Guest Post

Which Social Media Channels Should My Business Be On?

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This is a question I get frequently from my clients. The honest answer is that not every business needs to be active on every social profile. So how do you know where to invest your time and valuable marketing dollars?

To begin, I’d like to define a social media channel.

According to Whatis.com, social media can be defined as any “online communications channel dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration.” Read More

Why Companies Fail At Implementing Change

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This week’s blog is a guest post from Brian Nolan, owner of Summit Services. Summit is a professional business consulting firm working with small and medium size businesses.

This weekend I was reading a book called Leading Change, by John P. Kotter. A couple things jumped out at me as being very relevant for the Summit group.

There was a chapter dedicated to why companies fail at implementing change. Two of the main reasons were:

  1. Under communicating the Vision by a factor of 10 (or even 100…. or even 1000)
  2. Failing to create short term wins

Kotter spends a great deal of timing talking about the importance of continually communicating the vision to employees, both in words and deeds and in as many interactions as possible. Major change is usually impossible unless most employees are willing to help, often to the point of making short-term sacrifices. Without credible communication, and a lot of it, employees’ hearts and minds are never captured. It’s not enough to read it once at a company meeting (although that’s the start!). The Vision must be kept ” top of mind” and be constantly incorporated in your communications and decisions. I encourage you all to keep your company visions close by and incorporate pieces of it in your weekly meetings.

In Summit, we’ll talk about getting some small victories. This will create a feeling of accomplishment in your company and show them that you are committed to walking the talk. Focus on one, or maybe only two projects. Communicate the projects to the company. Explain how it ties into the Vision. Plan it, do it and celebrate it. Kotter talks about short term wins as more than luck. I have always known luck as an opportunity coming together with preparation. Short term wins come about through planning, organizing and implementing the plan to make things happen. The point is to make sure that visible results lend sufficient credibility to the change effort, which includes creating a focused organization.

Have you picked your one or two projects that will give you the early victories you need to sustain changed? Have you planned them before you started doing them? Have you communicated these to the organization?

“Discipline is remembering what you want.” Our organizations will thank us if we maintain the discipline to focus and accomplish one or two things at a time. You will reach your summit (your vision) in time, one base camp at a time.

Have a great week!

Brian Nolan
610 449-2135
Visit Summit Services Website

Facebook Tips for the Boomers

Posted by | Guest Post, The Obvious | No Comments

Tina from the blog, Best Online Colleges asked if I’d be willing to share their latest blog for my readers. I of course always read the blog articles before sharing them and this one was a good read. The blog educates the Baby Boomer audience on the Dos and Don’ts of using Facebook. You’d think all of the points were common sense, but I can see someone new to Facebook not knowing what the Poke button did or that tagging people in photos is cool but may not be wanted by your more private friends. It is worth the time reading this article or pass it on to someone you know who is just getting started using their techie gadgets and Facebook. Thanks, Tina for sharing this article with me.

15 Facebook Etiquette Tips Every Baby Boomer Should Know

Video Blog by Jalapeno Paint Werx from Naperville IL

Posted by | Guest Post, Marketing | 4 Comments

I asked my good friend, Tom Reber, if he’d be willing to share a bit about his business brand, Jalapeno Paint Werx. He and his business partner, Bruce Watson, have done an incredible job marketing the little green pepper guy all over the town of Naperville.

I appreciate Tom being willing to share some of his ideas and secrets and not being concerned about his competition. He has nothing to hide! Tom and Bruce are honest businessmen who run a successful and quality painting business. If you or someone you know lives around the Chicagoland area, you’ve got to give Jalapeno Paint Werx a call. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed with the customer service and the paint job. Now without further adieu, here is Tom Reber.

Scheduling Winter Work Now – Guest Post by Mark Osborne

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As a contractor, I have always dreaded the “winter” because work would dry up, and weather often prevented what types of projects could be performed. As the leaves began to turn, I used to get an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, as I knew what was just around the corner. After the first painful winter, I decided to be proactive and generate the work I needed not only to survive, but also to prosper.

Start Before Winter

The key with developing winter work is to begin generating it PRIOR to the winter beginning. Once Thanksgiving comes, people stop thinking about home improvement projects. It is imperative to contract for and schedule the winter work before Thanksgiving while people are still in a buying mode for home improvement projects.

Budget & Projections

First, start with a budget of what you need both from a break even, and then a full capacity, perspective. For instance, if you need $100,000 of work to break even over the winter months, and the average job is $5,000, than you need 20 jobs to break even. If your closing ratio is 66%, you would need 30 estimates to generate the $100,000 you need to break even. You should do the same for a full capacity projection.

Past Customers

The easiest way to generate the required leads is to start with your past customers. A good response rate for direct mail is 0.5% response rate. Obviously, people you have a relationship with (and whom are presumably satisfied), will respond at a higher rate. Depending on the effectiveness of the offer, it is reasonable to achieve anywhere from a 2% to 5% response rate.

Going back to the original break even analysis, if you need 30 leads, you would need 1,500 customers on your mailing list (30 divided by 0.02). However, if you can generate a 5% response rate, you only need 600 people on your mailing list. The bigger your customer list, the larger number of estimates you will generate.

Next, you need to generate a compelling offer to incentive people to schedule work in the winter. What I have done in my business is give a large percentage discount (usually 30% off our regular rates) for work scheduled between specific dates in the winter. Our most difficult period for scheduling work is December 15th through January 15th, so we set that windows as the “discount period”.

The catch is you limit how many projects you take at the heavily discounted rate. For instance, if you need 30 projects to break even, you limit this discount to the first 30 people to respond to the offer. This will give your past customers the sense of urgency to move quickly and take advantage of the proposed savings.

Whether you send a letter or some other postcard style mailing will be up to you, but I suggest a simple letter. It will give you the opportunity to explain why you are willing to offer such a tremendous discount. Specifically, that you need a certain amount of work to retain your employees during a naturally slow period, and that you are willing to offer a great deal in exchange for scheduling during this slow period.

I suggest sending this letter in late September or early October. Follow up this mailing two to three weeks later with a follow up mailing (this time a postcard) indicating how many projects you have sold, and how many spaces are left.

Two weeks later, send a final mailing stating how few spaces you have left for the promotion, and reminding them that the promotion will end shortly. You will find you will get a flurry of calls at the tail end of the promotion of customers desperate to get the last spaces available.

Email Works As Well

If you have email addresses of your customers, you can send email blasts in between mailings two and three. Again, the focus should be about highlighting how many spaces you have left.

It may seem counter intuitive to have work scheduled say from December 15th – January 15th when you may have openings still in November, but knowing the exact amount of work you have signed and scheduled during your slow period, will give you the comfort level to continue to sign and schedule the “normal” work that will come in naturally.

Mark Osborne owns and operates Manor Works Painting, which services the Greater Washington DC Metro areas and Northern Virginia. His website is: Manor Works Painting. Mark is a leader in the painting inudstry: known for knowing his numbers and running a smooth and organized painting company. In his spare time he enjoys attending local beer dinners and is in the process of creating his own brewing company. Stay tuned!

Guest Post by Scott Avery: Profiting From Good Communication

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Sometimes the greatest part of owning a business is the adrenaline rush you get from being “on the hustle”, especially in the beginning. Hustling makes the day go faster and you feel like so much was accomplished. Occasionally the fast pace of contracting can get the best of you when communication between homeowners or other contractors is overlooked.

I feel a strong connection to the painting industry because our company is a hardwood flooring company and there is a huge interaction between our trades. At the core of both businesses we all know that the final finished product is so critical for both trades. The combination of a sharp paint job and a well-finished wood floor can really make the craftsmanship of a remodel project come together. Sometimes this can be the source of rivalry and time loss when communication between our trades isn’t clear enough.

One of my competitors refinished a very custom wood floor and had a serious finish failure during the remodel. During finishing, the wood floor contractor applied a finish system that ended up having a very poor adhesion to the floor. Afterwards, the painters applied blue tape to the floor, did their work, and pulled up the finish around the perimeter. The flooring contractor ended up re-doing the floor over the course of a year and a half, which inevitably lead to a very irritated homeowner.
Who was to blame? It’s really hard to say, but I blame the problem on the wood-flooring contractor. The flooring contractor did not discuss with the painters how they were going to proceed after his floor was finished. This overlooked detail cost the flooring contractor thousands of dollars and countless hours of lost productivity. Despite coming to a conclusion over who is at fault, all parties involved looked bad to the homeowner, which is a big part of maintaining a reputation.

In our industry people often use time as the measure for experience and reputation. Despite how much you have learned over the years it takes confidence to focus and discuss the fine details of a project to be a real professional. Confidence is built when you’re in control of your business, employees, and especially communication.
I encourage you to invest your time in constantly improving your communication by writing blog posts, articles, and giving regular educational presentations in your field where possible. You will be investing heavily in your marketing, allowing you to control your business and work only with the people you like because the phone is ringing.

When your plate is full with gravy business it will give you peace of mind you’ve never thought was possible. Your profits will be at their best and you will own your time. Nothing is more important than time for your family and time for yourself and it should be the reward for running a well-focused company.

Scott Avery, President of Momentum Agents & Owner of Modern Tech Floors

How To Get Your Clients To Do a Video Testimonial

Posted by | Guest Post, Marketing Advice | 3 Comments

I would have thought it was difficult to get a high end homeowner to be willing to do a 30-60 second testimonial for a contractor, but Burnett Painting has proven it to be successful. Here are his “secrets.”

“First, they must be Raving Fans!

At the end I ask them if they would be willing to help us? There always interested, so I explain that its very hard to get and stay at the top of Google, but with 10 second videos stating their name, town, and “Burnett Painting” that will help us as Google transcribes all of the You Tube videos and greatly helps us stay towards the top! And if they would be so kind to mention their experience with Burnett Painting.

Most are all for it. 1 out of 10 just will not do videos. and those in between need to be encouraged!

I used to use my Flip Video as it loaded to our You Tube channel easily… then I learned how I can send it directly from my Droid phone!”
Thanks Steve for sharing this tip! Take a look at Steve’s websites and view some of his customer testimonials. These are not Hollywood productions but rather: point, record, upload! That’s it! I think one of the key takeaways is that some customers “need to be encouraged.” They are your clients. They bought your service. They like YOU. So ask them to help you grow your business. As Steve points out, encourage them, and they’ll do it.

 

How Mozart Can Change Your Business

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Guest Post by Bill Seaver

Before you read this post I recommend you watch this video clip (embedded below).

Watched it? Great. Now let’s talk…

I remember being totally enamored by the story of Mozart the first time I saw the movie Amadeus. One of the things Mozart did was change the way Austrians viewed operas. He did this by recognizing there was a way to build on their rich history of music and improve upon the parts that could be better.

In the clip from Amadeus we see that point clearly. The composer Salieri is the guy at the beginning. He is a model composer by all the standards of the present day. He didn’t question the way things were, rather he sought to make a name for himself within the system. He also hated Mozart. He hated him because Mozart didn’t give a rip about the system and he had more talent than castle full of composers.

We see Mozart’s talent and lack of decorum in the video. He memorizes the song after having heard it once and then does the unthinkable: he changes it. Did you catch the line, “It doesn’t really work, does it?” Mozart has the audacity to take what is a standard short concerto and improve upon it because it can be better.

Mozart And Your Business

Today there are Mozart-esque changes happening in marketing. The old ways of reaching people aren’t the only (nor often the best) methods for reaching the right people for your business. Additionally, there’s more noise demanding people’s attention than ever before.

The new kid on the marketing block is social media. In many ways social media is the Mozart of marketing world now. Social media builds upon some of the great marketing, advertising, and public relations history from the last century and reshapes it to fit today’s culture and technology.

What Social Media Is

Social media is a vast array of new Internet-based technologies that allows people to create and consume media. Social media is also a new mindset for both businesses and their customers. It’s a mindset that means the consumer has a voice and is willing to use it. It’s a mindset that means a business can actually be sure who they’re reaching with their marketing efforts rather than taking a shotgun approach all the time.

For all the hype about Facebook and YouTube and Twitter there are very real business implications today. The sound of business has changed. There are new instruments to learn and new ways to play the old instruments. There is new music to play and there are new ways to play the old music.

It’s time to face the music. Your business needs to be thinking about these changes. Your business needs to be working toward these changes. Your business needs to decide how they apply to your particular situation. Your business should be looking for its own Mozarts. It’s time to change your tune. Let the Mozart mindset push you toward change that will benefit your company for years to come.

How is your business using Social Media? Are you committed to this new change in marketing?

6 Easy Steps to Blog for Quality Leads

Posted by | Guest Post, Marketing Advice | 2 Comments
Wanted to introduce to you a friend of mine who is a marketing coach and is also running a painting company in Southwest Florida: Steve Burnnett. He will be writing a few blogs for me on my site now and then. Welcome, Steve. and Here is his first article:
You may not be a “writer” by trade, but if you take just 10 minutes and use these 6 easy steps, you will soon find that weekly blogging may become one of your top 3 lead generators.

In October of 2009, (one of our slowest months in SW Florida) we had one of our biggest months and every job we painted was a closed lead from blogging! Here’s how you can do it, too.

Step 1. Length

Your blog should be 200 to 400 and no more than 500 words. Blogs are meant to be brief and not a book. If you are on a roll with great information or a great story, great! Cut your blog in two or three or more sections and post it as a series which will draw interest to watch for the next one in the series. Bonus: Adding a picture is a great idea, as well. As they say, “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” Even a funny picture about your story will draw interest.

Step 2. What to write about.

When writing, you should consider being of value first. We all have enough information about how fantastic we are and why we are there best option all over our web site along with testimonials and pictures of beautiful homes.

To be of value in our blogs, we offer ‘how to’ tips or very interesting information: how to paint a popcorn ceiling, how to cut in a wall, how to paint a six panel door. While this all sounds redundant to us, it it great information for our prospect.

Give all the details away! Once the prospect, even a DIY’er (Do It Yourself-er), sees all the steps involved, they will immediately see you as the expert without you ever saying so and the DIY’er is now having second thoughts about attempting the project and contacts you!

Step 3. Story Teller

Share stories about some of your experiences. Stories are captivating. Plain information without a story, is not. Tell a story- not where you came in and saved the day- but to reveal that you are human and share about some challenges you faced with a certain process, product, or application technique.

Your point of this blog is to save them the chance of facing the same challenge.

Step 4. Title

Your title is very important. It must be very catchy and concise. In 3 to 7 words, you must hook them so they want to take a few minutes to actually read. Also, and very important, is to include your city or a surrounding city and your niche in some of the titles- especially in the content. You can’t do this to every title as it will be obvious. This is done for SEO. (Search Engine Optimization- which tells where to put your blog in the Google search listing, beginning or end!) Each blog can show up as an individual listing on the search pages.

Prospects are most likely to find you by entering your “city” and “niche” into the search engine: Google search: Chicago Painting Contractor. Therefore, some examples of titles could be: “Picking the Best Color for Your Chicago Home”, or “Painting a Popcorn Ceiling in Seattle”,  or “Sarasota House Painting Tools”.

Step 5. Content

Short and sweet: pepper your blog with the name of your or your city and your niche (painting).

Step 6. The most important step!

The biggest key for us in using a blog for lead generation, was when I bought up the domain names of the cities in my area. For example, I live in North Port, so I bought: northportpainting.com, puntagordapainting.com, and venicepainting.com. Now some of these domains go straight to my main painting website. One of them, however, -venicepainting.com- has it’s own website as our target market for that year was Venice.

Buying these domain names and hosting them to your website, brings you right to the first page of the search, if not at the top, as well as on Google Local (shows up on Google search w/ a map). For a while, when I searched “Venice FL painting contractor”, we showed up 7 times on the first page with 2 of them being on Google Local, with a map.

So, the 6 easy steps to blog for quality leads are:
1. keeping your blog form 200 to 400 words
2. when writing, give value
3. tell stories
4. Hook them with your title and include your ‘city” and “niche”
5. Pepper your blog with “city” and “niche”
6. (Most important) Buy up all the domain names of your surrounding cities + niche.
Do this and you will be sitting well on Google, my friend.
Much success,
Steve
Schedule your free 30 minute marketing call. Contact David Today!