Greg Reyneke is managing director of Red Fox Advisors. Reyneke can be reached at [email protected].
Although water treatment companies come in all sizes and shapes, they all need new and repeat customers to survive and thrive. As long as you take care of your existing customers’ needs and wants, they are likely to do business with you in the future. However, old customers may move out of the area or need fewer services; therefore, you need to keep your business supplied with a steady stream of new prospects and customers.
Unfortunately, many companies become focused on finding prospects—trying to find as many people to pitch to as possible. While that approach worked in the previous century, the modern and more effective philosophy is to help people find solutions to their problems.
Here are some suggestions to find more of the right people to talk to, and importantly, help them find you.
1. Optimize your online presence.
Your online presence is crucial. Your first order of business is to get your NAP—name, address and phone number—straight and make sure it is consistent everywhere you use it. Update that information if you need to and list it in the same way on all platforms. Also make sure that your business’ Facebook page matches.
Now that you have got that straight, you need to optimize your website. It is not enough just to park your business on the internet with a one-page website or have an online listing. You need to turn your website into a convenient portal that helps clients find you when they need a trusted professional to solve their water quality problems. Focus on producing your own original content instead of copying materials from manufacturers, vendors and industry associations. Your prospective clients want to hear your original thoughts, not rehashed content from someone else.
Every water treatment company wants to ensure that they are ranked as highly as possible on all search engines, so they will be seen first by prospects. There are even companies that promise that they will ”drive you all the way to the top,” using sophisticated and usually expensive methods. Most of these optimization practices only serve to lighten your wallet. Search engine services prioritize recent, valuable, relevant and consistent content that is relatable to what their users are looking for, while punishing sites that appear to have plagiarized content.
The online content you produce should be designed to attract and retain your target audience while driving customer action. When done correctly, content marketing creates a relationship of trust. When your audience trusts you, they will be more willing to do business with you when they are ready to make a buying decision.
Your online content should attract the right people to your site, convert those people into leads, and nurture and help close them into customers. Your content should educate and entertain your existing customers, turning them into brand advocates. This is the art of communicating with your prospects and customers without having to “sell” them. Here are some specific ideas to optimize your online presence:
- Start a blog and post fresh content at least once a month. Your blog posts should be short, clean and easy to understand. Focus on situations that you and your team have encountered, and how you have helped people to improve their lives with better water.
- Add videos to your website, and post them on YouTube and other social media platforms. People are likely to stay on your website longer to watch a short, engaging video. One of the key metrics Google uses for page rankings is user experience, including how long customers genuinely engage and interact with your site.
- Make sure your website is fast and mobile-friendly. Your prospects are impatient and they will move on if a page loads too slowly, causing your Google page rank to go down.
- Post a clear call to action on your website and post your contact information prominently. Allow customers to schedule appointments online. Your website should promote sales, not just sit there.
2. Ask for customer referrals and reviews.
In addition to increasing your online presence, there are several offline or blended marketing techniques you can use to generate leads for your business. One low-cost action is to tap into the power of your existing customer base by consistently asking for referrals. People typically are four times more likely to buy a product or service when they are referred by a friend. Also, companies with referral strategies experienced as much as 80% more revenue growth over the past two years than those without such programs.
Referrals are the gold standard of leads. They are 30% more likely to convert than other types of leads and they are free or inexpensive. Given those impressive statistics, make your referral program a top priority. It takes time and effort to begin the program, but maintaining it is simple and yields impressive results.
To start your referral program, ask clients for referrals when you finish a job. To sweeten the pot, you can offer a token reward, such as a gift card for each new paying customer your existing client refers. The most important consideration is recognition. By recognizing your customers’ immediate and future impact on your business, you are more likely to turn them into the kind of fans that your business needs.
You also can ask for referrals on social media. Treat your social media referrals like your offline contacts. For example, if you offer a reward for offline referrals, make sure to spread that offer to social media.
Remember to ask for reviews. Clients are more likely to remember negative experiences and leave bad reviews, but they are less inclined to share positive reviews unless they are prompted. You need as many positive reviews as possible, since more than 90% of customers begin looking for water treatment providers through an online search.
Respond to all reviews, whether positive or negative. Offer to engage with those who expressed negative views offline and try to resolve the situation ethically and equitably.
3. Partner with like-minded businesses.
In addition to seeking referrals from your customers, partner with businesses whose customers are likely to need your services. For instance, a natural fit for plumbers and water treatment professionals is your local independent hardware store. Talk to the owner or manager and request permission to make a presentation to their personnel. Ask them to refer customers to your business and agree to refer clients to them. You also may want to set up a multi-tier rewards program for this type of referral: one for the business and one for the individual salesperson.
4. Partner with like-minded professionals.
One group of professionals you should cultivate is builders. When people want to build a new home, they find the contractor first. They may ask the builder for recommendations for a good water treatment system or leave it to the new-construction plumber. Either way, you will miss out on business if you do not have ongoing relationships with builders. Make sure to choose a builder with an impeccable reputation. You do not want to sully your name by partnering with someone who does not operate at the same or higher level of standards than you.
Other groups of professionals you may consider tapping into are real estate agents and attorneys, home inspectors, plumbing companies, and apartment complex managers. Ask them to recommend you, and if possible, return the favor. You may want to consider offering these people a foot-in-the-door freebie for their customers, such as a water softener inspection and disinfection service or a complimentary water quality screening.
5. Join a local business networking group.
An excellent way to combine some of these ideas is to participate in a business referral networking group. These local groups meet on a regular basis with the idea to grow their own businesses and those of other members.
One group you may want to consider is Business Networking International (BNI). According to the organization’s website, BNI has 8,840 global chapters, 247,000 global members, and $14.2 billion in member closed business over the past 12 months from 11.2 million member referrals as of February 2019. Although the cost of a BNI membership is significant in terms of time and money, many business owners find that BNI-generated referrals make up a substantial portion of their new business.
There are many other tactics you can use to generate leads for your business. However, these are some of the most effective ones. Prioritize which strategies you want to tackle first, roll up your sleeves and get busy to help your business thrive in this economy.