John Tyreman

Realization: The Moment When Buyers Recognize They Need a Contractor

February 20, 2021

By John Tyreman

There are events in our everyday lives that can trigger the need to purchase a home service.

John Tyreman
John Tyreman

Sometimes, you can plan for those events. Other times you can’t. For example, when my basement flooded because of a busted hot water heater, there was an important and urgent need to get it fixed. The only time I had to think of what kind of specialist to look for was while I was mopping up the mess.

The first thing I did after mopping was go online and search for “plumbing companies near me.” Honestly, I just wanted it fixed. Fast.

So what can service companies learn from this story?

When it comes to marketing your home services business, there are a ton of options to pick from. Radio and TV ads, billboards, direct mail… But how do you know those traditional activities will work? How many sales will they drive? It’s hard to know where to invest your marketing dollars.

A new research report sheds light on the best path forward. With responses from 724 buyers of home services, an August 2020 survey conducted by Silverback Strategies looked at how homeowners approach finding a contractor. The study reveals some key marketing actions service professionals should take.

This is the first of a five-part series that explores each phase of the modern customer journey for buyers of HVAC services.

An Overview of a Service Buyer’s Journey

It’s helpful to understand the process a customer goes through before they contact you – and what they do afterward. There are five phases to the journey:

  • Realization — the moment when customers recognize they have a problem to solve.
  • Education — how customers gather the information they need to make a decision.
  • Evaluation —the criteria customers use to see if a service provider is a good fit.
  • Decision — how customers decide on who to work with.
  • Advocacy —when customers feel compelled to leave a rating or review online.

It Pays to Get in Front of Buyers Early

Whether it’s an urgent matter like a frozen pipe or a routine issue like seasonal HVAC service, the decision-making process starts when a buyer realizes they need your service. Most consumers surveyed reported that they either called a past provider (40.4%) or went online to find a business that could help (42.3%).

When we looked at buyers across generations, we found some notable differences. For instance, 39% of Boomers will call a past contractor for help, as compared to only 15% of Millennials. But despite minor differences across demographic lines, one thing is clear: going online was the go-to strategy for most buyers in 2020.

In my busted water heater example, when I searched for “plumbing companies near me” I called the top 3 results. They were all pay-per-click advertisements. It was Sunday. The first two didn’t pick up the phone. The third company I called was able to come to my home within an hour and they ultimately got my business.

As a service provider, your goal for the realization phase should be to attract new buyers that fit your ideal customer profile. This will give you the best odds that they will contact you for future needs, and will be more likely to give you positive online reviews.


For contractors, this means that investing in your digital brand is a vital part of your marketing strategy, especially if you want to target younger buyers.

A good place to start would be to make sure your website guides users to contact your business and structure your site in a way that makes it easy for Google to display it in search results. This step alone will make it far more likely that a future customer will find you.

Once your site is optimized for this kind of user experience you will be in a position to run pay-per-click search engine marketing campaigns to capture more buyers that have realized they need your services.

About the Author

John Tyreman is a seasoned marketer with experience conducting market research focused on buyer behavior. John has appeared on webinars, podcasts, and authored hundreds of blog articles. Connect with him on LinkedIn.