I’m interviewing my friend Martin Holsinger, a popular instagrammer, marketer for residential contrators, and an Amazon best-selling author of TWO books, and host of the Protractor podcast. Plus, he’s the co-creator of the app, Storeo, that transforms the way you record your Instagram Stories.
After a few years of sharing marketing and social media advice on Instagram, Martin made the choice to re-focus his account to serve a very specific niche – residential home improvement contractors. This decision has completely changed the face of his business. He’ll tell you how and why he found “his people.” Martin was also an early adopter of Instagram Stories, and will share with us some best practices. Read on or watch for all the details!
Molly: How long have you been on Instagram, and why did you decide to start building a following on there?
Martin: Well, I had been trying a bunch of different things – building an audience on different platforms. But then I saw some entrepreneurs seem to blow up overnight on Instagram. So I decided to dig in to it a little more, and I was immediately drawn to it because of the incredible engagement.
Molly: We’ve known each other for a couple of years now, and your Instagram has gone through a little bit of an evolution. When we met, you were sharing more general marketing and social media advice. But maybe a year ago you focused and narrowed your niche to focus more on residential contractors. Is that right?
Martin: Yes, so when I started I was trying to share at least one, if not three posts a day. Everything from inspirational quotes to little marketing tips, etc. About a year ago, I focused my account down to focus on residential contractors. I thought it would be better to be “the guy” in that industry, than to just be another head bobbing around in a huge sea of people all offering the same thing to everybody.
When I first started my business in 2013, I dabbled in a couple of other industries. I tried to serve the wine industry (I live in Washington wine country), but that didn’t really take off. Then I got a couple of clients that were lawyers, and a medical clinic, but I didn’t really speak their language. To serve a client well, you have to be able to take on their persona. I felt pulled in a bunch of different directions, and I really didn’t know what to do.
But my background is in home improvement contracting. My dad was a contractor, and his dad was a contractor. My uncle has been in woodworking all his life. So, I really grew up in the trades. Contracting is in my blood.
Molly: I think a lot of people are nervous to niche down, and ignore segments of their audience. So, what advice do you have about focusing your audience, and what have you experienced since you have niched your account down?
Martin: At one point I owned a contracting business, but sold all of the assets to move overseas. When we came back, I had to decide if I was going to start over or do something different. Well, about a year ago, the local home builders association asked me to do a workshop for their audience and in that meeting, it totally dawned on me that I was in the presence of “my people,” and I had found my niche. So, I started writing a new book, and released Contractor Marketing, Simplified, that teaches contractors how to grow and market their business.
As I approached the publish of my book, I started reaching out to contractors with larger audiences, and asking them to read and review my book. Those contractors started to talk about and share my book, which created some buzz and started bringing me new, targeted followers on Instagram. I know have a much more defined sense of purpose in my business and who I’m called to help.
Molly: I want to spell out for people something you just described. What you really did with your book was an influencer campaign. You found those influential people in your niche, and let them do the talking for you. A lot of times people think of influencer campaigns as finding someone with a massive audience, and you are paying them sums of money to talk about your stuff. But influencers are people that other people listen to. In your case, those large contractors are looked up to by smaller contractors that are trying to crack the business code. You were able to reach those folks through the larger contractors.
Martin: An interesting thing about contractors is that the serve a local area, so they are pretty willing to share information because if they are in Los Angeles, they really aren’t competing with someone in New York. There is a great community.
Molly: You’ve been going to a lot of live events and tradeshows lately. Can you talk a little bit about how you are creating content at live events and how you are leveraging meeting people in real life to translate that into followers and customers?
Martin: Well, there is truly nothing like meeting people in real life. When you actually get to meet something, the relationship is cemented. That’s number one for me. Just by being there, people can see that I’m real.
I like to go to events “on purpose.” I think it’s smart to write 2-3 objectives for attending an event. Then you can look and see if you reached them. Have some reason that you are going and check those objectives off.
While I’m there, the energy helps me to overcome some of my insecurities and do that Instagram Story or whatever. Attending events also gives me content to put out. Not just another picture of my office or whatever.
Molly: Let’s talk about Instagram Stories. You were definitely an early adopter. Why did you jump into Stories, and what do you find so valuable about them?
Martin: I never could figure out the Snapchat thing. But Instagram was my thing. I loved Instagram and it was working for me. So when they rolled out Snapchat on Instagram, I was in! Stories made influencers and celebrities more accessible. This transparency is where things are headed. So I watched a lot of other people using Stories, and just tried to figure out what was working. I’m still learning!
Molly: Could you share some best practices with us regarding Instagram Stories, from a local business slant?
Martin: Stories gives local business owners the opportunity to show behind the scenes, who they are, become a little bit vulnerable. All of that is what Stories makes possible. While you want to keep you Instagram feed polished and attractive, Stories allows you to be available to your audience.
As far as best practices, I’ve seen people do one or two clips per day and I’ve seen people do 30-40 clips per day. I think there’s a happy medium in there, and you need to know your audience and what they’ll tolerate.
A best practice is to watch your drop off rate so you can see where people are done watching you. Don’t overfeed your story or people are going to start skipping through.
Stories are getting more popular, and the more popular they get, you are going to need to think through your Story more. You have to think, why am I creating this Story and what do I want people to take away from it? Try to become concise – and get as much content into small pockets.
Molly: One thing I’ve seen people do, which I think is a really good idea, is people will take a screen shot of their main feed and put that in their Story to direct people back to their main feed to check out their latest post. I kind of like that. I wouldn’t overdo it, but I think it could help overcome some drop offs from the algorithm.
So, speaking of Stories, I really want to talk about your new app, Storeo. We all know how annoying the little 15-second video countdown thing is on Stories. I completely freeze when I see that. You recognized that it was difficult to convey coherent thoughts via Stories, so you went out and created Storeo. Tell us about it.
Martin: Storeo is an app that slices your video into 15-second segments that you can upload to Stories, where people can watch them seamlessly.
Before Storeo, you could slice longer videos to post to Stories, but it was much more time intensive. You would need to slice and dice it on your computer and send the videos to save on your phone. It took a ton of time, and was cumbersome.
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