By Tom Paquin
In my everyday life, I am regularly inundated with advertisements from various service organizations. Chimney sweeps, roofers, lawn care companies, and various other enterprises are perpetually trying to sell my wife and me on their services. These typically come as a series of mailers, and each time I receive one, I remove it from my mailbox, carefully rip off my address information, and throw it in the recycling bin.
I will need all of the services advertised to me at some point, probably over the course of the next year. Where will I go when I need to find one? I will go to the same place that I go to when I need to find a reliable toilet brush: The internet. I will search for whatever I’m looking for, read a handful of reviews, and decide who to call.
Why are so many service companies participating in what seems like a game of marketing Battleship, blindly lobbing collateral at everyone with a mailbox and praying that something is a hit? The answer is obvious, of course: They want money. Recently, WorkWave conducted a survey of Pest Control companies, and their top two initiatives for next year, by a substantial margin, were finding new customers, and finding upsell opportunities with current customers. Certainly, in the information age, there are more effective ways to do this.
Moving Marketing Money Around More Effectively
The inclination to send a direct mailer, to advertise in the back of the local newspaper, and though a variety of other low-fi methods can often be traced back to the fact that, well, that’s the way that it’s always been done. It’s been successful in the past, so why not today? The reason why there are diminishing returns for these activities is that your customers are not the same as they were in the past. Customers are much more likely to scrutinize their options than they were even five years ago, with significantly more information and resources available to them to make a decision.
Customers also expect to be marketed to differently than in the past, in a way that corresponds to the way that they’re marketed to for any consumer product. Above all else, customers expect to be understood. There are two dimensions to this understanding: Understanding of them, the customer, and understanding of the external problem that they’re trying to solve. So—what’s the first step to building out a new marketing strategy for these customers?
Inhaling and Exhaling
Marketing is like breathing—You need to inhale, bringing in organic leads through inbound marketing efforts, and you need to exhale, by contacting people via outbound marketing efforts. Service organizations should focus on a slightly asymmetrical combination of those two methods of communication.
About a decade ago, the prevailing wisdom was that an “All-inbound” approach was the future. This means that all potential leads would organically visit your site based largely on content that’s posted there, from which marketers could build a plan to convert those inbound leads into revenue. After years of testing across all industries, the long-term efficacy of that strategy began to be called into question. While inbound marketing did, indeed “warm up” leads, it was the more direct outbound approach that converted leads into revenue.
Inbound may seem challenging for regional service organizations specifically because your base of leads from inbound content may be on the other side of the planet, but there are a variety of low-impact SEO utilities to ensure your content is bubbling to the top for the right potential customers. By building a bench of “How-to” articles or videos on simple self-service topics, with a simple call-to-action to contact your organization for additional questions, you’re already approaching marketing from a more tactical position than an endless flow of print advertisements. You’re getting people, like me, who are inquiring about different topics related to service, onto your website, reading and validating your expertise, and making it easy to book an appointment. Would you prefer your customer land on Yelp, or on your website? Pairing a regularly indexed and updated blog with self-service utilities through your Field Service Management will make this fairly turnkey, as long as you take the time to be smart about the content that you’re posting.
Much of this can be done in-house, written by practitioners and actionalized through a variety of software and agency resources to maximize effectiveness of inbound leads. You may balk at the initial sticker price, but upfront investment will put your business on a growth trajectory that will quickly begin to automate itself, and has a provable ROI.
Let’s talk about exhaling—outbound marketing—which is far more complicated, but is arguably more important. As we’ve established previously, it’s imperative that you avoid simply blanketing the total addressable market with ads (You might as well be mailing them each ten dollars in cash). How, then, do you put your business in front of customers’ eyes? More sophisticated Field Service Management systems allow organizations to build client and prospect lists and subdivide them by current equipment, capabilities, and potential needs. This system is the engine of outbound marketing excellence for Field Service professionals. It allows you to understand your customers implicitly.
A capable FSM platform will compile a complete service history, and indicate any regular service that’s being neglected by the client. Using this information, you can contact them via e-mail or mailer, saying, for instance, “Jon, it’s been 12 months since your last service checkup.” This proactive approach will help mitigate any system failures, thus endearing the customer to you. It’ll also remind them that you—and you alone—are their service provider. This is an imperative to retaining customers and increasing upsell opportunities.
Converting prospects through outbound marketing is a slightly different story, and often can work in tandem with those inbound activities. Perhaps you’ve logged activity from a potential customer on your website. You can follow up with the appropriate marketing materials outlining the scope of your services. Alternatively, you can collect lists of recent homeowners, or competitors’ clients, and build campaigns to strategically convert those customers when you know that they’re ready to evaluate a new system. All of these will warm up your leads enough that you’ll begin to see higher conversion rates.
Between agency, marketing, and FSM software systems, all of the tools that you’ll need to deliver transformative marketing experiences to your service firm are available to you. The last piece is, of course, your unique business. You alone know how to best represent your organization. With the right tools, and your own knowledge, you’ll set yourself up to maximize service marketing success.