A lot of home improvement companies spend 15%, 20%, even 25% of their revenue on marketing. Ask an owner, and he generally won’t admit it, but after two Scotches and a beer, it comes out.

That’s quite a margin hit. The obvious way to reduce that is to get more business from previous customers as referral, repeat, or reputation leads. And mastering social media in all its ever-evolving forms will give you a huge advantage there.

Creating an Online Presence

Social media is about having a presence where your customers and the people who could or will be your customers are spending their time. Think about your own use of the Internet. How many hours a day, typically, do you spend looking at this computer screen?

People talking to other people about your company has an authenticity that no amount of self-promotion can touch. Testimonials on your website? They’re great. As a business owner, I love hearing what a fantastic job my company did. But just because it’s music to my ears doesn’t mean everybody else hears it that way. If it’s posted on my company’s website, it’s still me talking about me.

Statistics show that when it comes to a company they’d do business with, what people believe is: 1) each other, 2) review sites.

If you could get a substantial percentage of the people you work for to review you on Yelp, Angie’s List, Google+, or elsewhere, and if you can get them talking about you on Facebook, that’s gold. It’s equivalent to tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing investment. What it requires is time, effort, knowledge, and the systems to create an ever-widening online footprint such that anyone interested in your product or service at some point can’t help but be aware of your company.

Ask, Don’t Entice

Most contractors don’t go out of their way to work social media for their companies. They don’t ask customers to review them. Or if they do, they leave it up to the customer to figure out how and where, which means that 90% won’t.

Here’s what I’d do: Take clients by the hand and have them write a review. Have your salesperson step them through it in the living room when he gets the last check or stops by for a follow-up visit. Show them where the sites are. You don’t have to entice them. To me, incentives such as “We’ll give you $50 off this job if you write a review of our company,” gets into the gray area of violating business ethics.

Don’t entice. Just ask. And if you get a bad review for the entire world to see? It means you just went platinum. Bad reviews are the best reviews. I love the review that says: We had a problem with XYZ Contracting and contacted them and they took care of us. That’s going to be so much more real than someone saying how wonderful XYZ Contracting is. It says that in today’s world of limited accountability, someone took responsibility. You can feel the eyeballs all over it. —Sales veteran and trainer Mike Damora has been the sales manager at several large home improvement companies. Reach him at madamora@optonline.net.