By Michael Stone -
I know, you just rolled your eyes and said, “One more thing to worry about. I don’t care about the Internet and have better things to do with my time. And it costs too much.”
But your potential clients are willing to spend time on their computer, and you need to be there. If they’re looking for an ag building, a kitchen remodel or a new home, they want to investigate you before they call you, and the Internet lets them do that. You have to be there.
While you will probably spend less money developing a website than you would have spent on Yellow Page ads, it’s still a significant investment. So what should you do before hiring someone to get your website up and running, and to help you get found on the web?
For many business owners, getting a website is daunting because they don’t understand how it all works. For a brief simple primer on websites and what’s involved, read this article on our website: http://www.markupandprofit.com/how-to-get-a-website.html.
Do your research – find out first if a website developer really knows what they are doing. Look at some websites they’ve developed. You want to approach this project just exactly like the media, Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List tell your clients to approach a construction project. Look for a website designer just like you should look for a contractor.
A referral or recommendation from a friend is a great start. If you can’t find a referral, ask a website designer for references. Don’t be shy – call their references and get the straight scoop. Don’t just ask if they delivered the website – ask the references if their website can be found on the web. Test those references by trying to find their website yourself – if the reference is a store in a given town, search for a product in that town and see if the website appears in Google.
There is a decided lack of website developers in this country who can 1) build an appealing website that draws good leads and 2) understand enough about construction to put the two together and 3) be trusted to do what they say they will do. When you’re hiring a website designer or SEO provider, beware! The stories we hear from fellow business owners on how they’ve been treated by these so-called web designers defies description. If you think contractors have a bad reputation, trust me, website designers are earning a worse reputation.
You might be surprised to learn that not all website developers understand the purpose of a website. They believe the purpose is to show a work of art with clever sayings and pretty pictures of your jobs that go flash and bang. They think it’s all about them, but it’s not. It’s about your potential clients and encouraging them to call you.
Make it easy for potential clients to find you. We know from working with our coaching and consulting clients that the company name should be at the top of every page in large bold font. Likewise, the phone number should be big and bold at the top right corner of every page. Those two things make your site far more appealing to most visitors and most important, it gives them the ability to call you on the spot without having to search around for a phone number buried somewhere at the bottom of the page. I’ve visited too many websites this year where the only phone number listed was on the elusive CONTACT US page. Remember also, for those of us over 50, trying to read small fonts on a website is annoying. Make your fonts a minimum of 12 point to appeal to those who have the money to purchase your services.
If you aren’t getting leads from your website, make changes. Check your search engine optimization – if you build pole barns in Madison, Wisconsin, type “pole barns Madison Wisconsin” in Google and Bing and Yahoo and find out if your website appears. If it doesn’t – something is wrong.
When you’ve selected the company you want to work with, make sure they provide a well-written contract that specifies a start and completion date and benchmarks so that you know things are getting done. You need a payment schedule tied to the benchmarks, and make sure the payment schedule is not front end heavy. If the company has problems with that, walk away. We hear all kinds of stories about these flakes taking money and then disappearing or, just as bad, going out of business.
What happens if and when a provider has taken your deposit or maybe a progress payment or two then goes out of business? I personally think that you should file a claim in small claims court against the owner (and make sure all their personal information is part of the contract). If the amount is larger than allowed in your local small claims court, have your attorney sue the owner. These clowns get away with this because no one calls them on it. They take the money, shut the business down and then start another business with a new name. Hmmmmm, doesn’t that sound like some of the construction company owners we’ve heard about over the years?
Get a solid contract, check references, set deadlines and walk carefully. You don’t want to be the next contractor I hear from who’s been taken by a shady website designer. RB
Michael Stone’s goal is to see all construction-related business owners survive and thrive. His newest book, “Markup & Profit, A Contractor’s Guide Revisited” is now available at his website, www.markupandprofit.com. Michael is also the author of “Profitable Sales, A Contractor’s Guide”, and the DVD program, “Profitable Estimating Training”. He has more than five decades of experience in the building and remodeling industry, and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also sponsors a free, private LinkedIn group, the Construction Business Owners Group, where members can ask questions and discuss issues with fellow business owners in a safe atmosphere. To join, send a note to email@example.com.