Contractor Drills Down Into Social Media

December 27, 2010
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Michael Montano, president of 1-800-Anytyme Plumbing, Heating, A/C and Electrical and M2impact, creator of ReviewBuzz.

VISTA, Calif. - Contractor 1800Anytyme Plumbing, Heating, A/C and Electrical, has been in business a mere 10 years. But even in that time, “The Internet has turned the direction of our marketing efforts upside down,” said Michael Montano, president.

“Five years ago, we began to concentrate on getting leads from the Internet using Internet strategies for search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) advertising, and more recently social networking and online reputation management, and we now get more than 60 percent of our business from the web.”

For past year, one of the company’s top priorities has been augmenting the marketing vehicles it uses to solicit customers, he continued.

“For years we used to depend almost 100 percent on Yellow Pages to deliver our message in its simplest form to potential customers,” Montano said. “Most service providers know how expensive Yellow Pages contracts can get, but in the past year it also has become cost ineffective to market our company this way.”

In fact, customers were changing the ways they searched for solutions to their problems, how they evaluated the businesses they chose, and the comparisons they drew between businesses. “We realized that Yellow Pages will be a distant memory not too long from now, so we developed a thorough internet marketing program to assist sales.”

SOCIAL NETWORKING

Early on the company decided to focus strongly on optimization and social media networking.

Montano says that 1-800-AnyTyme is currently transitioning into predominantly online marketing. “We have created an online reviews posting and management system called ReviewBuzz that generates more positive reviews and rewards technicians for providing great customer service.” The program “allows service providers, like us, to be more in control of the cumulative customers’ reviews on the web.”

With over 300 online reviews distributed across dozens of popular review sites, Montano’s service company is seeing the benefits of its reputation management efforts. A recent pattern is emerging with customers frequently stating that they chose 1-800-AnyTyme over competitors because of the positive online reviews.

Within a couple years, searches will be almost entirely based on “word of mouse,” he predicted, “meaning most local service purchases will be driven by ratings and reviews. Furthermore, Google’s making it easier and easier via social search results to see what friends and neighbors think about local service companies.

“Bad reviews and low ratings could be devastating to service businesses,” he said. “For instance, you wouldn’t eat at a restaurant with a ‘D’ rating in their window, so why would you consider an HVAC company with a one- or two-star rating on a review site like Yelp or Google Reviews?”

Additionally, “Smart search technology is being developed by companies like Google to sort out the fake reviews from the authentic customer reviews (they look at things like IP address/location, frequency of reviews, repetitive wording, etc.).”

If a business doesn’t approach its online reputation management properly from the beginning, “it could hurt a company in the long run as search engines begin to penalize for fake reviews and for using third-party review-posting services. Google and other service directories like Yelp want shoppers to have good experiences, so they try to make sure that companies that use black hat techniques and review incentives, such as paying customers who write reviews, do not get listed.

“In fact, Google recently released a new policy emphatically stating that it does not accept reviews written for money or other incentives, or by third parties on behalf of customers.”

ReviewBuzz was conceived and developed by Montano’s second company, M2impact, to make it easier for non-tech-savvy customers to post reviews. “But there is much more to it than that. It is designed to generate more authentic, positive reviews, to improve technician performance and customer satisfaction, to create incentives for technicians to ask for reviews, and to recognize and reward techs for providing top-notch customer service.”

Montano pointed out that 1-800-Anytyme and M2impact are two distinct corporations with distinct missions. The only thing they share is the address and the owner; “1-800-AnyTyme is essentially the first client of M2impact,” he said.

ReviewBuzz is just out of beta testing and is available in V.1.0, Montano said. “The Beta implementation of ReviewBuzz was successful and provided proof of our concept.

“We are making some changes based on beta results to maximize review conversions, including adding short instructional animations,” he continued. “We are also adding more review sites and developing point-of-sale collateral to promote the site to customers, awards and incentive programs for our clients, and instructional collateral to train their service personnel.”

It is a permanent marketing tool at 1-800-AnyTyme. The company uses it on a daily basis to manage its online reviews and promotes them via social media.

CONTRACTOR'S OFFERINGS

On the surface, the contracting company looks like many other HVACR contractors. It offers residential plumbing, HVAC, and electrical services in the San Diego, Riverside, and South Orange counties of California. It is a member of the Nexstar® Network, has 24 em- ployees in the field, and 15 trucks.

Its hurdles are also familiar within the industry. They include customers who are turning to uninsured, unlicensed service providers, “who eliminate overhead completely by working out of their garages and drastically cutting their service prices,” Montano said.

Montano said his favorite thing about the industry is “working with good, honest, fun-loving people. Operating an HVAC business gives me an opportunity to become a very well-rounded entrepreneur. The challenges we face daily force us to learn on our feet about completely diverse issues, which ultimately add to our value as managers.

“Undoubtedly, the past year has been challenging in many respects,” he said. “But we believe those challenges have forced many companies to think and perform creatively, come up with extraordinary solutions to survive and grow in this extraordinary business environment.” For this company, part of the solution resides on the Internet.

For more information, visit www.m2impact.com or call 888-m2impact.

Publication date: 12/27/2010

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