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The Art of the Upsell/Cross-Sell

February 8, 2018 • As we've seen in the article 7 Ways to Guarantee Customer Loyalty, keeping the customers you have is far less time consuming, requires much less time investment, and eliminates much of the stress of trying to get new ones. Studies have shown that it's 7x more expensive to get a new customer than to keep an existing one, and the probability of selling to a new customer is 14x higher than trying to sell to someone new. The evidence is quite clear: investing in customer retention strategies will give you much more bang for the buck and help ensure long-term, sustained business for you. We've looked at a variety of ways to keep your existing customers happy and reward them for their loyalty, but a particularly effective way to maintain a longstanding relationship with customers is to increase the amount and type of services you can sell. This is the art of cross-selling and up-selling, where you identify complementary services and products that will improve the customer experience and increase the value you can offer them. Think back to every time you've ever been asked, "Would you like fries with that?" THAT'S all about  selling more, in context, and for more value, and it's as common in business as sending an invoice. Effective cross-selling and up-selling will provide a tighter bond with your customers because doing it effectively puts you in a position of being a trusted advisor. It also increases the amount that customers will spend on your services over time because it gives you an opportunity to educate them on the wide range of things you can do for them. When done right, this type of selling and servicing will get increase customer’s likelihood of calling upon you when services are needed. Let's think about the distinction between the two types of selling. When you  cross-sell , you give customers additional products or services to the ones they are originally looking for. It might be similar to what Amazon does when it constantly tells you, "Customers who bought this product also bought this OTHER product", although, for those in field services, it could be done during service calls and in marketing collateral (according to Amazon, recommendations like this increased sales by as much as 30%). While the services you market during cross-selling are relevant to your customer's needs, they may be a bit different from what the customer originally engaged you for. For example, if you were hired to clean carpets, this would be a good opportunity to explain that you also clean drapes, how effective you are at cleaning them, and how adding a drape cleaning service to the carpet cleaning service will garner them a bundled discount. Up-selling , on the other hand, is all about increasing the overall amount that a customer spends for a particular service. The idea here is that after you have engaged with the customer, you find ways to sell more of the same service. You have to make sure you are smart about pricing so as not to be a turn-off, but it's an effective way to get the customer to buy more while they're already committed to working with you. Let's look at the carpet cleaning example again. Maybe a customer has hired you to clean the living room carpet because it has a stain; this would be a good time to ask, "When was the last time you had all your carpets cleaned? Since I'm here and have my equipment, I could do the entire house for a discounted rate." What Are You Selling? It's important that you and your employees know the context for what you sell. First off, you should recognize that there's a difference between selling products and selling services. If you are a carpenter hired to build cabinets for a customer's kitchen, it would make sense to use your expertise to advise a better quality of wood than what the customer originally wanted. It may be that they chose their wood based on price alone; you can offer them a good deal on a better quality of wood that will actually last them for many more years and will endure much more wear and tear. That's a great way to up-sell with materials. In that same example, the customer might request your services to deliver the cabinets unpainted; they want to save money by painting it themselves. You could up-sell them by offering to paint the cabinets before you install them - you might explain that, while they might save a few bucks doing it themselves, they'd need to paint a lot of cut-outs and they will need to purchase or rent an expensive spray paint machine that will eat into whatever savings they have to realize. In this case, you can work with them to come up with a mutually acceptable price. You get paid more, the customer feels like he got a deal, and you have an opportunity to demonstrate a broader set of your services. Knowing what you are able to offer, and the appropriate times and places in which to offer them is critical to customers trusting you. When, Where, and How to Up-Sell and Cross-Sell Have you ever heard a good salesman use the acronym, "ABC"? It means, "Always Be Selling," and for many, it's a behavior they live and breathe. You should not do that, however. Look, you want to sell more goods and services, but if you make a pitch every time you see your customers, it'll just become annoying and that's a sure-fire way to lose business. It's also disingenuous and frankly can border on being sleazy if you are just trying to constantly sell more, more, more. You should be ruled by the notion of providing value, not just getting a bigger invoice. Much of the time, you'll be hired to do a job, and upon completion of that job, you're done with that customer for the time being. That's just basic business. But there certainly will be times when you see an opportunity to offer additional and/or complementary goods or services, and when you do, you should be jumping at the chance. To do that, you need to know your selling points and their distinct value. Another critical aspect of up-selling and cross-selling is to know your customer. Understand their needs, and have a sense for their budget. Trying to cross-sell something that costs 3x the price tag of the original service is way out of whack and will be a turn-off. A good rule of thumb is that anything you sell as an additional product or service shouldn't exceed the original price point by more than 25%. If you go much beyond that, it becomes too big in the customer's mind and can become an immediate "no." Up-Selling, Cross-Selling, and Intelligence Gathering Every time you attempt to up-sell or cross-sell, you're going to learn something about the customer. You'll get smarter about their likes and dislikes; you'll come to understand what they value and what price points make sense for them. A good business person will use every up-sell or cross-sell situation as an opportunity to gather intelligence about the customer. It would make good sense to catalog that information and use it to get smarter about how you provide services to that particular customer. You'll start to understand if your customer wants a great bargain, or if they like convenience. Perhaps they like to negotiate, or maybe they totally recoil when you even bring up additional services. What's important, however, is that you're engaging the customer and in so doing, you're helping navigate the future of your relationship with them so you can provide better and more tailored services for them, and they can come to trust you. Some business people are reluctant to engage in up-selling or cross-selling, but these are effective ways to retain customers and generate additional revenue. By offering additional and complementary products and services in an appropriate context, you can demonstrate value, capability, and your ability to be a trusted advisor to your customers.

Pat Flanders, Guest Author

Money growing from the upsell and cross selling

How To Master Your Discounts & Offers

February 8, 2018 • Everyone loves a good deal. No matter what the service or product is, customers are attracted to the idea of getting something for less than its regular price. When searching for a vendor to work with, we know that customers do considerable research to find a good match, but we also know that a good deal can usually get the attention of a potential customer better than many other tactics. In a  study done by BIA/Kelsey’s Local Commerce Monitor, more than 30% of SMB sales come from promotions such as discount deals, daily deals, coupons, or similar discount offers. Additionally, the study found that through special offers, small businesses can create loyalty programs that are incredibly effective at building repeat business with existing customers. Discounts and offers provide an effective way to stand out from your competitors and to burnish your company name into the heads of potential customers. They can communicate that you are eager to get customers' business and that you are willing to take a financial hit to get it. That tells customers that you’re willing to give up a little to get their business. Plus, when a customer can save money, you've already got them in a good mood and eager to work with you. Who should you target with your offers? Your customers fall into two categories: new and existing. Pretty simple, but they are generally treated differently in terms of your marketing. New customers have an issue that needs solving quickly, and they are usually going to compare multiple vendors and will weigh different factors before they make a decision. Existing customers can rely on your past performance and if you've done well enough in their eyes to get their business again, an occasional discount can be a way to show your appreciation for them and encourage repeat business. In all cases, price is a critical factor in who the customer chooses, and you gain an upper hand if you offer a discount. The discount itself is enticing, but it doesn't force you to cut your fees and prices for regular services. It's usually a one-time offer that grabs the attention of potential customers, gets them engaged with you, allows you to get their business, and you then have the opportunity to gain their trust. Using special offers sporadically with existing customers can help strengthen that trust and encourage repeat business. Keep in mind, however, that a discount or special offer means that you sacrifice revenue in order to get a customer. That's not a great long-term strategy, and it doesn't make sense to shoot yourself in the foot by discounting too much. Doing so can devalue your quality in the eyes of a prospective customer and cause them to question your ability even before you get started. Make sure you give some serious thought to how you apply your discount and offer strategy. Shopify provides a variety of  suggestions for special offers, and while there are many ways to use them, we recommend the following in order to be most effective at getting more customers and retaining the ones you already have: Percentage discounts: These types of discounts require you to understand your cost of doing business and knowledge of what you're willing to give up. Consider a 10% discount. In the eyes of a customer, 10% off a $100 fee may not seem like a lot, but 25% does. In offering a 25% discount, you're willing to forgo $25, which may be the cost of an hour of an employee's time. You can probably absorb that. Now, a 25% discount on a service that costs $1000 could be a killer for your bottom line, whereas you can probably withstand a 10% discount. Do the math first, but percentage discounts really stand out in the minds of customers. Flat discount: A flat discount is usually for a set amount of money; something like, "$100 Off Duct Cleaning Service." In this type of discount, you can generate business at times when certain services aren't being called upon (air conditioning maintenance in winter months), or perhaps move excess inventory ("50% Off All Parts for All Lawnmower Repairs"). Flat discounts can also be time-limited in order to create greater demand. Referrals: You can use these types of discounts to actually generate incremental business. This is where you can offer a discount for a customer referral. For example, if an existing customer refers a new customer to you, the existing customer is rewarded with a special offer or discount. This is a great way to recruit your customers to both do your marketing for you, and to become more tightly engaged with you for longer-term commitment as they become part of your “army” of evangelists. Complimentary: Sometimes, customers just love to be recognized for choosing you. In this case, you can provide a customer with a special discount as a way to thank them for being a valued part of your business, or even for holidays and other milestones. Quirky: This is where you and your customers can have some fun. During particularly hot months, you can offer a free case of Coke with any service call. That will set you back only $10, but the customer will see it as a freebie (which everyone loves), and a kind gesture. Or you can go the wacky route and raffle for some unknown prize. When the winner is chosen, perhaps he gets a bag full of hammers. And then the next month, the winner gets 10,000 paper clips. OK, I realize those are totally useless as actual prizes, but they don't have to cost much and they will be huge for promotional value. Holiday and seasonal offers: People organize their lives around holidays and different seasons. You can use discounts as a way to insert your service into their personal organization. For example, the start of summer is when a lot of road trips happen; it's a great time to get the attention of car owners who will need an oil change. When fall hits, the kids are back in school and it's a good time for carpet cleaning. Encourage people to use their time effectively by offering discounts to drive more business to you during these periods. Abandon/retarget offers: Some people will begin to book online with you, but won't complete the process. Your online booking app will provide you with data about abandoned attempts, which you can use to re-engage. This might come in the form of an email that says, "We saw that you started to book an appointment. While we hope your problem has been solved, if you still need our services, we'd like to offer you 15% off your first appointment." It's great customer service and will make a lasting impression. Email and website subscription offers: On your company website, you can easily add the ability to capture the names of site visitors with a tool that says, "Join us for future discounts and special offers", or if you have a company blog, you can offer, "Sign up to get updates when we publish a new blog." Upon collecting those names and email addresses, you can effectively target those people with special offers as a reward for having signed up to stay connected with you. Welcome aboard: It's hard to get the attention of potential customers, but an offer of a discount can help you break through the noise of your competitors. In these types of discounts, you might be willing to part with a larger percentage of revenue because it's so much harder to get a customer than it is to keep a customer. But if you can get the attention of the customer, it's also an opportunity to put on a dog-and-pony show and demonstrate how awesome you are. So while you may forfeit some profit, you have the opportunity to more than gain it back in the long run. Reminders: Reminders are helpful, but not always welcomed. You can turn this around and demonstrate to customers that they actually need, say, a furnace tune-up and get them to commit to one if you market it in a seasonal way - in September, for instance, you can encourage them to prepare for the winter with a "Prep for Winter Sale - 20% Off Furnace Tune-Ups During the First Week in October." Your time is valuable and you should get paid for what you're worth. You also don't want to be seen as the company who discounts everything because that may signal desperation in the eyes of customers and competitors. But with a smart strategy for using discounts and special offers, you can be viewed as a strong, attractive vendor who is willing to go to great lengths to win people's business.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

Percentage signs hanging

The 4 Secrets To Unlocking Free PR For Your Business

February 8, 2018 • In a world where the media never stops and people crave more and more information, there's an opportunity for businesses that want to put in a little extra work for a big payoff: use public relations as a way to differentiate your business, tell your story, and get far more exposure than those who ignore it (which is pretty much everyone). Isn't this a secret that's gotten out yet? Turns out it's not. Very few small business put any effort into PR; they think PR is only for huge companies . That's a mistake because media outlets need stories, so you have a receptive group who's willing to create content for you. And more importantly, consumers are more likely to make decisions based on decisions from press reports than paid ads; in fact,  80% of decision-makers about the vendors they use trust articles and press information over ads. From a cost basis, and for marketing purposes of instilling trust, it's hard to do better than effectively using PR to get your name out there. But why PR? Doesn't social media give you the same thing? Actually, PR provides two advantages over other sources of information that consumers frequently use: People trust what they read in a verified press source because the press uses fact-checking, their stories are coherent and readable, and they spend time finding things that are interesting, which means readers WANT to read their content. In other words, the press is authoritative, and in a world where dogs have their own Twitter accounts, people seek that validation; Media outlets use their own social media channels to promote their stories, so in many ways, a story in a press outlet will get additional coverage simply because that media organization needs the clicks and eyeballs too. You're getting a built-in, free social media campaign out of the press organizations you work with. Keep in mind though, the press isn't just sitting around waiting for you to answer interview questions. You have to be smart about how you position your business so you not only get attention, but so that the attention aligns with your own story and puts you in a positive light. Here are four ways you can effectively work with the press to promote your business: Size doesn't matter If CNN did a 30 minute special all about your business, you most definitely would see a huge uptick in business. But as much as I hate to break it to you, that's probably not going to happen any time soon. But then again, you don't need a major news outlet. The "press" is really just anyone with an outlet and an audience, and you'll find it in a variety of people and sources, and many of them are very niche in who they cover and often emphasize local stories. Seek out these kinds of PR opportunities: Grass-roots:   I guarantee you that you'll find websites and bloggers on any and every topic. There's a great blogger named   who focuses on saw sharpening; here's a   on gutter installation and maintenance; there's even a list of the top   about HVAC topics (which clearly tells me there has to be hundreds more of them). These people need to keep their blogs fresh, so reach out and offer to be interviewed or to even write a blog for them. Clubs and associations:   Every type of business has an industry association meant to further the interests of members and to provide information for customers. A quick Google search will help you find ones that relate to your business. There's more than likely a person responsible for sending out a regular newsletter or publishing information to their website. Here again, connect with those people and see how you and them can initiate some mutual back scratching. Community groups:   Many regional areas have groups like HOAs, community advocates, or other types of organizations that highlight quality local businesses and people. These groups carry a lot of weight among their constituents because the people involved in them are usually also local and have to engender trust. Make effective use of blogs Bloggers need one key thing to stay in business - content. The more content, the more traffic, and the more traffic, the more they can sell advertising. Consider also that  47% of buyers viewed 3-5 blogs before engaging with a sales rep, and that small businesses that get their content on blogs get  67% more leads than those that don't. Now, there are good blogs and there are a ton of lousy blogs. They key is first to identify those bloggers who are influencers in your industry. You may already know who they are, but if not, search for blogs in your field and you'll probably see the same names continue to pop up. Look for ones that don't necessarily promote products (they might be a pay-to-play kind of deal which could lose you some credibility), but instead maintain a neutral stance about topics and vendors. These bloggers almost always provide a way to contact them on their website or through their social media channels. The best approach is to connect, ask if they have any content needs, and offer your time to chat for an interview or provide of your own original written work. You should also start your own blog for your website. It gives you a valuable platform and one you can use as currency to work with other bloggers. As I said, bloggers need traffic and engagement, and if you offer to highlight their content on your site in return for them doing the same for you, you'll become much more "findable" on the internet, and in the context of those topicsyour potential customers will be searching. In this kind of situation, you truly are offering them something of value, and it gives you the ability to launch your own personal PR platform. Create and work the network As we've established, the beauty of PR is usually that it's free, and the people who own the PR channels usually need good stories in order to keep cranking out new content. There's an element of reciprocity that can serve you well if you network yourself and your stories effectively. Now, don't think that website owners and online publications are waiting around for you to call. Others like yourself are going to be working to get coverage too, so you have to bring something to the table to make your story compelling. On the internet, the greatest currency is traffic, so find ways to offer to promote the websites of media outlets and they will be more inclined to promote you. This is certainly a nice thing to do, but from a tactical standpoint, it's a critical element for bloggers and website owners to stay relevant. The more links to their site, the better they will do in Google search results. Look for other types of businesses that are not competitors, but are complementary to yours. Offer to promote special offers or a link to their blog on your website in return for the same treatment from them. The more of this you can do, the more your name will be seen by potential customers, and your brand will be validated by virtue of being associated with reputable companies. Don't expect a few links to your site or a story about your business to create an avalanche of new customers. It takes time for the effort to have an effect, but it has to be a continuous effort on your part. The more press outlets and friendly businesses you reach, the greater your overall potential for getting exposure. When you reach out, it's okay to be direct and ask for attention, but be respectful and find a way to connect. You might want to try one of these formats: For email, go straight to the owner with an email that is to the point, but that makes you and your business appear compelling. Something along these lines: Hi Mike...I love your blog and think you're providing a great service for our industry. I operate a four-person ____ business in the ______ area, and I wanted to let you know about a new service we're operating that might be of interest to your readers. We call it, "Thank a Vet," and it's a way for us to serve those who have served our country. We're offering a 40% discount on all services for anyone who is serving, or has served, in the armed forces. We are also taking out ads in local publications where we thank these veterans with a picture of them and a thank you note. We'd love to consider including ads on your website as well, so wanted to see if you might be interested in talking with us about possibly highlighting our program and our business in a forthcoming blog. I'd be happy to chat with you any time. Thanks for your time. Or maybe try a text, in which you can be briefer and get straight to the point: Mike...it's ____ from _____. We have a really interesting program we've initiated that thanks veterans. Seems like it could be of interest to your readers. Would you be interested in learning more? You have to make the ask in order to get the attention, and while you may have to send quite a few requests before you get a response, the outcome will likely be more than worth it. Get local There's a big movement towards going local and it's an important thing for you to tap into. First off, there are apps and websites like Nextdoor, Hood, and JustMyNeighbors that verify people's locations and help them connect about things to do and vendor recommendations. These are more specific to neighborhoods and communities than Craigslist and other services because these hyper-local ones go to great lengths to keep communication and engagement just for people living in their communities. Find apps and services like these and identify opportunities to introduce yourself and your business within your community. While this may be more like social connecting, it's also an opportunity to let people get to know you and your brand without trying to specifically sell them something. Next, identify local groups that have publications and/or meet regularly. This would incline homeowners associations, Rotary clubs, chambers of commerce, and others that serve the interests of locals. Offer to write articles with tips and helpful hints about an area where you have expertise. You don't necessarily need to promote your services, but let's say your business is installing hardwood floors. Maybe you want to publish articles about DIY floor maintenance and the best products to use to keep hardwood looking new and vibrant. Here again, these publications are usually in need of content, and by offering your expert advice, you're providing them with a service. Don't neglect local arts and crafts fairs, and downtown merchant's nights; most towns and cities host a variety of activities during good weather to bring people out to learn about local vendors. Consider setting up a booth with flyers and other marketing collateral. Print up DIY information and distribute it with your name and brand prominently displayed on it. Remember, to serve IN your community, you have to be part OF your community. The key word in public relations is "public." You have a great business, and it can get bigger and better, but you need to make the public aware of it. Doing so with media and community outreach will humanize your brand and allow people to get to know you and your services. While it requires some work, it's also generally free or at least cost effective. Most importantly, though, it gets you front and center with potential customers through trusted sources.

Matt B., Marketing Coordinator

Newspaper article on how to get free attention

7 Ways To Guarantee Customer Loyalty

February 7, 2018 • It takes a ton of effort to get customers, but small business owners know that the secret to building a business is keeping the customers you have. Consider that, on average,  loyal customers are worth as much as 10x as much as their initial purchase or service fee, and it can  cost 5x more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep one you already have. Being dependable, competitive with pricing, and delivering great customer service is no longer enough to create a sense of loyalty among your existing customers. Today's consumer is constantly weighing their different options and expecting vendors to cater to their unique needs. Businesses can use a variety of methods to maintain relationships with customers and continuously demonstrate their value. With the right mix of social media, marketing activities, and good old customer service, you can stand out from your competitors in the eyes of your customers and be their go-to vendor. With the following tactics, you can position your company to develop deep customer retention and ongoing loyalty: 1. Have a mission and deliver on it Whether you like it or not, your business is not about you. Your business exists only because of your customers, so you have to communicate to them that you are focused on their needs and on the things that make them satisfied. This should be a major part of your efforts to brand your business, and almost  half of small businesses believe that building brand awareness is a top marketing priority. That also means it's getting more competitive to stand out from the crowd. To do it, however, you must establish a customer-focused vision for your business that emphasizes your commitment to  trust and excellence. Think about what customers like about you and your business and then translate that into a vision for what your business is all about. For example, customers probably love it when you make it a point to be on time and do follow up calls after a service visit. Not every provider does that, so that helps you stand out. But why they like that is what's especially important. When you're reliable, that means they can arrange their schedule around a visit and rest assured they'll still be able to pick their kids up from school on time. It means that they can get their own business back to normal quickly because you can fix issues that prevent them from working normally. Make sure you communicate not just the part about being on time, but explain that make it’s a core part of your mission to be on time specifically because you value their time, or that you understand that their problems are costing them money. 2. Use "leave-behinds" to stay top-of-mind Not everything is online these days. Customers still keep files, and they like the convenience of referencing paper-based content. Because of this, and because it helps you effectively communicate your brand, you need to create marketing collateral that you can leave with customers. It is an  effective way to keep your company name front-and-center in their brains, and it acts as a reminder for the next time they need your services. One of the most important things about paper marketing collateral is that it stands alone. A customer isn't comparing multiple vendors when they pick up your brochure. Rather, they're seeing all your company's attributes, special offer opportunities, and other information, all in a very visual, compelling way. Marketing collateral can come in a  variety of formats, but it should all look professional and accurately represent your brand.l. Content should be informative and needs to deliver direct information about your services, pricing, and what makes you stand out from the competition (this is where you can thread that customer-centric mission throughout the collateral). The look and design should be visually compelling, but it should also provide offers for customers to engage with you in the future through special offers and discounts. When a customer sees that they can save money on their next visit, you're already half way to booking them again. 3. Use marketing tools to say "thank you" While you are an expert in your particular field of service, the root of any business is all about how you interact with people. And people want to feel like they are appreciated, and saying "thank you" is one of the most effective ways of doing that. Most of your competitors will think in terms of needs; they need you, and you need their business. While that's true, that mindset is very much about a single interaction - engage, solve, leave. Yet, 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. It's also just plain, old-fashioned good manners, and that's appealing to everyone. 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 help you stand out from other vendors who appear to take customers for granted. 4. Referrals and reviews do the work for you In a survey of 7,500 North American business owners,  85% said that word of mouth referrals are the single most effective way to acquire customers. In today's market where consumers have more choices than ever before, they increasingly rely on proof points and validation from people like them. Especially with the popularity of online review sites like Yelp, Facebook, Angie's List and others, customers have many outlets to voice their opinions, good or bad; it's the new word of mouth. Happy customers are usually happy to refer you. The problem is that they may not always be aware of the outlets for doing so, and they may not always think to initiate it on their own, so it's up to you to direct them. As mentioned above, collateral can be an important tool for this. Every time you finish a job, present your customer with instructions for how to provide a review on one of these sites. A visual step-by-step diagram will make it easy for anyone to log on and leave a positive review for you. You may also want to offer an incentive; perhaps a discount on future services or the opportunity to be included in a raffle for customers who submit a review of your company and its services. Besides creating more validation for your business and greater word of mouth opportunities, these types of reviews and referrals also create a tighter bond between you and the customer who is providing the referral. When a customer speaks highly of you, it creates another form of positive validation and a reminder that you are their go-to vendor for future service. 5. Use social media and content to stay connected Do you ever call your customers just to check up on them? Sounds like a nice thing to do, but it would suck so much time that you wouldn't be able to handle the workload in front of you. Social media, however, is an effective and inexpensive way to stay connected with customers and increase awareness of your services. Facebook, for example, now  influences more than half of the buying decisions for customers' good and services needs, and AdWeek says that it could be detrimental to avoid social media in your business. The first thing you need to do is create the basic social media accounts: Twitter, Facebook company pages, and Instagram all allow you to communicate messages to users and use visuals effectively. In your marketing collateral, encourage customers to follow your accounts, and you should follow them in return. Look for local accounts and engage with them as well. Social media is a great way to deliver personalized messages directly to the accounts of your followers and others who might benefit from knowing about your services. Social media also provides a great channel for delivering content to stay engaged with your existing customers. Perhaps you want to send them winter maintenance tips. Doing so through the U.S. Mail is costly and email can be time intensive. But you can direct this content (whether it's a downloadable piece or just text in a message) to your users and customers so they benefit from the information and stay tightly connected to you. 6. Create an enemy OK, take this with a grain of salt, but everyone loves to hate the bad guy. Most experts say that  tension makes people pay attention, and in a business context, an enemy helps create this awareness. They also want to quickly avoid the pain that comes from knowing the bad guy could strike at any time. This isn't about actually finding a person or industry to target, however. This is about the culprit that gives you business in the first place. For a carpet cleaning company, kids' shoes are evil. They track water and dirt all over the house...let's go to war over kids' shoes! Or an HVAC company can align themselves with hot, uncomfortable customers to combat a heat wave with air conditioning...and possibly the opportunity to more effectively keep ice cubes cold in your margarita! Customers like quirky and fun campaigns like this because they are original and entertaining. It also gives you the ability to stay highly connected and stand out from competitors who stick to standard, basic messages. While you aren't actually trying to instigate anger in people, having a common enemy (no matter how funny it is) is compelling and increases a customer's appreciation for you as a vendor. 7. Make your employees your best ambassadors Don't forget that one of your greatest assets may be your employees. They represent your business and everything they do can either help or hurt your business' chance of retaining customers, so it's critical that you invest time to train them in customer service that stands out. A  Gallup poll indicates that almost half of employees are unaware of their own company's branding, which prevents them from being a great ambassador for you. To make sure they are consistent with what you think is important, walk your employees through the entire process of engaging with a customer. It starts with marketing collateral, your website, social media - anything that a customer might see before they decide to work with you. That material should reflect the type of business you want to and it should look professional, be clear, and demonstrate a level of trustworthiness. Then, an employee needs to keep in mind all the little things that go into making a  lasting impression: great the customer with a handshake, introduce yourself, be communicative, and do an outstanding job. Courtesy and willingness to go the extra mile will make your business stick in the minds of your customers possibly more than anything else. If you can put together these seven pieces of advice into your ongoing, regular business practices, you are going to find that customers seek you out. Their loyalty will translate into long term loyalty and ongoing support which will save you money and ensure repeat business in the long run.

Pat Flanders, Guest Author

Happy home owner in kitchen

Channel the Power of Referral Marketing

January 18, 2018 • People are generally creatures of habit. We get our hair cut by the same person, we order the dish we already know we like, and we buy products that we trust. When we can no longer rely on our own experience to make decisions we look to the people we trust for new recommendations. That’s why, if done right,  referral marketing is one of the most efficient ways to gain new customers for your business. Below are some referral marketing strategies to get you started. Why are referrals important? There are three reasons referral marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies that also tend to have extremely high conversion rates. Exact targeting It’s like the old saying goes, “Birds of a feather, flock together.” When your customers are referring you to their friends and family, you know that you’re targeting individuals that are similar to customers that have already booked you. Simply based on the fact that they were a referral you’ll know that they’re in need of the service you provide and are a good fit for how you run your business. Trust building When you’re looking for a recommendation who do you trust more: A complete stranger online or someone that you know and admire? We tend to be more trusting of the experienced-based, opinions we hear from friends, family, influencers, and anyone that’s already gained our trust. Reach The number of leads you can gain from your customers is endless. Each of your current customers has a number of referrals they could send you. Every time you gain a new customer you’re gaining another batch of possible referrals, and so on and so forth. This makes referrals one of the most scalable channels for leads available. What makes a good referral marketing campaign? A good referral marketing campaign is low-cost, while still incentivizing your referrers to tell others about your service with something that makes them feel valued. You can choose to give a discount on your service for a certain number of referrals, send them a company t-shirt, or offer a gift card of some sort. Here are a couple examples of  successful referral programs. Uber If you’ve ever signed up for Uber you know about their referral program. In all seriousness, if you haven’t heard of it, Uber is a ride-sharing program. The success of their company is largely attributed to their referral program. How it works is each customer is automatically given a unique referral code when they sign up. If they give their code to their friend all the friend has to do is enter the code they gave them and both individuals are given a discount on their next ride. The unique code makes the customer feel valued, while also offering a monetary incentive. Dropbox Dropbox is an online file sharing and storage company that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud, and client software. Their referral program is different from others because their incentive isn’t monetary, instead, they offer product based perks. They offer an extra 500MB of free storage. Like Uber, they reward both the new customer and the referring customer the extra storage space. This referral strategy tends to provide the highest quality leads since both participants are interested in having more engagement with your product or service. Go to market strategies Now that you have an idea of different kinds of referral programs and why they’re important, here are six strategies to ensure your campaign is a success. 1) The customer experience   While providing great customer service on the job is important, unfortunately, it’s not enough to motivate your customers to share it with others. If you want them to recommend you to their friends and family, you’ll need to provide them with a memorable experience that begins before the job even starts, and continues well after the job is completed. This means doing things like allowing them to conveniently book you online, providing open communication, and following up with them after the job is done. 2) Reporting, metrics, and analytics In order to see if your campaign is actually working, you’ll need to be meticulous about your reporting. That way, you can see where your customers are coming from and find new opportunities to gain more. You’ll want to start by implementing a way to track where your new customers are coming from. A good way to do this is through a referral code or asking how they heard about you in an exit survey. Once you have acquired enough data, you can dive deep into your metrics to see what’s working and what’s not. Keep in mind, if something doesn’t work right away it doesn’t mean it’s a bad campaign. It might just need some more time to gain momentum. 3) Make your service shareable An easy way to create more brand awareness within your targeted demographic is through your customer’s social media. Everyone on social media knows that customers love sharing experiences like what they eat, where they’re going, and whatever else they think others will find interesting. Make your service easy for your customers to share with their friends and family by providing them with before and after photos to share on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You can make this even more appealing by making a contest out of it. Just have them tag you in their post to be entered to win a discount on their next service. There are plenty of free programs online that randomly select a winner for you. 4) Gather more reviews Another form of referrals comes from the advice of strangers on the internet, aka online reviews. Yes, your customers do look at these. If they don’t know anyone personally that has worked with you, they’ll look online for an educated opinion. If you know that your customer had a great experience, ask them to leave you a review on your website, Google, Facebook, or Yelp. Try automating this process by setting up an email marketing campaign that asks your customers to leave you a review a week after the job is complete. 5) Collect your assets You can create new assets, or repurpose previously used graphics/copy, making the process even more efficient. Keep track of all of your before/after images, customer reviews and testimonials, and additional assets you’ve acquired. That way if you want to share anything on social media, or provide potential customers with examples of past work, testimonials, and recommendations you can do so without chasing them back down. It is important to keep a strong collection of assets that will be ready to use at any moment so that you aren’t held back when the need for graphics arises. 6) Create your rewards incentives You can create new assets, or repurpose previously used graphics/copy, making the process even more efficient. Keep track of all of your before/after images, customer reviews and testimonials, and additional assets you’ve acquired. That way if you want to share anything on social media, or provide potential customers with examples of past work, testimonials, and recommendations you can do so without chasing them back down. It is important to keep a strong collection of assets that will be ready to use at any moment so that you aren’t held back when the need for graphics arises. Knowing the value of referral marketing is vital to helping your business grow. By creating a well-planned referral campaign, you’re turning your customers into advocates for your business. Since the customers you gain came from an opinion they respect, they’ll be more likely to become a loyal customer themselves. Investing in a referral marketing campaign will ultimately save you time and money while nurturing a source of leads that have an endless potential.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

the power of referral marketing

15 Surefire Ways to Gain More Business

January 18, 2018 • There was once a time where posting flyers and having an ad in a local newspaper was enough to promote your business. Today, however, customers are being marketed to in so many different ways. Whether it’s social media, SEO, video, or through the press, you need to try out new, creative ways to show customers who you are. It can be a daunting task to know where to start, so we put together the following 15 ways to promote your service. 1) Education and fun facts Your customers are interested in what goes into the job they’re paying for. The more they know about what you do, the more they’ll understand the process and trust you. You’ll want to make sure to keep it informative, but also fun to make sure they actually read and understand it. 2) Email marketing There are a couple of strategies for you to utilize in your email marketing. Automatic reminder and follow up emails - Just like you, your customers all have super busy schedules. By sending reminder and follow up emails you’ll stay top of mind for your customer and prevent last-minute cancellations caused by forgotten appointments. You won’t just stay relevant to your customer, they’ll also appreciate the reminder for their appointment. Drip Campaigns -  A drip campaign is a marketing method that involves sending marketing material to your leads, repeatedly over long periods of time. Programs like HubSpot, MailChimp, etc. have made creating these campaigns easier than ever.  Make sure you make your customers are actually opening your emails with a subject line that peaks their curiosity, but also creates a sense of urgency. Remember your customers are getting hundreds of emails a week with the average open rate being 24.19% and only 5.89% of those customers clicking through to your website or landing page. This just means you’ll have to get creative in how you give them a reason to open yours. 3) Partnership promoter programs Create a network of service professionals from different industries. By creating partnerships with other professionals you’ll develop a referral program within your network. A good way to get started with networking for your business is joining a group that’s already established, such as your local BNI (business networking international) chapter.  4) Get free press You don’t always have to pay for good press. Bloggers, local sites, and papers often have free options. If you offer to give them a free service in return for free press, the story will be even more personal. 5) Go live on Facebook or Periscope Live video is a great way to get in front of your customers in a more personable way. Show your customers what happens behind the scenes. Knowing what goes on during the job will give them peace of mind when booking you. Make sure you encourage engagement from your viewers throughout the video and share them as marketing content. 6) Set up custom audiences on Facebook Creating a custom audience, such as a lookalike audience, on Facebook will help you reach potential customers with buying habits similar to your current customers. Click here to get started. 7) Set up a referral system We all know how important referrals are to a business when it comes to gaining the trust of your potential customers. A good way to drive even more referrals is to incentivize your customers to send you more new business with a referral program. Offer them a discount on their next service or send them a gift thanking them for bringing your new business. 8) Create a blog Creating content for your customers will make you look professional and give you more credibility. Some topics you could write about are DIY maintenance tips, fun facts about your industry, or a spotlight about a large job you’ve done. Make sure you share your content with any groups on social media that your customers might be a part of. 9) Post photos of your jobs on Instagram The majority of your customers are active on Instagram. To ensure that you’re getting in front of your audience, share before and after pictures on Instagram. Make sure to include a few hashtags and your location so new customers can find you. 10) Create more video content and post them on YouTube Video is one of the best ways to get your customers attention. It’s easy for your customers to digest what you’re sharing, through a visual medium. Make sure your videos are interesting enough that your viewers will share them with their friends. Some successful tactics we’ve seen are job time-lapses, technique walkthroughs, and ‘day in the life’ videos. Your video shouldn’t just live on Youtube, make sure you share it on all your other social platforms to get more interaction and viewers. 11) Run contests A good way to drive brand awareness is through a contest. Get creative and think outside the box when brainstorming contest ideas. Make sure your contest promotes your company and include a call to action that drives traffic towards your business. You can even give the winner a prize that promotes your business such as a discount, branded t-shirt, etc. (ex. Ask your customers to share before and after photos of the work you’ve done for them. Make sure you ask them to tag you in it and the winner gets a discount on their next service). 12) Participate in local philanthropies An easy way to obtain more customers is having more involvement in the community you’re serving. Do pro-bono work for non-profits, or network at a charity event. You’ll reach new customers and build trust with them too. 13) Get on the radio and local television as a feature segment Radio and television stations love to feature local small business on their shows. Send them a pitch, showing them the value that you offer their viewers and even suggest that they come on site with you for a more interactive piece. 14) EDDM direct mailers Through EDDM (every door direct mail) you can canvas whole neighborhoods with your marketing material. You just have to target the right geographic areas that you service, create your offer, and launch your campaign. Learn more and get started  here. Direct mailers are great for remarketing to your current customers too. Remind them to rebook a service with you or offer them a customer discount with automated postcard marketing. Pro Tip: This is a great way to ask for reviews and referrals. 15) Advertise where your customers are Your customer demographic is mostly women, so you want to make sure you’re advertising where they consume the most media. Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook are all great platforms to reach your audience and are a great place to showcase all of the content we just discussed. Now that you have some ideas to start with, go ahead a try a few. You don’t need to try them all at once, but you should test a few out and make sure to get creative with your campaigns. In order to ensure your campaigns are working, you’ll want to measure your results with good unit economics. Set aside a budget for you to prove what works best before you spend too much money on one campaign. If something doesn’t work within the first week, that’s okay. You’ll need to test, iterate, and optimize your strategy over multiple weeks.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

child yelling through old timey megaphone

The Complete Field Service Management Buyers Guide

January 8, 2018 • It sometimes seems like there’s never an end to the work that has to get done, and that’s before you actually do the work. Estimating, scheduling, bidding, dispatching, and so many other tasks take up valuable time, and most of that time isn’t billable. And even once you’ve got the job, you have to manage a huge number of moving parts just to keep the project moving, all while continuing to seek new opportunities. In today’s working environment, you’re required to do so many tasks in parallel with the work you’re getting paid for and it’s limiting your ability to grow your business and maximize profits. If you take the time to use the right tools, however, you’ll discover a better way to manage your business and get control over your time. A field service management (FSM) software solution that can be managed from your mobile phone can make your operations more efficient and help you increase your ability to engage with new customers. This guide about field service management software will walk you through the process of finding the right solution that fits with your needs and will support you as you grow. Not every business is the same, but everyone wants to reduce wasted time and effort so they can focus on getting the job done. FSM can certainly help you do that, but you must be armed with information to be able to ask the right questions and identify a tool that can be effective for you. Everyone is talking about FSM, but why do you need it? FSM software helps people and businesses manage workers, inventory, scheduling, billing, customer service, and every aspect of running separate projects and their entire business. It automates time consuming and repetitive tasks, which frees owners to focus on growing their business. Analyst firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, 70% of eld service organizations will tie customer satisfaction directly to benefits derived from an FSM solution, up from approximately 50% in 2017. There’s clearly a trend towards the use of technology as a driver of better customer service and improved efficiency. And as more businesses seek these advantages, using an FSM app will become a “have to.” The key, however, will be to find the best one.  As cell phones, tablets, and other devices are common on-the-job tools, they are making FSM solutions and apps easy to deploy and use. User-friendly mobile FSM apps create a new way of running a business because they provide a single dashboard from which a business owner can manage almost all aspects of the business and stay in close contact with customers and employees.  Businesses that don’t implement the right solution will quickly fall behind those that are getting the economic and time-saving advantages of FSM. Those that make the move will realize that with relatively minimal effort, and in very little time, they have better control over their operations and more time to do the things that deliver income. Let’s look at some of the specific things to look for when identifying FSM software that’s best for your organization. Advil or FSM? Reduce headaches with a better way to manage teams, finances & jobs Technology can deliver major improvements to a business, but it has to be easy to implement, customizable to the organization’s unique needs, and deliver demonstrable business advantages. Think about the tasks you go through on any given day, and then consider how much easier it would be if they could all be done faster and from a single dashboard. An FSM solution should provide communication, collaboration, and other functional capabilities that keep your business connected to the people who get the job done.  Automate Repetitive Tasks These include customer communication, invoicing, accounting, and routing of supplies. The right app will automatically send invoices and reminders without you having to do the manual work of creating, sending, and waiting for a response.  Delegate, Manage, and Coordinate Some FSM solutions are based just on tasks. To truly eliminate redundant work, the best tool will have built-in work ow capabilities and will enable you to delegate different tasks to people within your organization, all based on employee permissions and access to the management of the app.  What makes a good FSM solution? Delivers immediate, and sustainable improvement in your bottom-line.  Learning   curve should be easy for you and all of your employees. Increases communication with, and among, all employees. Covers all aspects of project management, from start to finish. Get the business and get paid No business can stay afloat if income isn’t regularly coming in. Yet, the process of billing, collecting, and paying vendors can be one of the biggest time sucks. An FSM solution should centralize all financial activity into a single dashboard so you get a clear picture of the status of bills and revenue, and insight into where money is coming from and where it’s going. With this kind of insight, you can be more effective at planning and allocating money, supplies, and people.  The best kind of app for your business is one that automates many tasks but also provides convenience features to encourage faster invoicing of customers and more efficient payment of your bills. Build relationships & create a network of fans Building a following of loyal customers while continually acquiring new ones is part art, part science, and it takes a ton of time. Marketing is critical if you want to grow your business, and your FSM solution should provide tools to support these efforts. Rather than rely on multiple apps and services to get your message to customers and prospects, an effective FSM solution will give you the ability to create marketing materials, distribute them, and maintain regular communication with customers all from within the app itself. The idea is to put you in front of potential customers when they need you. Marketing to today’s consumers requires more than just direct mailers or email campaigns. Look for a solution that is comprehensive in what it offers and allows you to do the following: Real-Time Customer Engagement  If you can provide text notifications, online customer chat tools, and other ways to engage online, you’ll demonstrate your customer-first approach and dedication to their needs.  Effective Marketing & Advertising According to MarketingSherpa, 72% of American adults prefer communication by email. With an effective FSM solution, you should be able to quickly and easily create email and postcard marketing campaigns that are built on templates, can be designed in minutes, and sent to prospects and customers in one click.  Customer Relationship Management ( CRM ) You create loyal customers when they know you care about them. The FSM app you use should help with your customer relationship efforts by maintaining a history of your interaction with them. An added bonus is being able to set up alerts within the app to remind customers of regular maintenance or other services that are needed. Book it and become a provider of choice Homeowners look for a service provider because they have a problem that needs fixing. They make a decision when they are ready to engage, and if you can present your company in a positive light at that time, you greatly increase your odds of getting the business. Almost 70% of consumers say that online reviews are very or extremely valuable in evaluating a eld service provider, and almost 50% indicate they would pay more for providers that have positive reviews. With consumers increasingly relying on peer recommendations and online word of mouth, it’s critical to have your business visible where potential customers are searching.  How to get the benefit of context-based booking Look for an FSM application that is integrated with websites that provide reviews, including Yelp, Facebook, Bing, and others. You should also be able to use the app within your website so users can book while they are learning more about your services. The Top-rated FSM Tool By Business Owners: Housecall Pro FSM software is intended to make your job easier, help you reduce inefficiency, and give you opportunities to build your business. The problem is that most apps only provide some of these elements and you’re left to cobble together the missing pieces. This just adds to your “to do” list. Housecall Pro is a comprehensive FSM solution that combines every aspect of eld service business management, marketing, and financials into a single app. It is essentially a complete and comprehensive business operations console which can be managed from your phone, a device, and anywhere you have web access. We’re building a large and fanatical group of customers which is demonstrated by top ratings from users. Housecall Pro is the top rated FSM app on the five most popular software rating sites, and consistently gets top marks for being the most affordable, user- friendly, and best overall tool for eld service management businesses like yours. What separates Housecall Pro is our approach to you and your business. We recognize that wasted time, supplies, and other resources creates stress and lose income. Business owners try desperately to avoid that, but they are either saddled with inefficient tools, or they can’t find the time to solve problems because there’s simply too much to do. Housecall Pro breaks down the separate types of jobs you need to do, but integrates them into one app. Within the app you can manage every aspect of your business in a way that cuts down on waste and makes your business more attractive to customers. 

Matt B., Marketing Coordinator

man processing payment with home owner using housecall pro

Business Checklist

November 2, 2017 • You have been busy all year, and we all know that during busy times even the most organized businesses tend to let some things slip through the cracks. It could be that you haven’t pre-ordered your supplies, or that you have a couple of unpaid invoices that need following up. Now that the busy season is beginning to wind down it’s time to take stock of your business and prepare to finish out the rest of the year. That’s why we created this business check-up checklist. Start taking the steps to get your business back in order. Inventory Payments: With all of the back-to-back jobs you’ve had this summer, there may be some invoices that have yet to be paid. Check in with those customers who have outstanding payments that haven’t been collected by sending them a follow-up invoice. Budget: Take a look at what you had budgeted for the high season and compare it with how much you actually spent. Adjust your budget accordingly for the rest of the year if you need to. Supplies:  Find out what supplies you used the most and keep track of them for next year. Once you know what supplies you used the most, you can use that as a reference to prepare your orders for the next busy season. Reflect on the past year: Acknowledge and learn from any mistakes you might have made this past year. See what you could have done differently and make sure to implement those changes for the next busy season. Some of these changes can be timely, so make sure to take advantage of this slower season to start implementing new structures and workflows now. Look at Your Highlight Reel: Don’t just learn from your mistakes, but focus on your success as well. Make sure to take note of all of your wins so you can continue the actions that have helped your business grow. Set Goals: Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses you can begin to set your goals for the end of the year. You want to make sure to create a distinct set of goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely - aka SMART goals.   To learn more tips and tricks to help run your business more efficiently, visit us at HousecallPro.com.  

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

businesschecklist

How to Onboard Your Employees

August 25, 2017 • The world of field service management is  undergoing a major shift. Field service management software (FSM software) is revolutionizing the way service providers communicate with their customers, schedule and dispatch their work, and handle invoicing and payments. However, as much as clients may be loving how simple and convenient FSM software is, it isn’t always easy for businesses to get their employees on board. For many employees in field service management, utilizing software is a new way of operating. Many would-be users are accustomed to paper forms, phone calls, and manual processes. So, how do business owners and leaders go about getting their new employees on board with FSM Software? Start With Why Before even beginning the process of researching and selecting a software tool, start with “why”. Let employees know that you’re looking at a new software tool that will save them time, save the company money, simplify their work, and the way they interact with customers.   Help them to understand early on how this will improve things so that they can begin to understand that a change is coming and can get used to the idea. Share your time frame with them as well so they know when to expect training will begin, and when they’ll start using it. Early Buy-In Gaining early buy-in helps surround the impending change in positivity. A great way to do that is to  get the early adopters on board. How do you know who your early adopters are? They will be those employees excited about the improvements they can see FSM software will bring to their work. They’re likely the most tech savvy people on the team. Ask them to be a part of the buying process. Have them test software, ask questions, and propose ideas and challenges. Involve them in the ways that FSM software will change the current workflow. Not all of your employees will want to be involved in this stage, but offering the opportunity helps you find out who your early adopters are. You will need these folks to help sell the product to the rest of the team. Training Have you ever been in a training with someone that knows a lot, but has a hard time explaining the most obscure details? While this kind of deep dive may appeal to a handful of people, most users become overwhelmed, confused, or frustrated by all of that unnecessary information. Be sure that training is interesting — tell stories of success and cover tips, tricks and shortcuts that are sure to make your employees’ jobs even easier. You should keep the first trainings simple, clear, and short. Focus on Core Features Your employees are utilizing FSM software to make their jobs more efficient and delight your customers. Focus on the features that make the most sense and will make an immediate impact. For now, you can let go of any shiny extras. Once they’ve adopted the software, they can request further training on more robust features. Offer 1-on-1 Assistance There are bound to be a few employees who will need or want to see some details from training a second time. Be sure to offer one-on-one assistance to those folks, and make sure that they understand that help will always be available, anytime. You may also consider asking a few of your early adopters to help out with supporting the extra training to those who may need it. Be Encouraging One of the best things you can do to help your employees through the change to FSM software is to be encouraging. When they use the tool, thank them. Acknowledge, especially to the late adopters, that you understand making a change from their comfortable routines to something entirely new, isn’t easy. Let them know you appreciate their willingness to make the switch. You can also create peer champions by having early adopters who have success with the software share their experiences at a team meeting. Measure Results Oftentimes companies make software changes without really explaining the reasons why. While this can create difficult change management, what’s equally as frustrating for employees is to never really know whether or not the change was worth it. Be sure to measure and share the results with them so that they know how the new FSM software has positively impacted the business. The key to successfully onboarding employees to FSM software is to include them in the process early on, gain their buy-in, and provide thorough, easy-to-understand training that focuses mainly on core features. Be sure to offer extra assistance to anyone requesting it, and be encouraging. You’ll be on your way to happier clients and a more efficient workflow process in no time. *** Jessica Barrett Halcom is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com, with specializations in human resources, healthcare, and transportation. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and currently lives in Nashville, TN.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

How to onboard your employees

Instagram For Your Field Service Business

August 21, 2017 • Social media is here to stay. The steadily growing crowd of Instagrammers, tweeters, and Facebookers won’t be going away anytime soon. While you may have thought social media is just a fad, or only for personal use, it’s actually opening brand new doors for you to interact and connect with a massive base of customers. From a business perspective, social media is a no-brainer business decision. You have access to about 90 million users on Instagram alone, for free. Yes, for free. Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media channels out there, and with the majority of its users being middle and upper-middle-class females, it's the perfect market for home service businesses. Let's take a look at how setting up an Instagram account for your business can help you corner this market and bring in new business. What is your new Instagram all about? Instagram is a social network for sharing photos and videos. What type of photos and videos your share is up to you, however, it is important that you decide the purpose of your account. Do you want to extend the reach of your brand? Is it a place where customers can share the value of your finished work? Or is it a way to highlight your customer service and show the human side of your company? This decision is very important because it sets up the story for the rest of your account. Remember, consistency is key, so once you’ve selected a theme for your new account, stick with it. Polish your profile First impressions are everything. It takes less than two-tenths of a second for a visitor viewing your profile to cement an idea about who you are and what your business is about, so make sure that initial impression is a good one. Creating a clear and uncluttered profile is crucial to making sure your audience finds your account and follows it. One of the first things they’ll see is your username. Try to craft a username that is short, memorable, and matches your business name. Next, make sure to upload a high-quality version of your logo as a profile picture. For your bio section, add a short description of your business. Try to keep it to the point, and authentic to you and your brand. Lastly, remember that unlike other social media platforms, Instagram doesn’t have a cover photo. With that in mind, most of your brand recognition will come from the content you post; plan accordingly.  Content is King Seek to create content that engages and entertains your audience. The best promotional content is content that is the least promotional. Don’t be afraid to pose questions in your captions in an effort to engage with your followers. Check out  what kind of content to post for more tips on how to indirectly showcase your services, build anticipation and collaborate with others. Use Hashtags That Drive Business (#whattheheckisahashtag) Hashtags can help increase traffic to your page and help you track your success. Posts with at least one hashtag will receive 12.6% more engagement on average, and you can use up to thirty hashtags per post. Think of these hashtags as active keywords. When a user searches for something, the ones you’ve chosen will act as magnets for your post. Pro-Tip:  Place your hashtags as a comment to the actual post. By not posting them in the caption and placing them in the comments instead you make your post look a lot more visually pleasing.   Something every business should do is create their own custom hashtag. For example, if your business name is Xtreme Carpet Pros, we’d use something like #xtremecarpets. It’s an uncommon hashtag not typically used by other people, and your followers can use it in their own post to engage with you once jobs are complete.  Tips and Tricks To get the most out of your Instagram account, keep these tips in mind Convert your account to a registered business account Follow these steps to convert your account to a business account. Doing so unlocks a lot of free marketing and demographic insight about your account. You’ll be able to visually see things like which neighborhoods your followers are in, the best time to post, how much impact your post is having, and much more.  Links don't work in Instagram captions The only place you can share an active link that actually takes users to a website is in your profile (or through a button on a paid advertising post). Respond to other users' comments When people comment on your photos, don’t leave them in the dark. Creating a connection your customers and followers will show them that you’re listening to what they have to say.  They'll be more likely to continue following you and interacting with your pictures if they feel like they matter. Embed Instagram posts on your website This can show visitors that you're active on Instagram and help you add more followers.  To set up your new account for success try and touch upon all the items mentioned above. First, establish what your new Instagram account is all about. Next, polish your profile and ensure all your content is in line with your brand. Last, harness the power of hashtags and to reach more people than ever before. People come to Instagram to be connected, informed, and entertained. Setting up an Instagram Business account gives people more information about your products, service or business and gives them an opportunity to connect with you in a way that wasn’t possible before.

Kareem Abulaban

Instagram for your service business