What Types of Customers are You Fishing For? (Automatic Fish - Part 3)

Posted by Ryan Moore on Jun 30, 2016 4:24:51 PM


When it comes to building your business with leads that come from the internet, it's either feast or famine.

I've heard horror stories from landscaping companies who have spent thousands of dollars on a website and 3rd party marketing services, but when everything was up and running, the phone never rang.

I've also talked to contractors who built an effective online presence, but were overrun with calls and wasted hours every day dealing with tire kickers.

Businesses that take the time and effort necessary to build a presence on platforms like Google, Bing, Yelp, and Angie's List often have all the business they can handle and no longer have to pay for any advertising, but it can come at a cost. So if you want to effectively fish the digital waters and grow your bottom line with business that comes from the internet, it's important to know what you're fishing for.

What are You Fishing For?

In part 1 of this series, we looked at a simple way to identify the products and services customers regularly search for online. Part 2 introduced 6 psychological principles that can help your business become the automatic choice within your marketplace.

In future installments, we'll look at how to construct a net that consistently brings in the catch. But before you blindly go and throw your net in the water, let's take a step back and figure out exactly what you're trying to catch.

It's helpful to think of your website as an automated conversation. It's no secret that the internet has changed the way consumers look for products and services. Instead of having to call to learn about the services local companies provide, customers can get tons of background information from online sources before they ever pick up the phone.

Sites that convert well speak directly to the needs and desires of their target audience. You may not think it's a good idea to construct your site in a such a way that alienates entire audiences, but when you try to market to everyone, you end up marketing to no one. So if want to get calls from people you actually want to talk to, your content needs to focus on how you can make their life better.

Who are your Ideal Customers?
- What products and services do they purchase?
- What cities are their properties in?
- What type of property do they have? Is it a golf course, HOA, business complex, a single family home?
- What do they value most?
- What frustrations do they have?
- What are their most common objections?
- How can you make their life easier?

It may seem a little strange to spend time answering these types of questions, but the better you can describe your ideal customer and how you can help them, the easier it will be to attract them. The next installment in the Automatic Fish series will focus on creating web content around the answers to these questions.


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Topics: Business

6 Principles of Influence that Automatically Attract Customers (Automatic Fish - Part 2)

Posted by Ryan Moore on May 24, 2016 6:00:17 AM


Would you run your company differently if you had more business than you could handle?

What would you do if you constantly received calls from customers that discovered your company online and were excited to work with you based on your glowing reputation?

Would you hire more employees, raise your prices, say no to lower margin jobs, pick and choose your customers and the services you provide? All of the above?

While this may sound too good to be true, after working on over 100 internet marketing projects across dozens of industries, I can assure you that in most niches, a small percentage of companies get most of the business.


Because these companies have taken the time and effort necessary to build a positive online reputation. They are featured prominently at popular online destinations (fishing spots) that large groups of their target customers (fish) visit as they're making purchase decisions.

In part 1 of this Automatic Fish series, we looked at one way to discover the terminology your customers are using as they're searching online for products and services. These keywords are the framework that allows you to build an effective online presence (net). But without the proper bait, your net won't catch many fish.

In this article, we're going to look at 6 key principles of influence that you can use to bait your net so you can attract more visitors and convert more of those visitors into leads and sales.

Dr. Cialdini's 6 Principles of Influence

robert_cialdini_32.jpgWith over 30 years of research, Dr. Robert Cialdini, is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of persuasion, compliance, and negotiation. Early in his career as a researcher, he spent 3 years infiltrating sales, advertising, public relations, and fundraising agencies. He would answer newspaper ads for trainees and pose as an aspiring professional so they would train him.

After learning 1000s of different tactics, he identified 6 key principles of influence that many compliance professionals continually use to get their prospects to say yes. These principles are:

1. Authority
2. Social Proof
3. Commitment and Consistency
4. Scarcity
5. Reciprocation
6. Liking

Even though these principles were originally observed in person to person interactions, they are also influential online.

Principle #1: Authority

Without question, the most important principle is authority. If you aren't perceived as an authority, you will have a tough time charging a premium for your services. It should be your goal to immediately provide online prospects with evidence that demonstrates you can be trusted. Text is good, but graphics are better!

One way to do that is by leveraging your company's longevity and experience. That could include:
- The number of years your company has been in business.
- The number of years your company has served the local community.
- The number of years your employees have been in the industry.
- The number of customers your company has served.
- The number of completed jobs.

To take it a step further, you can further establish yourself as an authority by having a relationship with other authorities. Here are some examples:
- Is your company licensed, bonded, and insured?
- Has anyone on your staff received professional instruction or training?
- What is your rating with the BBB?
- Are you a member of any industry associations?
- Has your company won any awards?

Principle #2: Social Proof

Another way to build your authority is through social proof. The principle of social proof states that when people are uncertain how to act in a situation, they often look at what other people say and do. Social proof operates most powerfully when we are observing the behavior of people just like us.

Testimonials are a well-known form of social proof that can be a great addition to your site. But your best strategy is to slowly and continually build reviews on platforms such as Google, Yelp, Angie's List, and Facebook. If you can position your company prominently on the right review sites, your business will get all the leads you can handle. Sometimes too many, which leads us to...

Principle #3: Commitment & Consistency

Within sales, one of the more classic examples of commitment & consistency is the "foot in the door" technique. You start with one service offering and expand to additional services as the relationship grows.

But when it comes to digital marketing, commitment & consistency is also expected of the business. Negative customer interactions can have serious implications on your ability to attract leads from online sources, especially if you don't have many positive reviews to balance the negative ones.

I've seen far too many negative reviews left by people who weren't ever customers. Situations where they weren't called back or where the sales representative never showed up to provide a quote. On review sites, there is no way to separate a customer complaint from a non-customer complaint, so best practices is to treat every interaction as if your business depends on it and always set the proper expectations.


Bottom line: If you don't live up to your word, your online reputation will suffer.

Principle #4: Scarcity

On the plus side, if your business is already at the point where you have too many leads to handle, it's time to use scarcity to your advantage. According to Dr. Cialdini, people assign more value to products and services as they become less available. Properly prequalify your prospects early in the conversation. Politely get rid of prospects that don't fit your service parameters. Throw them back in the sea!

If you are overrun with business and the phone is ringing off the hook, it's time to reassess the services you offer, your service area, and your existing book of business. Maybe it's time to stop offering a low margin service or discontinue a relationship with an unprofitable or problem customer.

Principle #5: Reciprocation

Reciprocation is one of the most widespread norms in human culture. If someone provides something to you, it's generally assumed that you will return the favor at some point in the future.

When it comes to the digital interactions, reciprocity usually fits in when you have content that helps someone else fix a problem on their own or when you provide a resource even when it doesn't directly help you at the time. It's a means of further establishing you as an authority in your field.

Another example that would fall more into the sales cycle is when you take time out of your day to visit the prospect's property to provide a quote. Even if you don't get the job, a positive interaction where you provide as much value as possible can help you build your reputation.

Principle #6: Liking

Liking is pretty simple. We tend to buy from companies and people that we share something in common with.

Is your business family owned? Locally owned? Do you employ veterans? Do you actively support causes? Are you a member of any social groups? Make it known throughout your online presence. It could be the one piece of information that earns you the business.

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Topics: Business

Automatic Fish: How to Get a Steady Stream of Customers From the Internet (Part 1)

Posted by Ryan Moore on Mar 29, 2016 5:11:35 PM


It's no secret that the internet has changed the way consumers shop for local services.

It wasn't long ago that when you needed a local service, you would pull out the phone book and start making calls without really knowing much about the company other than what you saw in their ad. If you were fortunate, a friend or family member had someone they could recommend to you, but you were often flying blind. You simply had to go with your gut and trust the salesperson you were speaking with on the phone.

Today, we're moving further and further into an Age of Transparency. Especially within local markets, consumers are able to conduct extensive research and compare service providers before they call to get a quote or arrange a service call.

In their 2015 Local Consumer Review Survey, BrightLocal found that:
- 60% of consumers search for local businesses on the internet at least 6 times per year,
- 92% of consumers regularly or occasionally read online reviews,
- 68% say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more,
- 80% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Local businesses that take the time and effort necessary to build an online reputation that outpaces their competition have a distinct advantage. They have a steady stream of customers contacting them to do business. They spend little to no money on advertising. And when they really get things going, they can raise prices, turn down low margin jobs, and pick and chose customers and the services they provide.

Learning to Fish the Digital Waters

Attracting customers on the internet is much like fishing. When customers use their pc, tablet, or phone to enter the digital waters, they turn into fish that are, for lack of a better term, magical. They can disappear and reappear at will, be in multiple places at the same time, and they're invisible until you get them on your hook.

To succeed online, you must build a net to automatically catch these fish. You need:
- To identify who your fish are and what they're looking for,
- To put out lines at popular fishing spots,
- Bait to capture their attention and draw them closer,
- Hooks to bring in the catch.

It takes significant effort to build a productive net and we'll be looking at various ways to attract fish over the coming weeks and months. To get you started, the rest of this article will focus on a task that can make or break your net: keyword research.


What are Your Fish Looking For?

Whenever I start a new project, the first thing I do is look at the language surrounding it. If you want to be found in search engines or on local review sites, it's critical to know the terminology your fish use when they're looking for your services.

There are a number of great keyword tools out there that can help you find the keyword phrases that reflect who you are and what you do, but the one I always come back to is Google's Keyword Planner. You'll need to setup a Google Adwords account to use the Keyword Planner, but it's free to use for keyword research. I used the tool for years before I ever paid for an ad.


Step 1: Write Down the Type of Business You Are and the Service You Provide

Every keyword phrase you find that accurately reflects who you are and what you do gives you an additional opportunity to put out additional lines in the digital waters, especially when you find a niche that is underserved in your local market.

For example, if you're a contractor that focuses on installation, your initial list of services might include:
- Landscape Irrigation
- Landscape Installation
- Outdoor Kitchens
- Pavers
- Barbeques
- Water Features


Step 2a: Use the Google Keyword Planner to find keyword phrases. After you've logged in, click on "Search for new keywords using a phrase, website, or category."

Search_for_new_keywords.pngStep 2b. Enter the service you want to research and click the blue "Get Ideas" button. In this case, I searched for "tree removal".



Step 2c.  The Google Keyword Planner will provide you "Keyword ideas" on one tab and a list of "Ad group ideas" on another. The ad groups listed on the "Ad group ideas" tab groups similar phrases together, but you'll find keyword phrases in both areas.



Step 3. Take note of keyword phrases and the number of times they are searched each month.

It may look a little intimidating at first, but keywords are the backbone to any online strategy that involves search engine optimization and getting traffic from referral sites, which are two of the best ways to build your online presence. We'll cover those topics and more in future blog posts.


Image Source: Chinese Fishing Nets by Tim Moffatt


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Topics: Business

Equipment Finance 101: Lease vs Finance vs Rent

Posted by Ryan Moore on Jul 7, 2015 5:33:00 PM


The right power equipment can make or break both the day-to-day operation and the long-term success of your business. But it's not enough to just choose the right pieces of equipment, you must also successfully manage the expenses surrounding the acquisition and maintenance of that equipment.

Unless you have a significant amount of cash on hand, it's generally best to finance at least part of your purchase. In fact, over 80% of the commercial power equipment that we sell at Horizon is financed.

But what financial product is best for you? In this article, we'll identify some of the advantages and disadvantages of financing, leasing, and renting commercial power equipment and look at some key questions that will help you determine which option is best for you.


Financing Power Equipment

Financing can be a great tool when there's a piece of equipment that you want to add to your fleet for the long-term, but prefer to keep cash on hand for other expenses. There are two main types of financing available:

1. Installment Loans - Commonly used for larger purchases, installment loans offer predictability. You get a fixed payment at a certain interest rate that pays for the unit over an agreed upon number of payments.

2. Credit Cards & Lines of Credit - Also referred to as revolving credit, credit cards and lines of credit offer more flexibility than a loan. Both can be used for multiple transactions and are automatically renewed as debts are paid off.

Why Finance?
• Financing helps you preserve cash flow by spreading your payments out over time.
• Financing usually offers the most tax deductions (e.g. depreciation, insurance, repairs, taxes, and interest). Be sure to check with your tax professional prior to purchase to confirm what deductions you're eligible for.

Disadvantages of Financing:
• Overall cost is higher than what you would pay if you had purchased the unit outright.
• Payments are typically higher than a lease.
• Repairs not covered under warranty are your responsibility.

Key Questions to Answer Before You Finance:
• Is this a loan, credit line, or credit card?
• What can be purchased with this account (e.g. specific product/manufacturer, accessories, used equipment, repairs & service)?
• What is the down payment?
• What is the monthly payment?
• What is the interest rate?
• What is the total cost over the lifetime of the loan?
• Are there any pre-payment penalties?
• What happens if you miss a payment?
• What are the tax benefits?

Leasing Power Equipment

Leasing can be a great tool for acquiring equipment that you would like to use for the mid to long-term, but it's important to be aware of the terms of the lease because there are different types. Some leases act as an extended rental agreement, but others are structured more like a loan and give you the option to purchase the unit when the lease is over.

Why Lease?
• Leases help you stay current with the latest technology and allow you to keep newer equipment in your fleet.
• Like a loan, a lease allows you to preserve cash flow by spreading payments out over time.
• Lease payments are often lower than loan payments.
• You can usually deduct your monthly payments as an operating expense for tax purposes. Be sure to check with your tax professional beforehand.
• Some leases cover maintenance.

Disadvantages of Leasing:
• Many leases limit the number of hours you can put on the unit and the penalty for going over that limit can be severe.
• Overall cost is often higher than what you would pay if you had purchased the unit outright.
• Leases generally offer fewer tax benefits than loans.

Key Questions to Answer Before You Lease:
• What happens at the end of the lease?
• If you decide to purchase the unit, what will the purchase price be?
• What is the down payment?
• What is the monthly payment?
• What is the interest rate?
• Is there a service contract? What does it cover?
• How many unit hours are you permitted? What is the penalty if you go over those hours?
• What happens if you miss a payment?
• What are the tax benefits?

Renting Power Equipment

Renting can be an excellent short-term solution, especially when it's unlikely that the equipment will become a permanent part of your fleet. But renting is not without risk and the higher cost of renting must be considered to ensure profitability.

Why Rent?
• You need additional equipment for seasonal work or to complete a project that's outside of your normal service offering.
• You want to try out a new piece of equipment before purchasing, financing, or leasing it.
• An important piece of equipment is in the shop and you need an immediate replacement.

Disadvantages of Renting:
• Renting generally costs significantly more than financing or leasing.
• It can be time-consuming to learn how to operate new equipment and to pick it up and return it to the rental company.
• You may be liable for damage to the unit, which can further inflate your costs.

Key Questions to Answer Before You Rent:
• What is the daily/weekly/monthly cost of renting?
• Is there enough margin in the job to cover the cost of a rental?
• Who is responsible for servicing or repairing the unit?
• Under what circumstances are you liable for damage to the unit?
• Do you need insurance coverage? If so, what is the cost?


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Topics: Business

2 Financial Statements that can Predict Your Business’s Future

Posted by Mike Whitlock on Sep 18, 2014 12:43:01 PM

Knowing Your Company … Every Number Tells a Story

Every decision you make - every management move - is captured on your company’s financial statements. Looking at and analyzing the numbers and trends on your financial statements regularly is the best way to assess the impact and results of the decisions you make. 

Every single number on your financial statements provides tremendous insight into the history of your company and the financial health of your business. They are a window to your company's past and its performance. And while it’s important to know the past for history and a sense of nostalgia, it is even more important to know the past and use it as a predictor of the future. 

The financial statements of your company are an incredibly powerful tool you can use to chart a course for your company's future. Setting financial goals and monitoring financial performance are critical for any company to succeed. But first, owners and managers must get to know the numbers and the story behind each one. 

Analyzing Financial Statements in 3 Steps

The process of analyzing statements does not need to be cumbersome. It doesn't need to be time consuming. And, it doesn't need to be left for the professional accountant, advisor, or banker. 

If growing a business that’s profitable year after year is important to you, YOU must have a firm understanding of the financial picture and position of your business. After all, it is YOUR business. YOU make the decisions that impact the financial results because YOU are the one that will benefit from sound decisions and suffer from less-solid ones.

Sound financial decisions can be made by following these 3 steps:



What Financial Statements Show You about Your Business

Financial statements are the report card of your company and can provide incredibly meaningful insight into the questions:
• Where has my company been?
• Where is my company today? 
• And most importantly, Where will my company be tomorrow? 

Financial statements can provide answers to the following key considerations for success:
• Where does all the cash go?
• Can I afford to grow and expand?
• How are sales moving and what is driving the changes in revenue?
• What is my company’s break-even point?
• What is really driving my company’s profits?
• Is my return as an owner commensurate with my level of financial risk?
• Does our service deliver the standards our customers expect?

Through a partnership with Horizon and a series of on-line articles, we will be providing answers to these important questions. We will give you tools to help you grow your company, improve your cash flow, and increase your profits. We will provide financial tools for real success. 

Remember: Every number tells a story. What’s yours?

About the author:

Mike Whitlock, MBA is President of Tannian Consulting, Inc., a recognized leader in financial, marketing, and strategic planning services, training, and consulting. Mike develops and delivers practical financial programs for business owners, managers, and advisors, specializing in financial management and strategic planning.

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Topics: Business