Digital Marketing for Contractors: Here’s How to Catch Up


Feeling left behind in the digital marketing age?

Well, it’s not that hard to catch up, as we find out in the latest episode of The Dirt.

Brian Hess, founder of Top Contractor School and president and CEO of the Pavement Group, is our guest and shares his insights on what contractors can do to improve their marketing, not only for new business but also for attracting employees.

Amid an uncertain economy, the need for digital marketing becomes more necessary to keep ahead of the competition. “It’s not going away,” Hess says of digital marketing, “and it’s moving faster than it ever has.”

The old website displaying equipment isn’t going to cut it anymore. He recommends creating an online and social media culture that showcases your people and what they do. He’s also found that contractors with a strong digital presence don’t have much trouble attracting talent, and their hires tend to stay.

So if you’re ready to make the change in your digital marketing, check out the latest episode of The Dirt.

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In This Episode:

00:00 - How Contractors Can Be Better at Marketing

00:41 - Why Do Contractors Need to Change Their Digital Marketing Approach?

03:34 - What Are Some Digital Marketing Best Practices for Contractors?

07:37 - How Good Marketing Can Build Trust in Your Company

10:00 - How Good Marketing Can Help Attract the Right Employees

14:35 - How You Can Start Improving Your Company’s Marketing Now

16:30 - Why Spend More Money on Marketing When a Recession Is Near?

17:49 - Final Thoughts


Bryan Furnace (00:00):

Today we're here to talk about marketing for your business. While it seems really straightforward and we're all pretty familiar with some general marketing, I think we can all do better. Our industry is not really one to be hip with technology, and we're not always at the forefront of new marketing techniques, especially in the digital age. But Brian Hess is here to talk with us about why we might need to be a little more on top of things, and especially going into a slow time, now more than ever is the time to do some additional marketing. So without further ado, here's my interview with Brian.


So speaking as a contractor in the industry, when I also speak to a lot of contractors in the industry, one of the biggest things that I hear is things I've been doing in the past have always worked for me. Why do I need to go in and change anything? So as the digital era really comes into play in the construction space, why do contractors need to change what they're doing from a marketing perspective?

Brian Hess  (01:03):

Our industry has been one that has always been slow to catch up to some degree, but the digital evolution of what's happening, man, it's happening faster than it ever has. The introduction to AI is really moving that forward a hundred times faster …

Bryan Furnace (01:18):

That's scary.

Brian Hess  (01:18):

… than it ever has before. And it absolutely is scary. Everybody is going to be forced into this at some point. And if you're one that has been late to the game, at some point you're either going to be eliminated as a business or you're going to have to get with the program. So what I always tell the folks that I interact with is better to do it now than to be forced into it later. And you'll be ahead of the game. They say the best time to plant at the tree was 10 years ago. The second-best time is today.

Bryan Furnace (01:44):


Brian Hess  (01:45):

So when it comes to the digital evolution, I think it has passed a lot of people by, at least for a period of time, but it's pretty quick to be able to catch up. And I think, for our industry, it looks scary to people. It looks a lot more scary than it actually is. If they just take the time to dig in, their business will move forward. And a lot of these ... I just did a podcast episode on this morning. A lot of these companies who have been at the forefront of it, inside and outside of our industry, have had 50% of their revenue end up coming from some sort of online something, a digital version of whatever marketing they're doing. So I think it is, without a doubt, not going away, that's for sure. And it's moving faster than it ever has. So the faster people can adapt, the better.

Bryan Furnace (02:29):

I think you hit on two really critical points for people to hear. The first one is just how fast things are changing. This is one of those things where it's not like business in the past where, okay, you still got the yellow book ad out there, you've got that cheap little website that some kid made for you back in '96 and people have been able to find you. It's now we're in an age where you are falling behind at an exponential rate because of the rate at which things are changing on the digital side. But then the other key point that you mentioned that I think a lot of guys need to hear is it's not as difficult as you would think to catch up to everybody else. It's not like you've started light years behind and there's no getting back in with the pack. I think it's very easy for people, once they decide to engage, to get right back there with the pack. Would you agree with that?

Brian Hess  (03:14):

100%, man. And I think that's the thing that's holding people back. It's that fear of like, "Well, I don't know this," or, "I'm going to be so far behind," or, "It's going to take me forever to learn this." And if you are not a technology forward person, you just have to have a few people around you that are, and you'll be surprised at how fast you can pick it up.

Bryan Furnace (03:33):

So the next question I've got for you is, when it comes to best practices, for someone who doesn't have a clue, has that old 1996 website, what are some of the things you would recommend for them to kind of get going in at least the right direction?

Brian Hess  (05:06):

From a digital presence standpoint, the basics are really simple. It's show who you really are as a company. Certainly equipment is a part of that. It's a piece of it, but what I see contractors doing most frequently is we put on our websites what we like.

Bryan Furnace (05:24):


Brian Hess  (05:24):

Those pieces of equipment that are sitting behind you are all over somebody's website, and it's really not what people that are coming to your website want to see. They want to see how are you actually solving people's problems? How are you doing it faster with better communication, more transparency, et cetera? And then who are the actual people solving the issues? Who are the people behind the scenes in your company actually doing those things? And if you can create a culture-like digital presence where people can get a really good look and feel of who you are as a company and you can bring your website up to speed with that, that is the absolute best approach to create connectivity within your communities that you work in and really bring people inside of your company that are not part of it at all, the people ... we always say, we have a tagline at the Pavement Group that's, "Follow our journey, join our mission."


And the underlying statement there is man, everybody is part of our mission. Even if they just go to our website and tell somebody else about us or they like a post on social media or they interact with us in some way online, everybody's part of that mission. So for those people who are behind the times, people are the new equipment. People used to want to see what your address was, all the equipment, and did you have new equipment, and how long have you been in business? And today, they want to see more than that. They want to build trust online. And the best way to do that is to show the culture of the business well.

Bryan Furnace (06:50):

And to kind of further that point and break it down for contractors who struggle with this whole marketing idea, if you think about any of your personal transactions, whether it's buying a car, buying a piece of equipment, any of these large transactions, you're generally not going to your buy location because someone posted a picture online of the inventory that they have on hand. It's generally a relationship that you've built because you trust the person or because they've done something to make you think you can trust that person, that you're going to go to them as a resource. And that's essentially what we as contractors are doing for our customers. We are their resource to solve their problem. And I think too many guys, like you said, they don't understand that component. They think if you show them the shock and awe of your fleet, that's what's going to get people. And it's not. It's really developing that relationship before you've even had a moment to talk with them.

Brian Hess  (07:37):

Yeah, I would say for me personally, man, I've spent five years building a personal brand online, as well as five years dedicated to trying to build our company's brand online. And one of the things that we're just hearing now, so imagine going two, three years without seeing a significant return on the business side of people saying, "Yeah man, we've been to your website. We really love it," stuff like that. You just kind of know you're doing the right things and that eventually it will take off, but I have heard enough of those comments. So I have a podcast that I do every single morning at eight o'clock eastern, and I'm on, I think it's episode 560 something, 563 or something like that.

Bryan Furnace (08:17):

Oh wow. What's the name of the podcast?

Brian Hess  (08:18):

The Brian Hess Show. The thing that I hear most frequently, which proves that the statement that we're trying to make here about how you build trust, is people comment on how many episodes it was, customers, potential prospects or customers, employees that are coming to work here, like, "Man, 500 something episodes." So what that tells me is that they see discipline and consistency more than they care about the content. Certainly that's another box to check, but equipment is just the price of admission. If they're in a conversation, if you're sitting across from a potential large customer, obviously they think you're qualified to be there or they wouldn't be talking to you in the first, first place.

Bryan Furnace (08:55):


Brian Hess  (08:56):

But when it comes down to it, they want to be able to trust you. To your point, they want to trust you before they ever talk to you. And for me, there have been a lot of people over the years that have messaged me and said, "Man, I wasn't so sure about you when I started listening to your content, but over time, repetitively, you said the same things over and over again, and it built trust," something that said you weren't actually full of shit, you meant what you said, and you are this person that you portray to be. So that's what people are looking for now, man. This technology revolution that's happening in front of us, it takes us really digging deep and starting to understand how do people get to know us like this, person to person without the person to person, but rather through a website, through a social media platform, through some sort of marketing that explains to people who we are as leaders, as business owners, as teammates, as a company. All of those boxes have to be checked online for you to be most successful in 2023 and beyond.

Bryan Furnace (09:59):

And it even goes beyond getting jobs. So I also have ... because of what I do, I have a fairly large online presence and I'm constantly in that game and I talk with a lot of other social media influencers. And what we found consistently is that these companies that are really putting themselves out there, not as the shock and awe with the fleet pictures, but talking about what they're doing, what their employees are doing, what they've done for their employees, they're also finding that we're in this drought of people, and yet these companies are consistently getting 6-13 new applications a week. It was a week. And it was because people want to go work for a company that they actually know about, that they have a decent understanding of before they just walk in the door and sign over all of their time to go work for this company. So it's also got that hiring advantage too.

Brian Hess  (10:48):

Personally, I think it's bigger. So for us, we subcontract all of our work across the country. And the two biggest pulls for us now are employees and contractors. The contractor network that we've been able to build, we've done it faster than I would've ever imagined because of the social media presence, because people get to know us. And to your point, none of the people that I know that have a strong online presence have any problem hiring people, and they're getting the best of the best, versus those people who are unknown. Because at the end of the day, man, if you have a strong online presence and I don't, and everything is the same from an employee standpoint, if I'm applying for a job, I'm going to go with the guy that I know a little bit better because I have a higher level of trust for that person and that company, and I know what they stand for and I know whether or not I align with it before I ever walk in the door of that business.


So this is how it's done. And frankly, on the negative side of that, people have the ability to leave your company in an instant and go online and apply to 300 jobs in a matter of a couple of hours. So from a culture standpoint, it is incredibly important to have that kind of presence and to push it out there to the masses so that you're attracting the right people. I mean, every time we put a job up, man, we get a hundred applications as a result of just a couple simple social media posts. So when you think about what problem that solves for a business, I mean finding employees is probably problem number one right now for most people in the industry.

Bryan Furnace (12:14):

Absolutely. Up until very, very recently now that the economy started to turn a little bit, I don't know that I heard a single contractor that was complaining about not having enough work. The common complaint has always been, "I can't find people." And it's interesting because those contractors don't put two and two together, that that strong online presence that goes beyond pictures of your equipment, that's how these companies are finding people and that's how they're able to get consistently good people, is because we live in an era where everyone under our age range has grown up going online to get all of their information. There is no other resource. You don't go knock on someone's door. You don't go sit and fill out an application in someone's lobby. You go online and you figure out who you want to work for, and then you go target that person. And by having that presence out there, people can get to know you and you can become one of their targets.

Brian Hess  (13:04):

Statistically, man, we've been around for five years. We're a fairly large company and we have had zero people quit in five years.

Bryan Furnace (13:12):


Brian Hess  (13:12):

And we've only lost seven people total. I am very proud of the culture that we built, but to take that a step further, I don't believe that it's just the culture that we have inside the business. I think it's the culture that exists that attracts the people that are like-minded, like-hearted, that are most like us -

Bryan Furnace (13:29):


Brian Hess  (13:30):

- that are joining the business in the first place. So when you think about that from ... your social media profile to some degree is an interview source. It's a way that people get to see if they don't like you as a person or they don't like me as a person, they're probably not going to apply for a job here. Well, that saves us both a lot of time for people not wanting to come to work for our company just because they don't match the way that we are. That saves a lot of headaches for every business owner out there if they can just be a little more present and a little more transparent online.

Bryan Furnace (14:03):

Absolutely. It's kind of along the same lines as a dating profile. If I were to put, "My name's Bryan and I like going to eat," you're probably going to have a whole lot of people that you cycle through before you find the people that actually really jive with what you believe in, but if I actually take the time to really put my profile together and fill it out with a good description and talk about things I'm interested in, well, I've saved all of the time of having all of these other people come through. And new employees especially are really going to appreciate the fact that you saved them all of that time in that work.

Brian Hess  (14:35):

Yeah, absolutely, man. And I think to go back to our earlier conversation, it's not as hard as these guys think it is to do, man.

Bryan Furnace (14:42):


Brian Hess  (14:43):

There's websites out there. If you want to do it yourself, you can go to and find yourself a videographer. You can look at other people's content and start to mimic that or duplicate kind of what's out there. One of the things that I think is the coolest part about construction is that virtually every business in our industry is a family owned business. There's a family history behind everything.

Bryan Furnace (15:03):


Brian Hess  (15:04):

So to be able to tell those stories, why it was started, and there's always great stories, plenty of extremely entertaining stories of how people started.

Bryan Furnace (15:13):


Brian Hess  (15:14):

The grind of what it took in the first couple of years to get these businesses started is a great story. And the more you do that, the more you show that, the easier it is for people to just know, like, and trust you. And that happens in a matter of months. People start paying attention, and then over time, the more you stick with it, the more loyal people you have following you online. So for those people out there that are trying to take this step, or maybe you're a contractor that is suffering trying to find employees, man, it happens in an instant. I could give you several examples of guys that are in Top Contractor School that literally just did one live video before a holiday weekend just saying how much they appreciated their staff, just go live on Facebook, and it generated five applications the next week.


So it's not as hard for people to do it as they think. Upwork will find you a great videographer. The guy that I've used for going on four years now, I found him on Upwork. So it's easy to find them. And it takes time. It takes a lot of effort to figure out what to talk about, when to talk about it, but now you have Chat GPT to help you with generating some of the ideas of what to talk about. There's a million different ways to do it, man. Anybody out there that wants to start and doesn't know where to, by all means, man, shoot me a DM and I'd be happy to at least point you in the right direction to get things moving.

Bryan Furnace (16:31):

Well, my final question for you is we're all aware now that the economy is starting to slow, especially in the construction space. Why not pull back on marketing in this current environment? If things are already slowing down, why do I want to shove more marketing dollars at chasing that?

Brian Hess  (16:45):

Easy answer, man. Because everybody else is going to pull back is the number one reason why you shouldn't. Look at it like this. Every dollar that you spend during a downtime is probably worth $3, $4, $5 in an uptime because there's less competition online. When everybody else pulls back, if you're willing to have the courage to just tramp the gas to the floor and keep going ... we did it in 2020, man, and we continued to double revenue every year -

Bryan Furnace (17:10):


Brian Hess  (17:10):

- ever since. Every book I ever read, man, said, "When everybody else is retreating, you go into the storm." And that's exactly what we did. We didn't just not pull back. We doubled down. We invested into technology, invested into marketing, and it helped propel us to where we are today. So just look at it from a value standpoint only, every dollar you spend is going to be worth way more than a dollar when other people aren't spending.

Bryan Furnace (17:33):

Absolutely. Well, Brian, thank you so much for the time. You want to plug your podcast one more time?

Brian Hess  (17:38):

Yeah, the Brian Hess Show. It's live on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, every single morning at eight o'clock eastern. So tune in. Would love to have you guys as listeners and watchers.

Bryan Furnace (17:48):

Well, thank you again for Brian coming on the show and sharing some of his wisdom and insight into different ways of marketing and why it is important, especially in this digital age when the ground underneath us is changing so rapidly. As always, I hope this helps you and your business. We'll catch you on the next episode of The Dirt.