Contractor Leads for Winter, Google Ads, Lead Generation, Uncategorized

How to Utilize Google Ads for Seasonal Marketing

Don’t Let Your Business Go Into Hibernation This Winter

by Devon Osborne

As the weather changes from season to season, everyone’s needs shift with them. If you’re in the dead of winter in New England, you’re likely not looking to paint the outside of your home or have it pressure washed. As fall approaches, contractors typically see their calendars less scheduled out. You may be wondering, “How can I keep my calendar booked with jobs during the winter months to keep my business afloat?”

SEO is not always enough to keep businesses busy in the colder months. Ranking organically takes time and effort and pre-planning. To be successful during “off” times, you need to be thinking about what services you want to push months in advance if you want to be seen on the first page of Google.  

If you have not modified your organic service offerings yet, all is not lost. Changing your service offerings with the seasons is a great way to keep a steady stream of revenue coming in for your business no matter what time of year. It takes just a little planning and strategy.

How Google Ads Can Help

Instead of letting your business hibernate this winter, try running a streamlined Google Ads campaign for your most profitable winter services. Doing so will help get your business to the first page much quicker. Pay Per Click Google Ads are a great tool for boosting your lead volume. By running an ads campaign, you will have the ability to promote your services more aggressively and keep your revenue stream flowing. You can choose exactly what services you’d like to allocate your budget to in order to be seen more often by potential customers and get more calls for quotes.

Some of the most popular services that our Google Ads specialists target for contractors in the winter months include:

  • Snow Plowing
  • Snow Shoveling
  • Roof Shoveling
  • Ice Dam Removal
  • Interior Painting
  • Irrigation Closures
  • Pool Closures
  • Insulation Installation
  • Heating System Checks
  • And More!

If you optimize your Google Ads campaign and are competitive with your budget and bids, you will likely start to see those calls start coming through within a few weeks. There are many components to running a successful PPC campaign. If you’re not confident that you have the proper knowledge to run a profitable ads campaign on your own, consider hiring a PPC agency instead. Utilizing a company with a proven track record of getting leads using this method can save you time and money in the long run and allow you to focus on service delivery.

digital marketing, Lead Generation, Lead Generation for Contractors, online marketing, SEO, service contractor leads

How to Close More Sales: Quick Strategies for Service Contractors

Try These 3 Strategies Now to Win More Business

Do you notice some of your competitors seem to stay busier than you? You may even know that they cut corners, use uninsured workers, or lower quality materials than you do. Wonder how they manage to get more jobs? First, it may simply be that they are investing more in advertising and lead generation. It may just be a difference in lead volume. If that’s the case, there are steps you can take to compete with them online. 

However, there are also immediate steps you can take now that are simple and effective. Competition among local service contractors is tighter than ever. How can you make your business stand out and stay “top of mind” with your potential customers? 

We’ve outlined three areas where you can have an immediate and substantial impact. Impress your potential customers and win more business by following these guidelines. 

1. Perfect Your Presentation

Your appearance: It may seem obvious, but first impressions really are critical. People often decide within seconds if they find you trustworthy. It doesn’t take much to win over your prospective clients. Always carry an extra clean shirt, a stick of deodorant, and a comb in your vehicle and spruce up before you pay a visit to give an estimate. If you’re a smoker, keep that clean shirt in a Ziploc bag and have a stick of gum handy. Last, don’t forget to greet your customers on time and with a warm smile.

Your pitch: Before you arrive to give a quote, call or text your customer to let them know you are on your way. This not only impresses them, but also reminds them to be there and ready for you. The team at 99 Calls vets the lead calls that our customers receive and we’re always amazed at the number of clients who have to call the contractors because they didn’t show for an appointment. If you end up running late, no big deal. It happens, but keep your prospects informed!

After you introduce yourself, and exchange greetings, be prepared to give a short pitch or elevator speech about yourself and your business. Successful business owners often let the customer know about their experience, any certifications earned, and other points that will put a customer at ease. Do you run background checks on employees? Are you going to be present at the job site? Let them know. If you have a reference list, give them a copy. Some contractors arrive with a 3-ring binder with photos of jobs they’ve completed. 

Demonstrate that you hear them: Be sure to listen and take notes when the customer is describing their issue and what they would like to do to resolve it. Be prepared to give suggestions on how the issue can be resolved in the most cost-effective and efficient way. Once they have shown you what they want to be quoted, be sure to ask questions to clarify your understanding. Then repeat to them what you heard so there is no miscommunication.

2. Polish Your Proposal

Quick turnarounds impress. Provide your prospective customer with a written (electronic) quote within 24 hours of your visit. If you really want to impress them and have quoting software, work up the estimate on your tablet right after you leave and send it in an email within an hour. If you really, really want to impress them, send a text message letting them know you’ve just emailed their quote! Be sure to include those finer details on the estimate that the customer brought up during the appointment.

Offer 2-3 choices. Rather than giving them the option to go with you or go with a competitor, offer 2-3 options for getting the job done. Order them in terms of cost, time estimates for completion, and complexity and give reasons why each could solve their problem. When giving 3 options, make the second seem the most favorable or the most valuable solution. People like to choose a practical solution, one that will save them money but still give them a quality product. Consumers are always searching for the best value they can find. Make it easy to choose yours.

3. Be Persistent

Persistence pays. Over 90% of contractors do not follow up on their estimates. They wait for the customer to call them. If you are telling yourself, “If they want the job done, they will call me.”, you are missing out on many opportunities! People get busy. They forget. The project goes on the back burner. What brings it back to an urgent issue? Often, either the item finally breaks beyond repair, or a contractor contacts them at the right time and gets the “yes”. How can you be that contractor? Follow up. By phone and email and text.

Yes, people are being bombarded every day with solicitors emailing and texting and the old 7-touch rule of sales may be overdoing it but people still need “touches” or reminders. A gentle nudge that they need the service done and especially that you’re the right person to do it can make all the difference. There is nothing wrong with following up the next day by phone to ensure they received the emailed quote. Then, send a quick text 3-4 days later to ask if they have any questions. Try again in 10 days to two weeks to let them know you’ve got some time coming up on your schedule. Most customers do not find well-timed follow-ups annoying. They often appreciate the reminders. And when they do decide to get the work done, guess which contractor is first on their mind?

On Getting More Leads

The steps outlined here are meant to be simple techniques that can be executed quickly. The results will be immediate. What was not touched on was potentially the most impactful (and most challenging) way to close more sales, which is to get more leads to bid on. If you close 25% of the jobs you bid on and you give quotes on four jobs per week, you’ll likely win one new job each week. Double your lead volume and you’ll double your sales. Here is more information on getting more leads by investing in lead generation

Business Website, digital marketing, Lead Generation, Lead Generation for Contractors, Online Appointment Booking, online marketing, online marketing costs, service contractor leads

Should I Add an Appointment Booking System to My Website?

Pros and Cons of Using Online Calendar Booking for Lead Generation Sites

by Diane Lovine

The team at 99 Calls has increasingly been asked about online calendar bookings for lead generation sites. Many service contractors are utilizing appointment scheduling software for their lead generation websites. Most often, small businesses report using appointment-setting features to allow customers to schedule free consultations.

The Cons of Adding Online Calendar Booking Features

Some home and business services contractors choose not to add this new technology to their sites. The main reasons cited are concerns that it will be too complicated to manage by their team and their customers. Often, this stems from the contractor not having technical experience or access to a web consultant or software developer. After all, a calendar for booking appointments on your website will need to sync with the calendar used by office staff so that you don’t end up overbooked. The best remedy is to purchase a calendar booking tool and have someone else manage it. Many lead generation companies now offer calendar booking as part of a service package.

Another concern expressed by contractors is that using an appointment setting feature to book an appointment for a quote is less personal than speaking directly with the customers. If you are a contractor who is available and prefers to answer the phone each time it rings, you may want to continue with the personal touch that you offer. 

The Pros of Adding Online Calendar Booking Capabilities 

Although there are a few valid concerns regarding adding this technology to websites, the pros overwhelmingly outweigh them. There are many reasons why giving customers the option to book a repeat service or an appointment for a quote makes sense.

The top reason for adding online appointment booking capability to lead sites is that it adds convenience both for contractors and their customers. Most service contractors run small businesses and the office staff is not always available to answer incoming calls. Contractors are working in the field and often can’t pause what they are doing to answer calls. The result is missed calls, which results in missed business opportunities and ultimately, lost revenue. 

Another benefit of installing an appointment calendar is that it makes businesses more accessible to potential customers during off-hours. People are often searching for home services during evenings and weekends when service businesses are closed. Providing them with the ability to book an appointment for an in-home or even over-the-phone quote is simple for them and means their search for a contractor may end with you! 

In order to keep up with today’s consumer demands, the question becomes “How” to add a calendar, rather than “Whether” to add one. Installing and maintaining online appointment scheduling programs can be expensive, so you’ll want to shop around. Some businesses report spending $199 per month on the service. With some research, you’ll be able to find a service that can work with your existing website and provide support at a fair price. 

Due to high demand from our clients, 99 Calls now offers a calendar booking feature that can be customized and added to websites. The maintenance fee of the calendar feature is just $29 per month. Click here to learn more. 

Business Website, digital marketing, Lead Generation, Lead Generation for Contractors, online marketing, online marketing costs, SEM, SEO

Why Aren’t My Clients’ Reviews Posting on Google Business Profile?

by Dipa Gandhi

Have you had your clients tell you they left a review on your business’s Google Business Profile (GBP) but when you look it’s not showing up or publishing? Many business owners and GBP managers are asking this same question daily.

We all know the importance of getting people to write and post great quality, positive reviews on your business’s GBP. You should continually encourage your happy customers to review your business. It’s understandably frustrating when you’ve provided an excellent service and a happy customer tells you they gave you a positive review, but it doesn’t show.

This blog will help explain why Google decides to publish some reviews and not others. For a refresher on the importance of Google reviews, refer to Part 1 of Google reviews blog series, https://blog.99calls.com/2022/04/01/importance-of-reviews-on-google-profile/). Here is a quick recap: Reviews on your GBP not only make your business stand out more, but also helps your GBP rank higher, add to a positive consumer experience, gain trust, and increase conversions. So when you have clients tell you they’re leaving or trying to leave a review for your business but it’s not showing up, it can be very concerning, and trust me, the SEO team at 99 Calls has also experienced this, so we can relate to your situation.

Google has strict algorithms in place to vet all the reviews. The purpose of this is to show search users true and factual reviews and block fake reviews. Unfortunately, sometimes good, legitimate reviews can accidentally get weeded out with the bad ones.

Some common reasons your clients’ reviews may not be showing up are:

  • Your business offers Wi-Fi that customers connect to and you’ve logged into your Google My Business account from this Wi-Fi.
  • The review contains a URL or phone number that is considered to be a form of solicitation or advertising.
  • The review contains a word Google doesn’t like, such as profanity, racial terms, hateful content, or offensive content.
  • You hired an SEO company to post reviews for you.
  • You have an onsite review station (iPad, computer etc.) at your location.
  • The user who left the review is located nowhere near you or has never physically visited your location.
  • Offering a reward or discount to a customer for leaving a positive review.

For more information from Google on restricted or prohibited content in reviews, refer to this link, https://support.google.com/contributionpolicy/answer/7400114#zippy=.

The next time your clients ask you why their reviews aren’t showing up even though they’re leaving them, check with them to make sure none of the above requirements are being violated. It is possible they are not following Google’s review policies.

Lead Generation, Lead Generation for Contractors, online marketing, SEM, SEO, service contractor leads

The Importance of Content for Lead Generation

by Devon Osborne

Updating your website and listings regularly with unique content plays a large role when it comes to lead generation. With online competition growing more year after year, businesses need to find more ways to set themselves apart and outrank the others. 

How Does Adding Content Actually Help?

Having an attractive website is only a small step when it comes to SEO lead generation. Google’s goal is to provide users with the most relevant and valuable search results. Therefore, it is recommended that content should be informative, valuable, credible, high-quality, and engaging. More information on the types of content Google values can be found here. Consistently creating relevant content is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle if you want to easily be found by prospective customers. 91% of people will not search past the first page of results. Therefore it is of utmost importance that your website is ranking highly on that first page.

Google rewards businesses that are regularly updating their website and listings with fresh content with higher rankings. When you add new content, Google will crawl your website, giving you the opportunity to increase your rankings each time you update it with quality, relevant content. This is not to say that you should go and make unnecessary, irrelevant changes or updates to your site, that is not what search engines are looking for. Adding relevant content also allows you to add more search keywords which is another great way to improve your rankings.

Search engines are not the only ones that want to see fresh content on your website, consumers do as well. Stock photos alone may look nice on your site, but before choosing someone to do the job, your customers want to know what kind of work you do. Content is a great way to show off your expertise and feature the awesome work that you do. When customers see this, it will help you stand out from your competition.

Examples of Good Content

When it comes to creating relevant content for your website, you may not know where to begin. We have identified a few simple ideas to help you out! 

  1. Photos of your work: Help showcase the great work you do with before/after photos. 
  2. Customer testimonial videos: Show potential customers why they should call you.
  3. Running a promotion: Who doesn’t love a deal? 
  4. Adding an “about us” section to your website: This is a great way to share your story and gain trust with prospective customers.
digital marketing, Google Ads, How much is online marketing, Lead Generation, Lead Generation for Contractors, online marketing, online marketing costs, Pay Per Click Advertising, PPC, service contractor leads, Uncategorized

Which Service Industry Businesses Perform Best on Google Ads? How Does Your Conversion Rate Compare?

A Study of Conversion Rates for 20 Service Industries 

by Diane Lovine

As a Google Premier Partner that specializes in generating local leads for contractors nationwide, we’ve been keenly observing the changes that have been taking place with PPC marketing. We have monitored changes in the effectiveness of running Google Ads Campaigns to generate leads. Over the past couple of years, we have seen unprecedented fluctuations in levels of success. Some businesses are reporting banner years and others have shuttered for good. 

Pricing Increases Have Sidelined Some Businesses

Several factors have contributed to recent pricing surges for PPC advertising on Google. Increased online competition and inflation are the two main culprits.

Over the past two years, the market has become flooded with contractors willing and needing to get themselves found on the first page of Google. The importance of being seen is critical. The result of this influx of new businesses paying for Ads is steeper competition than ever, which is driving prices up. Many contractors are feeling the effects of the increased cost of doing business using Google Ads. Newer businesses that are not yet established find it even more daunting to get the cost-effective leads necessary to acquire their first customers. 

However, Google Ads is still one of the most effective growth strategies available. The findings in a March 2022 study found that Google Ads was still a less expensive marketing option than Facebook and Linkedin. When done well, Google Ads still produces a solid ROI for service contractors. 

Industry-specific data collected during the first five months of 2022 corroborate these findings and will be presented below.

Measuring Conversion Rate Results

Why do we use conversion rates as a measure of success with Google Ads? Pricing per lead for a given industry varies greatly by region, level of competition, consumer demand, and many other factors. 

Knowing what a contractor pays per lead only gives a small piece of the picture. In order to understand if a lead was a good value, you’d also need to know how much he or she paid for that lead. To get that number, you’d need to know the number of clicks that occurred and out of those clicks, the number of phone calls or forms filled out. That’s the conversion rate. Read more on why conversion rate matters. 

To sum it up, the two main reasons for knowing your conversion rate matter are that you need this information in order to understand your return on marketing investment. You also need to know the conversion rate that your marketing company is delivering and compare that to others to make sure you’re getting the most out of your Ads management budget. Not all online marketing companies are the same, and the ones that can deliver the highest conversion rates for your campaigns are getting you the best value (high lead volume for low prices).

Google Ads PPC Conversion Rate Analysis 

The Team at 99 Calls collected and analyzed data from 20 of its top-performing industries on the Google Ads PPC program. Over 125,000 clicks and 28,000 leads were analyzed by industry.

Professions With the Worst (Lowest) Conversion Rates  with PPC

The good news is that even the industries that use 99 Calls for Ads management that got the lowest conversion rates (HVAC and Restoration) were still seeing conversion rates of 10% and 12% respectively. Cost per lead came in at and below industry averages ($182 and $280 respectively). For the water damage restoration industry, contractors often pay $250 to $500 per exclusive damage lead. It is our experience that HVAC, Water Damage Restoration, General Contractor, and Commercial Cleaning industries see the most formidable competition online, and consequently demonstrate lower conversion rates than other industries.

How Did this Compare With Average Conversion Rates for Ads?

The team found it inspiring that those industries that garnered the lowest conversion rates on our program are still racking in leads at price per lead lower than the industry averages and with conversion rates much higher than industry averages. According to an article by popupsmart.com, the national average conversion rate for all PPC campaigns is just 2.35%. Just looking at Google’s Search network and not Display Ads, which tend to have much lower conversion rates, the average conversion rate increases to 4.4% according to Wordstream and Unbounce. 

These companies recommend aiming for 10% or higher to get a “good” conversion rate. So if the “worst” results are converting above the average, which are the best converting industries on Google Ads? 

Which Industries Get the Best Conversion Rates Using Google Ads?

The 99 Calls team collected click and conversion rate data for its 20 top industries managed using Google Ads campaigns. The chart below shows data for each of the 20 industries. 

Leading the pack with conversion rates were Appliance Repair (31%), Moving Services (31%), Carpet Cleaning (27%), and Pressure Washing (27%). Conversion rates this high bring in solid ROI for businesses because higher conversion rates translate into lower costs per lead. The respective price per lead received from each of the four top performers above were $18, $40, $34, and $34 per lead. 

Are Google Ads a Good Investment? 

Although the competition on Google to be shown at the top of searches has increased dramatically over the past 18 months which has driven up the price per click, we have found that the advertising service contractor business on Google Ads is still an excellent value. 

Of course, results vary widely among online marketing companies. Some charge high monthly fees and some cut into your budget by taking money off the top to cover their services. Some charge a flat monthly service fee, often a percentage of the budget. For example, 99 Calls provides Google Ads management services for $150 or 15% of the total monthly budget. Be sure to shop around and find the best value for your business. If a company can’t tell you their average conversion rates or give clear expectations, keep looking! 

Business Website, Carpet Cleaning Leads, cleaning business leads, Commercial Cleaning Leads, digital marketing, Lead Generation, Lead Generation for Contractors, online marketing, SEO

How to Gain High Quality Reviews on Your Google Business Profile

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

  1. 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.
  1. 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

  1. 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.
  1. 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. 
  1. 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. 

Follow Up

  1. 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.
  1. 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

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Want a refresher on why it’s important to get reviews on your Google Business Profile?Refer to the blog from April on the Importance of Reviews on your Google Business Profile.

Business Website, digital marketing, Lead Generation, Lead Generation for Contractors, online marketing, SEM, SEO, service contractor leads, Uncategorized

Multiple Business Websites: Harmful or Beneficial?

by Diane Lovine and Danielle Giarrusso

What is the impact of having more than one website?

Does it increase your visibility online? Does it confuse your customers?

There is conflicting information about whether using a multiple domain strategy (having two or more websites) will hurt or help a business. Often, the information is based on assumptions about the content and setup of the sites. Here are the facts:

Some lead generation companies say that a second site is a bad idea. Here are some of the arguments that have been made against having multiple websites:

1.   “Having multiple websites produces duplicate content (a big no-no for Google rankings).”

Having two sites with very similar content (or the same content) is definitely harmful. You will almost surely suffer losses in your rankings for both sites.

However, if you have a lead generation site with entirely different content than your branded site, pages from each site have the potential to rank highly, which improves your odds for a more expansive online presence.

2.   “Promoting multiple websites will confuse your customers.”

When people search for the services you provide on Google, they don’t know about you. A lead generation site is built to rank highly and present you as an option to them. Most branded sites don’t rank as highly as lead generation sites but are useful to your customers who are looking YOU up online.

Once you get that lead (probably through your lead site) and establish contact with the customer, you’ll hand out your business card which will take them to your direct phone number and branded site moving forward.

3.  “Using multiple websites will divide your results, weakening your rankings.”

It is true that having one authoritative presence online is ideal. But if your one presence is minuscule, it pays to make a bigger splash. The 99 Calls team builds sites that rank for a variety of keywords in multiple locations, almost always outranking a business’ primary website. The expectation is that your lead site will rank higher over time, and your original site will stay the same.

Other instances when a second site is warranted include having multiple small offices within a state or region and having multiple products or services that aren’t quite related. In these cases, having a targeted site for each circumstance makes sense.

A second (and third or more) site would be beneficial when targeting various geographic locations if you have a physical address for each location. If this is the case, having a “microsite” for each satellite office is beneficial. Google loves to show businesses that are extremely local to the searcher.

A second site is also beneficial if you promote multiple unrelated services. For example, if you are a licensed remodeling contractor and you sell real estate on the side, it makes sense to separate those services into two sites so that you can better target each service.

4.   “Promoting 2 sites for the same business will cause you to compete against yourself.”

If you have the same headings or are promoting the same keywords in the same location on two different sites, you are probably competing with yourself.

Would you rather compete against yourself or your competitors? Adding a lead site gives you the potential to dominate the first page of Google, knocking a competitor back to page 2!

5.   “Having two websites will get you in trouble with Google.”

Not quite. Multiple listings in the same town for the same business is definitely problematic though! 

If you build listings, especially a Google Business Profile that use the same address or phone number for the same business, you are putting your online presence in jeopardy. You can only have one Google Business Profile in a given geographic location.

The bottom line:

If your primary website is not generating enough leads, hiring a reputable lead generation company that uses a second site for leads can be a smart strategy for growth.

A multiple domain marketing strategy is more expensive, but if the ROI is high, you are maximizing your marketing budget and your potential to optimize your lead volume! You may own a larger slice of the first-page real estate on Google and enjoy more inbound leads as a result.

99 Calls has been selected as a Google Partner and utilizes a unique SEO strategy to get businesses highly ranked in their local areas for the services they offer.

digital marketing, Lead Generation, Lead Generation for Contractors, online marketing, Uncategorized

99 Calls Partner Spotlight

Earth Landscape

April is National Lawn and Garden Month. It’s that time of year when we can get outside and enjoy all things Spring. Each week of this month, we’ll be shining the spotlight on some of our partners who help to keep outdoor spaces looking beautiful.

This week, I’d like to introduce you to Curtis Dragon, owner of Earth Landscape, which is located in Salem, Massachusetts. For over 35 years, Curtis has specialized in practicing landscape solutions using organic products and sustainable practices. His most recent focus is on getting organic products on the market that are not just “earth-friendly”, but also price-competitive as compared to synthetic products.

Background

I asked Curtis, “How did you get into the landscaping business”? 

Curtis went to an agriculture high school. Students were presented with a variety of trades, and with the urging of his father, he chose horticulture and agriculture. “My dad was a truck driver and a carpenter. He guided me in this direction because he saw that there was an opening in the industry and a chance to grow as an entrepreneur”, Curtis said.

The Push for Sustainable Landscaping

I knew that Curtis has a special niche in his practices. He focuses on providing organic, or sustainable landscaping services in Massachusetts. So I asked about his inspiration for going into organic services. 

Curtis explained that in school, students were pushed to get their agriculture licenses so they would be certified in the use of DDT. Where he is from, agribusiness is synonymous with the use of petrochemicals. It is standard to use harsh chemicals for weed and pest control. One day, his class was up in the potato fields during a hands-on lesson. Curtis went on, “Our professor was so proud of the power of the chemicals to kill weeds and pests. He sprayed the whole area with them.” There was a pond at the bottom of the hill. The next day, it rained. As the group of students returned to the fields, Curtis was horrified to see ducks and birds lying dead by the pond and fish floating belly up. The destructiveness of synthetic products had a profound impact on him. “Bells went off and I thought there must be a better way”, he said. Curtis discovered Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. It was his first exposure to sustainable gardening and he still uses it today. That was the beginning of seeking alternatives. 

Over the years, he has moved away from the term organic, which usually conjures up a sense of “expensive” and moved to “eco-minded” or “sustainable-minded” terminology. He continues to educate others to overcome the stigma that organic is much more expensive than synthetic products. 

Challenges of the Landscaping Business

When asked what unique challenges he has faced with his business, Curtis quickly responded, “Seasonality!”. It hit him quickly that the growing season is short in New England. He had to find a way to make a living year-round. Curtis earned a college degree in horticulture and agriculture and got creative with learning ways to hone his tool to provide income throughout the year. The answer was product development, running workshops and becoming active with related organizations. 

In an effort to find affordable organic products that he could use in his landscaping practices, he discovered that the standard system of using petrochemicals is incredibly inexpensive, but that organic products have come a long way. In fact, Curtis learned to develop his own line of organic products that are competitively priced and can compete with synthetic fertilizers, such as Miracle Grow and Miracid. Curt uses a blend of kelp and fish, which are derived from ocean waste (fish bones, guts, etc) and ferments them in 55 gallon drums. This is just one of many creative ways to create beneficial products from waste products. 

In addition to using these “homegrown” organic fertilizer products, he now sells them to consumers. Why is that important? His products feed the soil, which feeds the plants. He can customize the pH depending on the result needed (neutral for grasses and annuals, acidic for perennials, shrubs, evergreens). People are raving about being able to purchase organic lawn and garden fertilizer that is both effective and cost-competitive.

Curtis uses sustainable practices to control grubs and other garden pests in ways that protect the environment and surrounding plants and enrich the soil. For example, seed oil only goes after the grubs. The water becomes a carrier of the oil, which penetrates their exoskeleton and stops them from feeding. 

How 99 Calls Helps With Landscaping Leads

Curtis attributes over 25% of his business through the years to leads generated by 99 Calls. The content team worked with him from the beginning to customize the lead website to focus on being found by new customers who are specifically looking for sustainable lawn and garden solutions. Although this is a smaller niche, the customers are “preselected” and he’s happy to have a more condensed audience. He receives fewer leads than if he advertised as a mainstream landscaping company, but they are of higher quality to him. 

Goals for the Future

Demand is changing. Consumers who began buying organic food years ago are now searching for additional lifestyle choices that support sustainability. This is naturally bringing eco-sustainable-minded people to businesses like Earth Landscape. Curtis hopes to continue to educate them on the lowering cost of organic practices and will continue to produce these products himself and bring them to market. He is working on packaging and promoting these products. 

As if that isn’t enough to keep him fully committed, Curtis is also writing a book around a term he has coined, “Eco terrascape”, which he describes as a system of sustainable practices. 

Further Recommendations

In closing, Curtis disclosed that 95-98% of Landcare businesses are still doing it the conventional way. They are removing material from their lawns; filling trucks up with cut grass, debris, and paying to dump it! By following these methods, landscapers can actually make more money if they will go into sustainable maintenance practices. The soil food web needs that. Green grass is 70% nitrogen and water. They are taking it out of the system and having to put it back in by watering and fertilizing. Simple practices such as using mulching mowers will feed the system and save water. There are many benefits to sustainable gardening, for workers, homeowners, and the environment.

digital marketing, Lead Generation, Uncategorized

Women-Owned Businesses Spotlight

Debbie Robinson – JP Services

In honor of women in history month, this week we turn the spotlight on one of our partners located in New Hampshire. Debbie Robinson, of Debbie the JP, has worked full-time for over 28 years administering mental health services in many settings including inpatient psychiatry, corrections and transitional housing. She runs her own business on the side providing wedding officiating, document signing and notary services, which is what brought her to 99 Calls for lead generation.

Debbie’s part-time business of providing document signing and wedding officiating services has been a fun and challenging source of additional income that has funded travel and hobbies. This is Debbie’s first experience with running a business and working for herself and she enjoys having the ability to manage her own schedule and the direction of her work.

When asked how she got into this line of business, she noted that she has worked for years assisting people as they struggle through the most devastating moments in their lives. Conducting wedding ceremonies allows her to take part in couples’ best moments, which creates a much-needed balance. The idea of becoming a wedding officiant took off when a co-worker asked if she knew a Justice of the Peace; her son was getting married and they wanted a simple, intimate ceremony. It got Debbie thinking that this would be a perfect side business to start.

She has since conducted weddings of all types and has signed documents throughout New Hampshire as a mobile notary. She is proud of helping people during the COVID pandemic when in-person services were shut down. She met many people in parking lots armed with her JP stamp to sign titles, wills, loans and other important documents. Debbie has always been driven to help people during times of need.

We asked Debbie what challenges she encountered when starting her business. She said that becoming certified was not too challenging, and she enlisted the help of an accountant to navigate the taxes. The biggest concern initially was that she wasn’t sure how people who were searching for these services would find her. Those concerns were allayed when she forged a relationship with a wedding facility, Alpine Grove, in southern New Hampshire. The owners included her postcards in their prospective client packets, which really helped to launch her business. 

A few years later, she relocated to the Lakes Region of NH and needed to establish her business from the ground up again. This time, she utilized the services of 99 Calls for lead generation. “I get more calls than I can handle from the lead generation site to support my part-time business and I turn quite a few jobs down. I’m notified when a call comes in, which allows me to quickly put on my business voice and get work scheduling a document signing or a wedding.”

What is Debbie’s advice for a young woman who is considering getting started as a Justice of the Peace? Debbie reports that although the field tends to be female-dominated, there isn’t a clear advantage to being a female. It’s an excellent part-time or potentially a full-time business that offers flexibility and the opportunity to assist people to solve problems with getting documents signed and provide a much-needed service to the community. She says that officiating weddings is an especially rewarding experience. If you are looking for a part-time side business that is rewarding and allows you the flexibility to set your own schedule, becoming a JP may be the perfect match for you too!