10 Proven Contractor Lead Generation Strategies: Insights from a Decade of Success

10 Proven Lead Best Practices for Contractors

Imagine increasing your contracting business’s revenue by 30-50% year over year. Sounds ambitious, right? But those are the typical results the contractors we’ve partnered with over the past decade have experienced (view one of our contractor success stories). In this article, we dive into the 10 key lessons we’ve learned from getting contractor leads for a wide array of businesses, including landscapers, roofers, remodelers, playground installers, solar installers, custom home builders, millwork shops, and cabinet makers. We’ll walk you through each strategy with practical tips and examples, all shared in a no-nonsense style like we would with a close friend. Ready to transform your lead generation approach? Let’s get started.

10 Proven Contractor Lead Generation Strategies

Let’s start off with the TLDR version: 

  1. Focus first on what you already do best: Don’t try to be all things to everyone. Pick a type of project to focus on promoting and then expand to other services over time.
  2. Find prospects that look like your best customers: Similar to point #1, identify the segment of people you can help the fastest, focus there, and branch out over time. 
  3. Know what you do better than your competitors: Unless you are the only solution available, you need to know what makes you stand out in your prospect’s minds. Pick the most important thing and make it the focal point of your marketing. 
  4. Establish your online brand presence: You don’t need to be an internet expert, but with 96% of consumers using the internet to research brands, you need to take control of your online presence. Build a basic brand website, register your business on Google, start a Facebook page, and list your business on popular directories. 
  5. Start marketing at the “bottom of the funnel”: Your largest competitors might have the cash flow to invest in broad-based awareness campaigns, but that doesn’t mean you can’t edge your way in. You just need to take a more surgical approach by focusing your dollars on reaching people who are ready to buy. 
  6. Create content that answers key questions: Today’s consumer does their homework before they decide to contact a service provider. Make it easy for them to trust you by clearly explaining what you do and how you do it, and help answer people’s natural questions when making a purchase decision. 
  7. Shore up your reputation with online reviews: No one buys from a stranger without first determining if they can trust them. One of the best ways to do this is by doing good work and inviting your customers to share their experiences on Google, Facebook, etc.
  8. Showcase your best work: Lots of companies offer the same service you do, but you do it better, right? It’s easy to say, but way more effective to show. Take quality pictures and videos of your work and post them on your website and social media.
  9. Respond to every lead…quickly: According to a 2022 study, after five minutes pass, the odds of connecting and qualifying with a lead drop by 80%.
  10. Track every lead and learn from your progress: It is critical to track every lead you get, including spam and unqualified leads, to know what is working. Including lead sources and pairing that data with your marketing investments can help reveal which channels are working and provide a solid return on your investment. 

Ok, now that we’ve wet your appetite, let’s dive in for the full meal. 

1. Focus first on what you already do best

You’ve heard it said, that “if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one”. This is certainly true in business. As a contractor, you and your team are likely capable of many types of projects, and if you are like me, you probably enjoy variety and have a hard time saying no to a project. But if you were to review your job history, I bet you will find that there are certain project types where you have more experience, higher profit margin, better reviews, more frequent inquiries, etc. 

Your lead generation efforts will be significantly more effective if you can focus on a specific type of project. For example, we work with a general contractor who designs and installs kitchens, bathrooms, basements, and home additions, but when we reviewed his data, a majority of his past work was on basements. He had a very predictable process for basements that gave him a competitive edge, and most of his positive reviews were from successful basement finishing projects. While kitchen projects may have represented a larger job size and complex designs, they didn’t have a lot of experience and very few kitchen reviews to showcase. 

🚧 PRO TIP: Not sure how to pick your project type? Segment your past job data by project type and evaluate the number of jobs, size of jobs, profitability, quote win rate, customer satisfaction level, etc. Use that data to determine which project type to start with. And don’t worry too much about making the wrong decision. Once you nail how to generate leads for that project type, you can add others much more easily down the road. 

2. Find prospects who look like your best customers

Target Audience Image - Square

Similar to the first lesson, knowing who you serve best is key to early success in your lead generation efforts. You may desire to serve multiple customer segments. But your messaging, creative, and tactics may need to vary greatly for each audience. So go back to your job data, group the costumers into buckets (ex: residential vs. commercial) pick the one that will present the quickest wins, and then work towards other segments over time. 

For example, we worked with an energy contractor that installed solar panels, solar thermal water systems, and wind turbines for homeowners and commercial property managers. Rather than try to market to both, which would have required significant investment in advertising and website enhancements for both markets, our client elected to focus on the residential market, where they already had ample experience and a reputation in their local market, while building up cash reserves to build out a new brand and website around the commercial market, which proved to be a much more profitable market for their firm over the long haul. 

🚧 PRO TIP: Not sure how to narrow down to a specific customer segment? Check out this blog article where we break down the process for selecting your ideal customer. There’s an in-depth video and a free downloadable resource to help you conduct the analysis. 

3. Know what you do better than your competitors

Let’s face it, jumping into marketing and lead generation doesn’t automatically mean prospects will come knocking. Chances are, you’ve got some pretty established competition out there. But don’t let that discourage you! It’s all about playing to your strengths and making sure your prospects know exactly why you’re the best choice.

But another key truth is that in most markets, there is more than enough work to go around, and people want to work with companies that specialize in helping people similar to them and their situation. You just need to make it clear that it’s you. So, in addition to selecting the right project and the ideal customer segment, you also need to know what you do differently or better than your competition that will make you stand out like a bright light. 

For example, we work with a contractor who builds beautiful landscapes and hardscapes for homeowners in their area. What makes them different is their focus on bringing joy to the home through a garden, which stands in contrast to most landscaping contractors who emphasize curb appeal. In addition, this contractor specializes in Japanese garden design. By leaning into this specialty, we were able to help them create a website and marketing campaign to make it easy to stand out to homeowners looking to create a peaceful garden in their backyard. 

🚧 PRO TIP: If you are struggling to figure out what truly makes your company unique, you are not alone. We have found this to be one of the hardest things for an owner to self-identify because many of us are just doing what comes naturally to us and haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about what truly makes us different from similar solutions. One of the best ways to figure this out is to listen to the voice of your customers. Read their reviews, visit them, and ask them, “Why did you choose us?”. Listen to the things they say, write down important points, and focus on those that come up again and again. Then find a way to emphasize these key points in your marketing. 

4. Establish your online brand presence

Consider this: 96% of folks look up businesses online before deciding who to work with. So, having a solid online presence isn’t just nice to have, it’s a must. Whether it’s your website, your company social media page, your Google Business Profile, or a listing on NextDoor, getting your name out there online is key to drawing in the crowd.

  • Brand Website: Marketing your company requires a brand presence that showcases your expertise. Your website doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Start small, cover your core brand bases (see point #5 below), and build out more content over time. 
  • Google Business Profile: Your listing on Google Maps is arguably your most valuable resource, second only to your website. Many local service businesses get a third or more of their leads from people interacting with their map listing. Make sure you claim your listing, complete your profile, select relevant categories, and build out other areas such as reviews, pictures, FAQs, services, and post business updates over time. Your Google Business Profile is so critical that we wrote an in-depth guide, which you can find here.
  • Apple Maps Profile: Do you use an iPhone? How about your friends? In the US, iPhones represent nearly 60% share of the market. And most iPhone users use the built in Map feature to search for businesses, which is Apple Maps. So while not as critical as your Google Business listing, 
  • Bing Places Profile: Does anyone even use Bing anymore? The percentages are low, but still high enough to warrant your attention. And many businesses will miss this one, so it represents a place where you can gain a small advantage. 
  • Yelp Profile: Isn’t Yelp for restaurants? While Yelp is most known for restaurant reviews, it has pages that list local businesses for most services that rank on the first page of Google. The profile is free and easy to maintain, so why not?
  • Industry Referral Sites: There are several key sites that consumers use when planning a home project or finding a professional to hire, including:  Houzz, ThumbTack, NextDoor, HomeAdvisor, etc. Many of these sites are free and offer an opportunity to promote your brand and connect with your target audience. 
  • Local Associations: Most cities have local resources that consumers use to connect with local businesses, such as chambers of commerce, localized business directories, and local trade associations. These sites often require some sort of membership fee, but have the advantage of connecting you with people directly in your service area. 
  • Social Media Platforms: It has become a basic expectation that most businesses have an established and active presence on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. That said, most contractors don’t need to worry about posting content twice a day or becoming well-known social media influencers. Keep it simple – stake your ground by creating a company profile, pick one platform to focus on, post 1 to 2 times per week, and then use those same posts on your other profiles. Your posts can be things like highlighting a recently completed job, celebrating a newly promoted employee, or sharing a recent customer review. 

🚧 PRO TIP: As a contractor, establishing your online presence is key to building your reputation and showing up when your target audience searches. There are many sites where you can list your business for free and gain some additional brand exposure. Check out this article for a list of over 25 sites you can use to stake your ground on the internet for contracting business. 

5. Start marketing at the “bottom of the funnel”

Improve and Grow's Lead Funnel diagram

A common visual representation of the buyer’s journey is a funnel, where the idea is that at the top and wide end of the funnel are all of your potential customers, and at the bottom, narrow end are the few that choose to become your customers. This funnel is commonly broken down into three sections, with the top and widest section representing those people in the “awareness stage” who are just becoming aware of the problem your solution addresses, and the middle, smaller section, representing those who are in the “consideration phase”, while those in the smallest section are those in the “decision phase”. 

Here’s a common slip-up: diving headfirst into broad ‘brand awareness’ campaigns to reel in a big audience right out of the gate. Tempting, sure, but starting where the real action is—at the ‘bottom of the funnel’—is where you’ll see those ready-to-buy folks turning up sooner. Unfortunately, brand awareness campaigns, while often very effective in the long run, can also prove very costly in the short term. What this approach misses is that at any given time, about 3% of the people in your target audience are actively seeking a solution and haven’t yet decided who they want to work with. While 3% may sound small, in most markets, that is more than enough demand to fill your company’s sales funnel, with the added benefit that these prospects are much closer to a purchase decision than those at the top or middle of the funnel. 

Another benefit to this “bottom of funnel” marketing approach is that it makes the selection of marketing tactics much easier, as certain tactics, such as search marketing, lend themselves toward reaching and attracting people who are actively searching for solutions, whereas other tactics, such as TV, Radio, Billboards, or Digital Display ads, tend to work better for reaching broad audiences to raise brand awareness. For example, we work with a cabinet maker and general contractor who specializes in kitchen remodels with high-end, custom cabinets. They had plateaued in growth and were looking for more leads and had decided to start investing in digital marketing. However, as this was their first foray into any sustained investment in marketing, their budget was relatively small. Our solution involved helping them get in front of homeowners in their area who were seeking a kitchen remodeling contractor, first through paid search ads on Google and then over time through SEO tactics to improve their organic search visibility. 

Getting started here is a little more involved, as you may not immediately know which marketing tactics will work best or which to start first, second, and third. But if you’ve already followed steps 1 to 4 above, you are much closer to having the information you need. Once you know what service you want to promote, who you want to promote it to, and the unique way you do it, you can begin to put yourself in your target customer’s shoes and start to narrow down and prioritize the possible solutions. 

🚧 PRO TIP: For home service contractors, a natural progression might look something like this:

  • Buy Leads from Industry Referral Sites: Sites like Angi, HomeAdvisor, and Thumbtack can be a great way to get started with lead generation, because they have already invested in earning a first page presence on Google and are often seen by consumers a trusted source. These sites offer contractors ways to list your service and even pay directly for leads from consumers who are seeking a quote for the service you offer. However, be advised that these sites often re-sell your leads to other competitors, and the consumers using these tools tend to be price-conscious, so the key to success here is being quick to respond and offering affordable solutions. 
  • Generate Your Own Leads with Paid Search Ads: When you are ready to take control of your own lead generation and stop buying recycled leads from third-party platforms, search engines are a great place to start, as they offer access to people who are actively searching for a contractor. The two most popular search engines, Google and Bing, offer pay-to-play advertising platforms (Google Ads and Microsoft Ads) that enable you to reach people who are actively searching for a service provider. You can start seeing results within days of launching your campaigns and have precise control over your budget, creative, and targeting. 
  • Build Up Organic Leads with SEO: While paid search ads are the fastest way to rank on Google and get quality leads, ranking organically represents more long-term opportunities and typically a much lower cost per lead. That said, ranking organically requires diligent effort in following SEO best practices over a long period of time. 
  • Scale Up Your Lead Gen with Social Media Ads: Social media platforms represent a great way to interact with your audience in a way that feels more personal. Similar to Google Ads, each of the social media platforms offers a “pay-to-play” option that enables you to reach the specific target audience with your content much faster and often more effectively than just posting content on your profiles. That said, most people aren’t on Facebook to shop for a contractor, so it can take time to build up an audience and generate sales from social media, and the leads often aren’t quite as ready to buy as when they are searching on Google. 

6. Create content that answers key questions

When your target audience is seeking a new service provider, they often turn to search engines. In fact, one recent study indicates that 53% of buyers use a search engine as part of their research. In order for your brand to stand a chance of showing up, you need content that matches up with those queries and aligns with their intent. For instance, a query like “home remodeling contractor near me” a service page that demonstrates the company provides residential remodeling services with a section that shows they serve the area in which the consumer searching resides, is more likely to rank than a broad home page. Similarly, a page that explains how your projects are estimated and clearly outlines the factors affecting price, would align well with queries like “how much does it cost to remodel a kitchen?”. 

One of our customers installs poured rubber surfaces on playgrounds, typically in commercial settings such as a municipal park, daycare center, or church. When we first started working with them, they had a general services page that mentioned this service, among others. We helped them build out specific service pages, including one for poured rubber playground surfaces, which ultimately because responsible for over a third of their leads. We also helped them develop a page that addressed the cost of poured rubber surfaces, which quickly became another lead generator. Lastly, after observing a lot of queries seeking to understand the differences between poured rubber surfaces and other playground surface substrates, such as wood chips or bonded rubber mulch, we helped them create a series of blog articles contrasting poured rubber surfaces with alternative substrates. At its peak, their website generated over 250 leads a month without any advertising due to the effectiveness of its content. 

🚧 PRO TIP: If you aren’t sure where to start with website content development, here is a suggested priority based on our experience and starting with the “bottom of the funnel” before working up to broader topics your audience may be interested in (see point #4 above):

  • Core Brand Content: Before you start building a lot of content on your website, make sure you have your brand bases covered, including: Home page, About page, Services Overview page, Project Gallery, and Contact page. 
  • Decision Stage Content: When people are looking for a service provider, they are typically performing very specific searches like “kitchen remodeling company near me” or “playground surface installer for daycare centers”. As such, the best content for to address these needs are specific service landing pages for each unique service you offer. This means going beyond your service overview page and providing a dedicated page for each service that describes how it works, shows examples of past projects of that type, pulls in customer testimonials, and most importantly, has clear calls-to-action for whatever the first step in your sales process, such as “Request a Quote” or “Schedule a Service Call”. 
  • Consideration Stage Content: When people are trying to decide who to work with, they are asking questions like, “how much will this cost?”, and “can I trust this company”, or “what about ______?”. Therefore the following pages typically make sense for most contractors: Pricing page, Process page, Service Area page, Frequently Asked Questions pages, Client Testimonials page. 
  • Awareness Stage Content: Once you have the bottom-of-funnel and middle-of-funnel content needs addressed, you can begin to develop content that will attract people who are in the beginning stages of the buying process or are just becoming aware of their need for the services you offer. The opportunities here are vast, but often this content comes in the form of blog articles, case studies, or videos, that address key questions that someone might ask in the early stages of planning a project. 

Looking for more information on content? Check out this article for a more in-depth look at how to brainstorm and create content for your website. 

7. Shore up your reputation with online reviews

Online Reviews

Few people decide to buy from a company they don’t know without first doing some homework to figure out if they can trust them. A recent study indicates that one of the ways consumers do this is by consulting online reviews. In fact, that same study shows that 49% of consumers value online reviews equally as important as personal recommendations. One of the best ways to do this is by doing good work and inviting your satisfied customers to leave you a review on Google, Facebook, or other online platforms. 

And getting reviews isn’t just about making a good impression. It can also help you generate more traffic and leads. For example, Google won’t even show a rating from your Google Business Profile in search results until you have at least 10 reviews. And the more and better reviews you have, the higher your listing will rank in local searches. A general contractor we work with had only 4 Google reviews when we started working with him, and one of them was a 1-star review. Needless to say, his profile was not ranking well, even in the town where his business was located. In a few months’ time, he was able to get over 20 reviews, most of them positive, and was even able to work with that 1-star review client to resolve their complaint and remove the bad review. As a result, his business now shows up in local search results much more often, including in surrounding cities where there are closer competitors. 

🚧 PRO TIP: Getting started with reviews can feel daunting – you feel awkward about asking, you aren’t sure how to ask, or what review platforms to focus on. Here’s a short video from our friends at BrightLocal that breaks it down into easily repeatable steps. One rule of thumb we always tell our clients is to ask first verbally, then follow up that request with a text and/or email reminder the next day. That combination gets a much higher response rate than one or the other alone. This process can be automated using reputation management software, which is built into our CRM solution, LeadHub CRM, and can also be found as a standalone solution, such as what is offered by BrightLocal.

8. Showcase your best work

A common saying is “Don’t tell me…show me,” and this is especially true when it comes to contracted services. It’s easy for someone to say, “We are the best at ______,” but the proof is in your work. The most effective way to do this is to show examples of your completed work in images and videos. It also helps to have written or video testimonials from your clients or project overviews from your team. These assets can be published on your website, posted on social media, and even incorporated into ad campaigns. 

For example, if you are a remodeling contractor and were hired to remodel a kitchen, you could ask the homeowners to agree to let you take professional photos and videos of the job before, during, and after the job is complete. You could even ask them to participate in a short interview where they describe why they did the project, what it was like working with your team, and how happy they were with the finished product. You could then post a before and after shot on the kitchen remodeling page of your website with a link to your project gallery page, where you could post a collage of images from the project. You could have a video editor combine the client interview with some shots from the project to provide a nice video overview of the project that you could publish on your home page and post on your Facebook page. Images from the final walkthrough would be great to share on Instagram and could even be featured on your display ads. You could even have your project manager do a full write-up of the project, describing the prior situation, what the homeowners were looking for, how the project was done, and an explanation of the final product including the style, type of cabinetry, surfaces, flooring, lighting, etc. and post as an in-depth success story on your blog. Another opportunity would be to use selected images from the job to freshen up imagery across your website. 

🚧 PRO TIP: As you can see, you can get a lot of mileage from just one project. It can seem overwhelming at first, but if you build in shooting photos or videos as part of your production process, it can become part of the way you get work done. And you don’t have to be perfect at this overnight. Some clients won’t want you to use photos or videos of their home online. Or you may get some photos but the lighting is poor. Just keep working at it and involve your team. Chances are that you have at least one person on your team who enjoys taking photos and videos. 

9. Respond to every lead…quickly

A picture of an alarm clock

The excitement and eagerness a person feels when they decide to reach out to you can quickly wane if they are unable to connect right away. They get distracted by work or life events in between making that call and hearing back from you and grow less likely to respond as time passes. In fact, according to a 2022 study, after five minutes pass, the odds of connecting and qualifying with a lead drop by 80%! 

We’ve certainly witnessed the effect of speed on lead response. For example, one of our clients is an interior finishing company. When we first started working together, a lot of their work was subcontracted, and the direct-to-consumer work they had was mostly from word of mouth. So when we started generating new consumer leads for them, they went to the owner, but he was often out on job sites or in meetings and, therefore, wasn’t able to pick up phone calls quickly or immediately respond to email inquiries. Many times the prospects would not leave voicemails and wouldn’t pick up when called back. In some cases, they did pick up but had already decided to work with another company by the time they connected. In this case, the owner had someone on staff that could handle the leads, so we re-routed calls and email inquiries to them and saw an immediate increase in response, which led to more site visits, more design estimates, and ultimately much higher rate of closed jobs. 

🚧 PRO TIP: If you are going to invest in lead generation, you need to consider how you will handle the leads as they come in. Having a steady flow of 3-5 leads per day is great, but it also means you need a plan to manage the leads if you don’t want to squander them. While having a person responsible for managing every lead is the most important step you can take, there are also ways to make that job easier. For instance, many CRMs have the capability of setting up autoresponder workflows to send text messages or emails to your prospects immediately after they call or fill out a form on your website. Some even have tools that you can use to enable them to book calls or site visits directly with a project manager. The CRM most our clients use, LeadHub CRM, even lets you automate the movement of leads in your sales process based on actions your prospects take, making it infinitely easier to manage a full pipeline of leads and realize a better return on your investment in marketing and lead generation. 

10. Track every lead and learn from your progress

If you’re all-in with your marketing, then keeping tabs on every single lead is a game-changer. You’d be surprised how many contractors skip this step. Trust us, knowing where each lead comes from and how they pan out can really fine-tune your efforts and boost your returns.

Most contractors have a formal system they use for building their estimates and tracking which get converted to jobs, but this misses a huge part of the story as it lacks the granularity for important details such as the original lead source. Very few are using a system to track all of their leads, which means they may be missing important signals, such as a channel that is producing a lot of unqualified leads or a channel that is producing a small number of highly qualified leads. This type of data is critical to scaling your lead generation, as you will want to know for certain which channels are truly providing a good return before you increase your investment. 

For example, we were handling multiple channels for a landscaping architect, including Paid Search, Organic Search, and Paid Social. After a few months of activity, we were able to see that while Paid Search ads were generating most of the leads, there was an issue with lead quality. Meanwhile, the leads coming in via Organic Search were highly qualified. A comparison of the keywords resulting in leads on both channels enabled us to see a few keyword targets that were resulting in lower-quality leads on the Paid Search channel. At the same time, the lead volume from Paid Social was minimal, and the lead was low quality. As a result, we adjusted the targeting on the Paid Search ads, shut off the Paid Social ads, and reinvested those funds into the Paid Search Ads. In a short period of time, the lead quality improved and the lead volume increased. 

🚧 PRO TIP: Tracking your leads doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact it can be as a simple as keeping a log of every lead in a spreadsheet. Including important details such as the lead creation date, lead source and lead status (qualified or not qualified), as well as the sales outcome (won or lost) will make it much easier to assess the effectiveness of your leads over time. While a spreadsheet may be simple, it does represent extra work. If you use a CRM, you may be able to integrate it with your website or phone system, making it much easier to track and manage your lead. For instance, the CRM most of our customers use, LeadHub CRM, integrates directly with their websites, phone systems, and ad platforms, making it easy to both track every lead and analyze the return on investment. 

Summary

I hope you’ve found this article useful. If you are just getting started with thinking about lead generation, this list might seem overwhelming, but these 10 points form the essential ingredients of a successful recipe we’ve proven in our work with contractors over the last 10 years. Mastering these steps could take a while, but the good news is that you don’t have to get all things right on day one to be successful. As they say, “progress over perfection” or another variation I heard recently is “80% out the door is better than 100% in the drawer”. The moral of both is the same, which is just to start doing something. Use this list as a guide, but get out there and just start practicing. If you decide you are ready for help along the way, feel free to reach out and book a free strategy call. We’d love to see if we can help. 

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