Archive for the ‘business’ Category

SEO is becoming mainstream to the business owner. 6 to 7 years ago I would be shocked to find a business owner that new what SEO was. Today I am shocked to find one that doesn’t. The majority of business owners now know they need and want SEO. The problem now becomes understanding what SEO really is, and does a business owner ultimate get his website ranked in Google. Hence the BBB is trying to fill a need for its loyal members by providing a quick and easy guide to getting websites ranked.

Here is the BBB’s article: 5 Steps To Get Your Business On Google’s First Page

Reckless. Very reckless. If only SEO was as quick and easy as a 5 step.

Black Hat Magic

What  irritated me the in this article was the following statement:

“Accredited Businesses who use BBB’s dynamic seal on their website will greatly benefit from bbb.org’s high domain status, thus increasing their own domain authority and search engine ranking.”

What BBB did here is shrewdly ask for a link. Asking for a reciprocal link to be more clear. Further, implicating that by adding a link to the BBB the businesses owner will get better ranks. They even linked to Moz.com within this misguided statement. Was this contrived or is the writer just naive? While this tactic of reciprocal linking isn’t entirely black hat, the fact that the article doesn’t give full disclosure that they are asking for a link makes me cringe.

 

Most Effective SEO Strategies

spring-spider-pest-controlDespite the BBB’s attempt to gain links from their naive and trusting followers, the BBB did publish a survey with some good percentages for effective SEO strategies. The survey put “Link Building” as the 3rd from the bottom. The respondents felt that “Quality Content Creation” is your best bet for SEO success. Bravo. Take the survey’s advice and work on your content strategy and keyword research. Give users the information they are searching for and your business should reap some SEM benefits. But please understand, SEO is not a quick 5 step project. It’s a competitive world out there, and everyone wants the first page of google.

 

It seems rather frequent these days that Bulwark Exterminating gets calls from individuals “with the news station” wanting to “feature a pest control company”.

And now, more often then not, I am disappointed when a call gets through to my line with an intro of “They said they were with the news station.” Very few of these individuals are actually reporters covering news. Instead they are solicitors who have coat tailed in on the name of CBS News. Granted they don’t usually say they are covering a news story, or that they are reporters from the news station. They simply drop the familiar “News Station” name into their introduction and those answering the phones make great haste to get them to the proper PR person. But really, all they want to do is pitch a spot on their news website.

Now I know that a lot of traditional media stations are suffering with how to adapt to the internet. The online world is sucking viewers away by the millions. Reporters are getting scooped left and right by bloggers and youtube videos shot from smart phones. It is a tough new world for traditional media. But these phone calls make them seem even more desperate to me. And strangely, the “News Stations” just don’t get it. And sadly, most of them cave to running Google Adsense, feeding their biggest competitor.

And what they don’t see is the power they still wield. I am more than happy to bend over backwards for reporters, when they do actually call. I am happy to rearrange schedules, clean up a truck, find an ant mound, let them video our live scorpions, and even spend 2 hours to be dropped for breaking news. Because the news is still watched. Not by all demographics, but by the good majority of the demographic that will actually buy pest control. And your stations are still being watched. Yes, you may have to adjust for the loss of viewers. Yes, your prices will probably need to drop. But you still have an audience and you can make it profitable.

And for those solicitors that keep calling, you are making making your stations look bad. You are not reporters. Don’t pretend to be such. Don’t pretend to be offering a “news” feature. Further, online views are not the same as TV views. They shouldn’t cost the same, it’s not a bargain. The prices I’ve been offered for impressions on a news website are ridiculous. Especially when the ads are below the fold. So “No Thank You CBS Broadcasting in Charlotte NC. We don’t want to be solicited for a feature PAID spot on your website. If you do however want to feature our fabulous Charlotte Pest Control company in the news my lines are open.”

 

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A recent study by Ryan C. McDevitt of Duke University lays claim that plumbers who bid on Google’s PPC ads have a high likelihood of being poor quality plumbers.

The article makes a comparison of PPC ads to the former yellow pages. The argument begins with the home based services whose names begin with the letter ‘A’ or a number. They found plumbers with ‘A’ or numeric names charge a 8.4% price premium. They used a study from 2005 based on the Chicago yellow pages which documents ‘A’ names and number names by percentage of total listings in each category to point out plumber’s beat the average 9.3% of business with ‘A’ names. This study they used is pretty eye opening.

Rank Yellow Page Headings by Percentage of “A” or # Names

1
 Locks & Locksmiths 65.90%
2
 Towing-Automotive 28.90%
3
 Taxi & Limousine Service 21.20%
4
 Convenience Stores 21.20%
5
 Plumbing Contractors 21.00%
6
 Associations 20.80%
7
 Insurance 19.90%
8
 Roofing Contractors 15.20%
9
 Cellular Telephone Services 14.90%
10
 Art Galleries & Dealers 14.90%
11
 Employment Agencies 14.80%
12
 Automobile Repairing & Service 14.50%
13
 Electric Contractors 14.10%
14
 Travel Agencies & Bureaus 13.50%
15
 Painters 13.30%

Source: American Business Disc,2005

Does it correlate that yesterday’s Yellow Page spammers are today’s internet spammers?

The fact that Locksmith’s tops the list reminds me of the notorious Locksmith spammers in today’s SEO world. Albeit it may not be entirely fair to suppose an ‘Automobile’ category is gaming the system by using ‘A’ names as the category itself begins with ‘A’.  It is also insightful that roughly 6.2% of competitive categories use ‘A’ or numeric names. If name selection for a business were unbiased we would likely see an average closer to 3.9% ‘A’ names, which is where Lawyers and Attorneys fall due to regulations requiring firms use names that match the lead attorney. Pizza companies actually fall below that mark with a 3.4% ‘A’ name ratio.

My Thoughts

The idea that plumbing spammers are more likely to bid on google PPC ads is intriguing. However I found that the study by McDevitt of Duke makes a lot of assumptions. Further, it used Yelp as a primary source for counting reviews and comparing complaint averages. I highly doubt that the data included Yelp’s obnoxious filtered reviews. Plus, as Larry Kim added, 25% of Yelp’s reviews are suspected as fake.

And if the conclusion has some merit among the plumbing industry, I find it hard to believe it is applicable to all home service industries. Granted I am a bit biased to the pest control industry, but even still, I find it hard to imagine a business model that could afford the current cost per ‘pest control’ click and not retain customers.

The study does have some tenable findings in the yellow pages with regards to A and numeric names associated with quality. I believe the choice to take the AAA name for phone book ranking is an indication of choosing short term gains over long term strategy. A well developed quality service takes more careful aim with long term strategies in the crosshairs.

But… “Hey, I am just the pest control guy.

for further discussion on this study visit HBR : http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/11/beware-the-plumbing-firm-that-advertises-a-lot/

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This past week yelp changed a few things, they no longer filer reviews!

But before you get too excited, they now “Recommend” and “Highlight” reviews, while they  have other “reviews currently not recommended.” But.. You can NOW click through to this reviews that are not currently recommended,  without having to enter a captcha!

“Yahoooooo!… No Captcha!

Wait there’s more, the “NOT RECOMMENDED” reviews are now sorted from low to high stars… AND they have a new video!!!

yelp-not-recommended-review-filter

Highlight reel from Yelp’s New Video

Yelp-recommendation-software

(hmmm…. EVERY review? But what about the businesses that trip a review filter that causes their reviews to pass a different standard…???)

Yelp-Fake-Reviewer-filter

Wow… Not sure where to go with this one since Nick B. in Austin is so obviously fake, yet he’s reviews only got filtered for a “Bridal Company”. Check out this thread to see how many Yelper’s agree that Nick’s review should be filtered >>> Austin Pest Control Reviews on Yelp

Yelp Testing Carousel Layout

Apparently I was one of the lucky 1% to see Yelp’s new layout. But I did find a way for you to see it yourself… CLICK HERE! 

Yelp-New-layout-carousel

The page is wider. The font is larger. The “Competitor Companies” on the right are pushed further down. The reviewer images are bigger. They encourage users to add photos, for better or worse. What I surely don’t like is that they have distorted the video image by taking a landscape layout and squished it into a square. It would be ideal if I could select the image to show in the video box… even worse is this:

Video-Yelp-Broken

They have also eliminated a few options, like bookmarking and linking to a review. They moved the compliments, messages, and follows to the left and only visible upon scrolling over them.

Yelp-new-design2

I give the new design a 3 star rating… nothing to be too excited about, but not too bad either. Still don’t like the review filter even if Yelp has changed the name to “Not Recommended”. And I am still not happy about the number of fake reviewers that Yelp knowing permits to remain on their system. Yes… KNOWINGLY permit. I’ve reached out to the uppers at yelp and they have assured me that this user and others like him are being looked into. But they have been aware of him since I first reported it over 2 months ago. Here is Luther with Yelp responding…

If anyone wants the details on the fake review network that yelp isn’t doing anything about, ping me. I’ve got a pretty little spreadsheet I can share with you.

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Simple metrics can put you and your company on the road to continuous improvement. Bulwark Exterminating’s Adam Seever shares how.

Business Sign X

Business Sign X (Photo credits: http://www.roadtrafficsigns.com)

Big firms save millions by reducing errors and waste through Six Sigma, Kaizen and Lean Management. But for small and mid-size companies, these principles can be hard to apply. It’s easy to get lost in the jargon, said Adam Seever, CEO of Bulwark Exterminating in Mesa, Ariz.
His suggestion? Keep it simple: Focus on measurement.

Commit to the power of metrics.

First, your organization must embrace three key values:

Hamilton path in graph. Arrow: edge of graph, ...

Hamilton path in graph. Arrow: edge of graph, Blue dot: vertex of graph, red arrows show Hamilton Path. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. Measurement is good.
  2. If it is measured, it will improve.
  3. If it is not measured, quality will not exist.

“You have to accept that measurement is necessary for improvement,” said Seever. “You may have great employees, but if the systems they work in aren’t measured, they can’t see how they’re doing compared with each other and you can’t see how the systems relate to the overall money-making capacity of the business.”

Take a reality check.

Get managers together and discuss what employees should be doing but aren’t. Write these “shoulds” down. “That’s a success in and of itself,” said Seever.

This process is all about discovering reality, which is “whatever your average employee is doing when no one is looking,” he said.

Here’s an example: You want your technicians to start the day’s first service in the first 20 minutes of the 8 to11 a.m. time block. Your average technician, however, isn’t showing up until after 10 a.m. Technically he’s not late, but delaying this first service can throw his entire day behind schedule.

Should you fire this employee? Give him more training? Neither, said Seever. “You just can’t throw the axe every time the average person isn’t doing what you want them to do,” he said. And lecturing is useless, especially when the employee is protected by the work habits of the majority. “They will not change. You will not find increased productivity,” he said.

According to Seever, “They’re not the inadequate one. You are.” When you have the mean of individuals in your system acting contrary to what the management team thinks should happen, that’s the fault of management not employees. The goals you’ve developed and the systems you built are insufficient.

Prioritize and measure.

rel-author-tagIdentify one or two of the “shoulds” and brainstorm how to measure them. Start with something you easily
can get your arms around.

“It’s a learning process for everyone in the company.” If you’ve collected people who like to ride the gravy train, there’s going to be friction. Bulwark Exterminating put GPS devices in service trucks to monitor when technicians arrived at their first call. A simple spreadsheet — check yes or no — recorded whether employees showed up in the first 20 minutes of the time block.

Do the math.

Calculate the economic impact if the majority of employees changed their behavior. This can be a little involved, but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated, said Seever.
What would happen if the average technician showed up 95 percent of the time in the first 20 minutes to his first appointment? How much more money per day would he generate if he could service more accounts by 5 p.m.? Would you have new capacity to handle emergency calls? Would customers be more satisfied?

Pay for it.

Develop a bonus system to reward employees who change behavior. Bulwark Exterminating found it could save $200 per month per technician if employees showed up to the first service call within the first 20 minutes. Technicians who do this 95 percent of the time get a $100 monthly bonus. The bonus helped employees accept the GPS monitoring.
Some business owners have a problem with splitting the difference with employees, said Seever. They figure, why should I pay them more to do something they’re already supposed to be doing?
“You are paying exactly for what your average employee is doing right now,” he explained. Say you have 100 employees and 70 are not doing something to your expectation. You can’t expect one of those 70 people to change when 69 of them are protected by the norm.The employees who do meet your expectation are getting robbed. “It’s all about putting your money where your mouth is,” he said.

This approach can make annual pay reviews obsolete, as salary and hourly wage increases are based on increased productivity. Without real measurement, annual reviews are subjective and vague, and metrics almost always prove managers play favorites, said Seever. The human element is important — Do customers compliment him, is he personable, does he smile? — but without real
measurements, how do you really know?

Watch culture change.

English: Bulwark Exterminating

English: Bulwark Exterminating (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eventually, employees will embrace the expected behavior. Almost all of Bulwark Exterminating’s technicians now show up to their first call as expected and receive the $100 bonus each month.
If you get the average to comply, it’s easy to isolate a minority 20 percent not meeting expectations and train or terminate them, Seever said.
This approach cannot be accomplished by one person, he cautioned. At Bulwark Exterminating, a team of believers makes metric-based management happen.

And don’t expect results if you merely have the “warm and fuzzy” need to make your financial statements look better. “That type of engagement in any program, especially in regards to metrics, won’t work,” he said.

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Facebook-Birthday-Sponsor-spot

I am not going to lie, it’s pretty freaking ingenious. Especially if Starbucks is paying on a per click base. I’m guessing that this little ad is worth it’s weight for both facebook and Starbucks. If only pest control were as cool as coffee. Unless… maybe… do you think customers would buy pest control for their friends??? Uh… Nevermind. Snap out of it. Wake up and smell the coffee!

Facebook Birthday Targeting

Apparently at one point they had birthday targeting. Then it seems they relinquished it. Perhaps now it has a 2nd life in this new ad layout.  Facebook birthday ads are back. Perhaps this time to stay since they may actually be targeting the birthday present buyers rather than the birthday present receivers??

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Google
by Thomas B.
I was approached about setting up a booth for a Home and Garden Show in San Antonio, Texas. Pest control should do well in a marketing effort targeting homeowners, right? The promotional material sent to me included the following quote:

“Dollar for dollar, consumer shows continue to offer the
most significant return on investment and are the most
effective use of the marketing dollar.”

- The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 2007

Intrigued, I searched this article out online. …It was no where to be found.

Reviewing the Quote

Beyond the fact that I could not find this quote anywhere online, I see some flaws here. The quote is 5 years old. A ton has changed in 5 years. Internet marketing is still in it’s infancy. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that internet marketing can be beat on ROI. But that’s only speaking from my experience as a pest control guy. As it were, the fully report cannot be located online, therefore I cannot even determine if internet marketing was considered in the study. The quote alone a reveals nothing as to the business or businesses that they used to determine that Home Shows were the best ROI for marketing dollars. Sorry, but this quote does nothing for me. I need real data please.

Marketing Dollar for Marketing Dollar best ROI

market 1

market 1 (Photo credit: tim caynes)

Where would you put your money for the best marketing ROI? Well… that really depends on who YOU are. If you expect to get the exact same results as everyone else in a specific marketing avenue regardless of your business, of you location, or of your target audience then you don’t understand marketing. “Consumer Shows” probably work extremely well for the wedding industry. It’s a very niche audience, the attendees are looking to buy your service. But for the vast audience of “Homeowners”, not all of them will need new flooring, new windows, or new appliances. And many of them will not show up at a Home Show with the sole intention of finding a pest control company. Therefore, it becomes a harder sale. An exterminator’s ROI is not going to be the same. And the San Antonio Home and Garden show isn’t cheap, well not by my standards. How many pest control services would one have to perform to recoup the money and time investment?

Weighing Marketing ROI

Don’t buy into the “Branding” concept. Don’t just assume that you have to brand your business and that the ROI can not be determined for every marketing endeavor. The best way to determine ROI is with hard numbers. Find a measuring stick and use it. And work it backwards. How many widgets do I have to sell to break even on a given marketing campaign? Does that number seem feasible with the size and demographics of the audience? When it comes to numbers, my accountant has taught me to error on the side of caution. Be realistic. Look at the worst case scenario. Once you determine how you will measure the success and considered the value at the worst case scenario, then you can proceed and report on the success or failure.

but hey… i am just a pest control guy.

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Dealing with happy customers and positive experiences which lead to wonderful online reviews is very rewarding.

But, dealing with a negative experience and the threat of a bad reviews is painful, as explained by one restaurant owner. A user of Yelp himself he finds it repulsive and revolutionary that a tool that can do so much good can be used for a weapon of extortion.

Read it hear: http://www.standard.net/stories/2012/05/30/restaurants-say-online-reviewers-exploit-their-power

I couldn’t help but leave my thoughts and comments, despite the horrid abuse or even the sometimes justified vindication users have, online reviews are changing the buying, shopping, and business world.

Online Reviews are Powerful

You give a man an inch and he takes a mile.

…but the good news for small businesses is that instead of spending $10k a month in newspaper or yellowbook advertising, they can spend time and energy impressing their clients and earning good reviews.

I know that I am just a pest control guy, but consider this, $10k a month for a full page phone book ad, now take that $10k a month and invest in improving your product or service. Bulwark did just that. We cut phonebook ads and put in back into operations and ultimately our pest control technicians’ pocket. It paid off. Instead of wasting money on advertising that no longer worked, we invested in our people and have reaped the reward.

So yes, review sites like this have a down side, but the rewards on the flip side are well worth the occasional bump.

Invest in Your Future

Investing in your product and/or your people is part of making sure your business survives. Did you know that Gillette invested six years and $750 million to develop it’s razor the Mach3? A razor. A razor that only costs buyers $6 to $10. I can’t fathom spending that kind of money on a razor. How many would they have to sell to make that back? But you know what, it worked. It was a success. The razor is phenomenal. I use it and I love it. That razor captured 20% of the razor market after it’s launch.

An old proverb about investing the future says it the best:

If you are investing for 1 year, plant corn.

If you are investing for 10 years plant trees.

If you are investing for 100 years, plant people.

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I’m sitting in McDonalds amazed at the restaurant that it now is compared to what it once was.

Modern art on the wall. Lounge chairs with coffee tables. Menu changes with smoothies, lattes. Sure the iconic happy meals are still available, but now you can order those with apple slices. The milkshakes are still on the menu as well, but I honestly don’t remember the last time I had one. What, 15, 16, maybe even 20 years ago? And I haven’t seen a styrofoam hamburger box around for awhile.

The decor is what most intrigues me. I would venture to guess that the menu changes are the quickest and least costly changes. Adding a disposable item is much less risky than adding the permanent fixtures of booths and the tile backsplash. Such interior make overs aren’t cheap. So just what is the cost benefit? Does replacing perfectly usable tables, chairs, and booths really pay off?

I don’t have the answer for McDonald’s, but I’m confident that they do. I’m also certain that not every restaurant needs an interior decorating overhaul to stay profitable. But what I do know is that staying relevant is vital to every business. Businesses need to check the lay of the land and make sure they are staying current for their market and their customers. Stay relevant. Know when a little painful and costly interior redecorating is needed to make sure your business is still alive in the future years.

20120511-124433.jpg

http://www.bulwarkpestcontrol.com/community/las-vegas-exterminator-earns-4th-award.htm

So every now and again I have to brag a little about the amazing Bulwark Exterminating team in Las Vegas, but this time it isn’t just me. Angie’s list recognizes less than 5% of their business each year with their Super Service Award. Not only is getting on to Angie’s list via a members recommendation a big deal, but earning an Award for service is HUGE!

I can’t take any credit for this. Wayne Bryant in Las Vegas runs a fantastic operation. I am constantly amazed at how well he manages and motivates his team. And he’s not a behind the desk manager. He gets out in the field as well. In fact, here is an interview of one of the customers he personally serviced to ensure her a scorpion free Las Vegas home.

Bulwark Exterminating, 3932 Octagon Road, North Las Vegas, NV 89030
Bulwark Exterminating, 2129 Industrial Rd #203, Las Vegas, Nevada, 89102
Bulwark Exterminating,, 2707 East Craig Road, North Las Vegas, NV 89030
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Mesa pest control branch also earned the Angie’s list Super Service Award. >> Mesa Exterminator Receives Angie’s List Super Service Award