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Marika Carter | Overcoming Competition With a Strong Online Reputation

Marika Carter is the Director of Internet Marketing at Scorpion. She shares her wealth of 20 years marketing experience to help home services business owners create strong online reputations.

Josh Smith (00:03):

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the sharpest tool. We take the sting out of marketing with everything that we're bringing to the table today in the virtual booth, I have Maria Carter from scorpion. Now Maria has been a director of internet marketing at scorpion, where she leads a team of home service marketing managers. And for the last 20 years, she's been going the extra mile with her clients and developing the right strategy for their business, which not only helps them meet their goals, but also allow for future growth. This is because she is a person of service and a nurture at the core. Just ask your team why they call her mom a great story. When Maria isn't working at the office, she's either feeding her faith enjoying time with her family, watching HGTV or serving her local community. Merico welcome to the,

Marika Carter (00:51):

Thank you. Thank you so much, Josh. It's an honor to be here

Josh Smith (00:54):

And this is your first time racing, the stage of the sharpest tool, right?

Marika Carter (00:59):

I've listened to all the episodes, but today's the day.

Josh Smith (01:03):

Well, we're glad to have you. Why don't you give everybody a little bird's-eye view into, you know, your past four years working with home service businesses, how did you get into marketing management for the trades? Give, uh, the listener a little bit of an overview of your journey. So far,

Marika Carter (01:18):

I've been at scorpion for almost four years now. And when I first started, I worked with all kinds of clients. So attorneys, doctors, all kinds of offer to call clients, people that have been with us for, I mean, since the beginning, since we started as a website design company, but then I really realized that I have a heart for the people and it shades. I just feel like they have fulfilled such an important part and our community. I see them as first responders, just like EMT and nurses and firefighters. I mean, what do you do if you don't have a plumber? And that finding a good plumber to me is just as important as finding a good hairdresser and then like our pest control company that we have. I think our pest control guy, he's basically like an extension of our family. So I think that they are just so important for our local community and I want to do whatever I can to support them. Yeah.

Josh Smith (02:13):

Yeah. That's fantastic. Well, what's a typical day look like for you at scorpion.

Marika Carter (02:17):

Well, there is no day. That is the same, which keeps it really interesting. So I have a team of about 15 people right now. So a handful of them are marketing managers. And then I have SEO managers and PPC managers, listings manager, and marketing assistants, social content managers. And we very much operate with an all hands on deck approach. So we collaborate all day long and I just love having such a diverse team. We have a lot of fun together too. We work hard, but we enjoy each other's company too. We collaborate on everything.

Josh Smith (02:51):

I love that. So today we're here to talk about the importance of online reputation management. Let's start with explaining what means and why it matters so much for a home service business.

Marika Carter (03:04):

Yes, very, very important. So it's something that people may not think is that big of a deal, but he could really be a showstopper. So online reputation, if you think about the marketing funnel, that a lot of us are familiar with, you start with the consumer and this top end of the funnel, and then they work themselves down. So depending on where the consumer is and their journey of searching for a home services company, they could be looking at in many different places, the companies that are serving clients, where there's a longer buying cycle, they typically extend their research and to over time and many different platforms. So it's important to show up everywhere because that person is probably going to do business at some point. But even if it's today or six months from now, it's just so important that you give a good first impression and that it's consistent across those different platforms.

Josh Smith (04:07):

Yeah. How many touch points are we seeing typically today for consumers before they actually engage with the home service business? Has that shifted over the years? Just with the advancements in the digital.

Marika Carter (04:20):

Yeah. There's so many more options now. So it's not unusual that a consumer would have five different touch points before they actually make a buying decision before they decide what service company that they are going to partner with. That's a big deal. I mean, I think about myself, I'm a mama bear in the house. And so I research a lot. In fact, just a couple months ago, we moved out of state and to a new city and I had to do a lot of research. So the typical homeowner that buys a new house, you're now in a new area, or you don't know anybody. And of course you turn to Google for the research. So I had to research pest control, landscaping, electrician, locksmith, the list goes on and on and on. And unless you have an emergency, you're really going to take your time. So I know what I look for. I mean, I look in many different places that people that are following me over to different platforms to like social media, maybe follow me over on Facebook or on ESPN or HGTV. Why not spending time online. Those are the people that catch my attention.

Josh Smith (05:32):

Yeah. So it seems like you gotta be in a lot more places now than you ever really did before. Are there any best practices or priorities that, uh, business owners should be thinking about when it comes to where they're ultimately being found online?

Marika Carter (05:46):

It's really everywhere. Now. There's so many different platforms that it used to be just Google used to be the main place that people went. But now even within that, there are so many, there are different apps for instance, where I live now, there's a, it's a big deal to be on nextdoor neighbor because then your local community, like literally your neighbors are recommending the businesses around you or not recommending, you know, and then there's home advisor and Angie's list. And that there's different types of ads. So they can find you in many different places. They can find you in a traditional, um, pay-per-click ad or they can find you in the local service ads or maybe in one of the listings. So they could find you in home advisor Angie's list, Yelp porch, all the different ones that are out there now. And it's just important to have reviews in all those areas and that your listing is consistent. So your name, address, phone number, business hours, description, all of that have to be the same just to make sure that you appear as a legitimate trustworthy business.

Josh Smith (06:51):

I'm just kind of curious from a digital perspective. Why do you think we've seen such a push or a move towards online reputation? Why did that all of a sudden become so important to a consumer?

Marika Carter (07:04):

Well, there's so many different options now, again, I've referred back to myself when I have so many places to look and it all depends on what time of the day and what, where, you know, whether I'm on my phone or my desktop as you just have to have a footprint everywhere. And so I think the reason why it's so much more important now than what it used to be is some studies show that the online reviews, uh, are basically 90% of what matters in somebody making a decision. So in the past, people used to just call their neighbor or friends, family, whoever to recommend someone. But now if you don't have a good set of reviews and it's okay to have some not so good reviews too, but you have to have show that you're interacting with your client. So that online reputation really matters much more so than before.

Josh Smith (07:55):

Yeah. And it's, it seems almost like a lot of these business owners that I know we work with here at scorpion, they may have a really great word of mouth, uh, thing happening offline. Right. And so I think one of the challenges they see is how do we get that offline reputation now online? And there's a lot of places that they could do that potentially. Is there any order of priority to what's channels they should place most attention on from your perspective?

Marika Carter (08:22):

Yeah. Uh, I think especially, I mean, Google still is dominating. So your Google, my business profile, it should serve as a little micro-site if you will. That's usually where people land. If they find you in the local maps. I always say that if you're let me think about this. If your website is your foyer, you're in Google, my business account is your report. So that is your first impression. Um, that's really, before somebody even goes into your house, that's what they're going to look at. So I would say to Google my business account, it has to fully populated even with photos and coupons and any incentive for them to come and look deeper. It is actually true that about 30% of all searches, they just bypass the website altogether. Like, imagine if you have a plumbing emergency, or an HVAC emergency and if 106 degrees outside and you have little babies at home, you're not going to go and sit through and sift through 10 different companies. No, you're going to look and you're going to look, who's closest to me. Are they open? Are they available now? Can they send a technician? Oh, and by the way, are they also reputable?

Josh Smith (09:33):

Yeah. And that's so important because when it comes down to everything you mentioned there, right? The proximity, the need, the urgency, like those are all things that Google has seen as important to consumers over the years. And so it's being completely backed up by the data Google seeing. And I think that's why we've seen such a dramatic shift towards that. Um, w what are some of the places where reviews actually have an impact on how your advertising campaigns perform? Is there an actual, tangible impact to lower lead costs or more leads or anything like that?

Marika Carter (10:09):

Yeah, there definitely is. I would say the main one is the local service ads, Google they decide who is going to show up in that top three rotation based on reviews, perhaps somebody to the searcher and also how responsive they are when someone call. And that is one thing that I wanted to go back to. Actually, it's great. If you have a great profile, you have all the things in there, but if somebody calls your business, you have to pick up the phone. So those first 30 seconds, they're a game changer. Otherwise somebody is gonna possibly click on your ad that you now spend money for. And if it's a PPC click, you can spend a lot of money on it, but you have to pick up the phone. And from what happens from there is super important. It doesn't just stop there.

Josh Smith (10:58):

Business owners go about responding to reviews. I know there's been a lot of talk about it. Do you do it? Do you not seem saline? Yeah. More towards you to do, how fast should they respond to these reviews and how should they respond?

Marika Carter (11:10):

How fast they should respond as soon as possible, honestly, as soon as you see it and no one really expects a service business to be perfect. So it's okay to have a few, not so great reviews. If you have an average of like 4.7, 4.9, it's really not going to matter because people are not looking for you to be perfect. They look for people that are willing to make it right. If they don't, you know, hit it up on the first one. So responding to reviews are very important. If somebody writes a complaint or wrongfully accuses your business, uh, maybe not doing a good job, or of course are spammers out there. The most important thing is to respond in a charitable manner. So resist the temptation to go into defense mode. Even if somebody's wrongfully accusing you and maybe was somebody who was not even a client, you know, there's a lot of trolls on the internet these days. So, but just show that you're charitable, that you're willing to resolve the issue.

Josh Smith (12:15):

You know, I always think about it this way. It's, you know, so often we go into responding to reviews as if I'm responding to this review for that customer, right? The person who left the review. But I think we've got to step back, take the bigger approach, which is, you're not just responding for that customer. You're responding for all the other customers and potential customers that are potentially looking at that interaction online, because that's representative of how you do business and how you deal with your customers. So I think that's a really key thing to remember when it comes to responding reviews. It's not just about that one customer it's about every other customer that comes in and sees how you converse with your clients. Yeah. And the, you know, the, how, obviously you mentioned the complaints, right? You mentioned being charitable. Are there any other best practices for handling complaints specifically?

Marika Carter (13:05):

I think each business honestly have to look at their own organization and decide how they want to respond and respond to complaints. But I think the most important thing is to just have impeccable follow-up and show care, no matter what happens. Even someone who has tried you before, it's enough for one service call to go wrong and they can go right back to Google again and do a new search.

Josh Smith (13:31):

Yeah. You know, one of the things that was popping into my head specifically for business owners, I know it can be overwhelming. Cause we just talked about, well, you gotta be on all the places on all the things you got to get reviews everywhere and you gotta be pushing. It can be really overwhelming. Right. And that's why we always, I think sometimes think about it in terms of like priority, but then even responding seems like a bit of a task and for a business owner who doesn't have somebody internally handling all the reputation as a business owner, it can easily go forgotten or go just on handled specifically, like responding to reviews. What is there a way or like tools out there that help business owners in this specific area? Because I know it can be cumbersome. Like for example, you go on Facebook, you got to log into your Facebook and then go responding. You got to log into your Google so you can go and respond, you know? So you have to go to each individual place to do what you need to do on those platforms. Is there anything that business owners should be looking for in terms of technology or things like that to help with this? Is there anything out there?

Marika Carter (14:35):

There are several different options out there actually. And there are companies that specialize in that, but before I go that far, I wanted to just speak to the business owner. And just especially the ones that are just starting and just trying to get their business, the ground, it's like building your credit history. So it's not a set it and forget it. Now it's something that you constantly work on and that you monitor closely and you do everything you can to get the points up a little bit or add more accounts or channels if you will, to that. So that your score goes up. And it's the same principle with the online reputation, but there are companies out there and I totally understand it. If you're a smaller outfit, it seems like such a chore. It could be, it could feel like a full-time job just to manage, to reuse. So if you have someone in house, that's great. If you don't, there are many different companies out there that you can work with that can help you get those online review requests sent out that can help you respond, that can help build those profiles for you. And that's probably the best practice, the best way to go, unless you have all the resources in house to do it. Yeah.

Josh Smith (15:51):

Yeah. You know, there's a saying, I heard once you probably think about it as a small business owner, if you're a small business owner listening, the question pops into your head. Well, when do I hire an employee? And the response I heard a while ago is as soon as you can afford one, like the minute you have the money to do it, do it, don't get greedy. Don't start taking more of a set, like hire somebody to help. And I think it goes for technology as well. When's the best time to implement some sort of technology to help streamline your efforts, make you more efficient. Well, as soon as you can afford to do it, you know, it let's talk about really quick intake, right? The consumer that believes in a home service brand, how is it best to handle intake to ensure the client experience is something that's going to foster a positive client review to build the reputation?

Marika Carter (16:33):

Yeah. So again, if you put yourself in the shoes of someone who has been spending time, researching different companies, and finally you decided to pick up the phone and call company a, if it rolls to voicemail, basically you have no loyalty to that company. So you just go to the next one on the list. When you do pick up the phone, make sure that you have a friendly voice on the other end and that they know who they called. There's been too many times where I have listened to calls where someone picks up the phone and says, this is bill. Or, you know, instead of like, Hey, welcome home party company. How can I make you smile today? All that matters. And again, someone is going to get the business that day, or at least get the appointment. So why not be you, but you have to make sure that that intake process serves you well through the consumer journey. So just because you pick up the phone and not only do you have to have a pleasant voice there and a timely follow-up, you'd let the person know that you're on your way, communicate, communicate, communicate. And then of course the technician that goes out on site, they also have to be an extension of your business. So they make sure they show up in a clean uniform, that they have a badge. They have a brand that track, whatever you can do to just instill confidence that this is the business that they should be hiring.

Josh Smith (17:55):

So I love that. What's the best follow-up after providing services. I know another question I hear a lot is, well, how do I even go about getting reviews? Well, yeah, you can ask for them. But I think a lot of successful business owners in this area, they have very strategic ways of actually gathering reviews. Um, what are some of the best follow-up practices you've completed a service you want to get that review?

Marika Carter (18:17):

There's no one better to ask for a review than the person that was just servicing something inside your house. But as soon as they pull off in their truck, the person goes on with their day. They don't even think about it. I think people are happy to leave reviews, but it has to be in that moment. So the best way to handle it is to have the technician ask for a review before they leave the house and then, you know, follow up from there. But you have a very, very short window to get that review. You have to ask for it. Some companies, they do friendly competition between the technicians, a little incentive program there to motivate the technicians, to get more Google reviews are the ones that carry the most weight, but also make sure you get, if you are actively advertising on home advisor, get home advisor reviews. If you are on Facebook, you can ask for a Facebook like there's so many different ways that you can, or that review.

Josh Smith (19:13):

And I think it's a good way to utilize both obviously your personnel, your team, and the technology that you have powering your business, right? Cause if you can have it's, like you said, they may or may not leave a review right? When you ask them. But if you ask them, you want to have a follow-up strategy as well. That's where technology could come into play by emailing them, text messaging, um, things like that. And getting that done in an automated way can be a really powerful thing. And I know there's some technology out there on the market that, uh, is worth looking into for that purpose too. So, so Maria, this has been really, really valuable. Are there any final thoughts you have or tips for the person listening to this who really needs to get a handle on reputation?

Marika Carter (19:51):

Well, I think I'm pretty passionate about this topic. So if I haven't convinced you already, I would just strongly encourage the listeners to make sure that they put time and effort into their online reviews. It's like currency these days, it's really, what's going to help your business move forward. It's also going to help you with your branding and to stand out in your local community. There's just so much as riding on it that you really can not afford not to spend time on it. So, so do it find the right tools if you need to do it, but just do it.

Josh Smith (20:24):

I love that. Marie has been great talking with you. Where can people go to find out more

Marika Carter (20:28):

Quirky home services? Dot com is the place to go,

Josh Smith (20:31):

Oh, super easy peasy.

Marika Carter (20:33):

Awesome.

Josh Smith (20:35):

There we go. Scorpion home services.com. Well thank you, Maria. I appreciate your time. And all of the knowledge and expertise, this has been great. And for everybody listening definitely hit that like button and punch that subscribe button wherever you might be listening at. So you continue to get more of this Austin content being pumped out by the sharpest tool. And if you have been a frequent listener, definitely head over to iTunes or any of the platforms that you're listening on and leave us a review. Talking about reviews. Reviews are a really important part of being able to get more of the sharpest tool content in the hands of business owners. So we can continue to push the trades and elevate the trades to a place that they haven't been before. So we would really appreciate a review on iTunes and they help us out here at the sharpest tool. Share this episode with a friend. If you know, somebody needs to hear this, this is the time take action. Hit that, share button, share it around with some friends, get it started in a text message chain, get people's thoughts and start a conversation about this. That is how important reviews and reputation are. And from all of us here at the sharps tool until next time we'll talk to you then. Thanks.

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