Mobile, mobile, mobile. Small businesses are being bombarded by marketing programs that promise to deliver calls, customers, and sales right from a prospect’s cell phone. And for some companies that may be true — mobile could be the answer.
But the facts on the ground indicate that mobile marketing is, at best, a mixed bag so far for most small businesses.
I work with hundreds of home improvement and home services companies across the country, who typically work in specific geographic areas, usually serving customers in a 25-, 50- or 100-mile radius of the business’ address. And what we’ve seen has been very telling when it comes to mobile marketing.
Let’s look at a typical company that installs windows, roofing and siding within a 50-mile radius of its location. Mobile visits to the company’s web site have been growing for years now. They’ve seen consistent gains year over year, with a noticeable increase in the last 18 months as homeowners have learned to use their phones and iPads to conduct searches from anywhere.
Yet leads and sales haven’t grown in the same proportion for those remodelers. In fact, conversions tend to be 50% lower with mobile. Why? There’s a host of answers.
First, the products that most remodelers offer boast a hefty price tag. New windows through an entire home can cost $15K-$30K. Siding is in the same ballpark. And even a small roof can run five figures. In short, hiring a remodeler for one of those jobs is a serious financial decision for most homeowners.
That’s why it’s a decision that is rarely made based on a mobile phone visit. Analytics tell us that high ticket, high consideration purchases are much more likely to occur on a desktop, or on a tablet, rather than on a smart phone. While mobile phones have come a long way in a short time, their screens are simply too small and too difficult to browse with in order to make big decisions with.
Next, filling out forms on cell phones is still a major headache. Even short forms with great usability suffer from “fat finger” or mistyping. No one likes to have to fill out forms via phone.
There are still other factors. Mobile itself is a misnomer for many small business owners. Most tablets, like the iPad, provide users with an experience much closer to that of the desktop or laptop computer than to a mobile phone. Yet that distinction is often lost on the service providers selling them mobile solutions. Just because you can take tablets with you, doesn’t mean they should be lumped in with mobile phones. From a user and a results perspective, tablets and phones are apples and oranges.
So I stated before that mobile marketing for home services companies is a split decision. Now that we’ve seen where mobile doesn’t work, where is it being effective for home services?
The answer is with home repair and emergency service work. Businesses like drain and clog repair companies, emergency plumbers, HVAC and air conditioning repair, and fire and water damage firms have all seen mobile marketing become an increasingly effective part of their plans. The difference in consumer behavior explains why.
Whereas new windows are a high consideration purchase with a high ticket price, a flooding toilet is the homeowner’s problem right now. In most cases, there isn’t time to get three quotes, do product research, go to Yelp and figure out who will do the perfect job. The water is heading for the hallway!
Speed is of the essence. In many cases, the first provider to respond is the one to get the job. And the quicker the homeowner can get someone on the phone to help with their emergency, the better.
That means phone calls and that means mobile. When it’s 15 degrees out in February and the furnace breaks down, homeowners use their mobile phones considerably more often than they will for a big ticket job. Prospects convert into customers at an incredibly high rate for these kinds of services, so being in great position on the homeowner’s phone is an easy win for the provider.
That means real focus and execution on the provider’s part to use mobile as a key part of their marketing strategy – because it works.
Ten years from now, these distinction may well be mute. By then, there will be a new generation of homeowners who were raised on broadband and smart phones. And their behavior may well change to become more mobile-centric for home services purchases of all sizes.
So an aggressive mobile marketing strategy may be right for some small businesses — but it definitely isn’t right for all of them. Here and now, mobile marketing is still a very split decision.
Todd Bairstow is the Founder and a Partner at Keyword Connects, which specializes in online lead generation for remodelers and home services companies across the country. He is a popular writer and speaker for the home improvement industry and writes a blog that speaks to all things internet- and home improvement-related.