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Housecall Pro blog

Everything you need to succeed as a Home Services company in a digital world.


3 Ways to Boost Your Professional Network

April 13, 2018 • Many of us fear the thought of "networking.” The whole idea of chatting up people we don't know is awkward and time-consuming. And for the most part, we might get a great collection of business cards, but the whole process is random; we end up connected with people who don't truly understand what we need to be more successful in our business. A better way to create mutually beneficial business relationships that can help you grow your business is to focus on creating a pro-to-pro network that actually puts you in touch with like-minded professionals who understand your challenges and can support your efforts. Customers are always a great source for referrals, but when another trusted vendor recommends you to one of their clients, they immediately validate you and create an opportunity for you to get work without having to do any marketing. People in the field services industry are constantly asked if they know someone who can perform this or that. If they know you do great work and are trustworthy, they can recommend you and deliver a customer primed to do business. It also gives them a new way to deliver value to their own customers. Even though many of us spend our days focused on solving customer problems and organizational issues, the real work we do is all based on relationships. If we can demonstrate competence, integrity, and a willingness to truly connect with the people we work with, it creates positive results in the form of goodwill, loyalty, and support. When we spend time developing relationships with other professionals in our field, we have a real-time sounding board and support system that can help us figure things out when we're stuck, connect us with customers through word of mouth, and give us perspective about how we run our business. Relationships are critical to everything we do, and when we are good at relationships, we can use them effectively in building our network. It sounds great; a bunch of people who understand the trials of building and running a successful business who you can bounce ideas off, and who sends potential customers your way. In turn, you do the same for them, and it's like you all have a built-in growth tool. The reality is that you have to work at it to create and sustain a successful pro-to-pro network. Here are three things you can do right now to get started: Create a structure that works for colleagues and customers Imagine this scenario: a homeowner wakes up to discover his toilet has flooded the bathroom floor overnight. His first call is to a plumber; it ends up being a quick fix. To do it, however, the plumber needs to cut into the drywall to access the pipe. Rather than wait for the customer to freak out when he sees a hole in the wall, the plumber preps him by saying, "I'm going to need to cut a 2'x2' chunk out of the wall, but I work with a very competent drywall installer who can fix it easily, and because he and I work together, I can get him here today and he'll give you 20% of his regular price."  That plumber just solved two customer problems and two business are going to get paid that day. Think of the opportunities you'll have to get your name in front of customers who are in need of your service, and the recurring potential for being put in touch with those people because you're also doing the work to get colleagues gigs as well. The impact of your network gives you opportunities that others won't have because you are being delivered directly to a paying customer by a fellow professional who vouches for your work. The potential monetary rewards are great, especially because your investment in building these relationships is relatively small. While you still need to maintain your regular marketing efforts, you should recognize that when other professionals are sending you business, it can almost be considered like incremental revenue on top of what you're already earning through regular customer acquisition efforts. Use a smart strategy for creating the right network To put yourself in the best possible situation, you have to first know "the guy" who gets the business. You actually have to know a lot of guys who get business, and you yourself need to be "a guy" who can get business for others. Remember that being successful is mostly about preparing to be successful, and a few helpful tips: Choose wisely An important piece of this is to pick the right people to be in your network. Avoid competitors. They can still be your friends, and while many are certainly good people, they aren't going to send any business your way. Look for complementary businesses and get to know those owners. If you're an HVAC guy, maybe you want to connect with plumbers or air duct services. Find ways to make the relationship win-win for each other, and for your customers. Network to build a network Reach out to people by every means necessary. You can do this through social media (retweet and like the things your colleagues post - it may sound like high school all over again, but it works), online discussion forums (get in there and ask if people want to partner), and local clubs (your Chamber of Commerce most likely hosts mixers and open houses frequently, which you should make a habit of attending) are all opportunities to connect with people you may want to include in your network. Get out there If anyone is going to recommend you, they have to know and trust you. In addition to online efforts, there are all kinds of things you can do to get in front of potential supporters. Go door-to-door among your work neighbors or host an open house at your office; invite people to come in for some free food and to see your work. Stop in on businesses and make phone calls. It may not sound like fun, but remember that in addition to building your own network, you're also helping others build theirs. Pay it forward...and backward Remember that a network is kind of kind of like a loop, and you have to keep feeding it in order for it to feed you. So with your own network, you need to be providing value as much as you're getting value. It's important that you're giving leads to your colleagues and helping them build their own businesses. There are a few key ways to do that: Preferred pricing Give the people in your network the ability to offer discounts for your services on your behalf. This is will be a huge value to the customer, which will then be an incentive to work with you. It also makes your colleagues look good because they delivered a deal to their customer. The customer, of course, loves it because they get a sweet deal and didn't have to waste any time looking for a vendor. Say thanks If you develop relationships with these other businesses and they drive business your way, make sure you show your appreciation. Showing up at their place of business with a gift basket or a gift card for a nice restaurant is a nice way to demonstrate that you value what they've done for you. These aren't kickbacks and don't present a conflict of interest; they're just a friendly gesture that goes a long way towards cementing a successful and long-term relationship. Automate it It's one thing to just say, "Yeah, I know a guy who can do this job." It's of far more value, however, if you can connect the customer and vendor with actual details about a potential job. It prepares both parties and offers context to prepare the customer and your colleague for engaging. Housecall Pro offers a feature called Send a Job that enables a vendor to connect his colleagues and customers through his contacts. A simple text is delivered with job details and contact information. This puts the business into the hands of the people who need help and those who can provide a solution. It's also a great way to track how you've recommended, and the jobs you've received from others As the song says, we all get by with a little help from our friends. If you dedicate time to building a pro-to-pro network and foster good relationships within that network, you will develop opportunities to generate new customers and in turn, become a resource for other professionals. The network effect will provide customers with access to preferred vendors and will give you a new, robust channel for new business.

Pat F

Board Game Networking

How Driving Reviews Elevates Your SEO

April 12, 2018 • It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently. - Warren Buffett This quote from the great investor Warren Buffett may be the single best piece of business advice you can receive. To a man with 50+ years of experience looking at some of the planet's best-run businesses, it's notable that he chose reputation as the thing that makes the biggest impact on a business' success or failure. Not to take away from your expertise as a craftsman or superior manager, both things that are critical to business success, but perhaps the best thing you can do is use the caretaking of company's reputation as your guiding principle towards business success. Reputation, however, can be complex, and it requires you to be smart about how you build and promote it. It makes up pretty much how you do everything: the work you deliver, the way you deliver it, the timeliness with which you deliver it, the fairness of your pricing, your reliability, the ease of working with you, and your overall willingness to do what's right for your customers. Put all those things together and they make up your reputation. And it's kind of a fragile thing; you could have competitive prices and deliver excellent work while being the nicest guy on the planet, but if you flake on your appointments, your reputation will take a hit. However, once gained, a positive reputation can be your single biggest marketing tool. Reputation today is made or broken online. Consider that  93% of people make their buying decision based on online reviews. That's excellent news if everyone loves you. If you have a lousy reputation, however, you're going to need to go into full-court press mode and start doing major damage control. In today's hyper-connected, social media-charged world, there are a lot of ways for your reputation to be promoted (either good or bad) so it's essential that service professionals monitor online reviews, interact with reviewers, and manage comments and feedback in order to monitor damage control and learn how to improve. Deliver for customers and they will deliver for you In the field service business, most customers are ready to buy once they begin looking. Either there's a problem that needs fixing quickly, or they are focused on a project they're eager to get started; either way, field service customers generally know how to research and find the vendor that will serve them best. Since you have an audience that's prepared to make a buying decision, you make your odds of getting the business a whole lot better if you show up front and center in online reviews as the provider with the best reputation. The impact of online reviews is growing rapidly. A  survey by BrightLocal found that 88% of all consumers trust online reviews more than referrals from friends and family members. This is a remarkable statistic, especially because the reviews are coming from total strangers. Yet, the impact is huge, especially in light of the fact that only about 10% of the entire U.S. population does not regularly read online reviews when picking the businesses they work with. Consumers regularly look to online reviews to guide them towards trusted vendors. In fact,  58% of consumers look at online reviews at least weekly in pursuit of building up a solid list of potential field service providers who will be able to serve their needs. To earn the attention of those consumers, however, requires that you have solid ratings and reviews from actual customers. A survey indicates that a business must have a rating of at least  3.3 stars before a consumer will consider engaging with them. Even if you already have great reviews already, every business has to work continuously to be considered superior and to create customers who are willing to share their positive opinions about you. It's also important because reviews are changing consumer behavior in how they conduct reconnaissance into learning about vendors. In fact, a recent  survey notes that people are increasingly less likely (a drop of 17% from 2016 to 2017) to visit the website of a business after reading positive reviews. This means that once they find the validation they need, they are ready to move forward with you. Because consumers are able to decide quickly and based on this kind of available information, helping them book an appointment directly from review sites will increase your likelihood of acquiring more new business.  Reviews and SEO The actual reviews you receive can be a great boost to your company's reputation and a channel to get new business. But they also help boost your findability by increasing your Google search engine rank. Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical for you to stand out from your competition and connect your message with potential customers. Almost  50% of consumers who do a local search of potential providers connect with a vendor that very day, so being prominently displayed in search results is key if you want to get noticed. The challenge is that search engines are indexing billions of web pages, and one of the best ways for you to rise to the top of search results is to have your name mentioned on other people's websites. The key is to encourage customers to provide reviews, and then ensure you are using them as an effective marketing tool. Reviews on your website and on social review sites like Yelp, Facebook, CitySearch, and others will pack search engines with favorable content about you which positions your business to outrank competitors in SEO results. We also know that sites that consistently get positive reviews get more links to other websites, and the more "link love" you get, the greater prominence you get in Google.  According to ReputationLoop, using your positive reviews in social media profiles and updates is a major factor in increasing where you rank in search results. In fact, positive reviews could be the difference between being found and being buried. Consider this: Five Star Customer reviews stand out in social media and beg to be read. Customer reviews give you content that promotes your business without the hard sell. Positive customer reviews remind your followers how great your business is. A customer review post is a great way for followers to share your business with people they think could benefit from what you sell. More than  90% of consumers indicate that product and service reviews impact how they choose vendors. Building a consistent five-star rating and getting positive reviews will affix in the minds of customers that you are a vendor of choice. Get more reviews and better ones Let's start with a little analysis and identify those things that give top rankers their positive results. Step 1: Search on reviews for your particular field. For example, try "plumber reviews" in the search bar: Step 2: Review the results and identify those review sites that are delivering the highest rankings. From these results, we can see how valuable it is to get top ratings from Yelp, HomeAdvisor, and CustomerLobby and where you should invest your time building your rankings: Step 3: Understand the search ecosystem Most review sites share their reviews with other websites which makes your original reviews more valuable than if they just remained on one website. This becomes an exponential impact with more customers seeing reviews and Google giving you multiple opportunities to be seen. Take a look at this graphic of what the search ecosystem looks like and you'll see how valuable it is: Step 4: Learn how the review sites work Now you should spend time understanding how the major review sites work so you know how to coach customers. It's also helpful so you can tailor your own marketing messages and outreach to fit with what these review sites are looking for.  Here are review guidelines for some of these sites so you can understand how to stand out when customers are using them: Yelp CitySearch YellowPages Facebook Step 5: Start getting reviews Now it's time to start getting reviews. Thankfully there are a number of proven ways to get reviews and make them stand out for your business. They include: Add review-generating links on your email marketing: With your email marketing efforts you already have a captive audience, so use that to advantage to drive people to these review sites and encourage them to write positive reviews on your behalf. Make it simple with instructions that walk them through the steps to add their comments. It might be as simple as something like this: Spread the love! We love serving you and hope you feel the same about us. If you do, we would appreciate your positive comments on Yelp. It's super easy, and you can follow these steps: Find your business on Yelp and you can just click Write a Review to find your review page. https://www.yelp.com/writeareview/biz/{your business ID} Links to review sites on social media: Here again, your social channels like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others can be used as an effective tool for routing an engaged audience directly to review opportunities. Something simple will do the trick, and you can have some fun with this too. Maybe something like: Love working with ABC Flooring? Well, we love u 2! We'd appreciate your positive reviews on Facebook [or any other site] so we can serve other great customers. Just go to https://www.facebook.com/{your business page}/reviews/ #weloveourcustomers #spreadthelove #moreflooringmorefun Train your team: Make sure that, without being annoying, that your office staff and field employees remind customers about opportunities to provide reviews. Automate the message: Use review automation platforms that will make it easier than ever to generate reviews without lifting a finger. NiceJob, Podium, and others provide an efficient, automated way to get and submit reviews. How to manage your reputation Part of this process is exposing yourself and your business. In some respects, there's some risk in that; I mean, you might actually get some bad reviews. That's okay, but you need to manage that and minimize the impact. At the same time, remember that any time someone provides a review, it's done as a favor to you, so make sure you offer your thanks and gratitude. If you're using an automated system for review generation then you'll get alerts delivered directly to you about new reviews. This will allow you to be responsive and keep your pulse on what people are saying about you. If you aren't using any of these automated systems, you should set up a monitoring system like Google Alerts, or use the built-in alerts in Facebook, Yelp or other sites so they can send you an email or text when a review has been posted. The reviews you get will all blend into your overall reputation. Positive reviews will help you build a positive reputation which could ultimately become your most effective marketing tool. But they are also a chance to learn what you're doing right and what customers appreciate. Double-down on those things, make investments to continue doing them and ensure they are baked into how you market your business. Positive reviews will also give you a chance to create loyalty programs and reward employees who are called out in reviews for excellent work. Now, even the best businesses get negative reviews. Starbucks has built a multi-billion dollar business, but there are still people who think their coffee tastes like aquarium water. That said, ignoring negative reviews or becoming defensive about them is a bad strategy. Here again, use these as a way to learn more; bad reviews are an opportunity to find out what you're not doing well and rectify any issues you may have. In some cases, you may discover that employees aren't conducting themselves according to the expectations of the business. Better to learn that from one negative review and fix it than to let it linger. Once you know what customers think, you can move forward with focusing on what to do right. As you can see, reviews can become a major part of your marketing strategy, but the whole process requires some discipline and management. You don't want it to be overwhelming, so automate as much of it as you can. Find ways to leverage reviews for things like online booking opportunities and internal training. Remember that your company is a dynamic thing; you're always building it, and with the feedback of customers, you can grow it in the direction you want and get it to achieve the kind of reputation that truly reflects the uniqueness of your business.

Pat F

Building Legos

Which Marketing Tactics Drive Results?

April 10, 2018 • As a small service business, it’s likely that you (intentionally) overlook one of the most important aspects of growing your business. Marketing. When you’re in the field 12+ hours per day, the last thing you’re likely to do is come home and put together a solid marketing plan. It’s also likely that you’ve been approached almost daily by marketing gurus with unique systems full of promises and proven results. How do you weed through the scams to find marketing that actually works, is affordable and represents your business the right way at the right stage of the game? The truth is, everything works. Every type of marketing out there, no matter how ludicrous, will generate results. The more money you dump into it, the better short-term results you see. That’s the basis of many marketing schemes… show a quick return for a high investment to prove the system works. You’ll initially see high Return On Investment (ROI) numbers and feel like things are working great. (Hint: when you first start marketing, almost anything will generate high ROI numbers.) Consider a post-card campaign where the card says “Your mother would be ashamed of you! Clean those disgusting carpets today!” I suspect most of you wouldn’t embrace a marketing campaign that insults your customers, but there’s no question that a campaign like this would get results. There’s some small percentage of the customer base that will react and book a job based on just about any type of message you send out. What’s dangerous about that, is businesses often see these quick responses/results without considering the customers that they’re permanently alienating with their message. If you need immediate results, people are more likely to respond to bold aggressive messages. If you want better long-term results, you’ll see far better returns when you use a respectful and more professional message. You’ll notice that those bold aggressive campaigns will gradually produce lower and lower ROI. Most marketing companies will focus on the lifetime ROI of an aggressive campaign, knowing that the initial good results will help keep the average high even after the campaign stops producing decent results. You should evaluate aggressive campaigns individually and drop them when they stop producing. As a small start-up company with no customers yet, you’ll likely need to be more aggressive with your marketing message to get those small pockets of people to respond. You may need to use door-hangers, knock on doors, hand out business cards, and push specials to get your foot in the door. You might find that some of the click-bait style email campaigns get a few people to call, or some really bold aggressive Facebook ads. You’re essentially targeting whoever you can get in the door right now at the expense of a larger number of people you could get later. The goal right now is to keep your head above water, impress every customer you can get, generate some 5-star reviews, start building a referral network and make a good enough impression on people that they’ll give you repeat business. As you grow to the point where your business has steady work, you’ll find that referrals and word-of-mouth take care of a lot of your advertising for you. This is when you should back off the aggressive messages and focus on building rapport with a larger segment of your customer base. Focus less on discounts and pricing and focus more on quality. Tailor your message not necessarily for getting immediate results, but on creating a solid professional image in your community.  Be respectful of your customers and their time. Don’t knock on their door at 7:00 am, don’t cold call them during dinner. Don’t rely on click-bait, tricks or asterisks and fine print. Craft a professional message meant to work over time… you’re no longer running an ad campaign to get jobs, but a public relations campaign to get advocates for your brand. Lastly, ask every single customer where they heard about you, and track the results. For short-term aggressive campaigns, track the ROI of each campaign individually. For long-term brand-building campaigns, track the lifetime ROI of the campaign. If you're doing it right, the long-term respectful campaigns will gradually outpace the short-term pushy aggressive campaigns, and that's where you'll generate the best growth year-over-year.

Sam Robinson, Sales Development Representative

Marketing Guru

Attracting Great Employees to Your Company

March 26, 2018 • OK, things seem to be going pretty well. You've got a great team, customers are happy, equipment is in excellent shape, and there's more business than you can handle. But what happens when Larry or Linda gives their two-week notice or simply doesn't show up? When employees leave, it can throw your entire business into chaos and set back all the great things you've accomplished while you scramble to find, train, and deploy a quality employee back into the field. So, how do you avoid the hassle and pain of losing a quality employee? The answer would be to keep them happy in their jobs in the first place so they don't think about leaving. Employee retention is more than just a management hassle. Your employees do far more than just deliver services. They are the face of your company and the most valuable assets you have. With your technicians in the field taking care of customers, they are not just engaging in revenue-generating activity, but also helping cement a brand into the minds of your customers so you get repeat business. When you've built a team of qualified people, you can work on building your business and doing the things necessary to grow. Easier said than done, especially in a strong labor market with high demand for many field services types of jobs. The market for field services is expected to grow at a rate of almost  17% year over year until 2022, and job prospects are bright. Just the need for new HVAC technicians, for example, will  increase 14% between 2014 and 2024, and overall, in just the next three years, an overwhelming  60% of workers in the home energy field will need to be replaced. This is all excellent news for individual workers, but as an employer, you'll have to come to terms that the people on your staff have a lot of options. You can no longer hope to keep workers for decades; we are now operating in a highly competitive environment and expectations among employees are high. The employers who meet and beat those expectations are the ones who will ultimately win by keeping their staff and ensuring they are happy. Creating a desirable work environment so workers stick around is not done just through a series of items you can check off your list. Sure, they want to be paid well and benefit from perks, but there are also cultural dynamics at work that give people a reason to stay. Let's look at some things you can do to be a desirable employer and keep your employees from leaving: Make it their company Your name may be on the trucks and you pay the bills, but you have to create an environment where everyone feels like they are owners. With ownership comes a sense of responsibility; just like how you might drive a rental car differently from your own car, you treat the things you are invested in with greater care. An employee who feels like just a number may show up on time and do the job, but there's a good chance they will do the bare minimum. However, if they feel like they are valued and they actually contribute to the company's success, then they are going to do things that aren't in their job description because they care about the company being successful. They see that they are part of the brand and want to take the extra step to make it shine. It is critical that you spend a significant part of your attention implementing ways to ensure employees feel tied to the place they work. At the end of the day, having people who feel responsible for the success of the business are worth a fortune, but you have to create an environment that fosters this kind of mindset. Give employees a financial stake One significant way to extend the idea of ownership is with financial incentives and actually giving employees ownership in the company, usually through something called an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). This generally requires some re-structuring of your company as a legal entity and you will need to consult with an attorney to do it correctly. But it entails rewarding employees for sticking around by granting them shares in the company that vest over a certain time period. Those shares become more valuable if the company is successful; a stake in a company valued at $3 million is better than one valued at $500,000, and naturally, people will work towards creating bigger and better upside. This requires you to give up some equity in your company, but you still retain decision-making control and there are  tax incentives that can help your bottom line. Employees also have to stay with the company to get the full financial benefit of their equity which creates one of the best retention incentives. Offer competitive benefits Employees want to know that you value them, and benefits is one of the most effective ways you can demonstrate that. When you offer health benefits, life insurance discounts, retirement planning, or other perks that relate to their life events, it communicates to them that you are investing in them. Especially in today's environment where health insurance, especially, is expensive and complex, people will go to great lengths to stay at a place that offers it. In fact, a survey found that  6 out of 10 employees would rather spend a night in prison than lose health insurance. So, for an employer who provides this, the sense of loyalty among employees is huge. Additionally, benefits like flextime or getting a day off on your birthday go a long way towards reminding employees that they are valued and don't cost you much. Provide small perks that carry big value Would you want to work in an environment where people just show up, do their jobs, collect a paycheck, and leave? That would get old real fast. Instead, use small perks to make people happy and feel tied to the business and their co-workers. This may sound like small potatoes, but the impact is huge. I'm talking about picking up bagels or donuts on the way in to work and providing them in the break room every now and then. Monthly birthday celebrations, holiday parties, or team-building activities where people can take their brain out of work mode and just enjoy their co-workers creates a feeling of belonging. People are inclined to want to maintain that and stick around at a place that knows how to have fun. And these types of activities don't have to cost a lot, but they are a reminder to employees that they've got a pretty good gig. For those who might think about leaving, they will have to consider if it's possible to replicate that kind of feeling in a new job. Be a great communicator No one appreciates being left in the dark, but most employers are lousy communicators. This is a huge problem because workers don't know what is expected of them and miscommunication can create big problems down the road. It also prevents employees from feeling like they can have a real relationship with you and that they aren't truly a part of the company. This may be one of the easiest things for you to fix because it costs so little. It will take dedication on your part, but you will find that staying connected with employees gives them a sense of being integral to what is happening, which makes them feel tied to the business. So, make sure that you have company meetings every quarter or a few times each year. Tell employees about the status of the company and what your expectations are. But also follow up with 1:1 texts and emails...ask employees questions...solicit their advice. Every time you do these things, you'll learn more about the people you employ and it will give you insight into your customers and market as well. Business leaders have a tendency to focus outside what’s going on in their own company. They seek growth and look to market forces and competitors as ways to formulate their strategies. But if they don’t also take care of what’s happening at the home office and ensure their employees are happy, they may lose employees who seek better working conditions elsewhere. While this is an inevitable aspect of every business, when it happens too often it can kill all the growth efforts you’ve spent so much time building. Remember, employees are people, and people like being treated well. When you invest in them, they are far more inclined to invest their own time right back into the company. Employees will stick around when they feel valued and that they can enjoy the time they spend at work. A happy workforce will save you money, avoid headaches, and it will actually even make your own work life a lot more enjoyable too.

Pat F

Attract Employees Magnet

Strategies to Create an Exceptional Team in Your Field Service Business

March 26, 2018 • Being an effective business manager means you have to develop and use a wide range of skills. You clearly have to know your business and your people, but you also have to manage your time, the time of your employees, understand when to say "no" and when to say "yes," how to change course when needed, and about a million other things that can come up when you least expect them. It's not easy, but when done right, you'll develop an environment with happy employees, raving customers, and you'll see solid business growth. In a field service business, there are particular challenges around hiring and managing employees. For one thing, the field service environment is distributed and requires employees to work independently most of the time. They act as agents and ambassadors of your business, and unless they have the right training and incentives, their inability to perform to your expectations could lead to negative results for your business. There are some key management strategies that will help you create a high-performance staff and one that is not only loyal to you but delivers maximum effort to help your brand awareness and perception. It requires a combination of communication, tactical, and organizational skills, as well as the ability to trust your gut and operate with some flexibility. That gut piece is really important; while some things can be ticked off your checklist, most things require you to work on them to make sure they are baked into the fabric of your company. Every time one of your trucks leaves the yard, or one of your technicians visits a customer, they represent a part of your business, and what they do can have a major impact on how customers feel about you. Showing up on time, being courteous, and adhering to your company policies and guidelines will make them look good, and by extension, customers will look upon your whole company favorably. If they show up late or appear unprepared, you can bet that you'll lose out on repeat business and might take a hit through word of mouth talk among potential customers. Because your employees are probably the most important components of your brand, you need to prepare them to be successful. It starts with onboarding and extensive preparation and never stops; continuous education and training are key to maintaining a workforce that knows what's expected of them. No business has the perfect team. People are human and bring to the job their own style and behaviors. Your job is to bring all those people together and create a professional, awesome team that is going to always improve. Great employees aren't always great when you hire them, but you can make them great. According to a recent study, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to  202%. It clearly makes sense to create an environment where employees pay attention to what's going on and want to perform well for you. Your job as a leader is to get the best out of them. Here is a list of things you need to build into your business management practices in order to create highly engaged employees who are prepared to make your business thrive: Hire for skills, train for perfection Your employees need to be technically competent; there's no question about that. During the hiring process, find ways to see them in action, and watch how they demonstrate their skills. Now, they may not have everything in order to be 100% capable of handling everything on Day 1, so you also need to assess their coachability. Can they learn new things, are they prepared to try things they may not be totally comfortable with? These people don't have to be masters at their craft right now, so you need to invest in training to help them. Maybe you have a mentoring program where more experienced workers train the younger ones. Or perhaps you find courses they can attend. Showing that you're investing in them will keep them motivated to do a good job for you. According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), companies that offer comprehensive training programs have  218% higher income per employee than companies without formalized training. But it doesn’t stop there. When you build a culture where training and ongoing education is valued, employees won’t get complacent. If you have a team that provides the most cutting-edge services and functionality to customers, it will be noticed and appreciated through repeat business. Set people up for success The fact is, the world is made up of different types of people, and your workforce will be no different. As a business leader, however, your challenge is to fit people into roles where they feel comfortable but can also do their best work. Some people are natural salesmen; they would be a natural fit to bid jobs and be in roles that require a lot of customer interaction. Others like grinding away at tasks to see them through to completion. Those people would be a good fit for the key work your business is responsible for. Assigning employees in roles where they can shine shows that you respect them. It also indicates that you're actually paying attention and rewarding them for their value. Emphasize the importance of relationships All the talent in the world won't do much for you if someone is rude or arrogant. You need employees who are comfortable with customers and who have the ability to connect with people. They don't need to be back-slapping best buddies, but they need to be polite, respectful, and earnest in their approach. It can be surprising how some have had very little training in this, but that's okay. It's your job to create an environment where they are given the instruction and help so when they go out on their own, they can deal effectively with people. It's not fair to send an employee out without an understanding of how to approach people, deal with unhappy customers, and deal with tough situations on the spot. Employees will take a page out of your book, so don’t forget to model what you want them to do. Be respectful but be firm, and demonstrate to employees that building relationships can help create and sustain business for the long term. Give them the tools they need Even a top-notch team can't do their best work without the necessary tools. That may mean, well, actually tools like wrenches and clamps, but it also means other things, some of which are intangible. And those tools need to be in good shape; that's a cost to you to keep saws sharpened and machines calibrated. Tools that aren't taken care of will cause more work for the employee; it could even cause a job to take longer which could cost you in terms of additional staffing hours you need to pay and jobs that don't come in on deadline. Think through every step of every job an employee might perform, and then ensure you are providing the corresponding stuff that will help them. That includes things like rags and breathing filters and other things that may not be necessary just for the job, but make the experience easier for the employee. Being in the field, your employees will need a smartphone and access to whatever apps and other tools you use that will keep them updated and informed. Use incentives to reward A study of employee loyalty indicates that  77% of employees would work harder if they were recognized by their manager. That shouldn't be news to anyone, but using incentives and making the effort to appreciate employees is too easily forgotten and neglected by employers. Think about using incentives in two ways: Gifts: Everybody likes a gift. For a job well done, and for an employee who's been working especially hard and has been away from his or her family doing work, maybe you spring for them to take their spouse to a nice dinner. Or great tickets to a local sporting event. There are a million ways to gift someone as a reminder that you appreciate them and their work. Think about the individual and what would surprise them and make them feel recognized. The monetary piece will be way worth it in the long run. Perks: It may seem like small potatoes, but things like free food and great coffee in the break room, company parties on holidays, and the unexpected free lunch go a long way in creating happy employees. Invest in good benefits for your employees, too - doing so shows that you are committed to them. A recent survey shows that the top  three most important benefits in the eyes of employees are: health insurance, vacation, and performance bonuses. Culture: Employees spend a lot of time at work, so it behooves you to make work a place they like and appreciate. But creating a positive team culture requires more than just high-fiving your employees. You should create expectations about how people treat one another and model that for them. Also, it would not be the worst thing to abide by the great maxim, "Take your business seriously, but don't take yourself seriously." Think about that with your company culture and consider how you present yourself and demonstrate your culture in the ways you communicate and interact with the team. It has to start from their first engagement with the company and continue throughout every step of them being part of the team. Every business must decide what they want to be and how they want to treat employees. The Golden State Warriors and the New England Patriots don't win championships solely because they execute on the court or field. They like what they do, they look out for their teammates, and they have leaders who believe in them. As a manager, you have not only created a great business but now you can create a business that is a model for the rest of your industry. Once you build and lead an exceptional team, you will see happier customers, more repeat business, and growth in revenue

Pat F

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Why People Buy Stuff

March 13, 2018 • When it comes to acquiring more business there are a number of theories on the best way to go about doing so. Where should you be marketing, and how? Should you focus on gaining new customers or retaining your current customers? How much should you be spending? All of these questions are important to determining the best process to grow your business. However, the first step to answering all of them is understanding how your customers think. Once you can understand what drives the buyer's decision-making process you’ll be able to reach them easier and know how to approach your potential customers in a way that both provides a valuable service while beginning a rewarding, long-term relationship. The professionals who often land jobs more frequently follow  Dr. Robert Cialdini's "Six Principles of Persuasion" to entice and engage with both new and returning customers. Following these principles can help anyone to secure a loyal customer base while growing their business at the same time. 6 principles to follow These principles can be viewed through two lenses, one that examines why the customer decides to buy, and one that examines how the customer looks at their potential service professional. To attract a potential new client, every business must understand what motivates that person to engage with them in the first place. Reciprocity Offering a gift or token as the relationship gets started often triggers a reciprocal action from the potential customer. Costco excels at this by providing free food samples throughout their warehouses. For most, when someone offers something for free, the customer feels an obligation to return the favor and buy something. For a service-based business, you might offer a T-shirt or mouse pad when a new client books their first service. By offering them a small token like this you’re building a loyalty with them, staying top-of-mind to keep them coming back. Likeability  Cialdini's theory suggests that people engage better with someone when they already know they like them. This tends to be those that are similar to them in some way, those who happily cooperate with them, and those who are complimentary of them. Sharing a relatable story can help open new opportunities. You’ll be able to encourage potential clients to engage on social media with your followers, adding them to an established community of people with similar tastes and preferences. Amazon exemplifies this principle with their upsell strategy. When a customer clicks on an item that they’re interested, Amazon recommends additional items that were bought by "customers who bought this item." This recommendation further encourages the potential customer to purchase additional products based solely on the similar buying habits of a stranger. As a home service business, some ways to make your customers like you are through personal stories, testimonials from your customers, and sharing photos of work you’ve done. Your potential customers will likely relate to your personal story, the customers that you’ve had before, or feel that their home is similar to the homes you’ve worked on. Social Proof Similar to the principle of likeability, social proof creates a connection based on the opinions of others. Social media offers the opportunity to show that potential customers that others already like your service. Whenever a new customer books a job with you, they’re taking a risk. By presenting them with some social proof you’re taking some of that risk away, making them feel more confident that you’ll do a good job. Customer testimonials can bolster a company's likability and credibility - if other customers like this company, your potential customer will probably like them, too. In order to exhibit more social proof you should encourage your customers to give testimonials, write reviews, and share your social content. Commitment and Consistency For many people, veering from an already established course can indicate failure or dissatisfaction. Consequently, many people work even harder to maintain their original choice and affirm their commitment by talking about it openly.   In order to make the sale using the principle of commitment and consistency, you have to lock in a commitment with your customer. A good way to ensure this commitment is by having them book you online or by sending confirmations texts. Scarcity One factor that wields enormous influence on people is the notion of scarcity. A limited supply of anything frequently spurs an increased demand for it. This principle holds true for service providers, too. When you offer a special service or a discount that’s only available during a certain time, your customers feel pressured to take the offer for fear of missing the opportunity. Businesses that offer special deals for limited periods of time are encouraging both old and new clients to sign up fast. Authority The principle of authority says that consumers are more driven to make a purchase if someone of higher authority recommends it. This could be a doctor, a professor, or even just a specialist.  Research shows that potential customers respond best to businesses that clearly demonstrate their authority in their field. Certificates and diplomas declare authority, as do newspaper write-ups and magazine articles. These days, a high ranking on Google's search pages is also an indicator of authority. Remarkably, what people see can be as persuasive as what they hear. Hanging achievement documents within view of the customer waiting spaces display that credibility and ensure comprehension of industry expertise. The potential client receives substantial information before any conversation starts. Understanding why people make purchase decisions gives business owners the information they need to focus on those triggers. When potential customers feel respected and appreciated, they often respond by hiring the contractors they've come to trust. The resulting relationship can result in years of steady and profitable work for any home services contractor.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

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The Trick to Combating Negative Reviews

March 5, 2018 • Building a business can be nerve-wracking for many reasons. Often, it feels like you’re putting yourself out there and building a great business, brand and online reputation, which really takes a lot out of you. So when you receive a bad or negative review, it often feels personal. While great reviews offer an amazing opportunity to grow your presence online, leading to more website visitors, leads and customers, negative reviews can be disastrous if not dealt with properly. As much as 54% of Americans who read online reviews indicate that they pay more attention to extremely negative reviews when trying to make decisions. At some point though, there is going to be someone who is unhappy enough to leave a less than stellar review. It’s not even because you necessarily did a bad job either, they could just be having a bad day and decide to unfortunately take that anger out on you. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Done right, responding to a negative review can turn a bad situation into one that can actually boost your reputation even more. People aren’t looking for perfection, they’re looking for confirmation that you’re a real, genuine and authentic business. Showing your future prospects how you deal with both the positives and negatives of doing business gives them more confidence that you’re the right person for the job. In fact, as much as 30% of people think online reviews are fake if there are no negative reviews. Here’s how to take advantage of the opportunity and respond to negative reviews: 1. Almost always respond. It’s only on very rare occasions that no response is the best response. For the majority of less than perfect reviews submitted online, the default should be to respond. That being said, not every negative review is going to be something you can fix. Sometimes, you could be putting yourself in the line of fire for more negative attention. Determine if engagement is the right course of action. Was it a genuine mistake on your end or the rants of someone angry at life. Or worse yet, the ramblings of trolls? If it was a mistake, it’s usually best to simply own up to it, apologize, and try to remedy the situation, and, if appropriate, perhaps with a discount or some other value added onto your service. If it’s trolls, it’s often best to ignore the situation. (Pro-tip: On Facebook, you can ban trolls from your business page.) 2. Be Concise When providing a response to a negative review, be brief, apologize, and get to the point. Steer the customer towards having a conversation and take it offline briefly. Once resolved, return to the original online conversation and thank them for the chance to fix the issue, and their business. This allows you to deal with what should be a private matter privately, while being publicly recognized for having resolved it.   3. Don’t act impulsively. Negative reviews can often feel personal but responding to reviews when angry or tempers are running high is the worst thing you can do. Take some time to simmer down if needed before tackling that review. The last thing you want to do is to get personal and blast off an angry rant to a negative review, even if the customer did. How you respond matters. You’re not just replying to an individual, but to everyone that might see your response in the future. For many consumers, how you respond to an angry or dissatisfied customer can influence their decision to choose your business too. 4. Don’t wait too long. The sooner you tackle that negative review and respond, the sooner you can turn things around. Having a system to help manage your reviews in one place helps you stay on top of them all. The NiceJob dashboard is perfect for this. It’s best to not put it off. In fact, most consumers expect a reply within the same day. Be quick about responding to negative reviews, it can help to resolve the issue when you’re able to address the situation in a timely manner. To be able to do so, you need to monitor reviews often so that you’re aware of any situations where an unhappy customer has left a negative review. 5. Think ahead. Have a plan on how to deal with negative reviews before they ever make it to Google or Facebook. This way you’re ready to get to work to make things right the minute that review pops up and aren’t left scrambling. It also removes a lot of the emotion from your response, see above. Think about having a script that fits with your brand and style and takes into account how your future prospects will view it. At least have the following components but keep it short and sweet too: An apology for the situation. You might not be in the wrong but this isn’t about assigning blame, it’s about protecting your reputation. Apologise for the situation at hand and having missed the mark with your customer. Include contact information for the customer to reach out to you and offer to make things right. This also has the added benefit of taking the conversation offline. Crisis Management There are times when a negative sentiment can cause others to jump on the bandwagon and a bad situation gets worse. Staying silent can be a bad idea, but every situation is different and can require an intervention. Avoid being confrontational or overly excuse laden and tackle the issue head on. Situations like these are usually best to take the conversation offline, or at least private. 6. Be genuine. Customer feedback is crucial to any business, and since most business revolves around building relationships with people, negative reviews give you a chance to learn, grow and even strengthen your relationship with your customers. They’re often opportunities in disguise. Start by addressing the individual by their name. Be apologetic, address the situation, and offer to take care of the customer’s concerns. To help you start thinking about how to incorporate each of these pieces into your response, here is are two sample scripts to work from:   Thanks [their name] for taking the time to leave a review. I am so sorry to hear that you had a bad experience. My name is [name] and I am the [Owner / Manager]. If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact me at [phone number / email]. Hi there [their name], thanks for taking the time to give us feedback. We’re usually known for our customer service, so I am sorry to hear we missed the mark here. My name is [name] and I am the [Owner / Manager]. If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact me at [phone number / email]. You should not use canned responses for negative or positive reviews. Take the time to personalize each and avoid using a review response template. However, having a guideline is always helpful, and we’ve provided an overview on the method you might use, along with examples for negative review responses. About 78% of consumers say that seeing management respond to online reviews makes them believe that the business cares more about them. Also consider that when trying to resolve a situation, it’s probably better to have management involved as they’re in more of a position to make decisions on the spot when communicating with a customer. The last thing you would want to do is have a long drawn out process when trying to make a dissatisfied customer happy. It was found in one study (Harris Interactive) that when a company replied to negative reviews on social media and online ratings sites, about a third of customers either deleted their original negative review or replaced it with a positive review. Additionally, about a fifth went on to become loyal customers and made another purchase. Keep in mind that less than five percent of dissatisfied customers ever take the time to mention why they’re unhappy, they simply disappear. So the ones that are sharing are actually doing you a favor, so you can fix things, avoid future issues and potentially even keep their business. A couple extra points to keep in mind when responding to negative reviews: Don’t mention your business name or location in your reply. This helps keep the review out of search engine results as much as possible, and follow up with the customer as much as possible and once the situation is resolved, politely ask them to update their review. Then be sure to respond to that too. Benefits of Negative Reviews The optimal rating is between 4.2 stars and 4.5 stars. As the rating gets closer to 5 stars, the likelihood of purchase often declines. Bad reviews are a part of life, since you can’t please all of them all of the time. But these are opportunities when you think about it. You won’t build loyalty with point-based programs or discounts, but you do through treating customers with respect and solving their problems. How you go about responding to negative reviews is also a way to demonstrate that you want to earn the business of your customers. If there aren’t any rating less than 5 stars, it leads many consumers to be suspicious you’re either suppressing feedback, or no one’s bought anything. Preventing Negative Reviews While having a small fraction of your reviews being bad can be a good thing for your business, having too many bad reviews can seriously hurt it. The best way to prevent negative reviews is obviously to simply provide a great customer experience, but even when you do this you’ll still occasionally get a bad review. It would be better to deal with complaints privately, rather than in a public review that everyone and their friends can see, but how can you direct people who wish to leave you angry or negative feedback privately? You can use software like NiceJob to send customers a link that is pressed when they get a review invite via NiceJob that sends them to a page where they are asked if they would recommend you. If they say no, these are typically the people who intend to leave you a negative review. These people are then directed to a private feedback form for you to deal with them privately. If they say yes they are directed to leaving a positive and public review on any of the important review sites. Why You Should Ask Everyone for a Review Even if you don’t have an effective system in place to help prevent negative reviews, it’s still a best practice to ask everyone you serve for a review. The benefits are clear for asking someone who is happy with your service for a review, but why would you ask someone who was unhappy? The answer is that not only you may never know what you did wrong, and may make the same mistake (if you did make one) in the future, but you won’t be able to address the issue with the customer and try and remedy the situation for them. Both positive and negative reviews provide a constant feedback loop for your team that enables you to learn and grow as a business. Being fearful of asking for reviews because you might get a negative review will only make you learn less, respond to customers worse, and be more deserving of negative reviews. Why you Should also Respond to Positive Reviews Here’s why you should think about replying to every glowing five star review, too. 1. Reviews are so public that it’s important to treat them as if everyone is watching! So thank your customer for taking the time. It’s the polite thing to do, and it helps more people see them. 2. It gives you a chance to include your location and business name in the reply to help boost that particular review in the search rankings. 3. This is the perfect chance to introduce your latest service offering or mention an upcoming promo but depending on your business, keep the tone conversational and informal, as if you’re replying to a friend.

Connor Wilson, Director of Growth at NiceJob

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The Art of Asking for Reviews

February 20, 2018 • When it comes to asking for reviews, timing is extremely important. When a customer doesn't leave a review, it doesn't necessarily mean they didn't love your product or service. They may be absolutely thrilled. It may be the best purchase they've made in months. But you just contacted them at the wrong time. Maybe they were busy, or just don't feel like typing a review at that moment. Happily, timing is a battle we can win, here’s how. Ask During Peak excitement If your customer loves your product or service, they're most likely excited about it right after receiving it. Presenting a  review invitation as soon as possible after the transaction is completed increases your response rates significantly. So what do you need to do? A) Develop a good habit of sending after each purchase B) Or even better, get a system that sends review invites automatically after each purchase Send reminders Even in peak excitement, our customers have lives. They're doing things, and just may not be able to write a review right when we'd like them to. Instead of just being disappointed that our customers didn't respond to our review invite, we can do something about it. We can send review reminders over the following weeks and try to reach them when they are ready to leave a review. It's important to use software like NiceJob to automate this process, otherwise, we all know it just won't happen. When to send reminders Sending review reminders at the right time can mean the difference between a new 5-star review and no review. Let's use what we know to help us discern how to effectively send review reminders. Our customers are busy and have lives so we want to send the first reminder soon, but not so soon that it irritates the customer. Sending the first review reminder after 2-4 days is a good starting range. Sending just one reminder may not be enough. It's important to keep nurturing your customers to leave the review, often it takes 2 or 3 reminders before you get them at the right time and they leave a review. One caveat on this, there's a fine line though between making sure the reminders are helpful and starting to irritate your customer...send too many reminders too close together and you can lose a fan. Make sure you’re sending these reminders via email, and the initial invite via SMS text message. SMS is much more personal than email making it great for your initial invitation to leave you a review, but a bit overbearing for follow-ups. It’s also important that once someone has left you a review you’re no longer sending them follow-ups. This will at best annoy your customer, and at worse, cause them to change their positive review into a negative one. So how do you send effective review reminders? Send the first friendly reminders soon, but not too soon Send 2 or 3 more reminders over a period of a few weeks after the job finishes Make sure your review invite system detects if the customer has left a review and if so stops sending reminders; otherwise you could irritate your customers. Contact Management & Sending Invites Remembering and managing everyone’s contact information, sending out invites to those contacts after you’ve done business with them, and knowing whom of those you invited to leave you a review actually did so you can stop following up with them is not only a mouthful, it’s an arduous and lengthy process if done manually. Software like Housecall Pro can manage your contacts for you, and when integrated into a review marketing platform like NiceJob, you can have your customers be automatically enrolled in review campaigns where they are unsubscribed automatically from receiving follow-ups after they’ve left you a review. You can set up this system to literally run on its own so all you ever have to do is finish a job in Housecall Pro, and respond to customers who leave you reviews, either to thank them or resolve any issues they may have. Using software system setups like the NiceJob integration with Housecall Pro saves you thousands of hours of managing reviews that you can instead be spending managing all the new customers these reviews will help you acquire. Should You Incentivize Reviews? In a word, no. It’s the great product or service you provide that should be the incentive. If you delivered, it isn’t a big deal to ask for a review. Most customers are happy to do it. The trouble is, many businesses don't ask. For those that do, most only ask once. It often takes more than one request. Incentivizing customers to leave you reviews can also actually hurt the trust people place in your existing ones because it can look like people were bribed into giving them. This is essentially the same thing as fake reviews, and having a reputation for being fake, is less trustworthy than having no reputation at all. Instead of incentivizing reviews, simply make it as easy as possible for people to actually leave you reviews. Once again, software can help you do this. The Takeaway Timing is really important if we want to get as many reviews as possible from our customers. Send review invites as close to peak excitement as possible Send regular reminders to make sure you contact the customer at the right time. Don’t incentivize reviews To send review invites at the right time, and frequency you either need to organize a really good in-house plan or skip all that work and use a system like NiceJob to automate the process.

Connor Wilson, Director of Growth at NiceJob

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Creating an Effective Call-to-Action

February 20, 2018 • You’ve spent a lot of time building a great website for your business. Now you’re wondering how you can utilize it to gain more customers. We all know how important driving traffic to your website is for your business. It’s one thing to get a lot of visitors to your business' website, but those high numbers don't mean a lot if you’re not increasing conversion rates. In order to drive your customers to book a job with you, you’ll need to create an effective call to action or CTA. What is a CTA? A call to action prompts the customers visiting your website to take the next step and engage with your company. This includes downloading an offer, signing up for a newsletter, getting a free evaluation or booking a job. It’s your opportunity to ask your visitors to take action and work with you. In order to ensure that you’re capturing the most customers, check out these five strategies for creating an effective call to action. Once you have a structure set, gaining more business will be easy as C-T-A.   1) Answer the 'why' First and foremost, your overall website design should inform visitors of the value they will receive by following the CTA. Review your site and ask yourself, "Why should they click on this button?" Make sure you give them a good idea of what they’ll gain from following your CTA by including relevant content and a clear message. 2) Location, location, location Brick-and-mortar businesses know how important it is to be in the right spot to bring in customers. Look at your CTA as the ‘front door’ to your online presence. In the past, it has been recommended that the CTA be "above the fold," meaning your visitor can view it without having to scroll. Since websites are all different and there are now multiple parts of the page, you should consider placing a few throughout, providing multiple ‘doorways.’ Make sure the CTA is the most actionable item on your page. Research indicates have your CTA on certain sections of the page will result in more clicks based on the readers  natural viewing pattern. Pro Tip: Consider using CTAs in a mid-page sign-up strip, incorporating a sticky form that follows the scroll, or adding a side navigation panel with your sign-up form.  Marketing Experts also move their CTA form to the bottom, increasing their conversion by 20 percent. Test a few different placements to see what works best for you. 3) Create a sense of urgency You want to make the call to action memorable but also create a sense of urgency. Text on the button should inspire immediate action. A few examples you could try are: Act now Call today Don't delay Reserve your seat Try not to be passive. Your text should be emotionally charged. Urgency compels  consumers psychologically, and this works to improve your conversion because, as marketing expert  Neil Patel points out, visitors will act quickly without overthinking it. 4) Colors and fonts A great way to show urgency and importance is to use color schemes that pop and draw attention. Contrast the words on your button to make them pop out from the background. Check out some of  these successful CTA examples and try a couple to decide which color works best for your business, different colors evoke  different feelings. Marketing experts do warn against using black, brown or white, so keep that in mind when you’re choosing your color. 5) KISS it "Keep it short and simple," or KISS reminds you to stray away from overthinking it. If you want visitors to leave your site with one thing, it should be available by clicking on your call to action. Remember that less is more: The font should be readable. Make your text interesting and action-oriented. Don't make the call to action too long. Have some open space on your button Don't make the button too busy or cluttered. Don't forget CTAs should be common sense. Yet, as essential as they are to driving new business,  the Content Marketing Institute says CTAs are "among the most neglected of content marketing components." Take the time to understand who your target audience is, examine your website's messaging and guide your visitors to the path you want them to take with clear but simple call-to-actions.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

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Determine the Best Customers for Your Business

February 20, 2018 • Customers are what keeps your business running. In order to continue growing your company, you need your customers to book your services. There are two types of customers that drive revenue for you. Current customers that rebook your services, and new customers. The question most business owners run into is who you should focus on. Should you go after new customers, or focus on keeping existing customers happy? Naturally, we feel the need to focus on both, but that may not bring you more growth. If you focus too much on customer acquisition, you might end up neglecting your existing customer and lose them. On the other hand, if you focus too much on customer retention, you limit your growth potential because you are not gaining fresh customers. While getting a new customer can be five to seven times more expensive than retaining an existing one, new customers are crucial for businesses that have not built a big customer database. So which should you choose? Here are some helpful strategies to help make the decision that’s right for your business. Customer acquisition drives growth The entire focus of a new business should be on growth, which means acquiring customers and making them loyal. The first step in customer acquisition is properly identifying your target audience and deciding the most effective marketing methods to reach them. Once you know your audience, you’ll need to set a budget to determine how much content you can post, how often to post, and on how many channels. You want to aim to hit a sweet spot where you are acquiring customers at the lowest cost possible, and you might need to get a little creative. Social media platforms have become the best way for businesses to share content that resonates with their audience without breaking the bank. Live video streaming, short video tutorials and lead magnet offers are low-budget/high-yield marketing strategies that can quickly build your customer base. Customer retention offers stability If you have been in business for a while, and you have a solid customer base, then retention may be the best strategy for your business. While a lot of businesses might think that marketing to their current customers is redundant, it’s actually the more cost-effective way to go. Marketing to existing customers is less expensive because they don’t need to be warmed up to who you are and what you offer, so you're paying a lot less than when you are trying to acquire a brand new customer that’s never heard of you. Just because they’ve done business with you before doesn’t mean you don’t have to continue reaching out to them. It’s important to still make your existing customers feel valued, which means marketing to them in different ways. Offer frequent discounts/gifts. A great way to show your appreciation is to send them a discount or a gift in return for the business they’ve given you. It doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive, even a small discount will be appreciated and will keep you top of mind for when they need to book you again. Send 'thank you' emails. Retention marketing can be as simple as saying thank you. Your customers are giving you their hard earned money for your service. A simple way to do this is to always follow up every job with a ‘thank you’ email, leaving them with a positive memory with you. There are even some tools out there that automate this process for you. Host exclusive live video events for customers. If you have a Facebook or Instagram account you know what I’m talking about here. Live videos have taken over social media, making them a great way to remind your customers who you are and the service you provide. Make your video fun by giving them behind the scenes look at your business. You could even do a live “how to” video with tips and tricks from your industry. It’s a great way to maintain the relationship with your customers. Upsell Another great way to gain more profit from your current customers is by upselling. An upsell is when your customer hires you for a service and they end up booking an upgraded or additional service from you. For example, if you’re cleaning someone’s carpets and you convince them to add an additional room or a more advanced treatment. So which strategy should you focus on? One misstep that some businesses make is that they want to acquire new customers but forget to keep their existing customers happy. That is a losing strategy, because what good is spending money on acquisition if you end up losing those customers because of poor retention strategies? You have to remember, you don’t own your customers. They may book a service with you one day, but the only thing preventing them from going to another company is the relationship you build and the quality service you provide them. When you’re just starting out, of course, you'll need to focus on acquisition. However, as your business grows, you will need to focus on your relationship with your current customers. You’ll find that by building those relationships you’ll gain new customers through good reviews and referrals. The truth is you will need to acquire and retain well to succeed. The key is knowing when to push more for new customers, and when to throttle it back and maximize the customers you already have.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

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