Goodbye, Yellow Book Road

Cailley Hammel Headshot
photo of yellow pages

When marketing pro Mike Brooks asked his client, A&A Pool Service owner Jon Allen, how business was faring, the answer surprised him.

"I don't know whether to hug you or punch you in the face," Allen said.

A mixed message? Sure. But ever since Brooks helped Allen switch from the Yellow Pages to social media marketing and search engine optimization, Allen's phone has been ringing off the hook and business has tripled. Here's how it happened:

Old Business, Old Methods

"My father had a small service company, and that's basically all they did: openings, closings and weekly vacuums. He never really knew or thought of how to expand the business; he was very settled in the way things were," Allen says.

Four years ago, Allen took over the business from his father. After taking the helm, Allen critically looked at the company's business strategy to see how things could improve. One tenant of his father's business plan stood out: a heavy reliance on Yellow Page advertising.

"My father swore by the Yellow Pages," Allen says. "But I found that most of the calls we got from the Yellow Pages didn't really pan out to be good customers. Most of them were questions and things that didn't pertain to our company.

"We got very complacent, my father and I, about just renewing the ad and thinking that's where people went to find us."

After talking to customers and looking at the client roster, Allen reached a critical realization: The majority of his customers were referred by other customers. To reach new customers, he knew he needed to exploit word-of-mouth marketing in a new way.

Serendipitously, Allen attended a networking dinner where he met Mike Brooks, owner of Nuclear Chowder Marketing. Allen explained his challenge and Brooks offered to help.

"I took what I was paying a year in Yellow Pages ads and gave it to Mike," Allen says.

With a Little Help from My Friends

To kick things off, Brooks set up a Facebook page and taught Allen the ropes — how things work, what kinds of posts to share and more. From there, Allen worked on garnering likes for the page. His approach was simple: he asked his own Facebook friends to like the company page. As his friends interacted with his page, Allen's posts gained exposure among friends-of-friends — Allen's prime target.

"That's why this has worked out so well for us: it is one friend telling another friend telling another friend," Allen says. "I started out with maybe 40 friends and asked them to like my page. And then it branched out a little more, and then all of a sudden I started getting people I wasn't friends with to come to my site."

Allen says the strategy for his company's page is heavily image-based. He posts before-and-after pictures of his projects to show what he does, glamorous pool shots to trigger people's envious side and he goes to manufacturers' pages to share their content. And he also makes sure to post pictures of his young daughter poolside — a proven magnet for likes.

With each post, Allen reaches anywhere between 30 and 400 people. And while his page doesn't have thousands of likes, Brooks says social media success doesn't hinge on that.

"It's always quality over quantity," Brooks says. "If people are talking about the page or commenting, that's important. People make recommendations in their own circles."

Brooks also adds that a social media presence offers unseen benefits as well. For example, people are learning to use Facebook's search bar as a reference tool to scope out businesses they may interact with.

"People will find the page. They might not necessarily like it, but they'll call. So there are other ways it works other than just simply sending a message to your community," Brooks says.

In addition to branching out into Facebook, Brooks helped Allen optimize his website for better search engine results. To do this, Brooks changed some of the framework of the site and added content to better describe the business, including what services A&A offers and locations it serves. Adding the right language in the right way makes it easier for a business to rise to the top of search engine results, Brooks says. While that's important to Allen, the improved site also serves as a preliminary filter to reach the customers he's looking for.

"I don't build pools, so it's kind of a waste for people to call me and ask that I build a pool. So if they look and can see right there what I specifically do, it really narrows the market to the specific clients I'm looking for."

Allen promotes his Facebook page by including a button on his website and email blasts and simply telling customers about his page. He says the interconnectedness between those elements — especially between the Facebook page and website — is noticeable.

"I've found the more posts I put on Facebook, the more hits I get to my website," Allen says.

Signs of Success

It didn't take long for Allen to see results.

"With my father four years ago, I think we had about 45 clients. Today we have 198 clients," Allen says.

Business doubled in the first year alone and has since tripled. And as more business rolled in, Allen expanded his service menu accordingly.

"Because we have new clients, they have different needs, and we've had to really expand what we do in our little business to keep up with them," he says. In particular, his business grew to include masonry work, electrical work, automation and more.

While he may be a little overwhelmed at times, Allen says his time on Facebook taught him some important lessons about how social media can benefit those in the pool and spa industry.

"I feel like if you're not using social media now, then you're missing the boat," he says. "A lot of people will pass up something on the Internet and buy it from me because there's a presence about my company on the Internet or on Facebook and they feel like they're friends with me."

If you're thinking about joining the social media movement, Allen has some last words of advice for you:

"Be ready. It's all about the power of word of mouth. If that's how you get a lot of your customers, then this will work great for you."

Tips for a Better Facebook Page

Take the word of a marketing pro like Mike Brooks and follow these tips for a stronger Facebook presence.

Post pictures. As people who specialize in "affinity products," pool and spa pros have an advantage in the world of Facebook. "You have to buy insurance, but nobody really wants to buy insurance. A pool is something people want to have, they're passionate about it and want to share it. They want to see it. If it's an affinity product, you should be posting pictures all the time."

Be casual, but congruent. Not sure what to post? "If you're having a beer with your buddies, what would you share about your day? As long as it's congruent with your message and as long as it's something you wouldn't be afraid to say in front of 20 of your most difficult customers, share it on social media."

Don't wait until you need promotion. "That's something a lot of businesses do: They wait until they need the customers to go and do something. The key thing with social media is talk about it regularly. You want people to stay connected to you."

Ask people to take action. "Ask people to share a picture, to like a picture, to comment on a picture. That's going to increase interaction. And it's good to condition them to take action because eventually, you might want to ask them to buy something from you."

 

Are the Yellow Pages Bad for Business?

According to Mike Brooks, not necessarily.

"I would be doing someone a disservice to say, 'You shouldn't be in the Yellow Pages because Yellow Pages doesn't work anymore.' That's a blanket statement. All marketing can work if its done right. The trick is to understand where your audience is. With Jon, we felt that a lot of his audience was on search engines and social media, and that turned out to be pretty true."

But no matter where you're marketing, Brooks says you should definitely consider joining social media.

"It's something everybody should really do, but it may be in addition to what they're already doing, it may not necessarily be a replacement," he says.

 

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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