Monthly Archives: May 2013

How To Harness Online Testimonials For Your Swimming Pool And Pond Waterfall Business

local search testimonials

In this second part of getting customer testimonials, we’ll take a look at harnessing the power of online reviews for your swimming pool, pond, and backyard waterfall business.

How do you get credible testimonials? Let’s examine some of the sites you can gather reviews, as well as how to inspire reviews from your customers and how to collect them from all around the web.

Set up a testimonials or reviews button on your website. Clients can click on the button as you encouraged to leave positive reviews and feedback about your services and company.

Send out an email to your clients seeking a testimonial. Your email can contain a link that guides them back to the feedback section of your web-site or a web link that takes them to a customer survey form you created with your evaluation questions.

Include your business in search directories hosted by major search engines. Search directories enable users to leave evaluations about your company on the internet, and may influence the way you get ranking with local search results. One example, let’s say you’re a swimming pool waterfall builder and include your business on Google Places. Customers looking for a swimming pool waterfall builder in their area may select your business over others when they see you have a great deal of favorable customer critiques.

Local search directories like Google Places, Yahoo Local, Merchant Circle, Yelp, and CitySearch allow participants of their networks to write assessments about local companies. Google obtains opinions from Google users, in addition to drawing in opinions from other local search sites like Yelp. Merchant Circle enables member testimonials and also brings them in from Yahoo Local, CitySearch, as well as other sites.

Why would you want to guide your customers to creating reviews on these sites versus writing a testimonial specifically for your site? The answer is simple. If you are attempting to get Google search traffic to your local small business, you would want your company to come up in the search with the most testimonials.

If you have great evaluations on these websites, you should promote them on your testimonials webpage as well.

Use the reviews features on social networking websites like Facebook. Facebook has built-in functions that allow other users to leave recommendations and reviews for your company on your profile page.

Execute an Web search for local business directories to discover a search directory for each significant search engine. You can then add your company to each directory and advise clients to leave their feedback on these websites.

Create daily notifications via email on Google Alerts for a wide range of relevant terms in order to keep track of your name, company name, brand name with the word review.

There is one drawback when it comes to soliciting reviews on your Facebook page, in local search directories, and other sites that you don’t have control over. There is the chance that all of the reviews that are posted will not be positive.

Anytime you come across an unfavorable assessment about your company, it is vital that you act in response to it. When a prospective customer reads a negative evaluation, but also recognizes that you have acted to help resolve the issue in a consumer forum, then that prospective client will discover that you do care about your client’s satisfaction, which might lead to a favorable perception after all.

Your testimonial page is probably one of the most powerful pages on your website. Fantastic testimonies tell people that your product or service is not only legitimate, but amazing enough that other customers are finding great benefits from it.

YouTube Strategies to Help Your Waterfall Business

By Jonathan Allard
With its more than 100 million videos viewed each day, tens of millions of unique visitors; did you know that YouTube is the number 2 search engine on the Web in terms of inquiring volume?  It sounds impressive, but what does that mean for local businesses trying to reach customers?  You need to separate yourself from your competition!

Have you ever uploaded your own creation? Chances are, probably not.

If you own a small local business or if you are nationally known and don’t want to mess with video hosting and access issues, YouTube provides a free, easy way to host your corporate videos. Below I have listed some of the ways that you can take advantage of using YouTube for your business and help grow your media awareness.

Boost Your Brands Presence

Similar to traditional television ads, YouTube can help your business by increasing overall brand awareness. In fact online advertisements may be even more effective than TV ads. A recent Milward Brown study found that online advertisements resulted in 82% brand awareness while similar TV ads only led to 54%. Be sure to have content that is entertaining and informative to capture your viewer’s attention. Remember you are trying to make your audience aware of your brand, so your video should have content that represents your company. This way the next time a viewer sees your logo somewhere, they will associate your brand with it. Use YouTube to make your business more than an impersonal entity. Video tours can show off an office space or give a behind the scenes look at the process that goes into the everyday operations of your business. Let customers connect with the heart and soul of your company: the people who make it what it is. By featuring workers in action or even highlighting individual employees with video bios, you allow your company to have a personal touch that everyone can relate to.

Don’t be afraid to create awareness about who you are and what you do; it’s important to let people know who they’re getting this valuable information from.  You should encourage users to take a step towards a relationship with your company by having them subscribe to your YouTube channel or company email newsletter (if you have one).  By building your YouTube subscriber base you’ll automatically reach a built-in audience of potential customers who have opted-in to seeing your latest videos. For example you could say “Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more moneysaving tips on ways to improve your outdoor living space,” and include that call to action graphically in the video. Alternatively, driving people to a newsletter is another way to form the start of a relationship with that viewer.

Optimize for YouTube Search

Nearly 24 hours of new video is uploaded to YouTube every minute of every day.  In order to be found you need to optimize your video so that it can be found on the site.  Here are just a few things to think about when adding your video to YouTube.  Include important keywords in the title and be sure your tags include those keywords as well.  Choose an appealing thumbnail that clearly depicts what your video is about.

To continue the outdoor living space example, you may want to title your video “How to design an outdoor living space that will adapt to your backyard. XYZ hardscaping top tips for designing an outdoor living space on your budget.”  Your tags might be “how to, hardscape, outdoor living area, pavers, plants, landscaping, DIY” etc.  The thumbnail could be a shot of you planting some flowers (assuming that YouTube gives you that as an option). Your title, keywords and thumbnail all gives your viewers the information they need to decide whether your video will help meet their need and solve their problem.

How-To Videos

Not all content has to directly promote your products. How-to videos that give viewers tips and hints on solutions related to your industry are a great way to give your customers a valuable gift that creates a feeling of goodwill, but also, importantly, is likely to be shared with others. For example, a barbeque restaurant might share a video about the perfect basting technique, or a graphic design studio might do a monthly series on simple Photoshop tricks. Neither one gives away sacred secrets that will hurt their business, but they do create relevant, helpful content that their customers – and potential customers – can use and appreciate.

Product and Service Demos/Details

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But when it comes to showing off your company’s products, a video demonstration or overview gives your customers more than a photo ever could.

Whether videos are used to demonstrate key features of new products or show off that product from all angles, YouTube gives you the perfect opportunity to let customers see your product in use, how it’s meant to be seen

Produce High Quality Videos

You don’t have to be the next Spielberg, but your videos should be professional and easy to watch.  Shaky hand-held camera work, poor audio quality, bad lighting or lack of coherence in the story all lead to viewers changing the virtual channel.  Pay attention to the lighting. Use a tripod to create smooth viewing experience. Use microphones and pay attention to the audio.  Try to tell a story or clearly walk viewers through the video and what you’re doing.  By paying attention to these basics you’ll standout from the massive amounts of poor quality content on the site – earning you more attention and more interest from viewers.

Give the Viewers a Follow-Up Action

Following the AIDA model you want to create a desire for viewers to take a follow up action.  If you’ve created an informational video about landscaping tips you want to give the viewer a compelling reason to follow up with you and a clear path to do so.  One way to do this is to provide a special offer and a unique web address in the video.

For example a call to action such as “Print step by step instructions and receive 10% off our in-home evaluation by visiting MySite.com/youtube,” gives your viewers an actionable next step with clear value. The unique URL and discount will also provide you one measurable way to determine how successful your YouTube video is.

Those are just some quick ways local businesses can take advantage of YouTube.  There are dozens more, but starting with the basics will put you in front of potential customers who need your help. 

What tips do you have for making YouTube work for business? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Resources:

http://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/blog/socialmadness/2012/05/3-ways-to-use-youtube-to-market-business.html?page=all

http://www.spyderbytemedia.com/5-ways-youtube-can-help-your-business/

http://www.reelseo.com/5-ways-small-businesses-advantage-youtube/

How To Develop Testimonials For Your Waterfall Business

testimonials

Have you ever bought a book or product on Amazon and read the reviews before buying?  How about downloaded an app for your iPhone?  Did you ever read the reviews and decide it wasn’t worth it based on other people’s opinions?

Let’s face it; anyone can claim to offer a quality product or service.  In today’s interconnected marketplace customers want proof.  Think about your customer’s decision making process.  Chances are they’ve done a Google search (or Bing or Yahoo) about your company.  What did they find?

Harnessing the power of customer testimonials can be a great asset to your outdoor living area business.  Here are a few strategies to implement a successful campaign to keep the testimonials flowing in.

Ask your clients questions relevant to their total satisfaction with the project you completed for them; why they selected you over your competitors, whether they would recommend your services to others, and if they would hire you for a future project.

Be sure to add a disclaimer to your testimonial survey. Inform your customers that you may be publishing their statements and names from their testimonial. This will help preserve the customer confidentiality and allow you the right to use their statements in promoting your business.

If your customer has provided you with a testimonial in person or through an alternate method, ask your customers permission if you can use their information as a testimonial.

Give a customer survey to your customers upon completion of a job. This approach is a great method if you communicate with your customers in person.

Suggest your customers complete the surveys and return them to you.

You can also have the survey designed into postcards with prepaid postage. This will allow customers to fill them out at their convenience before mailing them back to you.

Send the testimonial survey by mail. The survey can be sent to your customers after you’ve completed their project.

Allow a sufficient amount of time to pass in which customers can use your product before sending the testimonial. For example, if you completed an outdoor living area with a fire pit or outdoor kitchen before a holiday like the 4th of July and they’re planning a big party, send your customer the testimonial letter after the party so they can boast how much their friends and family enjoyed the backyard experience.

Put a stamp on the envelope so your customers can return the responses to you at no cost to them.

If you communicate with your customers via email, you can create a page on your website and send your customers a link to it, avoiding the hassle of using snail mail.

Gathering customer testimonials should be part of your marketing strategy as well as your customer satisfaction strategy.  Coming up in the next article we’ll cover online strategies  for using search directories like Google places, Yahoo local and Yelp.

Neptune Panels: Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions

By Jonathan Allard 

waterfalls, waterfall, backyard waterfall, water feature, fountain, facts about neptune panels, what is neptune panels, how to install neptune panels, hardscape, hardscape design, aquascape, aquascape waterfall, neptune panels

Q. Do I need a permit or engineered plans to install a water feature?

A. That all depends on your local ordinances. You should check with your local building inspector before work begins.

Q. What is the proper care that I should take for my molds?

A. There are several things you should do. First, you should seal them. Keep them out of direct sunlight. Never use mineral spirits as a release agent on them. Don’t let the panel mix start to build up on them. Clean and re-seal as needed.

Q. What should I do if the mix is too wet or too dry?

A. If the mix is too dry simply add clean water slowly a couple ounces at a time and remix. If the mix is too wet you can let it stand for several minutes in which it should start to stiffen up or you can add a small amount of Portland cement and remix.

waterfalls, waterfall, backyard waterfall, water feature, fountain, facts about neptune panels, what is neptune panels, how to install neptune panels, hardscape, hardscape design, aquascape, aquascape waterfall, neptune panels

Q. Can I build a water feature below 32 degrees?

A. Yes you can, providing you take all the industry-standard precautions for below freezing concrete installations. This would include, warming blankets on the ground before you pour, as well as keeping the entire feature above freezing temperatures for at least seven days and nights after you pour.

Q. What is the desired thickness for each panel?

A. You should try to keep you panel 1/2” thick.

Q. How many bags of Neptune Panel mix will I use for each panel?

A. You can figure an average of three bags for 2 panels. This is based on a ½” thickness average. This will vary slightly + or – based upon the individual molds.

Q. Do I really have to apply sealer to my molds before use?

A. Yes you do. By sealing the molds you are closing any little pores that the panel mix might be able to penetrate into. By allowing the composite to penetrating into the pores of the mold, it will not allow you to release the panels without ripping the molds apart.

Q. Can I make my panels outdoors?

A. Yes, just be sure to cover be freshly poured panel mix with a light plastic sheathing. This will prevent rapid evaporation of the water and will mitigate the amount of cracking you could get.

waterfalls, waterfall, backyard waterfall, water feature, fountain, facts about neptune panels, what is neptune panels, how to install neptune panels, hardscape, hardscape design, aquascape, aquascape waterfall, neptune panels

 

Q. How long do I have to wait until I can use my Neptune Panel after it has been demolded?

A. We recommend you wait at least 24hrs before using or hanging your panels after they have been demolded.

Q. Do I have to color my project immediately or can I wait?

A. You may wait to color your project as long as you do not seal it. When you are ready to color you will need to make sure that you remove any dust or debris from your project so you will get a good bond with the color.

 

Do you have any Additional questions or concerns? (Check out our FAQ’s page for more)

Click here if you would like to learn more about Neptune Panels

 

8 Steps To Successfully Canvass For Your Outdoor Living Area Business

canvassing for outdoor living area business

One of the most overlooked methods to developing new sales leads for your outdoor living area business is the time tested method of canvassing.  You’re probably thinking it’s old school in today’s online world, but it can be a tremendously cost effective method of delivering new leads for your company.  If you’re working on a job site, or want to be working in a specific neighborhood, what better way to gain exposure for your business than by taking directly to the customer?  Here are eight tips to help you start your canvassing campaign.

  1. Prepare yourself:  Have a clean shirt with you if you’re on a jobsite; you never know when opportunity might present itself.  Have handouts, door hangers, brochures and lead sheets readily available for every person you’ll meet.
  2. Set Goals:  What are your expectations from your canvassing efforts?  Are you looking to set an appointment or to gather names, addresses and emails?  Be sure to have clear objectives set for you and your team.
  3. Script Your Door Opener:  Be sure everyone on your team has memorized the script and can answer any of the basic questions that might arise.  Chances are you won’t sell a backyard waterfall knocking on the door, so that shouldn’t be the objective.
  4. Take A Step Back:  After ringing the bell of knocking on the door, take a step back.  You don’t want to come off as threatening by standing too close to the door.
  5. Make Eye Contact:  Look the homeowner directly in the eye and get to the point.  Your opening statement should identify exactly why you are there.  State a few key highlights of your service and end in an open ended question to engage your prospect.
  6. Exude Confidence:  Be sure that you and your team firmly believe in the value offering you’re presenting the homeowner.  Hesitation or hint of dishonesty will doom you and your team to failure.  A good canvasser will look a homeowner in the eye and speak what they believe to be true. Speak with confidence. Canvassers need not hesitate or sound “unsure” of why they are there at a homeowner’s front door.
  7. Express Appreciation:  Let the homeowners know that you appreciate their time for speaking with you and you enjoyed speaking with them.
  8. Follow Through:  When you get a prospective homeowner to give you their contact information, follow through!  It can be as simple as a postcard or email sent before the scheduled appointment.

Canvassing can be a great way to generate new leads for your business.  Like any other sales or marketing effort your company engages in, it will take some practice.  Remember, it can be a profitable and cost effective way to introduce your water feature business to new customers.

Have you had success with canvassing in your business?  We’d love to hear your experiences.

neptune panels installers

Neptune Panels: Coloring Your Water Feature

By Jonathan Allard
water feature, waterfall, fountain, waterfalls, how to color a water feature, neptune panels, how to color a waterfall, how to color a neptune panel
With the construction phase of the water feature now complete, you’ll want to do a general site cleanup of all tools, construction material, and debris to give you a clean environment to start coloring. To protect the area around the water feature from any overspray or drips from the color, you will want to hang or lay plastic over it. This should include any finished flatwork, buildings, and plants or trees. You should also use a leaf blower to remove any dust or fine particles from the water feature to ensure a good bond by the stain.
It is now time to bring your water feature to life. We will do that with color. A lot of dealers
start out very concerned about not being very artistic. There is nothing to worry about; coloring your project is about technique that requires just a little practice and having no fear. You see, as with nature, nothing is perfect. There are no two stones or rocks that look exactly alike or have the exact same coloring or even texture. Since nature doesn’t color every stone perfectly consistent, neither should we.

water feature, waterfall, fountain, waterfalls, how to color a water feature, neptune panels, how to color a waterfall, how to color a neptune panel

Note:

All Neptune Panels colors come in a concentrated form. You will have to dilute the color by using distilled water only. In order to get two or three shades of each color use the ratio of distilled water to color as follows; 3 parts distilled water to 1 part color, 2:1, or even 1 to1. This will allow you a greater range of color and more natural looking shading. By diluting one color and using all the different shades of the color you will be less likely to have a checkerboard style, coloring pattern. The checkerboard look will typically occur when the installer does not dilute down the color and uses it in a concentrated form.
There are some basic principles that you should follow that will allow you to have success immediately after training.
The key to coloring all projects no matter where you are in the country or what colors you may use is as simple as starting with the lightest shade, to the darkest shade. When you typically color a project you will probably only use three or four colors. The key to realism is when you dilute each one the colors and you’ll end up with 8 to 12 colors and/or shades.
Once you have chosen the color scheme you are going with, dilute to the lightest color first, and then begin brushing it on your project. Once you have finished coloring your rocks, you can move on to a darker shade. With Neptune Panels color you do not have to wait for one coat to dry before applying another coat, even if it is a different color. There is an acrylic added to the color that allows it to bond to each other whether or not the bottom coat is dry. This is very beneficial to you, the installer, as it saves time and money as it allows you to continue working.
water feature, waterfall, fountain, waterfalls, how to color a water feature, neptune panels, how to color a waterfall, how to color a neptune panelAs you continue coloring from the lightest to darkest shades, you should also be swapping out and using other colors at the same time, in the same fashion. One way to think about coloring is you are actually low lighting the cracks and crevices as opposed to highlighting all the ridges and peaks. Just remember, you can always go darker but it’s not so easy to go lighter. If you’re stones look perfect close up, odds are they may look fake from a distance.

When coloring, as long as you don’t seal the feature you can always tweak the color. If the customer is very specific in what they are looking for, make sure you get approval on the coloring before you seal the project, you will save yourself a lot of trouble down the road.

Helpful Hint:
When you sell a water feature to a homeowner, do not let them pick the colors, but simply pick a color scheme only. Let them decide if they want to have for example; blues and grays, browns and tans, or even the South West reds. Odds are, you will never have color corrected photos and even if you did, every stone you color is different so you would never be able to match it exactly anyway.

Was this information helpful?

What are your experiences with coloring water features?

Neptune Panels: The 5 steps to Constructing Water Features

By Jonathan Allard
How is a Neptune Panel Water Feature constructed?
Maybe you have read through our 5 Step Process, which is also listed below, and still not sure how the system works. Here is a quick video on the 5 steps in application.
 
 
Here is the overview of the 5 step process that is listed in the video:
Step 1: Making panels 
Neptune Panel molds are made from true stone textures to capture the most realism on the market today. With a simple mixing procedure panels are made by casting the mix on top of the Neptune mold. By adjusting the way the mold lays, you can produce countless different shapes with just one mold. Panels can be de-molded after a minimum of 4 hours, and reproduced several times a day to allow for a stockpile to be built up to be ready for any project that comes your way.
Step 2: Prepping the site.
To prepare for a typical medium-sized stand-alone water feature you will need approximately a half day to excavate and install rebar. Your pond will be excavated and at the same time you will excavate for your footing. After that you will install your rebar in grid fashion and tie at all intersections. This typically can be done with a 2 man crew and minimum tools. Your plumbing will also be done at the same time.
Step 3: Pouring the catch basin and frame footer.
With a small crew you can expect to be able to pour your pond and footer area for the frames in a matter of 3-4 hours. You will wet set the frames into the footer area as well plaster, carve, and texture the pond.
Step 4: Hanging panels.
Once you are ready to hang your panels you will want to start at the lowest area of the front of the feature. Work in rows around the entire structure moving upward. After all your panels are hung you can begin to mud the seams and do all your patch work. This can take anywhere from 5-6 hours or several days depending on the size of the feature.
Step 5: Coloring and Sealing.
Now you are going to color your feature using the Neptune stains. Choose a color scheme and use sprayers and brushes to apply. Just as with nature, nothing is perfect. There are no two stones or rocks that look exactly alike or have the exact same coloring or even texture. Since nature doesn’t color every stone perfectly or consistently, achieving perfection on your project requires a degree of randomness.
If you would like to see more photos of projects and the panel system in action, “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Pinterest!
Was this video helpful?
What kinds of things would you like to see Neptune Panels blog about?
References:
http://blog.neptunepanels.com/2013/02/25/how-to-build-backyard-water-features-with-neptune-panels/