The answer is text — now, what is the question? That’s what I’m hearing when it comes to younger contractors these days. And pond builders who are a bit older? It’s all about email.
I’ll admit it. I’m guilty of this at times as well. But there is no one-stop solution for communication, unfortunately.
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Different messages call for different ways to communicate. Here are a few of the most popular forms of communication and content generation formats that provide essential business information while working on the job site. Some work better than others why some may be better than others, depending on the situation.
Nobody likes delivering bad news, whether it’s concerning a delay in a customer’s build or having to report a problem you’ve found. This is when we often turn to email or text to avoid confrontation. Before the advent of texts and emails, we had no choice! We had to become skilled at talking on the phone.
Don’t hide behind emails and texts! Pick up the phone and confront the issues head on. While it might seem easier (and safer) to just send an email, in the long run, you will save time and maybe even clients by picking up the phone and facing up to your fears. The funny thing is, people are often more understanding by phone than email anyway! It’s easier to be cranky or rude behind a keyboard than it is while talking to someone.
Email has a time and place to be a very useful communication tool. Our pond company, AquaReale, made $322,000 in 2021 from email marketing. It’s the No. 1 way the company gets business.
The secret to a good email campaign? Make sure your emails are not sales oriented, but rather have information and relevance. Instead of directly advertising a sale on cold weather fish food, send a tip about what fish do in the winter in the colder regions. Which email would you click to read?
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It’s a hard lesson to learn at times, but the adage is true: People buy when they are ready to buy — not when you are ready to sell. AquaReale has some clients who got our tips for years before actually hiring us. One woman mentioned meeting us at a local event — one we had not been to in more than four years. She kept getting our pond tips and newsletters all that time before she decided to purchase a water feature!
Consider keeping all your emails and storing them in your customer relationship management (CRM) software. And yes, this means every single person who reaches out to you — not just those who buy. This also includes those who haven’t bought yet. If you keep giving them valuable information, they will remember you. When done correctly, email marketing can be a highly effective way to communicate with customers and should be a staple of almost any small-business marketing strategy.
Video blogs are huge for the pond industry, in no small part thanks to influencers like Jaak Harju and Greg Wittstock. Vlogs are the No. 1 way some of my colleagues get business. It’s a lot of work, but it can be hugely worth it.
The best part about vlogs? You become known to people before they even meet you. Vlogs help you sell your work before you are even in front of a customer and are a great way to emphasize the work you want.
Vlogs are great for YouTube, but you can also repurpose them. They can be made into tips for your website alongside the blog section and can also be emailed to your clients for maximum exposure.
Do these still exist? Are they necessary? Yes, and yes! Blogs are great for two main reasons. First, they are searchable on the main search engines. While you don’t need to inundate your blog with keywords, some can help elevate your position in organic search results.
Secondly, blogs are very informative. Like Marcus Sheridan says in his 2019 book “They Ask, You Answer,” answer the questions people ask. For example, how much does a basic pond cost?
Your goal here is to educate your customers, meet a need and solve their problems. In addition, much like vlogs, blogs can be used as content in a variety of different media, including Facebook and email marketing. If you are looking for good blog topics, just answer the questions you get asked the most.
There are quite a few different video options, but remember, these are all pushing content at people — not allowing for conversation. Some examples of video include private videos you shoot for clients, YouTube videos and Facebook Live. Some pond contractors love making videos for their clients to introduce themselves and their foreman. It’s a great way to communicate trust to clients and to introduce team members.
The top video choice? YouTube! It’s searchable and can be used in a variety of communication vehicles. Again, as Sheridan suggests in his book, focus on answering the popular questions people have. Even make some short videos for your website.
This is another key way to communicate your messaging and your brand. Does everything have the same feel and look? Is your logo and a nice picture visible?
Here is where you tell stories, show your brand and get people interested in your company and its day-to-day activities. People love to see who they are hiring and what they stand for. Examples of social media include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.
Which one should you focus on? Know your audience and don’t limit yourself! It is easy to post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at the same time using linked social media tools.
One Final Not(e)
Or should that be “one final note?” What is one requirement that all forms of communication have in common? Punctuation and grammar! As autocorrect may try to rewrite words and spell them incorrectly, read your emails and social media posts and even texts out loud before sending or posting them.
You will be surprised by how many spelling and grammar issues can be fixed just by reading before sending. I get it — you’re (not your) pond contractors, but still, you can try. You can also try a program like Grammerly, which helps clean up and check your grammar. Along these same lines, don’t abbreviate when texting a client. No one wants to hear from you “B4” you come over!