The Actionable Guide To Relationship Marketing For Contractors (with examples)

by Corey Philip
April 30, 2019

As a contractor, relationship marketing is a key to closing more leads (at higher prices), and earning referrals and repeat business from customers.

This guide is intended for contractors (and written by a contractor), but many of the concepts may be applied to other businesses.  We include many examples and anecdotes from my own experience operating a trades business, along with some video clips from my live podcast recordings with other contractors.

The table of contents will jump you around this post, but should read it from start to finish.

What is relationship marketing?

Let’s all get on the same page with what relationship marketing is!  Relationship marketing is the process of building a connection with clients from the time they enter the sales process and maintaining that relationship for years after their initial project is complete.

Many contractors are weak in this regard.

Let me ask:

How do you connect with customers after they request an estimate from you?

99% of contractors hardly do the basics.  

Remodeling contractors will (may) attempt to qualify the lead and then schedule an onsite estimate, make an attempt to sell, and then maybe come back with a few tacky follow up attempts like “have you made any decision on the project?”

Service contractors like those in the HVAC trade will generally take the approach of try to schedule a service call for fee, and then look for opportunities to sell larger ticket services once they are on site.  

In either case, follow the standard operation of 99% of contractors, there are some major gaps.  

For Remodeling contractors

  • What if your qualifying parameters are off?  In my experience qualifying intuition is usually wrong.  I’ve ran thousands of leads and sold projects to consumers I thought I never would, and on the flipside, been dead ended by consumers that I thought would be an easy sell.
  • What if the customer isn’t serious at the moment but might be next year (the buying process is loooong)?  A customer might not be ready to speak with you seriously during an initial call. They may be just kicking tires.  BUT they expressed interest and with proper relationship marketing they can become a customer!

For service contractors

  • Does the customer trust you when you show up for service?  Most consumers feel that service contractors called in a time of need are just there to rip them off.  combative
  • Does the customer feel

In either model of a contracting business there are three clear needs:

  1. Nurture leads that don’t immediately qualify for an appointment or schedule service.
  2. Get the customer to know, like, and trust you before you show up for service or estimate
  3. Stay connected with your customer for life.  

Benefits of Relationship Marketing

What happens when you implement a solid relationship marketing system that achieves the two objectives above?

You’ll sell more projects at a higher price.

By establishing the know, like, and trust, before you even show up, you’ll be positioned to sell more projects at higher prices.  You won’t be ‘the guy’. Instead you’ll the company (and the face to the company) that is the known for reliably completing projects.    

If customers are calling you ‘the guy’, your relationship marketing is failing as I discuss in this video.  


Shitty leads will become premium customers.

We’ve all had these leads.  It doesn’t matter if your lead source is purely referrals or lead marketplace like Homeadvisor.

“I’m thinking about getting this project done next year”

“This is a simple project, I could do it myself, I just want a low price”

“I’ve already got 6 bids”

This is an area where most contractors lack!  Most just look for this quickest way off the phone.  And admittedly, neither myself nor my customer services reps like initially speaking with these customers on the phone but with proper relationship building some of these will turn into premium customers.

Here’s an example of lead that literally came in while I write this at on Saturday morning, April 27th 2019.

The strategic content distribution by Facebook Ads and Email marketing that I discuss in the ‘advanced’ work wonders for these types of customers, that don’t want to hear your pitch.

More referral business will be earned.

Referrals are the pinnacle of all new business.  You’re starting off from a better position, with a customer that is already from a familiar with your quality of work, and knows the the level of satisfaction you achieved from a reliable source (their friend).  

Giving away free steak dinners, or kickbacks to referrers isn’t the magic formula.  I’ve gone down that road and it amounted to a bunch of bullshit.

Tom Reber host of the contractor Fight shares the a similar experience with me on these types of referral programs saying “nothing made people refer us more”.

On one hand the referral programs made customers feel like were asking them to do something like a task.  On the flip side, some customers made an active attempt at referring but then later wasted time, calling in to check on how many spiffs they earned.

The best source of referral earning I’ve found is making yourself the company that people want to refer and they staying connected.  Think about who you refer? Naturally it is the companies that we feel personally connected to and that we remember because they are actively connecting themselves with us.

Increased repeat business.


For many contractors, a churn and burn approach is taken to customers.  Get leads, close them, repeat.

Early on in my trades business I had this same attitude.  Customers need us only once every 10 years on average; or so that was my thought.  With experience I realized, that actual duration was much shorter than that. Customers change homes.  Customers develop new needs. We can add incidental services. All of these factor lead to many opportunities in a far shorter time span than 10 years.  

You want your customers to come back to you when they need you. High level relationship marketing will ensure that they do. 

Why relationship marketing is more important than ever.


7 years ago, generating new business as a contractor was relatively low cost; particularly for those that were in SEO or pay-per-click.  They were 2 unexploited marketing channels that were like a gold mine for the contractors that were on board.  At the same time traditional advertising methods such as TV and radio were suffering from a lack of advertisers resulting from the great recession.  Fast forward to today and all these marketing channels are filled with contractors, and other advertising competing for the same space in front of consumers; the result is the cost of new business is rapidly increasing.

I remember 7 years ago, in 2012 a pay-per-click was less then $1.00 per click in my exterior contracting trade.  Today that’s above $13.00.  My lead cost on Facebook ads has gone up 50% in the last year.

Going forward is a bigger shift.  Maybe even scary.

Lead market places like HomeAdvisor, Angieslist, Thumbtack, and Houzz are rapidly growing in user base among consumers.  Consumers are taking their search for a contractor to these platforms in drove, and they’re happy with the contractors they find on there.  You can be in the group that bitches and gets left behind, or you can be in the group that adapts and thrives.

Site note: I’m not saying every other marketing source will die, but if you want to have a thriving business you will need in presence on these platforms in the not so distant future.

If you’re going to thrive in world of high marketing costs, and lead market places, YOU NEED relationship marketing.  You need to make the most of every lead that you get by differentiating and positioning your company; and you need to make sure that you are connect with your customers for life so that they come back to you when they need future work (and don’t go back to the whorehouse of lead market places).

I’m very passionate about this as you can tell through my use of profanity metaphors.

How to implement relationship marketing.

Now for the money.  Let’s getting into the knitty gritty.  The next sections of ‘basic’ and ‘advanced’ are intended to be absorbed in order.  Start with the top of ‘basics’ and work your work through ‘advanced’.  As a contractor you have no business doing the advanced unless you’re already doing the basics.

Basics: make your customers feel important, appreciated and know you personally.

At a basic level, relationship marketing is about establishing a personal connection, and making your customer feel important; not like just another chicken with a dollar sign caught up in your cash wringer.  Here’s how to start making that happen:

Make a “Happy Call”

I could just say “do great work”, but that’s too generic and sometimes we get delusional.  At the end of each project call your customers to make sure they’re happy. That’s it. If they give you any bad feedback.  Take the corrective active. If you’re too afraid to make this call; that’s a serious indication that you’ve got a serious problem in the level of service you offer. 


Include your headshot In Emails.

You don’t want to be a voice on the other end of the phone, or worse, a robot that churns out emails.  You need to make a personal connections.  The best way you can do this, short of seeing your customers in person, is showing face in your emails.

Add your headshot to your email signature, and make emails a regular course of business.

Implement a review building program.

Think of online reviews as referrals on steroids.  Reviews give the social proof to show potential consumers that A) the masses are going with you and B) you care about customers satisfaction.  Search engines, and other online market places also give more exposure to those that are frequently earning top notch reviews (refer to my piece on SEO for contractors, particularly the Winning With Google Local video).

More importantly, like the happy call, asking for a review shows consumers that you care and it gives you another opportunity to make a strong touch point!


There’s a whole slew of automated review building programs out there that run around $100 a month.  They all do basically the same thing of taking your recently completed customers through a sequence of texting and emailing — of course each puts their own little twist on it.

You can also compensate your employee’s for reviews.  Offering $20 for any review that mentions them, and a little training on how to ask for a review at the end of the project will go a long way.

I do both in my company.

Get involved in the community.

Get out there in the community and do some good.  Pick a charity and offer to do some work or lend a hand to them.  Share your experience and involvement on social media.

Most areas of the country have an organization dedicated to helping to those in need of home repairs like disabled veterans.  Alternatively you could send some of your crew to work on a Habitat for Humanity project.

Or you could take the ‘guerilla approach’ like Tom Lopatosky of Lopco Contracting does and look for opportunities to make your community better.


Reply to customers that leave reviews.  

Most business just ignore the good reviews after all, what is better then the 5 star review?

A simple response to the reviews that shows you appreciate their business.

“Thanks for the feedback Ms. Jones.  We enjoyed working with you on this project, and look forward to

When a customer leaves a good review don’t pass up this opportunity to create a warm fuzzy feeling.  Even as a marketer skilled in ‘relationship marketing’ I get get a warm fuzzy feeling inside when companies respond to my reviews.

Advanced relationship marketing with content, Email marketing, and Facebook Ads. 

This is the stuff that 99.9% of contractors are NOT doing.  Actually I haven’t seen any that are until they find this post.

These next few ‘strategies’ involved the process involve content marketing.  You need to create content that shows your Creating content is only 25% of the battle.  For content to be found, consumed, and effective, you need to get it in front of your leads and past customers!

Get photos including your customers. 

Get photos with your customers in them!  “A picture says a thousand words”… and I believe these pictures to be worth more then a video! Many contractors get a couple testimonials, but they are difficult to stage edit and produce… ultimately everyone know they are done with cherry picked customers and to make it worse the customers often give off uncomfortable body language that further exaggerates the fake feeling of it the testimonial.

I believe pictures come off as much more natural, and as such make a stronger impression.  It’s also way easy to get the pictures and distribute them (no video editing, hosting, or embedding).

My preferred shot is the customers holding a company sign in front of the completed project.  In absence of a sign, do a shot with one of your crewman in a company shirt giving  giving a thumbs ups.

Get your crew in the habit of taking the photos, and compensate for getting them!  At first it might seem awkward but consistence is key.  After year of doing this in my company, and being a part of our marketing process, our customers are usually waiting for us to ask at the end of the project.

Publish a weekly blog post.

Here’s you chance to use the content community involvement, and the customer photos.  Each week make a blog post publicly on your website.  Use your customer photos and talk about the story behind the photo.  Who the customer is, why they chose you, what did, and how they will benefit from the service you provided. 

Include your community / charity projects.  Tell the story behind them and why you feel strongly about the cause and the community.  

Discuss the projects you completed that week.  Use the pictures from your current projects to show consumers what you’ve been up to and the projects that you are working on / completing.  This does too things; #1 builds trust as it shows that you’re completing projects (and not leaving people hanging, or BS’ing your experience), and #2 gives customers the option to say “I want that”.

Strategically deliver the content

Your weekly blog post is useless if nobody see’s it… you need to get it in front of your past customers and leads.  You need to give them a reason to absorb it, and give them an easy line of communication.  There’s 2 ways of doing this!

Straight to their inbox with email marketing

Get your new leads into an email marketing program and send them an email for each new content post that you do.  Do this forever… unless they ask you to stop of course.  If you’re following along you should know THAT IS WEEKLY.  Consistence is key.  Just 1 email won’t get you results.  2 emails won’t get you results.  Consistent emails, week after week, will lead to results!

My favorite email marketing program to use is Mailerlite.  The free plan will let you have 1000 contacts and it is incredibly simple to use.

Your emails don’t have to be fancy.  A simple text based email will work with one graphic, telling customers what they will see or learn in the blog post works!  Note, this should be informative in nature.  No mention of getting a quote. No hot discount.  Just simple content that shows the inner workings of your business and gives them some inspiration for how they could use your services.

The optimal time I’ve found to send these emails is Saturday morning at 8am.

From there send a follow up to those that have opened the first email.  Use a short question intended to provoke a direct response like:

“John do you have any questions about any of the project you had seen in our post from Saturday?”

You’ll find that many will reply, but not with actual questions about the blog post, but specifically about their projects / estimate.  Some will directly say they are ready to go ahead with their project.  Others might ask questions about their estimate, or reveal that they have ‘fallen through the cracks’ and never received an estimate.  Either way you have an open discussion with and engaged customer — a valuable opportunity that you don’t want to pass up!

These automated emails take follow to a level beyond the tacky phone call or email messages of “have you made any decision on your project?”

Right in their feed with Facebook Advertising (and subsequently instagram)

If you’ve read this far, you know how powerful it would be to show in front of lead on Facebook a few minutes after they request an estimate from you.

To make it happen, you’ll first create an audience of your current leads and past customers on Facebook.  This can be difficult.  You can do it with an email and phone number list to Facebook.  It can also be done using a url string and the Facebook pixel on your website (preferred).  I do both as the value of getting them into a Facebook Ads nurturing sequence is incredible.

Each week, remember consistence is key, create new Facebook ads sent to run to the audience of your leads and customers.  Simply use the content from the blog post and email that you created and direct them back to your blog post to read more!  Remember your ads need to be content based, about your projects, and customers; not about your call to action.  You’ll need a Facebook Ads budget of $5/day to serve your audience, but will the best $5/day you spend.

Always have fresh and authentic content.

When you’re strategically delivering content it’s important that the content is always fresh… weekly.  You need to create content weekly.

I can’t stress that enough.  This relationship marketing stuff is powerful; it will turn leads into customers (at higher prices) and connect with past customers earning your referrals and repeat business.  BUT most will fall off with the ‘creating it fresh weekly’.

Recall the saying “new unique and different sells”.  That applies here.  Your customers don’t want to see the open the same email each week, or see the same Facebook ads every time they log in.  You need to keep it spicy.

That does means each week, writing a blog post, formatting it in wordpress, getting your customers into an email marketing program, writing 2 email, navigating around the Facebook Ads Manager, getting your customers into Facebook, and creating 3 new Facebook posts.

For someone experienced with all the platforms that time could easily take you 40hrs+ per month.

It comes at high cost, but incredibly valuable when your shit leads suddenly start saying “you’re the guy for the job”.

Drop in a strategic promotion.



Some consumers need a little bait to take action.  Promotions can make that happen.  When you know you’ve got a slow week coming up, drop an Email and Facebook ad with a promotional offer.

A free upgrade on materials works best.

Don’t abuse this.  A rule of them less than 5% of your ads / emails should have an offer.  In other words, do not even think about an offer until you’ve been following the process for 20 weeks!

Going forward with relationship marketing…

Keep in mind the long term value of the customer and focus on making them feel appreciated.

Go back to the ‘basic’ section this post and once you have all that in place go into the advanced.

Keep this going consistently and you’ll win the game!

About the author

Corey Philip

Corey Philip is a small business owner / investor with a focus on home service businesses.

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