel
A funnel is a good way of imagining the customer journey. At the very top, the widest part of the funnel represents the entire universe of potential customers. At the bottom, are those customers who are ready, able and willing to complete the purchase.
Our goal as marketers and salespeople is to facilitate the journey of as many homeowners as possible from the top of the funnel all along the way to the bottom.
Creating Advertising that Works
When you use advertising to tackle the jobs of educating, building your brand and offering homeowners good value it will work to build your business. But what about campaigns that leave you asking, “Why doesn’t my advertising work?” How can we find out what went wrong? What can we do differently?
As long-time experts in the business, we’ve seen thousands of ad campaigns. We’ve seen tremendous successes and we’ve been disappointed, too. The cases where advertising doesn’t seem to work all seem to have the same two things in common: misplaced expectations and inconsistent customer experience.
The cases where advertising doesn’t seem to work all seem to have the same two things in common: misplaced expectations and inconsistent customer experience. Realistic expectations are key to understanding the results of your advertising.
Realistic expectations are key to understanding the results of your advertising. In the section above, we listed the three things that advertising can do. One thing it can’t do in many cases is close the sale. A few seconds on TV or radio is no replacement for a skilled salesperson assessing a homeowner’s unique needs and presenting a tailored solution. It’s the difference between generating leads and closing sales. Advertising can pique interest, sales pros have to take generated leads and make them pay off.
But even the best salesperson can’t overcome advertising that sets bad expectations or products or services that don’t live up to what the advertising promised. Marketers often talk about the “Four P’s” of marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Each of these elements have to work together, setting and living up to customer expectations and demands. If any one element is weak, it doesn’t matter how great your TV commercial might be, it may not be able to generate sales. This idea is summed up in a common saying in the ad business, “You can’t advertise your way out of a marketing problem.”
To create advertising that works, you first have to create a product and pricing model that has value for homeowners in your market. Once that’s done, you’re ready to start making ads.
Creating Advertising to Generate Leads
There are a variety of kinds of ads that work well in generating leads from homeowners. Each has strengths and weaknesses and is appropriate for different situations and meeting business goals. The four most common types of advertising for home service companies are: Spokesperson, Storytelling, Testimonial and Explainer. Let’s take a brief look at each and how to best use them.
Spokesperson ads are common in the home improvement and repair space. And it’s not surprising. Using a spokesperson can help deliver a lot of information quickly. Better yet, a spokesperson who appears trustworthy and likeable can transfer these personality advantages to the company they’re representing. Finally, a spokesperson can assume the role of a sales representative by directing your audience how to respond and directly asking them to take action. Choosing the right spokesperson and using them to power up TV, radio and online advertising is an excellent approach for many home service companies.
Storytelling ads are some of the most popular tools for brand building. Using “slice-of-life” situations and emotional appeals, companies can create stories that resonate with their target audiences. Sentiments like nostalgia, fear, longing and amusement can be used to connect our brand to the hearts and minds of homeowners. While this approach can be powerful, it also brings some of the biggest potential pitfalls. Poor acting or artificiality can actually weaken a brand. Moreover, even when storytelling lands an emotional punch, audiences may remember the story more than the brand behind it. Employing this kind of advertising takes care and skill to ensure positive impact.
Testimonial ads are similar to Spokesperson ads in that someone is telling your audience about your company. They have an advantage over a Spokesperson approach in that, done correctly, testimonials are perceived as unbiased and inherently “honest.” The most powerful testimonials employ real-life customers expressing their honest opinions in their own words. It’s important not to attempt to force artificial “talking points” into the mouths of your customers. Forced and awkward testimonials can backfire. That said, using real customers in advertising can also add some complications. Your subjects will likely take longer to deliver information than a trained spokesperson. They may also need more production time to grow comfortable with being on camera and to deliver a usable “take.”
Another style of advertising that’s particularly useful in the home services industry is the Explainer. This style of advertising might use diagrams, animation, computer graphics, statistics or other measurement devices to educate homeowners how your product works, solves problems and presents great value. Explainer advertising can be very powerful and even entertaining when done correctly. Entire television shows have been built around “explainer” formats and been successful on networks like The Food Channel, TLC and HGTV. There are few rules with how you present your Explainer, giving you a lot of flexibility in highlighting different aspects of your products and services. A key guideline is simply to maintain focus on one topic and don’t try to force too much into your advertising. Too much complexity can confuse your audience and generate negative feelings, the exact opposite of what you should aim for with explainer ads.
Depending on your ad formats, you can mix and match elements from each of these types of advertising. A Spokesperson might demonstrate a product in the style of an Explainer ad. Or, a customer might deliver a moving Testimonial with cutaways to a Storytelling re-enactment of their experience. The important thing to remember is that, whichever style of advertising you employ, to produce it with a quality that reflects well on you and represents the kind of company you want to be.
Creating Advertising that Builds Your Brand
The production quality of your advertising will ultimately reflect on your company and either enhance or detract from your brand. We’ve all seen commercials that look and sound like they were filmed in somebody’s garage. The challenge is that no company has an unlimited production budget, so how do you balance quality and cost of advertising? Let’s take a look at a few elements in advertising production where it pays to spend money.
One of the most important investments when it comes to producing advertising is talent. Talent refers to the on-camera or on-mic people who appear in your advertising. Choosing the right talent to represent your company can elevate otherwise average productions while choosing the wrong talent can ruin even the most highly-produced ad. This is especially true when it comes to spokespeople and story-telling ads that require acting skill. Consumers have a tremendous ability to sense when something is awkward or inauthentic. Sincerity and a natural comfort in front of the camera or speaking into the mic have tremendous value.
Another key investment when it comes to producing photography and video is lighting. Few things contribute to how good something looks printed or on-screen as having your subject matter properly lit. This doesn’t always mean incurring the expense of an elaborate light kit, but it does mean having a camera operator who understands how to get the most out of available light.
It also pays to invest in those advertising elements that will be used over and over in multiple ads. This includes having a simple and well-designed logo, good product photography, professionally produced music or jingle and consistently used graphics and type style.
Consistency in look, feel and message is ultimately the thing that will contribute most to the brand-building impact of advertising. Consumers don’t give attention to every marketing message they see, so your consistency will help multiple impressions combine into an overall feeling about your brand over time.
RCG Contractor Marketing is a company dedicated to helping home service professionals turn their marketing into a profitable investment. See our related articles for more in-depth information on the topics covered in “The Ultimate Guide to Creating Advertising for Home Repair Pros.” Or, contact us for information on how we can create custom solutions to help you build your sales and your business.