We all like leads, especially when they’re cheap, and especially when they’re free. As contractors we’re constantly bombarded by lead generation sources by email, from the web, from directory services, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…How do you figure out which ones are worth the time and which ones are a waste of time? As a company that’s spent a lot of time in the contracting game, we’ve come to discover a few things about both paid and free lead generation sites.

They rank in Google

The reality is that many of these lead generation sites rank out well when someone searches for a local service like:

  • HVAC contractor in Seattle
  • Plumber in Houston
  • Electricians in Topeka

When you do these searches you’ll find local listings, sure. You’ll also find pages from lead generation sites like Yelp, HomeAdvisor, and Angie’s List.

If you’re not there you’re missing out

The reality is that many consumers know and trust these sites. All of the ones listed above include customer reviews, so why wouldn’t a potential customer want to click through and see who has the best reviews among local contractors on Angie’s List as opposed to just randomly clicking on websites in a Google listing? While you might think it’s a nuisance to go through the steps of filling out the profiles on these sites, if you don’t take the time, you’re just giving business to your competitors. That’s a fact.

A contractor’s own website should be their number one lead generation source

While your website isn’t free, it does act as the centerpiece to any other online lead generation services or activities you partake in. Truthfully, before you start spending money on any services marketed to you, we recommend taking the time to make sure your website is well constructed and built to convert potential customers into leads – by phone or by email/contact form. Then, you can start claiming and setting up your listings on third party lead generation sites.

What we’ve seen

Over three years of data collected from one of our contractors has shown us that these are their top three lead sources: 

  • Website/Google Searches
  • HomeAdvisor
  • Facebook

Our data shows that HomeAdvisor and Facebook are consistently less than $250/actual sale or job completed.  Obviously, the website is a little more tricky because you have the initial investment to build it out and get it setup for search engines (this includes getting listed on Google My Business so you show up in Google’s local map listings). But after the initial investment and set up it is by far the cheapest at less than $75/actual sold job including time to update on-line directories, blogs, etc.  For Q1 for example, Facebook had a hit rate of 50%, HomeAdvisor 35% and the website was at 25%. These are items that you can track in your marketing performance reports to see what’s effective, but you’ll need to remain vigilant about asking your customers how they found you. At the end of the day, your website is absolutely critical for your lead generation success. The investment in your website, based on sold jobs, will pay itself back in profit in less than six months for even a small contractor.

 Lead generation services that are worth your time

There is an almost endless amount of online lead generation services, but over time we’ve narrowed our list down to the following sites, we feel these are the ones you should focus on updating as part of your online marketing activities. You might not get a lead that is worthwhile from some of these, but several of these are free and/or don’t charge per lead. And if you don’t pay per lead who cares? Not all of these lead generation sites are free, but as mentioned earlier, many of these sites rank out well in Google’s search results so making sure you have an up to date profile can help you get in front of a lot more potential customers, so we feel it’s important to stay updated on each of the sites listed here ($ indicates a fee for a business listing or leads):

Beyond just claiming ownership, you’ll want to make sure you take the time to completely fill out your profile with accurate information and as many helpful marketing materials as the site allows. Add images of your best work, include your hours, testimonials, and whatever else you can to make your business stand out. Also, as you sign up for these services, make sure you have all your logins and passwords stored in a safe secure place so you can update them when you need to.

Even free leads come with some cost

As you might have guessed looking at the list above, creating and maintaining all of these listings on lead generation sites will take some time and effort. That said, once you’ve got them set up, maintenance isn’t that hard as long as you don’t have any major changes to your name, address, phone number, or website. Beyond that, keep your list of services and images up to date with an annual calendar reminder and when the leads roll in, remember to carefully track the sources so you can manage your time and money appropriately to the lead sources that are bringing in the most business.

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