Ed Cross is an attorney who works closely with the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) and is spearheading the legal challenges for restoration contractors when it comes to dealing with insurance companies, third party administrators, and others who are a roadblock to the rights of the insured. His advice will help with some of the toughest challenges contractors face today.
Much has changed with the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification. Learn from the IICRC's president/CEO, and the chairman of the board, about the health and stability of the organization, how online training is a success, and the strategies used to push through the pandemic.
Jeff Jones is the director of sales and marketing with Violand Management Associates (VMA) and takes a very unique and entertaining approach to reaching the market with his message. Get to know Jeff and be sure to check out some of his best work at www.violand.com.
By Gary Arndts
Most of us would like to believe that the internet is a level playing field. But is it really? Could it be possible that you can do everything perfectly—from creating a great website, putting together a powerhouse search engine optimization (SEO) campaign, to even shelling out money for an aggressive pay-per-click crusade—and you’re still at a huge disadvantage? Is the internet rigged against you?
“Rigged” may not be the best word to use, but unfortunately for many cleaning and restoration services, the answer is yes. And it may be for a reason you never thought about.
Are SEO and pay-per-click the answer?
Let’s say you have the money to hire an SEO (search engine optimization) firm. Naturally, everyone wants to come up on the first page of Google search results. The SEO firm may promise to get you there. But what happens when 100 carpet cleaners in the Chicago market hire SEO firms to get them on the first page for “carpet cleaning Chicago”? Everybody gets different results, but I just did a Google search and there were only nine organic results on that first page, not including the area map. Of those nine listings, there were websites for Yelp, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, and Groupon. That leaves only five spots for actual carpet cleaners.
So, 95 of those 100 firms that were promised first page positions by SEO firms are going to be pretty disappointed, and that’s assuming the other five make it.
Then there’s the pay-per-click option. Unfortunately, more and more I’m seeing costs per click that could pretty much eat up any profit that click might have produced.
In larger, more competitive markets (big cities) it can be nearly impossible to get that fair shake. In smaller markets, if you do a good job optimizing your website and keeping things active through blogging, social media, and YouTube, you still have a good chance of doing well.
Keyword searches are key
Sadly, with online marketing, your battle may be lost before you even start. (According to Keyword search stats from Keyword Keg, numbers vary from month-to-month, but the relative volumes always tell a grim story for many marketers.)
Think about this: In a recent month “water damage restoration”was searched about 14,800 times (on Google, Yahoo and Bing as reported by Keyword Keg), “water damage”was searched 12,100 times, and “water damage repair”was searched 5,400 times. These total around 32,300 searches. There are many other, lesser searched keywords, of course. However, if you provide this service and you are optimizing your website to come up in searches or buying pay-per-click ads, these would be the hottest keywords for which you are competing.
But compare this to “Servpro” which was searched on 74,000 times that month! That’s right, the keyword “Servpro”. Would you rather be Servpro and get 74,000 searches a month, or everyone else who get to divide up half that many searches for water damage related searches?
If someone enters the keyword “Servpro” and several listings come up, who do you think the searcher is going to click on? Servpro, of course. That’s who they wanted to find. See what you’re up against online if you are not Servpro?
There are over 40,000 searches each month for “Service Master”and over 6,000 for “Service Master Clean”.When a search is conducted and a page full of Servpro or Service Master results pops up, whether they have an ad or not, searchers can click on their organic listings, often being able to choose from a whole page of them for that one company! And do you know what? It doesn’t cost the company a dime for that organic click. What an advantage!
The same is true in the carpet cleaning field. There are over 300,000 searches each month for “carpet cleaning”, but that may include a lot of things besides finding a carpet cleaning service company. It may be a search for information on cleaning your own carpet or renting a machine.
There are about 22,200 searches for “carpet cleaning services”and about 6,600 for “carpet cleaning companies”, with more targeted searches for a specific service provider. “Stanley Steamer”gets 32,000 searches a month. “Chem-Dry”over 8,000. “Zerorez”gets over 40,000! And if you have a Steamatic franchise in Fort Wayne, Indiana, you may be getting around 140 searches a month for “Steamatic of Fort Wayne”.
These numbers change all the time, but they give you an idea of how much of an advantage it is if someone knows your name and searches specifically for you as opposed to a general search for carpet cleaning or water damage. Anyone might come up for a search for “water damage Chicago”but a search for “Servpro Chicago”is almost certainly going to call up a whole page full of Servpro options …. all for free website visits for Servpro businesses.
Brand awareness often trumps generic keyword searches results.
I don’t spend much time studying other industries. But I noticed that “garage door repair”gets about 201,000 searches each month. But “Overhead Door”gets 74,000 searches. And you likely get a whole page of Overhead Door listings.
“Paint”gets 1,830,000 searches a month. Pretty big number. But “Sherwin Williams”gets 1,000,000 searches and you get a page of Sherwin William Paint Store listings. All free clicks for Sherwin Williams.
Do you see what you’re up against if you are not a nationally known franchise? What can you do to give yourself an edge, aside from buying a popular franchise?
Create local brand awareness through other media
If you are a local marketer, especially in a smaller market, you don’t need national recognition. But local brand awareness is within your reach.
Use other local media. The opportunities are still out there: billboards, television, radio, newspapers, and online new sites, postcards, benches, etc. Use your imagination. But do so in a memorable way. Being memorable is your top priority. Think about Servpro’s slogan: “Like It Never Even Happened”.
Are you just a carpet cleaner? Or are you “Carpet Cleaning Fanatics!”? Do you repair fire or water damage? Or do promise “Better Than New”. Even “Crazy Joe’s Carpet Cleaning Service” is more memorable than just “Joe’s Carpet Cleaning”. But this doesn’t contain a built-in benefit as does “Like it Never Even Happened”.
What you are seeking at this point is not internet real estate, it’s mental real estate. Many choices are made the instant someone recognizes a problem or need. Some experts say that most purchase decisions are made at the subconscious level. Water damage = Servpro. Paint = Sherwin Williams. Seafood = Red Lobster. The list goes on and on. These needs and service providers are already associated together.
A local man in my town has run radio ads for his furniture store for decades, always ending his spots with him practically yelling: “I’ll Save You Money”. He has that same message on billboards and other ads. He now has stores in quite a few towns and is incredibly successful.
Think about what your prospects are really seeking and craft your messages and slogans around those desires. Be remembered. Tie that memory to the service you provide. “The Carpet Cleaner with Over 13 Trillion Dust Mites Killed” or maybe “Sneeze Busters”for allergy proofing.
Target secondary keywords
There are millions of them. They aren’t the biggest searches, but they add up. The key here is to optimize for secondary keywords and always mention your target cities.
Let’s look at a few:
Water damage wood floors: 720 searches per month
Water damage hardwood floors:590 searches per month
How to repair a water damaged ceiling:480 searches
Water damage in walls: 480 searches per month
Water damage laminate floor:390 searches per month
Carpet cleaning cheapest:5,400 searches per month
Dry carpet cleaning:4,400 searches per month
Carpet cleaning prices:2,400 searches per month
Carpet cleaning green:1,900 searches per month
Carpet cleaning specials:1,900 searches per month
Carpet cleaning truck mount:1,600 searches per month.
You might find it a bit expensive, depending who is building and maintaining your website, to create and optimize new pages for all the secondary keywords that are out there. But if you blog, you can post a blog entry with the headline (and blog URL) “Carpet cleaning truck mount for Boise homeowners”. Or create a short video with the same title and post it to your blog, upload it to YouTube and post it to your Facebook page. These also come up in searches.
It adds up if you are willing to put in a little time each month.
Boost your local online visibility
Content is king. When you post to a blog, upload to social media, or post a video, you must have something worthwhile to say. But not all of us are writers or video producers and these things can be expensive to have produced.
Where so many can fail (and spend too much) is in thinking that every single article, video, or graphic they use must be unique, or Google will punish them with some kind of duplicate content curse. This is not true. If you are sharing content that other firms might be using in other areas, all you need to do is to add a local city name to your title or description and it is unique content in the eyes of search engines. You are targeting your own unique geographic audience so your content will be unique for them.
Get your hands on all the content you can and get it out there with your name on it. Don’t think it all has to be promotional. Being informative is even better. There is no reason a local carpet cleaner can’t offer a few tips on keeping your oven clean. Why not? It helpful and its exposure. Just be clever about how you title your article: “Boise Carpet Cleaner Offers Helpful Tips on Keeping Ovens Clean”. You just got your service (carpet cleaning) and the location you serve (Boise) out there. Content like this may come up in searches for “oven cleaning”but it may also come up in searches for “Boise carpet cleaner”. Search engines look for words.
Every chance you get when you post something, upload something, or print something, mention your slogan or message that will tie your business name to your service in a memorable way.
The advantage that online advertising has over every other marketing tool is that someone can respond instantly by clicking on your website, punching your click-to-call phone number, filling out your Contact Us form, or just emailing you. That’s a powerful advantage. You want to come up in searches. Your offline promotion is also a key to your online success.
It’s good when your business comes up in a search when someone types in “water damage” or “carpet cleaning”. But it’s golden when they search for your firm by name.
Gary Arndts is co-founder of MarketingZoo.com, a content resource provider, including videos, articles and graphics for print and Internet use for cleaning and restoration firms. Award winning copywriter. Owned and operated a full-service ad agency for over 25 years.
By Fritz Rench
Gary Clipperton’s well done-article detailed cause, effect and correction addressing “Proper Moisture Levels When Cleaning Heavily Soiled Carpets.”
Click here for that article
Meanwhile, there is an alternative and sassy way to manage wicking: Don’t allow it!
Consider fundamentals you already know:
Solving the wicking challenge on heavily soiled carpet should not be considered a contest of wet versus dry extraction. A professional technician can go at it using Gary’s workable steps, or use what I’ve shared here.
Bundles of cash and headaches can be saved by “not allowing” wicking.
Fritz Rench is the chairman of Racine Industries, Inc., manufacturer of the HOST Dry Extraction Cleaning Systems for carpets, grouted tile and other textured flooring products, located in Racine, WI.
Let’s keep this simple. Really simple. That's how successful marketing should work.
While there are thousands of good, in-depth, and detailed articles — just Google it and you will see — on how to create a solid, effective social media strategy for building a business and landing more customers, you must start somewhere.
Starting simple and even keeping it that way is a concept that works for many, especially if you are the one doing not only the marketing but also trying to manage the company.
As you think about your social media strategies, consider these points.
Igniting with images
It’s every marketer’s dream. His message gets posted and quickly gets traction and the attention of the marketplace. Most likely, an image was attached to the message. Ignite some action with your customers. Use images. You want them to see your message and spend some time engaged with it.
Posting a message using just words is not bad, but it’s not the best way to build engagement. Test it out. Post a message without images and track the results. Give it a few days and repost with an image. You will see…
Enticing with videos
Most of us scroll through our favorite social media sites hunting for videos that entertain. Your customers do the same. They want to laugh and be entertained. So, when you post videos, avoid being too stuffy. It’s OK to post funny stuff. Just keep it clean, and don’t overdo it.
Toss in the occasional “here is something about my company” message. It can show your cleaning process or you speaking to the camera. It can be testimonials from happy customers. Consumer tips on anything related to cleaning or damage prevention does well.
All of these should also be on your company YouTube channel for SEO purposes.
Don’t overdo cross-pollination. If your potential or current clients see the exact same content on all your social media platforms, they may start to tune you out or, worse, disconnect from you on several of them. There’s nothing wrong with using the same message on a few social sites, but don’t make it a practice to send it out to all of them. Using a tool like Hootsuite makes it easy to do this. Think before you push the button.
Use your favorite social sites as individual tools with unique messages. You want your customers to look forward to seeing your content.
Ignite, entice, and embrace. Make your social media strategies pay off by using all three concepts.
by Jeff Cross, executive editor, Cleanfax
Ordering cleaning services is starting to get as easy as ordering a pizza or other consumable. It's happening just about every day now.
Everywhere I turn, everywhere I look, there it is. I can’t escape it. It’s like it follows me, knows I’m there.
Perhaps the most intimidating of all, it knows what I want and will do next.
No, it’s not the potential storyline for a horror movie. It’s something that you can probably relate to as well. I’m speaking of looking for and purchasing products and services off the internet.
It all starts with searching to see what’s available. So, you hit a website or two. They cookie you, and not the edible kind. The type of code that identifies you so they can target you moving forward, at least until you “clear your cache” or “delete cookies.”
Now you are seeing those products everywhere you go. You hit the CNN page to catch the latest news, and…. there it is again! Same when you visit your local weather channel. And when you check the sports scores on Yahoo. That (insert product name here) is following you all over the internet, and we all know the internet is a vast wasteland of places to go.
This is something I’ve harped on many times, once to a crowd of nearly 1,000 at an industry convention. What are we going to do moving forward when the trend is online, real-time ordering, while many of us are stuck in the “call us” attitude? When you get a customer to call you and you book a job, that’s great — your marketing is working. But how many jobs are you missing, not booking, because your potential customers are finding it easy to book online with one of your competitors?
I’m not talking about an online form, often called a “web form,” in which you might get back to the potential client in maybe a day or two. I’m talking about real-time ordering, where your customers choose the type of work they want, see the price, and book the date and time that both of you are available.
Here’s what I suggest. Do some research. Find an online, real-time ordering tool for your website and get it started. Your customers are wishing for — no, they are demanding — convenience. You can give them the convenience they want. If you don’t, they are just a quick click away from other cleaners in your area.
Make it easy for them to do business with you. Give your company the edge it needs. Make it “on demand.”
But continue to answer the phone. There’s nothing wrong with those old-fashioned results.
As seen in Cleanfax.
“Commodity: A product with no noticeable qualitative difference.”
It’s all about supply and demand. When there is a demand, you have the ability to supply what your customers want and need.
That would apply to both cleaning and restoration.
For cleaning, the demand for services may rely on visual interpretation of a surface (Ick, it’s dirty!) or perhaps an upcoming event (The party is this weekend?). Or it could be based on a regular schedule, the absolute best scenario for you.
For restoration, it is event driven. When there is a storm or property damage, restoration contractors are in demand.
Sounds like a service industry, yes? It is… yet some of your current and potential customers may not see it like that. They may view you as — sit down and absorb this — a commodity.
Like milk. Eggs. Rice. Socks. Notebook paper. The list goes on and on. You know, the stuff you can get at Wal-Mart.
How does this happen? It’s partly the interpretation of what we do. Your customers look at your company and feel it is the same as all the rest. Like milk, eggs, rice… you get the picture. Wal-Mart stuff. Sure, there are brands they may prefer, but cleaning is cleaning and water damage restoration is water damage restoration. Everyone does it.
What can you do to overcome this issue of being lumped into the commodity pool? That’s the real challenge.
The first thing is to realize no matter who you are or what type of company you run, you must work diligently to stand out, to be different. It is no longer a game-changer that you are the best, technically speaking. Business owners realize that. In a recent Cleanfax online poll, 83 percent of readers said customer service was more important than technical expertise.
Offering a guarantee isn’t good enough, either. You say you guarantee your work or they get their money back? Double their money back? Regardless, you are one of thousands that offer that type of guarantee.
Having a good price, being on time, leaving a bottle of spotter behind… these are all good, but everyone does it. If you aren’t doing it, you should. Yet how much does it really set you apart from your competition?
Instead, consider who you are and what your company does for people to make their lives easier and better. You start marketing that, and you will see a difference. You will be offering a service they want and need based on a personal touch. Don’t sell stuff. Instead, offer solutions they want and need. Be a consultant, a company they will remember and show loyalty to.
No, you aren’t Wal-Mart. You are much more than that. Now, let your customers know.
Jeff Cross is executive editor of Cleanfax. He can be reached at JeffCross@issa.com.
What is litigation? Litigation is the term used to describe legal proceedings initiated between two opposing parties to enforce or defend a legal right.. and you should try to avoid, at all costs, a flooring dispute that results in litigation.
That's the topic of the latest Commercial Flooring Report, published by Lew Migliore and Associates. Get your own PDF copy by clicking here!
Restoration Contractors: Don't forget to sign up for the next RESTORATION STRATEGIES event!
Click here for complete info.
by Larry Galler
So there you are, at a business event with a pack of business cards in your pocket, balancing a plate of cheese, spicy meatballs and celery sticks in one hand with a beverage in the other.
People are milling around or clustered in small groups.
Someone you've never seen before comes up to you, introduces himself, sticks out his hand to shake yours, and … what do you do? What do you say?
At this point, some people are mentally trying to find a hole to crawl into, while others are well-prepared and eager to shake hands with this person — if they can figure out how to get their drink and plate in just one hand and engage him in conversation.
It's your moment to shine, to impress, to learn and to perhaps find a new prospect for your business.
Networking … it works
This is "networking," one of the most effective, least expensive marketing methods ever devised.
Networking events are hosted by most Chambers of Commerce, trade groups and organizations created to assemble people to meet and learn about each other''s businesses. Business Network International (BNI), LeTip, and Leads Club are examples of national groups, and there are many regional and local organizations.
While a few people are seemingly born to be "natural" networkers, most of us stumble and struggle through these events.
But, you really don't have to stumble and struggle. Networking can be fun and profitable if you learn a few things about it and practice a little.
One way to be a successful networker is to treat it as a game or a sport and, like any game or sport, you must know the rules to win:
Have a short, well-practiced, engaging, benefit-laden and curiosity-creating introductory phrase ready to deliver.
Within a couple of moments, one of you will ask the other, "So, what do you do for a living?" If you are stuck for an answer, you lose. You might as well just take your business cards and go home because you haven''t done your homework. You aren't prepared.
Whatever you say that describes your business, it must have a benefit associated with it.
If you say "I clean carpet," the networking referee will blow a whistle to give you a penalty.
Look, all carpet cleaners clean carpet … what makes your company special? Why should the person you are talking to use you?
This conversation is not only about you! Networking is a "give and take" activity.
It takes both of you to communicate to see if either of you has something the other one wants or needs, so ask questions and give the other person the opportunity to talk.
They might have products and services you need to buy. I have met a number of excellent vendors at networking events, including my financial planner, accountant and handyman. Some have also become my clients and referral agents.
Don't expect to make a sale now.
Expect to start a relationship that may develop into a sale in the future. Some of these relationships can go on for years before they have need of your services.
Have a system in place to follow up with your prospects — immediately.
The person you are talking to will meet a number of other people at the event you are attending. It is very easy for some of them to forget you and, when they go through the business cards they have collected, it's very possible your business card ends up in the trash.
If you want to build that relationship, it is up to you to make each person remember you and what you can do for them. Just giving out business cards isn't enough.
Follow up continuously.
The people you meet may not need your services for a long time. In our busy, multi-tasking world, most people will not remember you unless you continually remind them.
You can send e-mails, postcards, letters, contact them with telephone calls, etc. — anything to keep reminding them that, when they need or want your service, they should call on you.
Make it successful
That's it, six rules for successful networking. Please realize that almost every person you meet has a need for your services.
Most of them can afford your services and they will use the people they know and trust to give them quality craftsmanship, excellent service and full value.
The more people you know — more importantly, the more people who know you — the more people you will have for customers and referral agents.
The logic is simple but, like most things, the implementation and execution are difficult.
Larry Galler specializes in coaching owners of small businesses to grow their businesses through effective marketing, customer retention programs, and systemizing their business practices. Explore how he can help you during a free coaching session by calling 219-464-9463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his website at www.LarryGaller.com