A recent article in PowerTips talked about “Getting the Most from Houzz”. It contained good advice if your desire is to generate the very most leads you can get “from Houzz”.
While it may seem counterintuitive, getting the very most leads from Houzz (or any single marketing effort) isn’t always the best, most cost effective strategy for getting the “most leads” from your marketing budget.
So a good argument can be made that how you use Houzz should be a decision made within the context of your overall marketing program. This is so that you use your overall marketing budget and resources in the most cost effective way to get the most benefit from the entire marketing effort.To understand why this is the true, you have to consider there are many steps within the marketing and sales continuum. Here are three of the many steps which are most relevant to using Houzz:
- Building Brand Awareness: Getting people to know you exist.
- Building Brand Understanding: Helping people understand what you do.
- Building Brand Preference: This is actually a multi-part step
Pre-sale, help people decide that:
- They want to contact you
- They want to ask you for a proposal
- Your proposal is the best one for them
During the project:
- You want to make clients as happy as possible they selected you so that they will always come back to you, give you good online reviews, and refer you. Happy clients generate your reputation and reputation is a very big part of your brand.
You have to support each step in the marketing continuum or you will lose leads and sales. But different marketing approaches, in different situations will be more or less cost effective for a given remodeler. There are generally more ways to market than you could afford or would be profitable to use. So an important strategy for optimizing your marketing and maximizing your results is to use the most cost effective marketing methods and strategies for each step.
As stated above, Houzz can help with these three steps: brand awareness, brand understanding, and brand preference. But using Houzz to generate “brand awareness” is more expensive than using it to help with the other two, which cost much less to do when in Houzz. Therefore, if you have other, more cost effective means to build brand awareness you don’t need to use Houzz for building brand awareness and the net result is that your overall marketing budget will do more for you.
This table describes four of the ways you can use Houzz. Below the table the strategies, and their pros and cons, are explained. The $ signs represent the relative costs, with each $ being roughly $1,000.
The Works (optimized profile + optimized projects + optimized photos + Pro+ Marketing program)
Pull out all the stops and use Houzz to do all it can. Your only decisions are how many projects to include, how much time to spend on optimizing the projects and photos with descriptions and keywords, and how many geographic zone/business service categories you want to pay to promote. You should put up as many of your best projects and photos as you can. You will need to have, from the start, a high number of very good-to-excellent reviews and ratings.
Is Strategy 1 your best option?
Pros: This will likely get you the most visibility on Houzz and the most leads “from Houzz”. Your photos and your Houzz profile may show up in Google Searches. With a paid Pro+ marketing program, you get access to some analytical tools and support from Houzz, which can be helpful.
Cons: This will cost you the most money in setting up projects and photos, in fees you pay for the Pro+ program and in the time you will need to spend responding to questions about your projects. Houzz doesn’t tell you if a person asking a question is local to you, and because you are optimizing your projects in part by responding to questions, you will likely get a lot more inquiries and questions that are not from your local area. If you don’t respond to all, you risk losing a local lead asking a question, harming your company brand, and lowering your optimization scores.
Also, optimizing your projects, which results in your photos showing up in Google Searches and your Houzz profile showing up in a Google Search, may place these above your website in the search results. This means you are bringing people to Houzz, where you and ALL of your competitors are easy to find and compare. It’s usually better to get people to find your website first, where you can present your company without making it easier for homeowners to find your competitors.
Questions to Consider: Do you have time to spend responding to homeowner questions? Do you have time to respond to questions for homeowners not in your service area? Do you have the budget to afford the added costs of optimizing your projects, responding to questions, and paying for the Pro+ account? Do you have other lower cost ways of generating brand awareness than via optimization and the Pro+ marketing program? Are your website’s SEO efforts or other lower cost awareness-building efforts generating traffic to your website so that searchers will find your website before your Houzz profile and photos?
A Well Optimized Profile (optimized profile + optimized projects + optimized photos)
This is the so-called “free” way to help generate brand awareness using Houzz without paying for a Pro+ marketing program. But “free” does not factor in the sizeable costs of optimizing your site or responding to questions from homeowners. You will want to put up as many of your best projects and photos as you can. Your photos will need to be exceptional. You will have to do a good job of adding descriptions, keywords, etc. for your projects and photos. You will need to have a high number of very good-to-excellent reviews and ratings.
Is Strategy 2 your best option?
Pros: If you don’t want to get a paid Pro+ program, optimizing your photos and projects in a free profile will help with your brand awareness building. Your photos might show up in Google searches.
Cons: Optimization on your profile is not as useful for generating local leads in areas of the country where Houzz is also selling Pro+ programs. According to the sales presentations that Houzz reps have made to me, the vast majority of remodelers getting found on Houzz are found because of certain aspects of the Pro+ marketing programs, including the preferential displaying of Pro+ program participant photos. Half of the photos on the first page of photo streams are from Pro+ marketing program remodelers and they have ads promoted within the photo stream.
Also, optimizing is not easily geo-targeted in terms of “eliminating” people from outside your area. So even if you optimize projects with location keywords, if someone is looking for a white kitchen, they will see photos well optimized for white kitchens regardless of the homeowner’s location or the remodeler’s location. You will also likely get more questions from homeowners who are not in your area. Not responding to questions about your projects runs the risk of missing a local homeowner and leaving a bad impression. Plus not responding will lower you optimization scores and will work against your photos getting shown.
If you do a great job in optimizing your photos, they may get picked up by Google, but the link will take the person searching for that image to Houzz and not your website. You may also find your website is ranking lower by search engines than your Houzz photos and projects. As mentioned in Strategy 1 above, this has its downsides.
Questions to Consider: Do you have time to spend responding to homeowner questions? Do you have time to respond to questions for homeowners not in your service area? Do you have the budget to afford the added costs of optimizing your projects and responding to questions? Do you have other lower cost ways of building brand awareness of your company than via Houzz project and photo optimization? Are your website’s SEO efforts or other lower cost marketing efforts generating traffic to your website so that searchers will find your website before your profile or photos on Houzz?
A Paid Pro+ Marketing Program + Minimal Project/Photo Optimization
This is a good strategy for using Houzz to help build brand awareness if you don’t have time to optimize your Houzz projects and photos and don’t have time to respond to homeowners outside of your area.
For this strategy to be helpful, you need to post high quality photos of your best projects on Houzz (at least four or five projects – even more would be better). You need to have, from the start, a good number of very good-to-excellent reviews and ratings. You can, however, get away with minimal project descriptions.
Is Strategy 3 your best option?
Pros: With the Pro+ program from Houzz, you will get promoted visibility in the geographic zones you decide to pay for. You will have access to certain tools and analytical information that you don’t have if you don’t pay for a Pro+ marketing program account.
You will save the time, cost, and bother of having to highly optimize your projects. Since your projects are not highly optimized, you will get less out-of-the-area visitors and so more of the questions you get will be from people in areas where you work. Your time spent answering questions will be better spent with less time wasted.
Cons: By not optimizing your photos, you may not get all of the local traffic on Houzz that you would get if you optimized projects and photos. In the tools they will provide you with the paid program, Houzz does not give you a way to determine the number of local visitors vs. non-local except in the specific localities you pay for. You will have to pay thousands of dollars a year per geographic zone and type of remodeling you do. Each geo-zone/type of remodeling costs extra. One zone with two promoted types of remodeling is twice the cost of one. Two zones with two promoted types of remodeling is four times as much, and so on. In some areas, to cover your entire service area with even one type of service, you may need multiple promoted programs. The base cost of each is currently around $350 per month, although there is some variation from place to place, and it does not include some of the enhancements to the promoted program such as for mobile devices.
With a paid program you can get listed under a geographic zone for your Pro+ marketing program and still have your basic free listing listed under a different type of remodeling service. But if you don’t optimize your profile and photos, your free profile is not likely to be seen very much, if at all.
Questions to Consider: Since you are paying for the promoted program to build brand awareness for your company, are there other options available to you that would be less expensive and cover your entire service area and all the types of services you provide? Will the Houzz paid Pro+ program be duplicating what you are already getting with SEO or Pay Per Click? Could you use the paid Pro+ program in just some of the areas you work and for the preferred types of work you sell?
Basic Professional Profile
This is the lowest cost approach to using Houzz and it will likely not help much with building brand awareness. You must have other marketing methods and strategies in place to build brand awareness if using this approach. The primary, and most important, reason for even bothering with this approach is that Houzz has established itself with many homeowners as a place to go to find ideas and, to a lesser extent, find contractors. (Houzz does not promote itself nor claim to be a directory website. But if a homeowner tries to look your company up by name or location in Houzz and you are not there with a professional-looking profile, good photos, a good company description and basic project descriptions and good reviews, it could look like you are not a serious or up-to-date remodeling company.) Every minute a homeowner is looking for you on Houzz and doesn’t find you they will be seeing other remodelers they can call.
Is Strategy 4 your best option?
Pros: It helps assure people will find you if they look you up on Houzz. You can use it as a central location for reviews so when someone looks for you in Houzz you have as many good reviews as all the other remodelers they will see there. You can show off you best work and give the visitor enough information to get them interested in visiting your website or calling you. Putting together this type of free basic, but professional, profile will take the least time and cost you the least amount of money (but it will still take time and money to do a good job).
A good basic “free” profile will help you build brand understanding and brand preference. It won’t help with building brand awareness. But these are two out of three sets in the marketing continuum that Houzz can help you with and do so for the least amount of money.
Because you are less likely to be found by people not looking specifically for you or a contractor in your area, you will have the least number of irrelevant people asking you questions about your projects. And you can be comfortable knowing most of those asking questions are interested in you.
With the money you don’t spend on Houzz optimization or a Pro+ marketing program, you can use that part of your marketing budget on other, more cost effective, ways of building brand awareness if you have any available to you. This is only the case if Houzz is not the most cost-effective way for you to build brand awareness.
Cons: This strategy will not help you build brand awareness. (Remember you must build brand awareness one way or another. That is indisputable.) You will need to have other marketing efforts and strategies in place to do that. If you don’t, this approach will still leave you with a serious gap in your marketing program.
Questions to Consider: If you go with this approach, are you sure you have other brand awareness-generating marketing efforts in place? You’ll want to determine if those methods are more cost effective than using one of the Houzz strategies for building brand awareness.
Asking leads how they “first” learned (or became aware) of your company is critical in determining the most cost effective way to build brand awareness for a remodeling company. Brand Awareness is the point at which someone “first” learns of your company, not the last marketing contact they had with you that caused them to call you.
Keeping track of leads by how they first learned of you, the sales created from those leads, type, and value of those sales, and the cost of the brand awareness-building method generating those sales is vital for determining what are the most cost effective methods of building brand awareness.