When the housing and stock market are strong, so is the business of custom home technology design and integration. Times are mostly good right now – economy wise – so the home tech trade is chugging along, it’s leaders mostly only concerned with finding qualified employees to do all of the work ahead of them. These boom times are what scare Azione Unlimited chairman Richard Glikes more than a haunted house on Halloween.
Glikes, whose buying group meeting recently convened in Denver, still relies primarily on referrals for new business (past and current clients tell their friends to get a system and those friends tell their friends…) Glikes hates this pattern and is doing what he can to encourage his 200-plus membership of home tech dealers to learn how to properly market their services now, so they’re prepared when the next downturn hits.
“The stock market doesn’t go up forever,” Glikes said during the meeting. “I’m a very positive guy; I’m definitely a glass is half full person, but I think you have to be prepared. Let’s say the market collapses, and you’re not marketing, and you try to catch up… Guess what? Somebody else is going to get the business.”
To help its integrators along, Azione is encouraging its manufacturer members to bring back the concept of co-op spending toward advertising and marketing. In addition, the group is working with digital marketing gurus One Firefly, to evaluate every dealer’s website and see how it stacks up.
“We were asked to take a comprehensive look at the entire Azione Unlimited membership, defining parameters regarding their websites and their online presence,” One Firefly’s Ron Callis explained to group members, after each was handed a sealed envelope with their name on it. “We said, let’s pass/fail each company across a number of online metrics. This will let you see how the group performs, overall, and how each of you did individually.
After spending more than a hundred hours on the project, Callis’ team used 12 different parameters to grade each dealer, A to F, on their online presence. The company then added a couple of extra credit factors that didn’t go into each grade, but were worth recognition. “Maybe you don’t have a blog or aren’t updating it regularly, but you do have custom videos on your site, for instance,” Callis noted.
One Firefly audited 201 Azione members, resulting in 26 As, for the group. Of those actually in attendance at the meeting, there were 20 As, 11 Bs, 17 Cs, 16 Ds, and 132 Fs. For the Fs, Callis was quit to point out, “this does not mean you need a new website.” Instead, it simply meant that the site was missing an SSL certificate, so it’s now getting flagged as a security risk, even though it’s a simple fix through your internet host or web developer.
Other parameters graded on the “report cards,” were mostly easy to understand and to solve. For instance, sites are supposed to feature the company’s name at the top and bottom of the home page.
Also, each site needs to feature “attractive” imagery on the home page and throughout galleries, to encourage referral customers to establish a new business relationship. Additionally, company location information should be visible in both the header and the footer of the sit, to help consumers searching for that information and to improve Google indexing.
Websites were also rated on whether or not they included a contact form (the easiest way to reach out to new clients.) Also encouraged are online reviews from the internet, in general, Google, Houzz, and Facebook, that can be embedded into the site.
Callis also encourages tech integrators to publish SEO-configured blogs, with keyword and geo tags, and modules turned on. These help add more visibility for the site on Google.
You can still have newsletters and social media accounts like that content, but you will miss out on 50 percent of traffic to the stories. If you have a blog, and it’s not being regularly updated, it’s not going to look great to customers. Regular blog content is easiest way to improve your website’s visibility in search.
“There is nothing that we’ve found that any marketing agency is going to offer you that more powerful than original content that is SEO configured,” Callis said. “You guys can write it, you can hire someone to write it… but write original content.”
The site also should be mobile friendly. Callis says to search for “Google-friendly test” in your search window, paste in your URL and see if you pass or fail. “About 60 percent of the internet is now coming through mobile device,” he said. “So many of these customers on their phones or iPads, late at night are trying to research, and you’re not going to show up if you’re not a search-friendly website.”
Lastly, to significantly improve the visibility of your website, add an XML site map to the footer of your website. Only 25 percent of Azione participants have one.
One Firefly gave bonus points to companies that have interactive floorplans, instructional or promotional videos, as well as live chat, on their sites.
“Integrators have between 200 and 1,000 monthly visitors to their websites,” Callis pointed out. “If you have more than 400 a month, then that is the breaking point for where live chat will exponentially increase the engagements on your website – in the neighborhood of 10 to 20x. There are some evangelists in this room that have significantly changed their lead gen and their customer service by putting live chat on their site.”