While home service businesses face plenty of marketing challenges, they have the potential to beat out competitors just by being the first in your area to do it.

“Here’s the key that most home service businesses don’t fully get: Most of their competitors are so busy getting work done that they aren’t really marketing themselves much at all,” says Jennifer Priest, Web Marketing Manager and Lead Writer at EnvisionUP.

And a good place to start is with reviews. If a business can add asking for reviews into their customer follow-up process, that can help by selling your services to people who are looking for a provider and boosting your Google rank.

“The other advantage is that there’s a large set of markets – basically, anyone who owns a home is a potential customer – that includes a lot of demographics,” Jennifer says.

We recently checked in with Jennifer to learn more about the hurdles home services businesses face when trying to reach potential clients and how they can overcome them. Here’s what she had to say:

What are the unique marketing challenges that home service businesses have?

The main challenge is that most home service businesses have what most people would consider a “boring” product. Not many people dream about the sweet new heating and cooling system they’re going to buy someday (unless they’re seriously geeky like me). It can be hard to get people excited about their products unless you really focus on the benefits, like saving money on energy.

On the other hand, you can’t really live without things like plumbing and heating, so there is a captive audience.

The second big disadvantage is that you’re fighting a lot of negative stereotypes, like technicians being late, rude and dirty.

Thirdly, most home service businesses have a limited service area. It means you have to ensure your local SEO is really targeted to where your future customers live. You have to have all the technical details, like NAP (name, address and phone number) schema sorted out on the site.

And as if that’s not enough, there’s also a fairly high price point for a lot of their products and services. That rules out impulse buys – unless there’s an emergency breakdown. While a repair might start at a couple of hundred dollars, most new installations cost thousands for most of these businesses, whether you’re talking about plumbing, heating and cooling, or renovations.

Where should service-based businesses begin when creating a content marketing strategy?

I’ll assume you’re already talking to people daily on social media.

The first real step is to make sure you have a good-looking blog on your site (not a separate website – it helps your site rank better this way). Start posting regularly on a schedule. Give people tips that are relevant to the season. Talk about what you’re doing for charities in your community. Have the occasional contest.

And please, try and have some fun while you’re at it. Most people want a good laugh at the end of a hard day, so if you can give that to them they’ll be more likely to remember you when there’s a problem to solve.

What are the dos and don’ts of content marketing today?

The dos:

  • Do create content that is useful to real people. Start by thinking about questions you get from customers all the time and answer them.
  • Do try to make your content better than everyone else’s. Make what SEO guru Rand Fishkin calls “10X” – content that’s 10 times better than everything else that’s out there.
  • Do post regularly – and stick to it. If all you can handle is one post a month, that’s fine, just be consistent.
  • Do things that can get you attention from your local media. Sponsoring charity events can be great for this. This will help you get links and social shares without even having to ask.
  • Do ask for links from local bloggers or journalists who may be interested. While link outreach is a whole other article, it will help just to get started. Reach out to people with relevant sites and ask what they’re interested in.

The don’ts:

  • Don’t copy content from other sites. Duplicate content won’t help at all. You can get ideas from elsewhere, but make it your own thing.
  • Don’t do nothing. That’s the worst. A site that never gets updated is going to inevitably lose any rankings it has as competitors keep improving.
  • Don’t forget social media. If you haven’t built up an engaged following by the time you’re ready to get your content out there, it’s just a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear.
  • Don’t keyword-stuff. Google knows and will downgrade your content. Remember that you’re trying to make friends with real people by helping them with free and entertaining content.

What types of content marketing have you found are outdated or ineffective?

While infographics are fun, and can really add variety to a blog, it can be hard to do unique topics and do them so well they actually earn shares and links these days.

Social media is a key part of the content marketing cycle. But I can’t stress this enough: you’ve got to have two-way conversations with people. Don’t just burp out a tweet a day. It’s a party – get out there and mingle.

How can home service businesses measure the effectiveness of their content marketing?

Backlinks, social shares and traffic coming to the pages containing your content (especially organic or search engine traffic).

As mentioned, most home service businesses make their living from grudge purchases. The idea is to show how expert and trustworthy you are, so they remember you later. This is called “billboarding”, and it means just getting your name in front of people in a good way as many times as you can.

What home service businesses are doing an exceptional job sharing their story via content marketing? What can we learn from them?

Almost every home service business site I’ve seen isn’t really doing much content – let alone stellar content. The exception seems to be some interior design sites.

There are exceptions, however, if you look around. And whoever started the HVAC fail meme is a genius – I am pretty sure it was Cheezburger.

I usually look at related types of sites like big design blogs, homeowner tips sites, sites from other industries, and of course the Huffington Post to get inspiration and ideas.

What can we learn? The key thing is just to start, then keep at it. Then work on improving.

What are the biggest trends in content marketing you’re following right now?

Doing your research before you write. Find out what people are interested in, and make sure the content has real value before you put the time in.

If you have any sort of budget, include a video. People with amazing budgets are coming up with savings calculators or other useful tools.

Connect with EnvisionUP on Twitter.

Perfect your content marketing. Check out Media Shower’s Content Marketing Academy.