Many Calls, Few Customers: The Problem With Content Marketing For Contractors

Back when I started my contracting company in 2012, I made an active effort in content marketing.  I created valuable blog posts, videos, and information, and flooded the internet with it hoping people would find it, connect with my company and hire us.  It worked.  Our website currently gets around 400 visitors a day.  Content marketing is one of our primary marketing sources.  Some customers even tell us that our content was the differentiating factor between us and a lower bid.

Behind All This There Lies One Huge Problem With Content Marketing.

We are a local service business.  We provide services, for a fee, within a range close to our offices.  Our content is found by people all around the world.  They find our content, think we have nothing to do but help them, with free advice.  Others think we sell materials.  Other expect us to make an exception for them and travel several hours outside of our service area.  Here are some examples of the calls we get:

“When you have a 29 foot span, and a 9’ post that’s 3 inches thick, what is the minimum size the beam can be, in Okeechobee (a few hours away)?”

In this case, the caller is just looking for information.  They’ve seen all our content, and think we’re just here to help.  Calls like this we offer to “consult with our engineering for $250”.  We’re never had anyone take that offer.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do love helping people, and I believe businesses should add value, but their needs to be mutual value.  Afterall, nobody expects to talk to a shrink for free.

“Id like to get a quote for  ____________.   I am in __________ (city several hours).”

This caller is several hours outside of our service area and they expect us to serve them.  For some odd reason, it never occurred them when they were dialing a non local number, and they looked at our service area map, that they were outside our area.  Even after politely letting them know they aren’t happy with our answer.

“I’d like to order a _________________ (random material)”

This caller wants to order materials from us.  For some reason they think we ship materials.  Realistically speaking, these customers are looking for some unique item, that they cannot find anywhere else and they are not willing to pay more than $5 for, so they are calling just hoping that maybe we’ll decide to get into the business of selling and shipping odd low quantity materials.

Now understandably, every business gets baloney, no value, calls like these, but the sheer number of inbound inquiries we get from content marketing is astoundingly high.  Over 25% of our inbounds fall into the ‘no value’ category.  Handling this level of inbound baloney inquiries, over 20 per day, mathematically equals the cost of at least 1 full time employee around 40k per year.   If you’re a small trade contractor, it would be tough to handle all these.

The people that make these inquiries aren’t pleasant either.  The type of person who is strictly looking for free advice, or cheap materials isn’t the friendliest.  They insist on speaking to manager when we tell them they are outside of our service area, or yell and demand that we just “answer their question”.  I’ve trained my staff on how to handle them as best as possible, but when it is ¼ of phone calls you receive, the consistent berating begins to demoralize the environment.

In an effort to curb these no value inquiries, we put the following notice on our content pages, however it made no difference (the hard numbers show a slight increase in no value inquiries).

On every article on our website letting people know what we do, and where we are located. It is seemingly ignored.

Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion, a content marketing guru, noticeably has the phone number very hidden on his company website.  Rather than have it highly visible in the header, or on the ‘contact us’ page, it is way down at the bottom, in the footer.  In my opinion, his objective is clear; don’t call — make a contact form inquiry.  Considering my business does a lot of service calls, where the first company they can find a phone number for gets the project, I don’t see this being a solution.

Besides the phone number, Mr. Sheridan has also made a radical change to his business model.  He took his company from pool builder, to pool manufacturer (and still builder).  This is allows hims to capitalize on all the traffic he gets from his content  (many many more times what my website gets).  For now though the best use of my time is focusing on our current business model — not eloping with an additional on.  It looks like I’ll just have to grin & bear it for a bit.

Founder of a home service / specialty trade contracting company (think patio's and deck) with a focus on customer experience. Quantitative investor. Data driven marketer. Runner.

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