Are you a home services provider or home improvement contractor that is looking for a solution to generating leads online? Have you either considered or have signed up with Homeadvisor or Angies List in hopes of getting more leads for your sales team? Find out why this is NOT the best option for your local home services business.
This information can be useful for both consumers and home professionals. These types of online marketing companies are the direct (online) competitors of the actual contractors you are trying to hire for a home project. The monetary interest of the marketing company (HA & Angies) will always come first, over and above the interest of you the consumer or the contractors that are signed up with them.
These popular online lead generation services are a tempting solution to getting more business, especially for a new & growing company, but are they really worth it and are you being robbed by these online competitors? In this article we take a deep dive into the world of online lead generation services, their tactics, gimmicks, and deceitful practices. If you are a business we cover why and HOW to be the source of your own online lead generation, and we cover WHY consumers should be aware of these types of services.
Our goal will be to shed light on the truths & facts, the do’s & dont’s of these services, and also how you as a local business owner can take charge, spend less on advertising while generating more new online leads – all by yourself!
Homeowners may take advantage of this article and gain insight into the troubling process both for you AND the 10+ service providers who are all hungry for the same thing, your lead. It’s like placing a piece of meat in a wrestling ring and releasing 10 lions to fight over it, and the lead is the meat.
Generating Leads Online:
As a marketing company ourselves we know very well the pain and struggle of generating new leads on a consistent basis from online & other sources. We are not much different than most home improvement companies who are trying to figure out how to take more sales shares in their local markets, although we do have a bit more knowledge on the subject of online marketing and that’s why we are who we are.
So, you have a local business and you provide a quality service, right? Good, well for the purpose of this article we will focus on home service & improvement providers who have reservations and concerns about using services like Homeadvisor, Angies list, Thumbtack and the like – and your reservations will be vetted below, we are sharing all the details!
If you own a local home service business chances are that your company CAN and will take on more new business and chances are that you ARE looking to grow your business. One of the absolute BEST returns on your marketing budget are leads from online, but only if done correctly!
As a business, in terms of getting new sales from online sources, you do NOT have to pay (much) to generate the leads. Part of what we do is provide training to business owners on how to find ways to create online & digital inbound lead generation systems. If you are a business owner you need to understand the marketing resources that you have at your disposal within your current business structure. Knowing these things will also help you to continuously develop new & unique inbound marketing strategies that drive new sales without spending all of your money and loosing all of your hair.
Homeadvisor & Angies list – Consumers & Contractors Beware
Why would you pay hard earned money on a lead that was simply window shopping or could not afford the service at the time you had to PAY for their information!? A better solution would be to use the resources in your business to create online lead funnels that can keep leads from going cold without shoveling out the dough.
Online Competitors are NOT who you think:
Who are your online competitors? If you answered the actual local businesses that show up on a Google search, you might be halfway right. The other half (and the bigger half) are not even real companies, they are marketing entities that intend to sell you leads that you could have generated yourself!
In the real world (that is the offline world) you can name on 2 hands your direct competitors easily, but what most business owners fail to include or realize is that online lead generation services like Home-advisor are your worst and most aggressive competition.
In the online world the competition landscape is a bit different than say word of mouth referrals. There are marketing companies out there that have large budgets and smart people who intend to STEAL YOUR LEADS away and resell them to you, and your direct competition!
The Online Online Lead Gen Concept:
A few smart people have the great idea of capitalizing on the ignorance of both the consumers looking for local home services and the professionals who provide them. The key factor of their success is that you the business owner do not know how to or have had trouble making a solid online brand awareness, ranking to the top of search results, or having a good inbound sales strategy that is working or if you are a new business with limited advertising looking to get more sales.
Since most people go into business for the things that they know best it means that most business owners are NOT marketing experts, or else that’s what you would be in business for, right!? This is the key factor that online lead generation services capitalize on while facing it a certain way to the people looking for your services.
Formerly: ServiceMagic (1998–2012)
Industry: Local homeowner services
Founded: December 1998
Founder: Rodney Rice, Michael Beaudoin
Headquarters: Golden, Colorado
Key people: Chris Terrill, CEO
Services: Home improvement marketplace
Number of employees: 2,000
Info Cited from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HomeAdvisor
In recent years HA has been involved with many lawsuits, and one in particular a class action. Even before the most recent developments they had to change their name from Service Magic due to public backlash on their practices. Complaints abound from both sides, contractors & homeowners alike. Stories of having unqualified contractors show up and never finish work which were companies as provided by Home advisor have been featured in the news.
Here are some testimonials for Homeadvisor services
Home-Advisor for Contractors
If you are not already a paying member there are 3 ways HA might contact a business owner to get them on-board.
- Cold sales call.
- Cold sales email stating they have leads in your area.
- Spoofing – Pretend that they are the lead, and when you call back it’s the same sales rep that has been trying to call or email you by using their lead system, impersonating an email or phone call. (BTW – Yelp ha been known to do this also.)
HA will charge somewhere between $200 – $350 annually for on-boarding of a new business. They say this charge takes care of the business profile, account, phone number forwarding, links on other websites, and the background check.
Contractors are charged thereafter per lead at a rate varying from $10 – $100+ depending on whatever they want to charge whenever they want. Charges are applied to contractors at the end of every week, usually Friday and processed by the following Monday. Reasons & information for the pricing structures can be found on their website.
There have been numerous reports that the leads delivered to contractors are poor and unqualified, therefore not worth the money paid for them. Even though there are some qualified leads and ready-to-buy consumers using the service the vast majority of leads are window shopping, confused, and not ready to buy.
HA will also promote itself as a home owners resource network, providing information and things like cost calculators. In many cases this can cause confusion with consumers who are just in the research & discovery part of their buying journey.
Contractors have reported to us that in most cases the lead has been disseminated to over 4 and more other contractors, and as it turns out the lead was not ready to buy. Sadly, all of the contractors who were sent that very same lead are charged the going rate with futile recourse. In other cases business owners have reported that the same lead from a month ago will pop back into their dashboard and after contacting the lead (again) they state never have resubmitting the request.
Meanwhile, this poor person’s email and basic information has been sold by HA to other vendors & marketing channels which will innundate them with solicitation emails and even annoying phone calls. There is no doubt that some of the people who use HA to find local pros are serious about their inquiry, but few. As a local contractor you can generate these leads yourself, you don’t need to rely on a questionable service.
Have you searched for your business online for the keywords that you are trying to rank for in the local area and you see that these big “pay to play” websites are ranking over your website? It is concerning & frustrating because when you see a website like HA (a marketing company) ranking for in searches for the services that you provide in your local area you know that isn’t a real business and it’s a direct link to all of your competitors.
If a consumer clicks on one of those websites and you are not listed and paying them you may not get the lead. You know that most of the leads you would have to pay for are not worth paying such a price for because of their early stage in the buying process, and for the fact that the competition is so steep because of the nature of this model.
These online lead generation marketing companies have been known to market to consumers using tv commercials, search engine ads, organic search rankings, partnerships, acquisitions, and networking to promote a branding image such that if the consumer is to see their ad when searching for a home service they are more inclined to click on it over your own.
As a business owner who needs to generate more leads from online sources what can be done, how can you compete?
A few videos from actual contractors experiences:
Solutions & Alternatives: Lead Gen
Are you considering signing up for Home-advisor or other pay per lead services to help grow your business? If you are still considering the decision we can help, but if you have already signed up we can help you transition out of it.
Advice for new companies: If your business has limited funds / small marketing budget do not even think about signing up for these services, they will drain your revolving capital faster than anything! However, if you have a respectable marketing budget and need to get in front of possible buyers fast, you could sign up with one or two and use them for the short term while you develop some of the strategies we will mention below.
We think that every business should be their own content creation and syndication machine. With the resources available like smartphones, tablets, cameras, YouTube, computers, etc there is no reason why you should not be able to create a new piece of sales material every day.
As mentioned in previous posts, being present at the very top of the sales funnel does not have to drain your funds without return like many of these types of PPL services.
Offline Marketing Strategies
Your business can take advantage of cost effective print marketing to increase local awareness. Everything from the good ole networking & hand-outs, flyers, and of course custom business cards.
Direct mailing is a great way to target a specific demographic or local area that you know would use your services. By creating a compelling visual postcard you can generate warm local leads on a budget that you can afford.
A great source for getting custom direct mail postcards for your business is: Postcard Mania
Online Marketing Strategies
The whole world is online and plugged in, and you know that the majority of EVERYONE searches for something online and probably does not own an actual phone book. By now we know all of that, so how do we capture our piece of this online searching activity?
Know your business
Before creating or improving your business for better online lead generation you need to know yourself and your business inside & out. You need to be able to tell a compelling business story while promoting what you do. Identify why you are in business and how to best promote yourself by asking: what are your advantages, what benefits will your customers receive, what problems are you solving and how do you make it easy?
Website (Base Camp)
The best way to become the authority in your market is to produce helpful content that caters to your potential clients questions and concerns or objections on a well designed & optimized website. All of this content can be created in different ways but must be under one roof. This is why your business website is so important, it is where you need to send leads to be converted, and it needs to be the main source in which they found you.
- Content Pages & Blog posts
- Low risk offers
As you create the content at Base Camp (your website and blog) you will need to syndicate this content to your audience. First create the content that is good, better than the competitor’s, then share that content around to the multimedia channels that might find it interesting or add value.
Getting someone to know about your website might take some offline and online actions. There are some places online where you can direct people to your main website in hopes of getting a sale. Find out where your buying audience is hanging out on social media and leverage a business profile on those platforms to engage with them and make them aware of your business.
As part of the sales funnel leads begin as cold and warm up to becoming hot to make a purchase. While the lead is “cold” you may need marketing assets that help them through this part of the process in a more passive way. By using the blog on your website you can put together compelling bits of information that is helpful but not pressuring to make a purchase.
Email & Follow up systems
Having a way to capture a lead email on your website or sales page is one way that you can followup in a passive manner. If a lead submits their email for low risk offer of good information then you can place them into the respective email campaign to provide them with more related content.
A great way to get an email campaign setup is through: Mail Chimp
This was simply an overview of the things you can do to create an inbound online marketing system for your local business. We encourage you to visit other pages on our site as it relates to you, and if you still have questions just send us an email.
Paying for services like Home advisor can cost you an arm and a leg which is no good for a new business that is trying to break into a local market. We want to provide you with a real sustainable way to keep leads flowing in without spending all of your operating capital in the process.
Our company focuses on training business owners on how to take over their local marketing and how to quit paying those expensive lead gen companies for poor service.
If you have found this article because you are a home service provider struggling with getting new business online we hope this has helped. This is not a comprehensive guide, but we will add more information over time.