In previous columns, we talked about how roofing contractors should embrace new marketing concepts over some of the traditional marketing that has been a mainstay in the roofing industry. We also focused on evaluating the sales process and how important that step is before trying to generate leads. Now, we’ll begin looking at the different ways to generate leads.

There isn’t one easy answer on how to generate a lead, nor is there one activity that works better than all others. It’s a combination of activities that you and your team should be doing every day to cultivate relationships, build awareness and bring in the lead.

For this column, we’ll focus on one of the biggest buzz words in the industry today: content. It’s easily the strongest trend with leading marketers and can make a huge difference in your business. Strong roofing or exterior-services content is critical for ongoing success no matter the size of the organization.

So, What Is Content?

You may hear the phrase “content is king” and wonder what the heck that means. It’s simply a reflection of the ability to gain answers via the Web. While people once went to the library to research or gain important information, today that’s mostly being handled on the Internet, driven by search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. Thus, getting your information in the hands of your customers means providing answers for their questions.

That’s where content comes in. Content is simply information formatted and written in such a way that it can easily and quickly, in most cases, answer questions. For example, “What type of shingle is best for my home?” With the right content, you can answer that question for potential customers visiting your website or searching online. It draws new customers in and validates loyalty of current customers.

How Do I Get Content?

You may already have quite a bit of content by just looking at your current website and proposals. Taking the time to reformat it into blog posts, frequently asked questions (FAQs) or e-newsletters can help search engines find and display your site with better results. It also provides bite-sized information that consumers can digest quickly.

Once current information and content has been accumulated and repurposed, it’s time to look to your vendors. Distributors and manufacturers post content through social media and on websites daily. In fact, you most likely receive marketing emails from them a couple of times per week. It’s excellent content to use to promote the materials that your sales team is selling. Simply by sharing through social media or on a blog, that content can then be fed to your customers, once again validating your company as a leading, knowledgeable source.

It’s also a good practice to surf the Web and see what other contractors are doing. It will stimulate ideas and may even inspire employees to write blogs about the company’s services. Using internal resources and positioning employees as experts through articles, blog posts and social media is an important and trending marketing practice.

How Is This Different Than PR?

Content is really the new buzz word and an important part of public relations. In the past, press releases generated content that was published in local newspapers. Today, it’s all wrapped up together, with PR being more important than ever as a generator of good content. Whether it’s a case study about a current or past job or a press release about a new hire, what’s written can then be used as content for the Web, a blog or social media.

Overall, public relations is the relationship between your business and its customers (or potential customers). So, that means you want to position your business in your local community as a resource; as a company that provides information and shared expertise. You want to be top of mind for potential customers so when a need for your service arises, they’ll think of you.

Start small with news that’s easy to share. Did you hire a new employee? Did someone get a promotion? Are you adding a new service program or division? Tell the community about it through a press release to your local newspaper and business journal. Don’t be intimidated by writing a press release; it’s just the basic information on who, what, when, where and why. Search the Internet for a sample press release to use as a guide.

How Do I Get PR Placed?

The next step is to reach out to local media and position your company as the local expert. Newspapers, TV and radio stations all have news slots that they’re looking to fill with content. Why not have it be yours? Seasonal changes and weather events are a great time to provide information to your local media. This is where you share your expertise.

For example, in the heart of fall, provide information on what homeowners should be doing to prepare their homes and roofs to protect them throughout the winter. A simple tip sheet of to-do items is an easy piece for the media to share with their viewers or readers. You already know what these should be — include tasks such as clearing leaves and debris from gutters, ensuring downspouts are clear and engaging a local roofing contractor (you) to perform a pre-winter inspection to address any issues that may exist. Throw in some tips about winter safety, including some education on ice dams and safely clearing snow from the roof (call a contractor!).

The same thing can be done in the springtime. As the winter begins to thaw, tell the community what homeowners should be doing to ensure their roofs are still in good shape for the coming April showers. Just about all local media outlets have their reporters’ contact numbers and email addresses available on their websites, making it really easy to engage them.

Using the Web and Social Media

Take the same content you gave your local media and put it on your website and social-media pages. If there’s one place to reach just about anyone these days, it’s on social media and the Internet. Do you have a Facebook or Twitter account? More than one billion people have Facebook accounts, and Twitter sees more than 243 million active users each month. It’s critical for your business to have an online presence.

Don’t have a social-media presence? Worried about not knowing how to do it? It’s worth the effort to learn (kids and grandkids are great teachers), but if you’re still unsure, consider hiring a summer college intern who can get your content or create content for your social media. Then have them train you or someone on your team to manage ongoing social-media posts.

Studies have shown that the number of people who trust a friend’s recommendation for a service or product is extremely high (about 90 percent) versus the number of people who trust an advertisement (just 14 percent.) When your business has a social-media presence, you’re becoming a trusted friend.

In addition to the wealth of personal social networking sites that are out there, be sure you don’t forget about LinkedIn. This is more of a business and professional networking site that allows you to take the in-person networking that you’ve done through your community involvement and extend it to the online realm.

As you look around your business, you’ll realize that you’re creating great content every day simply by running a high-quality business. Shout it out by writing it up and posting it for the world to see.

Discussion Topics

  • What are you doing now that your team feels should be publicized?
  • Do you have articles, case studies or press releases that could be turned into short, interesting posts?
  • Are you working with your distributor, manufacturer or technology provider for up-to-date information and content?
  • Are there resources nearby, such as a local college with a marketing program that could work with you as a class project?

Action Items

  • Hire, assign or delegate a person to be responsible for weekly posts and development of the necessary content.
  • Assign members of your team as owners of that activity, and schedule weekly touch-base meetings to monitor progress.
  • Share the initiative with all your employees and ask for ideas, feedback or content that can be used from their perspective.