In my last post, I shared how Sears has natural advantages over local home improvement companies when it comes to online lead generation. Sears has national buying power — online advertisers just love that because they work with a single client that can buy out their entire inventory of online leads and advertising.
Smaller home improvement companies can’t make national buys. That puts them at a significant disadvantage over the big national players.
So, how do the local guys fight back? The answer is for them to look to the brands and manufacturers of the products they sell.
But it’s not always been that way. For decades, manufacturers produced product and simply shipped it to their dealers and franchisees. In turn, it was the responsibility of those dealers and franchisees to do the marketing and selling.
And that’s how the home improvement model that worked for decades. But now it needs to change.
- Conversion rates on TV broadcast advertising have plummeted
- Radio has lost listeners in droves, and the cost of radio leads has skyrocketed over the last decade
- Yellow Pages have lost readership and are significantly less reliable for generating sales leads
- Local newspapers are driving fewer leads at higher costs
Fortunately the Internet has emerged to fill some of the void created by shifts in traditional media. Online marketing is now an essential vehicle for home improvement companies to generate high quality sales leads.
But who should lead the effort to create high performance, cost-effective online lead generation campaigns — home improvement brands and manufacturers, or their home improvement dealers?
It’s clearly the brands and manufacturers. Leaving the online marketing opportunity in the hands of local dealers alone eliminates enormous benefits of scale across various online media channels. The same scale that Sears leverages each and every day online.
Here’s an example: search engine optimization. That’s the challenge of getting your Web site to rank high when homeowners enter relevant home improvement terms into Google.
Search “replacement windows” on Google, and you’ll get a list something like this:
Note Andersen Windows is #1. And Renewal by Andersen is #2.
This is no accident. That’s because the corporate marketing team at Andersen has taken on expensive and time-consuming effort of optimizing its Web sites. And who benefits from all this work? The dealers who carry those brands, because they receive the sales leads from the thousands homeowners who search “replacement windows” on Google each month, and eventually visit these Web sites.
Local dealers individually cannot afford the investment to get Google to rank their Web site high for such popular terms like “replacement windows”. Moreover, Google actually prefers to rank Web sites of national brands over those of dealers that sell those products. That is, Google will naturally rank Andersen’s Web sites higher on its search pages than the Web site of an individual Andersen dealer from, say, Baltimore.
And it’s not just Andersen that’s hard at work on this. From what I can see, Pella, Marvin and other window brands have also been at work improving the search rankings of their Web sites in their continuing efforts to generate sales leads for their dealers.
But what about other brands of replacement windows, and their dealers? Without a national effort to improve the rankings of their brand Web sites, those Web sites just aren’t getting the visitor traffic their competitors do, and their dealers in turn aren’t getting their fair share of sales leads.
That’s tough for those brands. And it’s really hard on the dealers that sell those products.
I’ve drawn my example above from just one area of online marketing—search engine optimization. But my point about the essential role of brands and manufacturers applies equally well to all other areas of Internet marketing, such as affiliate marketing and paid search. Without the active involvement of brands and manufacturers in Internet marketing, their dealers will be at a significant lead generation disadvantage.
The flip side is that home improvement brands that develop and execute effective national online strategies will ultimately triumph over those that leave those responsibilities just to their dealers.