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How to use QuickBooks for customer marketing.

Posted by Linda Chambers on Wed, Jun 01, 2011 @ 04:00 PM

One of my Facebook group members asked a question that made me think that the answer should be a blog post.

He wanted to know if most pressure washing professionals are using QuickBooks (QB) for their book keeping. Well QB is the #1 seller for a reason. But we use QB for so much more and since I have friends that work with Intuit in QB design and debugging, I have learned how QB can also help small business owners with their marketing.

And since June is National Entrepreneur Do-it-Yourself Marketing Month this would be a great time to show everyone some tricks and hand out tips.

First if you are not using QB you should really consider it. And if you are not fully using the report features, you are missing out on a major portion of what QB can do for you.

Did you know you can use features in QB to segment your customers in to specific groups to use later for marketing?

Go to your QB and pull up the Customer Center. Once there click on any customer you want. There you will see just under the Customer name a field called “Customer Type” This was designed to be used to indicate almost anything about your customer taht you want, but it can be used for marketing by creating reports. It has been reported in surveys to QB that over 60% of QB users do not use the "customer type" function which is a terrible waste. To get to this field click on the “Edit Customer” button, top right. Once there click on the “Additional Information” tab. Now you can access the drop down menu and use the “Add New” feature. I would suggest using this to segment your customers buy type of work you do. For example if you do only a limited type of work like only house or window washing you might want to list the types but Square foot size ranges or type of house or building. Ex: Under 1000, 1500-2000, Two story, split level, ranch, strip mall etc.
 
But most of you have a range of work you perform like house wash, roof wash, and flat work (such as driveways or side walks). Then your list could look like this: House wash <1000sq, House wash/gutters, Gutter clean only, deck wash only, deck wash/strip & stain, etc. I have not found a limit to the number that you can use and no # is given in QB help.

Some might want to use the “Job Type” under the “Job” tab in this way instead which would also be fine, but if you have already been using QB for a while and have never used the Job function it is not possible to go back and convert past invoices so this may not be where you want to segment. But you can use it moving forward as a great tool to separate invoices for the different jobs you do for customers. But you must be consistent in naming your types of jobs to make reporting easier later. But with the “Customer Type” area you can go back and modify all or as many customer records as you would like.

Once you are using the “Type” area you can create reports that give you details to make e-mail or direct mail campaigns work.

You can also use Custom fields to help you even further. For instance you could set one of these fields to be called “last date of service” then every time you have finished invoicing a customer you go here and enter in the date the job was completed. Later when you need to find customers to fill your schedule in a specific location or area you could create a custom report asking it to give you all house wash only, house/gutter and house wash/roof cleaning customers that you have not serviced yet this year to be listed. This list could further be sorted by adding other criteria like city or zip code and then be exported to an excel file where an e-mail list is made to send out a targeted e-mail offer, for example saying that you will be in that area next week and that you have three slots open and if they call and book an appointment by Friday they will get a free gutter cleaning (Or any other added service benefit you may want to offer)

Using the date of service you can also make your lists for thank you cards for the past month, find customers that have missed their normal yearly cleaning time or even for sending out customer Birthday cards if you have made a field for that.

Other things to look for when researching customer files: Review their invoices. Are they a once a year house washing customer that you have been washing for the last 5 years? You could send out a customer appreciation or referral offer. Is there a pattern of when they call or schedule their service with you? If you are slow in June you could possibly pre sell past July customers early with a phone call or an offer. Have you ever done any extra side work during one of these visits but not every time or have you ever noted there was other work available at this home that you have not done or that some one else is doing? Send them an offer like; “With any house wash every 100 square feet of flat work cleaned, you get 10 feet free.” to help get work you have not had in the past but know is available.

Make use of the notes section! Take notes on the job in a note book or on the quote form and transfer these notes into QB for a future gold mine of marketing information. Like “Customer just put in a pool, add quote for pool deck next year.”

In the newest QB version 11 they have a great new feature that allows you to attach additional documents to the file as a whole or to each invoice, estimate or sales order. You can use this feature to attach photos of the job, either at the time of the job quote, or B & A photos of the job after you are done. Then next time you can pull up what the property looked like to remind you of certain things you may have forgot to include in your costs or to notice changes when you visit that have been made since that last job that might change the price. Such as added planter boxes to the deck railings. You can also use this to attach copies of supply lists or invoices so you can remember how many cans of stain, the exact color and price you paid last time. This way you can find out the current pricing for these items ahead of time and adjust your billing or estimate accordingly. You can go back and attach new documents to old invoices with out a problem so even if you have supply lists, invoices and photos 10 years old you can still add them now to your current customer records. Once you have made and attached the copies, you may be able to get rid of the old paper work altogether. Clutter saving alert!

If you have different crews or employees doing work for you be sure to use the “Rep” drop down menu for this. This can help you track who did the quote? How many hours some one worked or the number of jobs done when paying your employees or if a customer has a praise or complaint you can easily tell who was last at that job. Or if a customer asks for the same tech you will know who to schedule. Even if changed to a new Rep at the next job visit or quote, the older invoice will still retain the past information. Great feature to use.

Now one feature I wish they would change is in the wording of the drop down menu in the “Job Info” tab. Right now it lists: None, Pending, Awarded, In Progress, Closed, and Not Awarded. I would like this to also allow you to add to these ones like: Quoted, Scheduled, Do Not Accept Job, etc.

But even leaving it this way you could still do a search for all pending sales orders to find customers that you quoted for a job (pending) that never called you back, to allow you to make a call or mailing list for follow up contact. You can also get pretty long with your job description with about 100 characters. The “Job Type” names must be shorter, at about 20 characters and this is where you can segment your customers by the work done, if you did not want to use the first location I discussed earlier "Customer Type".

Another really cool new feature in QB 11 is the map and directions feature. Not sure if a booked customer lives near one that is calling to schedule? Just click on the word “map” in blue under the customers address and the location will come up in Google Maps. It can also give you directions between addresses. It also gives you a space to enter notes if you have to remember things like “Gate will be locked, combo is 5-23-16 and must close gate behind or dogs will get out.” But this only works for the main address for the customer, so if you have a commercial customer with one mailing address and multiple locations knowing where their post office box or corporate office is may not be as helpful.

There are so many ways you can use the custom fields for marketing there is no way to list them all and I am sure you might think of ways I have not heard of yet. Only realize that in the older versions there are only 7 slots that can be used for custom field entry and once they have been made and used they can not be changed unless you make one inactive. Once you make it inactive it will not be searchable. The newer QB11 and maybe even QB10 will let you have more than 7. This has allowed us to add things like Facebook Friend and Newsletter subscriber as custom fields to our current customer accounts.

Well I hope this has helped you QB users and any that may be trying to decide if QB is a smart investment. But no matter what computer book keeping system you use, be sure to continuously make back up copies. We back up our QB files to readable/writable disks each week and once a month run a complete drive copy of our data to alternating portable hard drives. This way we can never lose more than a single week of QB data or a whole month of most of our other data to fire or theft. Another way is to pay for off site down loading, which is becoming very convenient and more affordable than ever before.

Tags: Business, marketing, QuickBooks

Taxes

Posted by Linda Chambers on Fri, Mar 27, 2009 @ 09:00 AM

One of the most dreaded words of the small business owner.

I wanted to share a few tips we have found to pass on along with some other links that may help some of you.

First tip: Get some professional help. I do not mean to have to pay a fortune for this help but too many small business owners think they can do it themselves and find out only years later after an audit, that they either owe money they don't have or wasted money they could have gotten back, but is now too late to recover it.

Even if you just read up on the subject, go on line for a self help like at Entrepreneur.com or pay for a tax filing program you will be ahead of the game.

Here is a link to a great lady I know Diana Crawford. She did tax audit videos for a client and it has helped many people, one link is at the end of this post. Besides just being an accountant with a CPA degree she is an Intuit QuickBooks expert. So if you use QuickBooks and have a problem give her a shout (I suggest you use some type of computer program). She will help anyone or at least steer them to a local person that can. She teaches QuickBooks small business classes for free and does Beta testing for Intuit on new versions of QuickBooks and is an Intuit Trainer. If you already have QuickBooks there is a wealth of free information just through Intuit Support on line.

dcrawford@cmccpas.com is her e-mail. Please indicate on the subject line or in your e-mail that you are a Soap Warehouse customer. She is also available to do any ones businesses taxes, her firm handles clients across the country.

Right now we are planing to start recording her free "How to set up your small business with QuickBooks" sessions so she will have more time to devote to hosting other advanced classes. We are also discussing with her to possibly make a video just for pressure washing businesses to address their specific needs to put on our site. I will let everyone know as soon as new sessions are available.

Next make sure you are tracking every expense. Do you give out coupons or give discounts for services to customers? You need to track that money as cost of advertising, this expense is to be taken against the money you made. If you list your total income minus cost of labor and supplies but forget this amount it could be costing you hundreds of dollars a year in tax savings.

Mileage vs actual cost: Always keep a log book in your company vehicle listing the beginning millage on Jan 1. on the first page and then keep a millage log to and from every customer or stop. List every dollar spent on gas, oil changes, tires, tune ups, repairs etc. I also suggest putting this information into a spreadsheet at least once a week or so. This way at the end of the year you can evaluate if you should take the flat mileage rate of the miles you drove for work or the actual costs of using your vehicle for business. Don't forgot the mileage on your personal vehicle either especially if it is used to do other errands like deposit money in the bank or pick up office supplies. Keep an estimate book in your family , so if you meet someone, hand them a card and give them an estimate, you can write off some of that mileage as well.

Even something as simple as doing your laundry can save you money. If you spend the few extra dollars to put a company name patch on your clothes you are then able to write off not only the cost of the items, but the cost of the patch and cleaning them for the entire year. Because they are then considered a uniform not just personal apparel, but I suggest wearing them sometimes even when you are not working to promote your business name. I will sometimes wear our Soap Warehouse business tag out just to try and start conversations and get new leads. Even putting a sign with your business's name and number on your personal car will allow you to write off the costs it takes to do it plus gives you the added advertising. I have even lent a set of magnetic signs to friends to put on their vehicle when I know are going on a long cross country trip to generate calls. I never know where my next customer may be coming from.

Here is a link to a video Diana did on how to report itemized deductions you might learn from.


Good Luck with Uncle Sam this year.

Tags: Entrepreneur.com, QuickBooks, Intuit, Taxes, itemized deductions

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