From the desk of Joe Kowalski:
I type this from the makeshift office I have set up in my home. Washington State issued a stay-at-home order last week. ServiceMonster is currently completely virtual. All of our employees are working from their homes. Fortunately, for both you and us, we have that luxury. Service providers such as yourself, however, don’t have that kind of flexibility. I’m sure everyone who is under a stay-at-home order is struggling to find the balance. Is your work considered essential? I can’t answer that for you. I don’t put food on your table. I don’t live in your community. What I can do is offer some guidance to those who have decided to (or been forced to) stay at home.
You’re an entrepreneur. This is not a vacation. If you need some time to get your head right after making some very hard decisions over the last few weeks, do that. Then get back to work.
If you’re able to keep your business after a few months in lock-down, then take this time to do all the things you “never had time to do" before. Get your books in order. Take that accounting class. Read. Study. Read some more. Master your CRM. Find out what a CRM is. Start getting to know your most important vendors. Get your business systems in place. Build a few spreadsheets. Create a few dashboards. The list is endless on how you can use this time to work #OnYourBusiness.
If you’re thinking of shutting down, lick your wounds and get back to work. Most entrepreneurs fail four times before they get it right. Not all of those failures are due to global pandemics though. I get it, but my point is that you have a clean slate. You can take everything you have learned, every experience you’ve had, and use that to create something new. A new idea. A new purpose.
Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone. Just know that your lack of understanding is simply a measure of how much you need to learn. Embrace the change and build a stronger version of yourself AND your business.
I hear comments like “I can’t learn that” and “that’s too complicated for me” from other business owners all the time. And they’re wrong. Self-limiting attitudes are a mind killer. The truth is, people who have that mentality are simply saying, “I don’t want to”. Fine. That’s a much different position. Either you’re managing your time and resources wisely, or you're lazy. Maybe even a little bit of both. Don’t claim that you "can’t." If you find it hard to make the transition, simply add “yet” to the end of your self-defeating mantra. “I can’t do that" becomes “I can’t do that, yet”. After a while, it changes the game.
The value your service provides is probably worth more than you’re charging. Try not to exchange hours for dollars. You and your business are worth more than that. This idea isn’t new and you’ll find plenty of references to this concept as you read and study.
Now, it’s likely that you’re thinking something like: “But I can’t raise my prices! How am I supposed to sell ‘value’? I don’t know how to do that!”
Then I will remind you: “You don’t know how to do that, YET.” You must build/re-build your business to be stronger. Self-reflection and study is number one. Proper revenue balance is number two.
You can’t sell value if there is no value to be sold. If you’re providing a community service, just like everyone else, you’ll never stand out as exceptional. Don’t be basic. MAKE yourself exceptional. Add something to your business, create new marketing or messaging ideas, or offer specialty services. Find a way to bring more value to your clients in the most creative ways you can think of. How can you help them, with what would work best FOR THEM? Take this time in the office to explore your creativity. You can be as crazy as you like on the white board. Push yourself and your ideas to a new point of view. You can always make them “less crazy” in the real world.
When is the last time you questioned a belief which helped determine your behavior? How do you protect yourself from you own bias? Business owners often fall into an insidious trap: We believe our actions have brought us the success we enjoy. That’s only a half-truth. The reality is, some of the positions and beliefs we have about our success will actually be the very beliefs which limit our growth. How can you tell the difference if your experience tells you the wrong story?
One such tool is the formal logic principle as defined by Aristotle and his band of merry men. There is lots of information available on logical fallacies, constructing proper syllogisms, and building the tools needed to recognize when you are irrational. Not irrational like, you cray cray. The proper definition of irrational.
Irrationality is cognition, thinking, talking, or acting without inclusion of rationality. It is more specifically described as an action or opinion given through inadequate use of reason, or through emotional distress or cognitive deficiency.
Find remote tools for your business that can help you communicate, create, plan, and execute. ServiceMonster has made many changes in our own office and here are some helpful tools we found when working from home:
Facebook Workplace – We have used Slack and Mattermost. Both are chat platforms. Neither of them gave us the communication options that Workplace has. Its familiar interface and wide range of options makes it perfect for chat, calls, video calls, and group posts.
Ring Central – A business phone system with virtual options, voice trees, multiple phone lines, and side loads on your phone via an app. This means that you can separate your personal and business lines on your smart phone.
Trello – Task management in a simple to use interface.
Basecamp – Project management in a simple to use interface
ServiceMonster – Take control of your schedule, keep your eye on important key performance indicators (KPI's), and stay in touch with your clients via automated marketing tools.
We must adapt if we are to survive. Take this time to reflect on your success and failures. Take what you need, ditch the rest, then get back to work #OnYourBusiness.
This is part 6 in a series on social media for service businesses.
The full series is:
6. Case Studies
Here are a few good examples of how we and others, have used social media to accomplish a goal or capture attention to deliver value to the business.
In late 2012, ServiceMonster moved from a bare metal solution to a true virtual service. We adopted Microsoft Azure. That decision would haunt me for eight months. Four months in, I was in a state of panic. The technology was solid. It had to be the platform. But how to get Microsoft's attention? They had no real support, and the level of support that I needed went way beyond a flow chart, so I created a marketing plan.
It was simple. Use Twitter and talk about my issues tagging Microsoft and Azure team members in every post, but first I had to get someone to listen. I needed to find some of their evangelists. Evangelists are people who are forward-facing about a product or service, but can stand up to technical scrutiny. From there I would find and follow the engineers that were working on Azure. My goal was to obtain email relations with someone that would listen. I figured it would take about 30 days.
I was totally wrong. In 14 days I was talking with an evangelist regularly. I was invited to Microsoft and had a personal eight-hour tour through the Microsoft campus. I talked to their top brass representing the Azure platform. It was pretty cool. I even blogged about it.
It really didn't help. Four months later I switch to Amazon. The day we switched, ServiceMonster was at peace again, and I got the first night’s sleep I had in a very long time.
The whole experience really opened my eyes to how effective social media could be in so many more ways than as a very effective lead generator.
In July of 2016, Gary Hite, a carpet cleaner in Temecula, California, published a video of a tile job. A few weeks later, he had over 12 million views. A month later, a separate company rented the rights to the video and created another 12 million views. We scooped the story as it was happening.
The main points are:
1. Have good stock video.
2. Learn how to produce original compelling content.
3. Do step one and two a lot.
4. Hope that a video gets picked up on an OCD subreddit.
I’m actually not joking. Be a student. Read the blog post. Watch the video. Gary didn’t know it would go viral, but he knows enough to put together some elements in his video that created interest and captured attention. That video has generated work for cleaners all over the United States, and Gary has taken that opportunity to expand several areas of his business.
On August 8th the marketing team and I decided to turn the Joe brand up to 11. We had not yet fully embraced the business persona of ServiceMonster. One mechanism we implemented was a daily entrepreneurial Facebook post, containing relevant content based on issues and hurdles I run into on a daily basis. I call it the Facebook long form. They are usually no more than a few paragraphs long but will often be longer than the fold. After a few weeks of posting, I started receiving encouragement to continue (love that). I even had requests to begin compiling these posts into a mini Art of War style publication. But this isn't 3000 BC. What did I do? I went back and tagged all of my relevant posts. I needed a hashtag that no one was using. Something that would create a brand. We often trade on 'Joe' and my focus is entrepreneurs, so #entrejoe was born. How can you provide the same type of value to your prospects and clients?
This is part 5 in a series on social media for service businesses.
The full series is:
STOP INVITING ANYONE AND EVERYONE TO LIKE YOUR PAGE! Seriously. It messes with the insights Facebook can give you. It also makes Facebook think you are a national company instead of a local service. Yes, you can target campaigns using geolocation, but it messes up some of the cooler features. Build your wall. Keep your likes relevant to your clients and prospects. Stop inviting cleaning friends and vendors. This can really wreak havoc if you hire a third-party to manage your Facebook advertising. They will make assumptions which will be incorrect, like that your page supports 35 to 55-year-old males, nationwide, who own a service business. Oh wait, that’s my demographic.
Make your Facebook Page beautiful. If your logo is still out of 90s clipart from MS Office, it might be time for an update. Learn the difference between 72 DPI, 150 DPI, and 300 DPI (dots per inch) and why that's important to a Facebook Page and mobile technology.
Take some time to build your cover image. That's your billboard. Make it compelling. Ideally your profile picture will be your logo. Only change it for the most extreme circumstances. Don't make your alias’ Page profile picture your company's logo. Maybe try a different, more amplified version of yourself.
Make sure your Page is filled out and complete. Make sure there's a link to your website. Make sure your phone number is right. Share relevant content, post original content, run ads.
Facebook Pages give you some really cool tools in the Insights section to study the effectiveness of your content (not to mention you run all of your ads from your business Page).
If you’re looking to build a Warrior strategy, it is essential to have a personal alias page for your business. Use your real name and image. Don’t try to give your persona the business name or clever variation. Facebook will eventually close your account until you identify yourself and correct it (don’t ask me how I know).
Join local Facebook groups. Local business groups can be a good source as well. Look for community influencers with a strong Facebook presence and discover where they hang out, online. Send friend requests to people who have liked your Page, and especially ones that are already your clients. Be friends with them! Invest in their lives. Make witty comments on their posts you find entertaining. Share. It’s amazing how fast customers change from clients to individuals when you see their kid hit that home run.
Create a group (or twelve). Assuming you’re the constant student and after you have some attention on both your business and personal pages, you will start to identify additional ways to capture attention. Groups are a great way to communicate to a handful of people. Currently you can add a friend to a group, even without them accepting an invite. By default, they will get a notification whenever there is a post in that group. It’s a powerful feature and one I think we will lose long-term. Be careful with it. Some don’t appreciate being added to a group willy-nilly (sorry guys). The most obvious group for a service provider to create is a private group dedicated to your clients. You have to keep the content relevant to maintain attention and engagement though, so make sure your kung fu is strong.
Creating ads for Facebook can have some challenges if you’re just getting started. Start with a goal in mind. Do you want more likes or to drive traffic to your site? When using a picture, smiling faces are always the best performers. Facebook will reject your ad for a handful of things. You can’t run an ad with an image that has too much text. The numbers are changing all the time. Use Facebook’s image text check tool to be sure.
When running ads, be sure to narrow your focus as much as possible. You can target groups of users based on their location, interests, and age. You can even target users who have liked a Page of your competitors. The narrower your focus, the better your results.
Facebook ads are so inexpensive that you can run a few ads at the same time to see which one is more effective. Just like organic engagement, the more users interact with your content, the better it will perform and the lower it will cost.
Facebook has an entire online course for learning how to use Facebook ads.
Use Facebook pixel to track traffic on your site. A pixel is a tiny bit of code you add to your web pages which will tell Facebook which Facebook users visited your site, and which page(s) they visited. You can use this for retargeting, or to figure out cost per conversion. Retargeting allows you to create a Facebook ad targeting people who have already visited your site. That can be very powerful when used correctly: You send a special offer targeting people who went to your webform and didn’t complete it the first time. You could even chain them together by giving them a better offer each time they visit.
Facebook Page likes matter, but only for establishing a baseline of creditability. For services providers, a few hundred likes and a handful of good reviews is all you really need to accomplish that. What is more important than likes is engagement. When users like, share, and comment on your posts, ads, and boosts, they flag Facebook that the content is relevant. Facebook will then display your content to more feeds. Engagement is the real metric to attention, not likes. Facebook will display the engagement of each post on your business Page insights.
OK. You have your business Page and business persona all ready to go. How do you get from there to a never-ending fountain of flowing leads? The process of capturing attention and turning that into a sale is called conversion. First, you capture attention. Then you offer value. Then you throw out an ‘ask.’ Perhaps the ‘ask’ invites them to fill out a webform. They complete the form and you now have a solid lead. Just be sure the transfer from your ad to the web page is cohesive or the user may get lost. As this series is about social marketing, my responsibility is to help you get people to the webform. From there you will need a sales pipeline and lead capture system, like oh, I don’t know, perhaps ServiceMonster...
Remember the PULL? The more engagement you get, the more Facebook will feed your content to our audience. Deliver content that has value and they will follow you. If all of your content is about you, your effectiveness will be minimal and [insert eye roll].
If you’re using Facebook Pixel with your webform and success page, then you will know what your conversion rates from Facebook actually are.
Continue on to part 6 in our series on social media for service businesses to read about a few good examples of how we and others have used social media to accomplish a goal or capture attention to deliver value to the business.
This is part 4 in a series on social media for service businesses.
The full series is:
Having a bad social strategy is worse than having no strategy. I have seen business pages with missing or incorrect information. I have seen pages created for a business by the system where it becomes very difficult to claim ownership of them. I also see links to the owners' personal, public profile, which they DO NOT use for business. They will, more often than I can believe, commit one or more of the five deadly sins.
1. Political content
2. Religious content
3. Sexually charged content
4. Drug-related content
5. Personal attacks
Now these are general guidelines and can be bent if you understand you’re alienating a portion of your prospects. I always advise businesses and associations to steer clear of this type of content.
You have nothing. Nada. Zero. This is kind of spooky for someone looking for your profile (and they will).
You have a Facebook Page and there is some information. Perhaps there is a link to your webpage and the three before and after pics you posted the day you started the business Page. Perhaps you tried a postcard-like campaign with little to no results or got discouraged when it became hard to entertain your Page likes without buying a boost from Facebook.
Your page is complete and accurate. It’s easy to call you or jump to your webpage. You make relevant posts at least a few times a month but how many before and after’s can you really do? You might have a handful of reviews and a few hundred likes on your page. You might have even tried a few boosts and got a handful of calls. Most business owners who think they do Facebook well live here.
Business Level 1 plus super consistent posts and boosts. Most of the content is shared from other sources with the occasional ad, picture, or video. When done well, the business can become a new authority in the local community. They either pay a third party or use a program like Hootsuite to manage posts. They have lots of reviews and plenty of likes on their page. They have some engagement on their boosted posts and are consistently getting jobs. These results will be similar to EDDM postcard campaigns in terms of response. The better your targeting, your content, and native attention, the lower your cost per client.
Business Level 2 plus amazing compelling original content crated by a personality in the business. Looking through the timeline of a Level 3 business Page tells a story and draws the user in. The story introduces them to the people, goes behind the scenes with friends and/or family, and shares their importance to the community. The strategy will also couple the website’s blog and newsletter content.
In order to build a warrior level social strategy, you need to triple down on your own personality. You know you're headed true north when you're your own biggest fan.
People will buy from people over businesses every time. To get the most out of your social strategy, your brand must have a face. You cannot participate in groups with a business Page. You cannot create a group with a business Page. You cannot like and comment on personal posts from your business Page. Your business Page can’t make a text-only post and expect to gain any attention. You can accomplish all of that, and more, with a business persona.
You end up with a Business Level 3 Facebook Page AND a personal profile you use ‘only’ for business. That’s not to say you don’t post personal stuff. You need to be personal if you want your audience to get to know you. Just stay away from the five deadly sins, share lots of your business content, and engage with your clients and prospects regularly, as a person.
Continue on to part 5 in our series on social media for service businesses.
This is part 3 in a series on social media for service businesses.
The full series is:
So it seems like the Pokémon Go media frenzy has finally died down, although there are still millions of players. Do you understand what just happened? Are you familiar with how it influenced business traffic? From an outsider, it may seem like a very silly young Millennial game, but as a student of technology and social media, I saw it a little differently.The importance of augmented reality (AR) has not yet been fully realized. Think about this. In 10 years, your vehicle windshield will double as a computer monitor. Obviously you wouldn't want to use it as a movie screen, but how about digital readouts of things that are happening in front of your car? A neighborhood kid could kick a ball into the street and your windshield will draw a highlighted graphic around the ball and alert you to its presence. In 20 years, we may have contact lenses that can do the same thing. I will never forget someone's name again. I’ll be able to pull up their social media profiles before I even extend my hand!Always be a student. Pay attention. If you find yourself scoffing at something which draws millions upon millions of users, check yourself. Your lack of understanding doesn't change the outcome. Look for opportunity in even the most unlikely of places. Plenty of businesses had a big boom when they found their bike shop was Pokémon central.
YouTube is now the second most widely used search engine in the world, next to Google, which means Google (who purchased YouTube in 2005 for $1.65 billion) is both the first and second most widely used search engine in the world. YouTube content can be a big player in your SEO strategy. Part of any complete social strategy should include a healthy amount of video. Be sure to post that content to a business YouTube channel and tag it correctly. Consistency and value are the two winning factors to developing an audience. Be an authority in all things [insert what your passion is for your business].
Twitter's primary purpose has evolved over time, from the leading PULL authority to an open chat site with links to everyone’s totally amazing blog. By following people and topics you are interested in, you'll be fed news and information in those areas. Its tagging and communication systems are extremely open, but its 140-character limit keeps conversations focused on jabs. You can yell at a celebrity, and sometimes, just sometimes, they will yell back. Twitter itself has not had a single day of profitability. Monetization on Twitter is clumsy, slow, and extremely hard for service providers. Have a presence to understand it and respond, should someone tag you in a post, but if you’re looking for big wins and a complete level of understanding of social, spend your time somewhere else.
Still the only professional network (have you heard about Facebook Workplace?). LinkedIn was created by the father of social media and PayPal partner, Reid Hoffman. The platform is as boring as the professional environment suggests. Typically, the posters are using automated software to post articles they have written, or ones they feel are professional. There is a pay-to-play professional subscription that has an interesting sales funnel feature. This can be an effective tool for business-to-business service providers. Microsoft purchased them for $26 billion dollars, which suggests to me they are trying to lock the corporate professions into a single Microsoft 365 platform.
Facebook has nearly as many eyes as television and it’s still growing. Millennials (18-35) spend more time on Facebook than watching TV. The marketing and targeting engine is phenomenal. When done right, there are opportunities all over the place, but it takes a little bit of cash and a whole lot of work. Facebook is the best bet for service professionals and the focus of the strategies I’ve outlined in this series.
Now owned by Facebook ($1 billion!), Instagram is a platform where people express themselves through images and short video. If it's not beautiful, you shouldn't post it. There are lots of 20-year-old life coaches, but service providers can use hashtags to bring in a substantial amount of leads if the market supports it (Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, you get the idea). Pro Tip: #dogsofseattle. Instagram turned users, and Snapchat, on their heads when they introduced Instagram Stories recently. A simple change like that has an amazing ripple effect and can turn into a tidal wave of potential.
Think text or Facebook Messenger on steroids. I'm actually super excited about this one. While the platform is too new and the population to skewed towards 20-year-olds, the capabilities to interact with other people are pretty slick. I can have a conversation with my wife while in a store and super seamlessly send her short videos and pictures. I'm excited to try this with business coaching. Using Snapchat for lead generation is unlikely at this point but keep an eye on this one, and understand it.
Dubbed ‘the front page of the internet,’ Reddit's ability to draw crowds to individual content is staggering. Reddit users joke that if you found an article on Facebook, you're at least two days behind the curve. No monetization platform. Viral videos and posts are completely by chance. The main reason the Gary Hite video went viral was because it landed on an OCD subreddit and picked up two million views in less than four days.
Continue on to part 4 in our series on social media for service businesses.