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Archive for the 'client retention' Category

Mobile Technology Adaption Growing in Small Businesses

A recent Constant Contact survey shows a strong trend among small business owners who are using mobile technology to not only conduct business, but also to promote their business, with conducting social media marketing (73%) and email marketing (71%) at the top of the list.

Other uses include engaging in advertising through social media outlets, as well as having a mobile-friendly site. A smaller percentage of the survey participants use tablets for point-of-sale purposes and use mobile apps to manage their business. 82% using a calendar/time management app tops the list of types of apps used, with others reporting app usage in customer communications, GPS/mapping, accounting/invoicing, travel planning and industry news updates.

In regards to social media advertising, a whopping 97% of those surveyed utilize many of the “biggies” of social media for advertising dollars: YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For those that have mobile-friendly sites, 70% of participants reported that it’s not only mobile-friendly, but also social-media optimized. Other characteristics of these sites include:

-A Menu (44%)
-Individual Product Listings (40%)
-Videos (39%)

And, when it comes to what type of mobile device is choice among small business owners, iOS is still heads above the Android. (66% to 39% respectively). In tablets, iPad beats out the Android tablet, 49% to 15% respectively.

Now, not all small businesses are behind the mobile trend, and for various reasons, with the top reason (56%) being that their customers have not expressed demand for mobile communications. 28% said mobile is not relevant to their industry/business.

For the restoration contractor, there are many opportunities for both their sales and marketing force plus their operations team to benefit from the many advantages of mobile technology. Learning curves, costs of the technology itself and having very little time to learn and adapt to mobile technology are just some of the reasons why contractors, much like the non-mobile users in the owners surveyed, have not employed this trend into their own businesses. But, as any business knows, it’s vital to stay ahead of the curve for business trends that have a direct impact on best servicing their customers.

In an ever-increasing world dependent on technology, it will be critical for small business owners to adapt to mobile changes before their customers start demanding it-and for the company, to adapt to mobile technology before they get left behind while the competition roars ahead.

If you are a contractor or a company in the inspection, cleaning and restoration industry, and have found that what was working to grow your company from point A to point B is not working to get you to point C, Business Development Associates, Inc. might be the solution for you. We are helping companies across the country predictably control the growth of their companies with proprietary sales and marketing programs that are generating millions in new business. Email us at info@thebdaway.com or call us at 773-777-9956 today!

Property Claims Report: Severity and Frequency of Property Damage Increases, Yet Overall Customer Satisfaction Remains High

J.D. Power and Associates recently published their 2013 Property Claims Satisfaction Study, which measures the satisfaction level of 5,500 customers who have reported claims for property damage under their homeowner’s policy between May 2011 and January 2013.

Of the approximate 8% of homeowners that reported a property claim in the U.S. during that time period, the average settlement amount increased to $8,517 as compared to the prior year where the average claim averaged in at $7,937. Contents settlements have increased approximately $250 from year to year while the average repair settlement in 2013 came in at $7,844 compared to $7,151 in 2012.

Out-of-pocket expenses for homeowners nearly doubled, as the average amount in $1,945 increased to an average of $3,888 in 2013.

The survey covers five factors of their experience filing the claim: settlement, first notice of loss, estimation process, service interaction and repair process.

While customer satisfaction with the overall claims process remained high (despite 2011 and 2012 marking a historic number of claims due to catastrophic events) one aspect of the claims process represented a 9 point decrease in customer satisfaction as compared to previous years: the service interaction process.

This drop is being explained as being caused by the homeowner reporting claims through call centers (direct channels) versus directly through their agents. 68% of customers used direct channels in 2013 to report claims, up 11% from 2012.

For those that reported claims directly through their agents, satisfaction ratings were 50 points higher than those that reported claims through call centers. The decrease in or lack of personal interaction, attention and service helped contribute to the dissatisfaction amongst those that reported claims directly to the call center versus reporting the claim through their agent. (It should be noted that the study did find a few direct carriers that did have scores that were complimentary to those who made claims directly to their company).

Although the industry is showing a shift towards direct channels, can insurance companies bring the same personalized attention to the policyholder that will not only create overall satisfaction during the property claim process, but also enough to to retain those policyholders?

And, as the restoration contractor performing the work to bring the customer’s property back to pre-loss condition, you also play an important part in the claims process. Doing good work and being nice to the customers is important for any restoration contracting business. But, it’s not enough for people to decide to choose you as their restoration contractor, whether it’s the agent referring you or the policyholder deciding to choose you over the other two contractors that have given estimates.

If you are a restorer looking to find out more about how to position yourself more uniquely, check out this BDA blog entry that we posted at the beginning of the year.

If you’ve got goals that you have set (or still looking to set) for 2013 that are not on pace to reaching fulfillment, or, you’re still waiting on weather, good luck or program works to be the driving (and unpredictable) factor for growing your business, it’s never to late to redefine your company and gain a unique competitive advantage in your marketplace. (And for goodness sake, don’t wait until 2014 to do something about it!).

For those restorers who are looking to gain that unique advantage and are ready to predictably grow their business, you might be the right fit for the “The BDA Way.” To learn more about how BDA is helping other restorers secure millions in new business, visit us here to find out more information.

State Farm Fine-Tunes Risk Assessment, Decreases Rates

A.M. Best recently reported that carriers are looking at more than just rate increases to help them maintain profitability in a volatile property insurance market. Other risk-management initiatives that are being looked at include mandatory wind/hail deductibles, percentage hurricane deductibles and roof limitations based on the age and condition of the roof. Geo-coding and better understanding a specific home’s (versus an area’s) risk is also becoming a new trend in risk management practices.

Looking at “micro-zones” versus more broad measures is one way that State Farm in CA is able to manage the carrier’s risk while also offering more discounts to their client’s premiums. Beginning April 15th, State Farm, the largest homeowner insurer in CA, is dropping rates by an average 12.6% for more than a million customers. When looking at State Farm’s customer base in CA, that means 85% of the homeowners they insure will see an approximate $100 savings in their premiums. Renters will also see some savings upon renewal.

Instead of looking at just the zip code, State Farm’s new rate-setting system breaks down risk factors such as geology and fire danger, based on the exact geographic location of the home. This will position State Farm as having the ability to offer competitive pricing based on a fine-tuned set of risk assessments.

Mobile and Tablet Usage Rising-Is It Right For Your Mix?

There is no question that smartphones and tablets have not only revolutionized how we engage with each other both personally and in business, but both technologies continue to provide greater marketing opportunities for both B2B and B2C purposes. And everywhere you look, it seems that everyone has one, and for those that are has a lower adaptability rate, (for example, the Silent Generation), they too are gradually increasing in their consumption of the latest technology.

And for marketers, increased mobile and tablet usage means the ability to leverage various tactics and strategies in order to communicate and provide interactive opportunities with their company, from QR codes, push messaging, Mobile Apps, mobile and tablet friendly Websites, sharing abilities, interactive TV, mobile banner ad opportunities, location-based marketing and much more.

For the consumer, the immediate gratification of finding information or products they want is also a big plus, as they can quickly perform a Google Search or buy the item they just saw on TV or in a magazine in a matter of minutes. For the company that consumer is buying from, the ability to maximize on the consumer’s impulse and need for immediate information or for the product itself can be result in shorter buy cycles and quicker profit. And to top all this, the rising market penetration rates of both mobile devices and tablets have marketers looking at a way to start shifting part of their marketing mix over to this new communications platform.

To give you an idea of how entrenched mobile and tablet technology is here in the U.S., below is a quick snapshot of US smartphone users and penetration into the population from 2010 and projected into 2016. In 2010, smartphones were used by 20.2% of the population, where in 2013 it will have jumped to 48.9%. In 2016, it’s projected that nearly 60% will have a smartphone.

- 2010: 62.2 million (26.9% of mobile phone users / 20.2% of population)
- 2011: 93.1 million (39.2% / 29.7%)
- 2012: 115.8 million (47.7% / 36.6%)
- 2013: 137.5 million (55.5% / 43.1%)
- 2014: 157.7 million (62.5% / 48.9%)
- 2015: 176.3 million (68.8% / 54.2%)
- 2016:192.4 million (74.1% / 58.5%)

The following numbers reflect those of tablet users. By 2014, it’s predicted that over a quarter of the U.S. population will be using tablets. As tablet adoption increases, older devices will get replaced and eventually, will become more like smartphones, which typically have a single user and less sharing.

U.S. tablet users and penetration, 2010-2014:
- 2010: 13.0 million (4.2% of total population / 5.8% of internet users)
- 2011: 33.7 million (10.8% / 14.5%)
- 2012: 54.8 million (17.3% / 22.9%)
- 2013: 75.6 million (23.7% / 30.9%)
- 2014: 89.5 million (27.7% / 35.6%)

Another advantage of mobile and tablet marketing in a company’s mix is not only the benefits we spoke of above, but the ability to be truly integrated and interactive with other elements of your mix. Marketers can cross-pollinate what can be considered a traditional form of marketing with the newer forms like mobile marketing. By doing so, you can give a “facelift” to what some people might be considered “dead” forms of advertising, like print advertising.

For example, in Quarter 2/2012, the use of mobile action codes In the U.S. top print magazines rose 61% compared to the previous quarter. In comparison to last year, the print-to-mobile marketing strategy rose from 5% overall to 10% and continues to rise. Action codes in magazines right now are actually outpacing action codes in direct mail. Direct mail is typically receiving about 4.4% overall in a response rate while catalogs garner a 4.3% response rate; a direct mail letter receives an approximate 3.4%). But, with the implementation of mobile code actions, that response rate on direct mail rose from 4.5% to 5.9%.

It’s important to note something here…one of the best rules in marketing is this: don’t implement a marketing activity into your mix just because it’s the latest buzz trend. Rather, does a proper analysis of your target market, how they engage with your applicable medium and then see how the rubber will hit the road, if it does at all. The numbers we provided here are some high-level stats. There’s lots of ways to drill down and seek out further information about your target market on a much deeper level, and you should make every effort to do so. But, with some powerful data and the obvious impact both mobile and tablet technology has had and will continue to make on our society, it’s certainly something that can’t be ignored and should be considered!

In the end, what you choose in your marketing mix and what you decide to say and how you say it are all integral, critical parts in acting strategically with your message. Finding the ways to communicate your message is half the battle — figuring out what to say is the other side of it!

What’s your experience with mobile and tablet marketing? Restoration Contractors are you currently utilizing any mobile or tablet strategies? We’d love to hear your thoughts and/or experience!!

For more information about Business Development Associates, Inc., visit www.theBDAway.com.

Can Enthusiasm Be A Game Changer In Sales?

In this month’s edition of Cleanfax’s E-Newsletter, “Restoration Insider”, BDA’s President, Tim Miller, discusses how enthusiasm can make you stand apart, especially in the sales arena.

In any industry, including the restoration industry, it’s important to remember that the people you prospect can be dealing with multiple salespeople every day asking for their business. In addition, those salespeople will mostly have the same message which is: “Hi, nice to see you! Got any work? Ok, see you in a couple of weeks!”, and nothing more. So, before you even walk in the door, you are cataloged in the prospect’s mind as just another “oxygen thief” rather than someone who is a true professional and has something of value to offer them.

Part of being successful in sales is, of course, what you have to offer, but also how you deliver what you’re offering. And that’s where enthusiasm comes in. The enthusiasm you bring to the table is actually compromised of several parts, including your unwavering belief in what you’re selling, your company, curiosity and more.

CLICK HERE to read the full article, and let us know what you think about the role of enthusiasm in the sales process!

LinkedIn Introduces “Endorsements”

For some time, LinkedIn has provided the opportunity for people to give praise and compliments to other individuals or companies by allowing folks to post recommendations to the individual or company profile page.

LinkedIn recently announced a new feature–”Endorsements.” This feature allows a person to comment directly on a particular skill or expertise listed on their individual profile. You can also recommend that person to list a skill that they might have not listed, but that you think they should!

And, whenever you are endorsed on your profile, LI will notify you via email. When word-of-mouth referrals are so important in today’s business, including that of a restoration contractor, here’s another great way to use your LinkedIn connections to be a cheerleader for you!

You can learn more about the new LinkedIn Endorsements feature here!

Is Your Sales Team Productive & Profitable?

Knowing whether or not your sales team is being both productive and profitable is key to driving the growth of your restoration contracting business. In many cases, we find that many owners are sending out reps into the field, and they either don’t have a pulse on what exactly they are doing out there, or, they know that their reps are busy, but not seeing the amount of sales to match the amount of busyness their reps are reporting back.

BDA President Tim Miller discusses the importance of sales people tracking their results for truly optimizing their efforts and your revenue possiblities!

Click Here To Watch the Video!

Forewarned is Forearmed: Understanding the Small Stages of Business Growth-Part 1

In our experience, business owners tend to approach growing their company as one long continuum from the day they open to the day they retire.

And, while growing the business may seem like a foregone conclusion for most entrepreneurs, they soon find out that the reality of growth is much more organic, much messier and far more likely to create new challenges that will stress the owner and his or her management team in ways they never imagined.

We often have the opportunity to see this firsthand as we help restorers grow their businesses by turning on their “marketing engine.” Even so, we are emphatic that “handling the new business will be harder than getting the new business.”

Given the fact that most restorers find growing their business in today’s market one of their biggest and most difficult challenges, they have a hard time accepting this statement. Perhaps they are so focused on having found a new way to grow that they figure that handling the growth will be a nice problem to have and they’ll figure that out as they go along.

This is a problem. They fail to realize there are distinct stages of growth, with different challenges, stressors and potential outcomes. Growing companies can greatly profit from advanced knowledge of the challenges they are likely to face at each step.

Facts of business

Before we get into these distinct stages, let’s look at some general truths about growing companies. The most important is that “growth increases complexity.” What most owners do when confronted with increased complexity is to throw people at the problem, meaning that they simply hire to add the necessary capacity.

But what is the real effect of this strategy? After all, the point of growing a business should be for the company to produce more net profit. If the increased gross profit — and therefore net profit — of a growing business is simply consumed in the salaries and related overhead expenses necessary to handle the growth, then all that a business owner has accomplished is to create a bigger, more complex set of headaches for the same net profit as before.

So, while some new labor resources may be required, the reality is that growth and its attendant complexity requires changes in the way the company operates — a new paradigm that requires new processes, systems and procedures and new ways of measuring and thinking about the business.

All of this requires a transition away from the old, comfortable, safe and yet moribund paradigm that got the business from Point A to Point B, but will not take the company from Point B to Point C, something that is likely to be extremely uncomfortable for the owner and many employees who simply may not be able to make the transition.

Another truth is that for companies to grow, the owners and management team will have to learn new skills to support that growth. Companies embarking on a growth strategy must consider how they will gain this education. There are several industry specific consultancies and programs that can help dramatically, but an intensive self-study program is highly recommended, starting with Peter Drucker’s “The Practice of Management.”

This new, more complex, more demanding paradigm will require not only a revision of all of the company’s processes but also a way of codifying those new processes and integrating them into “the way we do things around here.”

It will also require running the business “by the numbers,” and an owner and key managers must have job and overall profitability numbers in near real time in order to insure that margins are met. For this reason, growing restoration contractors simply must be looking at “enterprise” software solutions as the software backbone to support their growing companies.

There are many theories and models of small business growth, and one of the classic papers on this topic was published by Neil Churchill and Virginia Lewis in the Harvard Business Review. Understanding the stages of small business growth helps owners understand what to plan for, what changes there will be in the company’s structure, the owner’s responsibilities and focus and can serve as a way of diagnosing problems that arise.

This month, we will look at the first two stages of growth, and next month, the final three.

Stage 1: Existence

This is the start-up phase where the focus here is almost exclusively on getting enough business to start your business model.

Overhead costs will be, or should be, at a minimum because the owner will be performing most tasks personally with the help of a few employees of average skill. There will be few, if any, formal systems or planning processes as the business will be run largely “in the owner’s head.”

In the very beginning, the company’s very minimal requirements and nascent capabilities often allow the company to generate business relatively easily. This is especially the case if there is an existing business (such as a carpet cleaning operation) that can support the basic needs of the owner as he begins his foray into the brave new world of restoration.

The first crisis for a start-up will likely be managing cash flow. This is often the biggest problem and impediment to growth, causing owners to develop skills in accurate estimating, efficient management of company and sub-contractor labor so that jobs are profitable, negotiating with adjusters and policyholders for payment, understanding the impact of customer service on getting paid, etc.

This is an extremely demanding phase for any business, but perhaps even more so for restorers given the peaks and valleys nature of the workflow and the challenge of keeping a solid team on staff to do the work properly and profitably.

It is easy for restorers at this stage to want to move too fast in terms of growing their organization without putting into place the necessary systems, processes and procedures.

The people selected may be chosen more for industry familiarity and the “show up” factor (they just showed up on my doorstep — must be serendipity) than possessing the necessary management or other skills that the company will require to grow.

This can also be a time of really challenging stress for business owners, especially if they don’t have a carpet cleaning or other business to fall back on.

Stage 2: Survival

The good news here is that the company’s basic premise has proof of concept. The crisis is now one of generating a necessary profit as the company grows to the next step.

Owners are likely putting out fires on a daily basis and the toll of the start-up phase may have drained them of energy and financial resources.

If the business is growing, the problem becomes a very serious one — can the company generate enough cash flow to stay in business and add the necessary fixed expenses (equipment, trucks, technicians, first managerial position such as Project Manager) as well as maintain the current capital assets and replace them as they wear out?

Again, in the restoration industry this can be dramatically exacerbated by unforeseen circumstances like “The Winter That Wasn’t of 2011-2012″ where the expected work from frozen pipes, ice dams, etc., never materialized.

Keeping a talented crew together at this point to handle the peaks in the work is extremely challenging, and many companies at Stage 2 are unable to keep everyone working on a full-time basis. This creates a quality problem as well as massive training problems, as there can be a revolving door of technical talent.

The Project Manager at this stage is a key employee, and owners typically do everything possible to keep this person in place, often ignoring whether or not they have (or can develop) the necessary managerial qualities that will help the company grow.

At Stage 2, the company is still relatively simple; systems are still rudimentary at best, requiring the involvement of the owner in practically every decision. Planning will mostly revolve around cash flow forecasting and it is now critical that the company utilize a basic accounts receivable process to get paid as quickly as possible.

The crisis of cash flow at this stage also creates a dangerous potential pitfall for restorers. When a company is desperate for cash, it is easy for the emotional demands of running the business to spill over when negotiating payment with adjusters.

If Stage 2 companies manage their challenges effectively, they may grow to Stage 3. However, many Stage 2 companies do not meet these challenges and stay in a perpetual crisis where the owner wonders why he ever got into the restoration business in the first place. Given the boom and bust cycles of the industry, he may lurch onward from one fortuitous job to the next, hoping that the lean times in between doesn’t exceed his ability to cover payroll and stretch his suppliers.

Our experience is that many restorers can stay in this place for a long time — even 20 years — never doing what is necessary to understand and break free of Stage 2 and move on to Stage 3.

But if they are able to get past Stage 2… they will find Stage 3 quite interesting. Stay tuned for Part 2, Coming Soon!

The 1(800) Way Agents Put Client Relationships In Jeopardy

We are pleased to bring you a newly published article written by Tim Miller, and is currently running in Cleanfax Magazine’s online monthly publication, “Restoration Insider.”

This article, titled “The 1(800) Way Agents Put Client Relationships in Jeopardy,” discusses a recent fire loss experienced by one of our own BDA team members. Luke’s apartment complex, consisting of eight units all together, caught fire on the east side of the building, while the west side (where Luke lived) incurred heavy smoke damage.

As we all know, times like these are when an agent can step in and become their policyholder’s hero, providing above and beyond service when their client needs it the most, or lose the opportunity all together by a lack of action on their part.

We hope you enjoy this story, and please feel free to send us your thoughts and comments!



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