Contractors: Why it’s time to get digital

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Contractors, the time has arrived to modernize, save money, and get digital. Technology has changed dramatically over the past 5 years to your benefit. So much so that you can no longer ignore the importance and advantages of using some digital technology to your advantage. And the best part for you is that it’s so inexpensive that it’s nearly free.

Recently, I was speaking to a professional in the industry who mentioned that there were some contractors who just purchased their very first fax machine. I was a little shocked, not that it took so long to have fax capability but because a hardware device was purchased. Fax machines alone are not very expensive depending on its capabilities, but somewhere around the $100 range for an average model. But then there is the cost of the fax line from a local carrier and any extra cost for ink for every fax that comes through. For some contractors, having fax capabilities are necessary. However, there is a much simpler, streamlined, and cost effective method. It’s using online fax services. They provide you the fax number and all communication is done online. Instead of printing a document and faxing it, you can simply fax it right from you computer or even from your smart phone. In addition, faxes can be sent directly to your email address automatically, no extra fee in a PDF format. If you’re looking for an important fax and you’re on the road, this can be very convenient to receive a fax directly to your smart phone anytime and anywhere.

Many of these same companies, among others, also provide online phone services. For some operations, a receptionist is necessary. But some businesses need to save under this economy but still offer a professional service and quick response to their customers. Without a receptionist, you can always have a customer contact your cell phone. But you may prefer to also have an office number or may have several employees out on the road at once, leaving the office empty. Instead of using an answering machine, you can use online phone services that are inexpensive and extremely flexible to meet any contractor’s need. Want customers to be greeted professionally and have calls routed to various employees or business owners on their cell phone whole on the road? No problem. If they don’t answer, would you like the customer’s message to be left in the main phone system message box? Sure, no problem. How about having any messages emailed directly to you, whether on your computer or smart phone, in an mp3 format? Sure, that’s easy. No more waiting to get back to the office to see if any new customers have called. It comes to you instantly. In addition, the cost of online phone and fax systems is minimal. Some can be as little as $7 – $10 per month depending on your need.

How many of you have recently started your new business or perhaps you would like to rebrand your business? It’s simple and can be quite fun actually. There are tremendous online resources to produce and design a new logo, business cards, brochures, and more for your business in a contest format. The best part is how it works and the benefit to you. You simply use on of multiple websites available and enter your need and design requirements. Then thousands of developers from around the world can compete to win your “design contest”. You may receive 80, 90, or well over 100 designs from various designers from all over the globe. And you only pay the winner of your choosing. How can you beat that? Each website and contest offers something unique that you can choose to your liking and budget. But instead of paying someone to develop several designs that you do not like, only to pay again and start over, these online contests offer a tremendous advantage for any company and any budget. You can easily take a look at the quality of designs being produced as well on each site. I recently read a story of a fortune 500 company spending several million dollars just for their logo, when I saw the result, I was quite unimpressed. Logos are important as they offer a unique identity. But they also can be overthought. Think of the simplicity of the Facebook logo, yet it’s identifiable.

The greatest area of need for contractors is in obtaining your first, or upgrading your company website. This technology has seen the most dramatic transformation of them all. It used to be, even several years ago, that if you wanted a professional looking website, you would need to spend a minimum of $10,000 or far more. Otherwise you were left with a simple static website that looked like it was built by you, or a relative or something in their spare time. They were mainly a few pages of text, maybe a few pictures, and even a contact form. But the overall look was not pretty and looked very “texty” than professional and beautiful. But hey, your contractors right? Where’s the beauty in some pipes and drains? Well it’s much more than that. Think of it like this; imagine treating your wife or some friends to a nice steak dinner on a Saturday night. Perhaps you heard of a place having great steaks and you show up and the building looks like it’s about to fall down. The restaurant sign can barely be seen and is tilted sideways, the paint is chipping everywhere, the parking lot is full of deep potholes, minimal lighting, and the entrance is hard to find as it’s in an awkward position. Then you walk in and the hostess can’t be found so you wait, then she shows up in very old dirty clothing with holes. The entire inside is dusty, dirty, dingy, and looks like it has never been cleaned since its grand opening 50 years ago. You see some tables that aren’t even washed as she proceeds to seat you and your group. How quickly is it before you want to pick up and leave to a restaurant that is much more presentable for your wife or friends. The steak may be great, but what good does it do if nobody wants to even stay to find out. Or perhaps you heard of a great restaurant but can’t even find it. How many of you don’t even have a website for your business.

This has been the norm in the contractor community unfortunately. Perhaps it’s because of the cost to have a website developed for your business. Well, that has now changed all due to a website platform called WordPress. Today, you can have one of the most professional looking websites for as little as $40. That’s right, $40. The reason is all because something called a “theme”. A theme is basically like a house built on a good foundation. The foundation and structure is very sturdy and stable but the inside can be changed to look however you want and whenever you want. Themes are similar, they are websites built upon the WordPress platform but they have their own look and feel to them and can be changed at anytime. In the past, themes were very basic and offered little in your ability to change the look of the theme you purchased. It was kind of “What you see is what you get”. But now, technology has changed so much that each them has thousands or almost an infinite amount of variations to make it look exactly like you want. 10 years ago, some of these same themes for $40 or $60 would have cost well over $30,000. But now, even the smallest of businesses with the smallest budget can have an amazing, professional, beautiful, and very functional website for almost no cost.

In addition, these themes no longer require a programming degree or years of website study and development. Yes you too can build your own website. Of course there is always some minor learning that you go through as with anything you buy these days, just as you would learning how to use a smart phone or iPad for the first time. But it can be quite simple. Most themes simply use drag and drop systems to design your own website. You simply design it in a way you want your company represented the first time someone comes across your business. What message do you want them to see? Are you more of a Kitchen & Bath specialist, you may want to have a more image and graphic website for customers to see your work and capabilities that can be very powerful. Or perhaps you offer 24hour service, this is something that can be the main highlight, or perhaps you have or want to produce videos. With WordPress, this step can be 1-2-3. You simply upload your video to YouTube, copy and paste a code into the section you prefer on your website and instantly your YouTube video plays through your website, even though it was uploaded to YouTube.

For contractors, this technology is simply too good to pass up on. There is no budget too small for any contractor not to have a website. It never will replace referrals, hard work, and running a business with integrity. But it’s an increasingly becoming a digital world that can be used as an advantage. This is unlike social media that can come with all the other headaches of non-business conversations and can be very time consuming. A website is basically the very fist location people go to now days to investigate and research whether or not they want to consider doing business with a company. How many of you pull out your smart phone to go on the web to look something up whether it’s the latest news or your about to buy a new TV and you want to see who has it at the best price. Why shouldn’t contractors be just as visible in their services? Especially for $40 – $60.

WordPress is an open source platform that is by far the most flexible and resourceful website platform available in the world. Because it’s open source, it means that there are contributors and developers around the globe that help to continually make it the most powerful, useful, and affordable website program in the world. This is to your advantage. For instance, perhaps you decide at some point you want a little help with the website from some developer. You have thousands of developers at your disposal rather than having to be constrained to using some local company that built your website on a proprietary platform that us unknown to other developers. That’s a recipe for disaster and high expenses. In addition, there are thousands of resources available to help anyone with their website. In fact, with the purchase of many themes, you can simply ask the theme developer questions in their support forums for additional help at no extra cost.

And get this. Let’s say that after 3 years or so you have built up a lot of information on your website but you decide it’s time for a change, a completely new look. WordPress can handle that in a jiff. Simply get a new theme, upload it with a click, make a few minor tweaks to the layout to make it look how you want, and “voila”, you have a brand new looking website with all of your old data in tact. That’s the beauty and power of WordPress.

In addition, WordPress is extremely Search Engine friendly as it comes somewhat SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ready. That’s extremely important because being ranked higher when someone searches for contractors in their area on Google, you want to be at or near the top. It’s not quite set-it and forget it to get ranked high without paying a fee to Google, but it’s minimal. And even if you did set it and forget it, your still probably ahead of some other contractors simply because of the SEO backbone built into WordPress compared to their website.

How can you pas up this opportunity to upgrade or finally get your very first website for your contractor business? The cost is minimal and now, you too can finally have one of the most professional, powerful, functional, and beautiful websites in the industry for less than $100.

Here’s the simple process. Pick out your website name on Go Daddy or some other domain name company. Sign up with a hosting company of your choice for about $5 per month. Install WordPress, typically a one-click installation. Purchase the WordPress theme of your choice. Upload the new them through the auto theme installer for WordPress. Add pages, your information, and adjust some settings to your liking. When it’s ready, simply point the domain name you have registered to point the hosting company of your website and your new website is live. Of course the process can take some time to get it just the way you want, And if you need help, there are thousands of helpful resources to help you build your website. Or contact me, and I can help you.

But the time has come for contractors to take advantage of useful digital tools that are extremely cost effective and allow you to do-it-yourself. Whether it’s phone and fax systems, logos, brochures, or getting your very first website. It’s simply too good of a deal to pass up during an economy like this.  So contractors, it’s the perfect time to get digital, modernize, and use 21st century technology to your advantage. After all, it’s practically free.

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