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Today is National "Get to know your Customer Day"

Posted by Linda Chambers on Fri, Jan 19, 2018 @ 10:55 AM

I bet you did not know there was a "Get to know your Customer Day". Well neither did I. It is actually observed annually on the third Thursday of each quarter (January, April, July, October) not just once a year. But this is a good time to mention something you should be trying to do all the time. Because the more we know our customer the better we can sell to them and service their needs. Plus touching base with your customers every quarter is a great way to keep on their mind and get referrals even if they do not buy services again from you at the time.

There are some things you can do to make your customer feel appreciated and wanting to spend more with you. Write a personal note of thanks: everyone likes to know you like them as a customer and if has been proven that a simple handwritten note or post card can do a lot. Be sure that you are just saying thanks, not trying to sell them, use pretty stationary not strictly business printing.

Thankyounote.jpgThankyoucard.jpg

Send those customers that spend above a certain amount a small swag gift or a gift card. It can be something as inexpensive as a $1.00 koozie or a $5 card to Starbucks (if you know they drink coffee, which I do not).

You can discount a customers sale for long term loyalty, for instance 10% off at their customer anniversary. Or give them a percentage back for each year they have been a customer on their anniversary.

Choose one customer a quarter to highlight as a case study on your website, Facebook page, in a news letter or other way. Focus on the job you did for them; how you turned a negative into a positive, how a problem was fixed, how you came to the rescue for a customer, did a job free for a non profit, worked with an organization on a cleaning project. These personalized write ups can bring attention to certain aspects of your business not everyone may know. Can bring great SEO to your business and gain you new customers.

Make sure you have an use a customer referral program. Satisfied customers are your best selling asset and Never forget, you do not have a business without your customers.

Tags: customer satisfaction, thank yous, referral program

Here in March we are having another local Atlanta UAMCC event.

Posted by Linda Chambers on Wed, Mar 04, 2015 @ 11:11 AM

Thursday March 19th is the date and the hotelbanner will be the location for our next UAMCC free event. (Free with ticket, see bottom of post on how to get yours)

At this location we will have a larger meeting room then our last event,Meetingroom1

for those that come and stay over, there is a special room rate for some very nice rooms,

spacousroom

 a very good free hot breakfast, Breakfast

and indoor pool. indoorpool For those that are local and just come for the day, coffee and danish will be available in the meeting room starting at 7:00 am during registration until we start the meeting at 8:00.

We plan this time to have more topics with shorter 30 minute siessions to keep things moving and keep everyone's attention. The 15 minutes after each presentation will be for Q&A for the speaker and for anyone that needs to, pop out to the restroom or to grab some more to drink or eat what is available. Lunch will be 45 minutes, provided by the sponsors on site.

Right now the topics to be covered are:

What is Inbound Marketing, Why you should use video to promote your business, which will include at the end our giving away a free 60 second, professionally made video, for the business of one of the attendees, a talk on Referral programs, a video and discussion on Occupational Health, an additional session on Marketing of which I have not been given the title as of yet. A talk from the one of the UAMCC staff about their benefits and their certification program. Why you should have a spill kit followed by a hands on spill kit OSHA training class that you can learn and take back with you to be able to use to train your own staff. We are also working on having a representative and one or two lifts from Sunbelt rental on site to either give a talk about their services and hopefully actual lift training at the end of the day.

Lunch right now is planned to be catered cold sandwiches, chips, fruit, soft drinks and cookies. But if we get enough people to register we might make it a hot catered sandwiches like BBQ instead. See schedule.

The Fairfield Inn and Suites is right off the I-85 North Interstate, just up from the Gwinnett Place Mall

Map

with restaurants of all types for dinner the night before and after the event. Bahama Breeze is just across the parking lot and has a full service bar and if enough attendees are staying over I would suggest we all meet over there Thursday night to continue networking and getting to know other fellow contractors.

   
7:00 - 7:30  Registration  
7:30 - 8:00  Coffee and Networking
8:00 - 8:15 Welcome and let's get started
8:15 - 8:45 session 1 Inbound marketing
8:45 - 9:00 Q&A and break  
9:00 - 9:30 session 2 Why videos 
9:30 - 9:45 Q&A and break Draw for winner of a free video
9:45 - 10:15 session 3 Marketing TBA
10:15 - 10:30 Q&A and break  
10:30 - 11:15 session 4 Referral programs
11:15 - 11:30 Q&A and break  
11:30- 12:00 session 5 Occupational Health 
12:00 - 12:15 Q&A and break  
12:15 - 1:00 Lunch Sandwiches, chips, fruit, soft drinks and cookies
1:00 - 1:30 session 6 TBA
1:30 - 1:45 Q&A and break  
1:45 - 2:15 session 7 Spill kits
2:15 - 2:30 Q&A and break  
2:30 - 3:00 session 8 OSHA hands on Spill kit training
3:00 - 3:15 Q&A and break  
3:30 Outdoor Lift training if possible.
     

If Sunbelt can not come we may add one extra session but the plan right now is to let the local folk be able to head out if they want by around 4-4:30 to get a jump on the Atlanta traffic. But we will have the room until 6 for those that want to stay and Network or even get a roundtable discussion going on about any topic of choice. Will also be a good time to continue speaking with any of the speakers or sponsors or if not yet a member join the UAMCC.

The sponsors for this event are Soap Warehouse and Iron Man Power Washers (equipment leasing)

  472pixels_soapwarehouse_finallogoRGB     cropped-0000ironmanlogo

To get your free ticket with a number to use in the registration call either Soap Warehouse 1-800-762-7911 or Iron Man Power Washer 1-855-662-8171.

To register for this event Go Here

To book a Hotel room call the hotel directly 1-678-924-1023 and mention UAMCC event.

Prices are $96 + tax for King or Queen and $120 + tax for Suites. This rate includes a hot breakfast.

I hope to see you there.

 

Tags: referral program, UAMCC, marketing, networking,, meeting, training

Mid Year is Here!

Posted by Linda Chambers on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 @ 02:02 PM

Well the Summer Solstice has just come and gone so this means half the year is already pasted us by. What have you accomplished in your business and what is still on your to do list that you haven't even started?

It is not too late to begin even some major business projects that will still add to this years bottom line. And do not let this busy time of year stop you from doing a fast 30 minute evaluation.

Get out our business plan, your business calendar, your to do list and any of the other helpers you have made to use as a method to gauge your progress so far.

Print out a year to date comparison from your accounting software like Quickbooks and see how you are doing. This is something you should already be doing every month. Are you ahead of last year, or the year before, are you where you projected you needed to be?

With these tools go over the positives and negatives and use them to change or update your business plan for the upcoming six months.

Are you doing the necessary social media connections that you should be doing to bring in new organic business? Not enough time, then try to delegate some or all of these tasks.

Is your referral program bringing you the number of jobs you planned so far? If not how can you improve it or expand it?

Are you noticing too many of our quoted jobs are going to your competition?

Is your pricing structure not giving you the profit you need?

If you need to review some of our past blog posts to create the tools you should be using here are some to check out:

What is a business plan. http://info.soapwarehouse.biz/blog-0/bid/102796/What-really-is-a-Business-Plan-and-Why-should-I-make-one

Building Success in 20 min's a day. http://info.soapwarehouse.biz/blog-0/bid/92822/Building-Success-in-Twenty-Minutes-a-Day

How to monitor your Social Media Footprint. http://info.soapwarehouse.biz/blog-0/bid/71888/How-to-monitor-your-Social-Media-Footprint-in-10-minutes-a-day

Referral Programs, why they work. http://info.soapwarehouse.biz/blog-0/bid/63253/Referral-Programs-Why-they-work

How to use and analysis a referral program. http://info.soapwarehouse.biz/blog-0/bid/79408/How-to-use-and-analysis-a-referral-program

Competitor Comparison to see where you stand. http://info.soapwarehouse.biz/blog-0/bid/78895/Competitor-Comparison

How to avoid pricing mistakes. http://info.soapwarehouse.biz/blog-0/bid/60013/How-to-avoid-pricing-mistakes

I hope this year has been a good one for you so far and if not I hope some of these ideas will help you make improvements. Have a great day.

Tags: business plan, referral program, analysis

5 things to do during the Winter slow times.

Posted by Linda Chambers on Thu, Jan 09, 2014 @ 10:14 AM

Now for many this is the start of your slow time or winter break and you may think you have nothing much to do but sit around and wait for the temps to get warm again next Spring. Well you are sorely mistaken if you want to improve and even build your business throughout the Winter months. Here are some steps to make sure your New Year is a good year.

1. Do your budget for the New Year. See what you spent this past year. What was more than you expected? Less? Can you make changes next year that will gain you ROI? Stop doing things that are losing you money. If you can't stop them totally, then change them so they won't be the money pit to your budget they are now. As I mentioned in a previous post, now is the time to shop around for phone service, insurance, equipment for next year. Be sure to include a 5% increase from what you spent this year on every line item in your budget. This way even if the cost of a few things don't go up during the course of the year the ones that do can have funds moved from others without undo stress of looking for that money. It may not be perfect but it will help. 

2. Work on your collateral marketing materials, purchase new clients give-a-way items, update, improve or start a customer referral program. Did the items you handed out last year get you new customers? What worked and what didn't? Don't beat a dead horse and by another 1000 imprinted rulers if you did not earn back their cost. Try something new instead. Got an item like your business card magnets that got to a 600% return on their cost? Double your order for this year and hand out even more!! Good tried and true items for this are: Business card magnets, Note pads, Pens, Clips magnetic or other wise for papers or bags, calendars, and other useful household items like rubber disk lid openers.

 3. Up date your web site. Up load newer B&A photos from this years jobs you haven't had the time to get done. Potential customers may visit your site 3-5 times before deciding to call or fill out your on line form for an estimate. Seeing that you are working, adding new photos and gaining more testimonials may sway that person to go ahead and try you instead of someone else. Adding a blog and keeping content current gets you better SEO. If you do not have a testimonial page or area on your site yet, ADD ONE. nothing convinces a potential customer more than reading statements from satisfied customers. Add video to your site. Action segments do not have to be long and having a professionally produced video will look even better. We use a company called iMotionvideo.com. You can either buy single videos one at a time or like us join their video membership club and have a new video produced each month.

4. Update your customer contact list, e-mails and phone numbers. Check to see if any past customers did not use you this year and try to contact them to find out why. You can send out an email survey to all those contacts to see if they moved, didn't think they needed service this year, went with someone else due to price. Send out a E-mail message saying you missed them last year and hope they are doing well. Be sure to send all new customers a Thank You message, Newsletter or New Years savings offer to try and pre book as much work as possible now for Spring. Remember give added value offers not percentage off offers for best results. For example: Book your Spring house cleaning before Feb 1, 2013 and get a free gutter cleaning, or window washing or mail box cleaning. What ever you think is incentive enough for your customers to schedule now instead of waiting until Spring. Make sure you evaluate what worked or did not work last year and possibly increase your enticement. Update or improve on your customer referral package. Send out cards or e-mails offering free services, gift cards, etc for new contact information of friends and family. When these new contacts buy be sure to full fill your referral promises quickly to promote additional referrals coming in.

5. Plan now to network by attending local and National industry events in the coming year. If you go ahead and schedule them into your yearly calendar you can know how much business you will need to book before and after them to still make your monthly budget numbers. Many events local and National are heald in these first few months of the year to get the largest attendance possible. Also explore improving or expanding your business with new offerings by learning or becoming certified with new skills. Check out the industry organization web sites, forums, and on line industry magazines to find these opportunities. If you stop learning you stop growing as a person and a business.

I hope all of you get some much needed family time off this Winter season but also be sure to follow these suggestions and you will have plenty of business to keep you busy all this year.

Tags: marketing, business plan, referral program, budget planning, advertising

Profit is all in the follow up.

Posted by Linda Chambers on Mon, Jan 21, 2013 @ 01:56 PM

I have spoken in the past about customer service, referral programs, attending networking events and getting commercial jobs, but the one thing they all have in common to bring your business success is in learning how to do the follow up.

customerservice resized 600

The hardest thing after the initial terror of first contact is in the follow up, but that is where your business can be made or lost, right there.

Not every person that starts a pressure washing business or any business for that matter is a natural born sales person. Most would just like to be called, asked to do a job and then just go out and do it. But the calls are not just going to magically come in, most job opportunities must be created and nurtured by you, the business owner for them to happen.

It is always surprising that business owners go to the trouble to attend an event, exhibit at a trade show, send out a marketing piece that yields them business cards, filled out contacts or questionnaires and then they do nothing or little with them.

In too short of time these contacts will be lost or tucked away to never be used to generate the business they were intended to and why? Because these owners failed in the follow up. Follow up does not have to be scary, complicated or difficult. It only takes a simple call or short contact first as a refresher to start you on the road to more jobs and profit.

As soon as possible after you get the contact make your first follow up. Best if it in within the first 24 hours. It can be very brief and doesn't even have to ask for a job commitment. A simple "It was nice to meet you." Even if left as a phone message or in an e-mail, along with a promise to get with them soon about their shown interest in your business. Here is a great time to mention exactly what was discussed to help bring your contact back upm in their mind. Then once the promise is made, that becomes your next opportunity for follow up.

Remember the person you met also met many other people and businesses at that same time and just this short reconnect will bring you back up into focus in their mind and put you ahead of others when you do make your next contact. It takes 3-4 times of contact before most people will consider using you, even if they are interested in both your service and business in particular.

Next contact should be made giving the specifics about what you discussed with this potential new customer as promised. Here you can spell out the benefits of your service, who else you have worked for, and the positive results (the same ones this person is after), along with the cost. You do not have to start out with a special offer, unless one was promised or discussed at the first meeting. You may be successful right away with the customer paying full price for your service, so do not offer any deal until later if needed. Why give money away for no reason.

Once you have given them the information do not ask for the job, allow them to feel in control and let them have some time to go over the information you have given them. But you should not give them long or leave it open, you need to set up when and how the next follow up will happen. Will it be with you calling them again in the next two days? With you sending them an e-mail after the weekend? Try to make the next action still under your control. If they insist on being the one to contact you back, go ahead and agree but state that if you do not hear from them by a certain time, such as the next 7-10 days, that you will be contacting them again for the follow up. Statistics show that as many as 80% of new business is lost due to the lack of follow up by the potential customer.

The next contact is when you should ask for the business that was discussed that you provided the information on. It should be some thing like "Mr. Hall, are your ready to book the "service" we discussed on "date"?" If they say no try to find out what is the reason for their delay? Time isn't right, cost is too much, scope of work not exactly what they need right now. This is the time where you answer questions, make suggestions and if necessary make a special offer if cost is a factor, or offer a free service to go with the planed on, like cleaning the sidewalk or stairs with the house wash.  Even with a special offer put a short limited time for this opportunity to happen. You do not want someone to come back months later when you are busy and other customers are paying you full price asking for you to take the time to do a discounted amount of work. Tell them you can do this job this week because an opening has come up for this price but if they wait until a weekend or later in the month they will have to pay full price, reminding them that they do not have to be home for you to work.

Follow up is not just for new customers it is also important with your current customer base. Statistics show that as much as 60% of client loss is simply due to losing touch. The customer can't find your number, remember your business name to look you up from last year or they saw a competitors ad when ready for service again and doesn't want to take the time to contact you about matching it. It is ideal to try to touch your clients at least once every three months during the year, or in the 30 days just before the service they bought before would be coming up to be performed, such as Spring cleaning, Summer deck or pool deck cleaning, Fall gutter and roof cleaning. At least twice a year is the minimum you should try to make contact. Money is in the "Follow Up".

While follow up takes discipline, it is not hard and does not have to be frightening. Spending a little time putting together some simple keep in touch marketing campaigns by mail or e-mail, to foster your business relationships, with both prospects and clients will more than pay for themselves. Good luck with your follow ups.

Tags: marketing, business plan, customer service, Trade Show, referral program, follow up

Happy Holidays from Soap Warehouse

Posted by Trey Miller on Mon, Dec 17, 2012 @ 02:07 PM

Happy Holidays to you all. Hope you all had a profitable year and we look forward to working with you in the New Year. 

Now for many this is the start of your slow time or winter break and you may think you have nothing much to do but sit around and wait for the temps to get warm again next Spring. Well you are sorely mistaken if you want to improve and even build your business through out the Winter months. Here are some steps to make sure your New Year is a good year.

1. Do your budget for the New Year. See what you spent this past year. What was more than you expected? Less? Can you make changes next year that will gain you ROI? Stop doing things that are losing you money. If you can't stop them totally, then change them so they won't be the money pit to your budget they are now. As I mentioned in a previous post, now is the time to shop around for phone service, insurance, equipment for next year. Be sure to include a 5% increase from what you spent this year on every line item in your budget. This way even if the cost of a few things don't go up during the course of the year the ones that do can have funds moved from others without undo stress of looking for that money. It may not be perfect but it will help. 

2. Work on your collateral marketing materials, purchase new clients give-a-way items, update, improve or start a customer referral program. Did the items you handed out last year get you new customers? What worked and what didn't? Don't beat a dead horse and by another 1000 imprinted rulers if you did not earn back their cost. Try something new instead. Got an item like your business card magnets that got to a 600% return on their cost? Double your order for this year and hand out even more!! Good tried and true items for this are: Business card magnets, Note pads, Pens, Clips magnetic or other wise for papers or bags, calendars, and other useful household items like rubber disk lid openers.

 3. Up date your web site. Up load newer B&A photos from this years jobs you haven't had the time to get done. Potential customers may visit your site 3-5 times before deciding to call or fill out your on line form for an estimate. Seeing that you are working, adding new photos and gaining more testimonials may sway that person to go ahead and try you instead of someone else. Adding a blog and keeping content current gets you better SEO. If you do not have a testimonial page or area on your site yet, ADD ONE. nothing convinces a potential customer more than reading statements from satisfied customers. Add video to your site. Action segments do not have to be long and having a professionally produced video will look even better. We use a company called iMotionvideo.com. You can either buy single videos one at a time or like us join their video membership club and have a new video produced each month.

4. Update your customer contact list, e-mails and phone numbers. Check to see if any past customers did not use you this year and try to contact them to find out why. You can send out an email survey to all those contacts to see if they moved, didn't think they needed service this year, went with someone else do to price. Send out a Holiday Greetings E-mail message saying you missed them this year and hope they are doing well. Be sure to send all new customers a Thank you holiday message or New Years savings offer to try and pre book as much work as possible now for Spring. Remember give added value offers not percentage off offers for best results. For example: Book your Spring house cleaning before Feb 1, 2013 and get a free gutter cleaning, or window washing or mail box cleaning. What ever you think is incentive enough for your customers to schedule now instead of waiting until Spring. Make sure you evaluate what worked or did not work last year and possibly increase your enticement. Update or improve on your customer referral package. Send out cards or e-mails offering free services, gift cards, etc for new contact information of friends and family. When these new contacts buy be sure to full fill your referral promises quickly to promote additional referrals coming in.

5. Plan now to network by attending local and National industry events in the coming year. If you go ahead and schedule them into your yearly calendar you can know how much business you will need to book before and after them to still make your monthly budget numbers. Also explore improving or expanding your business with new offerings by learning or becoming certified with new skills. Check out the industry organization web sites, forums, and on line industry magazines to find these opportunities. Many are available during these slower Winter months. If you stop learning you stop growing as a person and a business.

I hope all of you get some much needed family time off this Winter season but also be sure to follow these suggestions and you will have plenty of business to keep you busy all next year.

Tags: Business, marketing, network, business plan, referral program, testimonials, analysis, calendar, budget planning, web site

How to use and analysis a referral program.

Posted by Linda Chambers on Tue, Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:34 AM

During this month of Business Planning in December, we will take a look again of how to use a customer referral program and how to analysis its progress or failure. I know this will be a long post, but please bear with me.

First of course is to all ready have a referral program in place. Next if you have been using more than one type of reward or style of gaining a referral these must be segmented out.

Next you must count the number and type of responses you got from these referrals and how much you monetarily gained from each type.

Once you have this data you will be able to make predictions for the coming year and institute changes that could improve your results.

Let us take the following results as an example to be able to follow how a referral evaluation might be done.

Say company ABC PowerWash serviced 250 customers during the past year.

Of those 250, 200 where residential and 50 commercial. And of the residential 75% where repeat customers from some time in the last three years 45% in the last 12 months.

And with the 50 commercial customers half are contract customers that you see on a monthly or at least on a quarterly basis with the rest being new or only the occasional once or twice a year customer.

Of the 200 residential customers only 20 (10%) participated in any kind of referral program the entire year: an average of 5 per quarter.

10 handed out your cards and got you 16 new customers from them, with you giving your old customers a $25 credit card gift card as a thank you. Total spent in gift cards $400. Say these 16 jobs brought you an average of $800 per job with a 20% profit that would have been $2,560.00. Thus it cost you 6.4% of your profit to get this work, 2560/400= 6.4. Or 2560-400=2160/16=$135 profit per job.

Now in the next few months (90 days) if you tested out a new incentive offering half of your customers a $50 card instead of the $25. If in this case you saw an increase in the number of booked referrals from the higher card offer you would be able to see if the amount of increased business was worth the expense.

For example you offer the next 20 customers (10 of each offer amount): 2 customers got you jobs at the old $25 rate but 5 customers (1/2 of those offered) got you jobs at the higher $50 per rate. Leaving the average job cost and profit the same let us look at the numbers.

2 x $800 = $1,600 x .20 = $320-$50= left you $270/2 or $135 per job for your profit.  The same 6.4% cost of return that you had this past year with this same offer. Now let us look at the referrals offered at the higher card amount.

5 x $800 = $4,000 x .20 = $800 / $250 card cost = or 3.2%. You might think that was better but look at the total profit per job, 800-250=550/5=$110 profit per job after paying out the cards. But did you lose in the long run? If you go with the set amount that only 2 out of every 10 customers will take the $25 card and give you a referral, that means you will miss the other 3 at the $110 profit for each.

You need to figure out if those potential three new customers a quarter that will cost you the extra $25 per job in profit at the initial job is worth it to you. Could be if you have lots of open time and you need that $330 cash flow for your family. Plus if they become a returning customer or better yet become a free word of mouth referer. So you increased the number of old customers that participated from 20% to 50% but did slightly reduced your profit per job from the year before for these initial jobs with the higher offer.

Now let us look at the other 10 residential referrals from last year that you had. 6 had given you names of a friend or family member that booked a job because you offered them a free service on their next years business (they had turned down the $25 card offer prior to your $100 offer), that was to say, you offered them what you would have normally charged a customer $100 for (but costs you $40 to provide) to be free at their next visit. 

Again let us use the same average price and profit for these jobs. So 6 jobs x $800 =  $4,800 x .20 = $960 / $240 (the actual cost to you) = 25% of the cost came out of your profit. This looks like a much larger cut out of your profit, but look at the profit per job, 960-240=720/6= $120 profit per job. It is actually better than the $50 gift card, since the out of pocket expense is $10 different, $40 vs. $50. While you might think giving away free services wouldn't be smart you can see it could be better on the bottom line by bringing you more work. But since they had already turned down your $25 card offer for the free service is this offer of free service something you want to keep? No real way to tell.

So as stated earlier for the next three months you offer half your customers the $25 card and the other half $50 gift card and don't make the $100 free service available at all and you still got the 5 new customers. Since you have no idea how many of these 5 (or more) you would have gotten if you had kept the $100 value offer you will just have to use the ROI of $110 per job as the result. Your next 3 month test may have to be the $50 card vs. the $100 free service offer.

Now to the last 4 referrals from the previous year. These where from customers that you had not given any incentive too (maybe you had already given them a great deal, or the job was very small and you did not want to invest any more of your profit into them) but because of your work they had referred new customers to you any way, six in fact. So the cost of a referral program was nothing, and profited you $960, but these customers consisted of less than 2% of your total client base, which is the national average of unsolicited word of mouth referrals.

Now to the commercial jobs. Of the 50 as stated above 25 are contract customers that get special pricing and you gained only two new customers as direct word of mouth referrals from them. Both were non incentive referrals since there was no incentive referral program in place for the commercial customers. So the profit you gained from these new customers was say $3,000 total for the year. Of the other 25, 12 where occasional customers which brought you no referrals and next 11 where new ones you had spent time finding, visiting and getting yourself at a cost of over 50 man hours during the year. The final two were the new referrals your contract customers brought you equaling your 50 total commercial customers for the year.

So let us say you are thinking about expanding your referral program in to your commercial side to see what could be the benefit. You also choose to try the $50 gift card as your incentive. In the next three months this was your result: of 12 customers offered, you got 2 new referrals, one being a new contract customer and the other will probably only be an occasional once or twice a year job. Already you have gained the same number of new referrals that you got in total the previous year. If the one contract customer will give you a profit of $200 per month and the occasional job bring you and estimated $550 of profit for the year you gained 12 x 200 =  $2,400 + $550 = $2,950 / $100 (gift cards) 2.9%, or 2950-100=2850/13 (jobs)= $219.23 average profit per job. And since the previous year you only got the two new contract customers by the free word of mouth method you can look at the $3,000 they brought vs. the estimated if the trend holds of 2 new customers a quarter to bring in around $6,600 over they year. 12 + 9 + 6 + 3= estimate of 30 jobs x $220 average profit = $6,600 estimate. This could be over twice the amount you received with no referral plan in place. It could be more or less depending on when they come on board and if they are monthly or only an occasional customer. And if you can handle the increase in your work load.

I hope these examples has you looking over your referral plan and running tests to see what profit increases and improved cash flow you can make this next year in your business. Happy New Year.

 

Tags: improve cash flow, business plan, added value service, referral program, analysis

Referral Programs, Why they work.

Posted by Linda Chambers on Mon, Jun 06, 2011 @ 11:53 AM

Word-of-mouth is the best advertising. 

Although this is a familiar saying, most contractors do not use the very people who create the best word-of-mouth advertising - satisfied customers. It's important that once you have satisfied your customer that you then learn how to use this satisfaction for a referral and/or reference programs. You can literally turn their enthusiasm and their contacts into new jobs and profits for your business.

There are two distinctly different types of programs - a Referral program and a Reference program. Both can help you capitalize on your customers' satisfaction. 

Referral Programs

In a referral program, you ask your satisfied customers to share your business information with neighbors, family and friends who might need services from you. In exchange for these referrals, you give your customers a reward. In most instances, monetary awards will work the best, but future free or reduced service costs can also be an incentive. These monetary rewards do not have to be large rewards to be useful, even a reward as small as a $20 or $25 gift card can work. Plus these do not have to be given up front but only as incentive for a positive outcome. If you do not see the referrals and the jobs you do not pay anything out. And of course with free added job service in the future you have no immediate cash outlay at all.

While referral programs can be effective, they do have one major drawback. Some people feel very uncomfortable about giving out information or approaching friends and family. Because of this, you must be careful and watch your customers’ reactions when you first ask if they'd like to be a part of your referral program. If they have a negative reaction to your request, do not try to overcome their objections. Tell them that you understand their feelings, and then change the subject.

Still, there are some good reasons to start a referral program. Some customers will be happy to participate. Plus, referral programs are very easy and inexpensive to initiate and administer.

There is another advantage to asking your customers for their referrals. It's a good way to find out if your customers are truly satisfied with the work your company has done. If you discover that none of your customers are willing to act as referrals, you should re-examine your work. Are you making promises you can't keep? Did you create expectations that you couldn't - or didn’t - meet? Did your technicians do a good job? Did they clean up after themselves when the job was completed? Before you ask your customers to participate in your referral program, or give you a refference you have to decide which kind of program would be best for your business. There are two types of referral programs you should consider.

In one type of program, you ask your customers to give you the names, phone numbers or e-mails of the people they know who might be interested in using your services. Once you have the list, you contact the referred names and try to set up your free evaluation appointments. Using your customer's name in the introductory process of your phone call, it could go like this:

 “Hello, Mrs. Green? My name is Jim Sample from ABC Sample House Washing. We just finished work for your friend Mrs. Winter and suggested I call you. She said you might be interested in hearing about having your house and roof washed. I’d like to make an appointment with you - at your convenience for a free evaluation. What day would work best for you?"

An e-mail might be just as short but could also include links to your site or to a pre set landing page.

Dear Mrs. Green,

I am Jim Sample from ABC Sample House Washing and your friend Mrs. Winter gave me your e-mail address and suggested I contact you. She thought you might be interested in having your house and/or roof washed like she just did. I’d like to direct you to our web site where you can learn more about my company and our services. We offer a free, no obligation home evaluation and I would like to set up a time at your convenience to stop by. The web site is www.ABCSampleHouseWash.com, and my phone number is 1-800-555-1234.”

The second method is to ask the customer to recommend or reference your company to their friends and family, by leaving them business cards or tri-fold brochures. When these friends and family members call you, they mention your customer's name. If the referral purchases services from you, your customer receives the reward. Many find this less intrusive than the first and this type of system is used much more effectively than the first.

But in both instances immediate action after the service is performed is critical. A satisfied customer is most likely to make a referral for you with in the first 48 hours following the service than is any other time. So try to include time urgency to your referral offer. Like a higher monetary gift amount or larger free next service if the new customer responds in the allotted time frame, say next 72 hours or three days.

How To Start A Referral Program

1. When you finish a job ask your customer if they would be willing to act as a referral for you. If they are interested, explain how your referral program works.

2. Leave a form for the customer to fill out - with a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the customer to give you the requested information. Make a note in your calendar to call the customer in seven to ten days if you have not received his referral list. You could instead offer the customer a web landing page to fill out this information thus saving printing and mailing costs and receive a possible higher and faster return than old the hand written method.

3. If your customer does not wish to fill out a form for the first type of program, explain that he can recommend, or give out your company and services as reference, directly to his friends and family by using the provided cards or pamphlets. Make sure they understand that if they want to receive the reward, the referrals must mention their name when they call you to make their appointment and they must receive a service for the referral reward to be paid. Contact alone is not enough, purchase must be the result.

4. Always fulfill your customers reward promptly for their referrals, with a thank-you card when the referral turns into a customer. The past customer will be more likely to continue once they know the promise of reward will be properly acted on.

At the Very Least, Ask for Testimonials

You may find you have a very satisfied customer that states they have no friends or family locally or do not want to participate in either program. In this case ask for them to give you an oral or written statement about your work. You can give them a satisfaction survey card to fill out and give back or mail to you with a fill in the blank portion where these customers can write their comments that you can then use as testimonial statements. You can also do this in a follow up e-mail to them, with in the 48 hours discussed earilier, asking for their feed back on your service.

Pictures speak louder than words,

is also a very well known saying, but still very true. Even if you never got the first taker for a referral program, you can still use your satisfied customer’s property and the job you performed to get you future work by taking pictures.

Before and After photos shows potential customers what you can do for them without words. They can see for themselves the results you have produced for others. Never miss the opportunity to take high quality photos of every job you do. You can take long views that include your equipment in the picture, include your uniformed technicians performing the work, and close ups of the dirty vs. clean surfaces. Always make sure it can be recognized as being the same area or location and if possible in the same light, even if you have to drive back by a few days later. You want no doubt that the photos are the same property. Videos are also becoming more of the norm and taking the time to invest in creating some and posting them on your site and even on Youtube will be worth it.

Besides verbal testimonies, visual testimonies are the most influential single element for potential new customers.

Tags: business plan, referral program, reference program, customer satisfaction, testimonials

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