Thoughts on advertising through Angie's List and\or Service Magic.

Hello all my fellow champions of better buildings.

I am strongly considering dropping some significant cash to begin advertising on Angie's List. I have also had others recommend advertising through Service Magic.

Before I give my thoughts on this, I wanted to hear whether you have advertised through these avenues, and if so what have your experiences been to date?

I am interested in hearing from auditors and installers alike.

Thank you in advance!

Patrick

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First just like any other type of advertising, it depends on if that is where your customers are...

With that said AL has a bad rep of supposedly never allowing paid advertising or listings while pumping contractors for money to get listed (they might have publicly changed their position on that since then but they were two faced for quite a while (if they still aren't))

As for Service Tragic, they have been known for reselling leads, along with a host of other issues which are quite easily checked up on with a quick Google search

That is one reason why I won't deal with either of them, of course there are numerous contractors that do well with them but once again your mileage may vary depending on if that is where your customers are

Thank you for the valuable input Sean.

I had similar misgivings about Service Magic, and had some concerns with AL and the sense that big contractors were paying to get play.

I operate in the DC (District of Columbia) Metro region, and here AL has seen explosive growth. We have three out the nation's top 10 wealthiest counties per capita in northern Virginia, which does make for a rather unique situation. Many of my clients view AL as the bible for choosing quality contractors.

I therefore feel the mileage I could get from AL could be significant, but I still want to think this through and here from other home energy pros on their thoughts.

At the end of the day, I want to get into more homes out here because the amount of construction-related activity taking place here is crazy. Many less than scrupulous contractors are getting jobs but doing a poor job of bettering buildings (when they have the best shot at it with walls exposed, etc.).

I could grow my business over time, but by that point there will be a large volume of missed opportunities that may never be able to be cost-effectively capitalized on in the future. Aggressive marketing has become the name of the game, as I see it, in my region.

Patrick

My pleasure & there's your answer - "and here AL has seen explosive growth" so thus it would probably be worth giving them a shot. If you do try SM, I recommend using a prepaid credit card only & watch out for some of their SEO tricks which can be stopped & blocked, but generally only after the fact 

You might also want to see about contacting contractors specializing in 203k remodels & seeing if they are interested in tying EEM's into them, (especially seeing some of the 203 specs require insulation standards, etc...)

Great advice Sean!

I recently (as recent as this past week) began working with a realtor and we spoke about 203Ks and EEMs.

The hard work has just begun, as the EEM is as foreign to them as sandskrit. Any advice on how to try to tie the EEM into the 203K?

Thanks! 

That is easy, contact Jason - http://homeenergypros.lbl.gov/profile/JasonPayne, beyond that I got nothing as not only are EEM's non-existant here so are 203k's

Patrick--Sean's advice is real world. He know's from experience. 

Our experience is that Service Magic can sometimes work, but the general consensus is it doesn't convert for "energy audit." The reason for this, which I explain in more detail in this post, http://www.energycircle.com/blog/2012/02/02/understanding-lead-gen-..., is that their strategy for lead capture is mostly around low bid. Energy audit leads from SM are recognized around the country as weak. 

That said, other searches, such as various insulation terms, have been shown to work. 

What is best about SM is that the commitment is relatively low. Try buying some leads, see if you can convert them, and make a decision then.

Angie's List is a different model, as Sean points out, and suffers from the requirement of a larger and longer commitment. 

The point about the inconsistency of their footprint around the country is really important. Because it requires homeowners to subscribe, the sales person can get you the specific number for your region. If it's as explosive as you say, then I'd say give it a try.

Thanks Peter!

Very helpful advice from Sean, and nice back-up from you.

Patrick, I have had a lot of luck with AL. They say that 85% of their customers are in the top 15% of income, and that rings true from my experience with them. You get a fairly well educated and typically analytical customer from them, which is right down my alley. Be ready for a lot of questions, though. It's enough to support 1 crew for me. They typically can just fork over $2-4K without financing. Since AL is advertising by you and you have wealthy counties, I would guess they are a good bet.

The key to AL is not just paying to be at the top of their list, which I do for $340/month, but to pump your customers for reviews. Ask them personally several times, and have your crew do the same. AL does a pretty good job of this too. The more reviews you have, the more authority they have. I also joined personally to keep an eye on the competition.

Service Magic, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. They are definitely price buyers. While I get at least 2 out of 3 AL people to buy, I'm lucky to hit 1 out of 5 with SM. As Peter said, forget about audits, these customers give me a hard time over $1000 attic jobs, they won't pay $400-500 for a diagnosis. They also spoof your phone number on some of the directory websites, which is what Sean mentioned. 

SM has 2 types of leads, market match and exact match. Market match goes out to 3 different contractors, if you don't call within an hour or two, you can pretty much forget about it. That is IF you can actually get a hold of them. Exact match leads only go to you because the customer picked you out specifically. They actually close sometimes. If you push REALLY hard, they have a special program where you can pick and choose the market match leads and just get exact match, but you'll have to push hard. I've tried to quit them a few times and finally found this program which at least makes the return palatable. Again, if you don't have reviews, you won't get calls for Exact Match. (See a pattern?)

It's a bummer SM sucks so much now. When I first was getting started I was the only contractor on the list for insulation, so it worked well. I was also smaller and cheaper then, so I fit that consumer better. Basically, they are OK at best. 

I hope all that helps!

Thanks a lot Nate. That is some great info and advice!

Patrick...I have a ton of experience with both SM and AL. I cannot say enough for AL...the members are the most loyal customer base I have ever encountered. In fact, I cannot remember ever being called by an AL member, and not selling the job. Being that they are paying members, they tend to be a higher echelon prospect than your run-of-the-mill lead source. My business has grown exponentially since I started advertising with them.


My best success with AL has been in the categories of "energy efficiency auditing" and "insulation". You will find that AL's members will usually go with your proposal without pricing you out to every other contractor in the area, which means you have a much higher probability to raise your profit margins.

As for SM, I have been a contractor with them for years, and up until the last year or so, it was quite beneficial to my business. Their quality of leads have dropped big time in the past year, as has the quantity. I have recently cancelled their service due to their lead credit rules. I get tired of receiving "leads" from people who are wanting to insulate a single wall between their garage and living room for sound abatement, or those who are building a house and want a subcontractor to provide them prices over the phone...nevermind that I am a general contractor who works off of a profit margin upwards of 50% over the subcontractors that I am competing with. This does not even account for the countless "leads" I receive that do not know how to return phone calls after calling them 6 times.


If it gives you a glimpse of how much they care about their long-time paying contractors, I just cancelled their service two weeks ago because they would not give me a credit of $88 over 5 leads that did not fit into the category of work I do. Nevermind that I have spent over $8300 with them since I opened my business in August, 2009.


SM is nothing but a lead farm who sends out leads to as many contractors they can in the area...and they make between $17-23 for every contractor they send that lead to....all for the same one lead! They are a complete scam, and they have absolutely no standards as to who they will accept into their contractor base, all the while advertising nationwide that they have nothing but the most "professional of contractors". That is a bunch of crap!!!


I could sit here all night telling you stories regarding the borderline fist fights I have had with them over the phone over the past couple of years, but I think you get the overall picture. If you need any other information on either SM or AL, email me and I will do what I can to help you out.

John

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