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Service Direct Resource Guide

How to Market Your Skilled Trade Business Against the Bigger Budget Competition

How to market your skilled trade header mobile

Service Direct Resource Guide

How to Market Your Skilled Trade Business Against the Bigger Budget Competition

In today’s market, small skilled trade businesses face the challenge of competing with larger companies. They have more money to spend on ads and marketing, making it hard for smaller businesses like yours to get noticed.

But by crafting a clever marketing strategy and allocating your funds wisely, you can stand your ground against larger corporations.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled practical advice on how to stand out without needing a big budget. We’ll cover effective, affordable marketing strategies that use digital tools, community connections, and storytelling to draw attention to your business.

Learn how to improve your online presence, engage on social media, form strategic partnerships, and focus on your customers’ needs in everything you do.

Marketing Your Skilled Trade Business: The Basics

A thorough understanding of marketing techniques and strategies is pivotal for success as a business owner. It’s all about reaching the right people with the right message at the right time.

The first step is to clearly define your ideal customers. Consider factors such as location, age, income level, and the specific needs that your service fulfills. 

For example, do you want to do HVAC work for a large apartment complex or offer repairs for single-family homes? Are you targeting luxury homeowners who want to install smart home features, or do you want to advertise to first-time home buyers needing basic repairs? 

Once you know who you’re targeting, set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for your marketing efforts

By utilizing this system, your goals transform from “I want to get more customers” to “I want to gain 50 new leads by the end of Q4 by utilizing PPC ads”. This makes it easier to chart a path to your goals and measure your success. 

Also take some time to refine your brand. Your brand is more than just your logo or company colors; it’s the customer’s entire experience with your business. Consistency is key. 

Ensure that all your marketing materials, from your business cards to social media profiles, convey a cohesive message and visual style. This consistency helps build recognition and trust among your audience, making them more likely to choose your services over a competitor’s.

Is Traditional Marketing Still Worth the Money?

Just 30 years ago, small businesses could advertise their services by placing an ad in the newspaper or renting billboard space. Digital marketing has taken over since then, but can you still gain new customers through traditional marketing methods?

Pros of Traditional Marketing Methods

While digital marketing dominates the conversation, traditional marketing has one distinct advantage: tangibility. You can hold, touch, and keep track of a business card or flyer in a way you can’t with an Instagram post or Facebook ad. 

Physical advertisements are more likely to be remembered and could increase brand awareness in your local area. 

Traditional marketing methods can also help you target more local audiences. Flyers distributed in a neighborhood close to your central location could directly attract repeat customers who enjoy the convenience of your services. 

Physical and traditional advertising can complement a robust digital marketing strategy.

Cons of Traditional Marketing Methods

That said, there’s a reason that digital marketing has the stronghold it does. Traditional marketing is expensive and a lot less flexible. 

Once you’ve paid to print a hundred flyers, you’re out of that money and can’t go back and decide to adjust your flyer campaign. In a small business where every dollar matters, traditional marketing methods can be a bit of a gamble. 

Unlike digital campaigns, where analytics can show you exactly how well your campaign is going, the return on investment (ROI) of traditional advertising is harder to measure. This makes it tricky to tweak campaigns for better results. 

Your goal as a small business owner is to maximize every dollar, and you may unintentionally overspend on a traditional campaign that will underdeliver. When going up against larger businesses, you want to ensure that every marketing campaign brings returns.

Competing against big business marketing for your trade

Investing in Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is an umbrella term that refers to many online advertising strategies. As a small business, digital marketing can be your secret weapon against companies with bigger budgets. Online ads can boost your visibility and drive growth at a lower cost than traditional marketing methods.

SEO and Website Optimization

A well-optimized website is the bedrock of your digital presence. 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website so that it is noticed by search engines such as Google. Optimizing your site involves refining content to include relevant keywords that your potential customers are searching for. 

It also involves ensuring the structure of your site is logical and navigable, and crafting meta tags that accurately describe your page content to both search engines and searchers. 

Small trade businesses also benefit from a robust local SEO strategy, which places your website at the top of the search results for people in your area seeking services. 

SEO can be a lot for small business owners to learn, so many turn to a professional SEO agency to handle their online presence. This can be a great use of your marketing budget, as a well-constructed website could be your secret to more conversions. 

“Out-marketing big-box trade businesses isn’t always easy, but with a clever strategy and a great website, your company can outperform the competition in no time.”

Social Media Marketing

Small local businesses used to thrive without a social media presence; now, though, you must advertise on social media to stay competitive. 

Social media’s main advantage is that it allows you to access your audience quickly and directly. You create authentic communication that builds brand trust and loyalty by actively interacting with followers through posts, comments, and direct messages.

Social media platforms also offer powerful targeted advertising tools at a relatively low cost. They let you narrow down the audience you’re trying to reach within incredible parameters, ensuring that the only people seeing your ads are the ones most likely to make a purchase

Investing in low-cost, highly targeted ads on sites like Facebook can stretch your marketing budget to its maximum potential. 

Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising places ads at the top of search results for particular phrases. It’s similar to buying a billboard, but at the top of the Google search results. 

The most attractive feature of PPC advertising is that you only pay money when someone clicks on your ad. In other words, you only pay to show your site to potentially interested customers. 

Strategies for optimizing PPC campaigns include aiming for high-quality scores, which lower the cost per click. Additionally, you can focus on bid management to ensure that you’re achieving the highest possible return on investment. 

Designing a PPC campaign can be something of an art, so don’t hesitate to reach out to a digital marketing expert for guidance.

Home Services marketing laptop

Digital Marketing on a Budget

When you have to balance a marketing budget alongside the cost of rent, payroll, and all other business expenses, it can feel like solving a puzzle with too many pieces. But the great thing about digital marketing is that even a modest budget can expand your reach and get new eyes on your trade business.

How Much Does Digital Marketing Cost?

The cost of your digital marketing strategy can vary depending on your methods and whether you decide to do it yourself or hire a marketing agency. Here’s a quick breakdown of how much these services can typically cost:

  • SEO and website optimization: Costs can range from minimal (if you’re doing it yourself) to a few thousand dollars monthly for professional services. However, many SEO practices, like keyword research and content creation, can be learned and implemented at a low cost. If you do SEO yourself, you might consider paying monthly subscriptions for specialized SEO tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs. 
  • Social media marketing: This can be as affordable as the time you invest in it. Organic social media marketing costs are primarily in content creation, and if you’re savvy, you can manage this in-house. Paid social ads offer flexible budgeting, often allowing you to set limits starting from a few dollars a day.
  • Pay-per-click advertising: PPC platforms like Google Ads operate on a bidding system, which means you can set your budget based on what you’re willing to pay per click, with options to cap your daily spending. Even small budgets can drive results, particularly if you’re targeting niche keywords.

Starting small is key, especially if you’re new to marketing your business. To try marketing yourself before hiring help, research best practices before starting a campaign.

What’s the Average ROI on Digital Marketing Campaigns?

The ROI from a digital marketing campaign can be challenging to quantify because success depends on the quality of your ad, the price of your services, your website structure, and many other details. However, you can set some general expectations for your campaigns. 

SEO offers a substantial ROI but takes some time to get there. Optimizing your website will bring in more traffic and potential customers, but it may be six months or more before those numbers rise. 

On average, though, businesses see a 2.8% increase in overall revenue after investing in an SEO strategy. 

Because likes and followers don’t always translate to real-life customers, it can be difficult to measure the ROI of your social media campaigns as well. 

Some figures say that the average social media campaign has an ROI of 250%, while others say that the average conversion rate of social media followers was 9%.

Since you only pay for PPC ads when someone clicks on them, you’ll see a direct correlation between every dollar you spend and the amount of traffic that comes to your website. Google reported that for every dollar a customer spends on Google Adwords, they see two dollars in revenue.

How To Out-Market the Competition

As a small business going up against larger corporations, you have to play to your strengths. Adding a personal touch to your marketing strategy will help your business stand out in the community.

Know Your Enemy: Analyze the Competitors

Understanding your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, market positioning, and customer base provides valuable insights into market gaps and opportunities. This analysis helps you tailor your marketing strategies to highlight your unique selling propositions (USPs) and address areas where your competitors may fall short, allowing you to capture a larger market share.

Go Local

One of the most effective ways to outperform bigger competitors is by focusing on local SEO and community involvement. 

Optimizing your online presence for local search queries ensures that your business appears prominently in search results for people in your area, making it easier for potential customers to find and choose your services over national chains. 

Additionally, actively participating in local community events, sponsorships, and initiatives boosts your visibility and establishes your business as a trusted, integral part of the community. Your audience will be able to put a face to your brand, and you can use these events to utilize traditional marketing methods.

Utilize Word-of-Mouth Referrals

Word-of-mouth referrals are a powerful marketing tool, especially for businesses in the skilled trades. Encouraging satisfied customers to refer your services to friends and family can significantly increase trust and credibility among potential clients, often more so than traditional advertising. Implementing a referral program or simply asking for referrals can amplify this effect, turning your satisfied customers into your most effective advocates.

Online Reviews and Testimonials

Up to 95% of customers read reviews before deciding to make a purchase. Collecting and showcasing positive reviews on your website and social media platforms can significantly influence potential customers’ decision-making processes. 

Provide links and gently encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews. Responding to positive and negative reviews professionally and constructively enhances your credibility and demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction.

Collaborating With Other Local Businesses

Forming partnerships with other local businesses for cross-promotion is another strategy to extend your reach and strengthen your presence in the community. These collaborations can take various forms, such as shared advertising campaigns, co-sponsored events, or mutual referral agreements. 

By joining forces, you and your partner businesses can offer more comprehensive solutions to your customers, increase market visibility, and build a supportive network of local business owners.

Online marketing for your home service business

“Embrace the digital age, engage with your community, and let your unique brand story resonate with your audience. As your business grows, don’t be afraid to hand off your marketing to the professionals so you can focus on what really matters.”

Creating Content Your Audience Cares About

In the golden age of digital marketing, your content makes you stand out. Even if your budget is meager, you can create impactful, high-quality content to increase brand visibility. As you optimize your website with helpful blog content and post on social media, follow these guidelines while crafting your content calendar.

How To Write Compelling Blogs For Your Website

Writing compelling blog content starts with understanding your audience’s needs and interests. Choose relevant topics for your audience and craft direct, helpful answers to their questions. 

Your blog content should be educational and relevant to the reader’s interests while focusing on keywords for which you can rank. Sharing real-life examples, case studies, or customer stories adds a human element that readers can connect with. 

For example, if you know many of your customers want to know more about the roofing materials you offer before they get a quote, write a few articles explaining your offerings and their pros and cons. Craft your content around what people in your target market actually want to know before making a purchase from you. 

Once you’ve created great content, make sure it’s optimized for SEO purposes as well. Structure your content for readability by using subheadings, bullet points, and images to break up text. Content optimization can be tricky as search engine algorithms update, so don’t hesitate to consult with a marketing specialist for personalized insights.

How To Make Entertaining Social Media Content

Creating content that’s not only informative but also entertaining and engaging can help your brand shine. Humor, behind-the-scenes looks, and interactive elements like polls and quizzes can significantly increase engagement by making your audience feel a part of your community.

However, not all social media sites were created equal. A campaign that does well on Twitter will not necessarily do equally well on Instagram. 

Plan your content strategy around the format and energy of each site—keep it short and sweet on Twitter, show a cool video on Instagram, and share aesthetically pleasing photos on Facebook. 

Leveraging the strengths of each platform and matching your content to your audience’s preferences enhances your ability to connect.

With the rise of TikTok, crafting short-form video content can elevate your brand virtually overnight. Investing time in creating video content that informs, entertains, and engages can significantly boost your social media presence and audience interaction.

How to Manage Your Marketing Campaigns

Once you’ve set up a marketing campaign, you must monitor it to ensure its success. This involves diving into the analytics to assess engagement and conversion rates and calculate ROI. 

Use this information to adjust your strategies, whether tweaking your ad copy, targeting different demographics, or reallocating your budget to more successful campaigns.

Just as you’d ask for reviews from happy customers online, be sure to request feedback about your social media presence. Online surveys and social media comments can provide a clearer picture of how your campaigns are being received. 

Pay attention to common themes or suggestions that emerge from this feedback. If multiple customers request a specific feature or service, or if there’s consistent criticism of a particular aspect of your marketing, these areas likely require attention.

Finally, it’s crucial to stay current with the modern marketing landscape. New sites, tools, and strategies are becoming popular all the time, and the marketing tips that worked five years ago may not work today. Be proactive about reading marketing newsletters, attending conferences about digital marketing, and networking with other professionals to find great partnerships. 

Out-marketing big-box trade businesses isn’t always easy, but with a clever strategy and a great website, your company can outperform the competition in no time. 

Embrace the digital age, engage with your community, and let your unique brand story resonate with your audience. As your business grows, don’t be afraid to hand off your marketing to the professionals so you can focus on what really matters. 

Resources for Skilled Trade Business Owners

These resources will be crucial for any trade business owner looking to enhance their marketing campaign. We’ve listed our favorite tools, guides, and sites to reference while marketing.

Digital Marketing Tools and Platforms

  • Google Analytics: Provides insightful data on website traffic and user behavior, enabling small business owners to make informed decisions about their online presence and marketing strategies.
  • Semrush: Offers comprehensive SEO and digital marketing tools that help identify trends, track rankings, and uncover competitors’ strategies, essential for outmaneuvering the competition.
  • Ahrefs: Delivers powerful tools for SEO analysis and backlink tracking, allowing businesses to refine their content strategy and improve their site’s search engine visibility.
  • Moz: Equips businesses with SEO tools and resources to improve their search rankings and online visibility, making it easier to compete in crowded markets. 
  • Mailchimp: Provides an easy-to-use email marketing platform that enables personalized communication with customers, fostering loyalty and repeat business.
  • Google Ads: Allows businesses to target potential customers precisely through paid search ads, offering immediate visibility in search results and a competitive edge.

Local SEO and Listing Services

  • Google Business Profile by Google: Enhances local visibility and credibility by allowing businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps.
  • The State of Search Marketing for Small Businesses by Service Direct: Offers valuable insights and trends in search marketing, helping small businesses tailor their strategies to stay ahead of competitors.
  • Yelp for Business by Yelp: Improves local discoverability and reputation through customer reviews, making it a vital platform for attracting new customers based on trusted feedback.
  • Listing Management Tool by Semrush: Streamlines managing and optimizing business listings across multiple directories, ensuring consistency and maximizing local search visibility.
  • Growthbar Chrome Extension: Provides on-the-go SEO insights and data directly in the browser, aiding in quick decisions and competitor analysis.
  • Free Local Rank Checker by Localo: Allows businesses to monitor their search engine ranking for local queries, which is essential for understanding and improving local SEO performance.
  • Keyword Planner by Google Ads: Helps identify the right local keywords to target, which is crucial for optimizing ad campaigns and improving local search visibility.

Educational Resources and Guides

Professional Associations and Networking Groups


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