Where the Action Is

Maybe it’s because most construction professionals are hands-on people. Or maybe it’s because the housing trades traditionally rely as much on word of mouth and referrals as they do on marketing to grow their business. Perhaps it’s that most construction professionals believe the work speaks for itself far better than any advertising could.

Whatever the reason, a good portion of businesses in the construction industry have been slow to jump on the Internet bandwagon. Those who are active online often rely solely on their company website for any marketing activity and promotion.

If that’s the way you’ve been approaching your online presence, you might want to reconsider.

According to Houzz.com’s second annual Houzz and Home Survey, over 40% of homeowners plan to remodel in the next five years, and nearly 85% have some sort of decorating project in mind. If you’re limiting your marketing efforts to referrals and yard signs, you’re missing the biggest marketing tool available—an active online presence.

Your customers’ first stop

Though print magazines are still a very popular idea source for most homeowners, your potential customers are often starting their planning online. Sites like Pinterest, Houzz, and others provide a wealth of photos, product reviews, project ideas, and more. And Americans are taking advantage of those resources at astounding rates.

Pinterest has more than 25 million members; Houzz.com has more than 4 million. Though Pinterest is primarily a site for viewing and storing idea photos, Houzz offers both homeowners and professionals the opportunity to share ideas and projects.

Rhonda Saxton-Williams, designer for Showplace Kitchens, says, “Our store has been on Houzz.com for several years. And I have my own page as well so that I can refer my clients to the site for ideas and so they have a place to send their idea books, referrals, and testimonials.”

A streamlined process

Saxon-Williams says Houzz can be a great asset, even helping close projects faster. “Clients are able to see and share their likes and visions with pictures. Having that Favorites page as a guide makes it easier for them to make decisions with confidence. Designs are fine, but clients like photos.”

Bonita Clark, owner and sales manager at by Design, agrees. “Sites like Houzz and Pinterest allow people who are not quite sure what they want the chance to look at lots of ideas. In fact, one of my designers started following a client on Pinterest to get a sense of her likes and dislikes—this really helped her to capture the client’s look quicker than normal.”

“We are fans of these websites,” says Brett Bunkers of Oakwood Builders Group. “There are so many decisions to be made in any remodel or building a home that these resources can often save time and make the process more enjoyable and personal.”

Real-world referrals

Traditional advertising provides an ongoing presence in the marketplace, keeping your business in front of customers, even when they aren’t yet ready to buy. Resources like a professional website, Houzz.com, and even Facebook offer a more personal communication to potential clients who are actively shopping.

Clark, who has only been active on Houzz for about six months, says, “We are still pretty early into it. We love our Facebook page and the results from that—we have lots of clients who love to share how their room looks.”

“I have been lucky to have clients write referrals and thank-you notes on Houzz,” says Saxton-Williams. “That is very rewarding.”

Bunkers adds, “Houzz has been a great tool to reference for potential customers to see our work and to give them the confidence that we take our work seriously.”

Each of the businesses mentioned has benefited from customer reviews on Houzz, receiving five-star ratings and detailed compliments on its work.

Though Oakwood doesn’t track referrals, the company recognizes the role technology plays in its growth and future.

“We believe that with the technology that many of us have in the palm of our hands, we have to have a strong online presence for people to be able to see who we are, what we do, and how we do business,” Bunkers says.

Saxton-Williams adds that though homeowners can spend hours on these sites and still have trouble making a final decision, the fact that the sites are free and easy to use draws people to them.

A recent survey by the Construction Marketing Association says over 80% of construction professionals have or intend to develop an online presence.

Because potential customers are starting their planning online, it makes good business sense for professionals to be there already. If you’re not visible, they won’t find you. They’ll find someone else.