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TiedemanLLC
12-30-2011, 09:17 AM
What is everyones opinion on having an online presence? Website, social media sites, etc?

After I get some feedback I will tell you guys my opinion on it, and why I have changed my opinion in the last couple of months.

JeffK26
12-30-2011, 09:45 AM
I think it's important for exposure. I only have a handful or two of clients, but over half were due to Craigslist, Yelp and Thumbtack. The rest are fliers.

That being said, fliers are able to target where you want to be. CL and the rest are the whole darn St Louis area and surrounding areas. I have a counter on CL and it's showing over 1200 views and I have had 4 calls from CL.

I've seen posts where guys get most of their clients from their website, so I'm sure it works. Mine hasn't been up long enough to even guess at an opinion. I can only speak from what I do, and I only go to websites for information. If I need a service I ask around the family and friends for someone they know, or have used.

Bottom line is an online presence won't hurt, unless your ad is full of misspellings and texting shorthand. So why not use it if it's available and free? ( for the most part )

mark123
12-30-2011, 09:46 AM
A web site is essential. Very effective for gaining new work. It needs to be at the top of local google search results to have any worth though. If you're not going to work on doing it properly and getting it optimized then you may as well just not bother.

Facebook and twitter have proven as effective as putting flyers in the laundromat (zero results). Too much time invested for zero results. Not worth it.

Craigslist gets a few leads but so far they've turned out to be jobs I wouldn't want unless I was starving. Not worth it.

picframer
12-30-2011, 12:51 PM
Website is critical, three years ago when I started all I did was tell friends I was starting a landscaping/excavation company, organic lawn spraying and larger area mowing, in two years we did 640 jobs.

I also created post cards for each service we offered, always directing the prospect to the website, we received well over 200 email inquiries from the website, pictures of our work, equipment and word of mouth are what grew the company in two years to a five year goal, I sold in February of this year.

Facebook and Social Media are free, lots of work to keep them current, in my current job managing 260 vendors in a mall it really works, when I started in May we had 300 followers on Facebook, today just a few months later it's around 13,000.

Steve
12-30-2011, 03:03 PM
It's amazing how many balls you have to juggle as a business owner. Maintaining an online presence is just one more thing to add on to your list of issues you need to deal with.

I think the topic really confuses most small business owners and I can see why. It can be freakin complicated.

I'd say in order of importance:

Do the best job you can with the services you provide.
Talk and constantly reach out to people.
Do what you can do to have an online presence.

SECTLANDSCAPING
12-30-2011, 03:24 PM
I agree with Mark on clist, to many hacks doing it for next to nothing to compete with.

All the commercial work we do we get through the website. I chose my business name based off what people would be searching for. I have a number 1 google listing for several services.

So far twitter, linked, and facebook seem worthless.

thegroundscrew
12-30-2011, 04:15 PM
It is overwhelming but is also a hobbie. I mean twitter and facebook is more for fun, especially twitter. And linkedIn is also the same. Sometimes though being popular in all those social media sites can be a bonus. Customers might see that you have a lot of followers, likes, connections, and recommendations that can be wuite beneficial. But a website is for sure a necessary. If you have a well crafted website that is able to show up on the top of search results then you will do fine with your online marketing.

Ducke
12-30-2011, 08:21 PM
I have to agree an online presence is important.
I have my web site ,facebook and Twitter as well as a Blog, It keeps me busy but you need to keep up and ahead of your competitors.

When ever I set up a new customer I ask how they heard of me 75% of my customers have seen my Kijiji Ads or my web site. So that shows me how important it really is.

Hedgemaster
12-30-2011, 10:02 PM
I attempted to do the web thing myself. I should have paid someone else to do it.
I wanted to be in control of it and in doing so, I never completed it, nor do I have the know how to get the site ranking to where I actually SHOW UP.

The only thing saving me is that my Google Places listing DOES appear when people do searches for my area. Since my website is linked there, they find it that way.

TiedemanLLC
12-30-2011, 10:27 PM
Wow! All I can say that I was shocked with some of your answers, especially about the social sites. I thought that I would be coming back on here to say my side of the story and a lot of you would disagree with me. With that said this is my story and opinion in regards to an online presence (with an emphasize on social sites)

About three years ago we invested a lot of time and energy setting up an online presence in social media sites and other online sites. Facebook, twitter, linkedin, ebay classifieds, craigslist, google +, merchant circle, yelp, manta, yahoo business...the list goes on.

We spend at least 2 hrs a day updating an status, uploading a photo, or trying to add or network as many people as possible. We promoted our presence especially with facebook and twitter on every single piece of our marketing material, invoices, inserts, and emails. We did this for three years.

No matter what we did we couldn't get the response that we thought we should get. We never got new clients, if we were lucky maybe one a year, and the ROI based on the amount of time we spent developing these sites was horrible.

This past November was a very eye opening experience (that is why my opinion has changed in the last two months), when I sent out surveys to my clients. One of the important questions in surveyed ask about websites and social sites in general. Basically whether they used them to look at new businesses or even look at our business. The big shocker that came back was that less than 3% of those responded used social sites to hire a business for work or even worse yet once they were a client hardly any of them participated as a "fan" or "follower".

So in a nutshell the demographics of my clients told me that they don't use social sites at all. After I invested three years into these sites, how could that be, there must be something wrong I thought. Then I really started to look at it differently, and totally had a change of heart about social media and having an online presense. It took me three years, but I came to a hard conclusion and some important thoughts (now keep in mind these may not apply to you and your market, but they applied to me)

1. Social media sites are worthless, especially Facebook. Think about it, who really follows your sites. It's your friends. And how often do your friends on facebook actually buy a service from something on your facebook page.

2. Twitter is nothing more than an ego site. You stroke your ego by talking about something cool or mentioning something that you think is cool. Now don't get me wrong, this may work if you are big name celebrity endorsing a new product. But when it comes to a local service company, nobody cares. The people that follow you on twitter are nothing more than your colleagues. You are both hoping for the same end result, but you're just going around in circles.

3. Ask yourself this question, how do you know what company to hire? I bet you that 99% of the time you hire a company based on what your friends, family, or co-workers have experienced or said about them.

4. You can get just as much response from a listing on yahoo business (which is free) compared to having a website.

5. When clients search the web looking for a company, what are they really looking for? A lot of times it's just the contact information, or where they are located at. They have already have it set in their mind they are going to contact you as an result from an offline reference, not an online.

6. So what are social sites good for then? Social sites are nothing more than entertainment. You go to youtube to watch funny videos or learn about something, you like someone on facebook because you think what they are doing is funny or want to see a new photo, or you follow someone on twitter because you are hoping they will show an enriching link. But, ask yourself, how many of you have actually hired a company based on their social presence? I know that I haven't.


I know that a lot of you are not going to agree, and like I stated, it doesn't apply to all of you. I just know what applies to me.

SECTLANDSCAPING
12-30-2011, 11:11 PM
I couldnt agree more. You said it better then I ever could. I spent sometime playing with social networks and had no returns on it. Instead of spending a few hours a week I could take out a paid ad in the local paper. I could save time and focus my energy on something that works.

I think social sites could work if you had a product geared to people under 25 but not a service business with customers 40-60. Maybe when this generation starts to own property it might work.

On another note my friend is a electrician who decided to work for himself last year. He used craigslist exclusively and failed miserable. He went back to work for the same company he quit this year. I dont think he saw the connection that his customer base wasnt going online to find a electrician.

ringahding1
12-31-2011, 12:58 AM
ONLINE Presence is absolutely essential.

Research is KING.

Flyers are great.

Keywords RULE. SEO

Article writing on your niche is absolutely recommended.

Word of mouth could fall into the category of KING, also!

Internal link building will be found by Google(shiii giving away my secrets)

Back-Linking to quality sites

Steve
01-02-2012, 02:20 PM
Craigslist seems to me the one site that seems to work for some while not work for others. I think that is based on the demographic of your service area.

Troy,

So after going through this experience, do you suggest any types of marketing to experiment with? I bet a lot of newer business owners are reading this and thinking ok, now what?

TiedemanLLC
01-02-2012, 04:29 PM
Craigslist seems to me the one site that seems to work for some while not work for others. I think that is based on the demographic of your service area.

Troy,

So after going through this experience, do you suggest any types of marketing to experiment with? I bet a lot of newer business owners are reading this and thinking ok, now what?


It's really hard to say one way may work better than another. For example, I have heard some people say they have had great results with newspapers, while I will never do newspaper ads ever again. Same with yellow pages, they only get people to call up that want prices over the phone (going with the lowest price).

Where I have got most of my work from over the years:

Referrals
Direct Mail
Networking (kind of the same as referrals, but from other business owners)
Lawn Signs

To be honest with you, the best is by far referrals and networking.

Businesses need to experiment and see what works best for the area, but don't give up so easily either. I did the social sites for three years before I finally saw they were useless. So just because a business owner sends out a batch of flyers to clients, and gets zero response are they going to give up early? No, I recommend to stick it out, change up the game plan a bit though with different marketing material.

The main thing is find out from your current clients what works best. Demographics is key. Feel free to pick the brains of some other local businesses in the area of what works for them. I would also recommend trying to find a mentor in the area. If you do mowing, and they do installation work, perhaps they can give you some pointers on what type of marketing has worked for them.

Steve
01-03-2012, 02:53 PM
To be honest with you, the best is by far referrals and networking.

I think this is part of what makes all this so confusing. We do see the importance of networking and referrals, and with that said, why do you feel that just does not translate to online social networking sites? Why does it seem to work in person but not through sites like facebook/twitter etc?

TiedemanLLC
01-03-2012, 03:30 PM
I think this is part of what makes all this so confusing. We do see the importance of networking and referrals, and with that said, why do you feel that just does not translate to online social networking sites? Why does it seem to work in person but not through sites like facebook/twitter etc?

I think it's because the social networking sites online is mostly just pleasure. Something to look at...eye candy.

Ducke
01-03-2012, 07:33 PM
I tend to disagree I think Social Media when used right is a major help.
Its just its all so new and we are really just starting to learn what it can do for us.
Just some quick stats from my offering online:
I have 37 Likes on my company facebook page.
out of the 37 28 visit on a daily basis.
27% are male 45-54 years of age
12 of them are from my home town 2 more from the UK (they are friends of the family) 8 are from USA.
I know 5 out of the 12 hometown are friends.
So that leaves 6 that are following me here in town that are now or could be customers.
I have gone through my sales for last year 74 quotes in all.
31 said they got my info off the internet,7 said my Kijiji ad 9 said my Web Site.
So that leaves 15 that just said internet which leaves open any of the ways I use the internet.
For me it works great. I believe its all got to do on how you use it and how your area use the internet. We have a lot of high tech businesses here RIM has an office here Microsoft has an office here and several software developers etc. so this all inflorescence how you sell and how people buy.
The above numbers may not be large but it is only my first year. I plan on tracking this again in 2012 so we will have to wait till next January for that info.

jymie
01-03-2012, 08:53 PM
How do you get the stats showing where they come from for the facebook page visits?


I tend to disagree I think Social Media when used right is a major help.
Its just its all so new and we are really just starting to learn what it can do for us.
Just some quick stats from my offering online:
I have 37 Likes on my company facebook page.
out of the 37 28 visit on a daily basis.
27% are male 45-54 years of age
12 of them are from my home town 2 more from the UK (they are friends of the family) 8 are from USA.
I know 5 out of the 12 hometown are friends.
So that leaves 6 that are following me here in town that are now or could be customers.
I have gone through my sales for last year 74 quotes in all.
31 said they got my info off the internet,7 said my Kijiji ad 9 said my Web Site.
So that leaves 15 that just said internet which leaves open any of the ways I use the internet.
For me it works great. I believe its all got to do on how you use it and how your area use the internet. We have a lot of high tech businesses here RIM has an office here Microsoft has an office here and several software developers etc. so this all inflorescence how you sell and how people buy.
The above numbers may not be large but it is only my first year. I plan on tracking this again in 2012 so we will have to wait till next January for that info.

picframer
01-04-2012, 03:34 AM
Social networking works for certain business's, I know I follow various resturants for example, it also works well for malls however lawncare is probably not the best.

ringahding1
01-04-2012, 09:14 AM
Social networking works for certain business's, I know I follow various resturants for example, it also works well for malls however lawncare is probably not the best.

Suggestion for everyone:

If you want social networking to work for your lawn care business, hold a contest. We held a Face Book contest for "one FREE service" for three lucky winners and my FAN-BASE grew in a crazy fashion...We told our clients who have emails, and the ones who don't use email, had no idea of this contest.

NOTE:While honoring one lucky winner with a core aeration, a lady was walking by and asked if I could aerate her yard. So basically I got paid for one of my customers that one the contest.

OK we currently 400 have some fans. At the time we we're under 350, I have new fans that actually participated in this and I don't have a clue who they are. They may live out of our service area, I don't know. They apparently were Face Book members already and that was how they found us. I had friends tell relatives, friends signing up for relatives and so forth!

If it is not working for you, there may be a reason for that. Are you on a regular basis chatting with your FB (not fans) Friends? Why do I ask this? We've heard this somewhere on the internet, "Build Your Brand", in other words...BUILD TRUST with your friends.

Steve could back me up on this, any opportunity you have to plug your biz, do it! Just try to make it 60 seconds or less, and if it's via the internet, try not to over do it. We all got the "Tips" form Steve via email, what if he did that everyday? We would be sick of it, right?

I mean if you just make a Fan Page and than tell the world and it's not everything you hoped for, you must've missed a step, like BUILDING the TRUST first.

Steve
01-04-2012, 03:04 PM
If you want social networking to work for your lawn care business, hold a contest. We held a Face Book contest for "one FREE service" for three lucky winners and my FAN-BASE grew in a crazy fashion.

What kind of contests do you think would work best? Maybe having something like best holiday decorations? Or would something else work better?

Ducke
01-04-2012, 07:11 PM
How do you get the stats showing where they come from for the facebook page visits?

On the left hand side of my company page is a link called Insights
It gives me graphs and stuff.with all the stats.

Ducke
01-04-2012, 07:27 PM
Suggestion for everyone:

If you want social networking to work for your lawn care business, hold a contest. We held a Face Book contest for "one FREE service" for three lucky winners and my FAN-BASE grew in a crazy fashion...We told our clients who have emails, and the ones who don't use email, had no idea of this contest.

NOTE:While honoring one lucky winner with a core aeration, a lady was walking by and asked if I could aerate her yard. So basically I got paid for one of my customers that one the contest.

OK we currently 400 have some fans. At the time we we're under 350, I have new fans that actually participated in this and I don't have a clue who they are. They may live out of our service area, I don't know. They apparently were Face Book members already and that was how they found us. I had friends tell relatives, friends signing up for relatives and so forth!

If it is not working for you, there may be a reason for that. Are you on a regular basis chatting with your FB (not fans) Friends? Why do I ask this? We've heard this somewhere on the internet, "Build Your Brand", in other words...BUILD TRUST with your friends.

Steve could back me up on this, any opportunity you have to plug your biz, do it! Just try to make it 60 seconds or less, and if it's via the internet, try not to over do it. We all got the "Tips" form Steve via email, what if he did that everyday? We would be sick of it, right?

I mean if you just make a Fan Page and than tell the world and it's not everything you hoped for, you must've missed a step, like BUILDING the TRUST first.

Here is my problem with the above plan.
Why do you have 350-400 fans ???...................... FREE stuff
Giving away stuff only attracts people that are looking for FREE stuff. 99% of them will never buy anything their to cheap they only surf FB and the Web looking for FREE stuff.
I really hate to give anything away especially my services, I find if you do it for one they all expect it contest or not.
When I worked for a lawn care company they had a contest every year. Quote went up through the ceiling we could hardly keep up , The contest just called for you to get a free quote to be entered, out of a 1000 plus entrants we maybe got 2 or 3 new customers, they stopped it it cost 10 more in staff wages then what they made out of it.
but if it works for you great but keep an eye on your bottom line and don't let it get out of hand.

Steve
01-05-2012, 04:00 PM
When I worked for a lawn care company they had a contest every year.
How did they work it? Were they offering to give away a tv or something if you called in for a free quote?

TiedemanLLC
01-05-2012, 05:28 PM
To follow up some information regarding us and our Facebook.

We always checked the insights too, and we found out that almost all of our fans were under the age of 25-34 (which is not what our ideal client is). Only 8% of our "likes" or "fans" fall into our ideal client range.

Now in regards to contests and such, first of all we never ran contests (due to all of the legal matters regarding it and we never like to give away stuff for free). But what we tried to do, which all of the industry experts suggested, was make exclusive offers for only those that "liked" us. We found out that it was a total bomb. We tried different type of exclusive offers; emailing mailing lists, "like" on facebook gets a certain discount, etc. And nothing worked.

That is why I still stand by the conclusion that it's just a waste. Will I stop doing it, probably not. But I won't be spending as much energy in it as I did in the past.

Ducke
01-05-2012, 05:55 PM
How did they work it? Were they offering to give away a tv or something if you called in for a free quote?

What they offered was your lawn care for a year FREE. Some condition do apply.offer is nontransferable, must book for at least one year past free year etc etc...

dpld
01-05-2012, 09:25 PM
Wow! All I can say that I was shocked with some of your answers, especially about the social sites. I thought that I would be coming back on here to say my side of the story and a lot of you would disagree with me. With that said this is my story and opinion in regards to an online presence (with an emphasize on social sites)

About three years ago we invested a lot of time and energy setting up an online presence in social media sites and other online sites. Facebook, twitter, linkedin, ebay classifieds, craigslist, google +, merchant circle, yelp, manta, yahoo business...the list goes on.

We spend at least 2 hrs a day updating an status, uploading a photo, or trying to add or network as many people as possible. We promoted our presence especially with facebook and twitter on every single piece of our marketing material, invoices, inserts, and emails. We did this for three years.

No matter what we did we couldn't get the response that we thought we should get. We never got new clients, if we were lucky maybe one a year, and the ROI based on the amount of time we spent developing these sites was horrible.

This past November was a very eye opening experience (that is why my opinion has changed in the last two months), when I sent out surveys to my clients. One of the important questions in surveyed ask about websites and social sites in general. Basically whether they used them to look at new businesses or even look at our business. The big shocker that came back was that less than 3% of those responded used social sites to hire a business for work or even worse yet once they were a client hardly any of them participated as a "fan" or "follower".

So in a nutshell the demographics of my clients told me that they don't use social sites at all. After I invested three years into these sites, how could that be, there must be something wrong I thought. Then I really started to look at it differently, and totally had a change of heart about social media and having an online presense. It took me three years, but I came to a hard conclusion and some important thoughts (now keep in mind these may not apply to you and your market, but they applied to me)

1. Social media sites are worthless, especially Facebook. Think about it, who really follows your sites. It's your friends. And how often do your friends on facebook actually buy a service from something on your facebook page.

2. Twitter is nothing more than an ego site. You stroke your ego by talking about something cool or mentioning something that you think is cool. Now don't get me wrong, this may work if you are big name celebrity endorsing a new product. But when it comes to a local service company, nobody cares. The people that follow you on twitter are nothing more than your colleagues. You are both hoping for the same end result, but you're just going around in circles.

3. Ask yourself this question, how do you know what company to hire? I bet you that 99% of the time you hire a company based on what your friends, family, or co-workers have experienced or said about them.

4. You can get just as much response from a listing on yahoo business (which is free) compared to having a website.

5. When clients search the web looking for a company, what are they really looking for? A lot of times it's just the contact information, or where they are located at. They have already have it set in their mind they are going to contact you as an result from an offline reference, not an online.

6. So what are social sites good for then? Social sites are nothing more than entertainment. You go to youtube to watch funny videos or learn about something, you like someone on facebook because you think what they are doing is funny or want to see a new photo, or you follow someone on twitter because you are hoping they will show an enriching link. But, ask yourself, how many of you have actually hired a company based on their social presence? I know that I haven't.


I know that a lot of you are not going to agree, and like I stated, it doesn't apply to all of you. I just know what applies to me.


i feel pretty much the same way. i have a web site and that is used as another way people can get more information about my business and with the search engine my name comes up with the chosen key words.
to me the internet for a service business such as ours is just a few clicks up from the phone book.
most of my work comes from the management co's that i work with and i don't have to rely on too much advertiseing.
most of my advertiseing is for the sole purpose of keeping my name out there and staying within the local loop then it is about drumming up business.

Steve
01-06-2012, 02:57 PM
WOW this discussion really has become an eye opening reality check. It really should give you pause if you were thinking of jumping into all this online marketing and spending some big bucks to do it.