In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Tim Brown. Tim owns Hook Agency, a boutique digital agency out of Minneapolis. He specializes in combining visual design and SEO for construction companies.
Having a beautifully designed website doesn’t guarantee leads. There are some key elements a website needs to have in order to convert visitors into paying clients or customers. In this episode, the Founder of Hook Agency, Tim Brown, talks about what he’s learned from building over 100 websites and diving into testing and user data. He’s been able to develop a 5-step winning website formula that converts.
Questions I ask Tim Brown:
- [1:55] What’s the biggest marketing challenge today that you’re seeing for construction companies?
- [2:54] In your intro, it says you combine visual design and SEO – can you unpack that idea?
- [5:54] What have you discovered is your way to structure a website with SEO and content in mind so that it is a marketing website as opposed to acting as a brochure?
- [6:52] Can you give me a few examples of what strong visual calls to action throughout the website means?
- [17:22] You have suggested pricing on your website for the kind of packages that you offer – what was your decision in putting pricing on your website since in the world of marketing pricing it has been deemed as something you maybe shouldn’t do?
- [20:30] Where can people find out more about your work?
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John Jantsch (00:52): Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Tim Brown. He owns the hook agency, a boutique digital agency out of Minneapolis and specializes in combining visual design and SEO for construction companies. Tim, welcome to the show.
Tim Brown (01:11): Hey, thanks for having me, John.
John Jantsch (01:14): So we are recording this in the middle of October and we just got our first snow. Is it getting cold up in Minneapolis yet?
Tim Brown (01:21): It is not really too cold. It's just, it's got the little bit of the fall twins you get to put on the light coat. I personally, I think I realized fall is my favorite season. Just this year weirdly.
John Jantsch (01:34): Yeah, I love, I must admit I love fall as well, but then when spring comes around, that's pretty awesome too. So hard to know every year,
Tim Brown (01:43): Any kind of warm season is always my favorite.
John Jantsch (01:47): All right, so you weren't primarily construction companies. And so I'm guessing that you can answer this. You have a very, almost set answer for this. What's the biggest marketing challenge today that you're seeing from construction companies or for construction companies? I should say.
Tim Brown (02:02): Yeah, I'd say differentiation. I believe a lot of companies come off the exact same and it's not even, it's not really a problem that we solve right now. So that's actually weird because we're focused on generating leads, but I always want to get in there and do surgery on their messaging because it's usually very flimsy and very similar to, okay,
John Jantsch (02:28): Tim, you have come to the right place. You should check out the duct tape marketing consultant network. That's actually what we teach. I'm a firm believer. It's so many people want the phone to ring, but what they don't realize is that, that without that strategy on the front end, it's actually harder for guys like you to make the phone ring to some degree because that differentiation becomes, turns them into a commodity a bed. And so then it's harder to do your work. When I did the intro, I said, I, in your intro, it says you combine visual design and SEO. Maybe you could unpack that idea.
Tim Brown (03:01): So
John Jantsch (03:01): There's a lot of,
Tim Brown (03:03): There's a lot of beautiful websites out there. Well, there's a lot of ugly ones too, but there's a lot of even beautiful ones that aren't really doing the job. I made a lot of them, to be honest. I started in web design and I made a lot of beautiful websites. And then over time realize that wasn't the biggest problem. And maybe I'm just slowly building up to one day, I'll be the messaging guy, but I realized getting leads on that website, basically like somebody had me as their graphic designer and I was doing ongoing recurring graphic design for their website. And they were like, why isn't this make getting us leads? And I was working for an search engine optimization company at that time. And they, and I learned from them a little bit about search engine optimization and getting more business from Google. And so I said, Hey, a more graphic design is not going to fix this problem of no leads.
Tim Brown (03:57): So I started to build more content onto their website with the kind of collaboration with them. And slowly I realized that was almost a bigger problem that people would invest in more, like more like to invest in then design and web design and stuff like that. So I just started helping people with it. It was basically out of demand. I just kept on moving further towards what would actually create business. And that combination move between design and SEO is really, to me, it's about putting the right content in the right places, because a lot of websites have very thin content and that's cool to have them content. It does make design easier because that sparse modern apple design vibe is all the rage, but it's a mixture of those two things, finding a way to get a lot of content onto a website without making it feel like a wall of text. So you really do have a little bit of longer websites nowadays. I think most people will from their experience have seen this. And it's also finding ways to almost tuck some content back. We use like frequently asked questions that kind of show and hide based on, we don't want to show everything right away, but we do want there to be a lot of content on the website. So really that's the biggest thing in the outset.
John Jantsch (05:18): Yeah. Talk about now. I think you have to think of your homepage as a part of the journey. People are going to that long scrolling homepage. I think it's because people are checking boxes. It's like, okay. Yeah, they got that. I see that. I see that back in the day we designed these things and the whole goal was to get them to click on a link. So they'd go find more over here and find more over here. And I think really today it's more like, no, let me tell you a story in different elements. So I know when you reached out to me originally, you were talking about this idea of the winning website formula. So I wonder if you could, what have you discovered is your way to structure a website with SEO and content in mind so that it is a marketing website as opposed to a brochure?
Tim Brown (05:56): Absolutely. Now I will say this, obviously I come from I'm working in home services businesses the most. So the most experience I have is in that in construction. So right. I've also done a lot of AB testing. I've done user testing, watching users interact with websites and give feedback live. And I've done the most of like just monitoring analytics because we are on the hook for the result. And if they don't get the result, they go, our clients go away. So like basically over time, we've made enough mistakes where I'm starting to get to learn this stuff in a painful, but very, um, illustrative way. So I learned this stuff from that those experiences, and I'm going to keep on learning stuff from it. The five step winning website formula is we say strong visual call to actions throughout the website. So we always try to get,
John Jantsch (06:50): Sorry, go ahead. Yeah. I was just going to say no, I was just going to say, give me a couple examples of what that means.
Tim Brown (06:55): So a call to action, a button that clearly states what's the final action you want them to take. So if it's getting a free quote, if it's contacting you, if it's just speaking to use a softer language for like higher end remodelers or like higher end ticket items in general,
John Jantsch (07:11): Like schedule a consultation.
Tim Brown (07:13): Yeah. Like a little bit softer stuff versus like for our roofers, we have a lot of roofing clients. It's always like get a free estimate. It's a little bit more like just direct. And
John Jantsch (07:26): I think a lot of people do. I think a lot of people do underestimate the idea that even though it's implied, of course, they came there and they want to contact us. I think people do underestimate that, that the visitor in some cases needs to be told or at least invited to take the action you want to take. And I think that's what you're getting at, isn't it?
Tim Brown (07:45): And I'd say 50% of the contractors that come in as most of the clients that come in, people that come in have a website already. So 50% of them don't have a button up on their main menu. I like that. I like it's an visual nudge and then don't have call to actions on the end of every interior page on their website. And I always could go to look at, look for that because that's a recurring element. Once somebody gets done with that content, we want them to have a clear next step.
John Jantsch (08:16): Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. All right. So a visual called actual what's next,
Tim Brown (08:21): We're two testimonials and other trust factors. So I think trust is the biggest thing that's missing on most websites. And that's certainly something where we'll get in there. And sometimes there'll be like some soft testimonials that are a big scroll or, or there's a testimonials page. And no one goes to those things and everyone ignores the testimonials section because it is probably very well curated. So honestly, I'm almost driving for a widget type look where you have the photo of the person, you have the Google logo and then five stars you make it look like it's almost a widget and, and yes, you want these to be real Google reviews. So I almost think of it instead of testimonials more of a review widget and anything to do with awards, anything to do with other platforms where you have five stars or even 4.5 plus stars, Hey, 4.9 is 4.8. That's almost more trust trustworthy than five these days, for some reason. And cause
John Jantsch (09:31): The leaves date, you're going to get a hundred percent, five stars. That's there's always going to be that person first off there's people out there that won't give anything five stars, but then you're always going to have that one unreasonable two-star customer. So I think people find that more believable, especially if you respond to it.
Tim Brown (09:45): Totally. And I just think in general trust is the biggest thing. So one of the things people can do right now is just have a real photographer come out and photograph your team, show your team. And people just resonate with that and it feels human. And there's a lot of things you can do to get more trust. Sometimes it's not using the lingo that everyone else in your industry is using. And just get down to earth, think about what your ideal customer really talks and talk like them and find other ways to just create trust. And then there's different for every industry. But a lot of times it's awards. A lot of times it's a list of clients. Everything you can do to get more trust. Yeah.
John Jantsch (10:30): Even I think for a lot of construction folks that are using higher end brands and things like Marvin windows or Anderson windows or so I think just putting those logos on there as well because consumers recognize them and they mean something.
Tim Brown (10:43): Yeah, that's
John Jantsch (10:44): Huge.
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Tim Brown (11:54): And then number three, I've got emotionally persuasive images and headlines. So this is, I'm sure you follow a little bit along with Donald Miller, make your ideal customer, the hero of the story and help them imagine themselves working with you. So I always challenge our clients because a lot of times their headlines are very us focused. We are the best remodeler in whatever city, but the problem with that is people are their own, most important character in their mind and in their story. And so when they see that, it's almost like they're a little bit in competition with you. And also it's not a verifiable claim. So it comes off as just marketing and it gets ignored. And we're trying to get into this realm of, I want them to be very interested in this because it's about them. So it's just driving that home. I'm sure that's not a new idea to your audience, but it's also this idea of a good image that illustrates that idea.
Tim Brown (13:00): So a lot of times, because we are working for construction companies, it's like somebody enjoying their home. Sometimes it's like them outside of their home or their them inside of their home, but they're enjoying their home. What's that peak emotional moment when they really experienced the benefit of your service, what would that look like? Make a list of those moments and then try to get some photos that represent that. Not all of us have the benefit of being able to stage original photos. So occasionally we use stock photos for that, but ultimately the absolute ideal is you'd get a real customer and you'd take that photo that moment. What does that peak emotional moment? And that's big. And I think a lot of people just for us with the rivers, it's just the pain of, it's just a guy on a roof with a hammer. It's, it's, you're not bad because you have bad marketing, but the customer is gonna, you're just going to wash out in their mind that they don't think of you as different from the others. But if you focus on the customer themselves, you're much more likely to stand out.
John Jantsch (14:05): I think a lot of one emotional thing that sometimes people underestimate is before and after pictures can have a tremendous emotional impact because somebody was like, oh man, I that's ugly. You know, it's like, wow, I want that, that, that could happen for me. So I think that's a great way to use your real life projects.
Tim Brown (14:22): I love that. And then we already talked a little bit about search engine optimization, but number four, the winning website formula is an emphasis on search engine optimization throughout the process. So I already mentioned, you want to have a lot of content on each of these pages, but I will also note it's about creating the right buckets of content. So we do, for instance, for our customers, we're doing a lot of like location service plus service pages on their websites. It's breaking out the niches of the services that you do offer making sure there's a page for each of those. A lot of times for our customers, it is very location focused. So how are you presenting that information once they get there too? And it's honestly our location plus service pages say you're a, a HVAC company in Sioux city or something, HVAC, Sioux city focused page.
Tim Brown (15:18): It almost looks like a homepage. It's like another homepage. It feels like a homepage, but there's a good amount of main content. I read the entire Google quality evaluators guidelines. And they talk about this idea of main content. So I'm moving away from a little bit of everything, looking like a banner and moving a little bit more towards these like centered sections of main content, because I believe that's not only what Google quality evaluators guidelines are looking for. It's also human, right? Like I want, I want there to be copy that actually explains what this is not just banners that promote something to me. So how can you explain that better? And yes, it does put a little bit more pressure on copywriting and happy writing is one of those things that will always serve you, whether you're a marketing manager or an owner of a company who's trying to better tell your story. So there's a lot of opportunity for all of us to get better at copywriting from,
John Jantsch (16:19): Yeah, I've been saying this for at least a decade. SEO is essentially content marketing today. There are some technical aspects, but for the most part, it is content. I think it was ironic today. Do you know what Brian Dean Backlinko, if you've studied SEO at all, you should know Brian Dean. It was a big, pretty big article from buzz suit to just today that came out that listed the top 50 content marketers in the world. And Brian Dean was named the number one content marketer. I just think that's the ironic, that's really how far we've come. That SEO is really content marketing
Tim Brown (16:48): And it's gone up and up until, and Google is just, they're not as smart as you think, but there are, have gotten a lot smarter and it's, it's, they're just going to keep pushing it towards what's the best content. And they'll try to take out all the other factors as much as they can. And it is funny to me when an SEO company doesn't do content or doesn't help with that process. I think it's the,
John Jantsch (17:15): Yeah, that would work. Let me ask you a couple agency questions because we work with a lot of agencies and this comes up all the time. I noticed in looking at your website, you have what is probably suggested pricing for kind of packages that you have. Um, what was your decision in putting a lot of service providers, especially in the world of marketing pricing has been a no-no because it's, I don't know, we have to design your plan and it's all going to be custom. What was, I'm curious if you, if any thinking went into, I think this is a better approach, we're surprised. So I'm just curious just for my own sake.
Tim Brown (17:46): So we're in three to four months deep on this and I don't know if I'd made the right choice. I'm just going to give it to you. That's right. No, that's good. It definitely has qualified out a lot of bad calls and we were in one of those stages where you just have so many leads and a lot of them are bad. So we were just basically cranking up the filter and I feel like maybe I cranked it up too far, or we're just at the end of busy season for a lot of contractors. I can't quite tell at the moment, what I will say is it's also about empathy. And maybe if this is just for you, that's fine. And you want to edit this out. It's all good. But to me, it's what would I want? I would want to know pricing and I've been on people's.
Tim Brown (18:35): I don't want to waste your time. I really wanted something recently, but I wish that they would have just had the pricing on there because I wasted this very valuable. I know she's her time is incredibly valuable. I don't want to waste your time as like a internal marketing exercise. And it wasn't enough. It wasn't valuable enough for me to justify that price, but I would've filtered myself and that's okay because we're just a small business and it's okay to filter yourself. I just am giving other people the opportunity to filter themselves and I'm trying to have empathy for their time.
John Jantsch (19:09): I think that's great. And that's what I was after. It was just your thinking that went into it. I think actually what's going on in the construction world, just, uh, just my 2 cents because we work with a lot of contractors as well is they don't need leads right now. They need people and they need their supply chain fixed. That's probably what's going,
Tim Brown (19:25): I've been feeling that like for the last. So we're mostly specialty contractors, which is a little bit, and I know that this might just be an offside for, for you and I, but there's also this element of, we know remodelers in particular. There, we know that there's a number of home builders, remodelers, certain people, they don't need leads at all. On the other hand, there's specialty contractors like HVAC roofing, like even like hardscapers and certain people that like those people do. And so we've almost niche completely into that specialty contractors thing, but we're, we're keeping the door open just in case the economy flips at some point, but
John Jantsch (20:07): Yeah, figure out a market share for our marketing to help people get skilled labor and you'll get, those are modeling contractors down the door,
Tim Brown (20:17): Flip over in that direction. You got to stay in the same direction for a long time. I think. And I get I'm prone to flipping that switch just like back and forth all the time. So I kind of have to moderate myself and watch that a little bit. So
John Jantsch (20:30): We've been all over the place in our 20 minutes together, but tell it to Tim, tell people where they can find out more about your work. And obviously if they're a contractor, maybe look you up.
Tim Brown (20:39): I want to throw out here the last one of the five step part, winning formula, really clear differentiating features, unique value. What can your competitors not say? So I've heard that called the only tests. If somebody goes under your website right now, what are you the only one of like only go to these? These are the only people you can go to. So do the only test on your website. They can go to hook agency.com and we would love to chat with them if it's appropriate, if we can be useful to. Sorry.
John Jantsch (21:09): Awesome. All right, Tim, thanks for stopping by the duct tape marketing podcast and hopefully we'll run into you one of these days
Tim Brown (21:14): Out there on the road. Awesome. Thank you so much, sir. All right,
John Jantsch (21:17): So that wraps up another episode. I want to thank you so much for tuning in and you know, we love those reviews and comments. And just generally tell me what you think also did you know that you could offer the duct tape marketing system, our system to your clients and build a complete marketing consulting coaching business, or maybe level up an agency with some additional services. That's right. Check out the duct tape marketing consultant network. You can find it at duct tape, marketing.com and just scroll down a little and find that offer our system to your clients tab.
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