If you’re like a lot of other business owners, you know that blogging can be good for business, but you hate trying to come up with topics. Trust me, I know the feeling. Sometimes, it feels like there’s nothing else to talk about. After all, “There’s nothing new under the sun,” right?
But there are some tried and true ways to get inspiration and come up with topics when you feel like the well has dried up. Here are some of my personal favorites:
#1 Listen to your customers.
One of the very best ways to come up with blog post topics is to listen to your customers. What are they saying? What do they ask about, again and again? What issues are they dealing with?
Here at Spark Marketer, we have a weekly chat where we share what our clients have been asking about or talking about, as well as any issues that have come up throughout the week.
Every topic and issue gets added to a spreadsheet that we can all access, add to, and pull from, which is great because it reveals themes and provides insight to those of us who don’t get to have regular conversations with clients.
Knowing what our clients are dealing with, asking about, and talking about, enables me to write (hopefully) helpful content that’s relevant to what they’re going through. So, yes, it’s altruistic. But, the bonus is, it provides me with a wealth of blog post ideas. It’s how I came up with this one!
Don’t ignore the wealth of ideas in the conversations you have with your customers. After all, they’re the very people you should be writing for!
#2 Use Google autofill & “people also ask.”
Google makes it kind of easy for you to “listen in” using autofill and “people also ask” in search results. All you have to do is start typing in a word or sentence, say, “Why is my fireplace,” for example, and see what autofill comes up with. There, you’ll find out how people are finishing that sentence and just what people are asking.
When you type a question into Google and press enter, you’ll also notice that Google shows a few related questions in the search results, under the title “People also ask.” This is great for finding related topics to write about or other questions to answer within that same blog post. It’s like a free look inside the minds of those searching for topics, services, and products you deal with. Creepy, but helpful.
#3 Check out Answer the Public.
Answer the Public is a pretty great tool that allows you to type a keyword or topic into a search bar and come out on the other side with a whole host of related questions people are asking on the web. It’s a great way of expanding your ideas when all you have in mind is a general topic or keyword. Plus, the guy on the home page is pretty entertaining, in a judgmental kind of way.
Here’s an example of how the questions are organized. The results below are for the keyword “fireplace.” Check it out.
#4 Spy on Quora.
If you can get past the fact that people ask some of the dumbest questions possible on Quora, you’ll find that it’s sometimes a good way to see what good questions are being asked about a particular topic. It’s also a great way to see what kinds of answers people are getting, so you know what misinformation and misconceptions to address in your blog posts. You can choose topics that interest you and Quora will send you emails when related questions are asked, or you can just go to Quora and start looking around. But brace yourself. Like I said, some of the questions are ludicrous, and you’ll spend a few minutes just wondering how these people have made it this far in life.
#5 Keep your eyes and ears open.
A lot of times, topics will come to mind and inspiration will strike in the strangest of places, so keep your eyes and ears open. If you’re a local service business, as painful as it can be sometimes, watch the local news. Are there reports of consumer fraud in your industry? Maybe you need to do a post on what to look for when hiring a company that provides the services you offer. Are there certain products you use to do your job that provide a better value for the homeowner? Maybe it’s time to showcase those in a blog post. Maintain a curious mind, keep your eyes and ears open, and you’ll come up with ideas. The more accustomed you get to thinking outside the box, the easier it will be to find inspiration.
Well, I hope you find these helpful. Now that I’ve shared some of my favorites, I’d love to know how you come up with blog post ideas. Let me know in the comments!
5 Tips For Coming Up With Blog Post Topics When You’re All Out Of Ideas was last modified: February 19th, 2019 by Jessica Shepard
Being in the service industry is hard. You’re not allowed to have bad days; you have to be on all the time and hold a smile when asked not-so-smart questions; and many days pass without so much as a thank you. When you’ve been in the industry for a long time, it’s even easier to forget why you started doing it in the first place, what you love about your job, and just how big of an impact your daily work really has. It’s easy to get burnt out and to lose perspective.
If you’re starting each day with a pessimistic, “why bother?” attitude, here are some tips to help you recharge and refresh.
Stop & Reflect.
First things first, when you’re burnt out and you’ve lost perspective, it’s easy to forget the good times — the moments when you felt truly satisfied in your work. STOP. Take a few moments, or maybe even an afternoon, to reflect on your time of service and remember the moments when you were thanked, when you felt fulfilled, and when you saw just how much your work mattered to your community. Reflecting on these moments can help recharge your service battery and keep you focused on the positive aspects of your job. In fact, to prevent future burn out, we highly recommend making reflection a regular thing. Make it a priority and put it on your calendar, just as you would an important meeting.
Many people in the service industry don’t think much of the little things they do or little ways they go above and beyond, which is why it can be beneficial to ask others. Your friends, family, employees, coworkers, and customers may be able to shed some light on the ways your heart for service really made a difference and you went above and beyond what you were called to do. Plus, hearing others say positive things about you is always good for the spirit.
Perhaps the most fulfilling part of life is the relationships we form. Are you taking the time to connect with your customers and form a bond? On each and every service call, make it a point to find some way to relate to your customer. Empathize with them. Care about them. It will make all the difference in the way your customer perceives you and in the way you perceive the customer and the service you bring. This may be easier to do with some customers than others, but even if it’s a stretch, find a way to do it with each and every one.
Recognize Your Value.
You have a heart for service, and not everyone does. But if you want to take care of others, you have to also take care of yourself. When you’re burnt out, take the time to refuel and reflect, even if you only have a few minutes in the truck on the way to the next job. Remind yourself of your worth and the value you bring to those you serve. Although it’s nice, what matters is not that each and every customer acknowledges the worth and value you bring — what matters is that you do.
Rekindling The Service Flame When You’re Burnt Out was last modified: January 31st, 2019 by Jessica Shepard
In the service business world, it can be easy to convince yourself it’s all about price. You have potential customers who end up going with whichever company quoted the lowest price and customers who abandon you when a Groupon pops up or an Amazon Prime day offers them 40% off of Amazon Home Services. How can you compete and make a decent living when you’re being undercut on price left and right and that’s all customers seem to care about? Offer more.
More? What do you mean more? I can’t afford to lose money on every job!
No, I’m not saying you should not charge for products or time, but there are some things you can do to add value for your customer that don’t cost you. Let’s look at some examples:
#1 Clean Up After Yourself
You may think it’s a given that service business crews clean up after themselves, but truthfully, it’s not. Simply by taking precautions to make sure your customer’s property and home stay clean throughout and that you leave no traces behind is a great way to add value that doesn’t make you any less profitable. It may take a little more time to put down drop cloths or vacuum up after a job, but it’s not going to take up your whole day. Just include a little buffer for cleanup in your appointment windows.
#2 Offer To Move Furniture
If you’re a house painter, a flooring guy, or you perform some other home service that may require the moving around of furniture, offer to do it for the customer if you’re physically capable of doing so. This can be an especially valuable service for the elderly and is just one way to make the job less stressful and less of a hassle for your customer.
#3 Go Ahead & Do Small Add-On Services
Did your customer mention needing or wanting a small service performed sometime in the future? Offer to do it while you’re already there and have the products needed. If you’re a painter, this can be offering to go ahead and touch up baseboards while you’re in the home. If you’re a chimney sweep, this can be offering to go ahead and fix a damper that’s missing a pin. Offer to change out a light bulb that’s burned out or swap out an air filter. If you’re open minded and listen to your customer, you’ll likely find it easy to identify small ways you can add value and provide additional services without breaking the bank or wasting time.
#4 Educate Your Customer
One thing you may take for granted as a service professional is your knowledge. You have years of experience and education in a field that most people know nothing about — sharing some of that knowledge can add value to your customer’s life. If you’re a chimney sweep, this may be educating your customer on the best tips for seasoning your wood or getting your fire started. If you’re a house painter, this may be letting your customer know that wiping down a painted wall (especially if it’s a darker color) can leave streaks if a wipeable paint is not used. If keeping their kids’ fingerprints off of their walls is something that’s important to them, recommend a paint product that’s made to be wiped down or washed. These small tips and suggestions can lead to happier customers, and all it takes is a little attention, listening, and sharing.
#5 Be On Time Or Call If You’re Going To Be Late
You might be amazed at how many service professionals are perpetually late and don’t take two seconds to call the next customer and let them know. Most customers will understand that things come up and schedules change, but if you don’t take the time to call and let your customer know you’re not going to make the agreed upon time, your customer will feel disrespected. Make every effort to be on time to each and every appointment — and when things don’t go according to plan, make the phone call, apologize, and let them know when they can expect you and that this isn’t the norm.
What are some ways you add value to customers? We’d love to hear them!
5 Ways To Add Value For Your Customer (That Won’t Cost You A Thing) was last modified: January 31st, 2019 by Jessica Shepard
We love partnering up with local service businesses as they power on towards their dreams, but the reality is, not every business is ready to make that commitment, financially or otherwise. If you fit into that category, we want to give you 6 tips for what you can be doing until you are ready to work with us. Here you go!
Getting involved in local networking groups like BNI, your local Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, Jaycees, Gold Star Referral Club, etc. is a great way to get your business name out there and gain referrals. It’s also beneficial for you as a business owner to connect with other business owners and build relationships with those in your community. So get involved, even if you don’t think of yourself as the networking type.
2. Make The News.
Most people watch the news, which is why getting a local news spot is one of the best ways to get your name out to those in your local area. Reach out to a local reporter and give them a story. Are you a chimney sweep? Maybe it’s chimney swift season or there have been a series of chimney-related house fires. Look for opportunities to present yourself as an authority and educate or inspire those in your community.
3. Give Back.
Getting your company involved with a charity is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Not only is charity work good for your spirit, but it communicates to your employees and customers that you care about more than just what you can gain from those in your community. You’ll meet new people, get involved in meaningful, big-picture work, and you may even discover new ways to raise funds and awareness through your business throughout the year. Everyone wants to find purpose and meaning in their day job, especially on the tough days when things don’t seem to be going right. Partnering with a charity and using your business to give back can provide that purpose and meaning.
4. Sponsor Teams & Events.
Have you considered sponsoring local sports teams and events, like little league teams, football teams, soccer teams, golf tournaments, tennis matches, local chamber events, community fairs, or town festivals? Getting your business involved through sponsorship can provide yet another way for those in your community to discover you and the services you provide. Plus, like the other tips on this list, team and event sponsorship provides the opportunity to build relationships and network with those you may not have otherwise come in contact with.
5. Get Social.
Everyone’s getting social on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and if you aren’t there to be a part of the conversation, you’re missing out! Some studies have shown that more than 60% of consumers check a business’s Facebook page before deciding to do business with them. Would those looking for you find you? Social media also provides great advertising opportunities, and since social profiles are free, they’re a cost-effective way to communicate important things like hours and services to those looking for you. Get out there, create social profiles, post engaging and informative content, and let your customers and potential customers see your personality, core values, and what makes you and your business special. Get creative, have fun, and socialize with your customers!
6. Get Your Culture, Procedures, And Customer Service Right.
When it makes sense for you to start investing in online marketing, you want to make sure you get the best ROI. But no matter how many potential customers your website or Ad spend sends your way, if you have scheduling problems, procedural problems, or customer service problems, you’re going to lose out and fail to convert some of those leads. So take this time to work on getting your company culture, procedures, systems, and customer service 100%. By getting all of these things established and in peak condition before you’re ready for us, you’ll be able to confidently serve the customers that find you through your online marketing efforts when you are ready for us. You’ll already have operations and customer service down to a science so you can focus on retaining the new customers coming into your sales funnel so they don’t go looking for anyone else.
If financial constraints or other constraints are preventing you from working with a digital marketing company, don’t get discouraged; there are still things you can be doing. Go out there and make the most of this time — we’ll be here for you when you’re ready!
6 Things You Can Do When You’re Not Ready To Partner With Us was last modified: January 31st, 2019 by Jessica Shepard
Being a small business owner takes a lot of quick thinking, but in those hot potato moments, you have to have the vision and foresight to make decisions that are smart for your business in the long-term, not just the short-term. It’s surprising how many small business owners seem to “fall into” owning a business, with no real vision or direction – just the desire to work for themselves. While this is great motivation, it’s only going to get you halfway.
Do you find yourself making reactive decisions without giving much thought to how those decisions will affect the future of your business? If so, ask yourself one question: Are you committed to your business or not?
As a small business owner, assuming you want to be profitable (which you do), you’re already in it for the long-haul. You’re the one driving the machine and chances are, when you stop pulling all the levers and pushing all the buttons, the machine stops and goes nowhere. Since you’re in it for the long-haul, why are you making short-sighted decisions? Think about how you can maximize the profitability and longevity of your business, not just how you can get through today with minimal hassle.
Nip These Short-Sighted Behaviors In The Bud
Here are some ways you may be thinking short-term when you should be thinking long-term:
Sending an email to all customers (without an up-to-date subscription list). Email is still one of the best customer touch methods, but only if you use it sensibly. Do you keep an updated email list or are you sending out emails and campaigns to anyone and everyone you’ve ever collected an email address from? Make sure you’re sending emails to those who do business with you and want to do business with you; otherwise, you may end up being flagged as spam.
While we’re on the topic of email, be thoughtful about email frequency. Sending too many emails is a sure-fire way to frustrate customers and lead them to hit the “Unsubscribe” button –
especially if they never subscribed in the first place, they simply gave you their email address 6 years ago.
Hiring for a quick fix. Hiring can be a time-consuming and frustrating process, and sometimes you need someone to fill the void fast. But rushing a hire or hiring for a quick fix will only hurt you in the long run. When hiring, take your time and think about whether or not the individual is truly a good fit, not just for the job, but for the company and the culture. Hiring right may take more time and thought, but it’s well worth it.
Skimping on training. Regardless of whether you’ve hired a team with or without the experience to get the job done, you absolutely need to invest in training. So many business owners think of training as a time and money suck, but in reality, it’s just the opposite. Putting aside time and resources for staff training will ensure that your team does things the right way the first time, preventing time loss, money loss, and customer loss due to mistakes and waste.
Not taking the time to write out SOPs and develop systems. This one goes hand in hand with training. If you take the time to make SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for tasks that take place within your business, you won’t have to stop everything to walk someone through the process or stop and do it yourself. You’d be amazed at how much time and stress you’ll save yourself by putting these processes and documents into place.
Using cheap or subpar equipment, supplies, and trucks. Running a business takes a lot of money, no doubt, but if you want to save yourself money and stress in the long-run, you’ll invest in quality equipment and supplies. Think about it, if tools are constantly breaking, your techs can’t do the work that’s being asked of them. If your trucks are constantly breaking down, you’re forking over cash for towing services, missing service calls, and disappointing customers. And whether your techs can get to the job or not, you’re paying them for their time. Invest in quality tools and vehicles – your business depends on it!
Being disorganized. If you aren’t organizing your warehouse space and trucks properly, you’re wasting a lot of time both prior to the job and on the job. Take the time to really think about your space and your trucks and organize them in a way that makes sense. Whether that means making grab bags for each type of service you provide, or simply reorganizing the layout of your trucks, it’s well worth the effort. An organized warehouse and an organized truck means less time wasted each day – getting organized may even allow your techs to squeeze in an extra service.
Responding defensively to negative reviews online. It’s natural to be frustrated by negative reviews, but are you responding in a way that helps or hurts your business in the long-run? Many business owners fire back at dissatisfied customers, which not only ruins their chances of turning that customer into a happy customer, but it also discourages potential customers who read that response from working with the company in the future.
When your business receives negative feedback, take a step back and look for anything you can learn and apply. Is there something you need to improve upon as a company? No matter what, whether the complaint is valid or not, respond professionally and take the conversation offline. Responding defensively or attacking the customer will only hurt your business in the long-run.
Stay Focused On Your Goals & Make Choices That Will Get You There
Whether you fell into the business or you intentionally set out to start your own company, taking the time to think of your long-term goals and the steps needed to get you there will maximize your enjoyment as a business owner and your profits. For weekly encouragement and business tips to help keep you focused and thinking long-term on the road to your business dreams, subscribe to the Guys In Trucks podcast!
When It Comes To Your Business, Are You Thinking Short-Term Or Long-Term? was last modified: January 31st, 2019 by Jessica Shepard