We’ve assembled a panel of four industry professionals to help you boost your digital marketing efforts in 2020 and beyond.
January the first brought not only a new year but a new decade and we are off to the races once again. In the digital age when everyone is addicted to their phones and buyer trends are always changing, adaptation is a necessity. Many small business owners wear multiple hats which include the marketing strategy and execution. Our good friend Albert Einstein is often credited with saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
It turns out this quote may never have left the lips of the famed theoretical physicist. It may more appropriately be attributed to novelist Rita Mae Brown. Whether it came from an electric haired scientist or a character in a fiction novel from the late 1930’s doesn’t really matter. In the fight for survival in business, if we simply repeat what we did last year we will only accelerate our demise.
Making wise choices with your digital marketing investments
Digital marketing is confusing for many, including the pros. What makes for a viral hit is hard to pin down and yet we know that it is important to explore these advertising platforms if we want to grow our businesses. We reached out to four digital marketing professionals to ask their input on what small to medium sized businesses can do to become better sowers of seeds in the digital soil.
We all want to reap those bountiful harvests so I hope this exercise will be of value to your efforts in the coming year. While there is no secret sauce or magic bullet for digital marketing we know that we need to be intentional if we want to make progress in the process. Please note that this article is not an endorsement for any of these providers.
Seven tips for property restoration contractors from our panel of four digital marketing professionals.
Question 1: Optimization
The DYOJO: Everyone knows the term optimized, can you break down what that means in 3 sentences or less?
Top Floor Digital (Greg Power): In terms of SEO, optimized means that the content you publish can be found by search engines and be read by users. When referencing search engines, this means that the technical aspect of your website is crawlable by Google’s spider, and can be shown via a relevant search term. Content that is optimized for people is exactly how it sounds, easy to read and worth sharing to others.
Restoration Digital Marketing (Jeff Carrier): Optimized is when you construct/format your website to allow Google to easily crawl, index, and understand all the content on your website.
Dahl Integration Marketing (Eric Dahl): The process of enhancing a marketing campaign so it produces the best results possible.
Ironclad Restoration Marketing (Benjamin Ricciardi): To consistently improve the desired result you are looking for. Whether it is getting someone to follow your brand on social media or calling you about possibly using your restoration services as a result of finding your website on Google. For example, improving the graphics on a social media post, writing blogs on your website consistently or getting your customers to leave positive reviews on your Google My Business page.
Question 2: Too much or too little?
The DYOJO: Which is more common in online branding - not spending enough or spending too much in the wrong areas?
Ironclad Restoration Marketing: Not spending enough. Every year there is more and more competition online. There is more noise online than ever before and it's just going to get noisier, whether it's text messages, email, social media, Youtube videos, etc. You want to make sure you are positioning your brand in front of the people that need your services, in right channels, consistently! For example, you spend $100 on Google Ads, you don't get any calls and you give up thinking this doesn't work. That is not nearly enough of an ad spend to get enough feedback to see what is working or not.
Top Floor Digital: My self included, people spend far too much time drilling down on the wrong areas. It is easy to get lost in the weeds trying to come up with the perfect logo for your website, too much time spent on choosing a perfect font, etc..The same could be said about not spending enough time as well though, as branding for your business shouldn't be an after-thought.
Restoration Digital Marketing: Spending too much in the wrong areas. One unique thing with RDM is that we actually run and operate a restoration company in North Carolina. The reason we started RDM was that we had prior experience working with other third-party vendors that charged too much for the job and trying to sell services we didn't need. Luckily I had a degree in Marketing and knew which services we needed. Now at RDM, working with other restoration companies, I constantly speak with companies that are spending in areas they shouldn't be because a previous marketing company sold them on an idea.
Dahl Integration Marketing: Spending too much in the wrong areas. Specifically, awareness campaigns that don’t generate measurable results.
Question 3: Target audience opportunity
The DYOJO: Who do you see as a key target audience online that contractors are not focusing on?
Dahl Integration Marketing: I’d say a lot of contractors aren’t strategically retargeting the traffic to their website and landing pages, which is the warmest and highest converting traffic.
Ironclad Restoration Marketing: Search engines, especially Google. For example, think about the buyer’s journey for someone that has water damage in their home. One of the first things they are going to do is pick up their phone or go to their desktop computer, then do a Google search for "water damage restoration company in (city, state)". If your website hasn't been optimized for the search engines so that you are on the 1st page of Google for those qualified keywords then you lost to your competition who is on the 1st page of Google.
Top Floor Digital: The number one demographic that I see contractors neglecting to optimize their online presence for are those in their backyard. People have an odd rationale to target those who don't live and work anywhere near their home base. Google is on record in saying that businesses who optimize to those closest to them will reap the rewards faster than targeting people 100 miles away. The name is the game here is "keyword relevancy".
Restoration Digital Marketing: Most contractors actually know their target audience. Whether that's residential homeowners or commercial properties. The issue I typically see is how you try and communicate with Google on what you want to show up for (rank) and what homeowners actually type in. For example, homeowners don't use the word 'remediation' or 'mitigation'. Yet on restoration contractors' websites and main tags/signals to Google are 'mold remediation' not 'mold removal' or 'water mitigation' instead of 'water damage restoration'.
Question 4: Stop and start
The DYOJO: With all your experience, both in the industry and with digital marketing, what is one thing that business owners should A) stop doing and B) they should start doing to elevate their online presence?
Restoration Digital Marketing: A) If a restoration company is either paying someone or having someone in-house writing a blog, I would stop. People think just writing a blog is helpful, which it can be if you know what you're doing and you have a strategy for the topics. But all you're doing is writing additional content on water, fire, mold that might be taking away from your other money pages. I have seen certain blogs outrank for an internal money page (water damage restoration) because of duplicate content.
B) Not enough restoration companies are utilizing the power of their email list. Most restoration companies have a great list of previous customers, potential customers they market to (plumbers, agents, etc.), and RDM or someone else can always help you increase your email list. Newsletters allow you to reach thousands of people at the click of a button for practically free. Way under-utilized. Not only that you can run smart marketing campaigns for your salespeople to assist them in their job.
Dahl Integration Marketing: A) Stop being platform dependent and instead focus on building up your own platform that you control. B) Start focusing on building an email list and an audience for your own platform. In most cases that’s your blog.
Ironclad Restoration Marketing: A) They should stop being "Reactive" and be more "Proactive" when it comes to marketing their business. Unfortunately a lot of businesses wait until they have no leads coming in, then make knee-jerk decisions on their marketing decisions to try to get leads, whether it's throwing hundreds of dollars at Google Ads or Facebook to fix the problem. Its kind of like trying to lose 25 pounds for your wedding 2 weeks before the wedding day.
B) What they should do to elevate their presence is first set your goals, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly. Then put together action plans to hit those goals from their website, paid ads, email marketing, social media, video marketing, etc. If you don't have expertise any of these channels focus on one channel first, my suggestion would be your website. Understand what a good website that is built for conversions, SEO, blogging, etc. If you don't have the time to do this then hire an agency or someone to do this for you.
Top Floor Digital: There is a time and a place for face to face marketing, but with every market being saturated with competition, business owners need to get creative with their marketing. One item that contractors should consider halting is paying for leads through third party lead generation sites. These sites have an incredible amount of downsides such as incorrect NAP (Name address and phone number) submissions to random websites. This is a terrible thing for ongoing SEO efforts as it tells the search engines that your listing data is not accurate. Instead, property restoration professionals should be focusing on publishing content that is relevant and helpful in their industry on a consistent basis.
Question 5: How would you spend $500
The DYOJO: Many small business owners don’t have a lot of extra cash to spend so marketing becomes one of those lesser funded resources. If a contractor had less than $500 a month to spend on digital marketing, how would you recommend they spend it?
Top Floor Digital: I would recommended that they reach out to a local SEO specialist to begin re optimizing their on-page and off-page SEO efforts. At that price point, one could expect to receive 1-2 targeted pages or blog posts per month. Over time this has long lasting results.
Restoration Digital Marketing:With small budgets, I would focus solely on SEO. You might have to break it up where you can't accomplish everything in a month. But a good plan might look like this;
Dahl Integration Marketing: I would recommend lead generation with that $500 on a platform like Google, Facebook or YouTube. I show my clients how to create Lead Attractors, irresistible free offers, that solve your prospect’s biggest challenge. You’d then advertise that lead attractor and generate leads. Then you’d follow up via phone/email to initiate the sales process. Remember, for your advertising to be successful you need to have a proven sales process. Without that you’ll end up most likely losing money.
Ironclad Restoration Marketing: Google Ads. However, they would get a better ROI on SEO but it's typically more than $500/month if you go with any agency that knows how to get results.
Question 6: Online branding for property restoration
The DYOJO: What aspect of online branding do you specialize in that is most applicable to property restoration contractors?
Ironclad Restoration Marketing: SEO, website design, paid ads (Google ads, Facebook/Instagram Ads), video marketing and email marketing.
Top Floor Digital: Being that I am still active in the industry, my local SEO service would be hands down the best service that restoration contractors could utilize. This would allow property managers or adjusters in the area that are in a pinch to do a quick Google search of the area and BOOM, there's another client.
Restoration Digital Marketing: Online search. All restoration contractors see it more and more, homeowners are going online to find a company and do their own research on reputable companies. Insurance companies are also referring less and less. In order to capture online leads you have to show up on the search engines (Advertising or Organic) when a homeowner is looking for your service. One reason these searches are so important is that the potential customer through the online search is really low on the sales funnel. These people are ready to buy. They need fire damage restoration, thus why they are searching for it. Versus creating awareness ads on Facebook, people aren't looking for your service yet, you're just trying to be recognizable for when they do go search for fire/water services.
Dahl Integration Marketing: Branding is a byproduct of successful advertising and marketing. Not the other way around. The focus should always be the bottom-line. I specialize in taking a business from 0 to scale. I’ve worked with small businesses all the way up to 100 Million businesses.
Question 7: Final digital marketing tip
The DYOJO: Anything else you would tell this audience about digital marketing?
Dahl Integration Marketing: Digital marketing will feed your business leads and sales but it’s not the business. You have to have strong systems, processes and team members to be successful at a sustainable level.
Ironclad Restoration Marketing: Consistency is key! Just like your health, you can't eat a salad and just go to the gym once and think you are going to be in great shape forever. And always keep this quote in mind from Henry Ford – “Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.”
Top Floor Digital: The key is to publish content that people care about. If you are an insurance repairs contractor, then start writing articles and creating web pages about dry out techniques and emergency repairs best practices. This is the only way to become relevant and approachable in the digital landscape.
Restoration Digital Marketing: I work with a lot of companies that have been burned by digital marketing agencies, and restoration owners believe that SEO is a mythical thing that doesn't exist. I've even written multiple articles on R&R that helps restoration owners ask the right questions before they hire a digital marketing agency. The truth is SEO does work, and your agency you work with should have call tracking set up so you can (fairly) easily track your ROI on the campaign. Every restoration owner wants to increase sales - but if you're not getting at least 10-15% of your sales from online, then you're missing out on a big piece of the pie in your market, and the opportunity to diversify your sales.
Digital marketing tips from The Intentional Restorer
Our thanks to our panel guests for taking the time to share their experiences and expertise with these digital marketing tools. At a minimum, most business owners know, you should be utilizing the free platforms that are most commonly used by your potential clients. Marketing in the digital age is about getting your products and services on the screens of your target market. If you need some help reach out to your industry peers through platforms such as The Intentional Restorer (R&R Magazine) or professionals such as the ones we featured in this article.
More about our panelists of professionals
Jeff Carrier - Restoration Digital Marketing
Eric Dahl - Dahl Integration Marketing
Benjamin Ricciardi - Ironclad Restoration Marketing
Greg Power - Top Floor Digital
Interview Gerrett Stier
Is it better to be skilled or to be lucky in business?
People ask whether it is skill or luck that leads to success. The truth is that it’s a little bit of both. You have to have the skill to put yourself in a position to recognize and seize upon your opportunities. Gerrett Stier brought his podcasting gear to the 3 Kings Environmental Sumner, Washington office to discuss business with Jon Isaacson.
Gerrett is the owner of GMS Distribution which makes power distribution tools for property restoration. His main product is a panel that allows contractors to draw additional power immediately from a dryer or range plug so that they can more equipment in the service of a water damage response.
The lessons you will learn when starting a business.
Gerrett is an electrician by trade and in 2007 he started working with property restoration contractors. Because he is a service minded person, he sought to make a product for his clients that would save them money and time when sourcing the traditional spider box in situations where they needed additional power. The initial units were hand made from electrical parts.
In 2009, as the market crashed and Gerrett’s hours were cut in half, he took his product on the road and went door to door to determine if there was a broader demand for this distribution unit that he had been making for local restoration contractors. When you have a good product, a good attitude and refuse to allow tough times to take you out, you can put yourself in a position to create some luck. As Gerrett says, “Being smart enough to be lucky.”
Collaboration is key when building a business.
As he was building GMS Distribution, he shares some really cool stories of how local vendors collaborated with Gerrett to help him get the process moving forward. Gerrett has a strong commitment to taking care of his customers and was able to attract partners who held similar values. Transitioning from a skilled professional working in a business to an entrepreneur who is building and working on your own business requires intentionality to persevere through the many obstacles.
Gerrett Stier started The GMS Podcast in late 2019 and for Episode 5 “Skill & Luck”, he and Jon discuss how GMS Distribution was formed, what 3 Kings does and what The DYOJO is about.
What is asbestos abatement?
3 Kings Environmental provides services for demolition, abatement, environmental and civil construction. Gerrett asks questions about the asbestos abatement process such as:
Business coaching for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
What is The DYOJO? Gerrett asks when did Jon get started writing, speaking and coaching for property restoration professionals? Jon discusses his start in property restoration, being introduced to a mold remediation team and learning the skills of the business. He shares how he had the good fortune of learning from good mentors early on which set him up for a trajectory of career development within the industry. Jon discusses the motivation and concepts for business coaching and leadership development through The DYOJO.
Leadership development for business owners.
Jon and Gerrett share where they were and what they were doing when the impact of the market crash hit in 2009. Jon had a family owned business that ran dry and Gerrett was working in electrical where his hours were cut in half so he hit the road selling his product. They share their experiences with learning to keep yourself motivated through trials and endure as you pursue your goals.
The discussion touches on topics including entrepreneurship, asbestos, property restoration, building professional relationships, developing intentionally and doing things the right way in business. Jon also announces two books that he is working on, one is a collaborative publication with multiple authors that will be published through the Insurance Nerds network and the second is a solo project based upon his training and development system for service based companies.
Follow these local businesses:
Improving your property restoration business through consistent optimization efforts.
“When setting expectations, no matter what has been said or written, if substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable—if there are no
This article was featured as part of our monthly column The Intentional Restorer (volume 3) with Restoration and Remediation Magazine (R&R).
Whether your career path started in property restoration or in some other industry, you know what it is like to work you way up from an entry level position to where you are now. You remember what it is like to have something go wrong and to be blamed for that result. The typical approach in hierarchical management systems is for the blame to “roll downhill”, right? But, as a person in a position of leadership (at whatever level you find yourself), you have committed yourself to reaching for higher purpose for yourself as well as your team.
It’s so much easier to maintain the status quo. Yet, with the rate of change and the demands in the market, you know that doing things the way we’ve always done them is a rapid path to obsolescence. Change is painful but death is permanent. Doing the hard things of turning something around or improving your system requires commitment to work through obstacle after obstacle and to consistently progress through opposition. The battle for improvement is never over, you rise and grind only to wake up and do it again.
Elevate performance by clarifying expectations
Dedicated leaders, like yourself, understand that assigning blame is not a strategy for success when working to improve your internal processes. You understand that as a leader, “The buck stops here,” with regards to accountability for making progress in the process. Developing your team to embrace a growth mindset, that will lead to sustained competitive production, requires intentional leadership.
Long term success follows a sequence of clarity, consistency and accountability.
As an example for how this process plays out, let’s take a look into a typical day for a property restoration team. We will identify some of those core issues that hold teams back from reaching their goals, discuss potential solutions and then apply those concepts to your business.
Quiet on set, begin scene:
Team Leader, we will call him Charles, asks his business mentor, “How do we get our technicians to fill out their paperwork consistently, thoroughly and on time?”
“How often do you provide your technicians with clear and consistent paperwork before they arrive on a job site?” Business Mentor, we will call her Shirley, responds to the question with a question.
“What are you talking about? These are emergencies we are responding to.” Charles clearly thinks Shirley has lost her marbles.
“Whether you are responding to an emergency or facilitating a repair, isn’t your client intake process the same?” Shirley feels the indignation but does not respond to it.
“What does that have to do with my technicians not doing their job?” Charles is ready to throw Shirley out of the building.
“The best way to build accountability in vision and values is to demonstrate them from top to bottom.” Shirley calmly presses forward.
“Oh, so it’s my fault now? I’m the reason my technicians don’t do their paperwork consistently and on time?” Charles stretches his hand towards the shoulder of Shirley.
“Before you throw me out of the building, let’s look at a few things...“
Building team accountability starts with leadership executing their responsibilities
How consistent and thorough are your project assignments?
Does your organization provide clear enough details to your front line employees to set them up for success when responding to a work assignment? Too often we use the excuse that we respond to emergencies to allow us to generate unclear work scopes. Where does the process of clear scope and expectations begin? You know the answer--it begins with whomever is taking the phone call.
Resource: We dealt with the 5 layers of consistent customer communication in an article with Restoration & Remediation Magazine
How often do you receive unclear details from a client?
Does unclear data cost your business time, resources and profitability? Yes.
The process of clear communication through complete, thorough and timely paperwork starts with your investment in the process of receiving project information. You cannot control when a lead comes in but you can control how thoroughly you gather information. This is important so that no one on your team is wasting time duplicating efforts to get the information that should have been received when the call came in. You may not know all the details for an emergency but if you have enough data we can prepare your team to respond with the appropriate people power, equipment and materials.
You know that there is a big difference between responding to a sink overflow in a laundry room on the main floor with no crawl space and a busted sewer line in the crawl space of a 5,000 square foot home. The technicians who are trained to respond, the equipment and resources that will be needed as well as the ability to estimate how that team being offline for the project will impact your ability to respond to other losses are all important.
Improving profitability starts with clarifying your internal process
Consistency in your paperwork starts with details gathered at the time a call for a new project is received (intake).
Consistency in your process will fuel improvements in your production
The details will make or break a well documented loss that will enable you to get paid for your work on an insurance claim. The details of your process and the workflow consistency will make or break your ability to elevate your teams performance. When you master the most basic functions of your organization it builds momentum for tackling more complex issues within your process.
When you detect negative symptoms in your business, such as a lack of thoroughness in the project documentation from your team members in the field, it should cause you to seek the root sources. It sounds simple and yet it when these things are not practiced there are negative ripples throughout the organization. When you commit to taking calls with clarity and consistency you demonstrate to your team that you value this process and that everyone is being held to the same standard.
You can begin to eliminate chaos in your organization and build positive momentum by intentionally developing your process. Too often teams under utilize their receptionist and allow their salespeople to get away with maneuvering around the rules. When you build clarity and consistency you establish purpose for each person in your organization. When you stand up for these principles, as change will always be tested, you prove your commitment to the cause.
Steps for improving employee performance
If you want to motivate your property restoration employees to higher quality performance and expect consistency from your technicians:
Check out our video on this topic - Garbage In, Garbage Out (Part 1) - The Call.
Estimate reviews are part of the process in property restoration, how do we minimize our losses?
Time is invaluable. It’s the only thing that we cannot purchase more of. In business when we are able to reduce wasted time we are able to increase our efforts in profitable endeavors. Wasted time is money bleeding out of your organization.
For those who have written estimates for an insurance claim, you know what it feels like to have your line items questioned by adjusters or your estimate picked apart by claims reviewers. Property restoration contractors often perceive the claims review process as a constant bleeding out of effort, energy and sanity.
It’s hard to produce for clients when you feel like you are always treating the wounded in your estimator bullpen.
How often have do restoration estimators say:
Maybe this hasn’t happened to you but you’ve heard your peers complaining. Just wait, every estimator knows that their estimate will soon be the next victim of the insurance review gauntlet. The next time you send an estimate to a reviewer or hit upload in Xactimate, the process will run its vicious cycle with you.
For those willing to admit it, are your bruises still turning purple or are your wounds still bleeding? We all have choices to make. We can play the status quo game and complain about the system or we can work to find answers.
What would the typical response be as this scenario plays itself out?
Funny enough, this is both one of the issues as well as one of the keys to resolution as well. The person reviewing you claim has never been to this job. They typical claims reviewer works from a claims center half-way across the country. You are correct, they likely haven’t been to any job and possibly never will. It’s not their job.
This is a fact of the process and it does no good to complain about it.
Your roles should not put you at odds. One of you writes an estimate for the claim and the other reviews the estimate for the claim. Either of you may view your responsibilities to be at odds with each other but that is not inherent to the task at hand. The presiding principle should be to restore the client to pre-loss conditions and both parties should be working together to make this as expedient as possible.
The difference between what should be and what is leaves a lot of room for us to work towards a process that is clear and consistent.
As restoration professionals we can start by asking better questions.
As an estimator you have the responsibility to learn how to tell the story of the loss through the estimating tool. The estimate has a language.
Whether you like it or not, for the majority of insurance claims, Xactimate has become the recognized story delivery tool. When your story does not resonate with our audience you need to learn how to communicate more clearly. In serving your client, it is necessary to use the resources in your tool bag to assist them in achieving a well executed outcome.
If your estimate is not compliant with basic carrier requirements, rejection is not the result of sadism its self-sabotage.
How do contractors gain ground in the claims review process?
Start the process of reviewing your rejections for trends.
You can do this as a team or you can do this as an individual estimator. To assist you with collecting data we have developed a FREE PDF download -Tracking Claims Review Worksheet. Gathering this information will help you to make informed decisions about your process, adjustments for your team’s approach as well data to discuss with adjusters, claims reviewers or carriers.
Resources for estimators, managers and adjusters composing estimates in Xactimate:
Thoughts on personal and professional development.
Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is a contractor, author, and host of The DYOJO Podcast. The goal of The DYOJO is to help growth-minded restoration professionals shorten their DANG learning curve for personal and professional development. You can watch The DYOJO Podcast on YouTube on Thursdays or listen on your favorite podcast platform.