Part 2 in the Series: Importance of Building High Quality Reviews on GBP
by Diane Lovine and Dipa Gandhi
We’ve learned the importance of having lots of high quality reviews on your business profile. More and more, business owners need to build a high volume of positive reviews to help them rank online and stand out among their competitors. Reviews can make or break a business.
The challenge is getting your customers to leave positive reviews on your site.
Unhappy customers are ten times more likely to leave negative reviews about a business than highly satisfied customers are to leave positive reviews. How can businesses motivate happy customers to leave positive reviews for them?
Ask on the Spot
Service businesses can equip their field agents with tablets that can be used to prompt customers to log onto their Google or Yelp account to leave a review on the spot once each job is complete. When customers are asked to leave a review sometime in the future, they often forget and it becomes inconvenient.
Some businesses choose to hand out their business card after the job is complete with a QR code that takes customers directly to their Google Business Profile (GBP) link, or any other review site, to write a review. Providing a QR code is a quick and easy way for customers to leave a review.
Make it Simple
Some lead companies now offer comprehensive solutions for reputation management and can set you up on a system that automatically sends links to Google upon completion of each job. This is often a free or inexpensive add-on service as part of a business services package.
Whether you pay a service that sends links to your customers or you send a link yourself manually, the name of the game is to make it as simple as possible for your customers to access your listings and provide a positive review.
Any time you can reduce the time spent looking for a citation or website to leave a review and eliminate the possibility of leaving a review to the wrong business, you’re increasing your chances of building more reviews.
It’s OK to send an email reminder a day or two after a job well done if you find that the customer has not left you a review. You might send another after a week or so. If you still don’t get a response, drop it for now. Persistence is great, but the last thing you want is to be a nuisance.
Follow up in 8-12 months again with a nurturing email or a promotion to stay top of mind with your customer. You want them to remember you when it’s time to have more work done. This gives you an opportunity to win their business again and another chance to build your online reputation. Lead generation companies often provide database remarketing and lead nurturing as a part of their total business growth package. Ask your 99 Calls rep for more information if this sounds interesting to you.
Initiate A Process
Be sure to request and store your customers’ information including name, email, address and cell phone number. Once each job is complete, send an email explaining that reviews are much appreciated an very helpful and include the GBP review link. Customers may prefer to leave a review on a different site such as Yelp or Facebook which is also great. Keep in mind timing is key. You want to be sure to send the email within a day or 2 after the job is complete so the customers initial reaction to the completed job is still fresh in their mind and is transmitted to the review accurately.
Along with sending an email, you may be able to save your customers even more time by offering to provide a template of a review to eliminate additional steps of trying to figure out what to write. This would also ensure the customer leaves a quality review, with content and the type of service provided rather than just a star rating.
Challenge Your Employees
Another creative way of gaining reviews is to offer incentives to your field agents. Gamefy it by offering a prize for the employees who get the most customer reviews. You don’t want to directly offer your customers incentives to leave a review on GBP as it is against Google’s policies, but an incentive for your field agent might achieve the same goal without violating Google’s policies.
No matter what method you use to gain reviews, your ultimate goal is to gain those positive reviews on a frequent basis to build trust, increasing rankings and ultimately get more leads. The key is to make it quick and simple for your customers.
3 Mistakes Contractors Should Avoid as the Slower Season Begins
Fall marks the beginning of the slower season for many contractors. The period between Mid November through the New Year yields far fewer consumers looking to remodel, move or expand. People are gearing up for the holidays and the new year ahead. Add to that the uncertainty that COVID has unleashed, and the supply chain issues that have slowed the market even further, and you may be looking at a lean winter.
There are several common mistakes that contractors make when tighter times approach. It may seem to make sense to cut back, lay off and lay low to avoid any unnecessary expenses, but savvy contractors utilize these quieter months to build. This keeps revenue channels open and puts businesses in a prime position to enjoy exponential growth when the hot season begins.
Top Three Slow-Season Mistakes:
Scale way back on marketing – It might seem prudent to cut your marketing budget as the season comes to a close. However, when the number of booked jobs on the schedule begins to decrease, this is an excellent time to review your marketing strategy and trim out the efforts that aren’t yielding results.
If you are losing money on print, it may be time to pause or halt that marketing.
If you are paying more for leads that you are making in jobs, it may be time to find a new lead company. There are lead generation businesses that only charge for their performance, meaning the leads they actually produce.
Google Ads may also be a viable short-term option for increasing lead volume into the winter. The team at 99 Calls is still seeing a 15 – 20% conversion rate on Google Ads campaigns. Google Ads marketing allows contractors to target specific services in selected areas so that you can get more done with a smaller budget.
There are plenty of opportunities there to gain some leads, win new jobs, and keep your team on the payroll.
Cut back on labor – Because there is a general shortage of qualified, motivated laborers in the workforce nationwide today, if you are lucky enough to have them on your team, now is not the time to furlough or lay them off.
Do what you can to keep those smaller jobs coming in, even if at lower profit margins to keep your valued workers gainfully employed.
We all prefer the big jobs and/or recurring business, but those smaller gigs often lead to larger, more valuable jobs in the future.
Not only are you contributing to your employees’ livelihood, but you are building trust and loyalty. See #1 above for ideas on getting those smaller, one-off jobs to keep your calendar full and your people working.
Take it easy and chill for the winter – It may be tempting to take a long winter nap, but here are a couple of things to do before you decide to take that much-needed vacation or rest after a busy summer.
Take a look at your SEO efforts. Are you promoting the services that you offer in the winter months now? It takes time for new content to get indexed and start ranking on Google. Now is the time to promote the services you want to offer in February and March.
Contact current customers and offer a discount when they book winter services.
Plan your 2022 budget. What are your goals for the new year in terms of growth, revenue, advertising?
Take time in the slower weeks ahead to review what’s working, what isn’t and see where you can trim the fat.
Once you’ve got these things in place, take a quick break – you’ll be recharged and ready to reap the rewards of your efforts!
If the thought of laser-focusing your marketing dollars and finding low-cost, high-value leads seems out of reach at the moment, consider trying the bundle program with 99 Calls. For a $349 price tag, you’ll get set up on SEO marketing which will grow over time, and a Google Ads campaign that can start working for you immediately.
Effective Lead Generation is an Investment – Not an Expense
Are you treating lead generation costs or prices per lead as monthly expenses? If so, you haven’t found the right company to partner with!
Does thinking about setting a “marketing budget” make you cringe? Do you immediately imagine your bank account balance going down, down, down? If you see your lead generation budget as a regular monthly expense, you may be wasting a lot of money! Expenses are car payments, electric bills, and internet costs. Good lead generation is an investment. Something that GENERATES revenue for your business, not an expense.
Most lead generation companies charge a flat rate per month and don’t promise anything in return. Yes, that’s probably an expense. But there are a few pay-for-performance companies out there that can prove their value to you month after month. In addition, many companies no longer require contracts, so you are free to take your investment elsewhere if you aren’t seeing the returns you were lead to expect.
Most Lead Generation May Cost You
The budget you set aside each month for online marketing is probably being considered an expense if you are lumping it in with your other costs. When times are tight, you might think your marketing “costs” should be the first to go. Then you trim other costs to save money. If you could generate reliable leads each month that turn into profitable jobs, your lead generation budget would become a necessary investment (and a sound one, at that!) If you are constantly trying to keep your monthly costs low by cutting into your lead generation budget, you are missing out on the potential to turn your service business into a cash cow. When leads become expenses are when they don’t produce measurable results.
Example: Say you have allotted $500 each month for online marketing of your remodeling business. If you hire a lead generation company that charges a flat rate of $500 each month and tells you they will promote your business online, get you onto the first page of Google and get calls coming in, but then doesn’t produce, this would be an expense.
If you hire a different company and they tell you that you’ll only pay for qualified leads that come in and you get to determine what a qualified lead means to you, you won’t be paying an expense, you’ll be investing in those customers who call you for a quote. And the higher your close rate, the more money your business will make from that marketing investment!
Return on Investment is the way businesses measure the net increase or decrease that comes from investing money. Return on investment, or ROI is the amount of revenue you bring in, minus the amount of money you invest to make it. So if you invest $500 in lead generation, and that turns into 6 qualified leads, and you win 4 new jobs, and each job is worth $1000 in profits, Your return on investment is $4000 (profits) – $500 (investment), or $3500. Imagine if you could invest $500 every month and watch it turn into $3500. Now that’s a solid investment!
Online Marketing and Lead Generation as an Investment
Customers use online searches more than any other means to find service businesses they want to hire. If you’re not there, front and center, with a great reason for them to call you for the quote, you probably won’t get called.
Good marketing entices customers to call you for a quote, which results in jobs, which means revenue for your business. When online marketing in the form of lead generation works in this way, it is considered an investment in your business. Even when times are tight, you don’t want to stop investing in good marketing, because it’s probably your best chance to build your revenue stream back up. Instead, start slow and build as you land more jobs. And don’t spend your excess profits. Keep investing in your business and watch it grow.
How to Increase Your Lead Generation ROI
So how can you spend less money per contractor lead? What is the best way to lower online marketing costs? Get seen and called more often and win more sales from your monthly lead budget!
Improve Your Visibility and Get More Calls
The more phone calls and emails you get from your monthly marketing budget, the higher the return on your marketing investment will be.
When you sign on for services for online marketing and lead generation, be sure to find a company with a complete package: Highly optimized lead generation sites that will rank well on Google, Bing, and other search engines and the ability to customize the lead generation site and listings with your unique branding.
As important as getting found is for getting calls, making your business attractive to potential customers is also critical. Entice your customers to pick up and call you by displaying high-quality photos of your work and pictures of yourself or your team on the home page. Offer a special promotion to motivate them to call you rather than your competitors.
The higher your close rate, the lower your costs per lead and the more leads you can get for the same monthly investment.
Here are the top 5 things you can do to increase your close rate, and thereby increase your returns:
Always Answer Your Phone: It seems so simple, but we see it all the time. Customers are impatient. They identify a need, search online and call the first contractor they see who looks legit. If that’s you and your phone rings, you are LOSING MONEY every time a call goes to voicemail.
Quick Quote: If you’re able to give a ballpark figure over the phone, go for it. Otherwise, schedule a visit within the next 48 hours to see the job and give a quote. Get in there before your competition.
Professionalism Pays: No, you don’t need to show up in your Sunday best, and actually, arriving in some work clothes lets potential customers know you’re a busy person who other customers already trust. Just change into a clean shirt to change and be prepared with pen and paper to take notes. Listen to what they are asking you to do, and repeat it back so they know you heard it right.
Offer Options: When you offer 2 or even three options for getting the work done, you’ll asking your potential customer not to choose between you and someone else, but between two or three price points from YOU. Offer a budget option, which less expensive materials and less expensive detail, and then one with the best quality. This also lets them know you are versatile and can work with different budgets.
Follow Up: Don’t drop an estimate and run. People appreciate a friendly reminder that you are available to schedule their job. Maybe even give them a discount if they can fill an opening you have in a given month. Persistence pays!
If you’re ready to really start growing your service business, start viewing your marketing budget as a smart investment, rather than a monthly expense, then find a quality lead generation team to make your monthly lead generation investment work for you. For more information on getting the most from your online marketing investment, give the team at 99Calls.com a call at 800-717-4669.
Does Adding a Google Ads Campaign Amplify Overall Lead Volume?
It is known in the online advertising community that running Google Ads does not increase the organic rankings of web pages. However, it is often speculated that running a Google Ads campaign gives a boost to organic results.
The team at 99 Calls has often seen this phenomenon, and decided to highlight one example in a case study.
Carpet Care Now is a carpet cleaning business located in Ohio. They are a small business with under 15 employees and five work trucks on the road. Four trucks are for carpet extraction and one is used for carpet dry cleaning. They first approached the 99 Calls lead generation team in August 2020 because they wanted to increase their inbound lead volume and keep their crews busy. In fact, Danny, the owner of the business filled out an online form through the 99 Calls website and noted that he was looking for “real carpet cleaning leads”. He expressed frustration with the pricing increases of other lead sources and the diminishing value of the leads he was receiving. He also was looking to establish a personal relationship with an account manager who would be responsive to his questions and requests.
When asked what his expectations were upon hiring 99 Calls lead generation, he didn’t have specific expectations, but did mention that he had done his research and noticed the large volume of positive reviews this company received online.
Carpet Care Now chose to get set up on the Bundle program beginning August 1st with a total setup payment of $349.00.
The bundle program includes the following:
Set up an organic website
Provide customizations of the SEO site
Set up Google Ads Campaign
Set up, manage, and optimize listings such as Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, and others
Manage online reputation and respond to posts from customers
Google Ads Results – First Four Months
They had an initial budget of $1400 for Google Ads. During their first four months of service, Carpet Care Now received 175 total leads; 165 from their Pay per Click campaign and 10 from SEO / organic leads.
During the first few weeks of a Google Ads campaign, Ads specialists review the account daily to update negative keywords and run A/B testing on the Ads to achieve optimal results. Inbound calls are listened to daily and results are reported in order to “train” Google to send leads from prospects with a high intent to buy.
As with any new Google Ads PPC campaign, initially there are unwanted, or “low intention”, clicks received from people searching for carpet cleaning related information, but not necessarily looking to purchase a service, or from people searching for competitors and getting the business being promoted on Ads instead. An example of a “bad” click would be someone searching for carpet cleaning chemicals or stain removal chemicals. These people aren’t necessarily searching for a carpet cleaning company, but for advice on how to do the cleaning themselves.
99 Calls Ads specialists work to minimize low intention clicks out of the gate and strive to target good results very quickly. Vigilance in these things results in customers receiving a higher lead volume for their budget and a high overall lead conversion rate, which is the number of people who call for a quote vs the total number of people who click on an ad. The chart below shows the process of refining the Google Ads account over for Carpet Care Now during the first four months of service. Notice that the cost per lead declined significantly over time.
Organic Lead Results – First Four Months
When we set up a site for organic lead generation and build and/or optimize listings such as Google My Business, Manta, Yelp and more, the first few months are usually quiet. We tell people to expect one to five organic leads during the first three months of service. Why so low? With online competition for service contractors at an all time high, there are already pages and pages of contractors ranking online as a new site is built. Our job is to build an online presence and credibility over time so that new customers can overtake positioning of businesses already being featured. It takes time and vigilance to muscle in and gain some of that market share, often 10-12 months!
However, we’re noticing that customers who combine organic lead generation with Google Ads PPC start getting organic leads more quickly. Carpet Care Now is a great example of this phenomenon. In month one, they received their first lead. They received 2 leads the following month and one in month three. In the fourth month of service, they received six leads. Receiving 10 leads during their first four months was a great supplement to their overall performance.
Why Organic Leads Are More Desirable
Organic leads are less expensive than those received through Google Ads ($24.90 vs $30.00+) and are often higher quality because customers still strongly prefer organic results to paid results when searching for a contractor. We speculated that seeing the business on the first page at the top and then again down in the organic section adds an element of familiarity that results in more clicks (and therefore more leads).
Less expensive, higher converting leads make a big difference in overall return on investment. That’s why when people come to us looking to “get leads quickly”, we recommend a Google Ads PPC campaign, but also recommend that the customer get started on an SEO site that will help build inbound organic lead volume as a longer-term strategy.
As mentioned above, the 99 Calls lead specialists have noticed that when organic and Google Ads campaigns run concurrently, customers benefit from a boost in organic lead volume earlier than expected with organic results. Often, we don’t see leads via SEO efforts for 2-3 months after starting service, but when Google Ads are run at the same time, organic leads are more abundant and arrive sooner than with SEO lead services alone.
Why is this? Although Google states that using Google Ads does not affect the SEO of organic placement, there is a phenomenon of clicking on something you’ve seen prior. Being found on the first page of Google immediately using Google Ads allows customers to gain prominent first page placement very quickly. Often, though, that top Ad is not clicked. But as the eyes scan down and the business is also listed in the Maps section or below in the organic results, the consumer is more likely to click the link. In this case, they are more likely to click the less expensive organic result than the Google Ad above. Click here for more information on the benefits of combining SEO with Google Ads PPC advertising.
So, What’s the Verdict? Does Adding a Google Ads Campaign Boost Overall Lead Volume?
We have demonstrated that the Google Ads campaign ramped up quickly for Carpet Care Now and that the lead cost was reduced month over month, from almost $37 down to about $29 per lead, which led to a total increase in return on lead generation investment with each passing month. In addition, during the first four months on the bundle program, Carpet Care Now achieved 3x the expected organic lead volume.
The image below shows were Care Care Now can be seen when searching for “carpet cleaning” in their service area:
After four months of service with 99 Calls. Carpet Care Now reported that they gained 150-160 new customers. They canceled the secondary lead source that they were using and plan to use the extra funds to increase their Google Ads budget this spring. Danny reported that he most liked that the calls delivered by 99 Calls are live and exclusive. Other lead generation services he has tried have required him to call leads back, which often ended in not connecting and wasting his time. Because he has a high close rate of 65 – 70% of his leads, he has enjoyed success simply by answering his phone and being ready to offer fair pricing over the phone. This has increased his bottom line, because he spends much less time on the road, providing live, in-home estimates. Carpet Care Now is an excellent example of a successful “bundle” campaign. They started an SEO site and a Google Ads campaign from the beginning.
You May Be Asking, “So How Do I Get The Most Lead Volume for a Small Budget?”
We would recommend starting with a website that is optimized to rank on Google. At a minimum, the site should be clean and clear. It should state what you do and where you do it. Avoid flash and fancy apps that will slow download time. Google prioritizes site speed when ranking pages, as well as user experience.
From there, try a low-budget Google Ads campaign. We recommend starting with a budget between $500 and $1000 for best results. Because of the normal issues with bad clicks, or low intent clicks, in the beginning, you will spend a portion of your initial budget on making adjustments and fine-tuning the ads.
Sample Investment of a $650 per Month Budget for Lead Generation with 99Calls.com:
Set up a bundle program that generates leads via SEO efforts and a Google Ads campaign for one low price of $349. Budget $300 for a PPC account. The SEO leads will be billed per qualified lead and there is no monthly service charge for SEO/Organically generated leads.
Total Cost: $650
Google gives first-time Ads users a $150 credit to be used in their second month of advertising after they spend $150 on a campaign. We would predict that zero to two organic SEO leads will be achieved in month 2. 99 Calls’ Google Ads service fee is priced at $150 per month or 15% of the prior month’s Ads spend. Budget $450 and you’ll get $600 worth of Ads with your credit.
Total Cost: $600 ($450 Ads budget + $150 Service Fee).
$550 Each (Including your Pay Per Click Budget)
The SEO services offered include all necessary behind-the-scenes work to increase your online presence and get important keywords ranking on Google above the competition. This includes social media management, assistance with getting positive online reviews, lead generation site hosting and management and live customer support. You’ll pay only for the qualified leads you receive. Generally, contractors receive 1-3 organic leads per month during the first 3 months, and then we see an increase in volume from there, especially when contractors periodically send us content that can be used to promote their business (running specials, sending photos, etc.)
At this point, the expectation would be that you’d have received a healthy number of leads through the Google Ads campaign and a handful of quality leads from SEO efforts. The lead volume for SEO results increases over time and Google Ads results can be turned on or off based on your needs and business goals. Budgets can be adjusted in real-time, allowing businesses to ramp up as slowly or as quickly as they desire.
Turns out the cost per lead varies widely depending on the effectiveness of the marketing company you hire to run your campaigns.
Utilizing Google Ads PPC campaigns is the fastest, most versatile method of achieving a high volume of leads for service contractors. However, buyer beware; not all PPC marketing firms produce equal results. In fact, differences in performance are alarming and could mean the difference between enjoying a robust return on investment and blowing your advertising budget with little to show for it.
There is an enormous gap between average and superior Ads performance. According to a recent article by Wordstream, a trusted authority in measuring PPC conversion results, a full 25% of PPC users report conversion rates under 1%.
Unlike SEO, or organic lead generation, which takes many months to ramp up and achieve first-page placement on Google searches (and let’s be honest, if you aren’t being found on the first page, you most likely will not be found), using Google Ads PPC to generate exclusive leads yields much faster results.
Google PPC is an auction-style platform for showcasing businesses on the first page of searches. Rather than showing in the maps (GMB) section, or the highly regarded organic results section, Google PPC ads are displayed at the very top and the very bottom of the search page.
Ads are about scarcity. There is only room for 3-6 PPC ads on a page, about half posted at the very top and half at the bottom, under organic results. In order to achieve first-page placement on Google, you’ve got to be one of the top bidders. A high conversion rate is achieved when a large percentage of people who click on an Ad call for a quote (a lead). The more leads you receive for your monthly budget, the better your return on investment.
With Google Ads, contractors are bidding per click, meaning, they are telling Google what they are willing to pay each time a potential buyer clicks on their Ad. The goal is to pay the lowest Cost Per Click, or CPC that you can but high enough to make it into a top 3 position, at least for a decent percentage of the time. Google doesn’t place 3 companies there and then walk away. The top 3 are rotated throughout the day. What gets companies up there? First and foremost is being a top bidder.
Achieving visibility on a search is just one piece to the puzzle though. Equally as important are your click-through rates (CTR) and your conversion rates. Click-through rates are the percentage of times someone clicks on the link in your Ad to visit the landing page compared to the number of times your Ad is shown (aka impressions). If the Ad is compelling and relevant to what the person is looking for, the click-through rate will be higher. If your CTR is low, you will likely also have a low conversion rate.
And finally, let’s talk about conversion rates. A conversion for some industries may be the collection of information (email or phone number) from a potential buyer that can be added to a telemarketing or email nurturing list. In service contractor industries, a conversion is a lead. Better, with 99 Calls, it is an exclusive lead that is delivered either through a live phone call or email. The better your conversion rate, the more leads you will receive for your monthly budget or advertising investment.
Average Conversion Rate and Why it Matters
The average conversion rate for service contractors using Google Search PPC advertising is 2.35%. This means that out of every 100 customers who click on your Ads, only two to three will actually call you for a quote.
The worst-performing (bottom 25%) campaigns receive a 1% or lower conversion rate. One in four campaigns falls into this bottom category. In fact, nearly half of all people who use Google Ads have a conversion rate lower than 2.5%. Included in these numbers are the do-it-yourselfers who don’t think it’s worth paying the service fee to have a marketing team manage their accounts.
Imagine that your monthly Ads budget is $1000. If the average click for your industry costs $5.00, at a 2.35% conversion rate, you’d get 4-5 leads with your budget if you hire an average marketing company.
The best performing marketing businesses, those in the top 10% of all companies, are averaging an 11.45% conversion rate. If you were using one of them to manage your Ads campaign and had the same $1000 budget and click cost at $5.00 each, you’d achieve 23 leads. That’s over 5x the lead volume for your marketing dollars! That’s why conversion rate matters.
How to Maximize Your Conversion Rate
There is a bright side to Google Ads marketing. People and businesses in the know are able to achieve excellent results with PPC advertising. The best performing marketing businesses, those in the top 10% of all companies, achieve an 11.45% conversion rate. This is far better than the average performer with 5x the lead volume for the same budget.
A small study looked at 124 customers using Google Ads campaigns managed through 99 Calls with a monthly budget of more than $300. The Google Ads specialists at 99 Calls were able to use their in-house PPC advertising system to achieve an average conversion rate across all service contractor (restoration contractors, carpet cleaners, painters, landscapers, appliance repair technicians, electricians, plumbers, HVAC, etc.) industries of 20.43%. Using the same scenario above, these contractors would have achieved 40 leads per $1000 budget, 10x the average PPC customer.
With the increases in online competition, SEO alone often isn’t enough anymore for a growing service business. Many service contractors have turned to PPC advertising to increase their customer base and their revenue. However, with the huge discrepancy between top-performing PPC management firms and low performers, it’s no wonder that many companies have become frustrated with PPC. They have lost trust in Google Ads. They complain that they have burned through their budgets too quickly without results. When every dollar counts, it is crucial that contractors find a top 10% company to handle their Ads campaign. Using a trusted, experienced Google Partner to manage an Ads campaign can literally make the difference between getting one lead for every 100 clicks on your Ads or 20 or more!