Marketing Advice | A David Creation - Part 21

Marketing to Hospitals & Medical Facilities

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Painting contractors looking to establish relationships with local hospitals need to have their ducks in a row before a hospital will consider them. Working for hospitals can prove to be a profitable venture for the professional painting contractor. Why? Because hospitals and medical facilities have strict guidelines on what can be painted, how it should be painted and the types of products that can be used. A hospital is more concerned with the who, what, where and when than the “how much will it cost?” So the more professional, the more certification and accreditation a contractor has, the better chance they have at gaining business with the medical industry.

One of the ways I established a relationship with a large hospital (Scripps Green) in La Jolla, while working with Chism Brothers Painting, was through existing customers and relationships. We had painted the home of the current hospital CEO and sometime after we finished, I sent him an email and asked if he could get us in to paint his hospital. We had been painting for this executive for years but never talked about his hospital. All I had to do was ask!  He did not know we wanted to work at a hospital. Even though we were a primarily residential painting company, our painters were highly trained and skilled at using all different types of paint materials. The other benefit we could offer, besides being professional, was being through, neat and tidy. You’d be surprised at the companies that market themselves as commercial painters. Typically they had a reputation for hiring cheap labor, being messy and sloppy. Anyways, the CEO made a couple of calls, I got into do a bid, we got a nice size and profitable project and we began many more projects. What sealed the deal was the feedback from the staff at Scripps Green. The staff went to the facilities manager and told him they could not believe how clean and professional our company was while painting during normal business hours!

If you know anyone in the medical field, even a physician in charge of a department, ask to be introduced to the construction or facilities manager. Then make sure you know a lot about products, procedures and certifications.

Oh by the way, a great product to consider using for medical facilities is a Zero VOC epoxy-like coating called V-8 Performance. I sat in on a presentation of this material a few months ago and was blown away! Using Zero VOC products will only increase your chances of doing more work in the medical industry: even during normal business hours.

A GoDaddy Website for Contractors

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GoDaddy is a full service web agency that markets heavily to the Do It Yourself (DIY) small businesses. They have done an excellent job branding themselves as the affordable solution for simple websites. They also provide cheap hosting options. What this means is you can develop a custom website (separate from GoDaddy’s tools) and host the site using GoDaddy. Hosting is important, because this is where the data and your domain are stored. If your website is “down” one day, this means your “hosting” or server site is down. So a good hosting company is very important.

The downside I see with using GoDaddy is it is limited when it comes to web design. To do an attractive and effective website today, you really need to have an experienced web designer and programmer. It is not just about the design anymore but the text used, the way it is worded, the latest web standards and the backend coding. GoDaddy and other DIY web companies have advertise that you can create and publish your own websites, but is that really what you want to do? Do you have the time? Do you keep up with search engine techniques and graphic design?

Even though I like GoDaddy and have experience using their products, I’d recommend hosting and building your site with a professional web designer, who has their own host. For example, I work with Pioneer Design for all my websites now. Pioneer is a small business that offers secure hosting, design, copy writing, SEO, setting up your email accounts, a Google Apps account and more.  What I like about Pioneer is that they are innovative when it comes to using technology. In other words, technology does not scare them. They embrace it! They are always using the latest in web standards, codes and design. Also, the hosting server they use is huge, so the uptime is very strong and stable. Plus, if there is ever a problem, Pioneer can fix it right away, since they host the site. Oh, and they don’t own your site: the customer does. If you want to change designers or hosting, they’ll give you the reigns.

So, if you want a cookie-cutter website or want 100% control of your content, GoDaddy will do the job. However, if you really want a good experience and don’t have the time or want to be a web designer yourself, work with a professional web company. A good web designer will produce better results in the years to come.

Custom Signatures on Gmail for Business

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Intro to Cloud Computing and Google Apps

Many owners of paint companies are spending more time on the road and less time at the office during a down economy. The need for a mobile office is more needed now than even a year ago. So, I’ve been encouraging my clients to consider switching to “Cloud Computing.” Cloud Computing is basically computer programs/software on the web, not physically installed on your computer. If you have an Internet connection, you have all your office applications and files at your fingertips on the go. Oh…and with a good connection, Cloud Computing is typically much faster to load and operate than the typical heavy programs like Microsoft Outlook and other CRM programs.

Anyways, Google is becoming a leader in Cloud Computing by offering “Google Apps:” business applications in the clouds. They also have Google Marketplace which allows 3rd party companies to offer their Cloud products to be installed on the Google platform/dashboard. What this means in a nutshell is that by using Google Apps and the Marketplace, you only login to one program: your google account. Once you are logged in, you have access to all other programs you’ve subscribed too or purchased and don’t need a separate username and password (i.e. Everything under one roof).

Custom Signatures

If you decide to make the switch to the clouds and end up using Google Apps, you will probably end up settling with Gmail as your emailing program in most cases rather than MS Outlook.  Gmail has a different interface than Outlook. It takes some getting use too, but once you use all the cool plugins (called labs in Gmail) and get familiar with it, Gmail is pretty powerful! The one major downside to Gmail is that you can only use “plain text” for your custom signatures. So, a company called WiseStamp created a plugin that allows you to create custom signatures, similar to what you could do in Outlook. The latest version of WiseStampmakes creating a custom signature easy and requires little or no HTML knowledge.  Check out their website and download the plugin for your browser: Firefox of Chrome (my two favorites).

Need Help

Setting up a Cloud Office, Mobile Devices, Google Apps, Customizing Gmail into a Business Account, Setting up your Calendars, Signatures, Filters etc. can be done without hiring a consultant or computer wiz…but it can be quite time consuming. So, if you don’t have the time or get stuck in the process, I’m happy to help. Just ask!

Using Google Docs and Forms for Questionnaires

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Remodeling companies need to get specific information from a clients about their home remodeling projects before going to the next step. To do this, a remodeler needs a custom questionnaire to help him move smoothly through the sales cycle. I was recently asked if there was an easy way to create a questionnaire for kitchen and baths and post it on a company website or email it to a prospect. The answer is “yes there is!”

The more expensive and customized route is to hire your web designer to create the questionnaire form and post it on your website. Creating custom forms on a website typically require a lot of special coding which sometimes drives the price up. The second option is to use Google Docs. Google Docs has a Form Creator built in, and it is very simple to use. The form tool also comes with over 70 themes to help dress up your questionnaire.

When you create a Google Form, you can easily send the questionnaire via email to a prospect, have them fill it out and then login to see their answers. To make that easy, Google notifies you when a prospect uses the form/questionnaire.

So, the next time you want to create a customer survey, estimate request or questionnaire, give Google Docs a try. Google makes it simple!

Note: To make things even easier for your business, try switching your office to run in the Clouds: Google Apps, a good CRM & Dropbox.

Quick Tips on Creating a Good Customer Report Card

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When creating a customer satisfaction survey or report card, I have a couple of quick tips:

  1. Keep it simple, short and right to the point
  2. Instead of doing a report card such as A, B, C, D and F, use these words, “Exceeded Expectations, Met Expectations, Did Not Meet”

What you really want to find out from a client is if they were really happy, somewhat happy or if there is a way you can make them happy! If they fill out a survey that you’ve given to them, chances are they are at least satisfied. If they won’t fill it out, they either don’t have the time or they did not like your services. A customer report card is meant to help you be the best. You don’t need to find out if your crew was neat, clean and organized. Just ask them if they received the best value, quality and service!

Finally, get them to write what they really liked about your company (to tell future clients) and 1 thing to make you even better!

Bookfresh vs. Setster for Online Appointments

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Update 5/8/2017

Since writing this post back in 2010, many appointment booking software has surfaced. I have settled on using YouCanBook.me. It works with iCloud, Microsoft and Google Calendars. That is enough for me!

Update: 4/3/2014

It has come to my attention that consumers are having more problems with Bookfresh support. One person told me they cannot get in touch with them by phone at all. So I am not endorsing Bookfresh and have not for several years. This is an older post comparing (at the time) two good programs. If you are using Google Calendar, I highly recommend you use and try: www.youcanbook.me (they have the best service and can customize it to fit your needs). Setster is still a great product as well.

Do you remember the days before cell phones? Contractors and business owners had pagers and Daytimers. I remember my dad telling me that when he worked in the field painting for a homeowner, he’d have to ask the homeowner if he could use their phone to make a call or drive to the nearest pay phone. Life was simple. Asking to use someone’s phone was not an inconvenience. It was normal.

The days of pagers, pay phones, daytimers and people waiting 24+ hours for a response are over! Now consumers want quick and fast response. If they send an email, they get impatient if they do not hear back from a contractor within 2 hours or less. Some consumers don’t even like talking on the phone. They would prefer scheduling their appointments online at their convenience.

Well, to keep up with technology and this fast pace lifestyle, Bookfresh and Setster have made it a little easier for business owners to allow prospects and customers to schedule appointments online. Bookfresh and Setster are online scheduling and appointment booking software. A visitor can now go on to a contractor’s website, click on the “Contact Us” or “Book Now” button, select a service, view available time slots and schedule an appointment. Both of these companies have made online scheduling a breeze.

Which one do I like best? It is hard to say. I like them both. Bookfresh seems to have done a better job marketing themselves and has more testimonials from places like the New York Times and USA Today. Setster, is a younger company yet is slowly becoming a threat to compete neck to neck with Bookfresh.

Pros of Bookfresh

  • Mobile friendly: browser-based website to view and accept appointments
  • Attractive and Easy to Use.
  • Available on your Business Facebook Page and Email Campaigns
  • Has a “mini site” for your company. This could replace your company contact page completely. It is easy to use and search-engine friendly
  • Integrates pretty well with Outlook and Google Calendars
Cons of Bookfresh
  • Customer support, in my opinion does not exist. Enough said.
  • For contractors, there is no function to schedule specific areas of town. In other words, if you want to schedule appointments in the same zip code or area, there is no way to do this. Bookfresh makes scheduling easy for the consumer only.
  • Bookfresh takes a consumer away from a contractor’s website. This is not good from a marketing perspective. It should be a pop up menu with the contractors brand and identity. When a consumer clicks on the Book Now button, Bookfresh takes over.

Pros of Setster

  • Easy to for your customers to use on desktop or mobile devices.
  • Customer Services. Each time I’ve had an issue, they’ve respond by email well…and even picked up the phone and called me to make sure I was happy.
  • Pricing is good. Comparable with Bookfresh, YouCanBook.me and others
  • Branding of Setster is limited. A Consumer stays on a contractor’s website when booking an appointment.
  • You can have a developer customize Setster anyway you’d like!
  • Easy to install buttons for email marketing, website and sending business emails.
  • Works very well with Google Calendar.
  • Invoice and Accept Payments online (Integrates with Quickbooks, Freshbooks and PayPal)

Bookfresh and Setster are great programs! My personal favorite of the two: Setster

Consumers use these features and seem to like the ease of them. If Bookfresh would have better customer service, I’d give them two thumbs up. Until then, Setster takes the cake.

Keep Marketing Simple and Personal

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Social Networking seems as though it is growing at the speed of light these days. Connecting with fans and friends on Facebook and creating an email blast is a piece of cake. Social Networking and Media is becoming the normal way to communicate. Although there is a place for Facebook, Twitter,  LinkedIn and Email marketing for your business, have you asked yourself, “Is my company still personal, approachable and real?” Can they schedule a meeting where they meet a real live person? Can they schedule a meeting where they meet a real live person? With technology at our fingertips (literally), it is becoming harder for companies to remember the good old days of old-fashioned marketing.

One old-fashioned marketing technique I’d like to reintroduce is the “handwritten note.” Yep. That’s it. Let me explain how it works. It is where a business owner or estimator spends 5-7 minutes of his or her time writing a thank you or follow up note to a prospect or past client using a pen and stationary. This concept is not just marketing. It is relational, personal and real. People buy from people they like. They want a relationship. Facebook started as a great tool to reconnect with long lost friends. Now it is a social online chat club…sometimes enabling chats with people you’ve never met or can’t remember if you were once friends.

Go back to the basics this spring. Dust off some old stationary and get started today. By the way, for the remodelers and painters reading this, try a custom stationary with a featured home you’ve worked on. I’d recommend talking to a watercolor artist to paint a photo or two you can use on your stationary. Check out this site: Watercolor Artist: Cath Howard.

Advertising in Small Community Publications

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A great way to begin or continue branding your service company is to target a couple small communities in and around where you want to work. Community advertising, in most cases, is very reasonably priced. Some neighborhoods are more organized than others and very active. You want to be part of the active ones. Ask if you can place an ad in their emails, newsletters and community postings. Another thing that works great is to discuss opportunities on how your company can help their community with projects. Let me explain, if you own a handyman business, you can suggestion that your company takes care of the community picnic tables and park bench repairs or replacements. Or if their is a clean up day, your company can provide the water, shovels, rakes, shirts, gloves and trash bags. You’d be amazed at the response you might get by suggesting these things to a community events coordinator or executive director.

One final piece of advice: don’t begin your conversations about paid advertising when you begin a relationship with a community. Wait a minute…didn’t you just say to find a community you can place an ad and market regularly? Yes I did. Let me be more specific. Typically when you connect with a community the paid advertising is separate from the community “volunteer” projects. In other words, an ad agency, printer or publishing company handles emails and newsletters. The projects around the community are run by homeowners! When you deal directly with homeowners, HOA directors and volunteers, always talk about how you can help their community. You want to become their painter! Their handyman! Their landscaper! When they need something, they call you. If you don’t have what they need, you’ll help them find it through your network.

Developing a relationship with a community takes time, a lot of time! You have to nurture this relationship possibly for years to see a real kickback of work. I’ve seen good results though in as little as 8-10 months. Don’t expect your phone to ring off the hook the first 6 months.

Aggressive Prospecting

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In this challenging market today, consistent and sometimes aggressive prospecting will be key to keep your business moving forward. The idea of aggressive prospecting is hard for most sales and marketing guys to swallow. In a good economy, prospecting was easy. A sales guy didn’t have to do it! Instead, the office fed him quality leads all day long. If he was good, he’d close the deal 50+% of the time and continue this cycle. Now, being a salesman is a tough business, and it takes years of training and doing to become an expert. But, being just a good salesman isn’t enough when faced with difficult times.

Lesson from History

Years ago, during and after the Great Depression, prospecting, lead generation and closing was all the same thing. A salesman had to hit the streets, knock on doors, make cold visits and calls and learn all about rejection to make a sale. If he did not prospect he made no money.  We can learn something from that era: aggressive and diligent prospecting works! If you want to keep ahead of your competition and grow your business in a down economy, you need to have a prospecting plan. You need to get outside of your comfort zone.

Where to Begin

To begin a prospecting plan in your service business, start by hiring the right people. Make sure they have NO head trash and are comfortable making phone calls and meeting new prospects. Once you find the right people, give them the proper training to refine their skills, agree to a good commission or salary and send them to the streets. Their goal is to meet and greet potential prospects that would be a good fit for your business and sign them up for an estimate or meeting.

If you already have a seasoned salesman who produces great results, he might make a good prospector. You will just have to break him down a bit and get him use to the idea of aggressive prospecting. In this market, you need “all hands on deck.” All your employees must pull their own weight too. If they are not onboard asking for referrals or selling additional work, replace them.  You are building a team, a loyal team. Your job as the owner or business manager is to motivate, encourage, track results and reward for a job well done.

The bottomline is this: if your company is consistent in this market to actively look for work, outside your normal source of leads, you will sail ahead of your competition and leave them fighting an endless battle of survival. Be a maverick!

The Benefits of Hiring a Business Coach

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Hiring a business consultant or coach does not mean you are unintelligent. Just the opposite is true! Any small business owner is wise to decide on hiring a business consultant. As a marketing manager, I come in contact with many owners who decide against hiring a coach. Unfortunately, a large number of my clients who opted not to work with a business consultant actively have canceled their services with me. This has occurred not because I was falling short in my role as a marketing guy.  It was related to three things: 1) They were short on funds. 2) They didn’t budget the time to do what they need to do, 3) They lacked a business goal or plan. When I work with companies who have a business manager or coach, they are more organized and take their business seriously. To them it is a business, not a job.

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