This is where most businesses fail. Leads run a business because without leads there is nobody to sell. The majority of my leads come from online but 100% of my leads when I first launched my gutter cleaning company came from online. Online marketing is going to jump start your business for you and depending on how you treat these leads will determine how your business begins to grow organically.
Local Business Online Listings
You have a website that is live, now it’s time to let the internet know that you exist. The best way to start is to begin submitting your website and business information to the top online business directories. I’m going to list out 13 places you can start submitting your website and business information to below. You will notice that these local business directories come in many forms like social networks and local map listings in search engines.
- Google Places
- Bing Places
- Angie’s List
- Merchant Circle
I did a simple search for “gutter cleaning” from my computer in the top 3 search engines – Google, Bing and Yahoo. Below I want to show you images of how the first three local listings that I listed above show up in these three search engines on the very front page below.
As you can see, the three top search engines brought up what they consider to be the best local business options to present for that specific search. I outlined the map listing sections in red. Try running this same search in your area to see the competition that is brought up. They say that in Google, for local searches, the local map results account for about 60% of the clicks. Now this may have gone down ever since Google expanded the amount of ads they show on the front page, but either way, that’s a large majority of the clicks for local searches. You want to be shown here.
These are just 13 of hundreds of great places to submit your business. If you are going to manually start submitting your information, this is a great place to start. Many websites automatically scrape these websites and begin to automatically add your website and business to many other websites. Before you submit any of your business information, let’s go over some things you should be made aware of.
- Once you start submitting your phone number online, you will begin to receive an annoying amount of spam phone calls from people trying to sell you online services. You cannot avoid this, it comes with the territory. To avoid this issue, I like to use a forwarding phone number that I assign as the public facing number for my business. I personally use www.CallFire.com. CallFire allows me to purchase a phone number for $10/month and it costs .05 cents per minute to receive phone calls at this number or .05 cents per text message that is sent to and from this phone number. This phone number can be set to redirect to any phone. So what I do is have it forward to my cell phone and whenever a business call is coming in, I have it setup with a whisper so I know that it’s a gutter cleaning call. A whisper is just a quick message that is said to me before the call connects. So whenever someone calls the business phone number, when I pick up, I hear “Gutter Cleaning” and then it connects. Now I can use my personal cell phone and know exactly when someone is calling for gutter cleaning. Whenever a spam call comes in, I can log into the CallFire control panel and block the call from ever being able to connect again. I also prefer to use a forwarding number because I can switch who the phone call connects to at any time. Or, I can even set it up to connect no calls and instead speak a certain message to the caller and direct them to voicemail. This service also has call recording options so I can go back and listen to the phone calls to improve my pitch.
- When deciding if you need a forwarding number, think about the future. Where will you be in 6 months? A year? 2 years? You’re building a solid business and the internet is going to start spreading this phone number. Your business will end up being connected to this phone number because people will save it, it will be all over the internet, it will be on receipts and business cards. Basically, this phone number will be connected to repeat and new business 24/7. If you use your personal phone number, then you might have to give it up if you end up deciding to sell the business in the future, or hand it off to someone else. Always think with the future in mind.
- When submitting local business listings consistency and accuracy is key. You want to make sure you don’t have contradicting information across multiple listings. Make sure you are as consistent and accurate as possible because it will either help or break your online rankings.
- Make sure to fill out as much of the listings as possible. Fill out every input field, make sure to add as many pictures as you can, have great descriptions that talk about the services you provide and the areas that your service. Be as detailed and thorough as possible. Don’t leave anything on the table when it comes to content input.
- If you have an option to add the area that you service and there is an option to do a radius around your location or an option to input specific zip codes, always go for the zip code option. I find that I rank better when I input specific zip codes instead of going the lazy route and putting a radius around my address. Yes, this might mean that you will have to do some research and manually enter many zip codes.
- Get reviews for your local listings. This is a huge ranking factor. For example, for Google Places your listing will stand out a lot more because at 5 reviews Google starts showing review stars on your listing. Reviews are super important. I briefly mentioned how to get reviews previously. These listings is where you want to direct people to leave reviews. If they have a Gmail account, send them to Google. If they don’t, send them to Facebook, Yelp or others. Concentrate on one listing at a time and slowly fill them up with reviews.
As you noticed in the above section, many of the local business listing sites are social networks. Social media is a great tool to help push organic local growth. To help you fill out your social media accounts and make them stand out, I have included banner and icon graphics that you can customize and use for your social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
Many businesses start on the right path and take the first step of creating their social media accounts. Some will take the next step of getting them properly filled out and designed, but this is where most companies leave off and leave their social media pages a ghost town. I believe that if a social media page isn’t helping you, then it’s hurting you. When someone lands on your social media site, it’s probably because they are looking for reviews about your company or to see some of your past work. Having an empty social media page with no activity could end up hurting your reputation with the individual doing his or her research. If you don’t plan on doing anything with your social media page then you’re better off not promoting it on your website. I want to show you that having a thriving social media presence isn’t as difficult or time consuming as most people think. Most give up on their social media page because they think it’s a lot of upkeep and they have a hard time coming up with new content to post consistently. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be.
When one of my clients started out, he didn’t have a website, but only a Facebook page. This Facebook page ended up getting him a decent amount of customers just because he posted on it consistently at least once a week. Everytime he went out to do a job, he would take a before picture and then once the job was complete, he would take an after picture. Once a week, he would choose the images that had the most dramatic before/after difference and posted them to his Facebook page. Posting images from your smartphone takes minutes of your time and everytime you go out to do a job, you already have content for your social media profiles. Attached to each image he would write something simple or funny and then would let the reader know that they can get a free quote by messaging him.
Facebook and other social media sites have very simple one-click invite options for business pages/profiles. Once he posted a few images, he invited some of his friends to like his page and the organic growth began from there. You’d think that nobody gives a crap about before/after gutter cleaning images and would never like them, but you’d be surprised! There’s something satisfying about seeing a dirty full gutter before it’s cleaned and after it’s cleaned. Many people end up clicking, commenting or liking the images which makes it show up in more people’s feeds. Eventually you’ll find your company being recommended to people comments and you will begin getting quote requests through messaging.
If posting once a week is still too much for you, then I recommend using a service like hootsuite.com. The free version should be sufficient for you. HootSuite allows you to connect a few social media accounts and schedule posts to go out automatically across all of your social media accounts. If you don’t want to think about social media for a month at a time, or more, sign up for hootsuite, schedule a post per week for a month, and let it run for you automatically!
With social media for a gutter cleaning business, if you have to try, you’re doing it wrong. Keep it simple, stay consistent and you will see it benefit your business.
You can post online service ads on classified ad websites like craigslist.com, but you will bump into a lot of competition that tends to charge much lower than what you can charge using other marketing methods as I will begin describing below.
To make classified ads work well, you need to post in as many areas as possible and as often as possible without being marked as spam. While it’s not generally allowed by most classified ad sites, you can get away with using auto posting software that you can purchase online. Read reviews to make sure that the software does a good job at posting consistently without getting you banned. The best option is to do it manually, but using automatic software to post is always an option to save a lot of time and get you out there as much as possible.