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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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Acquiring and Keeping Customers With Email

February 19, 2018 • Email has become a key piece in the lives of almost everyone. With  3.7 billion people globally using email, and  269 billion emails being sent every day, it has become the most important and effective way for individuals and organizations to connect. And while some complain that they struggle to maintain the order of their email inbox, the fact is that people prefer email and are more receptive to the messages in emails, than almost any other form of communication. According to MarketingSherpa,  72% of consumers prefer email as their source of business communication. Combine that with the fact that for every $1 spent on email marketing will return, on average, about  $38 in income. While social media and other forms of marketing are certainly offering creative ways to reach customers, email continues to be the most proven, cost-effective, and easiest way to connect and engage with your customer base. If you're still not convinced, consider that after working with a service provider, a customer has a  27% chance of working with that person again. If they engage their services a second or third time, they have a  54% chance of working with that provider again. But, in order to keep those people engaged, it's important to maintain ongoing communication with them, and  email is the way most people want to be reached. The beauty of email marketing is that you can automate much of it which makes it more effective, and it saves you a ton of time. You set up the offers, content, calls to action, and distribution lists, and then designate dates you want the emails sent. A little upfront work results in your ability to stay connected with your customers continuously, all while providing a personal touch. That initial effort, however, is critical if you want to use email effectively as a way to acquire and retain customers. You'll need an email automation system, but it needs to be something you can set up and manage easily. The right tool will enable you to quickly input email addresses, create templates, and schedule various email sequences. Let's look at how to create and manage email marketing program to achieve maximum success. Convert a looker into a customer A big advantage for field service businesses is that customers generally seek out vendors when they’re ready to engage. Unlike shopping for a car, which can take months of looking around, most customers of field services either have a problem that needs resolution fast, or they are prepared to get started on a project for which they've already planned. People will do their research by coming to your website to learn about you, your business, special offers, and to potentially book an appointment online. The best case scenario is that they book that appointment, but in reality, most aren't ready to do it right then and there. That's okay; since they're on your website, however, use forms and pop-ups to collect their email address so you can follow up with them through your email automation. If you do that, you initiate a relationship and remind them who you are, what you do, and that you're available to them. Your automated email campaign should space out emails about 2-6 days apart, which will keep you top of mind and increase the chances of conversion. Getting these window shoppers to finally book with you can be done with these types of emails: Email 1: A friendly reminder For prospects (people who have given you their email address, but haven't yet worked with you), you can use reminder emails to do two things: 1) remind them of services they probably need ("When was the last time you had your ducts cleaned?", or "The rainy season is over. Let us help you get the mud out of the carpets with a Spring Cleaning!"), and then 2) remind them of you. If you offer them a new customer discount or provide some other incentive to work with you, it will help them because you’re delivering a solution, and they won’t have to go searching for a vendor to work with. Email 2: Overcome the objection The fact is, some people have a hard time committing. Prospects will have objections and excuses for not booking an appointment, and while this is normal, it's also something you need to overcome to get that next appointment. This email is an opportunity for you to put their fears at rest, which you can do in this email by doing these kinds of things: Trust:   Include testimonials from other customers. Highlight your high Yelp or Facebook ratings. Tell them how long you've been in business. Cost:   Explain your payment plan or other information that might help them get over the fact that they're going to have to spend some money they might not want to spend. Procedures:   Many people are hesitant to engage because they don't know what to expect. You might explain in the email the different steps involved in servicing them. This sets expectations and helps them understand that it isn't as disruptive as they might have thought. Email 3: Discount and attract This is where you'll start to see people pay attention because people love to save money. You can offer loyalty discounts to existing customers and new customer discounts to people who haven't yet engaged with you. Perhaps it's seasonal and you're offering discounts for "spring cleaning" or "winter preparation" services. But seeing terms like, “discount,” “25% off,” or “introductory special” will get people’s attention. This is not a time to go crazy by giving away the farm, however. Be reasonable and set an expectation that your work and expertise has value. That said, it is five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. So go ahead and offer deeper discounts for new ones. Existing ones may not even need a financial discount; maybe they get a free pound of gourmet coffee when they book by a certain date. Either way, use this email to encourage them to book quickly. Email 4: Grab their attention At this point, your name will likely be familiar to your customer and even if they haven't made an appointment, you and your services should be top of mind for them. What's also needed at this point is a bit of convincing to get them beyond the looking stage and into a booked appointment. The recommendation at this point is to go easy on the sell and heavy on the education. Provide a tip, and do so in a way that presumes they might already be on board with working with you. In fact, you might even preempt things; rather than, "20% Off Floor Refinishing", you want to go with something like, "Tips on How to Maintain Your Floors After They've Been Refinished." By now, the prospect or customer should have a feel for how you communicate and it would be great to throw in some humor or some other attention-getting comments to make them take notice. I recently got this email, and I can tell you that it got my attention: Subject line:  It's my grandpa's fault Body:  My grandfather served in the Marines in the South Pacific in World War II, and again in Korea in the 50's. Built a business from scratch, could fix anything, and knew how to grill a steak to perfection. He taught me to never give up, which I guess is why I'm still holding out hope that you and I are going to work together. I'm here when you're ready, so just let me know. In the meantime, I'll be working on perfecting a medium rare tri-tip. Even if the prospect doesn't move forward immediately, you will have made a remarkable impression. Turn a customer into a cheerleader You've got a customer, but you want to keep that customer and keep him or her happy and always looking to call you when they need work done. For these types of email campaigns, you may want to be a bit more strategic and maybe even schedule them in a way that maps to the customer's actual appointments and services. Some jobs only need to be done yearly, while others more frequently. That doesn't mean you can't send emails other than just reminders and special offers for maintenance, but make sure you factor the job recurrence into your email sequences. It’s best to space out your emails on these topics: Email 1: Thank you This first email is to keep your brand on their mind. For existing customers, this is a no-brainer. Everyone likes to be thanked, and this is a way to immediately imprint your brand on them. Getting a thank you email makes you appear friendly and grateful for the relationship. For every customer, after you service them for the first time, you should then immediately schedule automated reminder emails about the need for tune-ups, maintenance, regular cleaning, or any other service they will need in the future. Unless you remind them of who you are, they may choose a different vendor in the future. Email 2: Educate your customer OK, so they've worked with you, but what makes you special? Maybe the service was good, but how do they know they shouldn't try someone else next time? Here's where you can gently do some education that will give you the aura of expertise, and people prefer working with experts. This isn’t hard to do. Most industries have their own publications and websites that provide all kinds of great educational material. For example, a quick perusal of Pest Control Technology Magazine from December 2017 yielded this  great piece about ticks in the winter. Apparently, most people think ticks aren't a problem in the winter, but this piece dispels that. Use some of the information in a piece like this to make your customer smarter about issues that could impact them, and use it to drive a little business your way. Email 3: Remind them that you’re ready to serve These are opportunities to strengthen your relationship with these customers, which you can do by reminding them of the date of your last service with them, and that you’re ready to jump in for the next appointment. A nice touch is to remind them of the specific service they had with you. Some of these reminders will be seasonal in nature - spring cleanings, winter preparation, rainy season. Others are annual maintenance visits or check-ups. People actually like receiving reminders because it reduces the number of things they have to clog up their brains with. It ends up looking like a nice gesture, actually, because you're providing a convenience, and that convenience will likely be very helpful in converting that person into another appointment. Email 4: Do the customer a heavy We all need a favor from time to time. And in our line of work, we know most customers don't abide by a tight schedule of service appointments. Rather, they delay making decisions, they forget to book a visit, or they just hate parting with the money it'll take to make some minor maintenance. So this is where you get to be a good guy - you can offer a discount or a special offer of some kind for overdue services. Maybe you schedule this email to go out 1-3 months after the date of the annual check-up visit. This would be a time to communicate something along the lines of: "Hey, I know how things can get busy, but wanted to remind you about getting that service done. Let's not let that furnace run into problems, so here's an offer for 20% off the yearly maintenance visit. Just give us a call and we'll be there whenever it's convenient." You'll be seen not just as a source of a discount, but as a trusted advisor and will create loyalty among these customers. Email can be used in many different ways, and we'll explore more of those in future blogs. For now, however, invest the time to set up some automated campaigns that will keep you in direct contact with your customers, help them stay connected with you, and provide them with an easy way to know you and remain loyal customers.

Pat F

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The Significance of Customer Reviews

February 14, 2018 • Happy customers often return, and many tell others about your business. But leaving this word of mouth to chance isn’t your best move. To get results, businesses need to be proactive and go after reviews by requesting them. According to one study, only about 13% of small businesses ask for  reviews. Many say they don’t think it’s appropriate to ask or don’t have an easy way to get reviews. But to put it plainly, when you request reviews, you increase your odds of getting them. Most customers are happy to provide a review when asked. The trouble is, most do not ask. Here’s another thing to consider concerning reviews. While word of mouth referrals are within a small network, it’s online reviews that create much more visibility. The more positive reviews you have, the more likely it is that customers find you, because they not only improve your visibility in Social Media, Google My Business listings, and other review sites, they also help with your search engine rankings. While word of mouth is great, online reviews take things to the next level. It’s digital word of mouth on steroids, increasing your chances of referral traffic and ability to acquire even more customers. The Challenge of Online Reviews Many customers are willing to provide reviews. At the same time, most need to be asked more than once. People are busy, and while they mean well, aren’t always available when you ask and often forget. Imagine this scenario if you wanted to take control of your  online reviews manually: You send just 3 requests a day, between Monday to Friday. The next week you do the same. But you also need to send reminders, so from all the people that you invited or requested to provide a review need a follow-up reminder. That first week, with a minimal 3 requests a day, is 15 reminders. Unless someone provided a review, which can happen, most will need a reminder or two. So if you send 15 requests in a week, which is on the low side, and you’re 3 weeks into the process, you now need to send reminders for the past requests. Without getting too deep into the math, that quickly becomes 50 emails to send per week. Now let’s be realistic here. Do you really have the time, energy, and data to not only be sending out these 50 emails (minimum) a week but to also be sending them each out at the best possible time for them to be received? With review marketing automation software like NiceJob, this process becomes easy. You only send the initial review requests and invites, it does the rest, automating follow-ups for you, and if you integrate it with Housecall Pro, it will even automatically send the initial requests for you as well. It’s A Numbers Game More review invites (and reminders) equal more completed reviews. With more reviews, your visibility improves, and you start to see more reviews and sales. While more than three quarters say they are willing to provide a review, only about a third eventually do. If you only ask once, that probably drops to less than ten percent. This is why it’s so important to not only follow up with your customers for reviews, but to make it incredibly easy for them to leave you one. Using tools like NiceJob, you can provide a quick and simple interface for your customers to leave reviews on all of the important review sites for your business. It’s a Process, Not A Set And Forget Strategy Consumers look for a few things, and it’s not just the star ratings. When consumers look at review websites, they’re looking for social proof to help validate a decision about giving their business. This is to mitigate the risk they face by giving you their money for your services. They don’t know if you’ll do a good job and if they’ll get their money’s worth, so they look to reviews to help them alleviate those fears, or to validate them if a service provider is a bad one. The most important factors considered are the star ratings, overall sentiment, frequency, and recency of the reviews. It’s also a growing concern from consumers that businesses respond to reviews. Another consideration is customers that are referred by other customers are over a third more likely to have a strong retention rate. That’s the power of word of mouth. Star ratings It’s not just how many  reviews you have, it’s the quality of them and the subsequent average rating that give important signs to most consumers. Overall sentiment It’s important to reply to almost every review, good or bad. How you handle engaging with customers that may have left negative sentiment on a review is seen by others. In situations where a customer was dissatisfied, how you go about responding to negative reviews is known to affect others in reading them and their decision to do business with you. Recency of reviews Not only does the overall rating of your reviews matter to consumers, how recent your reviews are is also a consideration for those looking to decide whether to select your business over the competition. About 73% of consumers believe reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant, and 44% say a review should be written within one month or less to be relevant. With these many consumers believing that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant, it’s essential that you not only  manage your reputation but keep a steady stream of fresh reviews. Frequency of Reviews Even if you have a few recent reviews, the rate at which (frequency) they’re acquired is almost as important as how fresh they are. The number of reviews you have is important to some consumers. Your typical consumer prefers to see businesses have at least 34 reviews on average before they feel they are able to trust the accuracy of a star rating for a business. Businesses with less than this number are often assumed to have simply gotten their friends or employees to write them their reviews. This is much harder to fake with a greater number of reviews, making them more trustworthy when more numerous. Reputation Management The  more reviews you have, the less likely that a poor review will have an impact on your overall rating. As an example, if you only had 5 reviews and a negative review came in, it would bring down your overall rating far more than if you had at least 20 or 30 reviews in total. It would stand out more and be much easier for customers to find. Consider this scenario - a potential customer is in need of a product or service you offer. Unless they have a favorite place to go already, most will either ask their personal network of friends and/or family for a recommendation, or they’ll search for a solution themselves. This is a process that happens millions of times each day. Now, what if they saw one of their friends had left your business a review? They would trust that business more than one that didn’t have this review. Why? Because they trust their friend, even if they don’t know you, that friend’s review is a public declaration of trust in your business. Reviews and Local Search You should also know that online reviews affect local search and SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which are another primary channel for customer acquisition. Online reviews impact local search and SEO by about 12%. Given the hundreds, if not thousands, of different factors search engines use to rank websites like yours, this is a huge impact on your SEO. The quantity and overall ratings are just a few of the signals considered. Another major factor of your SEO is having a website that is updated with new over time, rather than staying static, which search engines will eventually come to see as outdated content and rank it lower. Reviews are an excellent stream of fresh new content that you can use to keep your website updated. Convert is one website product that can not only help you do this but also make sure that those website visitors become leads for your business. While lots of hard work goes into building a reputation, it’s important to remember that your brand is not what you say it is. It’s what others say it is. For those new to your brand, your reputation and first impressions are often influenced by online reviews or social media and what others have to say. If these are neither numerous nor positive, they will often keep on looking for other providers and not even make it to your (hopefully good) website. To help manage what’s said about your business, ensure the customer experience is as positive as possible and aim to not just meet but exceed expectations. Doing so, you’re much more likely to see positive sentiments within reviews, and have more control over reputation management. Word of mouth has its rewards, but you have to earn it. What if I don’t have any Reviews? This can have a negative effect. Many consumers believe that not having any reviews is almost as damaging as having several bad ones. By implementing an action plan and process (we recommend using software to automate this for you), you can start building your reputation and acquire online reviews from past customers. But if you don't have any reviews, it's not something to put off. They influence consumer decisions, as well as help you to appear within local search results. The longer you wait to implement a review system, the more time you’re giving potential customers (and their friends) to become loyal to competitors. 59% of consumers look at 2-3 review sites before they make a decision about a business 87% of people say that a business needs a rating of 3-5 stars before they will use them BOOST Your Reviews with our tool for FREE The Takeaway If you want more referrals and reviews, it's essential to make it part of your process. That means sending requests often, and practically every day. When it comes to business, many experts will tell you that your brand is the most valuable asset you own. In some cases, it can represent the best of something for a local market. The best bakery, the best place to get a car, the best place for dinner? Reviews are what gives a business this brand reputation, and they're also what gives the brand value if you ever choose to sell it by making that reputation transparent to potential buyers. More than half of businesses are not making use of online reviews, yet over 90% of consumers trust and rely on them to help make decisions for purchases or local products and services. This means if you start collecting your own online reviews today, you will stand out.

Connor Wilson, Director of Growth at NiceJob

Where to Find Influential Review Sites

February 13, 2018 • Everyone knows how important customer reviews are to gaining more business. The question isn't whether or not you should be asking for reviews, but rather where should you be asking for them. While there are many different review sites, it is important to know which are most important, after all, directing a customer to a review site that has little impact on your business to leave a review, is one review you’re not getting on a review site that does. We recommend four main review sites to focus on for Housecall Pros and home service businesses. Google, Facebook, Homeadvisor, and Yelp. Google Without a doubt, the reviews on  Google My Business are powerful. Most consumers will turn to search when looking for info on a local product or service, and Google has the largest market share when it comes to search engines. Within local search results are businesses with reviews appearing almost 95% of the time. If you haven’t registered your business with Google, do so immediately. Near 50% of businesses have yet to do so, and it’s one of the easiest ways to create exposure and more customers for your business. When you’ve verified your business with Google, your reviews not only appear in search results but can also appear on map searches as well. One of the first things someone does when deciding they need a product or service, such as window cleaning, for example, is to search “Window Cleaning {Their City Name}”. 95% of people only view the first page in search engines like Google or Bing when searching for someone. This means if your website isn’t on page one of that search (if you’re a window cleaner), you’re practically invisible. Google My Business reviews are one of the best possible ways to rank higher, which makes a lot of sense since Google will always rank their own content highest on their own platform. Facebook Most know the popularity of Facebook makes it a great place to have  a business page, and to get reviews. Whenever someone leaves a review on Facebook, their friends get a notification in their feed and are often curious enough to click on it and see it. Additionally, Facebook recommends pages to users that their friends have left reviews on. Here’s how it looks: This is literally the digitization of word of mouth, and it’s incredibly powerful. Even if people are not searching for your service on Facebook, they’re sure to remember it when they go looking on Google if they’ve seen a friend leave you a review on Facebook. Be sure that your  Facebook review tab is visible and activated. If it isn’t, your great reviews will be hidden from potential customers. You may have been on a Facebook page of one of your favorite businesses and noticed you can’t leave a review. It’s because they haven’t activated the option to leave Facebook reviews or feedback. To activate reviews for Facebook, visit the settings on your Facebook page. Next, scroll down inside the General section to where it says reviews and turn them on. HomeAdvisor We recommend focusing review collection on HomeAdvisor since it holds more top 3 positions in search than other home services review sites. This will help your search rankings and increase your visibility on a platform popular with homeowners for finding such services. Angie's List has a significant amount of pages indexed (meaning found by the search engine but not necessarily ranking on page 1), but less than half for top 3 positions when compared to market share in-home services for HomeAdvisor. ThumbTack followed close in third, and Porch.com trailed behind. In addition, as of October 2017, HomeAdvisor has actually merged with Angie’s List, meaning the reviews you collect on HomeAdvisor, will show up on Angie’s List. Yelp In addition to Google and Facebook, one other platform most businesses don’t want to overlook is Yelp. It’s big, and not to be ignored. It’s not advised to request reviews for Yelp as it goes against their terms of service but you can display a badge on your website or offer a link. This indirectly suggests it would be appreciated and complies with their terms. Unfortunately, because of Yelp’s strict policies, they do not allow software to be used to collect reviews on this site. In most cases, however, people find Yelp listing through a Google search, which means if you have lots of Google My Business reviews, Yelp becomes increasingly less important.  Be sure to respond to Yelp reviews and others, regardless whether they're positive or negative. Also be wary of running ads on Yelp. Many users have ironically found these actually resulted in less business and fewer reviews than had they not run the ads since they look less genuine. Many ads on Yelp are fake, which is partly why they have updated their terms of service to prevent review collection, so if it looks like you’re paying-to-play, you might actually be shooting yourself in the foot. The Takeaway Focus your efforts on Google (for ranking high in search), Facebook (for generating lots of online word of mouth), HomeAdvisor (for ranking high in search), and Yelp (because consumers still trust it - this is changing, however, as people continue to increasingly use Google maps instead). Trying to collect reviews on other review sites may have some value just so you’re visible there, but the vast majority (90% or more) should be spent on Google, Facebook, and HomeAdvisor, with most of that going to Google and Facebook. By using these two in a combined approach you can build awareness and loyalty for your company before people are looking to buy with Facebook reviews, and then remind them of this loyalty and trust when they find you in search with Google My Business reviews. You can select which review sites you want customers to have as options to review you on using software like NiceJob.

Connor Wilson, Director of Growth at NiceJob

Utilizing Analytics for Your Business

February 13, 2018 • Analytics has become one of the most powerful tools for service businesses. Not only are they used to better understand your customers, but they also help you to make better-informed business decisions and ultimately more money. If used properly, a service business will be able to stop wasting time and money on what’s not working, in order to shift the focus on what is. In order to beat your competition, it’s important to use all the resources that are available to you. Analyzing your data can seem like a pretty daunting task, especially if you haven’t really had any experience doing it before. Luckily we live in a time where we have the technology and resources to make it easier. To get you started, we’ve broken down the key terms to know in addition to some tips and tricks to keep in mind along the way. Analytics 101 Before we dive into the world of analytics, the following are a few frequently used terms that are important to know. Cost of Acquisition (CAC) - The amount you have spent to acquire one new customer. For example, if you gained 10 new customers from an ad that you spent $50 on, your CAC would be $5 per customer. Lifetime value (LTV) - The predicted amount you will make from one customer. For example, if your customer books a $100 service with you every 6 months and you expect them to remain your customer for 5 years, their LTV would be $1000. It’s important to make sure you’re LTV remains higher than your CAC. Return on Investment (ROI) - Your ROI is the ratio between your net profit and the amount you spent to get it. To calculate your ROI you need to take the amount you made on the job and divide it by the amount you spent. For example, if you made $500 on a job and spent $50 on marketing materials to gain that job, your ROI is 10%. Churn - When one of your customers quits doing business with you. You want to make sure you’re acquiring customers at a higher rate than the rate of those that churn.  Useful Tools Now we can move on to the tools available to you. Like we said earlier, it’s important to take advantage of all of the resources that help grow your business in order to get ahead of your competition. There are a lot of different tools you can use to make navigating through analytics easier, below are a few basics to start with. Google Analytics - This tool tracks and reports website traffic. That way you can see how many people are looking at your website and compare that to how many of those people signed up. Once you have this data you can address any changes you may want to make to your website in order to increase your conversion.   It is also integrated with AdWords, so you can review your online campaigns to see which ones are performing well and aren’t in order to allocate your money to those that perform best. Quickbooks Online (QBO)- Quickbooks allows you to track a number of things including: income, expenses, sales, time, and inventory. You can also run reports on your profit/loss, expenses, and balance sheets. This keeps all your reports and data in one place where you can easily check in on your success and your spend. Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) - A CRM program will help you manage data regarding your customers. There are a lot of different CRM’s out there that focus different aspects of the customer experience. This can make it hard to pick which one your business needs. You want to look for one that lets you keep track of where they came from, any important customer information, and all of their customer history. Avoiding mistakes Unfortunately, it can be easy to make mistakes when you’re using analytics. Businesses can fail at analytics for numerous reasons, but none of them are impossible to overcome. Some businesses are afraid of taking the time and effort to learn how to use some of the difficult analytics tools. Others mistakenly believe that their business is too small to use its data. The companies that have learned how to use analytics tools and realize their importance are often confronted with the challenge of what to do with the data in front of them. Naturally, failing to confront these challenges head-on can have negative effects ranging from a simple set back to a much larger issue. Attempting to run a company without using analytics as a guide is like trying to race a car blindfolded. Without learning how to best leverage your data in the favor of your business will result in falling behind your competition. Analytics are needed to give your business a direction and grow. Doing data right To start using your data effectively, it’s important to focus on what really matters. Leadership should look at the key performance indicators and ignore all the distractions.  Some data isn’t necessarily useful for the goals of your business, and data shouldn’t be accumulated for the sake of having it. Instead, you should create data that has a clear and driven purpose.  Keep in mind, the ultimate goal should be to drive revenue. In order to reach this goal, all of your marketing channels (where your leads come from) should be separated and analyzed based on their cost, reach and customer lifetime value. Doing so will help determine which channel is the best for your business and which provides the best return on investment (ROI). Asking the right questions One of the most important things to remember is that data is only valuable if using it helps you gain more customers and revenue. Your data should aim to answer foundational questions such as: Who are my highest paying customers? What is my best-performing marketing channel? How can I increase my customer lifetime value (LTV)? What additional services might my customers want? Answering these types of questions will allow you to create long-lasting relationships with your most valuable customers and ultimately drive additional revenue.  If you utilize your data the right way, it can be your best friend. However, if you aren't harnessing its power correctly, you’re leaving money on the table. That's why it's so important to take advantage of all the new tools available to you, like  Google Analytics and Housecall Pro.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

Why Online Booking Matters

February 12, 2018 • To build a business, you have to get the business Running any business has its challenges. When you’re in a field service business, those challenges are compounded because you have to DO work at the same time you’re trying to get new customers. Without dedicated back-office and marketing teams, small businesses need to be creative and resourceful in how they attract and retain customers. One of the most proven ways to increase business is by being there when a customer needs you. And even though you can’t be available 24/7, you can essentially be open for business if you provide your customers with the ability to schedule appointments with you online. This inexpensive functionality you can put on your website, Facebook page, and your other social media channels, makes it convenient for customers, reduces the timely scheduling work you normally do over the phone, and it offers a customer service benefit that differentiates you from your competitors. Online booking is more than just offering customers a handy self-service calendar on your website, however. It is proven to be major advantage in helping businesses manage their time more effectively, increase service jobs, and build trust with customers. Moving from Paper-and-Pen to Digital Building relationships with customers is an important part of doing business, but scheduling a service appointment with them doesn’t require a phone call anymore. Think about your current system for booking appointments. No matter how effective it has been for you, it probably involves multiple steps, and it requires you or a co-worker to be on a phone call. The standard way of booking an appointment with a customer has typically involved phone calls back-and-forth, a written record of customer name, contact information, date/time of appointment, and notes about the services needed. It’s time consuming and inefficient, and doesn’t provide an easy way for you to follow-up with the customer later. By putting the phone down and allowing an app do your booking for you, you’ll give customers what they want and start to eliminate tedious and unproductive management headaches. Your business will also stand out from the competition. Let the technology work for you Inc. Magazine says, “Research shows that 91 percent of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. And they make that decision quickly: 68 percent form an opinion after reading between one and six online reviews.” The fact is, online reviews and the network effect of customer approval are hugely important to you obtaining new customers. If you’ve built a loyal following and have a presence on Yelp, Facebook, YellowPages.com or other local listings sites and social media tools, customers will find you. But in today’s world, where people want everything immediately, the ability to commit to a scheduled time with you will win their business. Online booking gives them what a phone voicemail message cannot deliver - confirmation and peace of mind. The typical American consumer’s digital usage (smart phone, tablet, desktop) peaks in the hours from 5pm - 9pm; those are hours that you’d probably prefer to avoid customer calls. If all you offer is phone-based scheduling, you’re going to always be playing catch-up through back-and-forth voicemails, all of which will happen when you’re supposed to be servicing other customers. Online booking means that even if you’re sound asleep, or busy with other matters, you can be open for business 24/7. Become the professional that customers want If you can use positive online ratings to attract new business AND provide those customers with an easy way to schedule your time, you will be a go-to choice for customers every time. Be a proven, attractive option that enables fast and easy scheduling, and your business will be competitively indefensible. On top of that, a trend among younger customers that impacts business is the growing reluctance to make phone calls. Many have become accustomed to managing their lives online and phone calls just don’t fit into their daily list of action items. Mobile intelligence firm, Informate, conducted a study that explains that American consumers prefer online communication over voice calls. PatientPop, an agency that specializes in market intelligence for healthcare providers, found that almost 50% of customers prefer online scheduling over booking through a phone call. Why force customers to make a phone call when they don’t want to? Online booking fits the way they operate every day and provides them with convenience they expect. Eliminate headaches & make your business more efficient Every phone call you take to schedule an appointment is a distraction from billable work. And every call you can’t take because you’re busy is a potentially lost opportunity. Using the phone to schedule calls is a constant battle for your attention, and as your business grows, it becomes harder to keep up in that battle. OK, maybe 10 minutes isn’t that bad. But what about a chatty customer? Or a bad connection? That could double the amount of time on the phone. And no customer wants to feel like they’re being rushed - it’s a huge turn-off and negative word of mouth can spread even before you’ve even had a chance to make someone your customer. If business is good and you’re getting multiple calls each day, it can easily become an hour or more of time away from productive work. But also consider the other things you have to do to confirm an appointment. Maybe you have to check work schedules to ensure that an employee can make it to the job site. What if you discover there was a conflict you forgot about while you were making the appointment? Tack on an additional 3-5 minutes to figure those and deal with the back-and-forth of just your internal details. Then consider the potential for an endless game of voicemail tag when you have to call the customer back. An online booking application automatically fills your calendar with appointments that meet your requirements and parameters, all without you having to waste a minute of time in the normal back-and-forth of scheduling details. Online booking from a field service management specialists like Housecall Pro can provide major benefits that will improve how you operate your business, including: Reduce wasted time: With appointments being booked online, you’ll have more time to service your customers. An online booking system collects all necessary information for jobs, which helps you stay focused on billable and productive activities. Attract customers that are committed: Customers that have to wait for a call back may decide to take their business elsewhere. Customers that book online make a commitment to you and the job they’ve scheduled. More effective employee scheduling: Ditch the master calendar on the wall, and switch to online booking which automates schedules and informs employees when and where they’re supposed to be. Lower marketing costs: Give people the option to schedule an appointment through your website, Facebook page, or other social media channels, making you are a customer-first business. Build trust with customers: When you book online, you can trigger automated alerts and calendar reminders to customers so they know you are committed to their business.

Matt B., Marketing Coordinator

How To Ace Customer Satisfaction

February 9, 2018 • Have you ever seen those lists of things like, "Top 10 Dermatologists in the Tri-County Area"? Every time I see those, I have to wonder about how they were chosen; did a bunch of people break down years' worth of data about how successful those doctors were at treating their patients acne? Of course not. Those lists are based on what patients think of their doctors, and what they think is formed mostly because of the way the doctor treats them and how they make them feel. Ultimately, those things are lists based on customer service, and customer service may be one of the most important things you do as a business owner. Most take customer service for granted. But it's not enough to just show up and perform a job. You have to perform it with quality, convey a positive attitude, and be prepared to serve the customer even after the job is over. Small business expert Ruby Newell-Legner makes very clear why it's so important. Her  research says that it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. Turn that around and you'll see that it just makes sense to provide excellent customer service from the get go. A surprising number of field service companies ignore the importance of customer service. They are happy to just get the job done and move on, but customer service is almost by definition, all the things that happen in your interactions with customers that are not specific just to the work you do. Rather, it’s the details and the work you are doing before, during and after you get paid. According to American Express,  7 in 10 Americans said they were willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service - that's really all you need to know. But you also need to be smart about how you make it part of your overall business strategy.   The key to excellent service Being recognized for great customer services is about more than just being a nice guy or gal. It also doesn't mean that you let people walk all over you while you do anything to make them happy. Rather, it's that happy medium where you do things that make you stand out in the mind of your customers. Yes, it starts with the Golden Rule (treat others as you'd like to be treated), but it requires you to be creative in how you imprint your brand on your customers. The best customer service is notable in the same way a great friend is: it's not about how much they spend on you, or even the amount of time they're with you. It's about knowing they have your back, they'll be there when you need them, and you thoroughly enjoy your experiences with them. Let's break that down a little further into the different expectations customers have when they think about the service they receive: Consistency is key OK, this one is kind of basic, but it's easy to neglect. Show up when you say you're going to show up, be fair and straightforward about price, deliver good work in everything you do, and communicate. Being consistent sets expectations, and when those expectations are met repeatedly, it instills faith and trust in your customers. Relationship and trust building Trust is based on honesty and it's the basis for any good relationship. Now, you may need to deliver difficult news to a customer, or maybe the project costs have to change due to unforeseen issues. None of those things is ideal, but if you are up front with the customers, you make them feel like they can trust you. And if you don't pull punches with them, they won't pull punches with you. That forms a relationship that can last a long time. No Alarms and No Surprises People hate surprises unless it's about saving them a bundle of money. The more you communicate, the more the customer can set expectations about the progress of a job, any cost changes, or anything that might be disruptive to their normal schedule.   Friendly, but quick Speed is one of the things customers really value. As much as they may like you, they much prefer to have their problem fixed so they can get back to normal. You never want to look like you're rushing around while in the midst of a job - that could make it appear that you're not paying enough attention. But if you can combine a friendly attitude with fast delivery, then it shows to the customer that you're respectful of their time. Take a little, but give a little You should get paid for your work, there's no question about that. And when you run into unusual situations that are out of your control (you find dry rot, the wiring is not to code, etc), the customer has to take on those expenses. That said, no one likes to add cost onto a project and even if it's not fair to you, the person delivering the news sometimes can look like the bad guy in these kinds of situations. One way to smooth this over is to meet the customer halfway. Maybe the cost of goods is going to run really high, so you agree to cut labor costs by a certain percentage. Or perhaps you can do a little something extra, something unexpected for the customer that will be a pleasant surprise; maybe something along the lines of, "Since I had to go under the house to do that extra wiring anyway, I picked up all this debris." Service beyond expectations We all like when people go above and beyond for us, and in terms of customer satisfaction, this is a huge differentiator. A customer who gets his oil changed at your business won't remember dropping off or picking up the car, but they'll remember that as part of the service, you vacuumed the interior of their vehicle. Or maybe you put in some extra hours on the weekend so the flooring work can get done in time for the big graduation party they're hosting next week. You know how you like to be treated; do the same for your customers and you will forever stick out in their minds. You need to know that being great at customer service takes time and may cost a bit of money initially, but this is an investment in building customer relationships that will save you a ton of time and will create sustainable, long-term sources of income through customer loyalty. But again, there is a bit of work and creativity you need to put into it in order to reap the rewards. Consider these as the building blocks of your strategy: Communication Relationships only work if the different parties are communicating, so you need to ensure you're keeping customers informed of everything that will make their life easier. This includes reminders of service appointments, clear descriptions of your services in invoices, information on dates when you will be closed for business. With the use of field service apps, you can automate much of this communication so you don't have to sit in front of a computer all day sending out emails (yet, you will get the credit for keeping customers informed). Keep in mind that customers think in terms of milestones for many projects, so let them know what the status of things are. If you've spent time with them picking out windows to be installed, a friendly text or email to let them know the windows arrived gets them excited and feeling positive about the project. Maybe follow that up with personal information like, "Jeff will be out to install on Thursday at 10am, as we discussed. Jeff has been installing for 18 years and he's one of the best in the business!"Communication can keep a customer glad they chose you. The personal touch Most of your competitors will think in terms of just showing up; all they're going to get is a single interaction when they operate like that. But when you demonstrate appreciation for the business your customer gives you, it makes them feel valued and establishes the sense that you want to maintain a relationship with them. Leaving a nice, inexpensive gift like a plant or a magnet is a kind gesture, but it's also a way to keep your brand front and center in their minds. Whether it's with an email, a text, or if you take the time to compose a quick handwritten note, a sincere note of thanks from you will also help you stand out from other vendors who appear to take customers for granted. A seasonal card is a great way to remind them about you and it is a welcome kindness (TIP: Everyone sends cards at Christmas, so to truly stand out, consider a different holiday or celebration - a "Happy St. Patrick's Day" or a "Super Bowl Give-Away" will be unexpected and therefore get the attention of customers. Reduce customer pain Customers have a lot of anxiety that goes with many field service projects. Customers may be spending a lot of money, and they usually are doing this for the first time and don't know what to expect. You're the expert, but rather than big-time them, act like a patient coach who is helping them understand what's going to happen, walk them through it while it's happening, and then complete the project with a helpful summary of everything they need to know once you are done. This has to do with every part of a job. Payments can be stressful, and while you don't want to get stiffed, it's a sign of great customer service if you work with the customer on a payment plan that they feel good about. Maybe they have health concerns or are worried that the noise from the project will irk their neighbors. Going that extra step to ensure a safe, clean, respectful working environment makes them have confidence in you. Great customer service never stops, and it's not unique to just some customers. In order for you to reap the benefits that come from being known as a great business to work with, you have to always have a customer-first mindset. From your marketing material, to the way you answer the phone (and the quickness with which you answer it!), to every single interaction during the project and even afterwards, you can stand far apart from your competitors. It takes some creativity but it will drive referrals to you, maintain long standing relationships with your customers, and will ultimately be the most cost-effective way to increase revenue and establish an excellent customer brand.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

Customer Satisfaction odometer

Building Your Personal Brand

February 8, 2018 • When people choose the businesses they work with, they usually do it because they have a feeling about them. It's a combination of many factors, but when pressed, most people will say something along the lines of, "You know, I just get a good sense about them." That feeling is your brand, and if you create an effective personal brand for your business, you will leave an imprint on customers that will turn them into raving fans of yours. To be sure, that feeling customers get includes a variety of things - price, timeliness, trustworthiness, quality of craftsmanship, and many others. But at the end of the day, customers make their choices because of the overall experience they have, and that is precisely the essence of your personal brand. You can have a major impact on the success of your business by synchronizing your personal brand with your business to instill a sense of trust and support. When you are the face of your business, your name and personal reputation are on the line; customers feel comfort knowing that you're going to give everything you have to establish and maintain an impeccable reputation. Think about the great brands in business history. Sam Walton became a billionaire, yet drove an old truck and inexpensive jeans; his Wal-Mart stores were no-frills affairs because he wanted to pass cost savings off to customers. When you think of technology, you might get an image of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, both of whom are personally aligned with their respective companies, Microsoft and Apple. Debbie Fields was a mother with a great cookie recipe; she created Mrs. Fields Cookie stores all over the country with an image of wholesomeness for baking "just like mom used to make." For these and so many other business owners, their alignment with their business gave them a competitive advantage over others who remained as faceless companies without a personality behind them. The elements of a good personal brand: Mark Twain said, “Live your life so that when you die, even the undertaker will be sorry.” Not a bad philosophy of life, eh? Someone like that is memorable, and that's exactly how you should approach marrying your personal and business brands. Your personal brand boils down to those things we value in people, things like admiration and trust. When it comes to business, people have a choice and they prefer to work with companies that they can trust and feel good about interacting with. Some say it has to do with likability, and that's part of it, but you have to back it up with something more than that. What do you like about your favorite people? I'm guessing they are honest, kind, supportive, and fun to be around. They’re also there for you when you need them; they have your back, and people seek out the same qualities in the companies they give their businesses to. It's nice to be around people like that, and when given the choice of working with a business, you're probably going to seek out vendors who act like those awesome friends of yours. This even extends to things like your marketing material, logo, and advertising campaigns. You have to remember two key things: one, you may have great ideas about what type of branding works, but you have to actually test them with potential customers to know if they truly work. Do your messages really resonate with them? What's the feeling they get when they see your tag-line? Do they really get the sense that they'd like to buy from you? Their opinions and feedback can help you massage your image and messages into something that stands out and relates your business to you. Secondly, you need to be genuine in your messages and in how you present yourself. Don't advertise that you can do things you aren't actually equipped to do. Your brand should stick with you for a long, long time; this part of your marketing strategy is not about just quickly getting customers. It's about establishing yourself with a strong personal reputation that you'll be able to continuously backup and attract more and more customers over time. Your personal brand, however, is about more than just being rewarded for being a good guy or gal. You have to work at establishing your brand in a way that draws potential customers to your business. Here are some strategies: Focus on value Teenagers obsess over the number of followers they have on their social media accounts; in their minds, volume equates with success. While there's something to be said for having a lot of loyal followers, quality is more important than quantity. We all know it's easy to click "like" or "follow", but it's more meaningful when our followers actively engage with us and genuinely care about what we say and do. They seek value because we know we deliver value. That is ultimately what you want - social media, website, and just all manner of branding that gets people interested in learning more and staying connected to you. TIP: Be an authentic person in your brand messages, and deliver to your followers information that is entertaining, valuable, and something they can act on. Differentiate yourself We all have an interesting story, and people connect with stories. Especially when it comes to you and your business there's something compelling that should be communicated with your customers. Maybe it's funny - like the time when you were a little kid and your little brother clogged the toilets which caused flooding in the house, but a competent plumber came in and fixed everything, which led to you becoming a plumber. Or maybe it's more heartfelt - your favorite customer stories are the ones where you get to visit with elderly clients and hear their stories over a cup of coffee after you've completed your work for them. You will find that people may connect their own stories with yours; with a connection, you've made a far bigger and more lasting impression than a funny jingle in a commercial. TIP : Remember that your personal story helps to differentiate you, and it is an important way to connect with customers. Be authentic I wish I had come up with a slogan like, "Just do it," but Nike beat me to it. Now, I could try to copy Nike's story and their brand, but people would easily see it as a copycat, and I would lose credibility. The better thing to do is to just simply be authentic and establish yourself for who you are. You can learn from competitors and use their success as a model for how you can shape your own message, but ultimately your story, your vision, and your brand have to be true to who you are and what you stand for. To do that, never lose sight of those things that make you unique and will contribute to a memorable story in the minds of your customers. TIP : Always, always, always be yourself in your marketing and branding. This gives customers a way to get to know you and connect with you. Win with stories While Warren Buffett is identified as one of the world's wealthiest men, he's also recognized for living in the same modest house since the 1950's, and for eating inexpensively at McDonalds. He's at heart, a simple guy, and he tries to run his multibillion dollar empire in a simple way. We connect with him because his life and his business seem to make sense to us. The genius in all of that is that we root for the people we understand and feel like we might enjoy as friends and colleagues, and that can work for you too. Use your brand to emphasize how you are like the people you serve and work with; that kind of connecting is a huge advantage. TIP : Skip the bullet points and tell a story. People will remember it and connect with it far more than your resume. Connect through sharing At this point, you've probably already figured out how important your personal story is, but now you have to tell it. If you want your brand to develop, you must share it as often as you can with as many people as you can. This is how you can use social media, email marketing, your website, and all your marketing collateral. You don't need to constantly provide all your details, but weave your story into all your marketing channels and tools. As people see your name and story more in their lives, they'll bake your name and story into ways they can connect with you. This will happen because in their minds, they will have already validated that you are the kind of person they want to work with. But to do that, you need to constantly share yourself, your story, and your brand. TIP : Use social media, email marketing, and your website to remind people who you are and what your story is. Leverage your community We can't just create our brand in a vacuum. By being around others and learning from them you get a better sense for what works and what doesn't work. Join industry groups, go to regional meetings, meet up with other professionals both in and out of your field; these peer groups are great for guiding you through your brand development and helping you test out how your brand strategy can be excellent. TIP : Talk with people inside and outside of your field to brainstorm ideas for your brand. Learning from people with experience is better than reading it in a book or going it alone. Align your marketing Once you have honed in on your mission and your brand, every marketing channel that you use to project that brand has to be aligned for you to be effective. This is critical to your brand strategy, and to do it correctly, you have to catalog everything you do and apply a consistent story and brand elements to it: TIPS : Let's get tactical about this, and do the following: Make all your logos consistent and ensure they reflect your brand. Images on your website and the pictures you use in social media should be consistent with your brand. Don't waste time with goofy, quirky images if you're trying to communicate a serious tone. Tag lines and descriptions need to be direct and communicate something that is unique just to you. "The best tiling specialist in the Tri-County" doesn't tell a customer very much, whereas, "My home is my sanctuary, so I did the tiling myself. With 22 years of experience and a staff of experts, I'd like to help you make your home special too" leaves and impression. Use the bio and profile sections of your social media channels all consistent.  People work with people in whom they feel a connection. Your personal brand is the best, easiest, and most effective way to create and maintain a connection with your customers. Use it wisely and consistently, and you'll begin to see how impactful it can be. Already built a great brand and want to see what it's worth? Check out this post !

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

Branding License Plate Image

6 Killer Website Tips To Drive Revenue

February 8, 2018 • Having a professional-looking, informative, and engaging website is a necessity for every business these days. It's a way to communicate what you do, keep customers informed about special offers, provide valuable information like pricing, and it can help you stand out from your competitors by highlighting your company's personality. It's also, whether you like it or not, the way that today's customer searches for the vendors they want to use. Having a website is mandatory. Having a website that connects with customers and gets you noticed, however, takes some particular attention that isn't hard, but requires you to be smart about how you  approach this critical marketing tool for your business. Your website may be about your business and services, but it's meant for your customers. You have to put yourself in your customer's shoes when you think about the design, layout, and navigation of your site. Consider all the sites you go to that are basically just a random collection of outdated information that's hard to find and doesn't give you any value. Vendors who treat their website as an afterthought give off a first impression of sloppiness. It's definitely not good for business. This is an opportunity to look sharp and deliver an impactful message about your services and also about your business. In order to give people that immediate sense of, "these guys have their act together," consider these tips as you prepare to build a website that delivers customers to you and creates fans out of them: TIP 1: Start with your customers in mind Before you start, remember that websites are meant to be visual and impactful in a world of people whose attention spans are limited. Your site should also convey something specific, and rather than just slapping a lot of pictures on a few web pages, start with the end in mind. In other words, you want website visitors to book an appointment with you - how will you get your website to drive them towards that? First thing is to think about the key messages you want to stick in the brains of your site visitors AND the way you want to communicate them. Do you want them to think of you as the most cost-effective vendor in your market, the one with the fastest response time, are you the most courteous, or is there something else that defines you? Identify the things that are most important about your business, and make sure you state it on the homepage...and thread it throughout the other pages on the site. Keep in mind not to just barf out a bunch of buzzwords; use a consistent tone and voice in your writing. If it's "just the facts", that's fine, but keep the site content direct and to the point. If you want to add some color, use a more informal voice and maybe throw in some humor (who doesn't love the one about the limping joist installer?). Secondly, write out a list of what you actually provide. If you just say that you are a tile company, you may lose people who are looking for a grouting job. You're also missing an opportunity to differentiate yourself if you aren’t specific about the breadth of your services. Explain your expertise in terms that laymen would understand and emphasize your experience, whether it’s in years or in the different types of jobs you’ve done. Let people know not just who you are, but specifically what you can do. It demonstrates to customers that you are confident in your abilities and it instills trust. TIP 2: Gotta look sharp - Images are key People will most likely remember you based on how visually engaging your site is. Busy people scan more than they read, so quality pictures can tell a good story if used correctly.  Research tells us that while people only remember 10 percent of things they hear and 20 percent of what they have read, around 80 percent of people remember things they see or do. Think of it this way - in a  study of restaurant customers, it was determined that when there are pictures of menu items on menus, customers are 70% more likely to order those items. People like pictures, and busy people looking for a vendor to solve a problem are going to scan a website, not read it in depth. Your images, however, have to look sharp. Fuzzy pictures, or ones with bad lighting will reflect poorly on you. Also, using stock imagery is fine, but it has to relate to the work you do and the feel you want people to have. It's also worth noting that it's a natural inclination for humans to want to  look at faces, so make sure you include pictures or actual people doing actual things on your site. It will create a connection with site visitors and portray TIP 3: Organize your website in an appealing way Check out this  website and let me know when your head stops hurting. It may not necessarily be the worst website ever created, but it's pretty close. Your website is a reflection of your brand and it's the first point of contact with customers. It simply has to look crisp, be well organized, and communicate professionalism. When it comes to website design and layout, simpler is usually better. You don't need a lot of pages and links, but you do want to ensure it is organized and easy to navigate through. As we mentioned earlier, if you use images (and you should!), make sure they are engaging and clearly visible; high resolution images work best. Create a balance within the site of both written content, pictures, and calls to action. Ultimately, you want to communicate your business and your "story", but you also want the customer to book an appointment. It makes sense to sketch out the order of things you want to communicate and make sure they are reflected on your site. Clearly, it's important for you to make sure your company name and contact information is reflected prominently on every page - probably best to do that in both the top (header) and bottom (footer) of each page. Then, use the homepage to make your most important message; this is where you establish who you are and what you do, and what makes you special. Again, be simple. And brief. You don't need to cram everything into a single page. Create navigation and links within the site that guide people to information that will help them, but will also help you make a customer out of that person. Put yourself in the shoes of a customer; what do you want to know? Typically it's price, menu of work you perform, availability, work samples, references, maybe a blog with your personal insights, and a way to easily book an appointment. Each of these items can be a link from the top navigation, and can also be linked within the content throughout your site. I can’t stress this enough: simpler is better. A website with only 2-4 pages is plenty if it looks great and has a focused message. TIP 4: Make happy customers an effective marketing tool You've built up a loyal customer base over time - those people's comments and references can be an effective way to market your services and demonstrate that you've earned the trust of customers through excellent work and professionalism. Get your binder of references and go to your Yelp and Facebook pages - pull out the complimentary quotes and comments. Then get pictures of your happy customers and their completed projects. Sprinkle those throughout the website, with comments about the work you did for them. After helping with a kitchen remodel, you might, for example, show your happy customers in front of their pantry doors with a caption that reads: "Debbie and John in Middletown love their new kitchen cabinets made by Smith Carpentry!" As we said earlier, people love images on websites, and they especially respond to pictures of actual humans. This is also an opportunity to tell a compelling story. Create a separate page on your site called, "Customer Stories" and populate it with short stories about some of your customers. You can use images like the one mentioned above, but accompany it with descriptions of the work you did. Emphasize the details of the job and how you worked closely with the customer to deliver just what they want. Explain how you delivered it quickly and to the customer's satisfaction. Perhaps you made recommendations to improve the product or service that the customer loved. Seeing people rave about your work may be the most effective way to communicate your excellent work and that you are easy to work with. TIP 5: Create a clear call to action You'll get a customer's attention if you can prove you are available when they need you. Even though you can't be available 24/7, you can essentially be open for business if you provide your customers with the ability to schedule appointments with you online. Your website can become an effective customer-generator if you direct users to opportunities to book online and make appointments. Online booking and appointment making is an inexpensive functionality you can put on your website easily. It makes it convenient for customers, reduces the timely scheduling work you normally do over the phone, and it offers a customer service benefit that differentiates you from your competitors. Your website should make it clear that a site visitor CAN book an appointment, and direct them clearly to WHERE on the site they can do it. Make sure there a link to it is prominently featured in the header, footer, and throughout the website. You don't need to beat people over the head with annoying pop-up boxes, but make it simple to find. Again, the simpler, the better, and if users can find you, they'll more easily want to book with you. TIP 6: The network effect: Use social media to share your content Social media is such a part of people's lives today that it now influences how people search for goods and services. In fact,  74% of of buying decisions today made with the help of social media. This is good news for a well-organized website because you can easily integrate social media into your online marketing strategy. This is fairly easy and all website creation tools provide this functionality. All you need to do is add social sharing links in our content so users can "like" it and share it. What happens is that action of liking shows in your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social feed; each like is validation that you are a valued vendor. When a user shares the content through sharing tools, it shows up in their feed in their own social account. Your business is automatically tagged and a link is provided. Those people's contacts and followers will see their approval of you and your business. With the right amount of activity, you'll be able to benefit from the network effect and have your company's content and pictures showing up in front of people who could also become prospective customers. These end up being current testimonials and are current because of the nature of the fast moving social media usage. Once you start seeing traffic in your social media feeds from these people, you can thank them in those same channels and even like and retweet their own content. It becomes reciprocal and engenders a connection between you, your customers, your potential customers, and all the people who follow them.   A website is a necessary tool for your business, but it doesn't have to be difficult. With the right mix of content, images, testimonials, social media, and effective opportunities for calls to action, your website can become a central destination for people seeking to know more about you. Done correctly, your website will convey that you are, indeed, a vendor of choice and one a customer can trust. If you can do that, you'll win business and create even more happy customers.

Matt B., Marketing Coordinator

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