The Obvious

What To Do When You Get an Email from an “SEO Expert”

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Do you get emails weekly or even daily from people who are guaranteeing they can get you onto the top of Google search engine? I receive them now and then and my clients get them all the time. I have a good laugh when I read over some of these. Here is one I found very humorous. I cut out a portion of the email and deleted my client’s URL for the sake of privacy issues, but here are the highlights:

The person then leaves his full name and phone number, no company email or web address about his company. The email my client received above is first of all not accurate. There are far more than “two Google back links” and his website does show up very well in search results. He has hired a reputable SEO company in the past that ended up being very beneficial for him. So this company definitely did not do their research. The thing I found amusing was the ending paragraph which reads, “I found your site in the Google search…” That pretty much narrows it down right there. Whomever wrote this email found my client’s site using Google search and then tells him the site in not ranked well at all. Folks, when you get emails telling you your site sucks on search engines and gives you a bunch of data as to why everything you are doing is wrong, consider this as SPAM. Don’t trust these emails.

When to Trust
Now, if your website really doesn’t show up well on the search engines, don’t get tempted to call up a person of one of those bogus emails. Make sure any email or phone call you get is a legitimate company. Make sure they have a quality website and that IT RANKS WELL. That is right. Do a few search terms yourself and see if that SEO company shows up high for their own search terms.

Business Email Address is a Must

Posted by | Small Business Solutions, The Obvious | No Comments

This will be a short post, because the title says it all, Business email address is a Must. I still see so many business owners and even employees using personal email accounts to email and engage with customers. Myname@gmail.com was acceptable back in the 1990s when many of us didn’t know you could have a business email. Today, all business owners should consider getting company emails: yourname@companyname.com. It is mind boggling just how easy this is to do today. You can sign up for Google Apps, which is free and get up to 50 company emails. Otherwise, talk to your IT company and tell them to hook you up! It is either free or inexpensive, and chances are, your email or website provider (i.e. GoDaddy or Web Hosting Company) already offers you that option. It is more professional to engage with consumers with a company email and keep personal things personal. Also it is a great way to brand your business. I use my business email for a lot of personal contact as well, because if someone is tech-savvy enough, they’ll look up my email domain: adavidcreation.com and find my website and what I do for a living.

This summer, make the switch. Using a business email address today!

Recording vs a Live Person

Posted by | Small Business Solutions, The Obvious | 2 Comments

Here is an actual quote from a painting customer of one of my clients after a recently completed project.

“Whenever you call them you always get a person, not a machine.”

This is not the first time I’ve read this statement while reviewing customer report cards. This is actually a pretty common quote. Have you ever heard a consumer say, “I love being placed on hold!” or “I always look forward to the music on hold at XYZ company and remembering all the numbers and extensions to schedule an estimate!” I know why the big companies have this feature: to save their operators time. Just think, if Verizon had a live person answering every single call the moment the phone rang, our Verizon bills would be a lot higher. Their overhead would skyrocket. Therefore, the call screening features are a must for a large company to stay competitive. I also know why the small companies have these features: to save time! Am I right? Think about it: you are working on an estimate and do not want to be interrupted, yet your phone doesn’t stop ringing. How can you get anything done?

Live Person Still Is Best for a Small Business

Your customers will always want to talk to a live person. It is just the way we are all wired. If that is what your customers want, you need to see how you can deliver this request. It might seem like a little thing, but the little things always matter. I’d recommend either having someone answer your calls in house or use a call center. I mentioned a call center as opposed to an answering service. There is a difference! An answering service just takes messages and sends you emails and text messages. A professional call center can actually transfer calls to you, take messages or even schedule appointments.

Whatever you decide, make sure you are readily available for your customers. They are the lifeblood of your business. One final thing – make sure whoever is answering your phone is also positive. I recently listened to a voicemail recording that made me sick. A brand new lead came through, a live person answered the phone but had no positive emotion. She answered the prospect’s questions but did not seem happy to get a phone call. Guess what happened? The prospect I think sensed the cold voice and ended up not scheduling an estimate.

So two things to take away from this blog post: 1. Do what you can to answer your phones and 2. Make sure whoever answers is well-trained.

The Best Marketing Letter I’ve Ever Read

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I received this email from one of my painting clients in Rhode Island today and could not wait to share it. I got his permission to share with the world. I could not resist after reading what his daughter wrote. Take the time to read this amazing marketing letter written by an eight year old. I’m sure this would convince anyone to use Dennis Moffitt Painting! Mike, thanks for sharing. A great way to welcome the weekend and put a smile on hopefully many faces!

My oldest, Ava, sits down with me and says she needs to get some work done too, and what can she help with? I decided to give her an assignment that might keep her busy for a little while, so that I could get what I needed, done. I told her to write a story about why customers should hire us instead of other painters. It turned into a full blown interview from her part and ended up with something that will be framed in my office. I know that when you read this it might look like a cheap advertising gimmick, but this is really meant to be a blog from a proud Daddy about funny stories that happens when you work from home. Enjoy… – Mike Moffitt, President of Dennis Moffitt Painting

 

Click to Enlarge

Lettering Your Vehicle

Posted by | Marketing Advice, The Obvious | 2 Comments

Do your employees use company vehicles? Do those vehicles have your company brand properly displayed? Most reading this will answer, “Yes!” Here is the big question. As the owner, is your truck or company vehicle “dressed” for success? I am surprised at how many owners drive around in non-labeled vehicles. You are not alone. I have to get after my dad about this one. When I worked for him…I made sure all trucks and vans were properly labeled with our company brand, but my dad did not want anything on his truck. He had his reasons, and I still disagree with him. Every time I come home for a visit I make a comment that his truck still does not have his logo, website or anything on it! Someday I hope to win this battle.

If you are doing a fair amount of traveling to and from job sites or estimating, your vehicle should carry your brand. A temporary fix is to use magnetic signs, but to be honest, I don’t like the magnetic look. My suggestion is to really plan out a nice and simple layout using vinyl. No need to do a full vehicle wrap for your truck or car. You should at least have your logo, website, licensing, and/or phone number on it.

The community in which you work should see your brand everywhere!

Photo Courtesy: GMT400.com

99% of Contractor Websites Are Lacking The Same Thing

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My own theory is that 99% of small business websites I come across lack real people and great photos on their website. I have not run any statistics to make my theory a fact, but I can almost bet I’m not far off from those numbers. The reason most websites do not have pictures of their own people and real projects is typically the same reason most contractors do not have a consistent blog: they do not make it a priority or are too busy.

If you are a contractor that works in people’s homes or businesses, then you should strongly consider updating your site to make it look as personal as possible. Make your website looks like a showroom and think about what your customer would want to see when he or she enters. My guess would be that your customer would want to see samples or products, before and after photos, demonstrations of applications, samples and learn more about the people doing the work.

Make your website come alive in 2012. Be one of the only contractors in America who shows and tells your potential customers an incredible story.

Side Note. This is not something I can do for you. You have to be the one who makes this a priority. Hire a photographer / videographer and get some great photos and videos up! I guarantee you’ll begin to get better quality leads.

Samples of Contractor Websites Who Are On The Right Track 

Hard to find…but here are a couple:

Cloud Computing & Mobile Solutions Discussion, Mid-Maryland NARI

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I spent most of my working hours as a marketing manager for service companies. However, my main hobby for many years is discovering the best technology solutions for small business owners. Anyone who knows me well knows I always have a number of gadgets with me at all times. I’m continually testing Apps, Cloud Programs & Devices to see what works best for each of my clients. If I can’t figure out how to use something quickly, I don’t recommend it.

April 18th Cloud & Mobile Solutions Talks

Those who live in the N. Virginia, DC, Baltimore or Frederick areas are welcome to attend this week’s NARI meeting. I’ll be sharing a bit more about what cloud computing is, how to use it and why to consider to use it. I’ll spend the second half of the discussion sharing my favorite Business Essential Apps for Apple devices. I might have a couple Android suggestions too, but I really am no expert on Android devices or applications.

Who Can Attend

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) has local chapters throughout the United States. I will be speaking at the Mid-Maryland chapter. Typically you will find owners of general contracting and remodeling companies in attendance along with individual contracting trades. Vendors who service contractors, called industry partners, and usually attending as well. If you are not a member, you can still attend this meeting for $50, which includes dinner. This month, the Women’s Council of Realtors will also be attending this talk. The event is from 6-9PM at Dutch’s Daughters in Frederick, MD.

To sign up online and learn more, visit the NARI Mid-Maryland Website.

So I have my work cut out for me. I have slightly over an hour to tell 4 different groups: contractors, vendors, sub contractors and realtors all about Cloud and Mobile Solutions. They way I usually do my discussions is I always welcome questions during the entire presentation. I like to keep people awake, so come prepared to ask me about your mobile or technology questions.

What’s Keeping You From Blogging?

Posted by | Small Biz Talk, The Obvious | 5 Comments

We all have hobbies and habits. Some of us like playing golf, running, reading the morning newspaper, weekend rides, even playing around on our new techie gadgets. How much time do we spend doing these activities each day or week? Here is my challenge as we enter the spring season. What is keeping you from adding something new to your weekly routine? How about starting and maintaining a blog? Already have one but the last post was 2011? Keep reading.

So what’s keeping you from blogging? Is it that you are not sure what to write about? Or are you afraid you’ll run out of ideas? Maybe you are not a good writer and are afraid of what people might think when you misspell “except” when it should be “accept.” I can think of a dozen more reasons why most small businesses don’t blog.  I think the number one reason is that small businesses don’t make the time to fit in this very important marketing idea. There is room for everyone still to begin and continue to write what they are passionate about.

Has it worked for me? I’ve been writing about a blog a week for six years and believe me, I sometimes want to quit. I, like you, run a small business, volunteer at my local church as a trustee, am one of the managers of our church building project and raise 4 small kids 6 and under. Do I have writers block? Do I sometimes want to stop blogging? Yes! Quite often to be honest. I have the same fears my clients have but have to stuff away that head trash. Has it helped my business? In more ways than 1. It has given me opportunities to do public speaking and travel all over the country, gain new clients and grow my business without spending any money on traditional advertising. Actually, I did just spent $35 when I reordered business cards! 🙂 Ok almost no money on traditional advertising. The point is, if you personally will not blog, you’ve got to get someone to start blogging on a regular basis and be faithful to continue to write for your audience. Don’t stop! Press on!

Still Need Help?

If you are not sure where to begin, fill out my quick contact form and let’s talk. I’ll point you in the right direction. As always, I recommend blogging in house before outsourcing.

Photo credit: Woman in Thrisis

Start with the End Goal in Mind

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While I don’t look for blog titles while at church, this past Sunday was different. My pastor’s first point in his sermon on 1 Peter 4:7-11 said Christians should always have the end goal in mind. In short, he or she should live everyday in light of Christ’s return. That doesn’t mean to sit around twiddling one’s thumbs. It means to be active and practice Christian charity and service to others, for this brings glory to God (vs. 8-11). Although the 1 Peter passage isn’t talking about running a business, this thought came to me: a business owner should run his (or her) business starting with the end in mind too.

I’ve met many business owners who don’t know where they are headed with their company. They don’t have any short or long term goals established. If asked what they hope to do in revenue this year, or even 3-5 years, most don’t know how to answer or tell a little lie to make it sound like they do. Only a small percentage of small business owners know where they are headed. Only a few focus on the end goal.

It might look something like this, “In 5 years I hope to be making a $250,000 salary, working 10 months out of the year, have 15+ employees, with 80% of my business coming from repeat and referrals. I will have a full-time business manager, production manager and office administrator while I focus on ________. I’ll be known in my town as the #1 _________ providing exceptional _________.” The end in goal is not always the end when you sell or retire, although that is a goal. The end might be a marketing campaign, hiring employees, a charity event, your salary, and so on. Another example, Instead of saying, “We need to hire someone.” You’d say, “We need to hire a person who can sell $1,500,000 with little or no oversite from me!” Then you begin working backwards and breaking down all the steps it will take to look for a closer of that caliber. Whatever you want to accomplish, you have to start at the end and work backwards. You as the business owner has to know where you are headed so you can lead your team forward with confidence. When the owner is focused on the end, he (she) will begin to see his employees catch the vision.

How will move your business forward this year? 3 Years? What will it look like in 10 years? Let me know in the comments below or by emailing me, as some of you still do.

 

Don’t Make Your Customers Get Defensive

Posted by | The Obvious | 2 Comments

This week’s marketing tip is a no brainer to most of us, but unfortunately many businesses overlook this principle.

Marketing Principle:  Never make your customer feel uncomfortable when a problem surfaces. If you are at fault, do what it takes to take full responsibility. If the customer is at fault, don’t let them get defensive. Create a win-win outcome.

Related To Marketing?

How does this relate to marketing, one might ask? Everything you do in your business, good and bad, is marketing. The way you answer the phone, your voicemail greeting, customer service, the appearance of your employees, it sends a message to the consumer: hopefully a positive one!

My Personal Story

The principle I mentioned above is relavant to me this week because I had a situation (still going on) with a service contractor that made me get a little defensive and feel like the bad guy. I won’t mention their names (yet) because they are still in the middle of trying to work on my situation. A long story short, this company provided a service to my home which unfortunately caused a small leak in a pipe that was not fully shut off for several hours. An honest mistake and and an easy fix once discovered. It damaged my ceiling tiles in my finished basement in the 4 hours the leak took place. I’ve had lots of experience dealing with ceiling leaks (being in the painting business) so I knew the water stains were NOT going away. I contacted the company who apologized, came back out, fixed the pipe so it would not happen again and then said, “Call us in a few days once things dry out and see if everything looks ok.” I thought to myself, “Several tiles are brown and still soaking wet…and that is supposed to vanish in 3 days?” I knew right there that this employee was not taking full responsibility. I’m a nice guy and responded pleasantly, “Ok I can do that. BUT those ceiling tiles are soaked to the bone and are stained! I don’t think that is going away. What can you do about it?” His response, “Yeah you are probably right. But go ahead and call us in a few days and see how things are looking.” He then took a few pictures and went away. Hearing nothing from the staff, I made a call 4 days later to follow up. The sales person who sold me the water system called me back the next day. He was very professional on the phone yet still lacked the marketing principle in this post. Even though he was sorry and being positive, he put too much pressure on me and wondering what I wanted to do about the situation. What he should have done is simply said, “Dave, I’m sorry about your tiles. We’ll take care of this and don’t you worry about a thing.” If he said that, I would have backed down and not gotten defensive. Yet I’m still waiting for a call back and a solution that will hopefully not make me look like I’m the one who caused the leak.

The Little Things Matter

It is possible to have a few bad apple customers from time to time. Things happen! Yet it is how you deal with those customers that will determine if they will be back in the future or be customers for life. Yes, maybe there happen to be customers you’d rather not want back. If that is the case, the little things still matter. Follow the principle above and make sure even the tough customers don’t get defensive at the end of a project. You might keep a few from telling their friends or writing nasty reviews online, because you’ve done the right thing. I’ve seem my own father follow this principle numerous times and he rarely ever has customers who walk away upset. He has even returned money to frustrated customers (even when it is the customers fault!). What do you do to keep customers comfortable with your service? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

 

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