In today’s marketing world, it’s almost unheard of for a builder not to have some kind of social media presence. Be it Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Houzz, it’s a necessary part of getting your company name and brand out in the world.
Not all social media sites are created equal, though. For those in the design and remodeling world, Houzz may be the best bet for connecting with current and potential clients.
“[The clients] we get through Houzz are our type of clients,” says Michelle Sparks of Pool Environments, Inc. in a Houzz testimonial. “They’ve done their research, and they know what they want.”
However, simply building a company profile is not enough. Here, PSN explores what it takes for builders to find success and clients through this specialty platform.
What Houzz offers
Many builders already have Houzz profiles, but they might not know about all the resources the site provides.
To start, Houzz offers a completion widget to help with the construction of every professional profile. Think of the widget as a quick-hit guide for building the most complete profile possible.
It walks users through such tasks as describing a business, placing badges, or getting reviews. The more complete a profile is, the more professional a builder appears.
“Studies show that people make decisions emotionally and justify them rationally,” says Liza Hausman, vice president of industry marketing for Houzz. “A successful profile satisfies the rational and emotional needs of a prospective client.”
Homeowners want to see a business description that explains a builder’s specialties and tells what differentiates the company from the competition.
The completion widget alone won’t necessarily insure success.
Professionals also have access to the Houzz ProCenter, a resource to help get the most out of the website. Users can find webinars and tutorials that cover everything from collaborating with clients to organizing projects and compiling ideabooks to show what a consumer likes.
“We go to great lengths to provide pros with short videos, tutorials and other guides to help them be successful,” Hausman says.
Houzz offers an affiliate badge program that allows professionals to showcase any memberships that they are involved in. As an example, builders who are a part of the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals can add a badge icon to their profiles to display their affiliation. Contractors can start as broad as APSP or as granular as their local chapters — but can only link to those that have a Houzz profile.
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To help with their businesses, it’s recommended that users check out the Houzz Research section, which outlines findings on homeowners and trends in the remodeling world. Last year, for instance, Houzz determined that the two most popular pool finishes were liners and plaster, while glass tile and black bottoms finished near the bottom.
The site also offers locally targeted advertising. Through a program called Houzz Pro+, builders can get their name in front of homeowners in their communities through advertising targeted to geographic regions and categories.
Pro+ also is meant to increase visibility by pushing a builder’s profile to the top of the results page when a local user performs a Houzz search. As an example, a Dallas-based builder using Pro+ would be among the first displayed during searches by Houzz users in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
For those seeking an online change, Houzz offers a free website-building tool. Some may not want to go this route, especially if they’ve already built a quality website. But for those in need, Site Designer offers easy-to-use tools meant to create simple and effective websites.
The site may be published with a houzz.com subdomain or with a custom URL purchased through a domain-registration service. According to the site, nearly 20,000 professionals have created and maintain websites this way via Site Designer.
Photos, photos, photos
On Houzz, like many social media sites, the photo is king.
“Because Houzz is such a visual platform, pool builders are well-positioned for success exposure,” says Hausman.
Good photography will get you noticed. Great photography even more so. It grabs the viewer’s eyes and generally encourages them to look at other projects featured in a profile.
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“Ninety-percent of the photos we do ourselves,” says Laural Gordon, marketing specialist for Rosebrook Pools in Libertyville, Ill. The really fantastic ones we use an outstanding photographer. When you have special projects, it’s really worth the investment to showcase it.”
There are many important pieces in a quality Houzz profile, but the photography builders use to showcase their work is the most important. Fortunately, builders have options.
Houzz offers a professional network that connects businesses with photographers who offer a special Houzz package to first-time clients, with set prices of $200, $750, and $1,500.
To find photographers, users can search based on their location. A search in California revealed a bevy of professionals spread throughout the state.
That said, some states don’t host as many shooters. Kentucky-based builders only have three options based in Lexington, Louisville and Taylor Mill.
Price it out and find professionals who you’re comfortable with. The key, of course, is finding a photographer who will showcase your projects in the best light.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with the kinds of images that are used in profiles. In the case of San Antonio-based Keith Zars Pools, they used one project to showcase the process of building a pool from beginning to end.
The average pool image on Houzz is a wide-angle shot meant to showcase the whole project. These are good and necessary.
However, don’t be afraid to get into the nitty-gritty. Was an especially nice waterfall put in? Make sure to include some shots of the feature in use. How about the tilework? Did a unique design or color scheme get used? Zoom in, get close ups.
“People want to see the full effect,” says Hausman. “But some of the most popular images on Houzz are shots that show the attention to detail, materials used, constructions techniques or any creative or interesting detail.”
Optimize the search
To be seen on the Internet, businesses need to consider search engine optimization (SEO) and how their websites are formatted to maximize it. Houzz profiles are no different.
When uploading projects, title them in a way that will help users understand what they’re looking at. For example, Rosebrook Pools targets the North Shore communities in Chicago, so project names reflect the neighborhoods and communities that they’re involved in to help potential clients find them.
Photos within a project can be tagged as a group when put into a specific project folder. However, based on what’s in the image, it is useful to individually tag the photos as well.
Google tends to put a priority on the first 10 tags. At minimum, it’s best to include at least five and no more than 15 for each photo.
Use terms that clients will search for. Only include relevant terms and keywords that actually appear in images. For example, if the pool is vinyl-lined, use that as a tag.
Houzz also offers suggestions that can be auto-completed, so keep an eye on those as tags are put in.
Collaborating with clients
Houzz does not have to, nor should it, be a one-way street between clients and builders. To get the most out of a profile, it’s best to collaborate with clients.
When starting a new project with a client, encourage them to use Houzz and create ideabooks. These allow clients and builders to visually describe what interests them.
Maybe they saw a photo of a slide that they want in their own backyard. Perhaps something in your own portfolio appealed to them. Clients want to know how a pool is going to fit in their backyard, and an ideabook allows them to visualize that ideal.
Reviews also are important for attracting new clients. In this fashion, Houzz can be compared to Yelp.
They let other prospective customers know that a company can be trusted to do quality work. It is especially recommended that pool builders seek out reviews from other contractors that they have worked with in the past.
It’s a helpful way of showcasing a builder’s ability to work well with others. For example, if you worked with a landscaping company during the pool build and had a good experience, ask them to send a review your way.
Don’t forget to review them if they have a profile as well.
Photos are an essential way to get clients in the door, but they won’t do any good if you don’t participate on site.
Users can go as deep as they want on Houzz, but taking part in the professional forums or commenting on guides doesn’t have to be the end goal. In many cases, responding to consumer questions is enough.
“Regardless of where a client is located, answer their questions,” says Maria Yanez, an executive sales support staffer for J. Tortorella Pools in Southampton, N.Y. “You never know who they might know and who they might connect with.”
The best participation mimics a conversation and customer-service exchange. Answer inquiries that other Houzz users post on project images or in the timeline. It may not lead to a client relationship with that particular user but it shows others that you are engaged and helpful.
Activity is important. Check Houzz daily, follow up with new images when available, and respond as quickly as possible to questions and queries.
One eye on the screen all day isn’t necessary but a watchful gaze can help boost your business.