As part of this series on industry-oriented eMarketing techniques, this week we look at project services – those services that are delivered on a pre-determined estimate of time and materials.
This category is extremely diverse – from creative types in advertising and architecture, techos like programmers and physics consultants, to those with far bluer collars in plumbing and panel beating.
Many in this services sector contend that the web is less useful for them because they don’t ‘sell’ their products online.
While there’s no question that the web is less intrinsic to their business than their reservation style services examined last week, the online world still plays a critical part in not only providing qualified leads but moving them a long way through the sales pipeline via detailed estimate forms and selling service packages and/or vouchers.
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Search engines are now the very first port of call when prospective customers are looking for a project services supplier.
To those providers in less traditional or niche categories the benefit is even greater as web users are more likely to use search engines for these providers than use the more laborious and less informative (but often more relevant) Yellow Pages.
Either way, a prominent and professional online presence should now be the biggest priority on the project service provider’s promotional wishlist.
Listed below are the key eMarketing techniques with a rating of how effective the technique is likely to be to operators of these project services. High = High effectiveness, Low = Low effectiveness and so on.
Selling online: MEDIUM
As outlined above, selling online is a less obvious online objective for project service providers, however they might well be surprised at just what an effective new revenue stream selling online can be. Many have achieved brilliant results by packaging their services into fixed-deal bundles, where you receive a pre-determined set of benefits such as the construction of a pool, house or website.
Vouchers are another way of selling your services online. One of the exciting growth areas is in subscription, where service providers can tap into ongoing and often passive income streams in return for regular provision of services and resources.
Search engine optimisation: HIGH
Project services have been the bread and butter of Yellow Pages for decades and have now become a major source of traffic for search engines. Recent research data suggests that search engines have even surpassed word-of-mouth as the first port of call when in the market for services such as these.
The goal of every project service provider should be to become and stay prominent on Google et al for their line of business – at the very least within the localities they service. If that goal is too difficult or expensive to achieve, next best is to command a given niche.
For example, my own firm does not have the time or budget to compete for the keywords ‘web design’ in this country (yielding 5.5 million search results). Web design firms are now a dime a dozen and many have far deeper pockets than ourselves. However, we are number one for ‘independent web services’ – a niche we dominate.
Search engine advertising: HIGH
If a prominent ‘organic’ position is difficult to achieve, this ‘pay per click’ advertising is a brilliant way to fill the breach. There are now service providers that receive the bulk of their qualified leads from this technique.
Again if highly competitive, look for locality or speciality niches which are less expensive to maintain.
Email marketing: MEDIUM – HIGH
The only reason this extremely effective technique is on the ‘medium’ side of high is because many project style services do not earn regular repeat business.
However, if your business can provide repeat business to your clients then email marketing should be a priority for your promotions. In no particular order it is cheap to prepare and deliver, has low invasiveness and can promote viral effects as it is forwarded to interested others.
Online directories and portals: MEDIUM – HIGH
Project services enjoy high popularity in portals which can add considerable value to the standard online directory. Some of these (such as HomeImprovementPages.com.au) specialise in a given interest while others like ServiceSeeking.com.au act as a kind of tender directory.
While some of these can be useful in coming up with a supplier short list, they can sometimes lead to a reduction in service quality as competitors drive down each others prices in order to win a project bid.
They can also risk unfair comparison of services. For example, the price of a website can range from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands but what is not always evident from the bid process is the results that each will deliver.
Banner advertising: MEDIUM
Banner advertising can be an extremely cost-effective way of getting in front of your target markets. There are literally thousands of sites clamouring to win your advertising dollar and many will offer much better deals than their rate cards suggest.
This form of advertising can be even more effective if placed on sites that facilitate supplier searches because site visitors are in the market for that service at the time they are searching.
Social networking: LOW
Social networking ranks lower than other eMarketing techniques because most project service providers are trying to maximise their billable hours every single week and this technique is renowned for being completely distracting and time consuming.
The exception is where a business has a dedicated marketing resource that is essentially paid to promote the business and whose activities will therefore not compromise earning potential.
Afffiliate marketing: MEDIUM
Because affiliate marketing is essentially performance based, it can deliver an excellent return on investment. Because of this it’s a ‘why not’ for the providers of project services.
Overall the return on investment of eMarketing now outstrips most traditional forms of promotion for the providers of project services. Therefore it should be prominent in the promotional plans of most providers of these services.
Best of all, its digital and affordable nature means you can afford to put a reasonable ‘toe in the water’ to test effectiveness prior to a significant investment – unlike its less flexible traditional counterparts.
Do you agree or disagree with these ratings? Either way, tell us why below. We’d especially love to hear from project services who have tried the techniques described.
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Craig Reardon is a leading eBusiness educator and founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which provide the gamut of ‘pre-built’ website solutions, technologies and services to SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.