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Step Up Your Email Subject Lines!

May 3, 2016 • “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This old saying warns against assuming the value of something based on its exterior alone. While this phrase may be helpful in some cases, just know that it absolutely does NOT apply to email subject lines! Everyone judges an email by its subject. If someone fails to see value in your email’s subject line, they will not open your email at all. Pay extra attention to your subject lines to ensure the success of your email campaigns! So, what can you do to make your emails enticing enough to open? First, we will take a look at what NOT to do. After we learn how to avoid subject line pitfalls, we will then cover what you can do to make your email marketing initiatives thrive! Subject Line DON'Ts: 1. DON’T make it too long! Example: Thank you so much for your business! It was such a pleasure to serve your needs.  Keep subject lines under 50 characters! This is the commonly accepted rule for email marketing best practices. To test your subject lines, highlight the text and do a word count. The example above came out as 80 characters, which is 30 too many. Long subject lines will lose your recipients’ attention! The shorter, the better, as long as you are still conveying your message.  2. DON’T make false promises. Example: FREE Carpet Cleaning Only make this the subject of your email if you are truly going to deliver on this promise. Your customers will definitely be annoyed if they open this email and you were actually just offering one free room. False promises might get your recipients to open the email, but they likely won’t be happy to find out they’ve been duped. If you’re misleading, it can definitely do more harm than good. 3. DON’T go crazy with CAPS LOCK! Example: SPECIAL DEAL ON PRESSURE WASHING! While this subject may be attention-grabbing, it comes off as spammy. Getting too cozy with the caps lock button may prompt your customers to mark your messages as spam, decreasing your delivery rate and preventing them from receiving further messages from you. As a rule of thumb, if you want to make your subject line stand out, make 1 word maximum in all caps. If your entire subject line is capitalized, not only will it look spammy, but your customers will also feel like you’re YELLING AT THEM! See? Nobody wants that. 4. DON’T keep repeating the same subject line. Example: Mike’s Cleaning Service If you use the same subject line for all of your email messages, such as the name of your business, it might get opened the first time. After receiving many messages with the same subject, your customers will begin to ignore them or even send them to the trash bin. Give your recipients an idea of what the messages’ contents will hold with your subject line. Using the same subject line over and over will not accomplish this goal. Subject Line DO'S: 1. DO let your recipients know how they will benefit. Example: Tips to Lower Your Electricity Bill Offer your recipients value in a clear and concise way. In the example, an electrician could send energy efficiency advice to his customers, who will be happy to hear about how they can save money on their monthly bills. Before writing your subject, imagine you are on the receiving end of your email. Ask yourself “how does this benefit me?” Think about why they should open the email, and then clearly state that reason in the subject. 2. DO create a sense of urgency! Example: 15% Off Upholstery Cleaning - Offer Expires Today! Provide a deadline in your subject line to get an immediate spike in business. That way, your recipients will see that they need to act immediately or else forego the deal, according to Hubspot. Include some of these keywords in your email to establish urgency: Book today Today only Special offer Act now Limited-time deal 3. DO ask questions to spark interest. Example: What Makes Green Cleaning Different? Adding a question mark inspires your readers’ curiosity. Pose a question so that their curiosity will get the best of them, and they will be very inclined to learn more. This example would work well for a green cleaner to explain what differentiates their services, which will then serve as a reminder for customers to book appointments. No matter what industry you are in, gain the interest of your audience by asking questions in your email subject lines and offering helpful explanations in the body, or else linking to a blog on your website with this content. 4. DO personalize it! Example: Melanie, We Miss You! Include as much personalization as possible in your email subject lines. If including the recipient’s name is not an option through your service, personalize the email based on location, such as the name of your city, or time, such as the last time you did business with a customer. Personalizing email subject lines makes the recipient feel as though the email is just for them, even though the message may be automated. Subject lines that are personalized make for more successful email marketing campaigns, reports Hubspot. If you haven’t already started using email marketing to increase your repeat business and customer loyalty, now is the time to start. You’re already well-versed on what to avoid in your subject lines so that your emails don’t go ignored, as well as what the best methods are to spike interest in your emails. Enticing subjects are essential to hitting a home run with your email initiatives. Stay tuned for future blog posts with plenty more email marketing ideas and strategies!

Matt B., Marketing Coordinator

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What’s the #1 Field Service Tool?

April 29, 2016 • Running a field service business is easier when you can do it from the palm of your hand. That’s where field service management apps come into play! A team of researchers at GetApp ranked all of the FSM (field service management) apps available and the results are in... Housecall Pro leads the charge as the #1 field service management app. GetApp has awarded Housecall Pro with this honor for the 2nd quarter in a row. Housecall Pro is excited to earn the top rank once again! To calculate each app’s score, GetApp evaluates and scores them in 5 different categories: reviews, integrations, mobile, media, and security. Housecall Pro’s high scores in each category led it to surpass all of its competitors in the overall ranking. GetApp field service researcher, Suzie Blaszkiewicz, said “Having a functional and intuitive mobile application is especially important when it comes to FSM in order to be able to connect the field workers with the back office in real-time, and Housecall Pro delivers a mobile application that's garnered positive reviews from users.”  So, a superior mobile experience and plenty of glowing reviews helped boost Housecall Pro to its leading position. “Additionally, having a solution that integrates with other applications is especially important in order to be able to streamline processes and improve workflow, a factor that's also contributed to its top spot in the ranking,” Suzie elaborated. The app’s integrations with Quickbooks accounting software, Google Maps, and  Google Calendar also played a role in raising its score. While these additional integrations come with premium membership, Housecall Pro also offers a free version with many of its core features. Try it out in the  App Store or  Google Play store today! While Housecall Pro is thrilled to maintain its top spot, the team behind the award-winning mobile software is committed to continually improving the system based on feedback from customers.

Matt B., Marketing Coordinator

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3 Tips to Make the Most of Tech

April 21, 2016 • In the HVAC industry, this female trio is making their mark by running a thriving business. How did this dynamic trio contribute to the company’s growth? Michele, Jeanne, and Kelsey of Scotty’s Heating & Air Conditioningunderstand that technology is their friend, not foe. Other service businesses seeking success can learn from this advice: 1. Organization can be your new best friend.   Scotty’s Heating & Air Conditioning has grown significantly since opening for business in 2012. Like all new businesses, they started with the simple pen and paper technique. As business started booming, Michele realized that handwritten invoices were not going to cut it and began searching for a platform that would grow with them, as well as save them time, money, and even space in the long run. For the Scotty’s team, they wanted a solution that would help them “consolidate [everything], be more efficient and appear more professional.” The obvious solution was to go paperless. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the average office uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year, which can really add up over the years and overcrowd the office space. Rather than keeping confidential files in the office, storing documents digitally takes no physical space and protects your files with layers upon layers of digital security. For businesses like Scotty’s, this eliminates the risk of misplacing important customer files and only gives certain individuals permission to access these documents. When it comes down to the numbers, going digital means the office can annually  save $80 per employee. 2. Communication is key.  As they say, “time is money” and increasing efficiency is one of the best ways to save time. Take it from the leaders at Scotty’s, efficiency is very important in running a business with no hiccups. All three women work in different offices across San Diego. As Kelsey explains, “One of us can input something and then a minute later, I can see exactly what happened and it just makes things so easy for us!” The collaboration that real-time connectivity provides for your team safeguards against miscommunications and improves the overall efficiency and profitability of your business. This allows business owners to see exactly where their technicians are on a live map, as well as which job the technician is working on. Staying connected with real-time updates can not only make a world of a difference, but also help your relationships with customers. People enjoy the feeling of getting special treatment, so the more synced up you are with your employees, the easier it is to stay actively engaged with customers. 3. Customer experience can skyrocket through technology.  In the field service industry, it’s crucial to focus on customers, since service professionals deal with customers face-to-face on a daily basis. For the trio at Scotty’s, they believe it is important to genuinely care about customers, because they are the most important aspect of the business. In fact, the team’s main objective is to make sure they really get to know their customers and what their customers’ needs are. As you could imagine, knowing the needs of countless customers can become an insurmountable task, so Michele, Jeanne, and Kelsey made finding technology to help them a top priority.  In this digital age, customers expect the highest quality of service possible with the digital standard that they are accustomed to in their everyday lives. The businesses that make use of technology to help streamline the process for their customers are most likely to deliver this technology-driven customer experience. Scotty’s alerts their customers with notifications when their technicians are on the way to jobs, along with photos of who will be performing the service. After the service call is complete, Scotty's sends additional messaging to their customers informing them of the job completion. Customers are delighted to be kept well informed through the job process and are more likely to book Scotty's services in the future. Some time after the job is completed, Scotty’s also sends automated thank you emails to their valued customers in order to bring the experience full-circle. Even though all of these customer touch-points are automated, Kelsey ensures that they add a personal touch. Just knowing that customers are always given up-to-date information at the push of a button helps the Scotty’s team feel prideful of the quality of customer care they provide. Do you want to deliver exceptional customer experiences through technology? There are lots of tools out there to help with ensuring that you provide the best service possible. The key to truly understand is that technology can be a great tool to enhance all customer-facing processes. Refining the customer experience is also an endless journey, as businesses can always find new ways to make it just a little bit better. 

Matt B., Marketing Coordinator

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Can You 4X Your Business?

April 12, 2016 • Ten years ago, father and son duo, Don and Grant Schoenberger, set out with the mission of running a customer-focused plumbing business. From their own consumer experiences, they felt there was a problem in the service industry, where professionals were more highly trained in boosting sales than skilled in their actual field. They decided to base their business model on one simple principle... “If you treat people well, and are honest with them, and do quality work, then they’ll keep calling, and they’ll tell their friends about you.” Nearly a decade later, they’ve grown Core Plumbing San Diego from a small family business to an eight man operation. It has become one of the most trusted plumbing companies in San Diego County. So, what’s their secret? The two pillars of their successful growth are creating efficient processes, and building strong customer relationships. Let’s take a look at what Grant has to say: Build Strong Connections With Your Customers Grant and his father have worked hard to establish a reputation in the community as a family-run business that provides reliable, high-quality work. Yet, even now, they actively work to connect with customers and develop a sense of trust. After scheduling an appointment, they send a reminder email immediately after the initial phone call, as well as a confirmation the day before their appointment. Next, they notify their customers when a technician is on the way. Grant says, “When we show up to their door, they already know who we are, they’re expecting us, and we’ve totally broken the stereotype of the plumber who doesn’t show up, or will be there tomorrow between 8am and midnight.” These touch points keep the customers feeling in the loop, and keep Core Plumbing on the top of their customers' minds. They also follow up with their customers via emails and postcards, thanking them for their business and checking up on the level of service provided, in order to ensure that customers are satisfied with their experience. By building this level of connection with their customers, Core Plumbing virtually guarantees repeat business, as well as referrals. Grow Efficiently All of that customer communication, while critical, takes a lot of time. How does Grant manage? Automate it! Grant uses automated emails, scheduled to go out before and after jobs, in order to establish points of contact with every customer without being drowned in a schedule of phone calls. He says this is an extremely simple way to make people happy, and feel valued. According to Grant, Core Plumbing has also embraced digitization in other aspects of their business, in order to keep things running smoothly. At first, his time was consumed by scheduling, invoicing, and organizing. “We just had shelves and racks and bins, full of nothing but forms and receipts and invoices.” As they grew, he realized this was not a practical way to continue growing, and in order to make time for marketing efforts and customers, they made the switch to paperless in order to maximize efficiency. By making customer satisfaction their utmost priority, and doing it as efficiently as possible, Core Plumbing has been able to quadruple their business since opening their doors, and establish a phenomenal reputation for themselves.

Matt B., Marketing Coordinator

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4 Lessons for Service Startups

April 6, 2016 • When you hear the word "startup," a tech company in Silicon Valley probably comes to mind. Yet people are starting up businesses of all kinds, and the term is not just limited to one industry. If you are building a business from the ground up, here is some advice for you from a successful new entrepreneur! Starting up a service business is easier said than done. First, you will have to jump through many hoops just to turn your entrepreneurial idea into a legal entity, not to mention a brand. Then, you are tasked with acquiring all the right equipment, tools, and most importantly, customers. Once you’ve reached this point, it’s all fun and games, right? Not so fast… Running a service business requires nonstop attention. You have to keep track of all of your appointments and service history, maintain relationships with your customers, chase down payments, secure new and repeat business, and try to squeeze in time with your family on top of all that.   If you’re considering starting a service business, Mitch Stonebarger, President and Owner of Hyper Carpet Cleaning in St. Louis, Missouri, advises “Don’t do it!” Haha, just kidding. While starting a service business takes extreme dedication, Stonebarger chased after his goal and has experienced explosive growth in a short amount of time, tripling his sales in only a matter of months. After less than a year in business, he has already hired an employee and is working towards making his business self-sustaining. Stonebarger shares some of the lessons he has learned along the way: 1. Understand the power of customer service.  Customer service is especially important in service businesses. In any type of business, it’s extremely important to support your customers, answer their questions, and help them solve issues. Stonebarger emphasizes the importance of ensuring customer satisfaction. He warns new entrepreneurs how “one unhappy customer can ruin you,” with negative reviews that are visible to potential customers. Making sure all of your customers are happy is necessary to protect your business from criticism! 2. Pay attention to people skills. Developing strong people skills will vastly improve your company’s customer service. Deliver your service with a smile! Greet customers with a firm handshake. Look people in the eye. These are all things you can do to come off as more likable, which Stonebarger describes as essential for repeat business. Of running a service business, Stonebarger says: “You have to deal with people and be good with people. If people don’t like you, they’re not going to like your business or hire you.” Since you are the face of your business, people are going to judge your business by your personality. Build and maintain relationships with your customers to gain their loyalty! 3. Expect the unexpected. Business, like life, is unpredictable. Be prepared to jump over unforeseen hurdles, rather than stopping in your tracks. Even though unexpected obstacles will stand in the way, overcoming them is essential to achieving your dreams. As circumstances change, the best thing you can do is go with the flow. “You have to evolve and let your business evolve,” Stonebarger recommends. Nothing stays the same, and neither should your business. Pushing forward past unexpected obstacles is how you progress. 4. Don’t be afraid of failure. You have to make mistakes to learn from them. Stonebarger emphasizes the importance of never submitting to defeat. Stonebarger became a successful service business owner through trial and error, until he found the right formula for him. “People are afraid of failure and that stops them from succeeding,” Stonebarger says. Even if things do not feel like they are coming together at first, it is necessary to persevere through the challenges. “You have to be willing to fail to win,” he says. Starting up a service business involves taking a huge risk. If you're still willing to take the plunge or already have, these pieces of wisdom from someone who has been there can serve as a guide to getting through the inevitable rough patches. While learning from your own mistakes is important, learning from someone else’s success is also very beneficial.

Matt B., Marketing Coordinator

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The Ultimate Secret Weapon: Trade Shows

March 10, 2016 • “What’s the point of going to trade shows?” you might wonder. Many service professionals believe they are a waste of time and money when they could otherwise be working and earning income, but we are here to tell you that expos are your business' secret weapon! Still don’t believe me? I’ll tell you why they will give you super powers! Since there are is so much to gain from trade shows, I'll break it down for you. Here are the top 8 reasons to attend trade shows: 1. It doesn’t have to break the bank When you belong to a trade association, you can attend trade shows at a discounted rate. If you don’t already belong to an association, you may want to consider it! Membership with associations often comes with other benefits such as training discounts, licensing, marketing tools, sponsorship opportunities, insurance discounts, supplier discounts, and more. Examples of associations include the ICRA for cleaning and restoration, PHCC for plumbing and HVAC, and the WCRA for window cleaning. Many associations also host other industry events that are free to attend, which may be purely focused on education, without an exhibition. Check with your association to see if there are any upcoming events near you! 2. Keep up with industry regulation Maybe you haven’t heard about new rules or regulations that impact your business yet. Trade shows are the perfect place to get caught up with all of the news that affects you. Stay on top of trends in your trade so you can take pride in offering superior service to your customers. Trade shows are an exciting atmosphere where industry professionals gather to share ideas and expertise. Be a part of this buzz by attending! You might just feel a renewed excitement and passion about your profession, which will give you a boost later on during those long days of work.  3. Attend classes and workshops to learn best business practices Trade shows and expos almost always offer the chance to attend classes and seminars. Listen to keynote speakers as they offer their insights on your industry. At these educational sessions, you will gain useful information about new methods for performing your service, managing employees, marketing your business, and various other industry-specific topics. Often, expos will even host workshops or competitions, where you can get hands-on experience working or competing alongside other professionals. These valuable training opportunities will help you become the best at what you do! 4. Learn about new equipment and tools Your tools and equipment are key to performing at the best of your abilities. Check out everything new on the market so that you can continue providing the highest quality to your customers. See the newest gadgets in action and try them for yourself so you can get an idea of how they would work for you. You might even come across an all-in-one digital tool to help you run and grow your business! In  this article for cleaning business owners, trade shows are named as the top place to discover new products that can help your business run more efficiently. In fact, the concept of efficiency is named as by Cleaning Business Today as a top priority in considering new products, since your time is more costly than any supplies or tools you can buy. When at trade shows, be sure to consider how you can maximize the efficiency of your business with advanced technology such as Housecall Pro! 5. Gather intel on your competition to stay ahead of the game Some of your competitors may attend trade shows to discover tips and tricks from experts in your industry. Missing out means falling behind those who do choose to gather and share advice. Get a leg up over the competition by attending trade shows and absorbing all of the knowledge that you can! If you are encountering issues in running your business, it’s likely that other owners in your industry are facing the same challenges. Trade shows spark open discussions where business owners can share common problems and solutions they have found to be useful. This wisdom is priceless! 6. Network with the best of your industry At trade shows, you are in the perfect position to create connections with leaders and trend setters of your industry. With notable speakers, open discussion panels, and training sessions, the opportunities for networking at expos are endless. You will undoubtedly gain  from the expertise of those around you, even if you have been in the industry for years! Networking with possible competitors may not seem like a plus, but seeing how your technique and business management differs from others will give you a greater understanding of what makes your business unique. Differentiating yourself from your competitors will help you in marketing your business! At trade shows, you may even find potential partners or collaborators, who you can work with to expand your offerings. Opening new doors is just one of the many benefits of expos! (Insider tip: bring plenty of business cards to give out at the event!) 7. You can participate in fun group events To make networking even more enticing, trade shows often host social events, such as bowling or open mic nights. These casual meetings offer an easy way to break the ice and get to know more people in the industry - all while having a blast! This will also establish you as a regular trade show attender, opening up new friendships and inner industry networks. Staying on the radar with the inner circle of your industry can result in tremendous new opportunities.  8. Free giveaways and raffles  Sure, you will walk away with new ideas and knowledge no matter what, but free prizes are definitely a bonus! Trade shows frequently feature giveaways or raffles that put you in the running toward winning sought-after products or services that can majorly benefit your business! In all of our trade show involvement, we have seen service professionals walk away with thousands of dollars worth of free products, tools, and services. At Housecall Pro, we frequently raffle free full-year subscriptions at trade shows (a $1,200 value). There are typically hundreds of prizes to be won, and a lot of attendees walk home with a prize.  Maybe you haven’t heard about new rules or regulations that impact your business yet. Trade shows are the perfect place to get caught up with all of the news that affects you. Stay on top of trends in your trade so you can take pride in offering superior service to your customers. Trade shows are an exciting atmosphere where industry professionals gather to share ideas and expertise. Be a part of this buzz by attending! You might just feel a renewed excitement and passion about your profession, which will give you a boost later on during those long days of work.  Are you convinced now that trade shows are advantageous for your business? Let’s note that they might not always produce a positive return on investment: if you travel too far away and pay an arm and a leg just to attend, that strategy probably is not the best way to gain from the experience. For example, traveling to a different country for an international expo is unlikely to be beneficial for you unless you plan on doing business there. We recommend doing your research to find trade shows that are economical and reasonable for you to attend! See if there are any local events for your industry so that travel expenses can be minimized. Remember, attending trade shows should be valuable for your business, but not too costly for you! Hopefully you are excited about the prospect of attending trade shows to enhance your business! You can find the Housecall Pro team at trade shows all across the country just about every month. We love being able to meet our pros and show service professionals how our all-in-one digital tool can benefit their businesses! Maybe we will see you at the next show!

Matt B., Marketing Coordinator

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So You Want to Build An Awesome Website?

February 16, 2016 • As a home service provider, your website is one of the most important tools in your belt for acquiring new business.  85% of customers use the internet to find local service businesses, so odds are your potential customer's first impression of you and your business will be based on your website. How do you design a site that pushes that customer over the edge from just browsing to giving you a call? We’ve got you covered! Here’s a crash course in everything you need to know to build the foundation of an engaging and business boosting site. In The Keys to Good Web Design Define who you are and what you do This one might sound like a no-brainer, but your potential customers are browsing through tons of websites in search of the perfect home service provider. If they have to endlessly scroll and scour your page to learn what you do and how to reach you, they will move on to the next site. Clearly stating what type of service you provide, where you’re located, and how to contact you on the first screen they see is an  absolute must in order to capture their attention. Establish credibility When you’re selling a service, you’re  selling a relationship with yourself. You need to clearly establish what your unique selling position is - in other words, how are you different than your competitors, and why should your customers trust you? Including testimonials on your website is a great way to accomplish this, but furthermore, your website should look polished and user-friendly, because the level of care you put into representing your business is the level of care you’ll be  perceived to treat your customers with. It’s all about striking a balance between personal and professional - you want to give your website viewers a genuine feel for your business that puts them at ease letting you into their home, while maintaining a skilled and qualified demeanor that inspires confidence that you’re the right person to get the job done. Craft your image The visual imagery you use on your website should be engaging enough to capture your customer’s attention, while staying true to your brand. Here’s some tips and tricks for visual design: Logo: Although your logo has no intrinsic meaning on it’s own, your logo is symbolic of your brand. It should be on all of your marketing materials: websites, social channels, invoices, trucks, shirts, etc. Therefore, it needs to be, and resonate with your branding message. Thinking about a redesign? Check out this article for some additional inspiration. Color Palette: Certain colors can subconsciously with viewers, so you should select your color palette carefully, depending on how you want to portray your brand. Typeface: The font you choose for your website can speak volumes about your brand. Fonts have different personalities, so you want to choose one that fits with your core branding message. Check out these examples: If you wanted to portray that you’re a responsible and principled company, Papyrus or Bipolar Braden probably isn’t going to be your font of choice.. you would want to choose something more classic and refined. However, if you want to tell your customers that you’re fun and funky, using Lobster 1.4 as an accent font could be a good way to show some personality! As a general rule of thumb, you should only use two fonts on a web page, one for headers or accents, and one for the body text. Additionally, on websites, you should choose a sans-serif font (one without tails on the letters, like Helvetica Neue or Lato) for the body text, because it makes for a cleaner, easier to read viewing experience. Last but not least, I am begging you, please please PLEASE never use Comic Sans. Ever. The 4 Cardinal Sins of Web Design Now that you know the principles of good web design, let’s talk about some common mistakes and how you can avoid them: Cluttered websites: It’s easy to overload your site with content and images, but this is one of the fastest ways to lose traffic to your site, because your customers can get overwhelmed. An easy trick to see if your site has too much going on? Do a squint test! Squint at your site - if you can’t pick out your main points and call-to-action, you’ve got too much going on. Bad Photography: Photos, when done right, are some of the easiest ways to make your site fun and engaging. However, your customers will pick up on generic or poor quality photos in a heartbeat, and that’s worse than having no photos at all. Invest in getting professional photos taken, or high quality stock photography to make your site stand out! Poor Navigation: If it’s not intuitive to your customers where they can find all the pertinent information about your company, they’re not going to take the time to look. Using Fixed Web Design: As web use is becoming increasingly mobile, you need to make sure your web site is optimized for a variety of screen sizes. This is called responsive or adaptive web design, and are necessary in today’s digital world. If your web site is one fixed width, customers viewing that site on a small screen will be frustrated by the difficulty of use. Smashing Successes Some of these principles are hard to visualize, so let’s see some of them in action. Here are some examples of home service businesses who knocked our socks off with their web design: ManMaids - College Station, TX Everything you would want to know about the business is right there on the front page: what they do, where they’re located, their pricing, their contact information, and even a “Book Now” button in the top navigation. If I’m a customer and I’m in a hurry, I’m way more likely to give ManMaids a call if I don’t have to go on a treasure hunt to find all the info I need. Best of all, they provide you that information without cluttering their home page. It is clean and aesthetically pleasing, and the running video is a fantastic way of captivating a customer’s attention while simultaneously giving a customer a taste of their personality. Controlled Climates - Clovis, CA This website is a perfect example of visual branding. Their logo is simple, and obviously connected to their industry, but they’ve personalized it to make it their own. Additionally, their color choices, red and blue, are commonly associated with hot and cold, which is a clear connection to the HVAC industry. Their logo and color choices are consistent across all of their messaging, creating a professional and memorable representation of their brand! In Conclusion... Congratulations, you now know everything you need to know to become a master web designer. Time to stop reading about best practices, and put your new found skills to use. Happy Designing!

Matt B., Marketing Coordinator

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How Much Is Your Brand Worth?

February 3, 2016 • Branding is an abstract concept, but its impact is undeniable. In fact, consumers are willing to pay 200% more for brands they feel connected to. Learn about branding so that you can boost revenue and skyrocket your brand to success! What is a Brand? When you think of a brand, what comes to mind? You might be envisioning a logo, such as the one emblazoned on your Starbucks cup. While a brand’s logo is what people typically remember most about a brand, there is much more to branding than just a logo. The reason why the idea of a brand is difficult to understand is because it is intangible. A logo, on the other hand, is tangible. You can see a brand's logo, yet a brand itself "exists only in someone's mind," according to  Forbes. A brand is everything that people think when they see the brand's logo. There are two components to a brand: both the actual product or service it offers, such as Starbucks’ coffee, as well as the thoughts and feelings associated with it, for example, the bliss of sipping your favorite caffeinated beverage. In  semiotics, the study of how meaning is created, signs communicate messages. Imagine a “Stop” sign. In this example, the signifier is the sign itself. The signified, or meaning conveyed, is to stop your car. When we apply this to brands, you can think of a logo as the signifier, which represents the ideas attached to the brand, or the signified. As reported in  Entrepreneur, a logo is the foundation of a brand. While your logo is essential, it is not the only element to consider. The ideas and emotions signified by your logo are what are what truly define your brand. Regardless of your logo, your brand can thrive as long as it inspires positive thoughts and a strong connection with your audience. The Starbucks Story To illustrate the concept of how a company can charge far higher than its competitors, yet prevail due to powerful branding, let's study the example of Starbucks. Starbucks is one of the most beloved brands in the world. What makes Starbucks so successful? It’s not the unique name and logo alone that earned Starbucks its place in the hearts of so many fans.  What sets Starbucks apart is the experience it provides its customers. Visiting a Starbucks store is a sensory experience that engages all 5 senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, and, of course, taste. First, you see the store’s contemporary, yet warm and cozy design. As you enter, the scent of roasting coffee beans wafts into your nose. After placing your order, you hear the barista call out your name. You pick up your piping hot Grande Carmel Macchiato and take a sip. Mmm… it's delicious, as always. If you’re a Starbucks fan, you may adore your classic drink order, but your love for Starbucks likely extends far beyond that. Starbucks is more than a coffee shop, it is a place where you can go to feel at home. Whether you go to Starbucks in Des Moines, Iowa, or Barcelona, Spain, your experience will be nearly identical, providing a sense of familiarity no matter where in the world you may be. By offering the opportunity to relax in comfort, Starbucks has won legions of fans across the globe. By consistently delivering a luxurious, sensuous experience, Starbucks establishes a powerful relationship with its customers. Starbucks’ brand is successful because of meaning people attach to the brand. For many, the Starbucks logo represents refreshment and rejuvenation in a relaxing atmosphere. Since Starbucks forges strong emotional ties with its patrons, it earns their loyalty and love for life.  I use the Starbucks story to simply illustrate the fundamental impact of brand loyalty and overall significance of customer experience. Although small service businesses differ greatly from something as corporate and global as Starbucks, the lessons are still the same; Service professionals must strive to create elevated emotional brand loyalty through their business offerings.  How can you do that? Read on.  How to Create an Emotional Brand While you may not be running a coffee shop, the lessons learned from the story of the Starbucks brand can be applied to any business. In fact, if you effectively establish an emotional connection with your target market, you can charge 200% more than your competitors for the same service, according to  research. That’s right, customers are willing to splurge for brands they have forged strong emotional ties with, so the premium price tag is less meaningful than their relationship with the brand. Further, emotional branding increases sales volumes and customer loyalty, both boosting the bottom line. Now that you know how powerful emotional branding can be for your bottom line, how do you tap into it? Follow these steps to establish a brand that your customers can connect to emotionally: 1. Identify an emotion to tie to your brand. How does your brand make people feel? For example, if you own a cleaning business, you could choose satisfaction or security. Communicate in your brand messaging that you aim to instill complete satisfaction and reliable security within your customers through your services. Be careful to choose emotions that are already likely to be evoked by experiencing your brand. 2. Imagine an ideal experience with your brand. Starbucks’ former VP of Brand Planning, Jerome Conlon, explains to  Branding Strategy Insider about how “dream catching” helped cultivate the Starbucks brand experience. In this experiment, Starbucks asked participants to imagine drinking the absolute best cup of coffee. Starbucks learned that their customers’ ideal coffee experiences were similar, so they set forth to provide that perfect experience in their stores. For your business, you can ask your friends and family to help. Ask them to dream about the ideal experience in your service industry.  Find out details about what would make their experience with your brand deliver positive emotions. Envision how you can provide an optimal experience and aim to cultivate that ideal. 3. Invoke the emotion in all experiences of your brand. Establish a voice for your brand that consistently conveys that emotion. Tie it into everything your brand is, does, and says. Your customers will start to associate your brand with the emotion if you do this successfully. Most importantly, consistently provide your customers with an experience that evokes the emotion. For instance, if you tie the feeling of satisfaction to your cleaning company, ensure that your customers experience your brand in a way that offers money back for anything less than complete satisfaction.  4. Integrate all of your branding with the emotion. If your brand already has a name and a logo, ensure that they are aligned with the emotion you have chosen. If they aren't, you may want to consider changing them, or at least finding a new emotion to channel that fits in with your existing branding. Make sure your brand’s color scheme is reminiscent of the emotion. For example, if your emotions are blissful and peaceful, blue and green are colors that convey a sense of serenity and earthiness. 5. Inspire your entire company to cultivate the emotion. Once you have a vision of your emotional branding, know that it alone is not enough. As demonstrated by the Starbucks story, a brand’s vision must “be expressed through behavior, through each and every Starbucks employee at each location. Hence, we had to share the vision with everyone inside the organization.” Teach your employees how to provide the best possible experience to all of your customers. Show them how they can nurture emotional ties with your customers so that they truly feel the emotion when they experience your brand. Enrich the working conditions of your employees so that they authentically convey positive emotions in interactions with your customers. To be powerful, a brand must be consistent and authentic. By following this advice, you will be on your way to building a captivating brand. Just like Starbucks can charge sky-high prices for its coffee, you too can increase your prices up to 200% more than competitors by tapping into the power of emotional branding! Connect with your customers emotionally so that they would never consider an alternative in your industry. Create an emotional branding strategy so that you can catapult your brand to prosperity!

Matt B., Marketing Coordinator

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3 Surefire Ways to Increase Revenue

January 25, 2016 • Do you struggle to market your business? Is it a challenge to reach new customers? And once you find a new customer, how on earth do you keep them coming back? Marketing your business can seem like a full-time job, one that you may not have time for after a hard day’s work. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! In 2015, nearly a quarter of small business owners listed marketing their business and finding customers as their top challenge. It can seem daunting to craft a marketing strategy for your business that targets just the right type of customers for your business at the right time. That’s why we’ve created a simple 3-step plan to help you grow your business and keep your customers coming back time and time again. Before we jump into strategy, let’s talk about your customers. Acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to  25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one, so your primary goal should be the satisfaction of your current customers. Your current customers are people who you have already built a relationship with, and who already know the value of your services, so it’s a far more efficient use of your time to solidify those relationships as your first priority. If you’re still not convinced that retaining customers is valuable, check out  this research that shows increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. Now are you sold on focusing on your current customers yet? Good, because once your customers are satisfied, they will be more than happy to refer you to their friends and family! Not only are current customers less expensive to retain, but they are also your BEST source for finding new business. With that in mind, here is the simple, three step plan we’ve created to help you re-market to your current clients:  Thank your customers Send out reminders Ask for referrals The steps seem simple enough, right? Let’s look a little more in depth at how you can make each of these phases work for you and your company: Step 1: THANK your customers for their business The very first phase of your marketing plan should always be thanking your customers, and not just on-site. Your first job with a new customer is like an interview - you impress them based on your merits during the job, as well as follow up and make sure you stand out afterwards. This can be as simple as a 30 second phone call, an email, or a postcard. No matter how small the gesture, showing your gratitude is an easy way to let your customers know that you care about them, and appreciate that out of all the other companies in your industry, they selected yours. There are also economic advantages to expressing your gratitude. Don’t believe me?  Check out this study, which found that waiters who write “thank you” and a personalized message on their receipts received larger tips than waiters who didn’t, as well as  this study, which found that a retail store’s volume of purchased goods rose by 70% after calling past customers and thanking them for their purchases. These results stem from the fact that a simple “thank you”  intensifies your relationship with your customers and their loyalty to your brand. In other words, there’s absolutely no excuse for not expressing your gratitude. Step 2: REMIND your customers about your business As a business owner, you want to believe that your customer service and superior quality are enough to earn a permanent place in your customer’s rolodex, but in today’s world, that’s simply not enough. This is especially true in the home services industry, where a single customer may have relationships with a carpet cleaner, plumber, window cleaner, pest control company, and a landscaper (just to name a few). That amount of information is a lot to keep track of, especially when factoring in follow-up service schedules.  It is your job as a business owner to prevent your customers from forgetting about you. Make a point of reaching out to your customers every three months, six months - whatever time frame works best for your industry. Just make sure that you are contacting them early enough that you remind them of your service before they would think to look for it on their own. That way, you can eliminate the possibility of your customer losing your contact information and booking someone else. Step 3: Ask your customers for REFERRALS Referrals are hands down the  most successful marketing channel at your disposal. The proof is in the pudding: Customers are four times more likely to use a service if they are referred by a friends, and referred customers have a 16% higher lifetime value than non-referred customers. This is especially true if you do commercial work: 84% of B2B decision makers start the buying process with a referral. There are  three steps to harnessing the power of referrals: Earn it:  Your quest for referrals begins far before you ever start re-marketing to your customers; it begins with your quality of service. Make sure you leave your customers satisfied and thank them for their business, so that they feel appreciated.. Ask for it:  This tends to be the hardest step for many business owners. Some may be embarrassed or afraid to ask. Others may think they don’t have the time or that their customers should just be willing to give referrals without needing to be asked. Whatever your thought process may be, there is no reason NOT to tap into this goldmine of new business.   Reward it:  If you want your business to be at the top of your customers’ minds, you need to give them a reason to think and speak of you often. This can be as simple as expressing your gratitude, or it can be more tangible, like offering your customer a discount or a gift card. When all's said and done, your best bet for creating lasting relationships with your customers is making sure they know that you value their business. As simple as these three steps are, your customers will appreciate feeling like they are valued member of your business community, and in turn, will be happy to help you spread the word and help you grow your business!

Matt B., Marketing Coordinator

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Technology Or Die: How Service Businesses Must Evolve

December 9, 2015 • In the Digital Age, no industry is safe from the toppling effect of technology. From Uber overturning taxi companies to Airbnb eclipsing the hotel industry, a wide array of businesses have been transformed through technological advances. From all of this progress, one thing remains perfectly clear: no industry is safe from technological disruption, including the home services industry. As the future approaches, service business owners can either choose to adopt technology and ride the success wave, or fight against technology with previously prevailing strategies and get completely crushed by the inevitable technological disruption that is sure to take place. Failure to satisfy the needs of tech-savvy modern consumers runs the risk of being left in the dust. Advantages of Adopting Technology At this point, you might be thinking "Ok, I get it, but how can I be absolutely sure that technology will help and not hurt my business?" This is a perfectly common concern shared by many, so it is important to break the answer down into main points. The primary role of technology for your business is increased efficiency. I can see how this result doesn’t sound particularly exciting on the surface, but trust me when I tell you that technology will help your business run more quickly and smoothly. Increased efficiency will save you hours upon hours of time, which in turn will save you a lot of money. Technology will also help you identify bottlenecks in your business, leading you to discover opportunities to improve processes and save even more time to make even more money. Even if you are confident that your current methods still work, continuing to operate the same way will eventually take its toll on your business as competitors adopt newer, more efficient technologies. You may be wondering to yourself why technology is necessary when your business is functioning just fine, but the reality is that the world is changing faster than ever. Although the service industry is only slowly catching up, it is wise to be proactive and protect your business from extinction before it’s too late. As technology drives society forward, you need to reach your customers where they are; which is online and on mobile devices. Establishing a digital presence is essential to meeting the needs of the modern market. Exploring the New Frontier of Mobile Applications How important is it for businesses to have a strong digital presence, really? The truth is that it is essential to connect to customers, even if you do not sell directly online. Beyond simply having a website and social media profiles, it is also becoming more and more vital to embrace mobile technology.  Digital Trends reports that, on average, Americans spend 4.7 hours on their mobile devices every day. Of that time, 85% of it is spent using mobile apps, according to TechCrunch. This means that businesses without apps lose out on reaching consumers where they spend a significant amount of their time.   For small business owners, the idea of building a mobile app can seem daunting. According to eMarketer, 78% of small business owners said their business did not have an app, although 71% responded that they felt having one would benefit their business. Developing an app from the ground up is discouraging because it requires a significant amount of engineering power. Unless your small business can afford to hire a team of engineers, you may feel inequipped to enter the world of apps. Fortunately, tapping into mobile app technology is more accessible than ever because of all resources available to assist you in overcoming this barrier. Fighting the Fear of Technology Fear of technology can be paralyzing, and it prevents many businesses owners from reaching their full potential. Skepticism of technology itself plagues service business owners, as they are overcome with concerns of the supposed dangers of digital tools. Many simply do not see how advantageous technology can be because they turn a blind eye to its benefits and get overtaken by sensationalized fear of breaches in data security. Just as debilitating as the fear of technology is the fear of actually learning how to operate a new device. Teaching oneself to use technology can be overwhelming, especially for older adults.  Pew Research has found that that 77% of senior citizens would need assistance if attempting to delve into a new type of technology. Humans are habitual creatures, and it can take up to 66 days,  this study reports, to develop a new habit. Putting in the time to become proficient is challenging when you do not feel comfortable, but luckily you do not have to go it alone: there are already tools out there to help you boost your tech-savviness.  Taking Advantage of the Available Tools To ease the strain of learning how to operate unfamiliar devices, there are plenty of resources available to guide you along the way. Take advantage of all of these tools to make your educational experience easier: User-Friendly Design Since most technology companies realize that adopting technology is a problem, it is now a common practice to design with ease of use in mind. Overcoming the fear of learning new technologies is as simple as diving in and exploring for yourself. You may find that the learning curve is not as high as it seems once you take charge. Customer Support Customer service representatives are almost always available to answer your technical questions. Many tech companies offer live chat with their customer support team so that your issues are solved quickly and seamlessly. Search for a chat bubble, which will often be featured in the bottom right-hand corner of screen, to see if help is available. FAQ Pages When you have a question about technology, there is a good chance that you’re not alone. Someone else has probably encountered the same thing, which means that there is also a good chance that an answer to your question is already featured on an FAQ page. Check out these helpful guides to commonly-asked questions each time you face a challenge. Knowledge Bases Beyond static FAQ pages, there are also even more in-depth, interactive databases of information. Knowledge bases are dynamic resources that often possess artificial intelligence to offer extensive support whenever you need help. Blog Content Blogs have exploded in popularity in recent years, which means that anything you can think of, there are probably a whole bunch of blog posts about it. Search the web to find content created around any topic you are interested in learning more about, and it is almost guaranteed to be waiting for you. Tutorials and Video Content For visual learners, video tutorials are an excellent way to discover how to get the most out of technology. Along with the helpful tutorial videos, there are a wealth of videos with the purpose of teaching you how to do anything and everything imaginable.     is a wonderful resource to find videos to help you in all of your pursuits. With all of these resources available at your fingertips, learning to use technology can be a breeze. Since the opportunities of technology are limitless, you have everything to gain and your business to lose. Service business owners are making a mistake unless they embrace the digital tools at their disposal. As the service industry catches up with digital times, small business owners that resist innovation will watch their business become obsolete. In conclusion, it is important to realize that you can always take baby steps along your road to technology adoption. If you look at the big picture from the beginning, you will likely be completely overwhelmed. Yet if you simply break your business down into small sections and optimize for each, you will soon see just how much your business can benefit from digital tools. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your business. The most important thing you can do is to try.

Matt B., Marketing Coordinator

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