I recently wrote about the importance of being willing to pay for leads, but if your budget simply won’t allow it at the moment you should know that there are ways to get free construction leads. It all comes down to using your imagination, creating your own opportunities, and being willing to invest a little bit of your time. Really try to think outside the box and you will come up with some great ideas for getting no-cost leads. Here are a few to get you started:
1. Start a blog. When you hear the word ‘blogger’ you might think of politics or entertainment but it’s a medium that has become increasingly useful for small business owners all over the world. It’s easy to start up a free blog at blogger.com and you can be up and writing within minutes. Call it something simple like “The Official Blog of XYZ Construction CO. in Denver, Colorado”, then start writing articles about residential construction and remodeling. The more the better. Write about how a remodeled bathroom can help you sell your house, about what you should look for in a qualified general contractor, about how experienced and knowledgeable your construction company is, etc. I won’t get into a lengthy discussion here about search engine marketing but just know that the more web content you have out there the greater the chance of someone in your region finding your blog while searching for information on the internet. And guess who they’re going to call for all their construction needs? That would be you, the web-savvy remodeling CEO who’s blog they just stumbled across. This method is particularly effective when attempting to score residential construction leads. UPDATED 3/8/14: While you always have the option of setting up a blog on a free platform like the one mentioned above, I should add that there are MAJOR advantages to using a paid hosting solution with you own domain name. Read my comprehensive post about starting a blog for more on this.
2. Build a free site. If you don’t have a website for your company yet then what the heck are you waiting for? More and more people are using the internet to find local contractors and service professionals and it’s safe to say that the Yellow Pages will be dead within five to ten years. You can easily build a free site with no html knowledge by using Google Sites. You can then use your web address in all your free online profiles like the Google Business Center or Yahoo Local. Also try to have a place on your site where people can give you their email address. You can get a ton of these by promising to send out occasional discounts and deals to their inbox. Then you’ve got a huge, free list of potential customers that you can bombard with sales emails whenever you need to. If you find that you get a kick out of creating your site then offer to build free or low-cost sites for other non-competing contractors in your city and simply put a link on each one that points back to your site. It could say something like “Website created by XYZ Construction of Nashville – home of the $1995 full bathroom remodel”. Imagine how much traffic, exposure, and free construction project leads you’d get if you had a link like that on 25 or 50 other sites related to your region! UPDATED 3/8/14: While you still have the option of setting up a free site on a number of different platforms (and it’s better than having no site at all), I’ve come to believe that it is wiser to devote time and resources to creating a company blog instead. For more on this subject read my post about starting a blog.
3. Network on Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. These websites are no longer just the domain of teens and college students – they are free marketing platforms just waiting to be exploited for your benefit. Set up accounts with as many of them as you can keep up with (using your company name as the title) and really try to spend some time on it. Build up friend lists, post useful information pertaining to your business, and send out occasional reminders to your list. You’ll find lots of other businesses in your city who are doing the same thing and would love to network with you and work on mutually beneficial relationships and lead swapping.
4. Get free listings with online service recommendation sites like Angie’s List, Merchant Circle, and Super Pages. Ask customers who were happy with your work to log onto these sites and put in a few good words about your company. These kinds of online testimonials will go miles in sending you one free construction lead after another that is easy to convert into paying jobs.
5. Create DIY or informational videos for YouTube and local cable access stations. If you can make a short and funny business-related video and post it on YouTube you might just be surprised how much local exposure it can get you. If you’re lucky it could go viral and within a week you could have your business name, number, and web address in front of literally tens of thousands of people (many of them local who could use your service). Free job leads for contractors are just waiting to be discovered on the internet – you just have to shoot for as much online brand exposure on as many different platforms as possible. You could also create some short and educational videos about home improvement and submit them to your local cable access station. Often times they’ll put them on the air to fill the space, and it’s almost always free.
6. Create and manage a local network of service professionals. Set up a website called “Premier Service Professionals of (your city here) Club”. All members of the club would agree to spread the word about all the other members’ services to their customers. So Plumber Joe would only send painting leads to Painter Bob and vice versa. It would be totally free for participants. This is a great way to leverage each other’s growth for mutual benefit.
7. Call in to your local TV stations on snow days and ask them to include your business in the ticker list of closed businesses at the bottom of the TV screen, even if you don’t have employees or even if you plan on being open anyway. Why? Because you just got your business name in front of about half a million people for free, that’s why. You can do the same thing for radio stations. There’s no telling how many free construction sales leads you can get out of this tactic. This one’s borderline ethical but I leave it up to you whether you’d like to add it to your bag of tricks.
8. Write an article for or ask to be interviewed by your local community newspaper. Community newspaper editors are usually pretty desperate for interesting stories and content, and they’d probably be receptive to publishing the article you just wrote about remodeling and the importance of keeping your home up-to-date. Of course at the end of the article would be your name, number, and web address for all in the community to see (for free, of course). Or if you have an interesting story to tell or your business is about to achieve some sort of milestone try to get them to send out a reporter and photographer. Who knows, if you’re lucky you might just hit the front page in the following week’s edition!
9. Have a twist in how you operate your business that will draw local media attention. For example, you could start a remodeling business that is owned and operated exclusively by women. Or you could work out a barter system where you build new additions in exchange for cars, boats, or other vehicles instead of cash. Or you could become known as the construction company in town that only hires military veterans. You get the point. Have a hook. Have a story. Be original. Soon enough a TV or newspaper reporter will catch wind of it and decide to use you story on a slow news day. Just one mention on the tube or in the paper and you’ll probably be swimming in free construction job leads.
10. Give free DIY classes and seminars at your place of business once a week. You’ve probably noticed that Home Depot offers free DIY classes all the time, but they’re not just doing it out of the kindness of their hearts. They know that most of the people in those classes will then take a stroll through the store and purchase all the required materials on the spot. The same idea could work for your service business. If you have a residential construction company you could offer Saturday classes on everything from painting to tiling to drywall, the idea being that most of them would quickly realize that they have neither the aptitude nor the desire to take on their home remodeling projects. Of course there you’d be, just waiting in the wings to offer your services for hire.
11. Contribute your skills to charitable causes and watch the free construction bid leads roll in. There are always opportunities available to give your time to worthy causes. You could help build a house for Habitat for Humanity, you could offer a few hours a week of free labor to seniors at your church, or you could help build the set for your local community theater. These kinds of things always offer you the chance to promote your business and get your name out there, whether it be in a printed bulletin or simply via word of mouth. People will remember you and your good works the next time they need their basement remodeled or deck re-built.
12. Reach out to local realtors and let them know that you’d like the opportunity to help their clients. Once you establish a relationship with one realtor within a company it can often lead to work with others in the same firm. It costs you nothing to try this other than the time it requires to sit down and compose an email. For more, check out Jonah’s comprehensive tutorial on getting leads through realtors.
Do I really need to keep going? Surely you can see by now that there are endless ways to get leads for your business without spending a dime. They are there for the taking if you can open your mind enough to see them. Granted, most of these ideas involve spending time instead of money, but for many contractors who are just getting started they tend to have more time than money anyway. Might as well put that time to good use and start generating your own free construction leads.