Your sales may be booming during the cold season, but how are your projections looking for the rest of the year?
Let's get started with our experts:
Laura Simis, Branding & Communications Manager at Coalmarch, a marketing agency for home service companies
1. Do more than just "have" a website.
Not all websites are created equal. When you build a website, you need it to be relevant and authoritative—which requires strategy and ongoing marketing.
You need it to be optimised, because if you're bringing in visitors but none of them live in your service area, you're not going to get any ROI.
You also need it to be designed to convert—because if you're bringing in qualified traffic and none of them are taking the next step to contact you, you're not making any sales.
2. Invest in your reputation.
When homeowners in your area are looking for a home service business, they're looking for signals that they can trust you.
Things like showcasing team members on your website and social media, so potential customers can see who will be coming to their door, as well as highlighting testimonials from happy customers can go a long way in making people feel comfortable with your company. For example, Capterra recommends getting your customers to sing your praises.
The best way to do that for a field service company is through online reviews. Local Services by Google (which are ads that now show above regular PPC listings for searches for local services) don't link users to your website at all—they show your name, phone number, and your star rating on your Google Business page—so it's important to make sure you're passing the right message along to potential customers.
3. Get your local visibility in order.
Local search is bigger than ever, and it's not going away. There are a few factors that can make a small business competitive against a big name-brand competitor, and one of the biggest is location.
Especially when it comes to searches being conducted on a mobile phone, your local listings and proximity to the searcher can play a big role in the success of your digital marketing—so if you're not taking advantage of local search terms or working on maintaining the accuracy of your local search profiles, you're going to miss out.
Jonathan Gorham, Founder of Engine Scout, a Melbourne, Australia-based digital marketing agency for plumbers, electricians, and HVAC specialists
4. Contact “Shoulder Business Owners” to get referrals.
For example, if you’re a plumbing company, reach out to electricians and discuss the idea of a referral system where you refer any electrical work and they do the same for any plumbing/HVAC jobs.
These “shoulder businesses” often get asked by customers for recommendations, and because you're not a direct competitor they're happy to recommend you. It's a win-win. To really get the ball moving, you could even take it a step further by offering 10% referral fees.
5. Create a free guide.
Create a free guide on ways to save on your electricity bill or water costs, then run a Facebook ad campaign targeting people in your area offering it as a free PDF download.
Not only will lots of people want to read it because it saves them money, if you're smart you'll brand your company on every page of the guide with contact details—so next time they need any electrical/plumbing work, guess who they're going to call first?
Chris Ford, Technical Sales Manager Southern Tank Services Ltd, specialising in oil and water tank replacements for domestic and commercial heating.
6. Get niche with your keywords.
I've found a change in search terms for our industry: People now search for the problem, not the more generic ‘plumber in Salisbury’.
That means niche blog articles can drive traffic to a webpage; also, short YouTube videos explaining common problems and how to fix them get traffic and promote you as an expert in your field.
These also get high ranking in Google—I've seen lots of videos in the SERP's [Search Engine Results Pages] for “how to”-type terms. So, as a company, we'll be creating some videos to solve or explain common problems.
The more niche the blog, the better it will work, and if you don't make it too much of a company advert, you get a few social shares. But a call to action at the bottom of the article to our contact page is great for lead generation.
Jonas Sickler , Marketing Director at ReputationManagement.com, a provider of enterprise-level online reputation management services
7. Personalise ads by neighbourhood.
Organise your reviews by neighbourhood, and send out hyper-personalised postcards that feature reviews from that neighbourhood. To keep reviews anonymous you can use the customers’ initials, but if someone does give permission to use their name with the quote, that's even better.
It's important to make these feel personal, and not like you just dropped in the name of the neighbourhood. Try listing several street names where you've done work in the neighbourhood, especially if the owners agree to be references.
Chris Lonergan, President of Footbridge Media, a marketing agency for contractors and home services businesses
8. Prioritise online review generation.
If you only make one improvement to your marketing and sales workflows, prioritise the generation of online reviews. The process should start the moment you know your customer is satisfied with your service.
Whether you create best practices for manual processes for your team to follow or you utilise an automated review management system—focus on building social trust by improving your review count and rating average.
9. Get your engineers involved in content creation.
People are visual creatures. Documenting your work by taking pictures and getting reviews directly from your client on the job site can help to develop the content that satisfies a potential customer.
You don’t need a marketing person to follow around an engineer all day—instead, incentivise your engineers and onsite staff to gather good content. With a mobile-internet capable tablet or smartphone, your in-the-field team has all of the tools necessary to gather that content.
10. Maximise your content.
Bundle your collected raw content into packages that can be used and reused multiple times.
When you capture content for an entire job—before-and-after pictures, a video review from your customer, documentation of the specific brands involved in the service, etc.—you can repurpose that content to create unique pages on your website, craft shareable social media posts in which you can tag your client, publish content in your physical and/or email newsletters, incorporate those images into print marketing art, and more.
By sharing your content bundles across multiple channels, you maximise the investment of your content generation efforts.
11. Don't forget about your existing customers.
Now that you've already built trust and credibility with your customers, a second, third, or fourth sale comes much easier. Continue to re-target existing clients with seasonal, timely, and helpful promotions.
My favourite way is with semi-personalised postcards to a few key customer types—one at the change of each season. Remind them about often-overlooked maintenance opportunities and give them a small incentive for working with you again.
These postcards tend to get a much higher than normal response rate due to the existing relationship. Timed right, they can help fill up the schedule during slower months.
12. Look for opportunities to educate your customer.
Our plumbing business offers up helpful articles about home maintenance to local magazines. We never pitch ourselves or our services in these articles.
Instead, we highlight an often overlooked problem, maintenance tips, or “unlock industry secrets”. We list the owner of the company as the author along with their title and the name of the business. It just so happens that our logo is visible in their headshot and in some of the accompanying art.
This subtle product placement, paired with truly useful advice, establishes you as an expert in your industry. We get a ton of leads from these articles, regardless of how obscure the topic is.
13. Take the time to think like your customer.
Most service businesses don't take the time to create a formal marketing plan. Part of these plans is typically a customer “avatar” or “persona”. Some people think of these exercises as academic or “frou-frou” but they are often helpful.
Taking the time to understand who your best customers are, what their buying habits are, and where to find more people like them helps you spend marketing dollars wisely.
Kent Lewis, President & Founder of Anvil, a search engine marketing agency in the U.S. Pacific Northwest
14. Take good notes on your customers.
Build a dossier on each of your prospects or clients and add any useful insights like birthdays, anniversaries, pet and children names, etc.
Use that information to create a closer connection to your customers with timely emails, cards, or gifts. More importantly, use the notes for proactive follow-up and future reference (CYA).
The information can be stored in Outlook, Word, Excel, or a more robust CRM platform, but it should be centralised and maintained regularly. Most importantly, the information should be leveraged consistently.
Steven Kwan, Managing Director for 5 Star PR & Marketing in Newcastle upon Tyne
15. Make it easy to leave reviews.
Always, always, always get feedback left via Google and Facebook. The key factor in winning new clients is to be able to build trust instantly, and by seeing others give positive feedback with an actual profile of the reviewer, you are able to cut through all that doubt.
I routinely create a specific landing page for my clients to direct their customers to, so the customers can leave their feedback with one click rather than having to search and review.
16. Experiment with video reviews.
Video reviews are becoming more and more important, especially in the construction/property industry. For heating and plumbing, it’s a great opportunity to push the pain points, as a video can really delve into how the customers feel and react to the problems.
Document the issues before, during, and after the work that has been carried out. If the clients are happy at the end of the work (which they should be), you can again use your smartphone to get a video testimonial following a framework/structure:
- What was the problem you experienced. How did it affect you?
- What made you choose our company?
- How did we fix the issue and how did it make you feel?
- Would you recommend our company, and if so why?
The more questions they can think of the better, as they can edit and remove.
Chas Cooper, CEO & Founder of Rising Star Reviews, which lets businesses pre-screen for positive reviews and follow up with customers
17. Pre-screen customers before asking for an online review.
Just send an email or text message after concluding business with every customer, asking ‘How many stars would you rate us on a 5-star scale, with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent?’ When customers reply with a high star rating, thank them and ask if they'd be willing to share their experiences on an online review site.
But when customers reply with a low star rating, you're not yet ready to ask for their review. Instead, ask for feedback. Specifically, ask, ‘What can we do to earn a 5-star rating from you in the future?’ You may get feedback on how to improve your business that's even more valuable than yet another 5-star review.
Kristin Ferguson, Digital Marketing Director at full-service marketing agency The Markey Group
18. Target your competitors’ audiences.
Use paid search ads to target users who hit your competitors’ websites. You can do this using "affinity audiences" in Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords), which allow you to target a predefined audience. So you'll target the homepage of your competitor, and Google Ads will figure out the brand trademarks and the behaviour of the people who visit the site or search for related information, and allow you to target them.
This starts the process of getting your brand in front of the right people—and then you can retarget them after they hit your website.
Ollie Smith, CEO of ExpertSure, which helps consumers navigate confusing industries
19. Turn your engineers into marketers.
The first piece of advice I have for any field service business is to use your people. Every job represents a free advertising opportunity, so ensure that your field reps are memorable—from their uniforms to the paint job on their vehicle, and even the way they interact with the customer.
20. Seriously consider targeted advertising.
Only target those customers who are likely to use your service, meaning those who have searched keywords relating to what your company offers. Also, remember to test your adverts to differentiate your promotions and what works and does not.
21. Invest in your social media presence.
Just because you are a field services business doesn't mean you can afford to ignore this great, and mostly free, marketing tool. Social media promotes wider awareness of your company, and enables you to build a relationship and trust with your customers.
When it comes to social media, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram should be your focus. To build fans or followers, you’ll need to post relevant updates, tips, ideas, news, and promotions at least twice a day—once in the morning and once in the evening.
Try to keep the majority of your posts (roughly 90%) information-based and the remaining posts (10%) may be promotional. Staying on top of messages from your followers is also key to maintaining and building your following into the future.
Daniel Sarath, Digital PR Executive at Click Consult, a digital marketing agency in the UK
22. Invest in content marketing.
Your business might be well known within the trade, but that doesn't necessarily mean ordinary customers know who you are or what you do. In your marketing efforts, think beyond trade publications that directly relate to your products and services.
You need to secure coverage across as many major publications as possible to create brand awareness for your company.
Now, I know what you might be thinking: How do you get a top publication like The Huffington Post, Reader's Digest or Good Housekeeping to write about topics such as plumbing or heating without burning through your entire marketing budget?
This is where having excellent content marketing comes in. Journalists are always interested in stories about relevant issues that will engage their readers—shocking new statistics, for instance, or surprising data.
If you can provide them with an amazing story, it has the capability of going viral and, as a result, it can organically secure excellent promotion for your brand. Research amazing statistics, compile them in a visual way, and pitch it to journalists via social media.
Use the insights from these 12 marketing and sales experts to take your field service business from slowing to growing this year. These are the key takeaways that will help you make it happen:
All your team members are sales people, so make sure they have the tools they need.
Invest in content marketing.
Use reviews to your advantage—including negative ones.
Leverage your social media presence by posting helpful content on a regular schedule.
We’re stronger together, so seek out referral partnerships with complementary businesses.
Use your competitors’ strengths against them with targeted ads to their audience.
Get to know your customers as people, not numbers.
Build your brand to build your business.
If you’re a growing field service business and you find your progress is stalling, read our Restart Guide for Field Service Businesses, updated for 2020.
Get access instantly—no need to register! You’ll learn how to reboot your sales, customer service, engineer management, and parts management, so you can kick-start new growth!