The home improvements sector includes a diverse range of businesses, such as builders, kitchen designers, window installers, garden landscapers, flooring suppliers and curtain makers. Purchases in this sector tend to be high value and driven either by necessity (a leaky roof) or aspiration (a posh new kitchen to impress your friends).
As with many high value purchases, the home improvements market in the UK is one of extremes.
Over the past two summers of travel restrictions, the sector has experienced a boom as people spent their holiday money on their homes instead.
But, as life returns to relative normality, home improvement businesses are looking for ways to continue their success despite quieter market conditions.
As your marketplace changes, it’s more important than ever to review and re-energise your brand and marketing strategy. Let’s look at five ways to do this.
1. Understand (and strengthen) your brand positioning
Your brand positioning describes how your customers see you in relation to your competitors. In the words of Trout and Ries, who developed the idea of positioning back in 1969,
Your customers will be assessing you – and perhaps your competitors – on a number of different factors, or attributes, that are important to them. The utopian brand position is to offer a combination of ALL their preferred attributes, but this is rarely a realistic prospect. For example, customers might ideally want the very best quality at the lowest possible price, but usually this just ain’t gonna happen.
Defining your brand position
Defining your brand’s position means identifying which of these attributes your products or services deliver, in comparison to your competitors. You can then identify where you have an advantage. This might be in terms of customer service, convenience, price or quality, for example.
Once you’ve defined your brand’s position, you can fine tune your marketing activity to align to it – which means your customers are perceiving your brand in the way you want them to. Your marketing becomes much more effective as a result.
Premium vs value brands
Positioning is particularly important for premium brands. These businesses need their marketing to not only persuade customers to buy from them, but to pay more for the privilege. Take these two examples of kitchen brands which have similar visual identities, but very different positioning:
Despite, on the face of it, having a similar appearance, the brand positioning of the two websites is very different. For example:
- The “hero” photo on the Magnet website shows a relatively small kitchen with plenty of practical storage. Meanwhile, the Smallbone website features an expansive kitchen which would be beyond the means of most homeowners.
- Below the main photo, Magnet goes straight into its current offers, aligning itself to the price-sensitive. Smallbone instead uses this space to emphasise the bespoke, artisan nature of their work – very much an “if you have to ask you can’t afford it” premium brand.
- The Magnet website uses a simple sans serif font throughout, whereas the Smallbone website employs a variety of fonts, emphasising the finer, more bespoke nature of their work.
- There is a distinct lack of content on the Smallbone website, further emphasising the bespoke message (in fact the website is just one page). Magnet offers a more ‘off the shelf’ product, so it’s entirely appropriate to have many pages and a navigation menu to help users browse for the kitchen they would like.
Is your brand in an uncomfortable position?
Of course, having identified the position your brand currently holds, you might decide that it needs to change.
For example, if you are charging more than your competitors, but your customers don’t perceive your brand to be worth the premium. If this is the case, you either need to change your targeted position or improve your current attributes so you start to live up to customers’ expectations of a premium brand.
Learn more about positioning your brandRead more
2. Have great visuals
High quality photography is essential in the home improvements market.
Whether you are positioned at the high or low end of your market, your customers are still making an aspirational purchase, hoping to create their perfect home.
Therefore, the images of your products or services need to be equally aspirational.
Using a professional photographer
Investing in the services of a professional photographer is a sound decision. They’ll provide you with a suite of high quality photos for you to use across your marketing.
- Display them on your website product/services pages.
- Post them on social media
- Add them to your Google My Business/HOUZZ listings
- Refresh the images in any printed literature, including showroom portfolios/displays
- Use them for case studies
- Email them to prospects who are looking for similar work
- Add them to your entry in directories such as Checkatrade
When photographing your work, it’s particularly helpful if you can have both before and after images, so you can demonstrate the transformation you’ve made. You might also find it useful to have photos which show:
- Work in progress, particularly if they can show the care you’re taking of your customer’s home
- Where appropriate, interior as well as exterior photos
- Details and finishing touches which emphasise the quality of your craftsmanship
- Where appropriate, the wider property, so it puts your work in context of the overall home
- A variety of homes and projects, so there’s a good chance that a prospective customer will see something that’s similar to their own home or the work they want to have done
And, of course, you don’t have to stop at photography. Videos are an excellent way to convey the type of work you do and position your brand in the mind of your customers. This great example is from a high end construction company:
3. Google optimisation
The majority of home improvement companies are looking for customers in a relatively small local area, which can make location-focused search engine optimisation (Local SEO) very effective. This approach involves creating pages on your website which target a specific location.
Landing pages vs case studies
Often these pages are set up as “landing pages”, effectively replicating the function of your homepage, but individually written to target people searching for your services in a specific location. South Coast Windows, for example, have 25 different landing pages for separate locations.
While this approach can sometimes be effective (though not always), we have found, over the years of working with home improvement companies, that writing case studies (which are then optimised for relevant Google searches) is a better option.
For example, this is a case study we wrote for Window Wise: Replacement bay windows in Haywards Heath.
Case studies take more effort to create as they require completely original content, rather than simply ‘spinning’ existing content to create yet another location landing page. However, in our experience, they’re more effective at ranking well in Google search results.
And they have an added benefit in that they’re showing potential customers an authentic, real-life example of your work in their local area, which is more engaging and relevant to them and therefore has a better chance of leading to an enquiry. So even if the SEO doesn’t work for a case study, you still have valuable content added to your website.
Of course, not everyone can get to the top of Google for every search term that’s relevant to their business. This is where Google Ads come in; allowing you to leapfrog your competitors. Again, these work particularly well in narrowly targeted local areas and, if professionally managed, can be very effective, especially for high value sales.
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4. Appeal to more sophisticated purchasers
Ten years ago, if someone saw an advert for your business, that might have been enough for them to pick up the phone and get in touch.
But those days are long gone.
Current reckoning is that a customer might need between 6 and 8 ‘touchpoints’ before they’re comfortable to go ahead with a purchase; especially if it’s a big one. For example:
- They walk past a job you’re doing where you have a sign up in your customer’s garden
- They see a post from you on Instagram
- A friend makes a recommendation
- They Google you and look at your Google My Business listing reviews
- They click through to your website
- They read your Checkatrade reviews
- And, finally, they pick up the phone
This might sound long winded, but when was the last time you purchased something without looking at its star rating or reading at least one review?
How to cover all the bases
So how do you have a presence on all these touchpoints without your marketing costs ballooning?
To start with, you need to go back to your brand positioning and who your target audience is. Then research which touchpoints they’re most likely to use.
For example, if you’re a premium brand targeting wealthy, older homeowners, then your website certainly needs to be top-notch to reflect that brand. You should probably focus time on your Instagram feed and creating articles to feature in high-end home magazines.
If you’re a lower-cost brand targeting new homeowners, then online reviews will be critical. Putting some examples of your work on TikTok could put your brand in front of just the right people.
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5. Trust signals
The increased research carried out by customers has also increased the need for you to give off the right “trust signals”. These are indicators which help customers feel more secure in making the decision to purchase from you.
Trust signals can be powerful motivators and an important part of the touchpoints a prospect needs before they become a customer.
There are many different ways in which you can communicate trust signals to potential purchasers.
Trust by eliminating risk
One of the most powerful ways you can engender trust is by taking away any perceived risks for the purchaser. Promises such as money back guarantees or 10-year warranties can contribute to pushing a potential customer over the line.
Trust by affiliation
Demonstrating your membership of well-known industry bodies can give customers reassurance in the safety and quality of your work. For example, Gas Safe, FENSA or ISO quality standards.
Trust by association
Knowing that similar people trust your company can give prospects the signal that they can trust you too.
In business to business markets this is often achieved by displaying client logos. A similar approach can work in the home improvements sector. You could, for example, display the logos of trusted local companies who you frequently work with. Or, if your work has been showcased in the press, feature this in your marketing.
Trust by social proof
“Social proof” is a blanket term to include any reviews or recommendations from customers or industry experts. These can include:
- Google My Business reviews
- Customer testimonials displayed on your website
- Facebook recommendations
- Word of mouth
- Checkatrade ratings
- Case studies
- Photos/videos of your work
- Influencer marketing
The key to success is to be authentic; don’t be tempted to make up or ‘enhance’ reviews. Don’t anonymise reviews unless there’s an absolute need to.
In fact, the best social proof is where the reader knows that the business in question hasn’t meddled with it, which is why independent review sites such as TrustPilot and TripAdvisor are so popular.
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Experts in marketing for home improvement businesses
We’ve had the pleasure of working with many successful businesses across the home improvement sector. You can read about our work with a couple of them here (our own little bit of social proof ;):
- How we helped Window Wise achieve a 218% increase in website enquiries.
- How our work with Cannadines increased their average sales value by 45%.