Monthly Archives: December 2011

3 New Year Resolutions for Home Service Businesses

As the year draws to a close, it’s natural to take a moment to reflect on the past twelve months; the good things; the bad things; successes; proud moments; and the things that we’d rather not mention!

But while reflection serves a useful purpose in helping to learn from past experiences, most of the energy and thought that goes into running a successful home service business is best invested in the future; the plans, goals, strategy, and objectives for the coming year.

With the start of 2012 imminent, here are three New Year Resolutions that home service businesses should consider implementing to increase efficiency and productivity, for a head start in the new year.

 1.     Review your website content

It may seem obvious but the content on your website is what draws attention to your products and services; it generates demand and interest.  But what is less obvious is that your performance in Internet search (i.e., how far up the list you appear in Google when someone searches for information that is connected with your business) is not just based on the quality of the content, but also on how recent this is: how often you refresh and update your website.  Search engines like new information; it makes you appear fresh and new.  Your first resolution for 2012 is: Refresh the content on your website (even just a little).

 2.     Promote your services

Start the year with a drive to increase demand for your products and services.  But here is a problem: many customers will have little spare cash available after the Christmas season so what can you do?  Consider offering special January offers to tempt them to part with their cash or partner with a daily deals website such as Groupon.  Your second resolution for 2012 is: Tempt customers by offering them something irresistible (in limited quantities, of course!)

3.     Change the way you work

Many home service businesses have operated in the same way for years, and for one simple reason: it works.  But that doesn’t mean in today’s more competitive market that this is the best way of working.  Challenge yourself; question the way you work; see if your working methods can be improved; invest in a comprehensive service management solution.  Your third resolution for 2012 is: Change the way you work.  If you see perfection, then look again…

As the year starts, plan ahead for a successful and profitable year.  What other resolutions will your home service business be following in 2012?

3 Reasons Gift Certificates are Great for Home Service Businesses

With the holiday season already upon us, trading for some home service businesses may suffer and slow down.  Whether business is booming or not, offering gift certificates to current and potential customers during the holiday season is a great revenue generator.  It is also a free and easy way to promote your business but it’s surprising how many businesses do not consider adopting this so here are three reasons why your company should consider providing gift certificates this holiday season and how you can implement a gift certificate program.

Why Gift Certificates?

1.       It’s  a Great Gift

Knowing what to buy for a loved one is a chronic issue that many people suffer from at this time of year.  A gift certificate for house cleaning, lawn care, a repair service, or even a plumbing service is both thoughtful and helpful.  Whether your loved ones have a leaky tap, a filthy house, or they are enduring a case of mice, providing them with the chance to better their home (something they probably won’t spend their own money on) is creative and easy.

2.       Promotion

Making gift certificates available gets your name out there.  It promotes brand awareness because you are increasing the number of people that will hear about your business and then utilize your services.  Purchases of the gift certificates to give to their friends or family (who may then tell others), creates discussion and interest in YOUR company.

3.       Generate New Business

One of the best things that gift certificates can do is generate new clientele, and more business during the slower periods of the year.  Slower periods are mostly a seasonal issue faced by home service businesses but by providing gift certificates you gain control and add new businesses and revenues while your competitors continue to suffer.

How to Implement Gift Certificates at Your Company

  • Plan what types of gift certificates you are going to sell, and set affordable prices.  Are you going to sell an entire service, (i.e. one full house cleaning), or are you going to provide a monetary value that can be used to pay for services of the customer’s choice?
  • Make sure that you are tracking the gift certificates you sell.  Ensure that you have captured the email address and phone number of the purchaser, and record the gift certificate number and amount in your CRM database, or an Excel spreadsheet.
  • Have a graphic designer or print company such as Vistaprint create a gift certificate for you that you can have printed.  It is best to get them professionally printed to promote a strong image.  If you want to make it even easier for customers, you can offer e-coupons, gift certificates that you email to the recipient.  Make sure you include your company’s name, contact number, website, and address.
  • Promote the fact that you offer gift certificates.  Include some blurb on the bottom of your customers’ invoices stating that you have gift certificates available.  Include a note in your company holiday card.  Post signs at your office, and advertize in local newspapers.

As a home service business, have you ever offered gift certificates before?  Was this a successful initiative?  Post a comment and tell us more!

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

One of the greatest challenges that any small home service business faces is survival.  Maybe this is a constant, day-to-day worry or just an occasional concern about where the next order for your services is going to come from, but the risk is still there.  In a typical small business, cash may be tight, operating budgets and investment opportunities limited, orders may be hard to find, and suppliers can be demanding payment. If things aren’t going to plan then the business’s survival, and your own livelihood are both threatened.

Regardless of whether it is a constant or occasional stress, the fear and risk of failure never completely leave us.  So what is the answer? Build a bigger business perhaps? There is no doubt that a competently run “big” business solves many of these challenges by giving access to more funds; more power; greater personal wealth; and increased leverage over suppliers and the market. A position of power is desirable but long-term survival is still not guaranteed.

With size, come bigger challenges and more pressure to succeed. But success is not granted forever. Take Microsoft as an example of a “BIG” company who once dominated the software market, leading the way with their Windows operating systems and Office packages, the Microsoft technology stack, and a wealth of other innovative software solutions. Microsoft brought personal computing to the masses both at home and at work. In recent times however Microsoft has been under multiple attacks from the likes of Apple, RIM, Google, general anti- Microsoft sentiment, and the law courts.

Today, despite their size and past successes, Microsoft faces the very same challenge that many small home service businesses face; survival.

There is an increasing sentiment and expectation that Microsoft will collapse.  Maybe not imminently but the warning signs are present. This subject was covered just this week by Business Insider and while their accompanying vision of the future may be somewhat entertaining and implausible, it paints a picture that bigger is not necessarily better.

There’s something unique and beautiful about being a small business; you have the flexibility to make decisions that are in your best interests; you are more agile and can respond quickly to changes and customer needs; there is no constant scrutiny from the media and the wider public. And, when the working day is done, your business is just that: it is yours!

As a small home service business, what are your thoughts?

3 Reasons Why Your Service is Your Product

As a small home service business, you deliver a service or some services to your customers.  That’s an obvious statement; but have you considered that this is your product?

The reason for asking this apparently bizarre question is that one such home service business commented recently that “we don’t sell products”.  In a sense this is true because there’s no physical item at the end of the process; it’s not as if they’re selling an iPad, a motor vehicle, dishwasher, or anything else.  But by taking such an intangible approach and assuming that the customer cannot see anything, the home service business is actually making life more difficult for themselves.  How do you sell something that essentially doesn’t exist?

When a business designs and sells a product, decisions are made about how it looks, how it feels, its features, what makes it unique, and what attracts the buyer to part with their cash and make a purchase.  But there’s no reason why these types of decisions shouldn’t be made when defining your service.

Here are three reasons why:

  1. Differentiation – make yourself stand out from your local competitors and define what is so special and different about your service.  In the same way that a physical product manufacturer cares about the aesthetics that make their product look unique, apply this logic to your service to help make it stand-out and sell.
  2. Vision – despite the earlier comment about selling something that “doesn’t exist”, the reality is: it does exist.  By defining exactly what you are selling, you can then paint a picture, a vision, in the mind of the customer.  They may not physically “see” your product but by outlining exactly what the customer gets, they will clearly “get it.”
  3. Tangibility – how you market your product is more than just the product itself because you need to look at how you price and promote this, and where you sell it.  By ignoring the product aspect and not describing your service, you have nothing to price and promote: there’s nothing to sell!

The third point from the list introduces the powerful, but simple, technique called the Marketing Mix and we will provide an overview of this in a forthcoming blog.

As a small home service business, what are your thoughts about this perspective?