When you're building a construction business as a skilled tradesperson, getting new jobs on the books is your top priority. Promoting your business can take just as much skill and expertise as your trade itself, yet it's something that many contractors have to learn on the fly.
When you're looking for new clients, projects, or referrals, what tactics are most effective?
There are two primary ways to get the word out about your services: online and offline. Some contractors prefer handshakes and word-of-mouth referrals, while others prefer to set up online ads and let the leads come in digitally. Online or offline, your ideal clients are out there looking for your services.
Before you explore the various ways to promote your business online or offline, it's important to note the CSLB advertising rules, which will apply to all of your promotional efforts:
The California State License Board (CSLB) has strict rules when advertising your construction business, including:
Nearly everyone has a smartphone in their pocket and a computer in their home. 450 million people in North America use the internet regularly, and that number is expected to exceed 500 million by 2028. So, taking your business online is a smart move if you want access to up to 90% of your potential clients.
If you don't have a website for your construction business yet, this is the first step to promoting your business online. Having a website is crucial; it's how users can find your business, understand what services you offer, contact you, and even get a project started.
Your contractor website should include some basic information about your business offerings, service area, and information about how to contact you. In California, your contractor website must also include your contractor license number.
In addition to these basics, you may also want to include a photo gallery consisting of high-quality images of past projects and a FAQ section that answers the most common questions you receive from potential clients.
If you do have a website in place and it already has these essentials in place, try taking it to the next level with the following:
Once you have a website, potential clients will be better able to find you online. You can help them find you by optimizing your website and other online directories for search.
Think about the last time you were looking for something. You probably pulled out your phone and put a few words into a search bar. The words you used to search are called keywords, and the results you saw were returned on a search engine results page (SERP).
Getting found online requires a little knowledge of SEO (search engine optimization), which is the art and science of getting your website listed on the SERP for specific keywords.
For example, if you are a roofing contractor in Redding, you want to be found when someone searches for keywords like "Redding roofer" or "roofer near me."
You can do this by ensuring that the keywords most associated with your service offerings and service area are included on your website and any other online directory listings or social media accounts for your business.
You can help this along even further by creating a Google My Business listing.
Pro tip: ensure that your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) are identical across the web. If your business address is 123 Main Street, be sure you're writing out "Street" on all of your listings rather than abbreviating it as St. in some places but not others.
Social media can be a helpful tool when promoting your business. Social accounts can be a great place to showcase your services and project gallery, answer potential clients' questions, provide tips related to your area of expertise, or promote your referral partners and their services (more on this later).
Unfortunately, many people believe that simply posting on social media will open a floodgate of potential clients. Posting to social media is not a magic promotional tool that will suddenly get you seen by every ideal client in your area.
But it is a good way to tell more of your business story in a way that showcases your skill and expertise. If you can find a way to do that while also demonstrating that you understand your ideal client and their concerns, even better.
Think of social media as "social proof" that your business exists and a way to demonstrate your expertise.
The "internet industry" is valued at around $2 trillion annually. Much of that money comes from digital advertising; it's how search engines like Google and social media platforms like Meta (previously known as Facebook) earn their money.
If you want to fast-track your way to promoting your business online, then paid ads are the way to guarantee you can get seen by more potential customers.
You can bid to increase the chance of your business appearing in a favorable position on the SERP for specific relevant keywords, like "fence repair in Phoenix" or "tree trimming in Tacoma." This is known as search ads or PPC (pay-per-click) ads.
You can use paid YouTube ads to have a video promoting your business appear before a YouTube video.
You can run social media ads on platforms such as Meta, X (formerly known as Twitter), or LinkedIn.
Some contractors learn the ins and outs of running paid ads themselves. Others hire in-house marketing employees or outside freelancers or marketing agencies to help with paid advertising. Whether you decide to DIY paid ads or utilize a professional, running online ads is a financial investment.
Create a budget for ads that includes the amount you're willing to spend on the ads themselves plus the amount you're ready to pay for professional help to get your ads running.
Yes, 90% of Americans have internet access. But that doesn't mean you only have the internet available to help promote your business. Offline tactics can also be effective at helping you grow your business, whether used alone or in combination with your online activities.
The oldest promotional trick in the book is the referral, and, in the days before the internet, that's how most people built their construction businesses. Even today, 90% of people trust a referral or recommendation from someone they know. Don't forget this tried-and-true tactic for promoting your business.
Traditional advertising is still a viable form of promoting your business. Your clients may spend time online and live in the "real" world. They listen to the radio on their drive home from work, pick up their mail from the mailbox, and sit down to unwind in front of their TV.
One survey found that the top five most trusted forms of advertising are all traditional. Survey respondents reported trusting the following when making purchasing decisions:
Investing in your local community can be a creative offline way to promote your construction business. After all, most contractors are seeking out more clients and projects in their local service area.
Find ways to participate in -- and give back to -- your community. This is where your potential clients are, so get to know them.
Building productive referral partnerships comes naturally when you're in the construction industry.
If you are a landscaping contractor, make friends with a pool contractor, fencing contractor, and water leak inspection guy.
If you do residential roofing repairs, make friends with a residential exterior painter and the fire and water damage clean-up crew.
Identify the types of contractors who are most likely to serve the same clients as you but in a different way. Reach out and get to know them. Make sure they meet your standards for professionalism and quality. Spend time and effort creating a professional relationship and maintaining it. Send as many referrals to these partners as you can. If you have good relationships with three or four of these "side-niche" referral partners, you all benefit from more clients, more jobs, and more happy clients as a result.
Promoting your construction business can take a tremendous amount of time, energy, and investment. But the activities you do when you're not on the job site will ensure you have a steady stream of clients and work opportunities. Building a lasting business with predictable revenue is often the result of your promotional activities, whether you're focusing your efforts online, offline, or both.
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