Any marketing strategy cannot beat excellent and reliable customer service. If you cannot satisfy your target market’s demands and expectations, there is no form of digital sorcery that can save you. Ryan Redding explains to Ryan Englin and Jeremy Macliver how well-targeted online marketing strategies focused on customer satisfaction will always spell out success for any business and leave a lasting impact on everyone. Have you ever wondered how some companies thrived even in the middle of the pandemic? Stay tuned as Ryan reveals the answer and discusses the importance of learning continuously and closing the bottom of the demand funnel for blue-collar trades to flourish.
Digital Sorcery Doesn’t Work With Ryan Redding
We’re going to dig into a little bit of marketing. I know for a lot of home service companies out there, marketing is one of those things that everybody knows they need to do. They know they need to do it better. They need to get better results, but sometimes they’re not quite sure how. Our guest has been a marketer for nearly fifteen years. He works a lot with HVAC and plumbing companies. He’s been a frequent speaker at colleges, universities, industry groups, and is even a consultant for Oklahoma State University. I want to introduce Ryan Redding to the show. Ryan, thanks for being here.
Thanks for having me.
Everybody’s got an opinion about marketing. They need to do more and they need a better ROI, or whatever that may be. Help me understand, what is one of the biggest myths from your perspective about your industry?
That’s tough because I feel like, starting off cold, most people think that most marketers are just selling snake oil, but they’re full of crap. They’re saying promising the moon or whatever to close the deal. I’ve got to tell you, there are those guys. They exist, but there are some good people and smart groups out there who are doing solid work to help guys grow. One of the biggest myths is that it’s all scam because that sucks for everybody.
That’s going to lead me to my next question. I know a lot of people that have been burned. How do you separate the guys that are selling snake oil or the scammers from the ones that aren’t? What are some warning signs people can look for?When uncertainty hits the fan, the best of the best steps up. Click To Tweet
This is going to sound awful because I don’t know about you guys, but for us, we don’t find our clients. Our clients come to us. We work with plumbing shops, HVAC shops, and have a handful of electrical contractors. They’re all blue-collar trades guys and they get bombarded by emails promising page one listings, sales calls, or everything under the sun. There’s a whole lot of people selling a whole lot of things. We do the opposite. We do good work for the clients we work with, which in turn gets us happy people, gets them to refer other people to us. We take the approach of the best marketers don’t do a whole lot of harassing you on the phone to get you to call. They do the good work. That’s their focus and that’s how we think about it at DP.
They let the results speak for themselves. I love that. I know that you work with guys in this space that are all levels of business. Maybe they’re still in the truck. Maybe sometimes they’re in the truck and sometimes they’re out of the truck, or even maybe they got a leadership team that’s helping them. You work from small companies all the way up to some of the larger ones. In your experience, what’s the one thing that you’ve seen holding most businesses back?
I’m going to come out and say this is going to sound cheesy and cliché. I’m going to say leadership. Especially in this era of COVID, it was fascinating. Let’s start here. COVID was tough for everybody across the board. It hasn’t been fun. There are levels of uncertainty that I’ve never seen. The companies who were able to not just survive but thrive through all that uncertainty weren’t necessarily doing better marketing or tactics or whatever. They had better leadership in place and they were flexing the muscles that they’ve been building on for years. I would say the difference between a good company and a great company is hands down leadership, and that might sound corny and cliché, but whatever. That’s where I’m going to hang my hat.
Can you paint a little bit of a picture of a situation you saw that was great leadership through this and maybe one that you saw that was a little bit stronger and have gotten more out of this?
There are tons of examples. Chances are, the guys and gals reading this probably know of examples in their own market space. Right when the lockdowns started happening, to rewind the wheel because everyone knows their own unique experience as it relates to COVID. There was no uniform federalized response. It was left up to local governments to make these decisions. We saw this piecemeal response from a marketing standpoint. Whereas certain states, counties, and cities would go on various types of lockdown. We would say market demand change.
Consequently, the businesses within those markets would respond differently. The companies who did well didn’t hide from it. They enhance their marketing. They use this as a chance to increase their market share. They doubled down on deploying technology, so they had tools that would allow them to virtual service calls. Everyone’s afraid for their life, but yet, stuck at home. These companies are able to run calls with their tech in the driveway or at their shop and keep the customers completely safe. They were investing in things like how to provide customer experience virtually when there’s no direct contact and your sales process would have to change.
These companies thrived. In the midst of all the chaos, they did fantastic. Other companies did the exact opposite. They scaled back their marketing, started letting guys go quickly. They maybe started getting paranoid about how they were running certain calls. We saw some guys who wanted to pretend like none of the chaos existed and their customers pushed them aside because of it. This was a time where companies who had exceptional Google reviews forever leverage that momentum. The guys who didn’t have a good reputation online struggled. It was this night and day change. We saw a lot of guys that we worked with had record revenue months all through COVID. We have other guys who we’ve worked with who struggled to get their mindset above surviving in the chaos. The mindset of growth versus survival did paint that two different outcomes.
It has been interesting watching all of that because we definitely saw some of our clients have their best years ever, while we watch some of their competitors drowned. In fact, one of my clients’ huge wins was their large competitors fell out of the marketplace due to COVID and somehow, they were picking up momentum and picking up steam. The two things that you say there was one was leadership teams that were strong and healthy. They were aggressive and they knew how to push forward in the market, but they also had adaptability. They’re aggressive and adaptable versus real stoic and they got cinched down and fearful. Some got bold and some went backward.
It’s the old expression that smooth waters never made a skilled sailor. When the economy is going well, it’s easy to make money. When things are stable and customers are good, it’s easy to make money. When uncertainty hits the fan, customers are anxious, and everything is confusing, that’s when the best of the best step up. That’s where guys who want to become the best start putting their heads above the rest of the crowd. It was fascinating to watch from a marketing standpoint.
One thing I want to push into right here is you said that you get most of your clients to come to you versus you reaching out to them, which is an interesting thing to know from a marketing person who most of us are looking to hire somebody to go proactively out in the world, too. How do you explain that to someone that says, “I’m doing great work as a plumber. I got a good reputation. I’m not getting the leads?” How do you help with that versus going to the SEO and all the other stuff and doing whatever marketers do?There is no replacing good old-fashioned customer experience at its core. Click To Tweet
It’s funny, one of the pillars that we build on is reputation. There’s a joke in marketing that great marketing makes a bad product fail faster. If a company has poor service and they don’t know how to take care of people, there is no amount of digital sorcery that will make them succeed. All we’re going to do is drive them to the scene of the crash faster. A huge focus for us is excellent customer experience because of the influence that has both on customers being able to refer to other potential customers, but also things like Google Maps rankings, Google Local Services, and SEO rankings organically. The influence of reputation is hard to exaggerate in this day and age. Even though yes, we do recommend traditional SEO, local SEO, pay-per-click, and things like that, there is no replacing good old fashioned customer experience at its core. That never changes no matter what the medium is.
I love that conversation about experience because I’ve seen it happen where you do a great job for somebody and you hope they go tell the world. You might have to do that for 10, 12, 15 people before one person hears about it, but on the bad customer experience, that one person is going to tell 10, 15, or 20 people. I see that a lot where guys are struggling to get good reviews online. They’re like, “People that have no problem leave me the bad reviews.” Getting good ones is such a challenge.
It’s funny, I disagree with that point. Not to knock on this certain fast-food restaurant, but it seems like every time I go to a certain restaurant in our neighborhood of their kids, they always come up and say, “If you go to the bottom of your seat, you’ll get a $20 off your next meal,” or whatever. I’ve never done it. I don’t know one person who’s ever done this like, “Go online and fill out that survey and you’ll get something in return.” People don’t care. However, I would say that people want to generally help people. If you took care of the customer, wowed them with your experience, and you honestly said, “It would mean the world to me if you would take ten seconds and leave a review for us on Google. You have no idea how important those reviews are for us in this day and age. It would go a long way. Would you do that?”
Those customers have no problem wanting to help, but once you get in your truck and you’re going on to the next job, that customer is going to get distracted. They’re going to get dance recital or football practice or whatever else is going on in their life. It doesn’t mean that they don’t care about you and they weren’t impressed. Life happens. The way you ask goes a long way, but you have to make it seem like it’s meaningful and personally important to you. Not just going through your script that you’re supposed to do when you’re closing out a deal.
I can see some of our readers are thinking, “I love that, Ryan. How do I get my text to do that before they got back in the truck?” Diving into that would probably be a whole episode in itself.
That’s a fun topic, too.
I want to get back to something you said about COVID and what you saw with the different companies. You saw some that said, “I need to pull back. I need to feel safe.” That’s what I heard. I don’t know that you use that word. “I need to feel safer about my business. I’m going to let some people go. I’m going to protect the revenue that I had.” You saw other guys that were like, “Floor it. Let’s go.” The ones that floored it when COVID hit, they’re all of a sudden taking market share and are doing great. I know Jeremy mentioned this. I’ve had some clients who had their best year ever in 2020 because they didn’t get scared and they pushed through it. As a business owner, even a business leader, if you’re in that mindset of comfort like, “I need to protect the business,” how would someone break out of that? What are some of the things that you’ve seen work for breaking out of that comfort, be willing to take that risk, and push your business forward?
I would probably make an argument that most leaders only respond to fires and chaos. If something goes wrong, it jumps to their attention and they will do whatever they need to do to put out the fire, but sometimes, there are no fires. Sometimes, things are smooth. There’s not a problem. There’s not a squeaky wheel. In that case, I would make the argument that good leaders set fires. They create a problem that needs to be extinguished. Sometimes, that can be a little like, “The way that we’re deploying our technologies is worthless. We need to do better. We need to do better about the customer experience. We need to do better about how we answer the phones. What we’re doing is insufficient. It was good two years ago but it’s no longer sufficient.” The best leaders even in little things, when things are smooth, are going to create a fire. This also creates unity with their teams because now all the team can unite around putting out this one fire because the leader drew attention to it. It’s interesting. There’s always a case for a fire, to exist in a fire, and be extinguished as a team. Sometimes, it’s completely good if those fires are self-created.
I’m thinking of a couple of clients I know. When things get too simple or things are working too well, the owner will come in and he’ll be like, “What can we break? I need something to fix.” He’ll start his own fire. I love the way you explain that. For those people that don’t have that natural inclination to start fires, I know that you’re a big fan of learning, fluency, topics, and those kinds of things to enhance their skills. What are some tips or recommendations you have for our readers who don’t naturally go, “Everything’s looking good. Let’s start a fire so we can get better?” How do they overcome that?Most leaders only respond to fires and chaos, especially those they create themselves. Click To Tweet
To the larger point there, I do encourage and recommend any continuing education, formal or not. If your background, for instance, is in plumbing. You’re a good plumber and you built up this business. Now you’re the owner of a plumbing business and you’re not turning wrenches anymore. Learn other skills that are complementary to help your business grow or at least the concepts. Take night classes at a community college to understand financial accounting. Push yourself to that so that you understand how to hold other people accountable. It doesn’t mean that you’re expected to be an accountant. That’s nonsense. Get yourself to the point of learning to find opportunities through hardship. That means flexing muscles that maybe you’ve never flex before you didn’t even know you had.
Sometimes, it means cross-training like going from plumbing to HVAC or some plumbing to accounting. Sometimes, that means getting an entirely different exposure. If you’ve been out of a truck for a while, get back in a truck for a week or two. Get an idea of what that’s like. It’s almost like the Undercover Boss. Get in the actual shoes and face your customers again head-on. That experience can go a long way. Eventually, you’re going to get yourself either the courage or the insight to either see a fire that you didn’t know was one or to create a fire where you didn’t know needed to be one. One of those two will happen if you push yourself to new boundaries.
Do you have a couple of real practical things that they can do to start that journey? It’s not that big part and not go back to continue education or anything, but 1 or 2 things that you’ve seen some of your clients use to break through and start that journey.
Generally speaking, one is to get involved with these trade groups online on Facebook. There are dozens of them. It doesn’t matter if you’re a roofer or if you do window sightings or if you do plumbing or HVAC. There are tons of groups online of guys like you who are always sharing best practices, things that work in their market, and things that they’re struggling with. It’s a great way to get peers around you. Two, get a part of a trade association that more formally does that training. There are tons of groups. In our space with plumbing and HVAC guys, one of the giants has a group called Nexstar. They do fantastic coaching from CSR training to sales training to inventory management.
They help make you become not a plumber, but a business owner and they help you transition to that road. I know that’s a lot of the work that you guys do with helping these guys build your business acumen and take the business up a notch so that the business isn’t running them, but they can run the business. Find people who’ve been there, who’ve been in your shoes, and have gone down that road before you and let them feed into you. Ask them the questions. Running a business of any type is lonely and exhausting. You don’t feel like you have anyone to talk to about the struggles you’re having or the fears that you’re facing.
There are other guys who feel just like you and they’re willing to help and engage. Use common sense. My recommendation is don’t try to talk with people in your same market space. That could be awkward. Find people in a larger group who don’t live in your area and let them help you. Those are easy things. That will require flexing muscles that you probably don’t know you have. There are other things are maybe more formal. For me personally, I took the route a few years ago of getting my MBA. That is not for everyone. It’s not at all. It was a way to formalize some training and some exposure and skillsets with various sorts of skills and expertise. Otherwise, I wouldn’t use it on a day-to-day, but it makes me a better business owner and it makes me help have more grounded business decisions.
Those are some great tips. A big thing in all of that was peer support. People that have been there already. You own a marketing company, so you probably know a thing or two about marketing. Isn’t that fair?
One of the things that you’ve mentioned is these guys that pushed into marketing and how marketing can move the needle on the business. There’s this belief, “If I invest more in marketing, it’ll generate more leads, it’ll give me more sales, the business will be awesome, and everything will be great,” but then you have this line here, “Great marketing makes a bad product fail faster.” Contrary there, marketing isn’t always good. I know you believe that digital marketing can move the needle on your business, especially if you’re in that place where you’re looking to get out of the truck or you’re looking to get more trucks on the road. Help us with that a little bit. What are some ways our readers can use digital marketing to move the needle on their business?
I don’t want to get into the whole concept of it, but there’s an idea called a conversion funnel. Every person goes through this. Whether or not you’re buying a pair of shoes or a bike or a house or a toaster, it doesn’t matter. The idea is that people at the bottom of the funnel are ready to make a decision. For much of the trades in the blue-collar space, people aren’t sitting around their couch on a Thursday afternoon going, “I wonder what electrician is around me because I’m curious.” They don’t do that way. They only look for an electrician because something’s wrong. They need a solution now. There are some exceptions like in remodels, they’re going to take their time making a decision.
For the most part, a lot of the blue-collar trades are bottom of the funnel. Your customers are making a decision. That’s why you’re engaged. First off, tighten up the bottom of the funnel. If the bottom of the funnel has holes, your website doesn’t rank, your website doesn’t convert, and people can’t find you on Google My Business, if they do find you in Google My Business and your review suck, there is no step two without addressing those things. Those things have got to be dealt with. Otherwise, you’re going to pour good money after bad and it’s going to be wasting it. Tighten up the bottom of the funnel.Find people who can help you navigate through your blind spots and become better. Click To Tweet
Once the bottom of the funnel is right and you know when people are looking for you, they’re finding you and once they hit your website, they’re converting. Once they find your GMB and they’re impressed with your reputation, then you move up the funnel. Start flushing out things like social media and start doing things like email, both cold email strategies and repeat nurture strategies. Try to find ways to stay in front of customer’s eyeballs. If you have a product or service, it’s a long acquisition process. I mentioned remodeling. Nobody is making a decision on a bathroom remodel tonight. Nobody’s going to do it. They’re going to take their time and look at different examples.
Hit them with the display retargeting ad. Keep these things in front of them. The whole bottom line is when you’re at the bottom of the funnel, which tends to be the problem, and it’s broken, it doesn’t matter how many billboards, TV, direct mail you run, or times you canvass a neighborhood with flyers. When people are trying to make the decision and they look for you, the tools and mechanisms in place will fail, hands down. If they fail, you wasted all that money. Make sure to focus on the bottom of the funnel. When you do that, it’s much easier to move up the funnel and that is when you start seeing those massive ROI impacts year over year.
What you said was to understand the way that your customers are making a buying decision. Nobody decides to remodel a bathroom tonight. If you’re running ads to get them to convert tonight, that’s probably not going to happen. I know if my toilet gets clogged and starts spilling out everywhere, I’m going to make that decision quickly. I’m not going to be shopping too much. Know your client and then focus on the thing that is going to convert them the quickest, which would be the bottom of the funnel. I love that. I want to go back to the two takeaways here that I got. I want to sum them up. The first one is to break out of discomfort. If you’re in a discomfort cycle or if you’re a little nervous about what’s going on in the economy today with COVID and other things, get involved in trade associations, peer support, and education. Improving yourself is what it is. Work on yourself, and then get the support you need. Is that accurate?
Yeah. The idea is that we all have blind spots, but you don’t know what they are, so you need other people around you who are better than you, smarter than you, and further down the road from you to help make you better. They help you see your blind spots in a way you can’t.
I love that description. The second one is if I want to use marketing to improve my business, don’t go into it thinking, “There are all these things and I’m going to do all of them.” It’s figuring out the way that your customers making the buying decision and focus on results there. Once you’ve got that good, then you can move up the funnel and start working on more of the longer-term staying in front of them and those kinds of things. We’ve talked about a lot here and I know there are some people going, “This sounds awesome, Ryan. I love your ideas. I love your thoughts, but how do I do this?” If they want to get ahold of you, how do they do that?
It’s easy. You can go visit our website at DPMarketing.Services and there’s a giant green button. Hit Schedule A Call and that will take you right to our calendar. We can get you on there and make an introduction and see what’s up in your world.
We’ve talked a lot about plumbing and HVAC, but you also work with home service companies in general, correct?
Yeah. Plumbing and HVAC is definitely our sweet spot, but for any crisis-oriented low trust business, we’re right up the alley. Nobody looks forward to having to call a plumber. Nobody looks forward to having to call a pest control guy. Any of those businesses that meet that low of the funnel, crisis mode, and don’t trust you from the get-go is our sweet spot.
For those readers that are willing to take you up on that learning recommendation that you gave and getting a little bit more knowledge about the business or marketing, you’ve got a free giveaway for them. Can you tell us about that?
We are giving away only ten copies. Here’s the deal. I wrote The Book On Digital Marketing: For Plumbing & HVAC Contractors. You’re welcome to pick it up on Amazon. For the readers of this podcast, we have a giveaway. If you go to our website, DPMarketing.Services/bcc, you’ll be able to sign up. The first ten people who sign up will be able to get this in the mail. There’s no pressure. It does walk you through check marking of how to set up your website, how to set up your ads, and how to go through social media planning. It is a tactical book to guide you through how you make decisions. If nothing else, I know a lot of our guys use it that we work with to fact check these marketers who talked to them because there’s no BS, crap, or snake oil. It’s process, science, and methodology. Use it as a guide to making sure you’re not being sold a bunch of crap. Use it to grow your business or whatever you do. For the first ten people who sign up, we got that on the house and we even cover shipping.
Thanks, Ryan. If you’re reading this and you want to know more about this marketing and being able to fact check the guys that are already calling on you or if you even want to get ahold of Ryan, go check out his website. Ryan, I want to thank you for being here with us. I’ve learned a lot and had a great conversation. I know that our readers are going to think that this information is relevant and valuable. Thank you.
It was my pleasure. Thanks for the invite.
- Ryan Redding
- The Book On Digital Marketing: For Plumbing & HVAC Contractors
About Ryan Redding
There’s nothing more deflating than sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. You know that to get more customers you need more leads- and to get more leads you need better marketing. The problem is you’re not a marketing expert; you’re an HVAC or plumbing pro.
Sure, you’ve heard people talk about things like SEO and PPC, but you don’t really know what any of that means, so you feel a bit insecure and inadequate. You may have tried some things or hired someone to help, but you’re just not seeing the results you want.
I get it. That’s why I’ve developed a proven process that helps dozens of HVAC and plumbing contractors 8x their revenue. Let’s get you more leads so you can make more money.