Online advertising is as strong as ever. In the first quarter of 2015, internet advertising set another revenue record, bringing in over $13.3 billion, a sixteen percent raise over the same time last year. If companies aren’t taking their online presence seriously, they’re in real danger of getting left behind.
For contractors, this is no different, and yet many fall short when it comes to having a strong, executable marketing plan. In fact, of HVAC contractors alone, 77 percent admit to not having a marketing plan, with small businesses in general coming in at 44 percent.
What’s the hold up? For many, it comes down to data.
Big companies can spend thousands, even millions, on analytics, research and big data. Small business owners, such as window and door replacement contractors, don’t have these kinds of resources. They rely on what they do have access to: sales numbers, their own research and online resources. But is that enough to compete with the big data companies?
As long as you combine it with a little creativity, the answer is a resounding yes.
Anyone can use readily-accessible “small data” to help their company grow. To help you see how easily it can be done, we’ll take you through an example.
A great place to start your “small data journey” is with the much-heralded Google Trends app.
Here, you’ll have access to over a decade’s worth of search engine data, sorted by time, location and category. For all intents and purposes, this would be considered “big data,” but since anyone has access to it, it’ll become your biggest tool for improving your marketing plan.
From the front page of Google Trends, you’ll have a few boxes showing different charts and trending topics. From this page, click on the “Search Google Trends” bar at the top. We’ll type in “home remodel,” for example, and we get something like this:
At the top you’ll see the different ways you can sort Google’s search information. Under “Worldwide” you can sort by country, province or state. Under “2004-present” you can choose to sort by any year from 2004 on, or you can choose to sort by the last 12 months, 90 days, 30 days or 7 days.
Under “All categories” you can choose specific categories and see how that search term ranked when it related to that category. This is less important for when you want to see how “apples” ranks, for instance, but rather want to see how “apples” ranks in the context of cooking versus the context of trees or other fruit.
Lastly, you can sort by the type of search under “Web Search,” selecting either Image Search, News Search, Google Shopping or YouTube Search.
For our purposes, we’ll sort by United States, 2004-present, Home Improvement and Web Search. We can also add more search terms to compare to our original “home remodel.” We’ll add “kitchen remodel,” “bathroom remodel” and “home remodel cost” just to fill out our graph a little more.
In a manner of minutes, you have specific, monitored interest in topics tailored for your business that come from the largest “research” source you can find: the Google search engine. Not only is this larger than any “focus test” or survey you could do on your own, but you also know that the subjects have no bias. They’re searching these terms because of legitimate interest.
You can mouse over any of these lines to see their value and month they occurred. A quick look through the graph gives us one very obvious trend.
The circles on the far right represent the searches from January 2015, while the mouse shows January 2012. Every January on this graph represents a large spike in search traffic for almost all of our search terms.
A quick brainstorm session can give you any number of reasons for why this would be. As the holidays approach, perhaps families are concerned less and less with personal projects, knowing they’ll be spending plenty of money in the next few months on gifts or family parties. Once the holiday season is over, they get back to those projects they were putting off from before.
Perhaps as families spend more time in their kitchens for the holidays cooking for friends and family, they realize just how much they dislike the size, functionality or look of the space. Or maybe they just want to get started on their New Year’s resolutions, which include finally getting around to that remodeling project they’ve always wanted.
In addition to seeing search results over time, the bottom of the page will show you related searches to your chosen topic.
Looking just at the “home remodel” term, we see some not-so-surprising results, as kitchens and bathrooms are the most popular rooms to search for. Beyond that we see that many Internet searchers are looking to remodel their mobile homes, and they are looking for ideas on how or what to remodel. Next time you’re looking for ideas on site articles or marketing campaigns, you might look to this for another perspective to take.
Taking all this information into account, let’s take it back to what you already know about your business.
Considering this annual spike in home remodeling interest that we found earlier, the obvious next step is to apply this to your own sales and research. If you aren’t seeing a significant sales spike in January, maybe it is because these potential customers search for home remodelers without going through with it (either because of price or lack of options). Or maybe they just aren’t finding your company in their search.
Try putting your company’s name into the search terms. Are you seeing spikes coinciding with the previous results? Are there other spikes that don’t align with the other search terms? Again, look through any and all reasons for why this could be. Get creative!
Even if you do see a sales spike at the beginning of each year, having this information could confirm what you’ve always thought: people are looking to remodel their homes shortly after the holidays. Now you have the confirmation you need to adjust strategies with this new resource.
Of course, small data mining doesn’t all have to come from Google Trends. Weather reports, marketing trends and even social media activity can bring you much-needed information to add to what we’ve already found.
Lowe’s, for example, is known for sending extra supplies and resources to stores in areas where big storms are approaching. Along those same lines, one of EnerBank’s own clients found that interest in kitchen remodeling would always spike when there was a big storm in an area. They found that when couples were stuck in their houses during storms they’d often talk in the kitchen, resulting in conversations about what they’d like to change in that room.
Our goal is to let you know how accessible this information is, and how simple it can be to apply it to your marketing plan. You don’t have to have a colossal research budget to find new insights into the home remodeling industry, nor do you have to get by without a solid marketing plan in hopes that your company will grow on its own. Don’t get caught being one of the 44 percent.