Recently, I asked a very successful roofing contractor in his region about what he has done that was unique. His answer seemed counter-intuitive: he offers gutter cleaning services to older people in the neighborhood at cost.

This roofer knows that most of these customers won’t go on to buy new roofs, they’re at a stage of life where they’re thinking about paring down housing costs. However, they often have adult children with young families living in fixer-upper houses that do need roofs. When the roofer shows up in a crisp, clean uniform, makes time for friendly chit chat, and throws in a small odd job or two, they often tell their children about how nice the roofer was at the next Sunday dinner. When the time comes for these adult-aged children to replace their roofs, they remember the nice story their parents shared about the roofer. 

As this small business owner discovered, success in many service businesses is driven by building and maintaining a good reputation. It’s a bit like choosing a surgeon or picking a babysitter for your newborn. Replacing the roof over your head is a time when reputation is far more important than price.

This was confirmed in the “What Customers Want from Local Businesses” survey we recently conducted. We learned that the three biggest reasons customers use their home repair provider are quality of work (41 percent), reliability (32 percent), and trustworthiness (28 percent).

So how do you make the most of the reputation you’ve built as a roofer to win new customers?

Finding creative ways to boost word-of-mouth advertising can go a long way, but it’s also important to make the most of digital and mobile outreach.

Four Strategies to Build Your Local Reputation

1. Have a Vibrant Website

In our survey, 70 percent of customers said they would like to see local home-repair providers improve their websites over the next year. However, in a different study, we found that more than half (52 percent) of small business owners do not have a website.

Whether or not your business is among the owners who currently have a website, remember that in today’s world your website is your front door, and it delivers the first impression you make on potential customers. Ask yourself whether your website makes an impact. Is it easy to use, clean and organized? Does it convey a personality and humanity that makes someone want to work with you? If you don’t have a website, get one! There are companies, agencies and free tool kits available online to help you create a website that’s easy to use.

2. Get and Use Reviews

Online reviews from customers are no longer nice to have, they’re a must have. In the roofing business, we’ve learned reviews are particularly important, especially since people don’t buy many roofs in their lifetime. When potential customers need to make that decision, they only have word of mouth or online reviews to help them decide whom to work with.

Still, we find many small business owners are not recognizing the importance of online reviews. A previous study we conducted found only half of small business owners thought it was important for their business to receive positive online reviews and almost one in four (23 percent) believed it was unimportant. These small business owners are missing out, as 90 percent of customers’ buying decisions are influenced by seeing positive online testimonials.

Plus, one of the great ways to build that website we discussed is by enhancing it with content like online reviews. You may be surprised by how many reviews you get. In the Yodle Insights Survey, we found fewer than one in 10 consumers (7 percent) have been asked to write a review of a local business even though the vast majority (89 percent) were willing to do so if they had a positive experience and were asked. We also found that three-quarters of all consumers surveyed said that having reviews either gives a local business a competitive advantage (36 percent) or is expected (40 percent).

Some business owners are shy about asking customers for reviews, so if you’ve been putting it off, make the task easier on yourself; after you’ve successfully completed a job, use an automated system to request a review by email.

3. Let Photos Tell the Story

Roofing is fascinating to watch. It’s not a common occurrence to see people 12-20 feet in the air working effortlessly. To the average person, it’s scary and exciting to witness, so celebrate that!

Take candid shots of your employees hard at work, your on-site logos, before and after pictures, etc. Images like this help show you’re engaging, professional and, of course, illustrate the high-quality work you do. They’ll also bring your company to life on your website and social media pages, so remember to ask members of your crew to snap candid shots of your team in action. Don’t forget to make sure everyone is smiling and looking at the camera, as it will improve response.

4. Stay in Touch

Many roofing contractors get too busy to promote their services during their best season, but that can lead to peaks and valleys in cash flow. To keep up the pace of your marketing, you could, for example, share offers for cleaning, repairing or smaller jobs throughout the season, as well as tips on snow or ice removal. You could also share your thoughts on the latest materials and technologies evolving in the industry. The goal is to mix both promotional as well as informational content.

One way to make sure you have a steady flow of jobs is to automate more of your marketing, such as email promotions. Our survey found that 71 percent of local home-repair providers’ customers would like to receive communications such as service/appointment reminders and advice/helpful tips, either via email or social media.

Remember, not every message you send out has to be a sales pitch. Many of your customers will welcome an article on a useful topic like how to keep your roof from springing leaks or how to keep a new roof looking great—and your valuable tips will remind them of what a great resource you can be.

By finding ways to stay in touch, without bombarding them, you’ll keep your company top of mind when they’re ready to hire a roofer.

In conclusion, reputation matters and it takes a while to develop. You’ll need to invest over time. Remember, it’s the accumulation of many small things over time that add up to a great reputation and a steady flow of business for you and your team.