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Online marketing shouldn’t cost the Earth

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories from small contractors who have been sold very expensive and ineffective online marketing campaigns. Here are some tips to make sure you don’t get ripped off.

If you’re running a small business like I am, there’s more than enough to be getting on with, so it’s important to get marketing into perspective.

We need to make sure people know what we do and what makes our company better than others, but we also need to spend our limited time and money wisely.

Wary of being taken to the cleaners, we prefer to stick to our traditional methods of getting work. As it turns out, this attitude can be a blessing in disguise.

1) Start with what you know

How do you get business now? It is probably by referral – recommendations from happy customers.

This is where to begin with our marketing.

“We must find out where our customers are, what they are doing there, and engage with them”

By building on the asset of our existing network, we can save time and money. Do you know what gets you business? Is it the golf days, the awards dinners, or simply the open accessibility of your staff?

Take a good look and start with what you know.

2) Take your network online

Everyone will tell you that you need a website, but if we’re going to begin with our network of happy customers and advocates, we need to do something else online.

We must find out where our customers are, what they are doing there, and engage with them.

This will help them to quietly recommend us in a much more open forum than on the golf course.

3) Keep it focused

But hang on a minute: if I get on social media, won’t that just suck up all of my time? Not if we do it properly – and in a focused manner.

Don’t try to be on every platform. If the architects you work with are on LinkedIn, or if your QS contacts are on Twitter, that’s where you should be too.

If they are talking about regional planning matters or materials or skills shortages, you can get involved in their conversations.

4) Keep it low budget

A website shouldn’t cost you £10k-£20k; you should be able to get a perfectly good website built, with a content management system, for £1k-£3k.

Make sure you own and have control of the site and pay a small amount for it to be maintained regularly.

“The structure of the platforms will naturally introduce you to the people they know, without you having to do much else”

Now you have a platform to publish – news, opinion, photos from the golf day, items of interest to your customers – on your own home online.

Publish occasionally but regularly and you’ll be found easily.

5) Save time with digital tools

If you’ve got a smartphone, you probably use it to check your emails and take calls on the move.

Now you can use a LinkedIn or Twitter app to keep up with what your clients are doing while you’re waiting for the meeting to start or you have a few minutes spare, wherever you are.

Focus on being useful to the people you know, and the structure of the platforms will naturally introduce you to the people they know, without you having to do much else.

6) Measure results so you can do what works

Remember that question about what brings you business? With online activity, it is much easier for you to be sure.

Yes, you can measure who talks to you on Twitter and LinkedIn and who likes what you share.

But better than that, you can use analytics on your website to measure what things you publish are bringing visitors, where they are coming from and who clicks on the email list or rings your enquiry number.

This way you can be sure that your investment in marketing is bringing results – and make sure you stop doing what doesn’t work and do more of what does.

So there you have it. Start with what you know, keep it simple and cheap and focus on what works.

Then we can get on with doing the important work.

Su Butcher is a social strategist whose consultancy, Just Practising, helps construction professionals use the internet better. She trained in architecture and works solely in the construction industry, spending many years running practices in East Anglia. Su is also on the BIM4M2 (BIM for Manufacturers) promotions group and you can talk to her on Twitter at @SuButcher.

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