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How Reviews Help SEO For Your Small Business

February 14, 2019 • As a small business owner, you know as well as anyone that reputation is an invaluable asset to your business. What is said about your brand is important--especially when it comes to what is said on the world wide web. Plain and simple, the internet is the main tool a consumer uses today to help with their purchasing decisions. Research indicates that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 97% of consumers say that reviews influence their buying decision. We know that customers use reviews to influence their purchasing decisions. In order to use that information to your advantage, however, it's important to make sure that those reviews are seen by the customers so once they're ready to purchase. Let's take a look at the various strategies for utilizing your reviews to increase your SEO rankings and thus increase the overall success of your business. How do we know reviews matter? According to MOZ's 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors , "Review Signals" (Review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) ranked as the 3rd most important factor, accounting for 15.44% of how Google ranks a local business in its "Local Pack" search results. This is almost a 7% increase from 2015 when reviews were valued at only 8.4% for ranking a site in Google. What is Google’s local pack? The Local Pack is the box of local search and map results that appear at the top of relevant searches in Google. Needless to say, reviews are a key determinant in making sure your business ranks higher in localized Google search over your competitors. Now that we know reviews matter to SEO rankings. Let's dive into how reviews can help with your rankings and SEO strategy. SEO ranking factors You may be asking yourself at this point, "well I see that reviews are important when it comes to ranking higher with SEO, but why is that? Why is Google putting a considerable amount of emphasis on reviews and my ranking?" Well there are some pretty simple reasons behind why Google uses reviews to help with its rankings. With Google, it's all about "who you know" Well, sort of. When Google first started ranking pages back in the day, it was all about the "credible" links you had associated with your site and page. While this is still true today, there are also other auxiliary factors associated to your site--reviews being one of the main ones. Getting links from other sites is one of Google's ways of understanding how trustworthy your site is. The more links you have from other credible sites, the more Google will reward your site with increased visibility. Furthermore, reviews inform Google that your business really exists and how past customers have felt about their interactions. Google uses content to understand your business Google is the most proficient and powerful scanner in the world. It reads your site and every site on the planet in order to help it make sense of the internet. If it has more content to read about your brand, Google develops a better understanding of your site giving it the ability to determine when and how to rank it. Understanding this gives you a tremendous opportunity. By having more reviews on your business, you are inherently giving Google more content to consume around your business, which helps the search engine better understand your business. When Google understands your business more, it rewards this information with an SEO boost. Unpack a review for a moment. What are the contents of a review? Most likely, the review will talk about the following: How the customer felt during the experience Their interactions with your business The product or service that was purchased The reviewer is writing the review for other potential customers while simultaneously giving Google rich information to help further boost your SEO. Great reviews mean a higher star rating, which mean more clicks And of course more clicks means a better bottom-line for you in the end. Humans have always relied on one another for the growth of our species. This is clearly illustrated with reviews and referrals. Take for instance an individual making a purchasing decision between two electricians: one with a two-star average in reviews and another with a five-star average. The sensible and rational consumer will most likely go with the five-star review average and click-through to their site. It's common knowledge within the digital marketing community that a higher click-through-rates on a site result in an SEO boost. Research shows that if a high percentage of searchers choose your site from the search results , Google correlates higher click through with credibility and will reward your site with better rankings. Reviews, especially positive reviews, play a huge role with click through rates. When you attract more clicks with your positive reviews, you'll see a boost in ranking follow as a result. Crafting a review acquisition strategy Whether you're just starting out and looking to get your first online review for your small business or looking to enhance your overall review acquisition strategy, a lot of what is entailed remains pretty consistent. First and foremost, make sure you're asking your customers for a review. It seems almost too simple to be mentioned here but more often than not, this step is passed over. A customer will have no idea how important a review is to you unless you let them know. Make sure you're asking the right customers in order to get that positive review you deserve. All too often, small businesses send out mass email reminders to past customers prompting them for a review of their experience. If you send a reminder to the wrong customer, you may be presented with a negative review. Reputationbuilder.com suggests a negative experience is 3X more likely to leave a negative review than a positive. You don't want to shoot yourself in the foot here if you don't have to. Work to get reviews on all of the major review sites that help bolster SEO. If you have a review acquisition strategy, make sure you are using the right websites to get the right reviews. Google, Facebook, and Yelp are the top-dogs here. Acquiring Reviews Sound overwhelming? If all of this sounds overwhelming, rest assured it doesn't have to be. Thankfully, with tools like Review Booster from Housecall Pro, all of the work can be done for you. With Review Booster you can ask the right customers for the positive reviews you deserve. You can do all of this with the help of easy to use templates that are sent to your past customers and prompt them with writing reviews on all the top review sites. All in the name of increasing SEO. So take action now and be the first business your future customers see. If not, your competitors will.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

INDUSTRY: Small business

Housecall Pro announces January 2019 Superpros

February 6, 2019 • SAN DIEGO, February 6, 2019 - Housecall Pro, the #1 rated app for home service companies, has announced the January cohort of Superpros.  This program is dedicated to defining excellence and identifying the highest quality local home service companies. The Superpro community includes the best Pros in each industry across the country, allowing for a unique opportunity to connect with equal caliber service professionals. Every month, we award this status to Housecall Pros dedicated to providing their customers with a transparent, modern, and online experience from day one, establishing a strong relationship for years to come. At this time, only 5% of Housecall Pro users are awarded with Superpro status. The Superpro Program was relaunched in the beginning of this year with a new application and stricter eligibility requirements. These requirements include offering a seamless online booking experience for customers on both website and Facebook pages, detailed and personable pictures and descriptions for all services to further facilitate an easy and customer-friendly booking experience, an average of 4.5 star reviews across all platforms, and high-account usage. We do a detailed audit of the Pro’s account to ensure they have met all requirements. Once they have been approved for Superpro status, we require the Pro to sign the Superpro Code of Ethics. This Superpro Codes of Ethics is signed by the company promising elite professionalism, quick response times to both customers and other Pros, and overall responsibilities as a Superpro in the home service community. Together, Superpros are dedicated to bringing trust and value back into the trades. Service professionals who have earned this award will have unique badges displayed on their websites and company profiles to distinguish them as 2019 Superpros. This award is earned every year and the status is valid for a year after acceptance. At that time, the Superpro will be reevaluated to ensure that they still meet all of the eligibility requirements.

Alexa Greenberg

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What Is Field Service Management Software?

February 5, 2019 • If you work in a home-services industry — and especially if you manage a team of professionals who make house calls — there’s a good chance you’ve heard about field service management software. But exactly what does this term refer to, and is field service management software applicable in your specific line of work? To help you gain a clearer understanding of what field service management software is and how your business might use it, here’s an overview of everything you need to know about this revolutionary way to streamline your workflow. What Is Field Service Management Software? For businesses that make house calls, field service management, often abbreviated as FSM, simply refers to the allocation of off-site resources required to serve customers. FSM comes in many different forms and can include everything from scheduling appointments to dispatching workers to determining the locations of your vehicles. Over the years, FSM has evolved from a rudimentary pencil-and-paper process into a sophisticated set of computer-based tools that leverage the latest technology. These computer programs are collectively known as field service management software . Computer-based FSM has existed for decades in the form of industry-specific programs, such as HVAC software designed especially for specialists in that field. Today, however, the leading FSM platforms are feature-rich, web-based tools that can be customized to suit any type of home-service business. And because these tools live in the cloud and are accessible from any internet-connected device, they make running a home-service business easier than ever before. What Type of Businesses Use FSM Software? A growing number of home-service businesses use FSM software, including workers in traditional trades such as electricians and carpet cleaners, as well as providers of more-emergent services like solar panel installation and home automation. Here’s a quick — but far from complete — list of professions that stand to benefit from FSM software: Housekeepers Electricians Window Cleaners Landscapers Pressure Washers HVAC Specialists Plumbers Garage Door Installers How Does Field Service Management Software Work? Different FSM solutions work in different ways, but today’s most popular tools largely revolve around online dashboards and mobile apps. The online dashboards provide business administrators with a bird’s-eye view of a company’s entire operation at any given time. They also allow easy access to nearly every facet of the business within just a couple of clicks. Mobile apps, on the other hand, are generally optimized for workers in the field and provide them all of the information they need about upcoming appointments. These mobile apps also facilitate communication with customers and team members back at the office. The beauty of today’s FSM tools is that they allow everyone in an organization to instantly and effortlessly access the information they need from wherever they happen to be. But the best field service management software offers far more benefits Top 10 Benefits of Field Service Management Software If you’re curious about how field service management software can streamline your operations, here’s a rundown of 10 of the many benefits a modern FSM solution can bring to your home-service business. Simpler Management: Manage your workforce in the field more effectively — and more effortlessly — than ever before. An Up-to-Date Dashboard: Access a bird’s-eye view of your entire business anytime and from anywhere. Speedier Payments: Issue invoices at the touch of a button or instantly collect payment for completed projects. Simplified Scheduling: Give customers the freedom to schedule appointments online based on your team’s current availability. Enhanced Appearance: A sleek customer interface lets you appear every bit as professional as the biggest names in your industry. Empowered Employees: Allow your workers to deliver better service by giving them instant access to customer information. Improved Customer Communications: Increase customers’ peace of mind by providing them with real-time updates about appointments and ETAs. Automated Operations: Remove repetitive tasks from your to-do list by automating time-consuming processes. Reduced Confusion: One central location to view all day-to-day operations ensures every member of your team is always on the same page. Integrated Information: Import customers, calendars, and accounting information by integrating with other tools you’re already using. Try Housecall Pro Today! The advent of field service management software has revolutionized the way businesses that make house calls operate. But not all FSM software was created equal, and not all platforms will be right for your business. If you’re searching for field service management software to bring your company into the 21st century, Housecall Pro could be exactly what you’re looking for. We offer three tiers of tools and services built specifically with businesses like yours in mind. Our comprehensive packages make it easy — and affordable — for companies in a growing number of industries to operate more efficiently and profitably, than ever before. If you’re ready to experience the difference Housecall Pro can make for your home-service business, book your free demo today.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

What is field service management software (FSM)

Angie’s List vs. Homeadvisor: The Ultimate Lead Gen Service Comparison for Home Service Businesses

January 31, 2019 • Online home service directories seem to be everywhere these days. Porch. Thumbtack. Bark. Houzz. And yes, even Google Home Services. Those are just five of the creatively named (one maybe less so) home service marketplaces where contractors and service providers can connect with the homeowners who are seeking them out. Amongst the crowd though, two directories rise above all others - Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor. For a service provider, these websites are both a blessing and a burden. Each provides the promise of connecting you with new clients. But is the time and effort to monitor your presence (and the peer review systems of each site) worth it to grow your business. Or could those resources be better spent elsewhere? Let’s take a closer look at the industry leader Angie’s List, and its primary competitor, HomeAdvisor, to see if either is a fit for your company. The Fine Print Before we get started on the Angie’s List versus HomeAdvisor comparison, there is one disclosure that should be made known - both websites share the same owner. New York City-based InterActiveCorp or IAC oversees ANGI Homeservices, which is the parent company of both Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor. Then current owner of HomeAdvisor, IAC, acquired a stake in Angie’s List in May 2017, thus creating the ANGI Homeservices brand. It’s not an uncommon pairing considering the current climate of corporate mergers and holdings. It is, however, an important distinction since the following comparison is really about the services each one offers. Yes, these are still both lead-generation tools for your business. While each maintains separate operations and run independently of one another, understand that any monetary investment you might make with either service ultimately ends up in the same spot. The Histories Recent acquisition notwithstanding, both Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor have long histories and are the clear 1A and 1B of localized service provider directories. Each has relatively humble roots, but their principal missions have remained consistent throughout their history: provide peer-based recommendations and reviews for homeowners and lead generation for contractors. Angie’s List As the oldest of the service provider directories, Angie’s List has weathered all competitors to remain atop the field for over 20 years. As a startup in Columbus, Ohio, Angie Hicks went door to door to sign up consumers for the Columbus Neighbors service that reviewed home and lawn services. Once the service reached 1,000 members, it acquired Unified Neighbors and moved its headquarters to Indianapolis. Since that time, the organization expanded to include contractors, home repair and general maintenance, as well as automotive service and health care providers. At the time of its 2017 acquisition, Angie’s List was valued at over $500 million with over 5 million members and more than 50,000 professionals as part of its platform. The site has also exceeded 10 million reviews. HomeAdvisor Originally founded in 1998, HomeAdvisor started its run as ServiceMagic, a service similar to Angie’s List with a few clear distinctions. First, it offered members estimating tools to help determine the costs of home improvement projects or repairs. It also provided free membership whereas Angie’s List required paid subscriptions. In 2004, IAC acquired the brand and a little over ten years later they had $300 million in revenue, with a total user base of 30 million. The site also claimed 3 million reviews and a network close to 100,000 service professionals. The Fees For contractors, finding viable leads and connecting with future customers is a challenge. It's made even more so when the promise of future business comes with a fee structure that is unclear. While both services offer relatively straightforward membership options to the consumer - Angie's List is a freemium service, HomeAdvisor is completely free - the provider investment is less simple. It's not overly complicated, but with both sites, you could end up paying more than you planned. Angie’s List Between each service, Angie’s List provider fee structure is the murkier of the two. A company listing on the site is free (but is owned by Angie’s List), and if you hope to achieve any level of visibility, there are a few necessary requirements. Similar to Google Ads, if you hope to rise above the organic search, you’ll have to pay for it. The benefit is that more of your company info is visible to potential clients, but the per click ad rate is market driven and can run anywhere from $4 to $8. This cost can quickly increase. The other consideration to posting on Angie’s List is discounts - the discounts you offer to a possible new customer. These are a big player on the site due to it being one of the perks of paid membership by a homeowner (paid subscribers get access to specials, free users don’t). Again, nothing earth-shattering, but it can drive up your costs. Beyond that basic structure, there is a catch to your listing that we'll cover in the pros and cons section below. HomeAdvisor With HomeAdvisor, the pricing is more straightforward, if a bit more costly. To list your company, there is a $350 annual fee. However, as a lead-generation site, if you want to connect to possible clients directly, it can start anywhere from a $15 to $20 per lead on up to $50 or more. In some markets, the number can get as high as $80 to $100 per lead. There are instances where you are granted a refund of the lead fees if they do not result in actual work, but you might have to chase those down. The Pros and The Cons It’s hard to avoid the fact that both of these websites are very much alike. Together they are the behemoths in the home service marketplace. Their extensive history and solid financial backing do not hurt either. Its little surprise they remain the preferred choice for the majority of homeowners. Both sites require a background check on their providers and offer some level of customer service when you are listed - even if the service itself leaves something to be desired (a common complaint amongst service providers). In addition, each service is well established within Google's’ organic search, which means if you type “HVAC repair near me” in Google, both Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor are at the top of the results. There are differences, however, and though each service has redemptive qualities, there are notable drawbacks worth considering before aligning with either service. Angie’s List Angie’s List is by far the most widely known marketplace, and it's "from the ground up" backstory endears it to plenty of homeowners looking for maintenance or repair services. It is free to sign up, and that does provide you with a reasonable listing from which to build your site presence. However, that is where things can turn sour for a provider hoping to raise their status to "preferred." As we alluded to in the pricing section, the big gotcha with your listing is that for it to advance in the rankings, you’ll need customer reviews. Lots of them. And they all better speak highly of your services. Your visibility can rise and fall with the reviews and ratings you receive, which it should be noted you have zero control over. Of course, if you are stuck down at the bottom of the rankings, you can overcome the placement by purchasing ads. For all its popularity with homeowners, Angie’s List, from a provider standpoint, best serves Angie’s List legacy companies - those who’ve invested time and money over many years in the marketplace to strengthen their rankings, acquire a ton of positive reviews, and spend money when necessary to ensure consistent visibility. HomeAdvisor It may not have equal billing or the notoriety of its competitor, but HomeAdvisor does have a loyal base of homeowners who swear by the service. The site also presents itself as a better fit toward larger scale projects like home remodels, which means those specific contractors can more easily find a ready and willing base of new clients. Overall, the site also presents a fairer field of competition versus the Angie’s List pay to play in the big leagues model. However, the lead-bid approach can unknowingly drive up costs without any promise of actual work coming from your efforts. That bidding also means a lot of competition amongst service providers for a less than comparable volume of work. With its skew to larger projects, HomeAdvisor is not always the best site to cultivate repeat customers. Plus, as a completely free site for the homeowner, there are plenty of window shoppers with hands in their pockets and only simple estimates on their mind. The Verdict With Angie’s List, you can create a free listing, have a few established clients post some positive reviews, and see what happens without spending a dime. For small startups, it could prove beneficial long term. If your business is well established without having used Angie’s List in the past, you’ll gain minimal benefit from it. Of course, if you throw tons of cash at it, you can develop a strong presence in the marketplace and do so in fairly short order. In HomeAdvisor, you get a level playing field. However, plenty of competition and an at times passive user base means you could be spending a lot of dollars and a lot of time for just a few actionable jobs. But if you're a large scale contractor or company with a few dollars and time to spare, leads can be found. So, will your business find success with either Angie’s List or HomeAdvisor? The answer is a resounding, maybe. Just don't put all of your marketing resources behind either service. Each marketplace - including the new upstarts we mentioned in the opening - should be viewed as a small part in your company’s broader marketing plan. Robust advertising that targets your specific client base, a healthy referral network and a reliable website that promotes customer engagement will do more to grow your business than anything else. That said, if you’re struggling to find new clients or want to try a new marketing avenue, each service is worth a shot as long as you read the fine print, understand their policies, and go into with reasonable expectations.

Stephen Altrogge, Author

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Technician Scheduling: How to Tame the Beast (Once and For All)

January 31, 2019 • When you decided to start your own home service business, it probably wasn’t because you love to make schedules. In fact, the logistics of scheduling likely weren’t on your mind much at all until you made your first few hires. By now you’ve probably realized that technician scheduling is one of the most important tasks you handle on a regular basis. After all, an organized, well-thought-out schedule allows you to maximize bookings and service more customers. As your team expands further, your ability to make smart scheduling decisions will continue to play a huge factor in your success as a business owner. So, how can you do it better? Let’s take a look! What Are the Biggest Challenges of Technician Scheduling? Good question. In theory, technician scheduling should be quick and easy to take care of – but that’s rarely the case. Here are some of the most common problems home service business owners face with technician scheduling. Unproductive Gaps in Your Schedule: This is more than a case of simply under-booking. If your schedule isn’t optimized to fit in as many appointment slots as possible, you’ll have awkward gaps that are too short to squeeze in a maintenance call but long enough to hurt your revenue. Having unproductive gaps in your schedule means you’re not billing as many hours as you could be – which eats into your potential earnings. In fact, according to studies by Bain Consulting , poor scheduling decisions can cost you up to 50-60% of your revenue. Scheduling Conflicts: On the other end of the spectrum, you can also run into problems if your schedule is too tightly packed. This type of overbooking can result in issues like technicians showing up late to appointments, accidentally sending two technicians to complete the same job, or expecting a technician to get across town faster than possible during high traffic times. Lost Business and Revenue: Disorganized or short-sighted technician scheduling can cost you revenue as well as potential customers. As a small business, you can’t afford for your technicians to waste time driving back and forth across town in between appointments. Or to have gaps in your schedule, no-show customers, or techs who show up late to appointments – especially because 64% of customers won’t rehire a service company that’s an hour late to an appointment. 6 Tips HSB Owners Can Use to Simplify Technician Scheduling If you want to make technician scheduling as easy and efficient as possible, you need to think about your priorities and plan accordingly. For instance, do you want to schedule by location to save on gas and minimize travel time? Or would you rather assign specific jobs to specific technicians based on their skills? Let’s take a look at how you can simplify your technician scheduling practices to maximize revenue, boost customer satisfaction, and keep your techs happy, too. 1. Schedule Technicians by Skill Set One simple way to make scheduling decisions is by assigning technicians to specific jobs based on their experience level and skill set. This works best if you’ve got a larger team or technicians with varied skills and expertise. For instance, if any of your technicians specialize in one area of your field, it makes sense to ‘save’ their skills for jobs that require their expertise. Otherwise, you’ll lose out on that business if your experts are all booked up with routine maintenance – something that could be handled by a generalist or more junior tech. 2. Book Appointments by Location If it doesn’t make sense for your industry or team to schedule by skill set, a good alternative is technician scheduling based on location. Scheduling jobs based on location is more efficient than booking work all over town to fill your schedule. That is, it’s better to cater to one region or zone on a given day than to have your technicians driving all over the place, wasting gas and time in between jobs. For example, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, you might only book jobs in service zones one and two. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, you might focus on servicing zones three and four. 3. Expand Your Availability If your availability doesn’t line up with your customers’ expectations, you’ll have a hard time filling your schedule even if customers want to book appointments. For example, if you limit your technician scheduling to 9-5 on weekdays, you’re cutting yourself off from a huge range of potential customers who have to be at work during that time. Considering extending your business hours to accommodate customers who work during the day and can’t take time off to let you into their home for their service appointment. By offering a more flexible schedule that includes early mornings, evenings, and weekends, you’re making it easier for customers to find appointment times that fit into their busy lives. 4. Take Advantage of Home Services Software You can streamline your scheduling process further with the help of home service management software. Technician scheduling software allows you to easily manage your call schedule, maximize bookings, and avoid scheduling conflicts. Home service business software like Housecall Pro streamlines internal communication, which prevents problems like sending two techs to the same job site and ensures your techs are always on time for appointments. Plus, a real-time dispatch system allows your technicians to receive alerts about upcoming jobs, update their availability, and mark work completed right from the job site. 5. Automate Service Reminders Your home service management software can also help you avoid last minute cancellations and no-shows by sending automated service reminders to customers with upcoming appointments. If you schedule out maintenance or seasonal work in advance, there’s a good chance some of your customers will forget by the time their appointment date rolls around. So, rather than dispatching technicians to job sites only to find that no one is home, use your technician scheduling software to send out automated service reminders in the days leading up to an appointment. 6. Offer More Convenient Booking for Customers Encourage more customers to book with you by making it easy to view your calendar and book a time slot online. A digital booking system that displays your availability allows customers to choose a time that’s most convenient for them. It’s also a good idea to ask for customer feedback about your scheduling practices. For instance, do your customers feel that it’s easy to book an appointment that fits into their schedule? You can use customer input to improve how you handle technician scheduling going forward. The Right Technician Scheduling Software Can Help As a business owner, there are plenty of things you could be spending time on besides technician scheduling. But hey, it comes with the territory – if you want to run a profitable home services business, you need an efficient scheduling strategy. The key is to find the right process and tools that make managing your technician scheduling as fast and simple as possible. Home service business management software like Housecall Pro makes it easier than ever to book more appointments and maximize productivity. Want an easier way to manage your home service business and technician scheduling? Book your live demo today to find out how Housecall Pro can make your scheduling more efficient, so your business can be more profitable.

Stephen Altrogge, Author

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Feature Focus: Segments

January 28, 2019 • This weeks Feature Focus is about setting up segments for return jobs or jobs that require you to take a deductible, deposit, or bill an insurance company. We're going to go over the three keys to setting up your segments correctly. 1) Name your segment What’s the reason you’re segmenting the job? Is it because you need to take a deposit? Is it part two of the first job, or an extra repair? One of the reasons it’s important to name your segments is so you can look back and know what happened that day at a glance. Keep in mind this segment name will also appear on your customer’s invoice, so make sure it's professional.  2) Double check your lines items You want to go through and make sure you have all the correct information on your invoice. When creating your line items, you have a couple of options. You can copy them from the previous day or add new ones, if the work is going to be different. 3) Make sure you schedule it A lot of our Pros don’t realize that when you add a segment, the schedule doesn’t copy over. So just make sure you’re going in and scheduling the job for the correct date and time. So remember - when you’re using segments - name it, update your line items, and add it to your schedule. Now that you have your checklist, go through a segment you’ve already created and make sure these three steps are completed so that you’re ready the next time you add one. To learn more about segments check out this help article.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

FeatureFocus Segments

Reaping the Rewards of Referrals: How A Simple Referral Program Can Increase Your Customer Base

January 22, 2019 • As a home service business, one of the most critical aspects of continued success is acquiring new customers. But even with a professional, well-trained team, top-notch customer care and expertise that rivals any of your competitors, generating new business is challenging. Of course, advertising can get costly, and much of the ROI from your ad dollars is less than stellar. There is however a marketing approach that will plug you into an untapped customer base while also making the most of your marketing time and money. We are talking about referral marketing. What is Referral Marketing? Referral marketing is the promotion of your company through word of mouth, typically from existing customers. No major ad buys, no direct emailing or mass mailers, no major marketing team - just the influence from others who’ve used your service and liked what they received. Certainly, this marketing approach makes sense. Think about all the recommendations you get from friends, family, and even just acquaintances for all manner of things. Restaurants, movies, tv shows, trips and hotels and things to do. And yes, home services. While the concept is relatively simple, plenty of businesses ignore this fundamental aspect of customer growth. Why? For most, it’s the misconception that referral marketing takes a lot of time and effort, which is untrue. Sure, it’s slightly more involved than merely purchasing advertising space and AdWords, but only slightly. The critical difference is that static advertising is, well, static. Not to mention the returns could take weeks or even months before gaining any benefit. With referral marketing, you are actively engaging with current customers to help generate new business. The payoff can be both immediate and immense. Why Referral Marketing? Before touching on a few key strategies to get your referral marketing off the ground, it's important to understand why it's so effective. It comes down to two basic tenets and a straightforward equation: excellent service plus trust equals referrals. You provide a customer with a high-quality and valuable service. Your work generates trust with that customer. Since they trust what you’ve provided to them, they, in turn, recommend your services to people that trust and know them. Great Service This is the number one catalyst for all customer referrals and falls squarely within the control of the business - your business. For any referral program to be successful, you first must provide quality services. It may seem obvious, but to truly generate a reliable stream of referral business you have to give your current customer base a reason to refer you. Even if your services are the least expensive in your area of expertise or come with extras and add-ons, few consumers will recommend you if the actual product is subpar. This means being responsive to their needs, consistent with your services, and engaging in your interactions. If you are in the early stages of developing your business, devote plenty of resources to ensuring quality, accuracy, and professionalism. If you’re already at that high-quality level, do everything you can to maintain it, and find new ways to enhance the client experience. Don’t be afraid to tout the many satisfied customers you have. If you’ve experienced tough times and your business’ satisfaction ratings are less than stellar, don’t get discouraged. Focus on core values and the basics of your business, and you can reverse past negative experiences. Redemptive referrals are quite powerful in their own right. Regardless of where you find yourself in the evolution of your business, a focus on quality is the foundation of a strong referral network. Trust If excellent service is what puts a referral in motion, then trust is ultimately what compels the customer - more specifically, the satisfied customer - to spread the word about your company. If it seems that confidence is hard to come by these days, it’s because it is . When a consumer finds a brand or service they believe in, they tend to hold tight to their loyalty. The benefit for an organization is that consumers often want to share their great find with others. According to a 2015 report from Nielsen, this peer to peer to recommendation far outweighs other forms of advertising. So with that evidence in hand, how then does your business take advantage of a happy client base ready to spread the word? Crafting a Successful Referral Plan There are many ways to build a referral marketing program, but the most direct and effective manner is through engagement. Your established client base provides you with a built-in advertising platform. As you provided the service they loved and instilled the trust they were wanting, all that is left for you to do is engage them in sharing it with others. Here are three critical strategies for engaging them directly (and one that goes beyond your current clients) and raising your referral marketing to the next level. Incentivize and Reward If yours is like most businesses, when you first started, building your initial customer base was challenging. As you grow, these early fans turn into your legacy customers - you are on their list of go-tos whenever the need arises. So why not incentive and reward them for helping bring in like-minded people? Whether it's through service discounts, loyalty rewards, or similar promotions, tee up your early adopters with specials designed with them in mind. The “look what I got” crowd will no doubt tell everyone what they got. Then reward them again with referral incentives that further thanks them for their commitment. Of course, your referral incentives should be open to all customers that bring you new business and tiered offerings will help appeal to those that have a knack for drumming up those new clients. But don’t hesitate to spotlight your long term patrons. They are after all some of your biggest influencers, so make sure they stay that way. Get Social The power of social networking is undeniable. Just as you use Facebook as an individual to keep in touch with those important to you, leverage it for your business as well. Not only does social media widen your firm’s reach, but also helps you create a narrative about who your company is, what it can do, and how it can help new consumers. Perhaps most importantly, social media platforms promote sharing, i.e., referrals. To capitalize on these efforts, set up your website to promote easy sharing with social media buttons and special incentives or rewards and encourage others to find you online. Make sure also to employ current customers to build up your online presence. Don’t be afraid to ask current clients for reviews and recommendations and to put their kudos on your Facebook page and your website. Move Beyond Your Customers Referrals from current clients will undoubtedly prove a top source, but that doesn’t mean it's the only one. As an active part of the community that your company calls home (or has an operational presence in) you will put your brand and services in front of potential consumers you may not have otherwise touched. Non-profits, churches, community festivals or related volunteer or sponsorship opportunities offer countless promotional opportunities that can drive your referral business. We should mention that with several of these outreaches, some costs may be involved. The buy-in (or time or resources) however is typically very low and is more than worth the large number of people you’ll connect with. And, of course, those individuals know other individuals, thereby organically growing your referral base beyond the initial investment. Make It Permanent Although it may sound like a method to achieve a bump in new clientele, referral marketing is much more than a temporary effort. Incorporating referrals as a key part of your marketing and advertising efforts are vital to maximizing all potential new client sources. Even as other advertising sources ebb and flow, a referral program provides you with a consistently low cost, high-value marketing channel that never turns off. Each new client is a new referral opportunity. Now that doesn’t mean it can be left alone to manage itself - far from it. But with regular reviews of the data points your efforts create and minor tweaks as necessary, your referral program will far outlive any advertising campaigns. Final Thoughts Consumers are always looking for companies in which they can believe. Whether it's a product or service, they almost always find those brands through recommendations from peers they trust. Taking advantage of this mindset should be a core focus of your marketing efforts. Remember, create a positive customer experience, then engage those happy clients in promoting the benefits to others.  Doing so will ensure your success on two fronts - a satisfied client base already full of praise and a new set of clients ready to sing the same tune.

Stephen Altrogge, Author

HousecallPro RewardsReferral Header

Home Service Business Trends: 8 Shifts that are Reshaping the Industry

January 8, 2019 • The home service business is trending big time right now. Valued at roughly $600 billion, the US online on-demand home services sector is growing rapidly. According to The New York Times, the on-demand home services industry is expected to post a compound annual growth rate of nearly 49% by 2021. What’s happening here? Part of the answer: it’s generational. We’ve got a huge contingent of consumers who now live on the internet, coupled with busy lifestyles that prefer their services on-demand through that medium. Another part of the equation: mobile accessibility. Smartphones bridge the worlds between real world services and instant online services. If you can order that new toothbrush to your door, why not schedule a plumber to fix the sink too? The two go hand-in-hand for most consumers these days. This nascent dynamic creates a new context for consumers and service providers. High-quality service becomes essential as customer loyalty is vital to survival for businesses in the sector. Beyond quality, there are other keys to the home service business kingdom. To help you navigate this increasingly competitive landscape, we walk through the top home service business trends here. Changes to the Home Service Business Market Understanding how the home service business market is changing is key to your success. Who are the customers? What does the talent pool look like these days? How tight or fragmented is the market? The following trends provide important insights that begin to answer these critical questions about the industry: 1. Older Demographic Drives Spending Older homeowners are still driving the market with both the size of their market share as well as their overall spending power. In 2015, they constituted just over 51% of home improvement spending with that number expected to reached 54% by 2020. This age group is growing and reaching them therefore becomes even more critical. Facebook is a vital venue for connecting with this customer segment given that 72% of 50-64 year-olds and 62% of those over the age of 65 use the social media platform regularly. 2. Tighter Talent Pool As is the case with many industries, finding the best talent is a major pain point in the home service industry. For example, a third of remodelers (via Qualified Remodelers Top 500 Remodelers) surveyed in 2016 noted that recruiting and retaining talent was their biggest challenge. This also dovetails with millennials pushing workplace cultural changes as they become a bigger part of the workforce. This generation demands a better work environment, so consider focusing on better defined career pathways, more learning opportunities, and improving the employee experience with enhanced communication tools. 3. A Highly Fragmented Market Meets Aggregation One thing that won’t change in the home services market is that it is highly fragmented. There’s a low barrier to entry and lots of poor service providers persist within the market. At the same time, aggregators that offer customers access to all sorts of home services will continue to appeal to customers with local providers offering flexible schedules and low prices, regardless of the quality of their services. This means that providers have to offer, at a minimum, all of those benefits along with superior service to stay ahead in the game. Customer aren’t always weighing all of those criteria equally, so make sure you’re ticking all of their boxes because they all will affect your bottom line. Current Shifts in How Home Service Are Being Offered After looking at customers and providers in the market, it’s important to assess the new ways in which services are being offered within the market itself. These shifts are occurring, in part, due to economic and technological macro-trends and they have very specific implications for the home service market. 4. Greater Commoditization of Services With the merger of HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List as well as the rise of services like Amazon Home Services and Local Services by Google, consumers have more and better options at their fingertips. This means that they are beginning to look at home services as more of a commodity, with a deeper focus on reviews, response time, and pricing. Looking forward, consider revamping your paid search strategy, streamlining how you manage your leads, and optimize your reviews so you’re better able to stand out from the crowd. So what does this mean for your home service business? In short, low pricing is no longer enough. Greg Villafana and Tyler Rasmussen, owners of Brothers Pool Service and creators of the Pool Chasers podcast, know the market extremely well and have an idea about why this is the case. They argue that customer demographics are shifting and that people have a Google/Amazon mindset. This translates into customers who default to what Google suggests or whatever comes cheap and fast via Amazon. For service providers who offer quality services--even those with a solid existing book of business--this can be devastating. The move here is for companies to use these growing platforms as tools to market their quality services rather than seeing them as obstacles standing between them and existing (or potential) customers. In short, adapt or watch your customers go elsewhere. 5. Online, on-demand home service market + bundling As Matthew Kanas at Intuit Canada noted, “If Amazon can deliver a package within 24 hours or the same day, why can’t home service businesses deliver on the same time frame? This is the mindset the home service industry will need to take. In other words, get ready for the home services market to become completely “Uberized.” Consumers not only want services on-demand, they seek simplified ways to book related services. For example, when you book a flight through United and you’re checking out your reservation, the airline offers an option to also book a car to airport via Uber. This is called “bundling” and consumers love it. The tip here for providers is to find ways to bundle your services in with relevant, related services customers are already purchasing as a way to drive business your way. Time is of the essence for consumers more and more, so help them save those precious hours by putting your business in front of them before they know they need it. 6. Technology is changing the home service industry, rapidly Think about how consumers now deal with their unwanted household items. They take a picture of it using an app like OfferUp or Letgo and list it for other consumers to purchase. These apps use artificial intelligence to identify the item and show a potential price for the goods pictured. A customer can just click “Accept,” whereas before they had to type everything out themselves. Now think about how that impacts the home service industry. Customers will soon be able to use voice recognition technology to request a home service provider for a specific problem and get an instant quote. They will soon be empowered to take a picture of a household fix they need and get a quick estimate from a local provider scrolling through customer requests on her phone. New visualization technologies now allow consumers to measure every detail with one click. Adaptation of applications through the explosion of smartphones and mobile broadband has created emergent, consumer-facing sites and mobile apps. Customers seeking home services are now more likely to trust these apps and use them to secure the home services they seek than ever before. Home service providers who embrace the opportunities technology is bringing into the market will produce faster and more accurate quotes for customers, stronger leads for their businesses, and ultimately a bigger bottom line for their companies. 7. Luxuries become necessities Two important generational phenomenon are happening here. First, millennials increasingly run their homes like a business, thinking of time as a more precious commodity. Second, the on-demand economy has created a new class of workers that function between working for a specific company (often remotely) and self-employed individuals and freelancers. Taken together, this creates greater demand for speed and convenience when it comes to home services as these new roles themselves were created out of previously-existing inefficiencies. This new class of workers has increased spending capacity in many cases and they’re prepared to spend it on home services that were previously seen as luxuries. Their time is simply more valuable and they want the home services to meet this new demand. It should also be noted that this trend makes pricing much more volatile in the home services market. Pricing continues to a be a central challenge facing home service providers. With no standardized approach and the industry as nascent as it is, this can add instability to the prices consumers face and home service providers must compete with. There seems to be a growing trend of discounts and companies are geared towards consumer acquisition and retention through pricing methods. The generational shift in how consumers think about home services and the ensuing changes to how those services are priced represents a wave that providers will have to catch if they want to succeed in a changing market. Framing their services as home necessities with flexible and attractive pricing options for consumers will be the key to surviving and thriving amidst these shifts. 8. Client communication channels are evolving The frequency and ways in which home service businesses stay in touch with their clients is changing--fast. Recent studies show that 56% of people would rather message a business (on a social media platform or website) than call them for customer service. At the same time, many home service businesses are not equipped to receive messages across multiple platforms such as SMS or Facebook Messenger. If one out of every two customers wants to reach out to you in this way and you’re not set up for it, you’re missing a huge segment of your potential customer base. Home service businesses across the board are developing and deploying great content to build their audiences--even through video on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. With consumers searching for everything online these days, having professional-looking, ready-made content showcasing your skills as a home service professional will be the first point of contact for many new customers. Think about it: A helpful tutorial video that helps a customer diagnose a problem they’re having might make them more likely to purchase your services for that problem or another issues they’re facing down the line. Home service providers who want to win in their markets today and in the future must recognize: customers will find and judge your business on your appearance on these platforms regardless of the quality of your work. It’s a new reality to cope with, but also an opportunity to showcase your skills and the quality of your work.

Emily Bauer

HousecallPro HomeServiceBusiness header

Feature Focus: The 4 P's to Succeeding with Online Booking

January 7, 2019 • This weeks feature focus is about setting up and optimizing your online booking with the Four P's. The Four P's are: Pricing, Pictures, Personability, and Promotion. 1. Transparent Pricing Don't be afraid to show your prices. Today’s consumers like to shop around, and don’t like to guess. Listing your prices gives you the upper hand and shows transparency. 2. Use Pictures When it comes to pictures I cannot stress this enough, do not use stock photos. There’s nothing more in-genuine, than a model in an unworn polo and a fake tool belt. 3. Be Personal You also have to make sure your online booking pictures are personable. Get your phone out on the job and start snapping. Capture working, lifting, smiling, and just being yourself. 4. Good Promotion Finally you need to promote your online booking. There are a lot of great ways to do this, like running Facebook and Google ads, notifying customers through your voicemail, or setting up an auto-text. In Housecall Pro, you can send email and postcard campaigns with directions on how to book online.You can also advertise your online booking on your business cards and truck wrap. So remember:  Pricing, Pictures, Personability, and Promotion. By optimizing your online booking, you’ll start to see those numbers increase, while building trust with the homeowners. And that’s the key. I challenge you to implement these 4 Ps into your online booking.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

Feature Focus Online booking

The 7 Best DIY SEO Tools For Small Businesses in 2019

December 19, 2018 • If you run a small business, then you already know how important it is to establish a strong brand presence in your community. When customers are looking for services like plumbing, HVAC, electricians, or other home services, they search the internet to find them. Having a website that ranks well on search engines like Google ensures that it's your services they turn to. But to get your website to show up at the top of search engine results, you will need to develop a strategy that uses appropriate content, backlinks, and more. That's where do it yourself search engine optimization tools come into play - they can help you find successful keywords and monitor your progress, even if you aren’t an SEO expert. Like any software or tools, the hard part is finding the right tool for your business needs. That’s why we’ve reviewed some of the top tools out there. Check them out below and see which one makes the most sense for your business. Moz Pro Cost:  Free 30-Day Trial | $99/mo Moz Pro is a software product that allows you to manage most aspects of your site's SEO. This tool isn’t too technical and allows small to large businesses to boost their organic website traffic. They have a pretty user friendly interface that’s nice for those new to SEO Key features: Tracks your ranking efficiently Keyword research and analysis On-page optimization Visualizes your data Search engine results page (SERP) analysis On-page grader Compares links and competitors Overall this software has features that are user friendly, with easy to read metric charts letting you know how you rank, how your competitors rank, what SEO techniques are working and where you can improve. Ahrefs Cost: 7-day trial for $7 | $99/mo If you’re serious about improving your SEO and out-ranking your competition , Ahrefs might be the tool for you. With a website check for over 100 pre-defined SEO issues, their comprehensive competitive tools, and visual SEO progress reports, you can stop guessing and find out exactly what’s holding your website back from ranking. Key features: Site Explorer Gives an in-depth look at the organic search traffic and backlink profile of any website or URL See what keywords your competitors are ranking & which pages bring in the most traffic See which website are linking to your competitors and gauge the quality of their backlink profile Keywords Explorer Discover thousands of great keywords to rank for, analyse their ranking difficulty, calculate traffic potential Accurate “search volume” Keyword difficulty score Content Explorer Discover the most popular content for any topic (by backlinks, organic traffic and social shares) Research top content and discover new content opportunities Filter by: Language, social shares, domain rating, backlinks, traffic, word count Rank Tracker Monitor your rankings over time and chart your performance against your competitors’. Site audit to see under the hood of your website's on-page SEO performance. Alerts for new & lost backlinks, web mentions, and new keywords. Overall, Ahrefs has the tools that will give you an extensive look at your SEO standings and what keywords you can use to improve. SEMRush Cost: $99.95/mo SEMRush is another comprehensive SEO monitoring tool that really stands out for bloggers and businesses . In addition to the expected SEO guidance, this tool also helps you manage your social media, PR, and paid ad strategies with a hub where you can schedule posts, analyze your traffic, and identify the best opportunities to reach your target market. Key features: Site Audit Tool Check your site’s SEO health Domain vs. Domain comparisons Analyze Google ranking factors affecting your website’s performance Track SEO optimization progress Ensure the security of your website with HTTPS checks Keyword research Find the right keywords for your SEO campaign Find keywords with less competition Use keyword grouping to segment your keywords by topic Keywords position tracking Backlink Audit Tools Find all your backlinks using SEMRush’s search console integration Check backlinks’ types Spot your links’ geolocation Organic Traffic Insights Unlock the ‘not provided‘ keywords Merge analytics and search console data Analyze keyword potential You can use these tools together and take a holistic look at the results of each report to create an complete digital marketing plan that helps form your SEO strategy. Screaming Frog Cost: Free (With Limitations) / £149.00 per-year Screaming Frog developed the SEO Spider Tool , which is one of the most popular SEO tools on the market today. The free version is a great option for technical SEO audits . When you’re ready to dive into your websites’ SEO health you can opt for the paid version that includes features like unlimited crawling , integration with other SEO tools, and much more. Key features: Crawl your full site and lists Audit redirects Crawl path reports Plug into APIs Custom extractions and configurations Analyze internal linking Find orphaned and broken pages Identify missing & duplicate titles Identify missing & duplicate meta descriptions Find images missing alt text Housecall Pro Seo Grader Cost: Free Housecall Pro is known for helping field service professionals go from good to great. That’s why we built our SEO grader specifically for small service businesses to help customers easily find them when searching for a home service. Key Features: Instant score for: Keywords SEO Mobile Social Comprehensive report Actionable recommendations Competitive comparison Industry specific Keyword analysis BuzzSumo Cost: Free 7-Day Trial | $79/mo If you are looking for a tool that is easy to use and gives you a visual look at your site's SEO progress, BuzzSumo is a good option. The program gives you intuitive content insights that you can use to determine what content is working and what isn't by seeing which keywords are showing up in search engines. It also gives you an inside look into the performance of successful influencers and companies in your field. Key features: Discover the most shared content across social networks Find influencers for any topic Setup keyword mention alerts Track your competitor’s content performance Get up to 12 months of data Discover interesting and trending content Export data Overall, this software has tools that look at influencers and competitors in your industry to find the keywords that are drawing in visitors for them, so you can find new strategies that are going to work for you as well. Google Analytics Cost: Free If you are familiar with SEO then you’ve probably heard of Google Analytics. While Google offers an entire suite of SEO tools, Google Analytics is their original one, and it's one of the most popular because of everything it analyzes . Key features: Measure traffic by device type Sitespeed by page Setup conversions / goals Identify your user’s demographics Look at new & returning visitors Real-time reporting Group traffic by channels Campaign tracking Add custom alerts Add annotations Automate reporting Build conversion funnels Use regular expressions (REGEX) Calculated metrics Site search Google Analytics has a lot of tools to help drive your SEO strategy. It can be overwhelming in the beginning so If you’re new to digital marketing you’ll want to start off by prioritizing the key metrics that are important to your business. This SEO tools list features just a few of the many programs that are available to help you track your site's visibility online. As a home service professional, you can leverage your website to gain new customers and build brand recognition in your area. With the help of these DIY tools, you can start managing your site’s SEO presence on your own.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

SEO tools for service professionals