Small Biz Talk

Baby Boomers and Social Media

Posted by | Small Biz Talk | 6 Comments

Is your service business using Social Media yet? Or are you still wondering if it is worth the effort to blog, post, tweet and connect online? Many high-end service contractors work primarily for the Baby Boomer generation. These consumers can typically afford to have their houses painted, geothermal units installed or large custom kitchens remodeled. However, many contractors wonder if their Baby Boomer clientele spends much time online, especially on the Social Media networks. They pose a good question, “Should our company invest the time it takes to be online when many of our customers don’t even know how to use Social Media?

Readers vs. Contributors

The next time you jump on a train, wait for your a flight or spend time in a sitting lounge, take a look around: How many people between the ages of 50 and 65 (and even older) are using iPhones, iPads and other techie gadgets? It often outnumbers the younger users with expensive toys. My parents, who are in their sixties, recently purchased a couple of Apples iTouches and an iPad, and I am amazed at how quickly they are learning to use these devices. My mom even knows how to Facetime, and my dad is considering tossing his “old” Blackberry for the new iPhone! And among their peers, my parents are not alone.

I spoke recently with someone in a Baby Boomer ad agency and he gave me good insight into the current net usage trends: Boomers connect with the online world starting just as readers. In other words, they get on Facebook and subscribe to blogs and read the material that interests them, but they typically do not spend a lot of time contributing. The contributors tend to be the young generation at this point. As business owners using Social Media, we want feedback. We want contributors so that we know we are on the right track. However, getting Baby Boomers to write a review, leave a comment or share our online information may not be a reality at this stage. On an encouraging note, I spoke with a major contributor of Amazon.com’s product reviews, (in her mid 40’s) who said most of the people buying from Amazon and leaving reviews are between 40 and 65. I believe this is because Amazon made reviews what they are today and has had long-term clients who learned how to write a review. Once they learned how easy it was, they started doing it. It is just a matter of time before these same people will branch out and become more active on the other “social” sites.

Don’t be Discouraged

So if the Baby Boomers read more than they contribute at this point, what should a contractor do? Don’t get discouraged, but embrace Social Media marketing. The fastest growing Social Media subgroup right now is the Baby Boomer audience, and you have the advantage if you are prepared for them. The easier things are to use, the more you’ll see them getting involved, even if they do remain more readers than contributors. Having readers is fantastic! Hook them with your content so they want to read more–keep writing good blogs, creating good posts and tweets, and uploading photos and videos. If you have them reading, it will often turn into a lead and hopefully a long-term client.

Finally, make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Make your website ready for the Baby Boomers and mobile users.

What do you think? If you are a Boomer reading this, how do you use Social Media? If you don’t want to comment below, hmmm…maybe call me up or send me an email.

Side note: many of my clients don’t comment on my blogs or post much because they are in that same 40-65 age range… but now and then they’ll mention to me that they read and appreciated a particular post.

Coaching vs Consulting and Do I Need it?

Posted by | Marketing, Small Biz Talk | 10 Comments

Coaching

What would happen if Tiger Woods fired his coach and determined to golf solo? Would he still remain the best in the world? Maybe for a short time. A coach is hired to offer personal training, encouragement, ideas and to be supportive of an individual. In short, a coach keeps his client goal focused. What is the goal for Tiger Woods? To win! What is the goal of a contractor? To run a profitable and well run business, right? A coach is typically hired on a long term basis, not short term. A coach also doesn’t work just with the owner. He or she might be hired to coach an estimator: i.e. a Sales Coach. Maybe you’ve hired a new production manager from within the company and the new manager needs help setting specific goals, a coach would sometimes be hired to keep him accountable and on target. If a business owner wants more specific help on running his business, such as how to build to sell, how to hire employees, a business plan, having good business systems, he would typically hire a consultant, not a coach. Unless of course he wants someone long term to keep him accountable.

Consulting

A consultant is typically hired for short term reasons, to help with a specific need or problem. Consultants will typically ask why something is happening and then help his client think through ways to overcome his problems to reach his business goals. Consultants can be hired for all aspects of business: marketing, business planning, taxes, financial, production and more. In some cases, having both a consultant and a coach can be an excellent move for most small and large businesses. Did you know that even McDonalds, the Marriott, and Verizon all hire outside consultants?

Example from my Dad

Most contractors and small businesses I talk to about coaching or consulting services respond the same way, “I don’t think I can afford a consultant.” To answer this statement, let me share with you a personal story: I grew up watching my dad work 12 hours a day running (not building) his small painting business in San Diego during the 80s and early 90s. His customers loved him, and he was blessed with lots of referrals and repeat business. He had one problem. He wasn’t really making any money. Of course there was the typical job that was profitable but most jobs were just paying the bills and keeping the doors open. Borrowing the term from The E-Myth book, he was working in his business, not on it. We had little complaints during those earlier years. We lived conservatively and with little or no debt, but my dad’s business wasn’t going anywhere. It wasn’t thriving. Then one day my dad hired his first consulting firm. The first guys charged a lot of money and did nothing. Ok, so that was another mistake. He didn’t give up hope. He wanted to run a successful business and have something to sell or give to his kids someday. So he hired another short-term consulting firm. This one was a lot better. Then in the mid 1990s, he finally landed a good consulting relationship with a local firm and got his business working for him. He raised his prices (after discovering he was not charging enough). Sales go down? Just the opposite! He created an employee handbook, business systems, a hiring process, painting systems, a marketing plan and much more. What was the result? A well run business that has become one of the most profitable and steady painting companies in San Diego. In short, he has created a great place to work. He also kept his business consultant and recently added a financial consultant to his team. My dad told me he did not start making money and running a business he was proud of until he hired a good consultant. His current consultant acts more like a coach now, as the problems are dwindling but he still needs accountability.

Your Experience with a Coach or Consultant

What has been your experience working with a coach or consultant? Have you found it to be helpful? Why or Why Not? Let me know your thoughts on this subject. If you have never hired a consultant, will you consider doing so in the near future?

 

Google CRM? Will It Every Happen?

Posted by | Small Biz Talk | 6 Comments

Google has been pushing harder than ever to keep its Lordship on the web. Their latest battle has been with Facebook who has been creating a powerful army of its own. Google makes most of its revenue through paid search, but has had very good success with its business marketplace: Google Apps. Google Apps provides businesses with business email (Gmail), file storage and creating of documents (Google Docs), Contact Manager, Mobile Access and Google Calendar. Google then went one step further by creating Google Marketplace, which gives third-party companies the ability to sell their products and services and linking them to a companies Google Apps account. The Google marketplace is very similar to the way Apple’s iPhone works with their App Store. So for example, if you use Mailchimp as your email marketing software, you can add Mailchimp to your Google Apps account, which will allow you to sign in automatically through your Google account. Basically Google Apps is the hubspot for your “cloud” business.

I use Google Apps for my 100% cloud-based business and love it. However, I have one problem with it: Google is not a CRM. If Google had its very own CRM built in, I bet they’d get an overwhelming response of new clients in a matter of days. What is holding most small business guy up from switching to Google Apps is the lack of CRM capabilities. Right now they have to sign up for Google, get a smartphone, and then sign up for a third party CRM. However, most third party CRMs currently available are not 100% compatible with Google’s platform. I’ve been using Highrise from 37 Signals as my basic CRM and task manager and then Google for everything else. I’m happy with the two programs. I’d still love to have everything under one roof. I don’t want multiple companies and all these small monthly bills. I like most small business owners want one simple, easy to use CRM program: email, calendar, task manager, contacts, deals and cases! I want it to work with no third party plugins.

My Prediction and Wishlist for Google

I believe Google will create a CRM program. Why they have not done it yet? I don’t know. Maybe they had time to kill and wanted to see how their Marketplace would do. I think the marketplace is very cool, but it still is more than we need as business owners. Also, I think Google has to create a CRM or Microsoft will. Microsoft is a bit behind Google in creating their cloud system, however, they are doing it. Microsoft has a CRM program called Microsoft Dynamics. The cloud version has been released, but I have not tried it out. I’m a Google guy. Also, people are tired of third party plugins left and right. Salesforce, the current leader in CRM-cloud computing, is buying out all the third party companies! So they get it! Will Google do the same? I hope so. I think they should buy out 37signals who has the best project management and CRM programs I’ve seen. I’d then have them take over Pipeline Deals as they too have a few good CRM tools! The problem with 37signals is that they just do NOT work with Google. They are completely separate and have no two-way integration. You have to install plugins from yet another company, that can be buggy, to sync 37signals and Google! Google needs to listen to the small business world and create a CRM program with all the basics. Google does not need to worry about their partnership with Salesforce, because small business owners don’t need such a sophisticated CRM. They need a simple, easy to use system. Google has that now: email, contacts and a calendar. Now just add the customer management, and they will see success. As I’m writing this, it got me thinking, what about Apple CRM? That would be cool!

Here is an article I read that digs a bit deeper into Google CRM. I received this article from Software Advice, who asked me to post it here. So please take time to read: Will Google Enter The CRM Market? by Lauren Carlson. It is a good read. Thanks, Lauren for sending this: and keep me posted on anything else you may discover!

What would you like from Google? Do you have a CRM that works well with the way you run your business?

p.s. I also know it is expensive and can be problematic for Google to create their own CRM…because so many other companies have saturated this market. Google’s marketing decision is probably to continue integrating 3rd parties. My predictions could be wrong. I sure hope I’m right, because I’ve just heard so many people frustrated with all these APIs and plugins. It is getting confusing. If Google holds back, there has to be a company that does a clean and perfect integration with Google.

Research a Prospect Online Before an Appointment

Posted by | Small Biz Talk | No Comments

When your company receives a request for an estimate, there is one very important step your salesperson should take before going out to the prospects home or business. He (or she) should type their prospect’s name into Google and do a little research. The salesperson should discover as much as possible about his prospect such as: occupation, company, hobbies, contributions, education and more. When the salesperson arrives at his appointment he will then have a better understanding of how to begin and lead the sales process.

A number of years ago, while working at Chism Brothers Painting, I researched a new prospects name on Linkedin and Google. I discovered that this homeowner had been the former CEO of several well known nationwide companies. I found out a lot of information about this prospect before ever meeting him. I then began to rehearse how the sales appointment would look like. When I met the owner, I did not mention my discoveries until 3/4 of the way through our walkthrough of his home. Once I got to know him a bit more, I began to talk about his success as a businessman. I’ll never forget his response when I asked him a few questions about his work at his former companies. First he perked up and sounded excited to talk about himself. He then said, “How did you know I worked for there?” His wife heard the question and responded, “He probably googled you!” After that, he began telling me a lot about running a successful business and looked at me almost as someone he could mentor. I also got the job, which turned into about $100,000 of repainting work. There was such a change in our conversation after I started talking about him.

One final “tip” about researching a client. Use good judgement when talking to a prospect about some of the things you discover about them online. Make sure it is the right timing when you bring things up and if it is relevant. Using the Internet can be one of the most powerful tools you have as a salesperson.

Aggressive Prospecting

Posted by | Marketing Advice, Small Biz Talk | No Comments

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!

Networking Online For Success

Posted by | Marketing Advice, Small Biz Talk | No Comments

I have been asked many times if LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (i.e. Social Media) help businesses grow. Personally, I think these Social Media sites should be viewed like any other networking events we do and not a “silver bullet.” In other words, treat Social Media as a way to connect with someone and begin nurturing/building that relationship. Connecting on Linkedin or Facebook take time just like meeting someone in person takes several meetings. The one thing to remember is to not act desperate. Remember, people buy from people they like! If they like you, you’ve made a connection! If they really like you, you’ve got a fan for life.

To explain the benefits of networking online for success better, please take a few minutes to read this great article I found through LinkedIn: View Blog Article Here. If you don’t have time for the whole article, read the last two paragraphs.

Apple to Release a Touch Screen Tablet Computer

Posted by | Small Biz Talk, Small Business Solutions | No Comments

Apple has always had the power and the brains to dive into the Tablet “PC” market. I am not sure why they have not released their own touch-screen Mac in the last few years. Their iPhones and iTouch devices are incredible, so the technology is definitely there! Tablet computers, for those of you who don’t know, are basically a laptop with “touch” capabilities. However, most Tablet computers can only be touched using a stylus (pen). Only a very small handful of Tablet PCs on the market allow for finger touching, such as HP.

Tablet computers are an incredible invention for service companies, especially painting contractors. I first started using a Tablet for estimating over 5 years ago. I would say that my time was cut in half by being able to produce an estimate in the field with a client vs. taking notes and measurements and doing the proposal back at the office. I have definitely closed more deals with the help of the Tablet. Why? Because I have more face-time with the owner. I can provide them ballparks and/or fixed numbers on the spot. If I have to leave the jobsite/home, my chances of selling just went down.

The problem I have found with Tablet PCs mainly is the cost and the reliability of the machines. A good Tablet PC with MS Office can cost as much as $3,000. The other expense is one they break. I have rebuilt my Toshiba Tablet 2 times and a Motion Computing Tablet at least two times.

Thanks to Steve Jobs, it appears Apple will finally jump into the Tablet market and be producing their very own machine to the public later this year. I hope it is as easy to use as the iPhone. Netbooks have really taken off the past year, which is probably the main reason Apple began tinkering with the idea of producing something better. Believe me…whatever Apple decides to release will be incredible.

To read more about the Apple Tablet and see some possible ideas of what it will look like: View this site.

Quick Tip: Double Spacing After a Period is Not the “Norm” Anymore

Posted by | Small Biz Talk | No Comments

typewriter_antique_When writing a blog, an article, a customer letter or any marketing piece that has multiple sentences, you don’t need to double tap your Spacebar anymore! Most Generation X folks will not even know what I am talking about (though I am one myself). However, even I, when I first learned to type was told to hit the Spacebar twice after each period. I never really knew why until I took my first Desktop Publishing course back in 1996. My instructor set the class straight! The reason most of us (especially my parent’s generation) double tapped our Spacebars after a sentence ended was rather quite simple: It was the standard rule for typing with a typewriter. Ahhh…but this was the rule before computers become the standard way to write and communicate. On the old typewriters, the reason we had to double space was so we could easily distinguish between the end and beginning of two sentences. If you did not double tap your Spacebar, it would look like a run-on sentence

(Typewriter Example (without a space): i.e. The days of a typewriter are ended.The days of the computer…)

(Double Tap Example: i.e. The days of a typewriter are ended.  The days of the computer…)

(The “new” Way Example: i.e. The days of a typewriter are ended. The days of the computer…)

The computers and word processors today know when a period is placed and how much space to place the end and beginning of a new sentence.

So, it might take some time, but go ahead and try to break the habit of double tapping your Spacebar! It is now considered “Old-fashion.”

Schedule your free 30 minute marketing call. Contact David Today!