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Local Service Businesses - How to Get More Customers

rjrobbins2

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I am curious to hear from people who have grown a local, service-based business into Fastlane worthy endeavor.

I posted about my new role in this thread which is a mobile auto glass business. My cousin has grown it in its current size by word-of-mouth only. No advertising and no online presence at all. He didnt even have a website until I built him one last fall.

Now we are trying to make it a multi-million dollar business instead of a 160k business. The obvious things are to continue building the online profile, encourage current customers to refer, build relationships with similar businesses, etc.

But, I am sure there are some tactics that arent so obvious and that is what I am curious about. I know not all methods apply to all industries but I am curious about local service businesses as a whole. What did you do to grow your business?
 

rjrobbins2

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There are 100s if not 1000s of FB car groups. Join and advertise with the moderators permission.
Yes, we have a ton for my city but most prohibit promotion. I will search around and see what I can find that allow for that. Thanks for the ideas!
 

MHP368

the man, the myth, the Pseudo-Apollodorus
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The obviouse first rock to overturn IMO is a strong ad sense game.
 

Neng Her

Bronze Contributor
Speedway Pass
Yes, we have a ton for my city but most prohibit promotion. I will search around and see what I can find that allow for that. Thanks for the ideas!
Transfer them money on Fb. Give group discounts. Whatever it is, give the group moderator value and give them a reason why they should allow you. NP :)
 

Duane

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The most important thing is going to be consistently maintaining high quality service no matter how big you get and establishing a well known brand. Word of mouth/referrals will spread like wildfire if you do that.

Stickers on your trucks, employees looking professional in uniforms, put your company name on stuff and give to clients (like refrigerator magnets). There is a lot you can do to establish a well known brand in your area. I offer a free service of some kind every time a customer refers someone to us and they commit to our services.

I'm friends with handymen, landscapers, pest control people, and we all refer each other to our clients and we give referral money to each other for the new clients they bring us.


The next thing I would focus on is your reviews. Are you on homeadvisor, facebook, google, etc? Being highly rated with a lot of reviews on these channels gives you a lot of organic traffic (less homeadvisor as it's paid traffic, but still a great channel to use). When my company hit 20 5 star reviews on google, I really noticed a spike in new clients without an increase in my adspend.

I have a "review us" link in my signature for every email that I send out to clients, I give my employees free lunches/dinners and sometimes bonuses for every 5 star review they get from a client, we always ask for a review with an easy to click link when people say nice things to us about our service. I have scripts that I send out to my long term clients offering them a gift card/free stuff and if they would like to leave us a review.

We are always doing jobs with dramatic differences before and after. We have our employees take a lot of before and after pictures everyday. Anytime you do a job and it looked horrible before you started and looked great once you finished, post it up. Shoveling that content out consistently on your google/social media pages is something else I would highly recommend. Not only will it attract cold leads, but it will also convert warm leads to phone calls.

Advertising on google is my preferred over all other channels for local service businesses. Google gets you warm leads calling you right now. Knowing your average cost for each new client you get and your average return on each new client is important though. Tweak ads until your return on your advertising is at least 5x. Once I hit above that 5x mark, I keep tweaking it to be better, but I can scale that ad dramatically to increase sales.
 

Mark Mueller

New Contributor
It's hard, that's for sure. I struggled a lot with mine, but I wound up selling the business...it was easier to grow an ecommerce business to over $2M in sales than a local service business to $200k.

First, know your market and potential. That's key. Expansion on local service businesses often has to be geographic. How far are you willing to go? Then what is your potential for people that live there and need the service? Service businesses are limited, which is why the big ones franchise. It's there way of expanding geographically.

The word of mouth growth is great though. That's your #1 aspect...if you get that, you're serving customers well. Insurance claims contacts, agents, etc. are networks to have.

For me, it was a LOT of little stuff. Thank you letters, reminder notifications, sometimes a special, referral bonuses, local as, social media ads (but be careful, they can get expensive for a business not on line with a limited service area..if you ship widgets anywhere, it's easeier)

The other way to expand is offer more services. Don't be the one trick pony.

This is why a plumbing company goes into HVAC, etc. They can only do so much plumbing in their area they are willing to service.

Best of luck. You sound like you're doing well so far, as long as you get word of mouth referrals, that's a great base. If those stop, you need to address the levels of service and find the issues first.
 

Valhalla

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
For me, and it's a ball breaker, but you have to develop systems and procedures now like you're already a multi-million dollar operation. Make sure what you're doing is consistent and efficient across the board. Once I dissected the operation of the interior design firm my wife and I run (mostly my wife) we saw areas that were really slowing us down and others, that were really important to the overall success of the project, were getting little to no attention during the process. It revealed areas of huge value as well as areas to cut costs. This was all over a one week period and it changed everything. The whole company is much more profitable and clients are noticeably happier.
 

Andy Black

Any colour, as long as it's red.
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sdbrownlie

Building Links for SEO Peeps
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FWIW local SEO is still very very very easy compared to national.

Just following a few local SEO guides and banging the work out will almost certainly get you 'something' in exchange for <10 hours work. Easily will pay for itself.

I think the main reason it's still so soft in local is that the majority of service providers are low skill trying to make money charging local businesses a few hundred bucks for which they can't really do much/and they don't really know what they're doing anyway. And running a local business is hard work and SEOs are lazy and don't like hard work (as a rule of thumb, ofc I know lots of ppl who grind like crazy too) so we don't get too many SEOs decide they want to start a cleaning business etc and crowd the market with competition.
 

Kid

Bronze Contributor
Speedway Pass
I guess the AdWords (or is it called Google Ads now?) is your best bet.

Read posts by @Andy Black about getting statistics, negative keywords, landing pages and few other topics as well.
 

rjrobbins2

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
What's the difference between you and Safelite?
1. We are completely mobile
2. We offer next-day or sometimes same day service
3. We are almost always half the cost, sometimes less
4. We guarantee for the life of vehicle ownership and if there is a problem, we are out within 24 hours to fix it.

There might be more but that is the gist of it.
 

rjrobbins2

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Read Millionaire Fastlane
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FWIW local SEO is still very very very easy compared to national.[/QUOTE]

That is my immediate project at the moment. I have been reading some books on it and just paid a service to do an analysis of the site. I am also pushing Google reviews pretty hard.
 

rjrobbins2

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
It's hard, that's for sure. I struggled a lot with mine, but I wound up selling the business...it was easier to grow an ecommerce business to over $2M in sales than a local service business to $200k.

First, know your market and potential. That's key. Expansion on local service businesses often has to be geographic. How far are you willing to go? Then what is your potential for people that live there and need the service? Service businesses are limited, which is why the big ones franchise. It's there way of expanding geographically.

The word of mouth growth is great though. That's your #1 aspect...if you get that, you're serving customers well. Insurance claims contacts, agents, etc. are networks to have.

For me, it was a LOT of little stuff. Thank you letters, reminder notifications, sometimes a special, referral bonuses, local as, social media ads (but be careful, they can get expensive for a business not on line with a limited service area..if you ship widgets anywhere, it's easeier)

The other way to expand is offer more services. Don't be the one trick pony.

This is why a plumbing company goes into HVAC, etc. They can only do so much plumbing in their area they are willing to service.

Best of luck. You sound like you're doing well so far, as long as you get word of mouth referrals, that's a great base. If those stop, you need to address the levels of service and find the issues first.
We are definitely planning to expand. Right now, we service the Great KC Metro which geographically is one of the Top 5 biggest cities in the US so it is a large area. We are going to be spreading to mid-Missouri and mid-Kansas later this year. We just need some capital to do it and find out supplier distribution.

I am also checking on offering wheel repair and detailing services. These are especially big for our mechanic and car dealer partners. We can be one-stop resolution for these services.
 

rjrobbins2

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Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
The most important thing is going to be consistently maintaining high quality service no matter how big you get and establishing a well known brand. Word of mouth/referrals will spread like wildfire if you do that.

I have been tracking where our business comes from and it is nearly all referrals. Once someone uses us, they refer us and keep coming back. That is pretty clear. We just need more people to try us. Once they do, they seem to stick with us.



[QUOTE="Duane, post: 769640, member: 33123"]Stickers on your trucks, employees looking professional in uniforms, put your company name on stuff and give to clients (like refrigerator magnets). There is a lot you can do to establish a well known brand in your area. I offer a free service of some kind every time a customer refers someone to us and they commit to our services.[/QUOTE]

I am shopping around for stickers and also want to sell our trucks to get get vans that match. The problem is all of them drive like assholes including my cousin. If they dont stop and they are marked up, it could backfire.

The next thing I would focus on is your reviews. Are you on homeadvisor, facebook, google, etc? Being highly rated with a lot of reviews on these channels gives you a lot of organic traffic (less homeadvisor as it's paid traffic, but still a great channel to use). When my company hit 20 5 star reviews on google, I really noticed a spike in new clients without an increase in my adspend.

I have a "review us" link in my signature for every email that I send out to clients, I give my employees free lunches/dinners and sometimes bonuses for every 5 star review they get from a client, we always ask for a review with an easy to click link when people say nice things to us about our service. I have scripts that I send out to my long term clients offering them a gift card/free stuff and if they would like to leave us a review.
We are setup on Google, Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Yahoo, Bing, and more. I just finished getting them all setup. Facebook was the only thing he was on previously. We only have 6 reviews and 4 of them are me using different Google accounts I have. I have been pushing reviews but it is like pulling teeth. I even created a QR barcode for our invoices and people still dont do it. We get at least one call a day with someone telling us how awesome we are and I tell them to go leave a review. They still dont F*cking do it. If we f*cked up, they would probably do it.

How do you get people to leave reviews? We even offered a $5 discount for people to do it at the time of payment and still no one did it. I know how valuable the reviews are because I have seen it with other websites I have done for people's businesses but actually getting people to do it is harder than it should be. I have tons of points for doing reviews on Google. I am like a Level 6 Local Guide because I know how important it is.

What is homeadvisor?

Bing just gave me a $200 credit for ads and I have some deal for Google too. That is my project for next week.
 

Kid

Bronze Contributor
Speedway Pass
How do you get people to leave reviews? We even offered a $5 discount for people to do it at the time of payment and still no one did it.
I don't remember who said it, but it was like:
If you'll do a good job, client will tell about it to a friend.
If you'll do bad job, client will tell about it to 10 other people.

So you might actually look at 10% or much less of client-to-review conversions as a normal thing.
 

Valhalla

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
We even offered a $5 discount for people to do it at the time of payment and still no one did it.
I believe this may be where the issue is.
1) They want to get on with their day. This is already an unscheduled repair and don't want to hang out longer than they have to.
2) Most people are honest and want to leave an accurate review. So they may be thinking, "Why are you asking me now? The windshield might fly off on the highway tomorrow, hit a van full of puppies and there I am looking like an idiot with a 5 star review next to my name." Give them some time to verify you did a good job.
3) Give them a reason. Five bucks ain't gonna change anything, but lots of clients will identify with a 'help me fight the big guys and support local businesses by leaving a review'. Find what resonates with your customers through conversation, you'll find something that they will feel compelled to leave you a gleaming 5 star review.

Create a procedure for how, when and how to ask for reviews, make sure it's easy (direct links, multiple platform options etc.) and give them a bigger reason to leave that review.
 
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Duane

Silver Contributor
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I am shopping around for stickers and also want to sell our trucks to get get vans that match. The problem is all of them drive like assholes including my cousin. If they dont stop and they are marked up, it could backfire.
Put GPS in your trucks with monitoring and tracking. You can see how fast they are going and it integrates with google maps which has speed limits signs on most roads. Be a manager in the beginning and anytime they are speeding, accelerating/braking too hard, etc take disciplinary action. If they are doing great, then reward their good behavior (I give free lunches/dinners, bonuses, etc).

If you give your employees incentives to do good work and pick you up more business, they will. I have employees working hard to get good reviews because they get something every time they get one. I give my employees a small piece of the pie and it pays in spades in great quality work. I am slow to hire and quick to fire as well, I only want top quality people working for me, and I pay above average wages and expect above average quality. I track and monitor that quality constantly.



We are setup on Google, Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Yahoo, Bing, and more. I just finished getting them all setup. Facebook was the only thing he was on previously. We only have 6 reviews and 4 of them are me using different Google accounts I have. I have been pushing reviews but it is like pulling teeth. I even created a QR barcode for our invoices and people still dont do it. We get at least one call a day with someone telling us how awesome we are and I tell them to go leave a review. They still dont F*cking do it. If we f*cked up, they would probably do it.

How do you get people to leave reviews? We even offered a $5 discount for people to do it at the time of payment and still no one did it. I know how valuable the reviews are because I have seen it with other websites I have done for people's businesses but actually getting people to do it is harder than it should be. I have tons of points for doing reviews on Google. I am like a Level 6 Local Guide because I know how important it is.

What is homeadvisor?

Bing just gave me a $200 credit for ads and I have some deal for Google too. That is my project for next week.
Getting reviews and testimonies can be challenging at first, but it is a long term game that is crucial to learn for any business.

Nobody is going to do anything for a $5 discount, and you don't ask for a review until after the work is completed and they are really satisfied. I never offer a discount for our work in exchange for a review, I may sometimes offer them a gift card or something and ask if they would give me a review, but if I offer them a gift card, I will give them the gift card regardless if they review or not. I don't want to buy people's reviews, I just want to give people amazing service and hope they write a review about it. Most don't, but few will.

Business is hard because people will easily write a negative review as you said, so you have to be constantly working to have as little negative experiences as possible. If someone is unhappy with a service, be quick to correct it and if you really messed up, correct the issue and give them a discount on the job. Because I do this, the only 1 star review I have is a fake review by one of my competitors trying to bring me down (I keep reporting it and getting it removed, but then they keep re-creating it on another fake account the day it gets taken down).

I had one job where we really messed up and we corrected the issues, and gave the customer $500 worth of free work to make them happy. They are still a client to this day and sing praises about us and I've easily recovered my $500. Sure I take initial hits from this, but it separates me from the rest and prevents negative reviews. These kinds of things happen, it's a part of this business, and as long as it's once in a blue moon, it will not effect you any. If this happens frequently, re-evaluate your employees.

When people are praising your services, just make it very easy for people to review you, and over time they will and it will accumulate. Ask frequently with an easy to click link, but not so much to where you are annoying customers.

Home advisor is a tool you can use to bring in leads for a fee per lead. Some of my million dollar per year local service friends use it and sing praises about it.
 

rjrobbins2

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Read Millionaire Fastlane
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I don't remember who said it, but it was like:
If you'll do a good job, client will tell about it to a friend.
If you'll do bad job, client will tell about it to 10 other people.

So you might actually look at 10% or much less of client-to-review conversions as a normal thing.

I dont expect to get reviews from 10% of customers. If we could just get 1 a day I would be happy.

We got 4 yesterday.

Starting next week, I will call customers to check quality of the work done the previous week and ask for reviews when they say we did a good job and take steps to fix it when they say we didnt.
 
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rjrobbins2

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Read Millionaire Fastlane
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I believe this may be where the issue is.
1) They want to get on with their day. This is already an unscheduled repair and don't want to hang out longer than they have to.
2) Most people are honest and want to leave an accurate review. So they may be thinking, "Why are you asking me now? The windshield might fly off on the highway tomorrow, hit a van full of puppies and there I am looking like an idiot with a 5 star review next to my name." Give them some time to verify you did a good job.
3) Give them a reason. Five bucks ain't gonna change anything, but lots of clients will identify with a 'help me fight the big guys and support local businesses by leaving a review'. Find what resonates with your customers through conversation, you'll find something that they will feel compelled to leave you a gleaming 5 star review.

Create a procedure for how, when and how to ask for reviews, make sure it's easy (direct links, multiple platform options etc.) and give them a bigger reason to leave that review.

Perhaps. But, I have seen it work on three different occassions for small business retailers such as my friends smoke shop. He started giving a discount at the register and had a barcode that went straight to the Google review page. He got 100 reviews in 2 weeks. He now is the first listing on Google when someone searches Kansas City smoke shop. That is saying a lot because we have over 200 of those now. They are everywhere.

We had 3 customers take the $5 off yesterday. It turns out; the guys weren't doing it often.

Starting next week, I will be doing quality calls 7 days from the work to check what they think and ask for reviews.
 
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