why your business service should be using content marketing

Content Marketing: Why You Should’ve Started Yesterday

Creating a customer base is difficult. I get it. It can feel like a constant hustle to reach out to people, create ads, make phone calls, and convince people to use your service.

What if I told you that it doesn’t have to be like that?

One of the biggest mistakes that I see in the service industry is that too many companies aren’t taking advantage of content marketing. In short, content marketing is creating and distributing content that is both relevant and valuable to your customers (for example, a video about how to fix a clogged sink).  Show them your best your best projects.  Show them behind the scenes of your company.  Trust me, people want to see.  I’ve built a multi-million dollar service business largely on content marketing, and one of oldest pieces is still bringing in sale after sale.  I continue to charge forward with more content!

As one of the few tools that brings customers to you, instead of the other way around, content marketing is one of the most effective (and cost-efficient) methods of marketing.

Here’s how to take advantage of it.

  • Start Now.  The best time to implement a content marketing strategy was five or ten years ago. The second best time? Now. While it can be frustrating to look at more established companies with mountains of content and visitors, that doesn’t help you or your company.Although it can seem overwhelming at first, the most important thing that you can do is to start creating content immediately. It doesn’t have to be perfect content. You can spend hours and hours editing a blog post or a video to make it perfect, but it’s better to simply get some content out there on the web — anything.The older your content gets, the stronger it becomes. Since Google ranks your content, in part, based on how old it is, you have to start getting something out to the world now. As I mentioned earlier, a blog post from 5 years ago still generates a tons of sales…. It gets over 200 visitors per day from organic Google searches, around 150 visitors from Facebook ads, and it is active part of other emails in our sales pipeline.  Personally though, every time I look at the page and read it, I cringe (see here).
  • Create a Strategy.  Just randomly posting content at odd intervals isn’t going to get your anywhere. Once you overcome the initial hump of just posting some content, you then need to think about your strategy is going to be.To create a content marketing strategy, think about the type of content you’re going to create. Is it going to be a blog? Will it be photo series of your projects? Will it be a YouTube channel?Once you’ve decided what kind of content you’re going to provide, think about how often you’re going to provide it. People like to know when to expect your content to be released, so consider choosing specific days and times for which you will release your new content.
  • Provide Value.  Your content is useless if it doesn’t provide value to your audience in some way.So, how do you provide value?Think for a minute about the types of questions that your customers are always asking you. Maybe you’re a mechanic, for example. If people are always asking you how to change their spark plugs, that’s a great place for your business to start. You could create a blog post about how to change spark plugs, or you could create a video that shows people how to change their spark plugs.

    There are all kinds of ways that you can go about finding questions to answer.

    You can go by what your customers are asking you in-person, you can look through comments that people are leaving on your website, you can search industry-related forums to see what people are asking, or any other way you can think of that helps to answer your customer’s questions.

  • Promote Your Material
    • What good is your content if nobody sees it?  The best way to get your content in front of people is to optimize it for the search engines. Your best visitors are the ones that find your content organically through a search engine. While it would be great to rank your content for some of the most common search terms, that just isn’t going to happen for most people. Focus on search terms that are a bit less common but that you can rank on the first page for.In addition to getting your website found organically, you should also be promoting your content through social media networks. Depending on what niche your business is in, you can use networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Pinterest to promote your material. Find out which networks your customers are using and post your material there.
    • Be Different.  Anyone can look up an article online and rewrite it. However, that won’t cut it most of the time. You have to be different than your competition.Instead of focusing on rewriting content, find out what your competitors aren’t doing. Maybe their articles are missing some key content. Maybe they just haven’t answered some of the questions that you’ve been hearing.Fill in those blanks. No matter what it is, find out how you can separate yourself from the competition.
    • Your Next Step.  If you haven’t already gotten started, get started now. Today. Write a blog post. Take some photos. Create a video. Sign up on social media.
    • Whatever your next step is, do it now.  I understand that creating content can feel like getting started on a walk at the bottom of a mountain, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. Just like hiking up a mountain, focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Don’t even look at the peak.

Before you know it, you’ll be standing on the top looking down at everyone else.

Aside note: While I do have a post about The Problems Of Content Marketing, I should clarify that the problems only exist once you reach a high level of success with content marketing and start generating interest from a huuuuge audience.  Something which many will fail to do.  At that point you’ll be making plenty of money, you’ll be out of the day to day operations, and should look to implement processes to handle the issues, and capitalize on your new audience (coming soon: a post on how to handle the problems that come with content marketing on a large scale).

How I Would Market A Gymnastics Studio With Facebook Advertising

I occasionally crawl the small business forums on Reddit, and offer my 2 cents. This time though I found the following post, with someone looking for help advertising a youth gymnastics studio (or gym).

I suggested Facebook ads, but ultimately they seemed a little lost — Facebook ad can be righteously confusing. Now I don’t know much about gymnastics business, but I do know a good bit about Facebook ads, and reaching a lucrative audience. I’m also working on doing an online course on Facebook advertising that will put my actionable knowledge and a plan in place for anyone who wishes to learn. So I think I’ll outline what I’d do if I owner a gymnastics studio and needed to market on Facebook.

First… The geo targeting. Set the audience to a local base. No one wants to go out of their way to take the kids to gymnastics. A few might, but the vast majority just want to travel a few miles. I’d set a radius really close by.

 

Set Up the Basic Audience

There’s 2 ways I’d go with this.

 

First of, families with children. No surprise, you can’t get people without children to bring the kids in. You can even market based on the age range the kids are in.

Next, possibly income. Obviously you need to market to those that can afford your services. It’s an economic reality. You could do select income ranges or exclude income range. Facebook’s data on income isn’t the most precise, so you may want to try net worth, or home value to identify the appropriate demographic.

A Word About Your Advertisements

With an audience in line, next up is the ads. Here’s the catch, you don’t want to use ads that look like ‘ads’. Nobody, particularly on Facebook, like ads. You’ll need to be more subtle and provide them with something this demographic will be interested in. What I suggest doing is writing a couple articles that would engage parent. Good informative articles that are detail rich. Something like:

‘How Gymnastics Will Help Long Term Motor Skill Development’
— all parents want their kids to be successful long term and you need to appeal to that.

‘How Youth Gymnastics Will Help Little Jimmy Get That Football Scholarship’ — maybe run this one only to men.

‘How Weekly Gymnastics Lessons Helped Jane’s Daughter Do Better In School’

Then post them on your website; your company blog (your website does breathe right?). Now you’re going to want to create ads for ‘link clicks’ so people see these headlines, and click through to your website to read the article.

For images, use actual images from your gymnastics studio. Images that look real. Just like something someone one of your friends would share and role through your news feed. No need for professional photography.

Notice there is nothing about selling here. No buy now. No special offer. Just get your audience to engage and absorb your brand. They will have read your articles — which means you’re the authority, not your competitor. They will have read your articles — which means you’re the authority, not your competitor. If they’re interested in putting the kids in gymnastics, who are they calling? If your article (the ad) was good they’ll share it. And that is where Facebook ads compound like the time value of money.

More Advanced Facebook Advertising Ideas For The Gymnastics Studio

  • Re-target

    Use the Facebook pixel, to retarget customers who read your articles. They already showed interest, so stay in their face. At this point, since they are no longer ‘cold’ to your brand, you could try some more direct ads, but just having them see your ads again is highly valuable.

  • Reach Your Past Customers

    Take a list of phone numbers and email addresses from customers who recently stopped attending, upload it in the ‘audiences’ section of facebook and run the same ads to them as well. Maybe they’ll come back. Or use a promotion for past customers. Promotions and direct ads can work, but you only want to use them on warm audiences (people familiar with your brand already).

  • Try A Look A Like Audience

    Using your past customers list, Facebook will let you create an audience that matches the most similar 1% of the population. In other words, the ones that look like your current customers.

Hope that helps the random person that posted on Reddit. If you have success or failure let me know. .

Content Marketing Why and How To Get Started

Content Marketing: Why & How To Get Started

If you have ever searched for something online and saw a bunch of web pages come up, you are seeing the process of content marketing in action.  Content marketing involves creating material, (blogs, videos, social media posts and emails) in order to attract your audience’s attention. If you haven’t started with your content marketing strategy just yet, then you are late to the game. Bear with me, not all hope is lost!

Here are Some of the Many Benefits of Content Marketing:

  • It can help increase your traffic and brand visibility
  • It can help you create relationships with your prospects
  • It will allow you to build trust with your clients and prospects
  • It will help you to be seen as a credible expert in your industry

If that doesn’t convince you, maybe these stats will.

  • “53% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority.” (HubSpot, 2017) (Source)
  • “Content marketing has become an almost universal tactic, with almost 90% of companies using it in 2016, and even more utilizing it in 2017” (Source).

One of the best things about content marketing is that once you put it out into the internet world, it will continue to work for you over and over again. You see, once you put an article online, it will stay there forever and the older it is, the better chance it will have at staying ranked. If your content is made up of great quality, then the results will be even better. Getting your content shared, commented on or liked will also help to push visitors and traffic to your website.

Personally content marketing has been the single most effective generator of growth for my contracting company in South Florida. It answers customers questions (before they ask), and establishes us as the resource.  It takes a cold prospect and warms them up before they even pick up the phone to call us.

 


Inbound Marketing

Gone are the days where we need to go door to door to pass out flyers. The new marketing trend is called inbound marketing. This means that people will come to you instead of you going to them. By having great content circulated the web online, you will be able to see this passive marketing strategy in action.

Where Do You Begin with Content Marketing?

It might seem overwhelming at first to not know what to talk about or where to start when it comes to coming up with a content marketing strategy but let me make it easy for you.

I’ve been putting out content  since 2012 when I started my company and it definitely helped me grow into a multi figure business. Since it builds upon itself, there’s no better time to start then… well 5-10 years ago! The 2nd best time to start  is right now. It’s time to get things off the ground and rolling.

A lot of business owners get stuck on not putting any content out there because they don’t have any ‘good ideas’ or they are worried that their content might suck. These thoughts will leave you with not putting any content out there ever… and you can’t afford to miss out on all the great benefits that content marketing can bring to your business.

One of my best pieces which continues to bring in new leads and lead them to closure is the blog post ‘4 Types Of Screen Every  Homeowner Should Know About [And What To Avoid].  It’s a post a wrote up on the fly, and quite frankly I cringe every time I look at it, but it works.

You don’t need to be overwhelmed by how to start. You need to just start getting content out there and you’ll get the hang of it.

Here are Some Simple Blog Post, Article and Video Topics to Start With

If you run a service business you might be sick of the same questions that your prospects ask you day in and day out. You can actually use these questions as ideas for content topics. Answer these common client questions by turning each question into a 500 word blog post answer or a 2 minute video.

I’m sure you can think of at least 5 questions that you get on a day to day basis. Once you have all these answers written up on your websites blog, or in  video format, you will be able to save some precious time by answering your client questions as well as point them to your video or website blog for even further information.

The best content is the content that circulates and gets syndicated and shared. If your clients like what they see, chances are, they will share the post with others and your website may be in front of new prospects at the click of a button.

A simple FAQ page on your site can do wonders. Don’t forget about the call to action at the end of your blog posts. (Give them something they want, like a discount, promotional offer or invite them to subscribe to your blog for more info)

Your assignment this week is to take notes of the common questions your clients ask you, and simply write down the answers. Take your notes and add them to your website. Share these links through your social media outlets, your email campaigns and maybe add them to a few article sites.

If you break content marketing down, you’ll see that it doesn’t always require some big elaborate strategy. It starts with one question and one answer at a time. You’ll get the hang of it.

Keep in mind, I’m not telling you to just tell your clients to get their answers online, you’re still going to have to be personal in your answers, and keep a friendly conversation going.

But by having them head over to your website or videos for more information, you are also making your clients aware of your other services. These clients will be educated consumers and will trust you and your business more. They will be more satisfied with their experiences if you can provide them with the information they are looking for.

Rules for Content Creation:

  • Keep it factual and set a clear line of expertise.
  • Be personal and friendly. Write or speak in a tone that seems like you’re right beside them (kind of like I’m doing here with this post).
  • Point to other similar links on your site.
  • Share your content wherever you can.
  • Add images to your content (preferable from your own photo reel).
  • Be consistent and relevant.

It’s surprising how very few contractors are actually doing this. You may have already noticed but if you take a look at other service business owners, they may have only a few blog posts on their site. That’s a good start… but content marketing doesn’t end there. You need to be consistent with content marketing starting today. And keep building on it. Don’t stop – there’s always something you’re going to want to tell your customers. It’s pretty simple.

Quick Trick: Turning Paid Post Likes Into Page Fans For Free

If you’re running Facebook ads, you’ll certainly have folks who ‘like’ the post – assuming your posts are relevant and engaging.  While post likes are good, wouldn’t it be better if you could turn those people into an audience you can tap regularly?

You can, quite easily.  It’s a little feature often overlooked.  Unbeknown to many is that Facebook gives us the opportunity to simply invite those that have liked our posts, to like our page.  These are people that have already engaged with your content, and now you’ve got the chance to build a further connection with them.  Taking those post likes and turning them into page likes keeps your content in their news feed regularly.

Unfortunately, there is no automated way of doing it so you must click each manually, but its something that can be easily done in only a few minutes per week.

How Specializing Benefits Your Business and Your Customers

How Specializing Benefits Your Business & Your Customers

You see them everywhere.

The guys that ‘specialize’ in everything. They have advertisements for a wide range of services such as kitchen remodels, bathroom remodels, new carpet, drywall, windows & doors usually prefaced with the words “specializing in”.

The problem?

Their services are all mediocre, their bottom line is horrible, and they get little sleep. That’s because they aren’t actually specializing in anything; they’re generalists.

What I’ve found works best for our business is to specialize in one thing and do that one thing extremely well. For my company, it’s new screen enclosures.

However, it does more than just allow us to provide an excellent service. Specializing also enables us to market much more efficiently.

Let’s take a look at why you should be specializing.

You Need One Voice, One Message

When you’re running a marketing campaign, the last thing that you want to be doing is trying to market your company for a multitude of services service to everyone under the sun. It’s a headache. Keeping track of a multiple creatives, and tracing each inquiry they bring in down to a revenue dollar, so you can run a lean and optimal campaign is nearly impossible (for someone who doesn’t have all day to spend managing ads). On top of it all, rather than speaking to the customers interested in the services you really want to sell, you ultimately end up attracting projects that fall in a grey area between the lines.

Remember that old saying. A jack of all trades is a master of none?

Don’t let that be you.

Instead of trying to market every single service to every single person, you should be marketing your one service that you do really well. That way, people can get to know who your company is, what you provide, and you can begin to carve out a niche.

For example, my company once ran ads that advertised for ‘everything’ screen enclosure; new screen enclosures, painting screen enclosures, re-screening enclosures and hardware replacement but really what we wanted were the new enclosures. Guess what kinds of calls we got a lot of? “Can you fix my door?” “My screen enclosure leaks”. Rather than using creative space to advertise everything under the sun, I re-focused only on new screen enclosures and used the extra space to highlight our new enclosures and selling points. Although the results weren’t immediate, it ultimately led to more targeted customers, and less inquiries for services which we couldn’t do efficiently or provide value to the customer.

One Message Means Efficiency and Value

When you have just one message, it allows your team to become more efficient when it comes to your marketing campaigns.

Once you have a campaign that is successful, your team then knows exactly what tools they need to use and how to get your message out to the people.

When you’re on that level, everything that you do can be standardized, everyone knows what they’re doing, and your company wastes less time. Less time wasted usually means more productivity and more money for your business.

However, it also helps your customer. When you’ve streamlined the entire process, you can really focus on providing even more value to your customers than you were before. Again, more value to the customer means more business for you.

Your Sales Team Has More Success

Working in sales is tough and, at times, thankless. In my earlier example, the sales calls for the miscellaneous services, would fatigue my sales team. They had to spend time looking for solutions and dealing with inefficient operations. This would lead to lower morale and a not as positive customer experience.

Do your sales team a favor, and set them up for success.

When a company tries to sell every service known to man, your sales team then has to provide estimates on a bunch of random jobs with people who aren’t even that serious about working with your company.

If you specialize in one service? Your marketing team can become really damn good at estimating costs for that specific service.

Once you become known as a serious company, you start to get more and more serious buyers who now see you as an expert in your niche.

You Have Fewer Headaches and More Happier Customers

Happy customers are what it’s all about.

If you’re trying to provide too many services, you’re going to end up producing mediocre work. There’s no way you can be a specialist in everything. You don’t have all the right tools, you don’t know how to handle small problems when they arise because you haven’t done it (that particular scope of work) time and time again, and your standards of quality won’t be as high, particularly if you have employees doing the work. Can you really expect Joe who’s done three totally unique projects this week to have a high standard when he spends everyday frustrated and has no regular standard?

When you’re truly specializing and working in a niche, you won’t have many “unexpected’s”, and you when you do, you’ll have a systematic process in place for handling them quickly and efficiently.

The side-effect of mediocre work from too many unexpected’s and frustrated employees is two things.

The first is that you end up with unhappy customers who are complaining to you. That’s more stress and work for you.

The second is even more critical.

When you have unhappy customers, you get bad reviews. When you get bad reviews, people don’t want to work with your company.

One of the best marketing strategies that you can have is to have glowing reviews all over the internet, and the best way to get those good reviews is to specialize in one service that you do exceptionally well. This compounds as the reviews reflect your services performed, and those interested in your target service take notice.

You’ll Raise Your Bottom Line

The whole point of having a strong marketing message, and the entire point of running a business, is to make money.

If you’re moving from a more general business model to a specialized model, you might experience a small drop in sales at first since people don’t know to go to your company for that specific service yet.

However, word gets out over time.

Once you have a strong marketing campaign going for your service, have worked successfully with some clients, and have several reviews online, people will be coming to you instead of the other way around.

When this happens, you make more money.

But not only that.

If you’re an expert in one area and know exactly what you’re doing, you know what to tell your employees to do every single day. When a company is making money, and the employees see strong leadership, people want to stay and work hard for you.

Thus, you’ll spend less time hiring and training new workers.

Get Started Today

If you’re a company who tries to specialize in everything, today is the day that you need to start thinking about how you can change that.

Which one of your services are you best at? Once you’ve narrowed that down a little bit, start looking at the competition in your area. Try to specialize in something that has a bit less competition so you can pick up on that business.

Remember, a streamlined business is an efficient business. An efficient business is a profitable business. With a profitable business, you’re a happier owner.

Good luck, and feel free to drop any questions or stories in the comments section below!

Facebook’s Powerful Marketing Features For Home Service Businesses

Facebook is one of the most powerful marketing platforms in the world. One of the reasons why is that no other advertising platform enables users to target an audience specifically based on demographics, purchasing patterns, and certain behaviors.

Traditional advertising methods of the past such as billboards, community mailers, yellow pages, radio, and television never had the same capabilities. Using Facebook’s marketing features allows you to advertise with such precision that you can target an audience based on a time of day and location, making sure that your ads actually get noticed.

Mailing to people’s homes, for example; you’ll know that people are home owners but you aren’t sure if people read or even absorb what is sent to their homes. Facebook lets you obtain valuable insights from your ads so that you can customize your campaigns to get the kind of response that you want.

These are some of the powerful Facebook features that can work for home service providers and contractors:

  1. Local targeting

    Facebook let’s you market to people within a certain distance that you choose, for example; a 5-mile radius, based on a map, or even a zip code. If you want to target a certain part of town, or exclude areas you don’t want to advertise in (because it’s far, or a project isn’t relevant to the location), this is also possible with Facebook.

  2. Home value

    With Facebook advertising, you’re also able to target people based on how much their home is worth. You can target homes that are worth $2 million, as well as those that are between a $100,000 and $1 million range and whatever other ranges you choose. Facebook enables you to target individuals based on the value of one’s home, or status of home ownership. Using billboards won’t give you the same kind of capability, as you are not able to choose a home value range at all. With Facebook, you can eliminate an audience based on the fact that they don’t own a home and save your advertising dollars.

  3. Home type

    In my case, I work as an exterior contractor-providing patio and deck services, as well as screen enclosures to the Florida area. With our business, we want to target our advertising based on home types. Condominiums and townhouse owners don’t engage in exterior work since they have associations who generally manage that stuff. We want to target single-family homes as this is the audience that engages with our products and services the most. Depending on the kind of contractor that you are, you may or may not want to use this feature in the Facebook ad section. Example; if you’re an air conditioning contractor that is quick and efficient with smaller condo units, you can target condominium homes.

  4. Lookalike audiences

    With a lookalike audience, you can take your current list of customers, upload it into Facbeook, and let the algorithm work by identifying their unique demographic features and characteristics. You can then create a lookalike audience of other users who have the same demographics as your existing customers and target them.

  5. Market to existing customers & leads

    You may want to take a list of people who have purchased maintenance services or paid for small projects and target an advert directly to them. You can then upsell those clients with a Facebook ad. Since we replace screens, which is around $100 per service call, we re-market to these customers educating the life expectancy of screen mesh and the value of replacing all it once as opposed to paying higher rates time after time. To do this, you can export from a CRM and include emails and phone numbers, then upload it on Facebook as well.   This kind of marketing can work on any kind of contractor since it can lead to purchasing a maintenance contract or a larger service. If you are a handyman, those customers may eventually need full interior jobs, or work that’s worth more money.Facebook also enables you to remarket to existing leads who haven’t purchased anything yet.  We’ve been seeing a lot of success with this kind of advertising before, since it contributes to the decision making process of potential buyers.

  6. Demographics

    : Facebook lets you target a specific demographic with their adverts, such as those who are more likely to spend on home improvement services. Behavior identification targeting allows you to identify people based on recent purchasing habits. This is extremely valuable when it comes to getting the best ROI possible out of paid ads.

  7. Editing Possibilities

    If you send out a local community mailer, are you able to turn it off or edit it? No, you’re stuck with that $1200 half page ad you paid for. With Facebook, you are able to monitor your performance whenever you like. This allows you to stop the ads, edit your copy, change your images or split test an audience at the click of a button. If you see that your ad isn’t performing well after spending $100, you can stop it and test out something else. This is a huge lifesaver when it comes to saving money via advertising online.

In short, one of the reasons why Facebook marketing is an awesome advertising platform is that it let’s you advertise specifically based on demographics and buying patterns or behaviors. This isn’t something you can do with other platforms or even using billboards that are placed on the side of a road. All you can do with a radio ad is that you know what time it will air, but with Facebook’s advertising platform, it’s much more precise. You already know a lot of information about your target audience and you can use this information when advertising.

Daily Planning For Less Frustration, Increased Productivity And Better Sleep!

Do you ever feel overwhelmed about your workday? Maybe don’t feel like you’re getting enough done? Like there is just too much to do. You start every day with the intention of getting a lot done but next thing you know its dinner time and all you’ve done is deal with bullshit.

I used to be the same way.

I would come into work, think about everything that I had to do, and then it wouldn’t get done. The work day would be finished, and I would find that much of what I wanted to get done for the day didn’t get done because I didn’t know how to start.

One day, I decided that I was going to take control and stop letting the day kick my ass.

What I found works best for me, and what may help you overcome the paralyzing effect of too much work, is having a solid plan for each day that I can execute.

Today I’m sharing how I plan my schedule each day to maximize productivity.

Start the Night Before

What works best for me is planning the workday either the night before or at the end of the previous workday.

I like this time of the day because customers aren’t calling me, employees and colleagues aren’t around, and I can sit back with a little bit of peace and clarity to think about what needs to get done the following day.

Forget about doing it in the morning. You’ll have too much on your plate and an avalanche piling up if you don’t have your day planned out before. You know what I’m talking about. You plan to make your plan on the drive into work only to be greeted by too much traffic. You delay it until you get to the office, but as soon as you walk through the door the ‘hey boss’s start flying and you go into firefighting mode before you can even get that plan kicking.

To get an accurate picture of what’s going to happen the following day, you need to put it in black and white. Taking a mental note doesn’t work. No matter how great your memory is, a hectic first hour of the morning will leave your head frazzled. For me, a simple notepad file on my IPhone does the trick. It helps me organize my thoughts, and having list the following day helps me stay on task even when those little things start going wrong.

It’ll even help you sleep better. Ever lay there in bed with thoughts running rampart about those emails you need to send first thing, and jobs you need to check on before your crews rollout? I’ve been there. All those neurons firing in your head isn’t good for your sleep or psyche. Taking those thoughts, and putting them onto the to do list is a relieving feeling. Once you note it all out, you’ll feel the pressure float away and rest well. You’ll also likely be surprised at how short the list is compared to how much it ‘felt’ like you had to often. Just a few tasks can keep your brain pre-occupied beyond belief.

Now, let’s take a look at how I break down my day.

1st Hour

I usually use the first hour or so of the day for general housekeeping tasks. When I come into work, it’s mostly management tasks that need to get done.

Sorting out what crews are going where after a customer unexpectedly cancels.. Making sure the crews know what is expected of them by the end of the day. Issuing a backup gas card because one of the trucks is on E and the gas card is missing. Updating the sales team with what priorities need to be tended to right off the get go and making sure all the tech is working.

If I come in without any guidance, things do slow to a grinding halt and productivity flops.

My Peak Time

When I talk about ‘peak time,’ what I mean is the time of the day in which I accomplish the most work. For me, I’ve found that I’m most productive between 10am-12pm.

For you, it might be different.

It’s important to figure out what your peak work time is because it’s the time in which you should schedule your most important, challenging tasks for the day.

For me, that means big picture type stuff.

I usually spend my peak work time thinking about strategy for sales, marketing, leads, leadership, operational schedule, and how to keep everyone in the building on the same page.

During this time, people should know not to bother you. Although not always possible, I try to avoid the distractions of emails, phone calls, and conversations with employees. To be as productive as possible, I need to be on my own focusing on the task at hand.

Midday

After my peak time, I go back to being available for everyone. While I’m working on the big picture type stuff on my own, it’s inevitable that a few issues arise.

I spend the middle of my day troubleshooting problems, helping out my staff, and figuring out what’s going to need my attention for the next couple of hours.

During this time, my employees know that they can approach me with whatever problems that they’re running into that day, and I do my best to keep the ship running smoothly.

Rest of the Day

The rest of my day is kind of when things start winding down a little bit. I’ve set up my employees for the day, worked on some of the bigger picture ideas for the company, solved any problems that arose, and put employees on new tasks if they already finished their previous jobs.

After all that, I go back to my task list from the day before. Maybe there’s a phone call that I have to make about a payroll issue, an appointment to set with a client, or any other range of smaller tasks that kind of get pushed to the backburner.

Once I’ve sorted through all of that, I think about what went well for the day and what could’ve gone a little bit better. If I’m in the mood at the office, I start putting together my following day.

If I need a little bit of a break, I’ll keep everything that happened in mind, go home, have some food, and then put together my plan for the next day.

Find What Works for You

Putting together a system of what works for me didn’t happen overnight. When I was younger and starting out my career, there were a lot of days where I showed up to work anxious and overwhelmed about everything that I needed to get done.

Without a plan, that anxiety led to me putting off tasks, working on other things, and ending the day feeling like I got nothing done. After a while, I’d had enough.

Even today, I’m still fine-tuning my schedule and figuring out what works best for me, my employees, and my clients.

For you, your plan isn’t going to look exactly like mine. Maybe your most productive hour is at 7:00 am, or you like to get your entire team together during your most productive hour so that you can feed that energy to your team.

Whatever it is, figure out a system and stick to it.

Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

Top 6 Marketing Mistakes That Service Contractors Make

Regardless of whether you are involved in construction, landscaping, painting or any other industry, as a service contractor you are reliant on clients and new contracts to be successful. This is why marketing should play an important role in your business model because how else will new and prospective clients find you?
Marketing is your presentation to the world and often an online campaign is the first point of contact between you and a prospective client. So, while recommendations and word of mouth are always solid tactics, you can’t wait for them to come rolling in, especially when people are using a variety of different mediums (suggested reading: Why Nextdoor.com Should Be On Your Radar) to find their service contractors nowadays. How you present and market yourself is key and if you are struggling to find new clients, it could be because of one of these common marketing mistakes:

    1. Having A Website That Doesn’t Breathe

      I say your website NEEDS to breathe. Your website should be a top priority and those who don’t regularly update it with their services, prices or even portfolio and recommendations will turn away potential customers. A neglected website gives a bad impression and should be treated in the same way as a workspace. You wouldn’t have an untidy office to meet clients in would you? Instead make sure you pick a user-friendly and good looking theme, add some keywords and descriptions to make search engines find it easily as well as photos or proof of previous works. Remember to have a killer “contact me” page to make it easier for prospective clients to get in touch.

    2. Only Marketing In Peak Season

      It’s easy to market in peak season when cash flow is strong, and the results of your marketing efforts are highly visible. We’re all short sighted, so seeing the ads go up and then revenue come in makes are neurons fire fast. Not only ours, but our competitors who are also spending money on advertising.
      However, those that can be logical and contrarian can find huge opportunity marketing during the slower periods. While the effects don’t immediate dopamine like results, many customers are researching companies and planning their projects. This is a great time to be in front of them, particularly if you can make a great first impression with your website (link to website first impression piece). To top it all off, competition poole will be less, and likewise so will the cost of your advertising relative to.

    3. Forgetting Reviews And Recommendations

      Many service contractors don’t build reviews as they should and waste this potential to create client trust from the outset. There are online review programs that solicit and funnel reviews by email and text that you can utilise (coming soon: Best Review Building PlatForms) and always ensure that you ask previous clients to review your work as well.

      Send out a follow up email or package after you complete work so that you can not only get feedback for improvement but also a review that you can put on your website or marketing materials for the future. Recommendations can make a contractor feel safer to a prospective client, which is why they are an excellent addition to your marketing strategy, particularly if previous clients are willing to help.
      Prospective clients and customers will always opt for those who are recommended to them by friends and family over a random find which is why reviews and recommendations are important.

    4. Avoiding Analytics

      A gut instinct or basing decisions on emotions can only get you so far. While it may prompt you to enter certain sectors or be the inspiration behind campaigns, it is not going to help you know if it is succeeding or not. As I mention In my post on hammering down marketing costs, the #1 thing to do to stop wasting $$ on advertising is track conversions.

      Analytics can be confusing, particularly when you get started but using data and seeing exactly the impact that certain things have on your bottom line can help you make smart decisions, save money and gain clients overall. You can track your return on investment (ROI) as well as knowing what tactics are more likely to work in the future (and ones that you don’t have to waste your time on).

    5. Not Having A Target Audience

      When you market to everyone, you market to no one.
      A lack of understanding of your demographic can have you shooting in the dark with your marketing campaigns and just wasting money. There is no point marketing to customers that your services don’t suit, particularly if they are never going to be suitable because you need to target customers that not only want your services but are also likely to recommend you or create more leads and potential business in the future.
      Find your proper audience by looking at who the main bulk of your customers are, look at spending and lifestyle habits or perhaps they are only in a specific area that you cater to as well as why your services suit them. Analytics will be able to help you narrow this down, as well as your own records and then use this information to create a specified action plan to adapt to your marketing campaign.

    6. Not Specializing

      Specializing in everything, means specializing in nothing.. Trying to cover too many bases at once is a sure fire way to drain resources, kill efficiency, and leave customers unhappy. When you specialize in a particular service your marketing message is clear, which attracts your target customers. As the flywheel spins, those happy customers will compound and refer you on to even more prospects… and each one of those referrals is conveying the same message: “They did an awesome job on my __________. All do is _________, and they’re really damn good at it”.

      With the specific focus your sales team can hone their expertise in one particular area. Their conversations with customer will be filled with “I suggest this because….” And not “I’ve never heard of that, let me check on it….” The confidence will resonate and easily lead to more sales.

      Aside for the marketing there’s also a huge benefits to operational efficiency, and quality standards all of which leads to more value and a better experience for the customer. I elaborate much further in this post here.

Rectifying these mistakes is an excellent place to start and you should see an improvement in your marketing campaigns fairly quickly, particularly once you have decided on your services, demographic and market that you are going to target. Remember that marketing is all about specificity and tracking progress and that being a service contractor is a business, and every business needs marketing.

What If Mark Cuban Wasn’t a Venture Capitalist-3.psd

What If Mark Cuban Wasn’t a Venture Capitalist?

We all know who Mark Cuban is, the billionaire investor from Shark Tank known for aggressive deal making.  He’s arguably the most popular venture capitalist on earth.

In a recent post, i discussed why venture capital works for Cuban and the other sharks, and the ability they have to shape an investment that we (little investors) do not.  That got me thinking, what if…. Mark Cuban was never a venture capitalist.  What if, after he cashed out from his dot com windfall of Broadcast.com he just invested into a passive boring portfolio, shut his mouth (something that we know is hard for him to do) and rode his wave into the sunset?  How much would he be worth today?

Lets Take A Look At It

Forbes had his net worth in 2002 at 1,300,000,000. That’s a starting point.

Today (10/21/2017) Forbes has his net worth at 3,300,000,000.  That’s a notable gain, all attributable to venture capital.

Now let’s look for a passive option.  Venture capital is essentially equity in very tiny companies; although not publicly traded they’re the equivalent of micro-cap stocks.  A micro-cap index, would be the best comparison, however it isn’t practically possible as the index doesn’t have the capacity to handle his billions of inflow.  The next best comparison would be a small cap index, which has actually underperformed the micro-cap index.  So we’ll see how Cuban would’ve performed had he just invested in Vanguard’s Small Cap Index fund (Mutual fund symbol: NAESX) way back in 2002.

Of course, a billionaire isn’t going to just stick their money in the bank and go get a job.  They need money to live on…. In other words, they need to spend a part of their portfolio.  Typical financial advice would guide them to spend spend 2-4% of their portfolio annually.  This would let them outpace inflation, maintain or increase their standard of living, and let their kids and grandkids live among the 1%.  For this lets just roll down the middle, and assume an annual spending of 3%.  Spending 3% of his worth in 2002 would’ve been $39 million, today it would be $99,000,000.  Personally, I believe he lives on less money than this (which actually doesn’t help his case as you’ll see here) — maybe he’ll chime in personally and let us know.

The Analysis

Plugging in all the numbers; an initial investment of $1,300,000,000 in a Small Cap Index in 2002, withdrawing 3% annually, would leave him with a current net worth of….

$3,418,293,022

That’s right, slightly higher than his current net worth estimate by Forbes at $3,300,000,000.  At that, all he had to was absolutely nothing.  Just sit back and coast.  He didn’t have to take the reigns of fledgling companies from disappointed founders.  Didn’t have work around the clock to keep the company’s growing, or seek out new deals.  Didn’t have to rely on his connections to make things thrive.

Let that sink in before you invest in these attractive, crowdfunded venture capital deals.  Cuban himself, with his deal making prowess, privliged knowledge, resources, and access to the best deals in Silicon Valley hasn’t even ‘beat the index’.

Why Venture Capital Works For The Sharks But Won’t For You

Back in August of 2009, the show Shark Tank debuted and suddenly everyone became an armchair venture capitalist. The idea of investing some money in a brilliant idea, with some determined founders, earning huge returns captivated the attention of anyone with half a business hubris.

And now 8 years since the first investments were made, we can easily see the positive results and success each investor is having.

But Silicon valley caught on too and everyone with a checkbook is a venture capitalist and the cash is flowing freely. Goldman sachs reports a record 121 billion of ‘Dry powder’ (aka cash ready to be invested) in venture capital funds. Meanwhile the total annual value of all venture capital deals closed in the US since 2008 has more than doubled from just under $30 billion to just over $61 billion.

Infographic: Venture Capital: More Money, Fewer Deals | Statista You will find more statistics at Statista

Perpetuating it all is solid growth in the US stock market as a whole which has risen by 202.97% (S & P 500 total return 8/9/2009 – 10/21/2017) since the launch of Sharktank, and kept optimism high in the VC world

And now venture capital comes to the masses with companies like Seedinvest, and Republic. No need to even step foot in the valley. No Mark Cuban size wallet need to get started. All you got to do is open an account on either of those platforms, spend a few minutes inputting your information and you’re free to start picking great idea’s and making winning investments for as little as $1,000 (I think it might even be less for some opportunities). Seedinvest will even make it easy to diversify your bets and passively invest you into 25 start-ups for as little as $200 each.

I have to admit, the concept wowed me. I’m a business guy. I’m an investor. I’ve always been an armchair VC and now’s my time to get in on the action. Here’s one company caught my attention: Keenhome, a company that makes air vents that you to control temperature by room. It solves a problem I’m personally familiar with. Sometimes one room in my house is hotter than another. Fortunately I live alone, so climate control is at my sole discretion, but in a household with multiple people the thermostat can cause wars. Keenhome’s product solves it. It’s also in the smart home category which is trending right now, with an expected revenue growth rate of 21.8%. I own a home service company which has done rather well, and a friend of mine owns a wildly successful HVAC business which is very closely related to this product niche. They’ve also done $2,600,000+ in sales and have a slew other pitch facts indicating success. Certainly it must be a good investment.

But I’m not convinced any of these investments on crowd capital platforms are going to work quite as well for you and me as they have for the sharks. Here’s why:

    1. Why do they need crowdfunding?

      As I mention above cash is flowing right into the venture capital world. Seemingly anyone with an idea, a little business acumen, and a little charisma can easily get a deal. There are large scale venture capitalists following all the funding syndicates… reserved for accredited investors. They aren’t idiots, and they aren’t short on cash.

      If a business is truly a good ‘opportunity’, there’s no reason why they need to go to the little fish in crowdfunding. Established venture capitalists bring more to the table than just cash (more on that below), and there’s less headache dealing with a few large professional investors than dealing with the masses.

    2. The sharks invest more than financial capital?

      Mark Cuban, Kevin O’leary, Daymond John, Laurie Greiner, Rob Herjavec, Barbara Corcoran, all the other sharks, and all the other sharks, and all the professional venture capitals swinging 8 figure bankrolls bring more to the table than just their wallets. They’re bringing copious amounts of personal capital, and sweat equity. They’ve got the experience, resources, and connections to make businesses happen.

      Sure you might have a ton of business experience, but does your few thousand dollar investment get you a seat on the board of advisors — nope. Don’t even bother making a squeak. If you’re Cuban or anyone else with an amount of capital and credibility your voice gets heard.

      What if the company has a great marketing campaign but just can’t pull it off in operations? What if the company needs an effective website live in 12 hours? Every venture capitalist has a team behind them they can call to make things happen. No searching , no hoping, just action. In many cases the founders, become little more than faces of the company while the venture capitalists use their resources behind the scenes to make things happen.

      Connections…. Lets just ask how many business journalists follow established venture capitalists? One twitter post is all it takes to get the company featured in a forbes article about how “XYZ Company is going to reshape an industry?” Can you get that poole?
      While the Sharks and other Venture capitalists can make things happen, you’ve just got to sit with your fingers crossed.

    3. What happens when the market tanks?

      Seriously. We’ve been in a long bull run now. Rags to riches stories are abound. If there’s a bear market blue chip equities will take a hit, but venture capital will go to 0. Venture capital funding will slow and that bottomless pool of money many startups are relying on to grow will dry up.

      While not optimal that works out for the venture capitalists who are able to plunk in more of their personal equity, sweat equity, or personal capital to keep these ventures afloat.

A Better Choice

If you have the capital, look for a venture capital fund that you can invest in alongside, well known venture capitalists. These funds exist, but they do require minimum investments of generally, at least $100,000 and are illiquid. That’s a far step above the $1,000 minimum investments in a single company on SeedInvest. BUT they do provide a better shot at likely returns as you get access to the premium deals that would never make considering taking on million peon investors from crowdfunding. You also ride on the coattails of investors who have the personal capital to make businesses happen. On that note, make sure the investor has a significant amount of their own capital in the fund. I should probably write a whole nother post on that relative to venture capital, but for now just checkout my post on manager investment in mutual funds.

Now if you don’t have $100,000 to piss away, and you’re practical enough to not get into gambling with your money, a small cap index fund would be your next logical choice. Small cap stocks have been shown to have a premium over market beta (market cap weighting significantly tilted to large caps). From 1926 – 2012 small caps returned a 1.8% annual premium over large caps (that 1.8% over a couple decades is huge). You can get into small cap exposure for nearly nothing by opening an account with vanguard and buying their Small Cap Index Fund ETF (VB) or the mutual fund that tracks it. Just set it to reinvest dividends and dollar cost average into investment.

Follow Up Post 10/25/2017: What if Mark Cuban was never a venture capitalist and just invested in index funds?

It Still Seems Fun

Yes it does. That investment in Keenhome seems like a good idea. I think it can beat the small cap index. I want a horse in the race. I want a company to cheer for. I want to be part of the cool kids. Maybe I will invest in it, for the same reasons I go to casinos (for the record I don’t go to casinos).