Crippled CEO Blog #067:
If you run some kind of service business, this post is for you. If you don’t, it might not be.
For over 20 years, I’ve been helping people start pool fence installation businesses throughout the United States and around the world. At its core, being a Life Saver Pool Fence dealer / owning a pool fence installation company, is essentially a service / home improvement business. The big difference between a company that installs pool fences and, say, A/C units is that pool fences save lives and A/C’s save marriages. The product might be different, but the structure of the business is similar.
I say all of that to say that over the last two decades, I have figured out the four not-so-simple things you have to do to perpetually grow your business. All four of them are super easy to understand, and in isolation, easy to execute, but the trick is balancing them all simultaneously.
Each of these four steps is a cycle. Each one feeds the next naturally, before finally looping back on itself. I’ll attach a handy graphic that I made to illustrate.
Step 1: Advertise Online
Forget all of the other forms of advertising for the moment. As of January 24, 2021, Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok should be receiving 100% of your advertising attention and dollars. And the dollars part is important. If you’re doing it right, these things will bring in more money than they cost, so the idea is to invest as much as you can while still being able to handle the work and successfully do steps 2 and 3 (which I’ll get to shortly). You can handle this yourself at first if you have more time than money, and you can spend 30 to 40 hours going on Google and YouTube and learning how to run your own Facebook and Google Ads campaigns. Or you can hire a pro like Doug Betensky or Ashley Bissing. In my early days, I did it all myself. Now, time is the scarcer resource, so I have different companies managing different niches. You can decide your approach, but either way, this is a necessity, and I think this is the step most small businesses are missing. If you say you can’t afford it, you’re wrong. For one, because you can set any budget you like, but more importantly, because it brings in more than it costs. All of the steps are important, but none of the rest work if you’re not doing this one.
Step 2: Answer Every Call / Be the Master of Communication
If you’re doing it right, the inevitable result of advertising is people calling you, emailing you, messaging you on Facebook, etc. Over and over again, I have seen that the very best, most successful business owners are obsessed with making sure that every call gets answered, every email replied to, zero texts are left on read, and every DM gets a response. All of your advertising is for nothing if you are missing calls and not responding to messages. And yes, this is hard to do when you’re busy. If you’re doing a lot of the work yourself, it is going to be impossible to answer the phone every time. But it has to be prioritized. If you find yourself at the point where you know you’re missing calls, and the bar for how quickly you get back to folks has lowered, then this is the sign that you need to get help — either someone to answer calls when you are busy, or someone to help you in the field so you can answer them yourself. Either way, it has to get done.
And being the king / queen of communication doesn’t stop after the initial call. Keeping your customer in the loop every step of the way, especially when something doesn’t go exactly as planned or there’s a delay, is a game changer. 99% of the time when I get a call from a customer who is mad at their local Life Saver dealer, the real problem isn’t the error that they made, it’s that the dealer has been hard to communicate with. 1 Peter 4:8 says that “love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Eric 4:8 says that “proper communication covers a multitude of sins.” Answering calls and responding to people won’t just get you more jobs, it will help you have more happy customers as well.
Step 3: Make Customers Happy Even When It Hurts
We all know that we need to do a good job, offer a quality product, provide excellent service, and create happy customers. And that is super important, but you have to take this idea one step further in your mind.
To really get this step right, you have to fix things that weren’t your fault. You have to refund people who don’t deserve it. You have to be willing to lose money on a job even when you did everything right. You have to simultaneously take a hit to your wallet and your ego. This is very hard to do. It’s counterintuitive. We don’t want to let people walk all over us, to take advantage of us. That feels gross and wrong.
But you need to make this your default mode. This is how you avoid negative reviews in a world where lots of people are totally crazy. This is how, when somebody asks on Facebook about the service you provide, all of the comments are glowing recommendations that feature your name. This is how you get referred over and over again. This is how you make people passionate evangelists of your company. And lots of times the person won’t fully appreciate what you’ve done. Maybe all you did was escape the one star review. But how much would you pay to get rid of that review? Probably a lot. It’s going to be there forever. And even though some people won’t appreciate it, lots of other people will. Your reputation will build. And one day, even though you are more expensive than the other guy, they will decide to go with you instead because they’ve heard the stories of your amazing customer service.
This requires long-term thinking, but if you plan to be successful in the long term, it makes perfect sense.
Step 4: Get Great Reviews
You created happy customers in step 3. Now, the next step is to encourage them to go online and leave you a glowing review. You can do this with an automated email or text system. You can make it part of your end of sale process. You can offer them some kind of reward for leaving the review. How you decide to do it is up to you, but what’s important is that it happens. Online reviews help you sell the job before you get there. They make your online advertising more effective and less expensive by decreasing your cost per acquisition rate. They increase your closing percentage. They are a one time investment that pays dividends for years to come. Get yourself reviews on Google and Facebook.
Those are the steps! You advertise online, that makes the phone ring, you answer every call and communicate like a star, that gets you customers who are already fans of you, you make them all super happy even when they don’t deserve it, you convince as many as possible to leave you a good review, then you use the money from the extra customers you got via referrals and the higher prices you get to charge based on your reviews and reputation to invest more in advertising online, starting the entire cycle over again and HOLY GUACAMOLE your business is growing like crazy, Eric changed my life.
NOW, here’s the thing. It’s easy for things to get out of balance. If your advertising is going well, it gets hard to answer every call and communicate super effectively. If your advertising is going well and you are doing a great job of communication, then you are getting lots of work, and your customer service might suffer. It gets more difficult giving a refund that isn’t deserved to a psycho customer when you have more work than you can handle. It gets a lot more tempting to tell them to go float. It is easier to be less vigilant about getting good reviews when you already have a bunch and things are going well. It might seem like a good idea to cut back on the advertising when you’re getting so much work from referrals. It is very challenging to get all four things right at the same time. That’s the juggling act. BUT, if you know that these are the only four things that matter, and you’re constantly looking you see if any of them are slipping, then you’ll be on your way to service business Nirvana.
Good luck, my friends. And may the Force be with you.
(COME ON. That one was good. The least you can do is share this with your friend who has a service company. If it really seasoned your taco, you can subscribe to get a text with a link to the next blog by sending a message to 484848 with the word CRIP as the message. I mean, your mom is texting me. You should, too.)