Tradie Business 101: A Guide to Marketing

About the Author: Ashley Thomson
Ashley Thomson

Remember when you enrolled at trade school because you knew you wanted to be a… marketer? Wait, what? Nah. You signed up to be an electrician or a plumber or a landscaper or a chippy or to learn HVAC or roofing. So it wasn’t a surprise to you that marketing wasn’t in the TAFE curriculum.

Yet now that you’ve got your own tradie business — whether plumbing, electrical contracting, HVAC installation, landscape construction, carpentry, or residential building – you realise that maybe they should’ve taught you something about marketing.

Trade schools give you the knowledge and skills to do your job proficiently and safely. However, as business coaches one of the most common things we hear is, “I didn’t learn how to run a business at trade school.” So what’s missing in this education model? Business 101.

In this series “Tradie Business 101”, we’re looking at the areas of business that you need to know how to manage well: finance, marketing, leadership and management, and more. As a tradie business coaches to many specialist trades, my advice is backed by 20 years of experience.

You can revisit the first guide in our series, Tradie Business 101: A Guide to Finance, or you can hop straight into the topic of marketing.

Whether you’re the go-to sparky, the reliable plumber, the chill HVAC expert, the artist behind stunning landscapes, or the master of keeping a roof over our heads – you know that getting your name out there is more than just doing a top-notch job. It’s about marketing, but not the kind that requires a fancy degree or big bucks. No, it’s about smart, savvy marketing that speaks directly to your would-be customers, whether they’re homeowners or facility managers of commercial sites.

Let me walk you through it, step by step, with “Tradie Business 101: A Guide to Marketing.” This isn’t your average, run-of-the-mill marketing guide. It’s a straight-talking, no-nonsense playbook designed specifically for tradies.

First up, understanding your market. Picture this: you’re an electrician specialising in home renovations. Your bread and butter? Families looking to upgrade their living spaces. Or, perhaps you’re all about commercial fit-outs. Either way, your approach to getting their attention and trust needs to be chalk and cheese. For the family home, it’s about being seen as trustworthy and reliable – think testimonials and word-of-mouth. For the commercial crowd, it’s about showcasing your capacity to handle the big jobs on time and within budget.

Branding and positioning, then, aren’t just fancy marketing terms. They’re about telling your story in a way that sticks. Take one of our clients who is a roofer. He positioned his business not just as another roofing company but as the guardian of your home, protecting it against the wild Australian weather. It’s this unique angle that makes him the first call for both residential and commercial jobs.

Now, let’s talk digital. It’s the big show of marketing these days. A landscaper can transform a greenfield site into a serene escape, but if the before and after photos aren’t shared online, did it really happen? Social media, a killer website, and some savvy email marketing can make all the difference in getting those jobs lined up.

But don’t forget the power of old school face-to-face interaction. Networking, local ads, and getting involved in the community can work wonders. It’s how I helped a local plumber grow his business from a one-man band to a thriving team. He became a familiar face, not just another service provider.

And here’s the kicker: if you’re not measuring your success and tweaking your game plan, you’re flying blind. Whether it’s refining your Google Ads strategy or getting feedback from satisfied customers, what gets measured gets managed – and improved.

So, buckle up! “Tradie Business 101: A Guide to Marketing” is your no-BS guide to nailing your marketing and growing your business. Let’s dive in and turn those potential customers into loyal fans, starting with the first step: Understanding Your Market

Understanding the Market for Your Tradie Business

Stepping into the shoes of a tradie entering the marketing ring, the first skill to master isn’t how flashy your logo looks or even how snazzy your website might be. No, the real first round is understanding who you’re trying to serve. Are you aiming to be the hero for the residential crowd, or are you setting your sights on commercial giants? The strategies for each are as different as chalk and cheese, and here’s how you can navigate these waters.

A word of advice: don’t try to be all things to all clients. We’ve all seen those tradie vans with decals that promote “No job too big or too small!” If you’re really good at what you do, you know that yes, there are jobs outside your wheelhouse. Get great and get great work.

Residential Clients: The Heart of the Home

When you’re dealing with homeowners, you’re not just offering a service; you’re providing peace of mind. Take, for example, our client Sophie, who runs a top-notch painting and coatings business. She understood early on that her residential clients weren’t just looking for someone to paint their rooms; they wanted to give their homes a facelift, to create places where the family and their friends would be able to enjoy the spaces, and do not have to move out while it happened. So, she tailored her messaging to emphasise her team’s attention to detail and the care they take with every home to minimise disruption and deliver a finished job that lasts the test of time (and kids! And pets!). Her secret weapon? Genuine customer testimonials shared on social media, highlighting the trust and satisfaction her clients felt.

This approach turned her service from a mere transaction into a valued relationship, leading to repeat business and referrals.

Commercial Clients: The Backbone of Business

On the flip side, when you’re eyeing the commercial sector, the game changes. Here, it’s all about showcasing your capability to deliver on larger projects, your understanding of industry standards, and your commitment to timelines and budgets. Let’s talk about Alex, who decided to move from a mixed bag of markets to specialising in commercial maintenance. He knew that to win over commercial clients, he needed to speak their language. This meant revamping his website to highlight case studies of successful projects, showcasing his team’s expertise in handling complex switchboard installs, and emphasising his business’s adherence to safety and regulatory standards. Alex also made it a point to follow a foolproof prospecting strategy, positioning himself as not just a service provider but a knowledgeable partner in REIT facilities management.

Tailoring Your Approach to Marketing your Tradie Business

The key takeaway? Your marketing strategy needs to be as specialised as the services you offer. For residential clients, focus on building trust, emphasising the personal touch, and showcasing your role in improving their daily lives. For commercial clients, highlight your technical expertise, your capacity for handling complex projects, and your professionalism.

Remember, understanding your market isn’t a one-off job; it’s an ongoing process of listening, adapting, and evolving. Keep your ear to the ground, stay aware of the shifts in your industry, and don’t be afraid to pivot your strategy to meet the changing needs of your clients.

This section aims to provide actionable insights and examples for effectively understanding and targeting your market, whether residential or commercial. With this foundation, you can ensure your marketing efforts are hitting the right note and maximising your business’s potential.

Moving forward, let’s tackle the second crucial piece of your marketing puzzle: “Branding and Positioning for Construction Trades.” This section will delve into how to carve out a unique space for your business in the crowded marketplace and connect authentically with your target audience.

Branding and Positioning for Construction Trades

In the world of tradies, standing out isn’t about wearing the brightest hi-vis on site, or just about offering the best price or even the highest quality of work – though, don’t get me wrong, those are table stakes. It’s about defining who you are, what you stand for, and why a client should pick you over the other guy Creating a brand that resonates with your target audience, something that makes them think of you first when they’re in a pinch or planning their next project. Here’s how to get there:

Building Your Story

Every tradie business has a story. Maybe you’re a third-generation electrician with a passion for renewable energy solutions, or perhaps you’re a landscaper who designs open spaces that provide play areas for kids and people of different abilities. Whatever your story, it needs to be at the heart of your brand. This narrative is what sets you apart from the competition and connects you with your customers on a personal level.

For example, I coach a residential landscaper who is a bit of a greenie. We developed their unique selling proposition to be their commitment to using sustainable materials and practices. By weaving this into their brand story and marketing materials, they attracted a niche market of eco-conscious clients who were willing to pay a premium for services that aligned with their values.

Visual Identity and Voice

Your brand’s visual identity and voice should reflect your story and appeal to your target market. If you’re targeting high-end residential clients, your branding might lean towards sleek and sophisticated, with a logo, website, and marketing materials that exude luxury and quality. On the other hand, if your focus is on commercial clients, you might opt for a more professional and straightforward approach that highlights reliability and expertise.

Consider the example of coaching for a renovator builder; Peter has a knack for problem-solving renovations of period homes, so we moved his business into specialising in heritage overlay niche builds. His branding, from the logo to their website, was designed to reflect a blend of old-world charm and modern reliability, appealing directly to homeowners of vintage properties looking for someone who understands the nuances of their homes.

For an example of brand identity in the commercial trades, we coach a business in the commercial security sector. His logo is a shield; it speaks to his commitment to protecting workplaces and factories from the risk. His messaging? Straightforward, honest, and always reassuring. This consistency in visual identity and voice builds a familiar and trustworthy brand that clients recognise and come back to.

Positioning Your Business

Positioning is about identifying how you want your business to be perceived in the minds of your target audience. It’s finding your spot on the map of the trades sector and planting your flag. This involves understanding not just who your customers are, but who your competitors are, and what you offer that’s different. Are you the luxury option or the budget-friendly choice? Are you specialising in eco-friendly solutions or focusing on speed and efficiency? This isn’t about being everything to everyone; it’s about being the perfect fit for your ideal client.

Take, for instance, an HVAC company that decided to position itself as the go-to for energy-efficient installations. In a market crowded with providers claiming the best service, this company focused its messaging on how their solutions were not only reliable but would save customers money in the long run and help the environment. This clear positioning, with the help of an electrician business coach helped them stand out to both residential and commercial clients looking to reduce their carbon footprint and energy bills.

Your Brand Speaks your Ideal Clients

Again, the approach differs starkly between residential and commercial sectors. For residential clients, it’s about emotional appeal – making them feel safe, understood, and cared for. Your branding should speak to these emotional needs. For commercial clients, it’s about professionalism, expertise, and the promise of seamless project management. Your branding here should emphasise your technical knowledge, your track record of reliability, and your ability to deliver on time and on budget.

Living Your Brand

Finally, remember that branding isn’t just what you say; it’s what you do. Every interaction with your clients, every job you complete, and every decision you make should reflect your brand promise. It’s about walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

The Bottom Line on Branding

Branding and positioning aren’t just about looking good; they’re about resonating with your target audience at a gut level. It’s about making sure that when someone in your market needs the services you offer, your name is the first that comes to mind, and they feel an instinctive trust and alignment with your brand.

Your brand story isn’t just fluff. It’s the backbone of your marketing strategy. Take Jayson, for example, who runs Cutting Landscapes, high-end landscape construction business. He doesn’t just sell garden makeovers; he crafts outdoor sanctuaries where families create memories. His branding? It’s all about transformation – transforming spaces and, by extension, lives. This powerful narrative is woven through every aspect of his marketing, from his website to his social media, making his business memorable and desirable.

Get your branding and positioning right, and you’ve laid the foundation for a business that doesn’t just attract customers but creates advocates.

This section has guided you through the nuances of building a brand and positioning it effectively in the competitive construction trades sector. Whether you’re appealing to the hearts of homeowners or the minds of commercial managers, your brand is your most powerful tool in creating lasting relationships and driving business success.

I hope you’re finding the guide useful so far. Let’s move on to the next crucial section, “Digital Marketing Strategies for Construction Trades,” where we’ll dive into leveraging the digital world to amplify your brand and connect with your target audience.

Digital Marketing Strategies for Construction Trades

In an era where a quick Google search can make or break a decision, having a solid digital presence isn’t just nice to have; it’s essential. But fear not, you don’t need to be a tech whiz to get it right. With a few strategic moves, you can make the digital realm a powerful ally in growing your tradie business.

Building a Strong Website

Your website is often the first real interaction potential clients have with your business. Think of it as your digital storefront. It’s not just about looking good (though that helps); it’s about being user-friendly, informative, and reflective of your brand’s values. Take Holly and Luke’s electrical contracting business, for example. Their website is clean, easy to navigate, and packed with helpful information, including detailed service descriptions, completed project galleries, and glowing customer testimonials. It’s optimised for mobile too, making it easy for clients to find them, whether they’re on a desktop or on the go.

SEO: Being Found Online by Your Ideal Clients

SEO, or search engine optimisation, might sound like a bunch of technical mumbo jumbo, but it’s essentially about making sure your business pops up when potential clients are searching online. For tradies, local SEO is key. You want to be the first name that comes up when someone in your area types “best plumber near me” into Google. This means using the right keywords, securing your spot in local directories, and collecting positive reviews. It’s an ongoing process, but it pays off by putting you right where your clients are looking.

Social Media: Building Connections

Social media isn’t just for selfies and viral videos; it’s a potent tool for building relationships with your clients. For a landscaping business, platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are perfect for showcasing stunning visual transformations. For HVAC or plumbing, Facebook and LinkedIn can help share useful tips, company news, and customer reviews. The key is consistent, engaging content that adds value, whether it’s how-to guides, behind-the-scenes looks at your projects, or customer success stories.

Email Marketing: Keeping in Touch

Email marketing is far from dead. In fact, for tradies, it’s a golden opportunity to keep your business top-of-mind. It could be a monthly newsletter sharing DIY home maintenance tips, special promotions, or updates on your services. The beauty of email marketing is that it’s direct, personal, and cost-effective. Plus, it keeps the lines of communication open with your clients, encouraging repeat business and referrals.

Measuring the Success of Your Digital Marketing

The beauty of digital marketing is that everything is measurable. Tools like Google Analytics and social media insights give you a real-time look at what’s working and what’s not. This data is gold, allowing you to tweak your strategies for better results continually.

Digital marketing might seem like a daunting frontier, but it’s an incredibly effective way to reach and engage with your target market, whether they’re homeowners looking for their next renovation project or commercial clients planning a new development. By taking these strategies step by step, you can build a digital marketing plan that works for your business and drives real results.

Now let’s explore the traditional yet equally vital side of marketing with “Offline Marketing Tactics for Construction Trades.” Even in our digital age, these strategies hold a special place for building relationships and establishing a local presence.

Offline Marketing Tactics for Construction Trades

While the digital world offers expansive reach and precision targeting, there’s something irreplaceably personal about offline marketing. It connects you to your community and local market in ways that clicks and likes can’t match. Here’s how you can use offline tactics to complement your digital efforts and solidify your standing in the local market.

Networking: Building Relationships

The value of face-to-face networking cannot be overstated. Whether it’s attending local trade shows, joining business associations, or participating in community events, these interactions create opportunities for partnerships, referrals, and direct business. Consider Tom, a plumbing contractor, whom I provided business coaching services for plumbers once regularly attends local Chamber of Commerce meetings. This has not only expanded his network but also positioned him as a go-to expert in plumbing for local businesses and homeowners alike.

Local Advertising: Making Your Presence Known

Traditional advertising methods like local newspapers, radio, and community bulletins still have their charm and effectiveness, especially in reaching demographics less inclined to digital. Crafting ads that highlight your services, special offers, or community involvement can significantly boost local awareness of your brand. For example, Blake, who runs generator supply and hire business, uses local billboards during heatwaves and cold snaps, offering timely promotions that drive immediate demand for their services.

Community Involvement: Building Goodwill

Getting involved in local community projects, sponsorships, or charity events is not just good karma; it’s smart business. It builds goodwill, enhances your brand’s reputation, and establishes your business as a community pillar. I coach a landscape construction business, Yellowstone Landscapes, that volunteers every year to a family in need, supplying their design skills, labour and materials to a worthy cause. They rally support from other local businesses and even though they do it purely as a gesture of kindness, they also gain visibility and appreciation from the community. These acts of goodwill create a positive brand association and can lead to new business through word-of-mouth.

Direct Mail: Personal Touch

In an inbox overflowing with emails, a well-crafted direct mail piece can stand out. Whether it’s a postcard, flyer, or personalised letter, direct mail offers a tangible touchpoint with potential clients. Tailoring these mailings to specific neighbourhoods or demographics can significantly increase their impact.

For instance, I provide business coaching for a custom builder who specialises in high-end new builds. At the beginning of every new project he delivers an introduction flyer to other houses in the street they’re building in. The flyer explains how long the build is likely to take and promises to respect the neighbours’ peace. This conveys a positive and professional image of the builder – he’s even heard from a client that a neighbour had the flyer on their fridge years after the build was complete.

Referral Programs: Leveraging Word-of-Mouth

Word-of-mouth is the oldest form of marketing, and it’s still one of the most effective. A report by Nielsen on building trust in marketing shows that people trust word of mouth referrals a whopping 89%. Encouraging satisfied customers to refer friends and family through incentives can be a powerful way to generate new business. A simple referral program, offering discounts or services to both the referrer and the referee, can turn your existing client base into a proactive sales force.

Integrating Offline and Online Strategies

The most effective marketing strategies blend offline and online tactics, creating multiple touchpoints with potential clients. For example, a social media campaign highlighting a community project your business is involved in not only showcases your community involvement but also drives engagement online.

Offline marketing tactics offer a personalised approach to building your brand and engaging with your community. By leveraging these strategies alongside your digital efforts, you create a comprehensive marketing plan that reaches potential clients wherever they may be.

Now, let’s dive into the final critical piece of our marketing puzzle with “Measuring Success and Adjusting Strategies for Construction Trades.” This section is all about understanding the impact of your marketing efforts and fine-tuning them for better results.

Measuring Marketing Results and Adjusting Strategies for Construction Trades

In the world of marketing, what gets measured gets managed. Without tracking the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, you’re essentially flying blind. Measuring success isn’t just about patting yourself on the back for a job well done; it’s about continuously refining and improving your strategies to maximise your return on investment.

Setting Clear Objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

The first step in measuring success is to define what success looks like for your business. Is it more website traffic, higher engagement on social media, increased leads, or direct sales? Once you’ve identified your objectives, you can set specific, measurable KPIs. For example, if your goal is to increase leads, your KPI might be the number of inquiries received via your website’s contact form.

Tools for Tracking and Analysing Marketing Results

There’s a ton of tools available to help you track your marketing performance. At Tenfold, we coach our tradie clients to use a simple test and measure tracker. If you’d like a copy, please click here to request the tracker: Please send me the Tradie Marketing Tracker.

Google Analytics can provide insights into your website traffic, visitor behaviour, and conversion rates. Social media platforms offer analytics to gauge engagement and reach. For offline efforts, tracking phone inquiries or using promotional codes in advertising can help you connect these efforts to sales.

What the Data Means and How to Use It

Collecting data is one thing; making sense of it is another. Regularly review your data to identify trends, patterns, and areas for improvement. Perhaps you’ll notice that certain types of social media posts generate more engagement or that your website traffic spikes after a local advertising campaign. These insights are invaluable for understanding what resonates with your audience.

Making Informed Adjustments

Armed with data, you’re in a position to make strategic adjustments to your marketing efforts. If a particular social media platform isn’t driving engagement, consider reallocating your time and resources to more effective channels. If your website isn’t converting visitors into leads, it might be time for a redesign or content update. The key is to be agile and willing to pivot based on what the data tells you.

The Importance of A/B Testing

A/B testing, or split testing, is a method of comparing two versions of a webpage, ad, or email campaign to see which one performs better. This can be an effective way to make incremental improvements to your marketing strategies. For instance, testing two different email subject lines to see which one results in a better response rate can provide insights into what grabs your audience’s attention.

Get good, then get better

In marketing, there’s always room for improvement. Embracing a culture of testing, learning, and refining is crucial for staying competitive and growing your business. Remember, the goal isn’t to get your marketing perfect on the first try; it’s to get better with every campaign, every interaction, and every piece of feedback.

With that, we’ve covered the essentials of measuring success and adjusting your marketing strategies in the construction trades. This continuous loop of planning, executing, measuring, and refining is what separates successful marketing efforts from wasted ones.

Wrapping it up

As we wrap up “Tradie Business 101: A Guide to Marketing,” hopefully you’ve picked up some marketing basics that they missed at trade school. From understanding your market to branding, from digital savviness to the power of the personal touch, and finally, to the critical task of measuring and adjusting your strategies, each step is a building block towards creating a robust marketing plan that not only reaches but resonates with your target audience.

Remember, the landscape of marketing is ever-evolving. The tactics and technologies that are effective today may need to be tweaked or even overhauled tomorrow. Hence, adopting a mindset of continuous learning and adaptability is not just beneficial; it’s essential for the sustained growth of your business.

As you implement the strategies outlined in this guide, keep in mind that marketing is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The needs of your business are unique, and so too will be your path to success. Embrace experimentation, celebrate the wins, learn from the setbacks, and always keep your clients’ needs at the forefront of your efforts.

I encourage you to view marketing not as a chore but as an exciting opportunity to tell your story, showcase your expertise, and connect with those who need your services most. With dedication, creativity, and a willingness to adapt, your business will not only survive but thrive in the competitive trades sector.