FAQs With Chris: Chris Pitts Answers Some Of Your Most Frequently Asked Questions (Part Two)

During our last FAQ, we focused primarily on reviews, Maps, rankings, and PPC. This time, we’re going to answer some of the more “offline” questions. If you have any questions you’d like Chris to answer next time, please submit them in the Comments section of this post! Women-With-Question-Marks-Above-Her-Head

#1 How Should I Handle Spam Calls?

The more you do with your online presence, the more spam calls you will get. The two most common calls (in our experience) are from people pretending to be Google and advertisers like Yelp, Angie’s List, and YP.

First, let’s talk about the “Google” calls. Google never cold calls anyone, other than to verify business information. If someone is asking about your ranking, wants you to give them information about your Google listing, or threatens that you’ll lose your Maps listing if you don’t ________, they are a scammer. You can hang up on these calls.

As far as advertisers go, the phone calls vary. Yelp tends to be the most tenacious, but they are not the only ones. With advertiser calls, if you aren’t interested in advertising, it’s best to simply tell them that it’s not in the budget right now, but that you’ll revisit the idea later. You don’t want to get angry with advertisers, as you often have a free listing on their site already and it’s not worth upsetting the applecart there.

Generally speaking, we don’t advise people to pay for advertising on individual directories, because the majority of search traffic comes from Google, and we don’t generally see a good enough ROI — but that’s a decision you have to make as the business owner. If a particular directory is very popular in your area, it may be worth it.

#2 What Can I Do To Boost Business In My Slow Season?

Seasonality varies from industry to industry, but let’s look at the chimney industry. Understandably, the early summer can be a very slow time for a chimney sweep. We recommend getting a handle on this by finding ways to reach your annual and repeat customers during this time.

Many sweeps find themselves booked out two, three, or even four weeks out when fall rolls around, and many customers don’t want to wait that long, so they end up calling a competitor who can get to them faster. Get ahead of this by offering discounts to existing clients who schedule their annual services earlier in the year. Forward scheduling is a great way to do this. When you finish at a customer’s house, see if you can get them on the books for an early time next year. Make sure it’s not a binding agreement and call to verify a month or so out. What you’ll find is that this helps get your repeat customers used to you being there during your off-season.

It’s a win/win:

  • It works out better for your customer because you’re able to get to them quickly and at a reduced rate.
  • It works out better for you because now you’ve freed up some time during your busy season for new customers, while also keeping income coming in during your slow season.

Another option may be to adopt an alternative service that’s big during your slow season. For a chimney company, that may be air duct cleaning or gutter work. Something that is more likely to be needed when you don’t have high demand for your other services. Like I said, this varies greatly from industry to industry, so you have to be creative and figure out what works best for you.

For more on what you can do to make the most of your slow season, check out “What You Can Do To Make Your Slower Season Your Most Productive One To Date.” 

#3 How Do I Get My Business Name/Brand Out In The Community?

The key to getting your brand name out there is community involvement. You can sponsor youth sports teams, charity events, participate in festivals, form an office bowling team for a local bowling league, put together a BBQ team to compete at BBQ cook-offs, etc. Basically, be present in your community under your brand name. Being present at the events in your community goes a long way and it goes hand in hand with company culture.

Another possibility that often gets overlooked is scholarships. Offering scholarships is a great way to get your name out there, as many people from all walks of life have kids applying for scholarships.

Social media platforms can also be a great tool for building community presence and relationships, but you do need to educate yourself on the DO’s and DON’Ts before diving in. No one likes to be sold to on Facebook 24/7, and learning how to properly use these tools can be the difference between bringing people in and driving them away.

For more on building your business offline, check out “4 Things You Should Be Doing Offline To Build Business Online.”

#4 IYO, Is It Worth Becoming BBB Accredited?

One thing worth mentioning is that you can have a rating on the BBB, regardless of whether or not you’re accredited. In other words, you could have an A+ rating, benefit from that, and tout that on your website, without accreditation.

That being said, many people hold the BBB with high regard and accreditation may hold a lot of weight with potential customers. When you become accredited, you agree to hold your business to certain ethics and practices, which ultimately, may make those using your services feel secure and confident they’ll receive service with integrity.

Long story short: you’ll need to decide for yourself whether or not it makes sense for your budget and business.

#5 How Can I Get More Referrals?

There are a lot of B2B groups out there that are worth joining: BNI, Chamber Events, etc. These organizations can help get you connected with a lot of other business owners who can refer you to their clients. Just remember that, when appropriate, you’ll want to refer people to them as well. As with many things in life, you get back what you give.

For word-of-mouth referrals, I always suggest some sort of perk or benefit if you get a new customer via a referral from a current customer — maybe the existing customer gets $25 off their next service and the new one gets $10 off. This is just an example, of course.  There are lots of ways to make this work that make sense for your service and your business — so get creative!

No matter what type of benefit you decide to offer, remember that the single most important factor in getting word-of-mouth referrals is the WOW factor. Go above and beyond what the job requires and really WOW your customer. These are the things that will lead your customers to want to tell others about the amazing experience they had with you.

Lastly, never neglect customer service. Even if you do the job perfectly, a poor interaction with the person on site or on the phone can leave a bad taste in your customer’s mouth. Customer service is as large a part of your business as the work you’re doing — never let that fall by the wayside.

4 Things You Should Be Doing Offline To Build Business Online

You might think that because we’re a digital marketing company, we’re only advocates for online marketing tactics and efforts. Not so! One of the best things you can do for your business is actively put forth effort both online and offline. Many times, offline efforts end up showing up online, and since the two really go hand in hand, it’s time to start thinking of them as two pieces of the same puzzle. Alright, let’s get right to it….Here are four things you should be doing offline to build business online:

Sponsor local events, activities, and sports teams.

Sponsoring events, activities, and sports teams is a great way to build brand awareness, earn a reputation, establish trust and authority, and stand out in your community. People want to do business with local companies who are invested and established, and community sponsorship is a great way to communicate that you’re that type of company. 

Whether it’s a little league team, an annual town parade or festival, or a charity event, sponsorship is a great way to get involved in the communities you serve and let potential customers know who you are and what you’re about.Little-League-Baseball-Team-In-A-Huddle

An added perk is that, oftentimes, these sponsorships will earn you links or citations online. Think about it: it seems there’s a website or a landing page for just about every event out there. When you’re a part of an event, there’s a good chance your company will be mentioned or linked to on the event’s website or landing page. In other words, your offline efforts could end up not just building authority and boosting your rankings with potential customers in your community, but also building authority and boosting your rankings with Google.  

Invest in B2B relationships.

Don’t embrace the scarcity mentality that’s so prevalent in business and think you have to cut yourself off from everyone and hoard customers for yourself. Instead, get involved, network, and invest in building relationships with other businesses in your community and industry. When you build authority and trust with other businesses in your community, they’ll be proud to pass your name along to their customers, because they’ll know you’ll provide excellent service and an excellent customer experience.

Connecting with others and developing referral relationships can lead to more (and more satisfied) customers; a stronger, closer-knit community; and maybe even links to your website from your referral partners’ websites. Let me give you a quick example of a referral relationship here in my community.

I recently locked myself out of my house and since I hadn’t lived here long, I’d yet to make additional keys or hide a key. The only way I was going to get in was to call a locksmith. Being new to the area, I went to Google, and after several calls, I finally got through to someone. The locksmith I reached wasn’t going to be able to get out my way anytime soon, as it was a Friday at rush hour, so he gave me the name and number of a locksmith closer to me. I called the locksmith he referred, he got me in, and I paid him for his time.

Now, I’ve taken all the necessary precautions to avoid ever needing a locksmith in the future, but if I ever do need one, I’ll probably try the first guy again, because he proved to me that he cared more about me and my needs than about closing the sale. He was willing to give up business because it benefitted me. That’s the kind of company I want to work with, and he showed me that through a referral.

Get involved in your local BNI or Chamber of Commerce.

One of the best ways to build those referral relationships is to get involved with your local BNI chapter or Chamber of Commerce. These local groups allow you to learn more about what’s going on in your community and what other local businesses are in your area, and provide a place for you to mingle and mix with those you may not otherwise spend any time with. If you really want to see the referrals start coming in and learn from other businesses in your community, these are groups you have to get involved with.Businessmen-Sitting-At-A-Table-Together

Many local groups such as these also mention the businesses associated with them on their websites and provide links. Links and citations = higher rankings. Plus, being a part of local organizations shows your potential customers that you’re invested in your community, which makes them more likely to trust in and invest in you.

Ask for reviews.

And finally, ask for reviews! At the end of a service, let your customers know how much you value their feedback and how much you rely on referrals and online reviews for business. Whether you want to believe it or not, your satisfied customers aren’t likely to leave you a review if you don’t ask — so ask! To make the “Ask” easier on your techs and the review simple and streamlined for your customers, get The Spark Review Engine™. It’s designed to make getting more reviews as easy as pie. And the more positive reviews you have online, the more potential customers will trust you and the higher Google is likely to rank you.

So go get started!

Are You Being Smart & Intentional With Your Review Requests & Making The Most Of B2B Referrals?

Last fall, I finally took the plunge into adulthood and bought a house. It was, as expected, one of the most stressful events of my life, and left me regarding most of the people involved as unhelpful and rather incompetent. But the home inspector was a breath of fresh air. He was incredibly thorough and professional, and provided us with a complete inspection report bound in a branded binder. From start to finish, our experience with him was stress free and pleasant.

Even though we were incredibly pleased with his services, we were in the middle of a move and didn’t even think about writing him a review. But, being cognizant and thoughtful of his customers’ circumstances, he sent a succinct, polite, and effective review request email. Even though the service was over, this home inspection company continued to “Wow” me.

Here’s what the review request email said:  5-Star-Review

Hi Jessica,

At ______________ we are 100% committed to meeting the needs of our customers. In an effort to monitor and improve customer satisfaction, we would like to invite you to provide feedback on your experience with us.

We will ask you to respond to two quick questions that will take you less than 30 seconds to complete.

Click here to give us your feedback and claim a special coupon offer

P.S. If we happen to rate a 9 or 10 and you feel that we have proven ourselves worthy of being recommended to other homeowners or real estate professionals, there’s a place to do that.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Why This Is Great

What’s so great about this email?

At ***** we are 100% committed to meeting the needs of our customers. In an effort to monitor and improve customer satisfaction, we would like to invite you to provide feedback on your experience with us.

One, the company expressed their desire to better my experience and the experiences of future customers. They are asking for my feedback with the customer in mind.

We will ask you to respond to two quick questions that will take you less than 30 seconds to complete.

Two, they are recognizing that, as someone in the process of buying a home, I’ve got a lot on my plate. They know I’m likely to skip the review process because I simply don’t have the time, and eliminating that likelihood by letting me know just how little time it will actually take. 30 seconds. Who doesn’t have 30 seconds?

Click here to give us your feedback and claim a special coupon offer

Next, they’re reducing the chance that I’ll skip the review process even further, by letting me know there’s a special coupon involved. I assumed it was likely something I wouldn’t much care about (after all, what is a home inspector going to offer me?), but it still made me curious.

P.S. If we happen to rate a 9 or 10 and you feel that we have proven ourselves worthy of being recommended to other homeowners or real estate professionals, there’s a place to do that.

And finally, they’re encouraging me to share my positive experience on Yelp, Google+, or Facebook. They’re not encouraging everyone to do so – just those of us who feel that the company has provided the level of service we deserve and that other homeowners and real estate professionals deserve. The wording of this makes me think that if they haven’t lived up to my expectations, I need to let them know, not go plastering it all over the Internet – and if they have lived up to my expectations, I should help others like me out by sharing my experience.   

So, I clicked.

Choose Your Questions Wisely

Once I clicked, I saw two questions, as promised. The two questions were simple, but obviously well thought out and designed to provide the company with feedback that could be used to set them apart and quickly highlight their strengths. The two questions were:

  1. Man-With-Question-Marks-Over-His-Head    Rate your experience (1-10)
  2.     Write what you liked about the company/your experience

Question number one is going to give a quick synopsis of how the customer felt about the service overall, and question number two is going to reveal two important things that can help improve service and boost business:

  1.     What is important to the customer.
  2.     What the company is doing well.

The home inspector showed respect for my time by choosing questions that would provide helpful feedback without making me feel like I’m completing a full-on survey or standardized test.

The Relevant Gift

After I finished providing feedback, I received another pleasant surprise: coupons for home services that I was likely to need during and after the move. I was offered special coupons and discount services through the home inspector’s affiliates. This included flooring services, POD storage specials, house painting specials (the only one I couldn’t use as the wife of a house painter), and more.

Now, as much as I love Starbucks and receiving Starbucks gift cards, these types of coupons really made me feel special. Why? I felt that the home inspector was truly considering my needs and thinking about what would most benefit me during this life stage. And of course, this also got me thinking about the many opportunities for service businesses out there…

Are you networking with other service businesses and using business-to-business referrals and specials to send business to each other and make your customers feel special? If you aren’t, consider the missed opportunities. Think about the life stages of your customers – think beyond the services you offer. Could you be a helping hand to customers while simultaneously giving those outside of your service sector business?  

As someone on the customer side of the fence, I can tell you I felt anything but sold to. In fact, I felt understood – like the home inspector truly cared about me and my situation. Are you as intentional with your review requests and B2B referrals? If not, give it some real thought! Your customers, your fellow service businesses, and your own business will thank you for it.

 

If you’re interested in making reviews easier for your team and your customers, check out the Spark Review Engine™!