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5 Things that Service Companies can Learn from Google Analytics

Business owners and managers need reports to monitor the health of their business; to measure what works and what doesn’t, to see how they fit in the world around them, to find the best methods for gaining new customers. Part of that information can be gleaned from Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is free, robust and it can tell a service contractor a lot about their business today and trends over time.  Things like:

  1. Who is coming to your website and how they got there
  2. What people are looking for when they come to your site
  3. If your conversion goals are being met
  4. What’s working to drive high-value visitors to your site
  5. If your content meets their needs

1. Who is coming to your site and how they got there.

The Audience section of Google Analytics can tell you a lot about your web visitors. Three of the most important and interesting to monitor are geography, network, and new vs. returning.

Geography will show you where your visitors are located. This is a good way to monitor your local SEO and ensure that you are reaching the people in locations where you work. Once you segment your web visitors by location, you can study them by other metrics, like source and goal conversions (more on that in a minute.)  

For example, I can see that the majority of ServiceTrade’s visitors in the past month in Raleigh come to us direct, but most of our visitors in Greensboro are referred by our email outreach with the source Knowing that, I might be interested in browsing my recent email list for prospects located in Greensboro, and can start to cobble together an understanding of where those prospect(s) are interested in our web and email content.

Network is one of my favorites! It lists the internet service providers for your web visitors. For a lot of smaller companies and home users, this will be the name of their provider (like AT&T, Time Warner, or dozens of others), but for a lot of businesses, their network name will display as their company name. When you see a company name, you know immediately what customers and prospects have been on your site. It is fantastic for sales outreach.  

Once I pick one of my prospects out of the Network list, I can see how many visitors came to the site and when. I can see their city and state. I can see their landing page. Their exit page. And I can see if they converted on any of my site’s goals.

Network data in Analytics can be used for sales optimization. And that’s why it’s my favorite.

New or Returning Visitors  Keep track of how many new visitors come to your site in a time period and track it over the long term. Cross-reference your new user data against how they came to your site, and where they’re located. All of this information will help you understand where your customer acquisition programs are the most effective – and it’s one of the most important long term trends you can monitor.


2. What people are looking for when they come to your site.

There are a couple of ways to uncover what people are looking for when they come to your site.

By the pages they visit.  Rank your content pages by number of page views. For ServiceTrade, the most visited page after our home page is pricing so we make it easy to find in our navigation. After pricing, we look at what feature pages are most visited to understand what problems our web visitors most want to solve. For service contractor websites, those pages will be the services you offer. Giving each service its own web page or section of your website will make it easier for you to later measure site engagement to see where your audience is interested.

By the keywords they search for. Visitors’ keyword search terms also tell you what people were looking for when they came to your site. Unfortunately, the keyword list is partially obscured in Google Analytics. Instead, search traffic and keyword performance data is shown in Google Search Console


3. If your conversion goals are being met.

Analytics makes it easy to establish multiple goals for user behavior. You can get a total number of conversions for all of your traffic, and also segment it by any number of factors like network, geography, source, etc.

Set up a goal for your web forms and monitor what sources they come from. If you find a strong goal conversion through your listing on the local trade association website, you know that it’s a good place to invest your time and your money. On the other hand, if you’re investing in a program but not seeing goal conversions, you have a red flag.


4. What’s working to drive high-value visitors to your site.

Which of your programs, online profiles, emails or whatever else you do is working? You can come at this information two ways:

  1. Look at where you are having success, i.e. goal conversions, and back track those visitors to their source
  2. Look at your traffic sources, then rank them by key performance indicators, i.e. goal conversions, time on site, new visitors, etc.



5. How your content is performing.

Did you see our post that ranked our top 10 blog posts of 2016? That ranking came directly from Analytics when we organized blog posts by the most visitors.

The Behavior section of Analytics measures how people engage with the different parts of your site. Valuable points to observe are your most visited pages, pages with the longest time on site metrics, top landing pages, top exit pages, and how visitors flow through your site.  Once you’ve crunched this data, where are you surprised? Where are visitors spending more or less time than you expect? Does your site’s user experience make it easy for them to get to the most valuable information?


Schedule a Weekly Date with Google Analytics

Google Analytics is absolutely worth your time to study and uncover insights that aren’t just about your website, but about your audience that you can use to:

Your competition and Google’s ever-evolving algorithms make SEO a dynamic environment littered with factors that you can’t control. Analytics reporting is one way to see when things might be changing – whether it’s a temporary blip in the quiet weeks around the holidays – or the sign of trouble that needs to be researched and resolved.

My final parting advice is to have Evernote or your project management application open as soon as you delve into Analytics. You’ll think of a ton of data-driven ideas you’ll want to record and act on.

Best of 2016

As 2017 kicks 2016 to the curb, take a minute to revisit our most-loved blog posts of the year.

Whether they’re new to you, or you need a review, check out these blog posts for inspiration to start the new year.

How Service Companies Send Appointment Reminders

Everybody sends upcoming appointment reminders: Your doctor, your hair stylist, the vet. Are you sending them to your customers? If so, is it a phone call or an email? How informational is it? Is it boosting your brand image?



Why Service Contractors Should Send Appointment Reminders

Whether for your business or for your vet, lost appointments are lost money. Confusion happens, appointments fall off of schedules, and people get flakey and forget. So it makes a ton of sense to remind customers about appointments. In case you need convincing:

There is a good back-story about how ServiceTrade appointment reminders came to be.

The Story

When Service Link was created, we only thought of it as an after-service online report. A few months after it launched, we started to hear from customers who were sending Service Link before the appointment, too.  

It was a brilliant idea! Service Link included the list of services that were scheduled. It arrived in their customer’s inbox in a nice, mobile-friendly, branded email.  So we supported their innovation with a few small changes to make it explicitly clear that what the customer received was about an upcoming appointment.

Using Service Link in this way was one of the most eye-opening ideas that was shared at the Digital Wrap Conference. More than half of attendees surveyed said they’ll start using Service Link in new ways.

How it Works in ServiceTrade

My quick Google search today returned dozens of appointment reminder software vendors. Lucky for ServiceTrade users, they don’t need to integrate with another solution, they can use what’s already built into the application.

James Jordan covered Service Link appointment reminders in the last Bearded Briefing. Here’s how it works.


Innovation is Part of a Digital Wrap

Innovation was a big message at the Digital Wrap Conference. Shawn Mims explained that innovations come at all sizes to fix small to large problems. It’s hard to imagine a more simple innovation than using an existing feature in a new way.

An appointment reminder is one of the MIPS (Marketing Impressions per Service (read post)) that are part of your Digital Wrap. This simple alert:

ServiceTrade customers are innovators who use technology in unexpected ways. Those customers solved a problem by looking to the software they were already using. There’s a good lesson here that if you find yourself with a problem, take a look at what you already have in place for how it might be part of a solution.

And if you’re using ServiceTrade to solve a problem, let us know about it!  Our customers constantly surprise us with their innovative problem solving.

Also read:


What’s your MIPS (Marketing Impressions per Service) Number? Try 9.

All too often, service contractors separate marketing from service cycle operations. Aside from truck wraps and uniforms, the two are not viewed as complementary. But aligning these business efforts is one of the core tenets of building an effective Digital Wrap. In this post, I want to focus on one particular union of service delivery and digital marketing: Marketing Impressions per Service (MIPS).

What is Marketing Impressions Per Service (MIPS)?

The concept is simple. For each service delivered, there are a series of useful, electronic communications your company should send to every customer. These communications build trust, customer loyalty, sales, and brand value.

From pizza to your pantry, there are many great examples of this practice in other markets. Domino’s, for instance, is dominating the pizza-buying experience thanks to their app that provide real-time updates about your pizza’s delivery status. On the other hand, Amazon has mastered the art of MIPS with order confirmation, delivery updates, and personalized product recommendations.

Every marketing impression serves a different purpose for the customer, however, each should contain the following:

Branding: You should always include your logo and company name in every communication.

Contact information: Provide the most relevant point of contact for each type of communication.

Link to service details: Much like the notifications sent by Domino’s, your MIPS communications should contain a link to additional details about the service(s) you are providing. Domino’s links users to their real-time pizza tracker. Similarly, you should send users to a job summary updated in real time like ServiceTrade’s Service Link.

9 Essential Marketing Impressions in the Service Cycle

All of the communications below are important marketing impressions that reinforce your Digital Wrap. Each touch is an opportunity to put your brand in front of the customer and show that you’re committed to providing a great experience at every step of the service cycle.

1) Due for service reminder

A reminder that the customer is due for a service should be sent about a month before the service is actually due. This reminder is especially important when providing relatively infrequent recurring services such as preventative/planned maintenance, inspections, and cleanings that occur on a less than monthly frequency,

Between services, this reminder will help you retain your position as the vendor of choice. Without this reminder, the customer may turn to one of your competitors when they need service and your brand was not there to help. In addition to the bullets listed above, this message should include:

2) Appointment reminder 

Every appointment for a service should be preceded by an appointment reminder 1-7 days in advance. Like the text reminder your dentist likely sends you before your teeth cleaning, this type of reminder is very helpful for the customer. This communication, like many others in this series, reinforces that your brand is helpful, easy to work with, and technologically savvy. Include the following in this message:

3) Tech on the way

Much like Amazon’s out-for-delivery notification, your techs should have the capability to let your customer know that they are on the way and when to expect them. Your customers will appreciate the heads up so they can prepare for the tech’s arrival. This message should include:

4) Appointment complete

After the work is complete, the customer should receive a brief summary that provides access to pictures, videos, and other data that the technician collected during the appointment. Visibility to the great work your company provides will build trust and customer loyalty. The following should be included in this message:

5) Satisfaction survey and/or review request

Checking the pulse of your customer satisfaction is critical to building a dominant brand. If your customer satisfaction is high, take advantage of it by requesting an online review that can help grow inbound lead generation. There are a couple ways to skin this particular cat.

One approach is to request a review from customers who respond positively to a dynamic survey via a platform like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms. For example, if a customer indicates that they are satisfied, you could request a review on your Google My Business Page.

Another option is to use something like ServiceTrade’s Service Reviews feature to generate reviews on your website that drive local search engine optimization. Note that you will likely receive better reviews before you send an invoice to the customer, but you should always keep an eye on the impact your prices have on your overall customer satisfaction.

6) Job summary

After the job is complete and the office has a chance to review and collate all of the data gathered on every appointment, a message should be sent to the customer summarizing what happened. Like the appointment complete MIPS, this message should provide the customer with visibility to the service(s) you provided with rich media like pictures, videos, and other data in order to build trust and loyalty. Include the following:

7) Personalized recommendations

This often takes the form of a quote for additional work or repair of issues found by the technician. When a quote is sent within 48 hours of the initial service, the likelihood that a customer will approve new work increases dramatically. This message can be sent prior to the invoice if it is ready. It should include:

8) Invoice with job summary

In order to keep the primary focus on payment, this message should be limited to the most important details, but still provide access to all of the important job information. Simplifying the payment process will further reinforce your brand as being easy to work with. This message should include:

9) Invoice link for credit card payments

The final marketing impression is the online payment. An invoice with a “pay now” button provides your customers a convenient way to pay by credit card or bank account. This payment option will not only improve cash flow by encouraging customers to pay their invoices quickly, but will also communicate that you are a modern company that prioritizes ease for your customers.

Though many of these communications may not seem like marketing in the traditional sense, they represent the future of brand building via digital marketing for service contractors. They are not blatant, in-your-face promotions. Instead, they are seamlessly integrated into your service experience in a way that provides value to your customer and, therefore, builds the value of your company’s brand.

Want to see these marketing impressions in action? Request a demo.

Angie’s in Your Wallet Again – Take Advantage of It

Earlier this year, Angie’s List announced that they were blowing away the paywall for its members. The goal is to gain more users and recoup the lost revenue by charging more to service providers.

These changes became a reality in the past few weeks, and the last part — about service providers paying more — made a lot of service companies very sad.

The changes mean that service companies pay for an advertising program in order for their reviews to appear to potential customers. Paying the customer toll for advertising on Angie’s List is a reasonable program, so long as you use it as a resource for new leads that you convert to your customer, where you maintain the relationship with them forever — not Angie.

Don’t mistake their mission, Angie’s List is a publicly traded company with new investors and senior leadership whose mission is the profitability of their company. And they’ve done a good job of inserting themselves in a valuable spot between service companies and their customers. Google and Yelp have done the same, and it’s reasonable to expect that all of them will work to own customer relationships and reach deeper into your pockets when you want the privilege of doing business with their customers.

In the press this week before the company’s earnings announcement, Angie’s List CEO Scott Durchslag said, “Where I really want to go is where we become the first dedicated, purpose-built home services marketplace that just automatically knows what needs to be done around your home and schedules that and dispatches that. It keeps track of it entirely for you.”

Where do you think you fit in that scenario?  How much will you have to pay to be the provider that Angie’s List chooses to dispatch?  How much negotiation power do you expect to have in setting your labor rate or gross margin on parts? Using Angie’s List as a medium to collect new customers is one thing, but being dispatched by them for hourly labor is another.

If you don’t like these changes today, then you need a strategy for how to use Angie’s List before bigger, more painful changes come in the future.

Your BFF Angie

Search Engine Land is a good resource for explaining how to respond to changes from the internet giants.  In this SEL article, they break down what the changes mean:

  1. Angie’s List ranks high for company names.
    This is an area where you can’t beat them, so you might as well join them. Think about how you can use Angie’s List winning search results as part of your online reputation. You can do that by ensuring that your profile is complete and contains good reviews. And now, by carefully investing in advertising to ensure that your ranking shows for all users.
  2. Angie’s List reviews are kept exclusive.
    Angie’s List hasn’t opened their APIs so that you can post Angie’s List reviews to your company website the way that you can with ServiceTrade’s Service Review feature. In order to take advantage of the SEO power of having reviews on your company’s site, collect reviews through review services from Google or Service Review.

Don’t Become a Puppet

A service company retains its control over its profitability, and long-term customer relationships when it uses Angie’s List and Google on its own terms. Invest wisely on these sites to ensure visibility of your company, but make sure that you’re getting a strong ROI.

Regardless of any investment you make with Angie’s List or Google to use their platforms, don’t let any entity become a middleman between you and your customer.  Keep the giants out when you:

Guest author Bob Misita of LeadsNearby talked about Angie’s List in the Digital Wrap. Here are a couple of excerpts from the book that are even more relevant in today’s landscape.

An Excerpt from The Digital Wrap: Get Out of the Truck and Go Online to Own Your Customers

Chapter 5: Digital Tolls: The Only Rule Is There Are No Rules

As a service contractor, what do you own? Your trucks? Equipment? Maybe your building? You likely own or control most of those pieces, but who owns your customer relationships? What about your online brand and reputation? Do you own and control these?

Your online brand and reputation, as well as your customer relationships, are very real and important elements of your business value that you can manage and optimize. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to maximize the value of your online brand and reputation if you understand the game. Play the game correctly and you will increase your Internet traffic without large expenses from Internet advertising tolls.

You’ve probably driven on a toll road or bridge. That’s a helpful metaphor for understanding the business model of online advertisers like Porch, Yelp, Angie’s List, and others. These sites collect Internet user traffic through the creation and curation of Internet content. Then they charge you, the business owner, tolls to direct some of that traffic to your website or phone number. As the quote at the beginning of this chapter indicates, the user traffic on these sites is the product that is being sold to you, the advertiser.

However, this toll road metaphor is actually backward, because it is usually the traveler who pays a toll to use a road instead of the road owner paying a toll to receive the traveler. On the Internet, you, the business owner, pay the toll to the website that directs the traffic to your company. The important part to remember is that the toll collector needs both traffic and destinations for the model to work. Understanding how they generate traffic and how to make your destination (that is, your website) attractive helps you minimize the tolls you pay for receiving travelers. The most attractive websites pay the smallest tolls for traffic. Make sense?

Let’s review the rules that these digital advertising properties follow. But wait… there are no rules! Each of these websites has total control over how information is displayed on their site and apps. The only real rule they have is to maximize the size and quantity of the tolls that you, the advertiser, pay to them. To do this they focus on increasing traffic and maintaining trust with consumers who visit their sites. High traffic and high trust yield higher toll volume and higher toll prices for you to pay.

These toll collectors use business profiles along with customer reviews for those profiles to attract Internet travelers. Business profiles are descriptions of businesses like yours. The profile reviews provide helpful information that potential customers use to make purchasing decisions. A profile for your business, along with reviews and other information, can exist on each of these online platforms WHETHER OR NOT YOU CREATED IT OR MANAGE IT. This is an important point because you want to at least be certain your profile is accurate and you want to be responsive to bad reviews. Just because you are ignoring your profile and reviews on these sites doesn’t mean that your customers and prospects are ignoring them.


Angie’s List

Just like Yelp, you are likely to have an Angie’s List profile regardless of whether you create and maintain it. Be proactive, claim your profile, and make it consistent with all others. But even owning your Angie’s List profile may not be enough to get Angie’s List users to your profile page. Angie’s List’s big claim is that no contractor can pay to be on Angie’s List; you simply set up a free profile for your business and people will find you. For a few select categories of service providers that might be true, because there are so few that all must be displayed for Angie’s List to have any value whatsoever to the Internet traveler. For less populated areas of the country where there are very few service providers, this statement also holds true. But what if you are an air conditioning repair company in Atlanta, Georgia? It’s a safe bet that you will be paying Angie if you expect her to display your profile to potential customers.

It may be a wise move to advertise your business on Angie’s List so long as the advertising provides value – meaning paying customers – and you can afford the cost. But it’s important to know the terms. The bottom line is that when you sign a contract with Angie’s List, make sure you can afford the expense, especially if the faucet of leads that they promise never turns on.



Get your copy of the Digital Wrap at for Kindle or in paperback.

Further reading:

Three things that turn your customer marketing into customer retention

When Billy’s Digital Wrap book came out, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed to buy highlighters. At this point, my book probably has more highlighted passages than not. My favorite paragraph is from chapter 7:

The digital wrap delivers impressions to the customer (and prospects, too, in some cases) before, during and after service appointments. A digital wrap, like a truck wrap, is simply a set of service activities that places your logo, brand promise, value proposition, and contact information in front of the customers throughout the service cycle.

There’s a lot of good stuff there, but I want to focus on the word “customer.”



When you think about your marketing programs, and the audience for your marketing impressions, how much do you focus on reaching prospects and how much on customers? Maybe 100% on new business, and 0% on existing customers? Maybe 80% / 20%?

But we all know that keeping a current customer is much more cost efficient than adding a new one. Customer service surveys have shown that the service experience is the most important factor that influences retention. Customers get frustrated when businesses are difficult to work with, and they say that they want more digital interaction. With a digital wrap, you engage customers online with service artifacts that leave lasting marketing impressions for your brand.

So it’s time to beef up your customer marketing program. The good news is that it’s the most effective and cost-effective marketing. And if you do it right, your customers will appreciate hearing from you.

The three characteristics of a successful customer marketing outreach program are:

Use Personalized, Organically-created Content

You’ve heard that “content is king?” Content marketing is thought to be effective because it shows a company’s breadth of knowledge in their area expertise, and it’s an element of SEO best practices. Maybe you can even earn the coveted title of a “thought leader” in your industry.

The trouble with content marketing for busy service contracting companies is twofold: First, creating the content on a regular cadence; and second, getting it in front of your customers or prospects. Finding the right channels to reach your customers, engaging them, and getting them to take action takes a lot of dedicated time, effort and money.

Instead, create direct marketing impressions where the content is personalized to that individual customer’s facility, equipment, and the work you will do or have done for them.

Some examples:

Time Outreach Around Service Activities

Take advantage of the instances when customers want to engage with you instead of adding disruptive impressions that require an effort to get the customer’s attention. It’s cheaper, easier, more effective, and it incorporates marketing impressions into your service delivery.

Some examples:

Focus on the Customer

Have you ever tricked a young child into eating healthy foods by sneaking them into something they actually want to eat? I think about incorporating your brand into your customer engagement the same way.

Your online customer engagement gives the customer what they want: An easy way to do business with you that helps them want to keep doing business with you. Online customer engagement also gives you what you want for your marketing program: A positive brand perception by your customers, brand visibility, ways to showcase the value you provide, regular two-way communication, and an easy way to convert new service opportunities.

Impressions like these are extremely affordable and efficient for you to create and send to your most important marketing audience. Thoughtful, targeted, personalized customer marketing strengthens your relationships, ensures retention, and increases your revenue-per-customer.


The Digital WrapYou can read the chapter of the Digital Wrap book that I mentioned for free. Head over to

27 Local SEO Tactics for Service Contractors

Every company wants to easily be found on Google, but search engine optimization (SEO) is a mysterious realm for most people, especially service contractors who deal with a unique set of challenges associated with local search results. Working to rank high in searches conducted by people in your nearby communities is a service company’s most important form of SEO. We are always on the hunt for good advice to pass along, and this week we found a fantastic article by UpCity that not only explains local SEO but also provides a step-by-step guide for succeeding with Google and other search engines: 27 Local SEO Tactics for Completely Dominating Your Local Market

27 Local SEO Tactics for Completely Dominating Your Local Market

There is only one minor change that should be made to the steps provided in this guide. Experts often recommend completing parts 2-4 of this guide BEFORE creating or updating your Google My Business page as described in the first part. Creating or updating your Google My Business page will likely trigger Google to crawl your website and external citations to determine how to rank your company in search results. If you complete this step first, there is no telling how long it will take Google to crawl the information available about your company; leaving Google with an incomplete picture.

Implementing modern search engine optimization as a part of a comprehensive Digital Wrap strategy takes a lot of work, but will yield new inbound prospects that make it well worth your while.

Read Article

Here Comes the Amazon of Services

Amazon Air Meme

Drones probably won’t impact your field service company, but Amazon’s other accomplishments in online customer engagement most definitely will. Have you noticed that it is impossible to purchase anything from Amazon without first seeing a picture of what you are buying? On every page that references your items, there are pictures of those items. Here are some other questions about the Amazon experience to consider:

How often do you buy something from Amazon without reading the customer reviews first? And how often do you focus on the bad reviews to see what kind of trouble you might expect from the product? And how often do you ignore the good reviews that seem flowery or mushy with compliments but short on detail?

How many email updates do you get from Amazon regarding the status of your purchase? How often does Amazon call you with updates? How often do you call Amazon to request information?

Have you ever depended upon a paper invoice from Amazon as your record of what you purchased and how to pay?

All of the answers to these questions are simple and obvious, so I left them off. Yet most service contracting companies have not embraced the obvious lessons from Amazon. The whole world is being conditioned to expect online information about the things that they buy, and services will be no different. Look no further than Uber, the car transportation service, to see how service businesses will be operated in the near future. Skilled trades in service contracting will not be an exception. So what are you doing to prepare for the future?

If you manage or own a service contracting business, here are a few things to embrace before the Amazon of services embraces your customers and takes them from you:

  1. Online Notifications – give your customers online status updates regarding service delivery. They do not want you to call, and they certainly do not want to call you.
  2. Pictures – show customers what they purchased, or what you are recommending, via photos. Whether “before and after”, or “was dirty, now clean,” or “was broke, now fixed,” or “golly, this looks bad, we better fix it,” pictures are worth thousands of words.
  3. Reviews – always ask for a review. It empowers the customer. It encourages good behavior from the technicians. It gives you content for your website that is valuable to the search engines.
  4. Online Accounts – give your customers access to their service history and account settings from your website. It is convenient to them, and it lowers your costs.
  5. Stop being nutty about invoices – give your customers a rich record of what they purchased, including details of arrival, items used, photos, signed acknowledgement by the manager, etc., and the invoice becomes a simple formality. When it is clear that value was delivered, the invoice can be a clean and simple statement of amount owed.

If these sound like upgrades you would like for your service business, we have good news. None of these changes to follow Amazon’s successful model are difficult or expensive. Don’t believe it? Ask some of our customers. There’s nothing really special about ServiceTrade other than the fact that we are copying modern capability from other industries and bringing it to you. You just have to acknowledge that you want to do business with your customers in the manner of Amazon.


Also read:
Online Customer Engagement is Bad Yelp Review Kryptonite

Coke – A Lesson in Branding for Service Contractors

No matter what your deep-seated opinion about what the best soda may be, Coke has a premium brand that all service contractors can both appreciate and strive to reproduce. Coca-Cola’s march to market domination was driven by forced ingenuity brought on by poor business dealings that led to the price of Coke sticking to 5¢ a bottle for nearly 70 years from 1886 to the mid 1950s. For reference, this is the ONLY known product to maintain the same price for so long. Not only that, but there were three wars, the Great Depression, prohibition, and a litany of lawsuits against Coke during this same period of time. Service contractors can learn three important lessons from this small piece of brand-building history:

  1. Market (and sell) your differentiator
  2. Build customer loyalty around what matters
  3. DO NOT compete on price

Now…to douse ourselves with a brief history of Coke.
Derek Zoolander dousing himself in coke


The Mistake

How did the price of Coke stay 5¢ a bottle for so long? Well it came down to one bad business deal in 1899 at the hands of Coke’s president at the time, Asa Candler. Two lawyers from Chattanooga, Tennessee approached Asa with an outlandish idea to start bottling Coke. These lawyers proposed that Coke enter an agreement to give them perpetual and exclusive bottling rights for the soda indefinitely and lock in pricing for the syrup at 90¢ per gallon.

Asa Candler didn’t believe that bottling was going anywhere, so he signed the contract to get the lawyers off his back. In hindsight, this deal seems absolutely crazy, but, at the time, bottle drinks were not popular and soda was sold primarily as a fountain drink. As we all know, bottle drinks exploded in popularity which presented Coke with an interesting dilemma.

The Response

No matter what the demand or price for a bottle was, Coke was going to make the same amount on each bottle sold, and the bottlers could sell each one at whatever price they wanted. Coke quickly realized that a lower price per bottle was more profitable because it lead to more sales volume. With this in mind, Coke set off on a loss-leader marketing campaign that would both haunt them for years and lead them to market domination.

Coca-Cola plastered the airways, magazines, billboards, paraphernalia, and even buildings with advertising that included the 5¢ price. While other sodas sold at upwards of 10¢, Coke clearly defined itself as an affordable option. This brilliant marketing strategy not only set Coca-Cola apart from its competitors, it also indirectly set bottle price for distributors. Remember, the price didn’t matter for Coke, only the volume. Over time, this campaign was extremely effective for Coke and helped them grow to be the brand we know today.

5 cent Coke advertisement

The Result

At the time, however, inflation was practically nonexistent because the nation was on the gold standard. After the abolition of the gold standard, the value of the dollar steadily decreased with regular inflation which put Coke between a rock and a hard place. The world was plastered with advertising promoting the 5¢ price so any shift in pricing strategy would require tremendous investment that wouldn’t result in any additional profit for Coca-Cola due to the contractual price lock on syrup for bottlers. On the other hand, if bottlers couldn’t sell Coke at more than 5¢, they would lose money and stop selling Coke all together.

Ultimately, Coke cut a deal with the bottlers to end the long-standing contract for syrup pricing and regained pricing control of their product in the 1950s. End-consumers were not excited about the ensuing price hike, and Coke had to cough up plenty of cash to cover up their past marketing efforts related to the nickel Coke. Though their brand was temporarily tarnished, Coke managed to see their way through this difficult and expensive transition due to the crazy customer loyalty accumulated through the same past marketing strategy.

The 70 year stint of broadcasting the nickel Coke message played right into their successful and ongoing strategy to associate Coca-Cola with traditionalism. Consumers trust Coke for its long-standing roots in Americana. For example, how would you answer the question “What’s the most American soda (or soft drink or pop or fizzy drink)?”

American flag

The Lessons

What can service contractors learn from this brief study? Well, let me expand on the three points mentioned earlier:

Market (and sell) your differentiator
Coke uniquely set themselves apart as the affordable brand. In a world of “one truck Chucks” competing on price, instead, set yourself apart with an amazing customer experience. Read more in our blog post Highway to Success: The Power of Customer Satisfaction.

Build customer loyalty around what matters
Coke leaned on affordability and traditionalism to build customer and brand loyalty. The most successful service contractors I’ve met build loyalty (and insanely high customer retention) upon amazing customer service driven by technology. They WOW customers with useful, educational, frequent, and rich information about the services they provide.

DO NOT compete on price
Is loss leadership a strategy to recreate? NO! Coke marketed around affordability which worked to their advantage, but ultimately cost them severely. Avoid this pitfall as it makes future price increases extremely difficult

If you want to learn more about this period in Coca-Cola’s history, I highly recommend you listen to Episode 416: Why The Price Of Coke Didn’t Change For 70 Years, a Podcast by Planet Money.

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Modern Tools for Service Contractors, Part 3: Outbound Sales and Marketing

Both residential and commercial service contractors rely heavily on new sales for growth. Where residential contractors rely on converting inbound leads, commercial contractors lean on a mix of inbound and outbound tactics. This post lays out a handful of sales tools that are not only easy to use, but also extremely powerful across the entire lifecycle of new sales from prospecting to closing. Residential contractors will likely find more value in the last two sections, while commercial contractors will benefit from the entire suite of tooling listed below.

sales is like fishing. right?

Google – Discover Great Prospects

Let’s start at the beginning of the sales cycle: Prospecting.  Who are you trying to sell your services to?  Google makes it extremely easy to find the best prospects if you know how to take advantage of its powerful search features.  For example, if you are a commercial HVAC company trying to find the best restaurants and restaurant groups to sell to, here are a few different search techniques you could employ:

LinkedIn – Find Contact Information

Now that you’ve targeted the companies you would like to pursue, it’s time to find the correct contact and their information. Start by using LinkedIn’s advanced search to search by title, company name, location, and any relevant keywords.  Much like advanced Google searches, you can use quotation marks for exact string matches. You can also use “AND,” “OR,” “()” operators.  For example, you could search “president OR CEO OR owner” in the title field or “(facility OR general) AND manager” in the title field to find the facility manager or GM.  Once you find the profile for the person you need to contact, use a Google Chrome extension such as Email Hunter or FindThatLead to unearth their email address.

Note: LinkedIn can also be used to find prospective companies by using relevant searches.  For example, searching for “Restaurant Group” in the keywords field, “CEO OR president OR owner” in the title field, and limiting to relevant locations returns very useful results.  For more information on using LinkedIn in the prospecting process, check out our blog post Lead Prospecting Guide for Tech-Savvy Contractors.

Pipedrive/PipelineDeals – Manage Sales and Prospects

Customer relationship management (CRM) platforms help organize and manage your sales pipeline. An entry-level application such as Pipedrive or PipelineDeals is perfect for companies new to CRM, while platforms like SalesForce and Infusionsoft will be a better fit for larger, enterprise sales organizations.  These platforms house all sales related contact information and tasks to ensure that nobody drops the ball in the sales process.  Email integrations makes it easy to log communications so that no one has to dig through emails to understand the last or next steps in a deal.  When properly managed, these applications help any sales rep handle more prospects, deals, and opportunities.

MailChimp – Build Value with Customers

MailChimp is a great entry-level email marketing platform. Setting up your first email marketing campaign is a breeze with their simple interface that takes you from contact list to beautiful email in no time.  Because of its widespread use, MailChimp integrates with many other applications including WordPress to collect contact information on your website and CRM (like those mentioned above) so that your company can easily broadcast marketing messages to prospects or customers.

Email marketing provides service contractors with an incredible opportunity to build tremendous value with both their prospects and customers. Simple, targeted emails can endear you and build trust and credibility. This is especially true when you:

Take a close look at your sales organization and ask yourself if you have the visibility and productivity you need to reach your personal and company goals.  If sales is an integral part of your growth plan, these tools will not only make your life easier, but also accelerate your business development.  Every single tool listed above is either free, or extremely cost effective.  Your only commitment is the time it takes to learn a new tool which I guarantee will be far outweighed by overall sales performance improvements.


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