Internet Lead Generation

I wrote a few years ago about my then-recent experiences with Internet lead generation. I wasn’t born in a computer world, but I’ll share my slow and steady progress in it.

ONLINE LEAD SERVICES

For leads I started about five years ago with Service Magic, which is now Home Advisor Pro. The process involves defining a geographical range by ZIP code and allows you to provide a service description text and website link. Customers searching in those ZIPs for your type of service connect with you through Home Advisor Pro, and your company receives a contact phone number and email.

The positives of a program like this are that you can set a limit on the number of leads you want to receive in a month and leads can be suspended and then continued without penalty – a good thing when you’re stuffed with jobs.

There are some negatives in this system. One is that the handler sends the leads to multiple service providers. If the job is a good one you better be the first at the trough. I’ve seen occasions when the customer is flooded with interested contractors and gets irritated by a tsunami of phone calls. In my experience, most leads are not top-notch. It may be some do-ityourselfer just wondering what it might cost to have someone scrape off the mess they made painting over wallpaper paste with latex … and they don’t want to pay a lot. Hey! I got all the free work I can handle.

Another problem is other painters logging on for free to check on the competition (surfers don’t pay the fee) and you are charged as a lead. They will refund you for these bogus leads, but time is wasted calling the handler to get the charge for the lead deleted.

Why bother with this type of program? Well, there is gold in the haystack. One lead I received in 2008, just when the Great Recession hammered down, yielded about $350,000 worth of work over a three-year period on four projects for a famous person you all know. If this lead had come from an interior designer, I would have paid 10%, or $35,000, in finder’s fees. That one lead paid for a lot of the other leads that didn’t pan out, with savings deposits left over.

I have gotten a few other decent jobs through Home Advisor. I’ve found more luck by listing a narrow niche service such as children’s room murals. I often have no competitors and a clean shot at getting the job. So in theory a painting contractor could list wood roof shingle treatment and get just the few leads that generates and avoid the intense competition of a broader arena such as exterior painting.

WEBSITE LEADS

I started a website about 10 years ago. For the first five of those years no one knew it existed; now it is a key player in my game. I seldom add to my picture album anymore but instead update my website yearly. I skipped a lot of fancy stuff and went for lots of pictures and fast loading. People have short attention spans, and you want those pictures to open fast. Most people have the Internet within a yardstick’s reach on a computer or mobile device, so it’s easy to refer to my site fast – fast is the word. My logo is striking, with a colorful half butterfly, and the business name and contact are on the top and bottom of each page.

I do get a few leads, some of them very good, from my website from random Google searches. Those leads are free without obligation. Here’s how it works. My many pictures are captioned with the specific location and finish (e.g., wood graining in Redding, Connecticut). Random Google searches recognize keywords and post them on a page. A search for those keywords by a prospective customer pulls up a link to my website and, voila, a contact. The goal is to be on the top of the page so searchers see your name first. Periodically my listing moves down the page as newer competitors post pictures with similar keywords. In specialized services such as wood graining other posts might be infrequent, so I sit atop the page longer. In a very competitive keyword such as “interior painting in Redding” life on top of the heap is short. Lots of site pics with diverse services and locations keep exposure up.

It takes a considerable time and effort to keep rearranging these website photos. I also have to keep in mind that someone searching for marbleizing in Redding might have typed in faux marble instead, leaving me nowhere to be found.

OTHER ATTEMPTS

Around 2010, I was besieged with sales pitches promising to put my website at the top of Google in ZIP codes I deemed potentially profitable. Theory is that being on top makes you most likely to be clicked. I tried for three months at $125/month in a few select ZIPs on Connecticut’s Gold Coast. It took a while to get to the top of Google, and then I got only two leads in the three-month period, and it was more junk.

In November of 2012, I signed on with constructionleads.com. Construction painting is not my thing, but the salesperson claimed he got some leads in my category. I was in an extremely dead period, so I thought what the h$#@. A $300 deposit and $30 per future lead will be deducted. Nothing in four months. I called the handler, who said they would increase special finish exposure, but I remain skeptical. APC

Victor DeMasi is the 30-year owner and operator of Monarch Painting in Redding, Conn. He teaches frequent workshops on decorative painting and faux finishing and can be reached at (203) 448-0106 or victor-monarch@yahoo.com. To view Victor’s work and workshop schedule, visit his web-site at monarchpainting.net. His book, Designer Faux Finishing, became available Oct. 1, 2011. Contact him by email if you would like to purchase a signed copy.

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