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Wondering how to market your business during the COVID-19 pandemic without sounding tone deaf? So are others in the home services industry. ServiceTitan hosted a webinar with four of the top trade marketers in the country, focused on tips and suggestions for being effective and on point.
The panelists, joining host Jackie Aubel, were: Chris Yano, CEO of RYNO Strategic Solutions and host of “To The Point” home services podcast; Megan Bedford, owner of Mugvyer Consulting; Nancy O’Hare-Zika, owner of Yellow Dog Creative, and Stephen Christopher, founder of Wit Digital.
Here are the top takeaways from those home services industry marketing professionals:
1. Communicate what you’re doing.
Facts as simple as “we’re open for business” are not too basic.
“I’ve had several companies reach out saying (customers) were surprised that they were still working,” O’Hare-Zika said. “So get that message out there to the community that (you) are open, taking the necessary precautions and there to help.”
That’s especially important for existing customers.
“Now’s a great time to go back to your existing (email) list and communicate with them,” Christopher said. “What are you doing right now? What’s going on in your company? Just the basics of that is really important right now.”
The other thing to focus on: Google.
“If people don’t have a frequent need (for your services), they’re going to Google and they’re searching,” Bedford said. “Are you found there when your customers are actually looking? And if you’re not, Google Local Service ads, pay-per-click advertising, your reviews—those are the kinds of things that can get you customers, or potential customers.”
2. There is business to be had, because things break.
With many stuck at home because of the Coronavirus pandemic, companies can be in front of their customers more than ever. Everyone should have a plan for that.
“I’m in Phoenix and people are stuck, temperatures are in the 90s and things are breaking,” Yano said. “Direct response is an easy way to go. Demand service demands service.”
3. Not everything has to be slick, and not everything has to be about sales.
Desktop usage is way up, whereas before mobile was a bigger audience, O’Hare-Zika said. And you’re in front of more people than ever in the social media game.
“I love seeing the videos that are being put out and the way people are making it unique to them,” Yano said. “Not making it about sales, but being empathetic, sympathetic and honest. You have a really good opportunity to be in front of people, now more than ever.”
And on video, there are fewer rules. No one expects, nor do they want, a video with a huge production team.
“It doesn’t have to be 4K with lights,” O’Hare-Zika said. “That’s not what it's about right now.
“If you have an iPhone and you are sitting in your van in your driveway and you are vulnerable, talking about your fears and your services ...
“Be genuine. People will pick up on that. That’s perfectly acceptable.”
4. Messaging will have to shift over time. Be ready.
This is not a time to be salesy, O’Hare-Zika said. Early videos her company was asked to make were about community: We’re going to get through this, we’re here, we’re a team and in this together.
“They were really heartfelt videos and messages,” she said.
Later, clients asked for air quality spots, less about sales than trade branding. Then they asked for videos that were lighter, less doom-and gloom. “We started seeing the need for videos that poked fun, not of course at the situation, but at the quarantine, the fact that we’re in our houses and going nuts” she said.
Now, she’s seeing calls for financing spots, letting customers know that it’s available.
“It’s been a really interesting walk the past five weeks,” she said. “The hardest thing for us as people who work in the trades is trying to stay one week ahead of what people want.”
5. Think like your customers.
People are home more, and thus using a lot more things in their home.
“Some of the messages that we’ve taken advantage of are not just COVID, but air scrubbers,” Bedford said. “We’re telling them that although we can’t prove that they kill the virus, they do help with the air quality and they kill a lot of viruses and germs. That’s a great thing to promote.”
Other opportunities: A/C tuneups, tankless water heater upgrades, and financing.
“Think about what customers could take advantage of,” Bedford said. “Really thinking in the mindset of your customers, their home, and what are some of the things they need to do right now, and how can you communicate that message.
6. Everything you’re doing marketing-wise has to work together.
Yano produced a sticker for trucks and a badge for websites about no-contact service, producing immediate impact.
“They started decreasing cancellations and increasing lead conversions,” Yano said. “That unspoken message is so important. Now more than ever, we need everything to work together.”
That includes email marketing, pay-per-click, video, the website and more.
“If you stay the course and really put that messaging out there, that unspoken message (about safety) has got to be prevalent,” Yano said. “If you just do that alone, it will decrease your cancellations and get you in the door more.”
7. Use every possible avenue to get your message out.
This is not the time to say I can’t, or I don’t know how, Christopher said. Instead, say, “how could I do this?” That opens up a number of possibilities, from SEO to pay-per-click to content and email marketing. Take the opportunity to learn something new.
“This is a great time to take advantage while a lot of your competitors are not paying attention,” Christopher said.
The opportunity to creep up on SEO is now.
“Don’t take your eye off the ball,” Christopher said. “The search volume is there.”
8. Worried about the cost? Do what’s free first.
Whatever your circumstances, and if money is tight you are waiting for cash, get what you can from sweat equity. That includes low-cost iPhone video, email marketing and other things that take little more than time.
“You can’t do nothing,” Yano said. “You have to do something. And you can start with your content and putting your messaging out there.”
9. Not everything will be about external marketing. Look internally, too.
If your lead volume is down, Bedford said, how’s your booking rate? A problem there suggests time spent looking at how to improve that rate is important.
If you’re not turning a lead into a booked call, ask yourself why not, she says. What can you do internally to change that? Could you let the customer know they don’t have to be home? Can you reassure them about safety?
“If you’re not booking that appointment, I’d look into that,” Bedford said. “These leads are gold right now, and we don’t want to lose them.”
That means listening to your calls, or your call recordings in ServiceTitan, Yano said.
“Track everything,” Yano says. “Stop feeling and start knowing, because in the digital space you can track everything from search to sale.”
10. Reach out to businesses that are idled for light commercial opportunities.
Now is a good time to go back over the past three years for estimates that didn’t result in booked jobs and reach out to those company owners. It’s a perfect time to contact restaurants, for instance, O’Hare-Zika said.
“You can get your tech in while they are closed,” she said. “They don’t want to close down for four or five days to have a new plumbing system done.
“This is a great time to offer them financing, and the work can be done before they reopen for business.”
11. Pick a couple of approaches and start testing them.
Measuring one strategy against another is a great move anytime, but especially now. Matching success rates can tell you where to put your marketing dollars to best use.
“Right now, you’ve got to see what’s working,” Christopher said. “Test something for one week and see what works. What worked yesterday might not work today.”
12. Take this opportunity to be the hero.
Distributors are offering specials now, and trade companies can market those offers of rebates and financing.
“The financing that is available (through distributors) kind of makes you, as the company owner, look like the hero,” O’Hare-Zika said. “When (the distributor offers) nothing down, 12 months to pay, zero interest, take that on. Wear the crown.
“All people want to hear is that right now they don’t have to pay even though their A/C broke down.”
13. Pay attention to your metrics.
If you aren’t already paying attention to metrics, now is an amazing time to start, Christopher said. Every market is different, and the metrics change quickly.
A key metric to watch: Conversion rate. “If your conversion rate is 15 percent,” Bedford said, “how can you change that to 30 or 40 percent? What changes can you make on your website or landing page that affect that?”
Let the metrics be king. Make sure your marking person is watching the data and making decisions based on real numbers.
14. While things are quieter, prepare, search for your business.
Take a deep breath and Google your business as a customer would.
“I always tell people to put yourself in your customers’ shoes, then search for your types of businesses. Then ask yourself these questions:
Do you show up? Do you like what you see?
Does your message make sense compared to your competitors?
Would you click on yourself?
How does your online reputation look?
Look at your business in a holistic way, and see if you are happy with where you are, and prepared if something like the COVID-19 outbreak were to happen again.
15. Comb through your website and update it.
Now is a great time to look at your website content, Christopher said. Does your website, which might have been created years ago, say your company has been in business for more than 10 years, when it’s now more than 15?
Updating the content will help with SEO, and freshening pages and generally cleaning up your website make you look more professional.
16. Talk about the future.
The experts on the call are all willing to answer questions for attendees, but if you need a deeper dive, now might be the time to up your marketing game by hiring a professional.
“We’re not going to be in this (pandemic) forever,” O’Hare-Zika said. “We’re going to get to the other side. What is that going to look like?
“Lean on your marketing people to walk you through that. I think that is going to offer a lot of peace to people, even if the plan is fluid.”
17. Sign up for ServiceTitan Marketing Pro.
Bedford has said that she won’t work with a client who doesn’t have the ServiceTitan marketing solution because it’s such a powerful tool.
With a campaign run through Marketing Pro for a client last month, Bedford got 60 leads at an average cost of $11 per lead.
“Maximize everything you can right now,” she said.
ServiceTitan is a comprehensive home services business software solution built specifically to help companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and achieve growth. Our award-winning, cloud-based platform is trusted by more than 100,000+ contractors across the country.
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