“What should I be spending on search engine marketing (SEM) per month?”

“What should my overall marketing budget be?”

“What’s the quickest way to produce leads now?”

As any good communicator and consultant should, I try my best to listen much more than I talk when meeting with contractors. But in all honesty, you guys make it tough sometimes. When an owner reaches out to me the questions usually come rapid fire and sound like some version of, “What’s the simplest solution, how little can it cost, and how quickly can your company get it done?” They’re hoping my answers in return are just as simple: “This will fix you right up, it’ll cost $X less than you were expecting, and we actually already did it 12 minutes before you called. You’re welcome.”

But there’s a problem here. Contractors often ask these short questions, and they require long, in-depth answers — or at the very least, some major investigation before any decent answer can be given. While I don’t want to cause frustration or make anyone feel I’m giving them the run-around, my first obligation is to explain that, “Hey my name is Dave from XYZ Air and I need leads” doesn’t give nearly enough information to start quoting prices or making expert suggestions toward a solution.

In marketing, we aren’t dealing in commodities and units of physical deliverables here. You can’t place a purchase order (PO) for leads like you can for feet of ½-inch PVC. We’re talking about far more esoteric things like influence, market saturation, and attention spans. As much as we’d like to arrive at a one-size-fits-all formula for marketing, the truth is it will never be as simple as, “spend $X and you’ll always get $Y.” There are thousands more variables that determine that outcome and if these other variables aren’t talked about, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

There are no two contractors (or contractors’ situations) that are exactly alike. You have different market sizes and levels of competition. You have different reaches, capabilities, climates, and established reputations. You might be able to recoup the cost of a billboard in rural Tennessee with a couple of service calls, while one in Los Angeles can cost you $30k a month. Is it worth it? That depends. We’ve seen contractors fill their schedules with a few hundred dollars monthly Google Ads spend, but we also know of markets where the largest players are spending $50,000+ per month. Is that worth it? To some.

How do we know? You don’t find out from simple questions and quick, generic answers. Complicated problems deserve time and diligence to find the right solution that will work for you. So don’t let yourself or some smooth-talking salesman rush you into signing anything before your own specific needs have been properly analyzed.


Get to Know Your Vendor and Make Sure They Want to Know You

I’ve been on the sales side as well, so I know how tough it is not to just tell the customer what they want to hear, get the check in hand, and worry about the rest later. There are many companies who will happily overpromise and underdeliver, or really just make promises based on their perceived abilities when they don’t have enough information yet to make that claim. And by the time you realize it isn’t a good fit or not the right solution, you’re already thousands of dollars in, or worse, in some type of long-term contract.

Do you trust the company you’re calling to steer you right? Ask them questions, ask their reasoning behind their recommendations, and gauge the trustworthiness of their expertise by their answers. If it sounds cookie cutter, scripted, dishonest, or just rushing you toward a commitment, then buyer beware.

But don’t be guilty of making your mind up about what you need before calling the expert either. You wouldn’t get sick, walk into the doctor’s office, and tell him what medicine you need, right? If he just took your word for your own self-diagnosis, he’s lazy at best, but at worst it’s criminal malpractice. It’s his job to use the training and expertise he has to diagnose you. A consultative call should start with the pertinent questions to give the expert a clear understanding of the symptoms. Only then can a prescription be recommended.

If you’re speaking with a consultant who doesn’t just rush you along or give you what you think you need to simply take your money and get you out of their office, you know they’re on your side. Don’t get frustrated if it takes a little longer than expected; they’re working on the right solution.


Research, Research, Research

There are plenty of things you can learn quickly on your own to help you make educated marketing decisions if you know where to look. A simple Google Trends search shows people typing the phrase, “AC tune up specials” was up 60% nationwide compared to the week before (as of the writing of this article). You can also look at a breakdown by state and compare year over year. There are free options to run simple speed and diagnostic checks on your website’s performance, and you can find thousands of helpful tools and basic coaching on Facebook, Google, and YouTube to get you started understanding what needs to be fixed. Soak up as much free information as possible to make educated business decisions. Once you’ve found issues, the choice is, do you believe this free information and advice to be completely trustworthy? And do you trust yourself to fix these issues or is it time to call an expert?

Remember, a homeowner can learn a lot about what their problem is from the internet as well (or so they think). When your trained technician shows up with 20 years’ worth of experience and highly specified gauges in hand, what if the homeowner begins to argue with him? They must be convinced to trust the expert’s advice and that his professional tools are much more reliable than the free resources on the internet. Similarly, WebMD is a great resource and can show you there’s a problem, but don’t use it to argue your case against an actual MD.

Chances are, if the marketing vendor you’re shopping is worth their salt at all, they have highly advanced tools at their disposal for extremely in-depth market research. They have tools and know-how that aren’t available to the general public. Ask them to run a competitive analysis. Ask them to run a full review of your website. Ask them for proof, with numbers, to back up their recommendations to you.

All businesses should want their customers to be as educated as possible, making good buying decisions, but we should all be humble enough to know we can’t be experts in everything. A good consultant will take the necessary time with a prospect to find their specific needs, make them comfortable with their recommendations, and justify the expense. Quick, generic questions with cookie cutter answers just don’t get us there.