Signpost Local Marketing Blog

Salon Marketing 101: Positioning Your Salon For Success

promoting my salon

May is Salon Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! This means that in addition to our usual posts with tips on connecting with customers, marketing strategy, and growing your business, we’ll be sharing insights specifically for local salon professionals. If that includes you, it’s time to polish up on these proven promotion techniques. If not, don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing our usual resources that can help you effectively market your local business. And keep your eyes peeled, your industry might be the one we feature next month!

Want your industry to be featured? Let us know!


You’ve got enough on your mind when running your salon without having to worry about keeping your chairs filled. Putting together a comprehensive marketing plan can seem like a massive commitment, never mind the time it takes to execute on that strategy and stay on track. However, in order to drive new and repeat business through the door, it’s essential to be consistent with your efforts. Get started today with these tips to improve your salon’s presence and encourage more bookings.

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Bad Online Reviews — What To Do About It

A negative review is enough to take the wind out of anyone’s sails. You’ve fought hard to establish your business, and any criticisms can feel personally disparaging. More importantly, bad reviews have a real impact on your business’s health and growth. A Harvard Business School study recently found that an increase of just one star in a business’s Yelp rating can boost its revenue anywhere from 5-9%, proving that these ratings have tangible effects on your bottom line.

Fortunately, most consumers are rational people who understand that mistakes can how to respond to negative reviewshappen. They are more likely to judge a business by the way management addresses and attempts to resolve any mistake or issues their customers experience. It’s vital to act immediately, so be sure to respond to every one of these, even if you were able to sort it out with the customer via email or offline. Follow these tips in order to turn negative reviews into opportunities, not only to reengage customers that would otherwise be lost, but also to show off your dedication to customer service.

And if you are still looking for more tips on the subject, register for our upcoming webinar, presented with Weebly on Online Reputation Management.

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The first thing you should do is take a few deep breaths and collect your thoughts. It’s never a good idea to jump into a response, especially with reviews you find rude or unfair. Yelp recommends keeping the following in mind when composing responses:

  1. Your reviewers are your paying customers
  2. Your reviewers are human beings with (sometimes unpredictable) feelings and sensitivities
  3. Your reviewers are vocal and opinionated (otherwise they would not be writing reviews!)
Although it might seem impossible to forget, it’s worth mentioning that in addition to these points, even the most unfounded, unnecessarily scathing review has implications far beyond the person writing it. Even if it’s clear that you’ve lost the reviewer as a customer, their words will continue to influence countless others in search of your products or services in your area. While it might be tempting to set the record straight, do keep these potential customers in mind. If you respond in a way that comes across as harsh or rude, you will lose out big on this future business. Start by diagnosing the nature of the review.

Minor Issues:

If the review is primarily positive, but manages to call out a few small issues, it can be tempting to respond to these hiccups. However, according to a recent Cornell study that measured the impact of online reviews on hotels, after a 40% response rate, businesses reach a point of diminishing returns. The researches believe, “managers should focus on making constructive responses to negative reviews rather than simply acknowledging positive comments.” Calling out specific comments in an otherwise glowing review can be seen as being too nit-picky or aggressive.
For other small or overly complicated issues, there’s usually benefits to keeping it simple and concise. Thank them for feedback, apologize and leave it at that. If customers perceive you’re trying to make excuses for poor service or quality it can further alienate them.

Larger Issues:

For larger issues, it is even more important to reach out to the unsatisfied party, directly. Ideally, this should be done behind the scenes and out of sight of the public forum. Send an email, or private message (as is possible on some sites like Yelp), but still approach it with the same sensitivity and consideration as you would in a public venue.  Do everything you can to find a resolution and keep them as a happy customer.
87% of consumers agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review improves their impression of the business, so try to make things right, even if you don’t agree with their arguments. Keep an open mind and look for areas to improve in to avoid future mishaps. 

Don’t Cause Further Damage:

As bad as a negative review can be, things can always get worse. Getting pulled into ugly altercations with the customers you’re trying to win back will serve to further compound the effect of an already-bad review. It will serve as a warning sign to anyone in search of your business’s offering for a long time to come. Some reviewers know this and might try to test your limits. Keep a level head and make sure you don’t do anything to exacerbate the situation. The last thing you want is for them to share your heated response all over the internet, plastering it across review sites, social media and personal blogs or articles.


Contracting and Home Services Month Bonus Tip: Take advantage of longer term (and more substantive) relationships usually associated with contracting projects. Do everything in your power to check in with clients, and make sure they’re satisfied with your progress along the way. If you receive a negative review, reach out via email to attempt to find a solution. For quick house calls or servicing, make technicians more accountable. They are the face of your business, so be sure that they are incentivized to represent your business in the best light. In either instance, you should request feedback via email or SMS following the conclusion of business to gauge their satisfaction, and circumvent negative reviews. Signpost does this for your business, automatically

Don’t forget to check out other Contracting and Home Services posts!

Growing Your Flooring Business

April is Contracting and Home Services month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! This means that in addition to our usual posts with tips on connecting with customers, marketing strategy, and growing your business, we’ll be sharing insights specifically for local contracting and home services professionals. If that includes you, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get down to it. If not, don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing our usual resources that can help you effectively market your local business. And keep your eyes peeled, your industry might be the one we feature next month!

Check out other Contracting and Home Services posts!


Growing your flooring business can feel a lot like starting from the bottom. Puns aside, it can be difficult to get and maintain traction to stay top of mind with customers and promoting flooring businesspotential customers in your community. Utilize these recommendations to build a comprehensive marketing strategy that actually works for your business.  You’ll soon find that by using these methods both on and offline, you’ll be able to populate a healthy pipeline of projects to get your flooring business off the ground.

Continue Reading: 1. Decide on a specialization or focus that differentiates your offering
  1. Decide on a specialization or focus that differentiates your offering and helps you stand out to your target audience. If you’re going after hospitality contracts, then this should inform your strategy of the networking events you should attend (more trade shows and hotel industry events and conferences), and also help you identify priorities and opportunities within that market. Hotels and multi-family residences, for example, tend to be primarily motivated by affordability and pricing.Or, perhaps your offerings set you apart from the competition. Do you sell flooring but no installation services? Here, you’ll focus on the quality and diversity of materials, including the newest trends and innovations, such as environmentally friendly materials. If you provide flooring material along with installation, your potential customer will be more concerned with the process, cost and expertise of your installation experts, as well as the type of flooring they choose. Which brings us to…
  2. If you’re a full-service floorer, remember it’s about expertise. Especially for residential and commercial contracts, it’s not so much about price competition, but the professionalism and experience you and your team can offer. You’re selling a solution and customers expect your business’s installation experts to know their stuff. Make sure this is a two-way street and debrief frequently with your reps to keep your finger to the pulse of trends and customer requests, preferences etc.
  3. Create a comprehensive customer communication strategy. This should include reaching out to past and current customers via email and SMS marketing to keep them engaged and your business on their mind. Many years can pass before a past client requires more work, so make sure your business remains in front of them if and when the time comes. This way you keep a line of communication open and can remind them when they’re due for maintenance. You can also remind them to refer your business to friends and family as the need arises. Motivate them with a formal referral program or new customer discount to share, as well as seasonal promotions. Check out this full list for email and SMS Marketing ideas for home services professionals.
  4. Partner with complementary businesses to form a local coalition. Keep an eye out for businesses in your community who might have interest and be a good fit. This can include local hardware stores, painters, real estate agents, electricians, roofers, home cleaning, power washers, landscapers, interior designers, and other general contractors who don’t serve as direct competition for the products and services you offer. Hold monthly meetings to get to learn about each other’s businesses and differentiations. You can also discuss challenges members are facing and weigh in on potential solutions. This type of exchange can be very effective for tackling issues local business owners are facing. Have referrals be a cornerstone of the group and exchange print materials, such as flyers, brochures, samples and business cards so that they can share with their clients, and do the same for them.
  5. Similarly, consider joining flooring, contracting, residential and commercial building associations and obtain any accreditations (such as FITA QA) to reinforce your commitment to your craft and continued professional development.  Attend events, workshops, and meetings of your local chamber of commerce to increase credibility with customers. Use these and other networking events to meet others in the industry and keep updated on latest trends and tactics. This can also help grow your referral network and reach within your community.
  6. Host a workshop at your storefront, a hardware store or community center. Prove your expertise by teaching basic classes about flooring for homeowners or business owners. Whether these focus on the best way to clean different types of floors, using green flooring, what to consider when you need new floors, or finding the best material for your flooring project, make sure to provide value to the community. You can offer to speak on panels at trade shows or other community events. Brainstorm ways to include your local coalition in this strategy. You could provide programs that address various remodeling or home maintenance topics. Collect emails or contact info on the attendees and send them a special introductory offer, or include them on your email lists for other marketing initiatives.
  7. Use local newspapers to identify new homeowners in your area and target them with direct mail campaigns, as they are likely to be settling in and making some changes.  You can send them flyers with special “welcome offers for our new neighbors” and your business card. You can make this a part of your outreach cycle and send out mailings each quarter or twice a year, so you don’t miss out on any of these new customers.  Also try contacting owners or property managers of apartment complexes, retail plazas and residential condominiums in a similar manner and ask if you can leave some more information about your services or set up a consultation in case there should be a future need. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when using this approach, either.  A lot of people evaluate their flooring needs when anticipating an addition to their family. Incorporate baby furniture stores to your outreach, or ask if you can leave some flyers directed towards new parents with special offers.
  8. Craft a guarantee to help you attract potential customers. This helps assuage any uncertainty or fears they might have about the process and reassures them that you are committed to providing unparalleled customer service and delivering results that will floor them (last pun, I promise). Make sure your guarantee is rooted in your company’s values. Have it clearly stated on your website, in-store and anyplace else your business has an online or offline presence. Train your representatives to recite it during any consultations, evaluations, or meetings in general. Take care to select manufacturers and distributors based on your short and long-term requirements that will allow you to stay true to your guarantee. Does a supplier that delivers direct to the customer help you streamline your logistics? Evaluate your suppliers based on this commitment.
  9. Create a process for your feedback strategy that will fuel testimonials, reviews and referrals. You can use email and SMS marketing as outlets to gather feedback after completing a project, and to encourage customers to leave you reviews on the major sites. Consider any criticism as an opportunity to continue improving your service and products. On average, for every negative comment, there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent.  When you receive glowing praise, ask permission to use the quote as a testimonial that can be placed on your website and in any print or promotional materials. This can also be a good opportunity to ask them to post a review on Yelp, Facebook or Angie’s List to reinforce your online presence and positive ratings. This makes it easier for your business to be found by other potential customers. You can draft these ahead of time, so that you don’t drop the ball during busy periods, or invest in intelligent marketing technology, like Signpost, that automatically drives feedback, testimonials, reviews and referrals from your current and past customers, without you having to lift a finger! 
  10. If you’re attending trade shows, make sure your booth is stocked with plenty of samples of many of your best material options. Print out or create digital displays of your full offering, as well as slideshows with images of “before and after” projects. Bring lots of business cards, and have special brochures printed based on the type of attendee you’re targeting and even an exclusive offer for them.
  11. Keep an eye out for supplier rebate programs to help fund advertising. Some companies (like ANSO and DUPONT) will give you a resources to spend on advertising. Of course, be sure to research the terms, as they’ll usually require you to use images that showcase their products, or might even supply you with the creative, outright. This can help you advertise in traditional media (local newspapers, magazines) without investing your entire budget there.

Rejected for a Small Business Loan? Here’s What to Do Next

In our new guest post series, we’ll be bringing you advice and tips from industry experts on the other, sometimes non-marketing-related issues affecting local business owners. Today’s post comes from Meredith Wood, the Head of Content and Editor-in-Chief at Fundera


 

Okay, your loan request was denied; you’re probably feeling a bit stressed and overwhelmed and you may even feel like throwing in the towel. But if you do that, you wouldn’t be the resilient entrepreneur that got you to where you are today; the one who doesn’t take “no” for an answer.

getting a small business loanAll hope is not lost. If you were rejected for a small business loan, the first thing you’ll want to do is consider the reason for rejection. Is your credit score up to par? Does your business plan need work? Does your company have enough cash flow?

Whatever the reason, the reality of the situation is that you need money for your business and your first attempt at getting it didn’t go as planned. So let’s talk about what you should do next.

Continue Reading: Verify The Cause

Verify The Cause

You may have a sneaking suspicion as to why your loan application was denied. But, you’ll never be certain if you don’t ask. Reach out to the lender and see if they can give you as much insight as possible as to why your application wasn’t approved. The more specific, the better. Once you get this information, you’ll know exactly where you need to turn your attention to improve your chances of securing a future loan.

There’s all sorts of reasons your application can get denied. Below are a few of the most popular, and what your business can do to improve them.

Credit Score
If the problem lies with your credit score, improving it could help turn your application rejection into an application acceptation. Improving your score won’t be an overnight fix, but there are a few ways to give it a quick boost.

First, you’ll want to know what your credit score is, so pull your report from the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). Remember to pull your credit report every six months or so to check for any errors.

Errors are more common on a credit report than we’d like to believe, but it could be the reason you have a low score. If you can detect and remove any errors, you’ll be able to give your score a significant boost.

Paying down any current balances and raising your credit limit will also help. Most importantly, however, be sure to pay your bills on time!

Cash Flow
Lenders care about your business’s cash flow because it shows them whether or not you’ll be able to cover your current expenses alongside your loan payments. To play it safe, they’ll want to see a little buffer too. Most lenders will figure out if your business can handle the expected loan payments by using something called Debt Service Coverage Ratio. This equation essentially tells lenders how much cash you have to service debt. To calculate, you need to figure:

Annual Net Operating Income + Depreciation & Other Non-Cash Charges /Interest + Current Maturities of Long-Term Debt

If your debt service doesn’t exceed 1, that means you’ll have more debt than cash flow. So, anything over 1 is where you want to be, and the further over 1 the better! If you need to get your DSCR up, you’ll need to get more cash coming into your business, or ask for a lower loan amount.

Age of Your Business
If your company is just starting out, lenders may be leery offering you a loan because they’re unable to see any proven success. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about that fact except wait. After two years in business, more loan options should open up. In the meantime, focus on improving your credit score and cash flow, to make sure your application is as strong as possible when that time comes!

Just Because You Got One No, Doesn’t Mean They’re All No

The other thing to keep in mind is that just because one lender says no doesn’t mean they all will. For example, there are dozens of different types of loan products you can find that are meant to service different type of borrowers. Some lenders accept lower credit scores, others might use equipment or invoices to collateralize the loans. Either way, you have options so be sure to shop them. You can also consider getting a business credit card or more wisely utilizing the cards you have now.

Just because you were rejected for a loan the first time around does not mean you won’t be able to get one. Focus on opening up your options and improving your application, and you’ll be headed in the right direction. The most important thing to remember, however, is to never give up.


 

Meredith Wood is the Head of Content and Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. Meredith manages financing columns on Inc, Entrepreneur, HuffPo and more, and her advice can be seen on Yahoo!, Daily Worth, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, Intuit, the SBA and many more.

Email and SMS Marketing Tips for your Contracting Business

local marketing for contractors

April is Contracting and Home Services month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! This means that in addition to our usual posts with tips on connecting with customers, marketing strategy, and growing your business, we’ll be sharing insights specifically for local contracting and home services professionals. If that includes you, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get down to it. If not, don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing our usual resources that can help you effectively market your local business. And keep your eyes peeled, your industry might be the one we feature next month!

Check out the first Contracting and Home Services post on Promoting Your Contracting Business.


Life was a lot easier when all it took to get a few new customers were print ads and sending out some flyers via direct mail campaigns. However, tactics like these provide no insight into their effectiveness, and nowadays their results leave a lot to be desired. Luckily, new tools and technologies have come along that provide better access to your audience, and improved ways to keep them engaged. The average return on investment (ROI) for email marketing is 4300%, and customers are 76% more likely to read an SMS marketing message than email, proving the worth of both strategies. Best of all, these tried and true techniques are also much easier to track and measure, so you can be sure that you’re focusing on growing your business in the best and most sustainable way possible. This allows you to be more data-driven in your approach and also to know what areas you can improve in.

Continue Reading: Email Marketing Tips

Email

  1. The first step is deciding on an Email Service Provider (ESP) that works best for your business. Most ESPs provide email analytics and reporting on key metrics, including delivery rate, open rate, and click-through rate. In addition to sending out automated messages, Signpost also allows you to create custom email campaigns for this purpose. Find the right service for your business based on which offers the easiest list management, email templates and editing, and on which fits your budget.
  2. Next, it’s time to begin building your email lists. Start by sending out an email to past clients stating that your business is starting up an email list and ask them to subscribe. You can offer a welcome offer of either a gift or a coupon for some routine maintenance or service checkup in order to entice them to join.  Extend the list for this initial email to anyone who requested a quote or an estimate, got in touch, or are current customers. This will give you a good base to start with!
  3. Next, take some time to optimize your current website and social media profiles so that you can continue to collect emails and grow your list. Add a subscription form to your homepage, as well as any blogs or social media profiles you have established for your business, so you have all your bases covered.
  4. Now that you’ve updated your online assets, make sure to also translate this practice offline. Add a field to invoices or estimates for the customer to provide their email address. Any paperwork that you provide to a customer should include this prompt to stay in contact.
  5. Create an automated, welcome email (some ESP’s do this automatically) that requests a “double opt-in” or a confirmation that they’d like to receive emails from you. This helps to protect your future emails from being marked as spam.
  6. You should ask that these recipients “whitelist” your email, by adding your address to their contacts to ensure that your messages will not be archived, or filtered out of view deep in their inbox. This is your best shot of ensuring your emails are being received and read. The above welcome email is a great opportunity to add a line requesting this.
  7. It’s important to establish expectations with regards to the frequency of emails you’re planning on sending out. If you bombard your customers with a different email every day, when they use your services once a decade, they might end up being annoyed and unsubscribing. Transparency is always helpful in preventing this, so be upfront about how often they can expect to hear from you and what types of emails (instructional how-to’s, new products and offerings, discounts, etc.) they’ll be receiving from you.
  8. Now that you’ve got some of the administrative tasks out of the way, you’re ready to start email marketing! First and foremost, you should focus on quality content that keeps readers interested and engaged. This is not the time or place for a hard sell—save that for 1-1 correspondence. Share your expertise with a series of how-to tutorials for simple maintenance or quick fixes for home repairs. Keep the text short and sweet, as many people will be reading these on smartphones or other devices with smaller screens and dislike scrolling through long, text-heavy emails.
  9. Make your emails as visual as possible. Be sure to include at least one image (but not too many, as it can greatly affect load times), to keep your audience invested. Status photos, or before-and-after photos are perfect for this. Or, include short videos that show how subscribers can perform basic tasks to improve their own home.
  10. Spend some extra time crafting a really terrific subject line. 33% of email recipients open email based on subject line alone, which puts the pressure on you to distill your entire email’s contents to an intriguing few short words.
  11. If your home services business tends to have many quick visits or short-term projects (such as HVAC repair, plumbing, etc.), request an email address when your customers are making their appointment and send them a brief profile on the technician that is coming to service them. This helps foster a sense of community, and let’s them know who to expect. It also reduces the uncertainty associated with letting strangers into their home. And, if you include a few lines about the technician’s background and interests, it provides good topics for small talk.
  12. In every email, make sure to clearly display your business’s contact info, including address, phone number, best email contact (may be different from the account you send out marketing emails from), as well as the hours of your office or headquarters if you have one. This way, when they’re ready to make a purchasing decision, not only will your business be top of their mind, they’ll also be able to easily connect with you.
  13. Include social buttons so that they can easily find and follow any network that your business has a profile on. This gives you even more options for how to engage with your customers in the future. If you’re including good content, you might also want to consider adding social sharing buttons directly in the email. Not only does it allow readers to easily share your content and brand expertise with their networks on social media, but can also lead to an uptick in click-through rate (CTR) by as much as 115%.
  14. Incentivize readers to stay engaged by offering exclusive discounts to your email subscribers.
  15. Add a call-to-action (CTA) button to emails with an exclusive offer. Emails with a single call-to-action increased clicks 371% and sales 1617%. Whether it’s a discount with a link to “Request My Free Quote”, “Make an Appointment”, or “Schedule Maintenance”, include a focused CTA button, when applicable, to drive customers towards your website.
  16. Remember to ask for referrals. You should always include a line about your referral program (if you have one), and otherwise asking subscribers if they’d like to recommend your business to a friend. It’s important to plant the seeds early and often so that when the subject comes up, subscribers will be reminded to recommend your business.
  17. Schedule emails ahead of time, so you can plan in advance and not sacrifice the consistency that your audience comes to expect. Most ESP’s allow you to do this, which provides really great flexibility around your schedule. If you have a few spare moments in the morning or evening, draft out next week’s email blast and schedule it so you don’t fall behind. Or, you can utilize marketing technologies, like Signpost, that automatically send out emails to drive reviews, repeat business and referrals at the right time, without the need to lift a finger.
  18. Devote time to evaluating your results, and finding areas to improve upon. Marketing is a process that’s never really finished. There are always new insights that can be analyzed from different types of campaigns, and refined for future efforts. Try to learn something new from each campaign or email you send out and you’ll be on your way to becoming a successful, well-oiled email marketing machine!

SMS Marketing

Although a similar approach, do be mindful of the nuances that set SMS marketing apart from email.

  1. Similarly, with SMS, or text message marketing, it’s important to find a service provider. Again, Signpost allows you to establish an easy opt-in short code, track subscriptions, send out blasts (including automated ones) and track results.
  2. Make sure you have permission. There are strict laws against sending messages to customers who did not choose to subscribe to your marketing list.
  3.   Build your lists by placing the opt-in short code (or ‘Text “Start’ to this number” prompts) on in all print items including business cards, flyers, in-store signage, coupons, and trucks or vans.
  4. Add the short code to your online assets, including your business website, social pages, blog, directories, and email signature.
  5. Be mindful of character limits (usually 140), and be sure to keep your message brief and to the point. No one likes to read more than they have to in a text.
  6. Text messages are received and read almost instantaneously. Take advantage of this by sending messages that convey urgency or are time sensitive. Incentivize the first 5 to respond. Whether a discount off their next maintenance, or a free tune up, this approach helps foster engagement while also proving the worth of subscribing to your SMS list.
  7. Ask a trivia question about something in your field or something seasonal, or do a “pop quiz” based on an instructional how-to blog you wrote, or video you made. Reward those who answer correctly first, similarly to #4.
  8. Send out a reminder the day before or morning of a scheduled appointment. This helps prompt them to do any prep you need completed before your arrival, and can convey any info you’d like to remind them of (what time, how long it will take, etc.).
  9. Send text tips, based on different seasonal or weather-influenced conditions. Try “It’s going to be a sweltering week! Be sure to check the freon levels in your AC!  Schedule your annual maintenance today!” Or, “Time for Spring cleaning! Clean out those gutters, or we’ll do it for you with $25 off!”
  10. While you can’t include images, you can link to a video, social pages or your website. Better yet, using a tracking link like bit.ly, which will not only save you some characters but will also allow you to also track how many people click the link.
  11. Issue a “Thank you” or follow up messages after a visit or project. Keep the line of communication open, and request feedback to gauge their satisfaction levels, identify areas for improvement and prompt them to review you online.

Anatomy of a Successful Customer Testimonial

It’s always better to let your customers sell your products and services on your behalf. building a better customer testimonialFor this reason, testimonials are so frequently sought-after and make many appearances on websites. As with referrals, it can be intimidating to ask a customer to provide a testimonial, and unfortunately this often results in not enough context being provided to them. And while there may be no such thing as a “bad” testimonial, there are plenty of subpar quotes out there that do a poor job of reassuring new customers. These pointers will help you frame the conversation in order to get responses from customers that will move the needle for your customer acquisition strategy.

The best testimonials are:

Believable

While it’s understandable to want a testimonial to gush about the merits of your business, be careful not to lay it on too thick. If it goes a bit overboard, readers will become suspicious and start to wonder if it’s true,  or whether you “bought” the testimonial either outright or with a bribe. It’s important that they’re accurate and realistic, so that customers can relate to them and envision themselves having a similar positive experience.

Recent

When it comes to time, the more current, the better. While a good rule of thumb on shelf life is to make sure you’re using testimonials from within the last calendar year, potential customers do take into account how old most of your testimonials are. If they’re too outdated they might start to wonder if changes have been made to the services or products or staff that led to this period of inactivity.

Results-driven

While it can be flattering to receive some general praise, these kinds of “fluff” testimonials aren’t typically helpful for potential customers evaluating your business. The most effective testimonials chronicle the buyer’s journey, speaking to the pursuit of a goal. Make sure they’re results-driven, citing specific achievements or improvements. This should be a story about transformation, thanks to the effect of your business.

And they should include:

Comparing feared outcomes to the amazing end results that you were able to achieve for the customer. When considering a purchase, many consumers are focusing on the right solution relative to their challenge or goal.These fears can range from a nightmare situation of under-delivering and damage, to it not being the best, the most affordable, the fastest, the easiest, etc. solution for their need. This is normal, and it’s important for them to hear that other people who once shared their concerns have had your business deliver fantastic outcomes for them. This allows potential customers to live vicariously through these existing customers, assuage their doubts and can help them to envision a positive experience for themselves as well.

Pulling out concrete examples to reassure and delight your prospective clients. Again, while general compliments are nice, they won’t move the needle for your customer acquisition strategy. Ask clients to state specific examples so that people have more context, and can follow them through the journey.

Encourage them to speak in their normal voice, not in a professional or “official” tone. Customers have a tendency to overthink it, or act as if the quote they are providing will be broadcast on the five o’clock news. Tell them that they don’t need to manufacture anything formal or draft their remarks ahead of time. Instead, make clear that you’d much prefer them to speak from their true experience, relax and be themselves. Authenticity is always the best sales tactic, so be sure it comes through.


Contracting and Home Services Month Bonus Tip: Try creating a video testimonial from your next project. Contractors sometimes have the advantage of longer-term work, which provides an opportunity to develop a good relationship with the client. Use your customer’s soundbites of praise to outline the goal, any challenges and the solutions you found, coupled with their success story. You can incorporate a few panning shots of the “before and after”, to create a visually engaging asset for acquiring new customers!

How to Promote Your Contracting Business

local marketing for contractors

April is Contracting and Home Services month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! This means that in addition to our usual posts with tips on connecting with customers, marketing strategy, and growing your business, we’ll be sharing insights specifically for local contracting and home services professionals. If that includes you, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get down to it. If not, don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing our usual resources that can help you effectively market your local business. And keep your eyes peeled, your industry might be the one we feature next month!


Even with an estimated excess of $1072 billion projected to be spent on new construction in the US this year, it can be a struggle for independent contractors to Getting new customers for your constructioin businessmaintain a pipeline of new clients. Unfortunately, many contractors only worry about promoting or marketing their business when they have a lull or are in between projects. A busy schedule is no excuse! Use these twenty suggestions to formulate a comprehensive marketing strategy that will continue to drive new customers to your business.

Continue Reading: 1. Use yard signs to advertise on your customers' lawns

 

  1. Use yard signs to advertise on your customers’ lawns while you’re working on site. This shouldn’t be an issue for most customers, but as a courtesy be sure to check prior to putting it up,  and respect their wishes if they say no.  Make sure you place the sign somewhere prominent where passersby can easily see it and be able to take down the number or website.
  2. Let your trucks and equipment to advertise for you. Be sure to clearly display your business’s contact information on both the sides and back of the car for maximum exposure. Or better yet, order custom magnets that have subtle layout variations so they’ll continue to catch the attention of people around town without growing stale or fading into the background. When you’re not onsite or using a truck, try parking it in high-trafficked areas to give your business more exposure.
  3. Maximize your daylight hours on site and save the business/marketing and administrative work for after hours.  This will optimize your efficiency and balance the demands of on-site work and marketing efforts.
  4. Get involved in community events and organizations. Network with influential community leaders or join town clubs (Rotary Club, Knights of Columbus, Elks Club, Kiwanis, etc.) and attend Chamber of Commerce meetings as well. The Chamber of Commerce will also sometimes be asked to provide recommendations to townspeople, so make sure they get to know your business. You can even go one step further in number five and…
  5. Sponsor a little league team or community event to get good exposure for your business, while creating a positive association with some good will and an investment in your hometown. Local businesses are the pillars of any community, sponsorships are a good reminder of the important role they play.
  6. Use business cards to your advantage. Put one in every estimate, quote, invoice, or bill so that your customers can easily keep your contact info on file for the future, or share with a friend looking for a similar quality of service. You’ve worked hard to deliver on a beautiful remodeling, your customers friends are bound to notice. Make it easy for them to share your information. Give them a few extras to distribute to friends. And invest in ordering them for all employees to turn them into ambassadors for your company and cast a wider net in your area.
  7. Make sure you’re conveniently reachable. Your outgoing voicemail message should state your website and office hours so they can continue their research instead of skipping ahead and trying the next business on their list. If you’re really worried about missing a potential customer’s calls, consider forwarding your business calls to a work or personal cell phone after hours. Or, use a service that tracks incoming calls to your business and provides contact information so that you can follow up with them as soon as possible.
  8. Stay top of mind with previous customers, sending occasional emails to check in.  Perhaps it’s been years since you last worked with them, but they may have a new project they can use your help on. Make the decision easier for them by re-engaging periodically so that you’ll be in front of them and on their mind when the timing is right. This can be a birthday email, a newsletter or a sporadic check in, but don’t forget to ask for a referral, or remind them that you appreciate them in case they know someone planning a remodel.
  9.  Partner with other home services professionals to create a referral network.
    You know better than anyone that most of these projects require more than one skill set. Partner with local plumbers, electricians, roofers, floorers, etc. to cross-market each other’s businesses. Of course you should do your due diligence to ensure they maintain a high quality of work worthy of your word and reputation. These help not only other business owners like yourself, but also save your customer time researching and reading reviews in order to find the right person for the job. You might want to consider distributing flyers or one pagers to everyone in your referral network so that when they begin work with a new client they can provide them with a folder of all recommended tangential services. Offering an exclusive discount or promotion for each other’s clients may make the decision even more compelling for them.
  10. Utilize intelligent marketing automation technology to keep current customers engaged, and drive new business. Signpost does this by automatically by sending out emails and SMS messages (text messages) to your customers that are likely to be brand advocates for you asking them to give you feedback, testimonials, 5-star reviews and referrals. It also allows you to send out new customer and loyalty offers.
  11. Know your audience and keep updated on cutting edge trends and innovations. As you already know, different things matter to different clients. A new, environmentally-friendly practice or material may be just the differentiating factor that a customer is looking for. So, taking the time to learn and adopt these cutting edge methods could help you win more business.
  12. Frequently evaluate and refresh your website. Make sure to update customer testimonials or quotes to keep them current. Outdated testimonials or reviews make customers question if the quality of work has declined in the time since these were obtained. You can cycle through a few different variations, and make sure that they are under a year old. Make sure that your logo and website design looks modern and not outdated or clunky. Take notice of other sites you think have a great design and layout in order to pinpoint the aspects you like and draw inspiration from them for your site. Make sure it’s optimized for mobile, meaning that customers visiting your site on a mobile device will be greeted with fast load times and pages that scale responsively to the smaller screen.
  13. Set aside the appropriate resources, meaning both money AND time. It can be challenging to allocate some of your hard-fought budget to marketing and advertising initiatives, but even more difficult to find the time to dedicate to customer acquisition strategy and tasks. The Small Business Administration recommends spending 7-8% of your revenue on marketing, and most business owners also devote an average of 20 hours a week to marketing tasks. Without putting in the time, you’re unlikely to see tangible returns. If you’re short on time, consider investing in a marketing automation technology that will do the outreach and connect with customers for you.
  14. Focus on building client relationships. Make sure that you or your crew is always punctual, and that you or another representative of the company is always responsive to their various communications. Respond to emails, calls, and texts as soon as possible. We all know clients that take advantage of this policy, but do your best to remain patient and ease their concerns or answer their questions.  Making customer service a priority will delight customers in an entirely different way than delivering quality work. Both can be equally important factors when it comes time to recommend your services to a friend or family member.
  15. Establish yourself as a thought leader or expert. Start a blog or a newsletter of practical advice for small home improvement projects, or basic remodeling. Draw on your expertise and experience to answer common questions and warn against various dangers, issues or pitfalls to avoid. Your audience will be grateful for your assistance, and will keep your business at the top of their list the next time they have a project that requires a professional. You can even shoot quick tutorial videos on a smartphone and upload the files to YouTube or your blog. If possible, connect with local newspapers and magazines and contribute a byline or guest author an article with some good advice on the topic. It’s ok to reference your background or experience to speak to your qualifications, but avoid a hard sell here, which readers (and even more likely the periodical’s editors) will find off-putting.
  16. Focus SEO efforts on the hyperlocal. SEO is often an uphill battle, so if you want to maximize your chances of getting a favorable ranking in order to get found, don’t waste your time targeting broad keywords. These will force you to compete with large,  nationwide corporations. Instead, focus on terms that differentiate your business and frame it in the context of your community. This is especially helpful for discovery in searches with local intent (think “Contractors near me” or “Contractors in Lakeview”). A good example would be “roofers with solar options in Chelsea” so your business has a better shot of being included in Google’s “three-pack” of results.
  17. Run a clean worksite. Nothing shows off your professionalism like a tidy worksite. It emphasizes your commitment to safety of both the property owner and your crew, and reinforces the organization of your operation. This allows everyone driving past to see what they can expect if they hire you, and your prominently displayed yard sign provides your contact information to get the ball rolling.
  18. Make sure that your business listings and info is consistent across as many various online directories as possible. This helps to boost your online presence, and page ranks for search engines. Varying information can be confusing for customers doing preliminary research.  Here is a great list of free directories to get you started.
  19. Keep your social profiles up to date and post consistently. If maintaining numerous different profiles is too daunting, just focus on one or two. Having a couple of active profiles is much better than a slew of neglected pages. Facebook and Google My Business are great places to start with active communities. Share before and after photos of current and past projects, or blueprints for future plans.
  20. Set up a referral program for past customers. Offer a special discount or rate for new customers that were referred and be sure to send a small, “thank you” gift as a token of your appreciation to your past customer. Promote this when you send out check-in emails to your customer base.

Loyalty Programs: 5 Metrics for Evaluating and Optimizing

Attracting new customers is tough. And, too often businesses concentrate all their efforts on this endeavor, when they should be focusing on driving repeat business.  Current customers spend 67% more than new customersso why not develop a winning program to reward these valuable customers and encourage frequent repeat sales? In this series, we’ll be exploring ways to create a loyalty program that will position your business for success.

Catch up on Part One and Two to start building your winning loyalty program today.


As always, it’s important to set aside time to evaluate all the strategies that you use to grow your business. It can be challenging to do this with loyalty programs that don’t optimizing loyalty programhave as many clearly defined metrics as you might be accustomed to in other areas of marketing. It can also be difficult to track these, depending on the type of program you offer. Punchcards don’t provide much data, so it can be beneficial to use a service like Signpost, which allows you to track your progress and provides analytic tools to measure your success so you can continue to improve. Additionally, electronic offers are redeemed as much as 10x more frequently than paper coupons, so making the move to a digital program can also facilitate engagement. The metrics, below, will help you keep your loyalty program on track and a valuable asset to your business.

Continue Reading: Redemption Rate

Redemption Rate

This is the easiest metric to track for your loyalty programs. It’s based on the total number of customers who redeem an offer compared to the total number of people that it was sent to (usually the number of customers enrolled in your loyalty program). It’s important to establish a benchmark, so that you can easily see when a particular offer resonates better with your audience and inspires more redemptions. You can also use this if you have a tiered program, to compare the different reward levels as percentages of the total program, and measure their cumulative progress. It will also reflect how achievable the levels are, and help you pinpoint any obstacles or abandonment points, so that you can rework the process before members lose hope and become inactive.

Total Sales Volume

This is a helpful metric for determining the total sales volume for the loyalty program members vs. non-members. This can provide insight into the value of the individuals enrolled in your program (whom you assume are your business’s biggest advocates) bring to your business, compared to everyone else. If their total contribution to revenue is too low, it might be worth rethinking your approach so that the structure encourages frequent participation. The impact of your loyal contingent should be tangible, and you can continue to segment by tier, number of points accrued, etc. to analyze the breakdown even further and to help identify top customers and opportunities.

Purchase Frequency and Sum

This is calculated by dividing the total number of purchases by members of your loyalty program by the total number of members in it. This is helpful to compare to the purchase frequency of non-members. Your loyalty or “top customer” group should have a higher purchase frequency. If not, you should reevaluate your current structure or find a way to reward frequent customers.

Similarly, purchase sum can be a strong indicator of a customer’s value. Are the average transactions significantly greater than the one-time or sporadic customer?  Loyalty programs are designed to drive more revenue from your business’s biggest fans.  Essentially both of these data points are great indicators of the amount of revenue loyalty members are spending with your business and the amount of value they, and by extension, the program is bringing.

Retention Rate

This one can be a little tricky to measure. If you have a dependable CRM, like Signpost, then it’s easy to track purchases and behavior from customers. There should be less churn with loyalty program members, or even reverse churn, which is considered to be any upgrades in memberships or larger ticket purchases and anything you’d consider an “upsell”.  You can monitor purchases to make sure that these customers remain engaged and returning consistently. A successful loyalty program keeps customers engaged, and your business top of mind, meaning they should be a lot less likely to drop off.

Referrals

Finally, referrals are the ultimate sign of a winning loyalty program. You can ask at signup how customers first found out about your business, or the loyalty program in particular. This will allow you to send out a thank you note or gift to the customer that referred them, which will encourage them to continue referring friends and family. It also allows you to evaluate your referral strategy and reaffirm that your loyalty program is not only allowing you to ace customer retention, but also bring new customers through the door as well!

Loyalty Programs: 4 Creative Rewards To Keep Customers Engaged

Attracting new customers is tough. And, too often businesses concentrate all their efforts on this endeavor, when they should be focusing on driving repeat business.  Current customers spend 67% more than new customersso why not develop a winning program to reward these valuable customers and encourage frequent repeat sales? In this series, we’ll be exploring ways to create a loyalty program that will position your business for success.

Don’t forget to check out Part One on different types of loyalty program structures.


Three-quarters of households are enrolled in at least one loyalty program, with an Building Successful Loyalty Programsaverage number of 18 different programs per household. However, less than half of these accounts are active, meaning that you’ll need to get creative if you want these programs to continue to bring repeat customers through your business’s doors. One consistent criticism of loyalty initiatives is that their rewards are not worth the amount of “work” or time and money spent in their pursuit. The following rewards will help keep customers engaged and involved in your loyalty program.

Continue Reading: Giving Back

Giving Back

A charitable twist on common rewards program, while this approach doesn’t provide a reward directly to your customer, it instead gives them the satisfaction of good will. Select a charity or foundation whose mission aligns with your business, or that is geared towards improving the community. This may seem obvious, but take care not to select something controversial or that might be polarizing to customers. Stick with a cause that everyone can feel proud to contribute towards. This type of approach has been popularized by “social good” companies like Tom’s shoes, and resonates strongly with millennials who tend to be socially-conscious consumers and often identify these values as a priority when making purchasing decisions.

Partner Programs

Partnering with other complementary businesses in your community can allow you to offer more expansive, exclusive perks to your loyalty members If you’re the owner of a salon, try partnering with a massage spa to offer an ultimate a full pampering reward, or reciprocal benefits at either place. Having the same system in place across a few different businesses amplifies the perceived value of the program and encourages customers to keep accruing points and rewards. They’ll appreciate the flexibility in choosing rewards and the broad reach of the program.

Companion Offers

Popularized by frequent flyer programs, this type of reward entitles a member of your loyalty program to bring a friend along for a two-for-one service. This has the ability to turn any routine visit into a fun event, solidifying their positive association with your business. It also exposes a potential new customer to your business, and allows them to try it out, risk-free. This type of soft-sell referral is an excellent way to advertise your business and attract new customers.

Personalized Programs

Similar to how you segment your email marketing lists, you could also offer customers a “Create your own” loyalty program. Give them a few options of reward paths or tiers and allow them to choose which they find most valuable. Tailoring the offerings to their preferences really helps fuel their excitement in participating in the program and will keep them involved.

Independent Hotel Owners: Why Aren’t Your Rooms Full?

Hello, this is Thereasa from innRoad.  We’re a friend of Signpost that provides cloud-based hotel property management software for local, independent hotels.  What I love about Signpost is that they make some of the more cumbersome aspects of relationship marketing easy – a major win for busy independent hotel operators.  Hoteliers are always searching for efficient ways to attract new guests, build relationships and drive repeat stays, so we’re excited that Signpost focuses on delivering these valuable outcomes.


The process of converting traveler curiosity into hotel reservations can be challenging Hotel Marketingand complex.  Travelers want the hotel booking process to be fast and easy, but some independent hotels aren’t prepared to satisfy this need, so as a result, filling rooms is an ongoing struggle.  If reservations are hard to come by at your hotel, here are two likely reasons why:

Continue Reading: 1. Travelers can't find your hotel

1. Travelers can’t find your hotel

Digital marketing for independent hotels requires much more than simply hoping that travelers find your website.  Independent hoteliers who want more bookings must learn to utilize digital tools, including online travel agencies, travel review sites and social media, as well as a CRM like Signpost, to increase their online visibility and drive consumers to their booking channels.  For many consumers, travel planning is an entirely digital process, so independent hotels must enhance their online positioning by actively leveraging powerful digital tools, if they wish to compete for valuable, revenue-growing reservations.

2. Booking rooms is too difficult

Online shopping cart abandonment is a major problem for many independent hotels.  However, from our perspective, not offering online bookings is a much more concerning issue.  Asking travelers to call or email the front desk for rates and availability disrupts the flow of their travel planning and may push them to book with other hotels that take reservations directly and through online travel agencies.  Hotel industry competition is tough, so independent hotels should provide consumers with various online booking options that make travel planning easy, while also eliminating reasons for consumers to look elsewhere.

At innRoad, our goal is simple, we want to make managing hotels easier for those who work hard to provide warm hospitality and memorable travel experiences.  Our cloud-based hotel property management software remedies challenges, like unoccupied rooms, regularly faced by independent hotel operators.  If you want to learn more about innRoad, contact us online, call us at 1-855-INNROAD or join the conversation about hotel marketing and more on our blog.


Originally from the West Coast, Thereasa been in technology sales & marketing for over 15 years. She is passionate about the use of technology to make our lives better. For the past 2 years she’s been running marketing for innRoad. innRoad provides hotel management software to independent hotels that helps hoteliers increase occupancy while giving them more time to spend with their guests. Helping our hoteliers focus on creating great guest experiences instead of dealing with software is one of the many reasons she is proud to be a part of the innRoad team. You can find her here: @innroad or here @thereasaf.

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