Before inviting the top three builders from your shortlist over to quote, you should be aware of some potential marketing traps that could ruse an unsuspecting homeowner: for-profit accreditation sites, quotation websites and customer reviews. Some of these considerations have already been mentioned; however, their importance is deserving of further conversation.
Find-a-builder websites and apps
These types of platforms have exploded in popularity over recent years because they provide homeowners with a shop window on their smart phone to look for builders. Pair this with the single biggest anxiety homeowners have about hiring builders – whether they are letting someone trustworthy into their home – and you have yourself a potent combo.
The secret source of find-a-builder sites is the credibility factor. They give their customers (traders) beautifully designed membership logos to use on their vans, clothes, cards and online, as well as space on their platform to showcase their work and post reviews. They look like bona fide, certified, industry-representative bodies, but they are for-profit companies that spend a fortune on broadcast, print, radio and digital advertising, in order to get your eyeballs on their website and new members through the door.
However, the barriers for signing up are low, and it’s not impossible for traders to use flaky references, feign reviews or take screenshots of sexy interiors to include as part of an online portfolio. It’s therefore important to be wary of sites like these on your search for builders.
The appeal of quotation websites is the speed at which they return results. We consumers have grown accustomed to getting the information we seek right away, wherever we are, at any hour of the day. Anything less is considered archaic. And quotation websites understand this need for speed and cater for it. Such sites are hyper-optimised to be found first, paying big money to appear at the top of search listings for consumers looking for instant online building quotes. And the business model is devastatingly effective. By punching in search terms like ‘get building quote’, ‘estimated cost of …’and any number of similar variations, homeowners (who hadn’t the prescience to read this post) are in effect raising their hands and self-identifying themselves as customers who want information quickly.
Quotation websites give you what you want in exchange for your personal project information – name, location, property type, project type, urgency, budget and other data points. Here’s the thing, though: the information they spit out is incomplete and therefore misleading. It simply isn’t possible to provide an accurate quotation without physically assessing the nuances of the building or without an accurate design brief … fact. The project cost information provided serves as a hook to get you in front of their fee-paying clients – tradesmen and builders – for whom the quotation websites are paid-for lead-generation engines.
Humans are social animals. We like to be in the company of others like us, with whom we share interests. If others like us are doing something, we are open to do it too. And if people similar to us have something, we tend to want to have it too. Therefore, when people like us know something, we tend to listen to what they have to say. Robert Cialdini was the first to name this phenomenon, which he called social proofing in his book The Psychology of Persuasion. In social proofing, people will follow the actions of the masses, believing that if lots of people are doing something, it must be right.That’s the power of customer reviews. Reviews give homeowners the foresight of knowing a bit about a person even before they meet them. This breeds familiarity, and familiarity breeds confidence. For that reason, genuine customer reviews are fantastic for both homeowners and builders.
Sounds great in theory … except reviews can be faked. There is in fact very little to stop anyone from faking a review. Genuine online review sites, find-a-trader platforms and quote-aggregator sites provide a very useful repository of client reviews. However, it is up to the homeowner to check out the source and sincerity of any such information. A review is only useful if it can be verified in the real world.
In short, all three are legitimate marketing methods that have weaknesses
Find-a-builder sites, quotation websites and online reviews are legitimate platforms that help builders and traders market themselves, but they can all be leveraged for abuse by the unscrupulous. Their success in subterfuge comes from the glossy sheen they give builders’ online presence, so always check the provenance of the information they are providing, or you will risk falling into a marketing trap.