Contractor Marketing: Branding Vs Lead Generation

When an advertising rep comes to your office and starts talking about branding, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? I know what pops into mine…

.. a brand on the backside!

Most advertising reps push heavily on the idea that you have to “get your brand out there”, “get people to know who you are”, and so on. What a bunch of garbage… sort of. Advertisers use branding as an “escape route” when they didn’t deliver enough leads to make the advertising worthwhile. Worst yet, we trust our rep, and then write another check to get “branded” some more.

So is branding bad? Is it good? Should you be thinking about your “brand”? Let’s talk about that…

What Is Branding?

Jon Jantsch (Duct Tape Marketing) offers a simple definition that I like:

“Branding is the art of becoming knowable, likeable and trustable.”

Notice three key points here. Being knowable, being likeable and being trustable.

So, your advertising rep can help you with the “knowable” part. But, however, what can they do to help you with being likeable and being trustable?

What Can Branding Do For Your Contractor Business?

I’ve seen branding do some amazing things, and so have you. Here’s a good example. What do you blow your nose with? Facial Tissue? Nope, you use a Kleenex. That’s how you know branding does work. When the product name is so closely associated with what it does, you don’t even realize you’re using the brand name anymore.

Well, that’s great if you have millions of dollars to spend in advertising. But that likely doesn’t apply to your company. For the average contracting company, this approach to branding simply isn’t viable, as not every person who hears your message is your potential buyer. Some people will never want your product/service. Some will never be able to afford it, and so on.

But, for the ones that can use your company, branding can have a pretty big impact. I’ve personally seen a direct impact on Closing percentages, and average sale amount due to efforts I’ve help with to brand a company.

Why does that happen? As Jon Jantsch mentioned, branding also makes you likeable and trustable. When someone likes you and trusts you, they buy from you. And they’re OK with buying a lot from you.

That, my friends, is the biggest benefit branding can have for your contracting business. Lowering the anxiety related to buying from you.

Many of us feel the “third party” lead referral companies generate crappy leads. Want to know a big reason why? You guessed it, the branding factor. Because there is no branding of your company compared to the other companies the customer gets referred to, you won’t be seen as any more likeable, or trustable than the other guys. Thus, sales resistance and anxiety will be high – and price typically is the biggest motivator for the prospect…

What Branding Can’t Do For Your Business

Be wary though, branding isn’t the magic pill that makes your business skyrocket. Branding alone will not help you with lead generation. Let me explain it to you.

I conducted a test marketing similar companies in similar areas to prove this point. The first company is well established, spends a lot of money in advertising and branding. The second company was newer and wasn’t well known in the market.

In a yellow page ad promotion, both companies generated similar amounts of leads from full page ads they were running. The well branded company did not do better than the no-name guy when it came to lead generation. They did, however, do MUCH better in the sales portion of the business. We attributed this to many things, and branding was one of those factors.

So, if branding doesn’t bring leads, then why bother with branding at all?

Your Work Is Your Brand

This is the one that most contractors miss the mark on. It’s the one that advertisers don’t want you to think about.

Are you ready for this? Repeat after me:

“Your Work Is Your Brand.”

When you have a modest to medium sized marketing budget, pursuing branding alone is a sure fire way to go out of business. If you succeed in getting people to know about you, but no one contacts you to get an estimate, you’re out of luck.

But think about it. How many times have you had those great word-of-mouth referrals from a past customer? Were they pretty easy to sell to? Were they happy to meet with you and excited to see how you could help them? Did they trust you because their friend/relative/neighbor recommended you?

The answer is yes. When you do great work and promote yourself through the work you do, you get the best branding you could ask for.

Your work can get you known. The recommendation makes you likeable by the potential client, and trustable because a happy past customer referred you.

Balancing Branding & Contractor Lead Generation

So, we’ve discussed good things about branding and what it can do you for your contracting business. We’ve also discussed the things it can’t do. So what should you do in the end?

I heard a great saying from a fellow marketing friend of mine that sums this article up nicely:

“Generate lead flow daily, build branding over time.”

I think it’s a good approach for most all contractors to use. Get leadflow going first so you have a pipeline of potential customers coming to your business.

Do quality work that would make your customers want to refer you to others. This will get your “branding train” started down the tracks. Finally, devote more effort (and marketing dollars) later to build your brand awareness, which will further help with your sales efforts.