“Think of email marketing as a salesperson working for you all the time.”
— Megan Bedford
Megan Bedford has watched home-services marketing evolve from the Yellow Pages to all things online. She owns the Denver-based Mugyver Consulting agency and runs the nonprofit Desk Free Nation that helps young people find marketing careers in the trades.
She discusses the necessity of good communication skills, all the facets of online marketing, and the need to not get lazy when sales are going well.
Here are Megan Bedford’s top tips for marketing success in the trades:
Key TakeawaysCommunication between sales and marketing—and the whole team—is key.Learn to delegate your marketing needs.Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Build your plan with accurate data. Know the two important functions of a website.Think of your customers when blogging or doing videos. Email marketing is inexpensive and effective. The Yellow Pages are dead…right? Marketers can’t get lazy.The trades need new blood. Recommended research and reading
Communication between sales and marketing—and the whole team—is key.
Bedford has seen too many communication breakdowns where the CSRs answering the phone tell customers something different than what a tech may have said.
“I don’t think it’s ever intentional,” she says. “At the end of the day we’re all trying to do what’s best for the customer. So, we’ve got to define our go-to strategy. Is there flexibility in pricing and discounts? It should be clear what the offering is, and the goals, and then everybody should be on the same page.”
Learn to delegate your marketing needs.
Even large companies are juggling marketing duties, Bedford says, so you have to do what you can and trust others to get involved.
“Align with people you trust,” she says. “If you don’t have a budget yet for a marketing person in-house, then interview vendors. Take the time to understand what those vendors are offering.
“My biggest advice is to make sure it’s somebody that has experience marketing in the trades. If you need to micromanage them, that’s not a good relationship and not a good use of your time. Align with people who are results-driven, so you can go off and do other things.”
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
To get a clear look at the big picture of your company’s marketing efforts, Bedford says she starts by putting herself in the shoes of a potential customer.
“I look in all different ways to find a plumber or an electrician or an HVAC contractor in the area,” she says. “Where are the holes? When I land on the website, what experience do I have? Do I have questions? Are they answering my questions? I look at how a company perceives itself and how I perceive them as a potential customer.”
Build your plan with accurate data.
Bedford recalls having a client who didn’t have a CSR manager, so the owner was taking on that role. The numbers showed the company had a strong, 85% booking rate.
When the company did hire a CSR manager, that person dug into the numbers and found that the booking rate was actually 67%.
“That’s a huge discrepancy,” Bedford says. “You’ve got to train your people to fill out data correctly and get all the information they can. They were answering the phone, getting questions they couldn’t answer and giving up—rather than having a conversation to look for a solution.”
Know the two important functions of a website.
Bedford warns business owners not to overpay for website creation, and to focus on two functions from the site: the conversation aspect and the SEO side.
“The conversation aspect is like the customer experience side of things,” she says. “The SEO side is about content and having lots of different pages to drive Google spiders to what those pages are about—so they show up in searches.”
Think of your customers when blogging or doing videos.
On the SEO side, the blog provides fresh content. And if titled correctly, it gives Google a clear path to you.
“Do we have a lot of customers out there reading plumbing blogs?” Bedford asks. “Maybe not, but think about blogs and videos as providing free information for customers.
“If a customer is thinking about installing a tankless water heater, do a blog on the benefits and tell the customers—not as a sales pitch to you but as a benefit to that customer—of a tankless heater.”
Email marketing is inexpensive and effective.
Bedford loves email marketing.
“It’s still one of the best cost-per-leads that’s out there,” she says. “You might be a smaller trade company that doesn’t have salespeople or you might have salespeople. Think of email marketing as a salesperson working for you all the time.
“You can make automated emails that follow up on your estimates. It could say, ‘Thanks for giving us the opportunity. Here are all the reasons why we could be a great fit.’ Or, you could give a discount to encourage people to take advantage of that estimate and book the appointment.”
The Yellow Pages are dead…right?
Bedford has a spreadsheet that tracks all marketing she does for clients and says ServiceTitan’s unlimited tracking lines help make that easy.
“Assign a tracking line to everything,” she says. “Then, we can act on fact versus speculation. A business might say, ‘The newspaper’s working great, and so is my direct-mail piece.’ Oh, really? Can I see the results?
“If you don’t know how things are performing, then how can you make an educated decision?”
Bedford adds that yes, technically, the Yellow Pages are dead, but in rural Michigan, they work great—people hold onto books from 10 years ago and still call off those numbers.
Marketers can’t get lazy.
Despite the pandemic being an overall downer, it hasn’t adversely affected too many bottom lines in the home services industry, Bedford notes.
“What can happen is that we can get lazy on our approach to marketing,” she says. “Recession-proofing your business starts today. Think about if things weren’t busy right now.
“Are you showing up well? Is your website converting? Are your reviews really good? If they’re not, right now is the time to make these tweaks, not when things go south.”
The trades need new blood.
Desk Free Nation is Bedford’s way of reaching out to help get young people into the trades.
“It’s a nonprofit I founded and part of the mission is getting the stigma out of the trades,” she says. “A lot of people perceive the trades as being this place for uneducated people who didn’t make it and couldn’t go to college. I want to change that because the trades are awesome careers, and they’re extremely lucrative.
“We’re also storytelling for the trades about successful women and young men.”
Desk Free Nation has a Ride and Decide program that lets high-schoolers job shadow tradespeople.