How A Simple Strategy & A Lot Of Hard Work Brought Our Clients From Less Than $100K/Yr to Over $100K/Mo
I’m Michael Ramseyer, and I’m a business owner. I own both Drone Digital (a Lead Gen & SEO firm dedicated to serving small and local businesses) and West Ga Deck and Fence (a contracting company specializing in…you guessed it…deck and fence builds).
Owning both an on-site service company, as well as an agency that serves on-site service companies, has given me a unique insight into how strategies for that company can be fine-tuned to scale growth. This particular page was written from that perspective, and I’d like to tell you a bit about what you’re about to read.
What It’s Not:
This page is not a pitch. Nor is it an offer to work with me. It is not a full-fledged, specifically-crafted, all-encompassing marketing plan.
What It Is:
Hopefully, it’s a launching point for you. The purpose of this page is to tell you the story of one of my clients who were able to go from less than $100k/year in revenue to over $100/k per month in less than a year by simply implementing a detailed strategy.
In the following paragraphs, you’ll find concepts that are more general, and bulleted items that are more specific.
The general concepts are to help with perspective…to help you see them the way I do. Hopefully they will add clarity and meaning to your thought process.
The specific, bulleted items are meads as a guide, or a reference. They are things that you can learn, implement, and use to grow. They take time, patience, and flexibility, They aren’t always easy. They aren’t always fast. They’ll take research and testing and trial and error to learn.
BUT…if you learn and apply them to your business properly and methodically, you will see positive results.
Why Did I Write This?
I simply wanted to share some experience and insight. I speak with a lot of business owners who, for one reason or another, can’t work with me. Often it’s because we’re not a good fit for one another professionally, but I still want to leave them with something they can take and use if they choose.
This is a LOOOONNNGG read. It’s meant to be an in-depth case study of one client and their success, and its meant to help you springboard into doing and learning the things that can give you an edge.
So, let’s jump right in.
What is a growth strategy, exactly?
Simply put, a growth strategy is a DETAILED plan that outlines a hierarchy of actions and goals needed to achieve a SPECIFIC goal.
Most small companies start out with good intentions, a willingness to serve their clients, and a solid understanding of their services. While these things are necessary to exist as a business, they don’t make a strategy.
A strategy is like a roadmap to success. You identify your starting point, every necessary stop along the way, your exact end goal, the time it’ll take to get there, the resources you’ll need along the way, and you have a bag in the trunk packed with contingence supplies in case things don’t go according to plan.
Imagine going on a road trip across the country. It’s a long drive. But instead of looking at a map, planning your gas/food stops, making sure your oil, coolant, and tires are good, and making arrangements for your arrival, you simply get in the car and drive. No direction. No knowledge of the road ahead. No plan on getting there safely.
The chances of getting lost, breaking down, or not even getting there at all become much greater.
While it’s not a perfect comparison, this is generally what we all have to decide as business owners. Whats our plan to get there? And how will we prepare for obstacles along the way?
I’m going to outline the basic strategy my agency uses for our tree service clients (which is very similar to the strategy we have for our painters and contractors) to shed some light on what your own roadmap could look like, and how to garner success.
The First Problem
Identifying the problems inside a business is crucial to developing an effective strategy. Every business faces different issues that have to be solved, and strategies have to focus on solving those specific issues. Generic strategies won’t work.
When our clients come to us, they have usually been trying to solve their problems in generic ways without real structure or purpose.
In the case of DC Tree Removal, their problem was that they had plateaued in their local market, and sales were declining. They had peaked early, and didn’t know how to take the next step. While having spent loads of money on new equipment, and having hired a crew as large as they could manage, they were beginning to struggle to keep the guys busy. Work just wasn’t consistent, and it wasn’t growing.
They were having to go further and further outside their service area to do estimates, and the leads for those estimates weren’t always quality.
They were relying on HomeAdvisor and Angi..and anyone who has gone that route knows the massive headaches involved. From leads being shared to competition, to the high cost per lead, to the unspecific locations and massive driving distances needed to try to field them…
Needless to say, they were burning time and money estimating jobs for people who wouldn’t buy from them.
It was a nightmare, and nothing they did seemed to solve it. Referrals weren’t consistent. Their website wasn’t bringing in any new business. They even tried running ads on FaceBook and Google, only to spend far more than they made.
In a word, the first problem we had to solve for them was OPPORTUNITY.
The Second Problem
At this point, we were looking to the future trying to anticipate issues that would arise upon success. Remember, a strategy plans for contingency, and we were packing our emergency bag, if you will.
We knew the opportunity we could provide, but we also knew it wouldn’t mean much if they weren’t able to take advantage of it and make it PROFITABLE. There’s a big difference in revenue and profit, and they had to have a solid plan to eliminate costs and leverage revenue if they hoped to grow their margins.
Assuming that we could provide ample opportunity, what then? How would they handle it? How would they take advantage of their growing reputation? How would they avoid spreading themselves too thin? How would they balance their ambition with a practical approach?
We had to have a plan in place, specific to revenue markers, to expand their physical command…this meant a plan for new equipment, new employees, and growing marketing efforts to leverage the growing physical side to its fullest.
The Last Problem
Ok, so we had nailed down a strategy for growth in the short term. We knew had our steps, and knew what it would take to profit. The final, and still ongoing problem to solve is “what’s the next step?”
As they continue to dominate their service areas, they have to decide if they want to stay where they are, or if they want to “rinse and repeat” what’s worked for them already in new and untapped markets. They also have to re-define their own roles in the company if the answer is one aimed at growth.
So the final leg of the strategy has to do with ownership position and “exit strategy”… How are they going to be everywhere at once, managing and streamlining work, and how are they going to free up their time to address high-level issues in the business?
We had to redefine their understanding of their importance in the company, and begin structuring their labor in such a way that they didn’t have to wear every hat. They needed to know that, should they need to step out of the field, that operations would go smoothly and they would continue to grow and profit.
In fact, the goal became to FORCE them out of the field, and ensure that they could run their business from an admin perspective instead of a labor perspective.
In short, they needed internal leverage.
We knew that none of these problems could be solved if we didn’t first address the critical issue they were facing: profit. Without taller, wider profit margins, they could not justify, or even think of, resolving the second or third problems. We simply would never get there.
There are two ways to increase margins: Increase quality, and increase quantity. We did both.
Increasing quality has to do with the quality of the leads (people more ready to buy, fewer “tire-kickers”), the quality of the service (management, employees, gear, etc), and the quality of their reputation inside the communities they serve (great online reviews, lots of referrals, positive online engagements).
Increasing quantity simply refers to getting MORE of those high-quality leads, and doing more jobs every month. Pretty simple.
The First Solution
In order to qualify and quantify leads which would lead to the revenue to expand, we built a streamlined multi-platform solution aimed at funneling calls, texts, forms and online messages directly to their cell phones.
Instead of treating each created digital asset as its own lead generation platform, we focused everything on a singular goal: GET THE PHONE TO RING.
Here’s how we did it….
Step 1: Research
We dug deep into data, discovering which Google searches, Facebook demographic groups, Income brackets, neighborhoods, and standard demographics were most likely to need their service.
We discovered a lot about their target market…which sex, what age groups, and where people were most likely to need tree service. We discovered the neighborhoods who were most at-risk for property damage after a storm, and which neighborhoods were the most affluent. Where those neighborhoods overlapped in a data-centric sense became our primary target.
We then researched digital platforms meant to streamline the processes. There are 2 processes in play here: the technical process of building exposure and garnering interest, and the process of turning that interest into a phone or form lead.
So we nailed down streamlined processes for both, ensuring that as exposure across platforms was elevated, so were the quality and quantity of leads.
I know that sound simple, but there’s a lot to it that we had to implement. Which brings me to the next phase in solving the problem:
Step 2: Implementation
In order to implement these streamlined workflows and structures, we had to build a huge variety of digital assets. This included the following:
• Multiple websites specific to locations.
•Multiple GMB accounts and service areas pointing to the same websites, phone numbers, etc
•Multiple Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, and YellowPages listing…as well as tens of more tertiary platform listings.
•Loads of customer-based value assets, including blog posts, social posts, photos, videos, etc.
•Tons of service areas and pin-drops across Google and Apple Maps.
•A review outreach program, garnering reviews from past clients.
Now, this is important to understand…simply having all these things did not, and does not, garner results.
And there is inherent risk involved if this is not done properly. Proprietary platforms like Google and FaceBook can and WILL shut down the whole operation if they find anything about any of this that lands outside their terms of service.
So, be weary when developing these assets, and research the right and wrong ways to do it.
But, this is the foundation. The base-line. There are more things that can get created, and ways to link all these things together to make every single one more effaceable, which brings me to the next step:
Step 3: Activation
Now that we had all these assets developed and ready to rock, we had to activate them. We had to get the moving and engaging and becoming both visible and exciting to the customers that we were targeting.
We kicked off with what we call “Leads Now, Leads Later”… which refers to the focus of our efforts in the first few months VS our focus in the year+ timeframe.
We started with a Google Ads campaign. We DO NOT rely on ads for leads. They’re generally unreliable, very expensive, and lots of customers scroll right past them when looking for a service area business.
However, our ad strategy allows us to take advantage of the space by running unusual ads in unusual places. This garners more leads in less time for less money.
And because ads are a short-term deal, they allow us to produce immediate financial ROI for the client while we work on the long-term strategy.
“Leads Later” refers to the long term strategy, which is largely a very deep SEO and Automation strategy meant to grow engagement and lead generation organically, WITHOUT the need for ads.
As those organic engagements climb, and our client’s various listings become the top listings across Google properties, Apple properties, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Facebook and more, the leads start happening on their own, and we don't need to pay for expensive, unreliable ads anymore.
The long-term SEO strategy consists of a LOT of moving parts, so I’ll list them out here. You can research them and begin to implement them in your own business.
Remember, SEO is the long game. “Long” might mean 3-6 months at first, and then develop into a perpetual perspective. It’s like a snowball rolling downhill…the bigger it gets, the faster it goes, and the faster it goes, the bigger it gets.
So, we’d done our research and developed our 1st, 2nd and 3rd tier assets. We had some unique ads running in unique spaces, specifically targeted to the markets defined in our research, and leads were starting to come in.
We kicked off our SEO strategy, also based on our research data, and it included:
•Ensuring that pictures, embedded videos and media, and graphics were sending Google the proper signals for ranking in the specific locations for which they were designated.
•Ensuring that the websites were targeting the highest-level, most profitable keywords specific to the areas in which we were trying to rank.
•Ensuring that the websites were optimized for mobile devices, were fast (over 90% page speed) and were loaded with authoritative, trustworthy content.
•Ensuring that the website was attached to, and associated with, every other asset we had created.
•Ensuring that the branding, messaging, and usability of the websites made it easy for viewers to learn about the company, the services, and reach out at the tap of a finger.
•Ensuring every tertiary asset (GMB, Social Accounts, Database listings) included the proper information to link out to the business as a whole.
•Ensuring that every piece of media had the proper metadata to tie it to, and strengthen, the other assets in the structure.
•Ensuring that every listing, account, and profile was relevant to the keywords being searched by customers.
•Running deep citation campaigns.
Citations are listings that cite your critical business data and add credibility to your business.
•Running deep backlink campaigns.
Backlinks are links on other sites that point back to yours. Some people tend to think that MORE backlinks are better, but this is UNTRUE. It’s far better to have fewer QUALITY backlinks…links from high-ranking, Google-trusted sites (think Forbes, local news stations, popular blogs)…than loads of “spammy” backlinks (think adult sites, foreign spam sites, your cousin’s poetry page).
• CTR Optimization campaign.
CTR stands for Click-Through-Rate, and is a HUGE trust factor for Google, Apple, and everyone else. It represents people that click on a link, whether from an ad, a listing, a social post, or any other place, and take an action. If they click a link to your website and leave, that’s bad. If they click a link to your website or GMB and call, submit a form, or even read through a few pages, that’s really good. So a CTR-Optimization campaign is one that encourages specific people to click specific links to do specific things.
•Entity linking campaigns.
Entity linking is a process that is rooted deep in technical structures like file data, metadata, and EXIF data. Structuring those things to point to a single hub source, like a website or GMB, and linking them with the rest of the assets, means that anytime ONE of those assets gets viewed or clicked or liked or shared, ALL of those assets receive “rank juice”, which just means positive signals from Google.
The whole point of SEO is to let Google, Yahoo, Bing, Apple, YouTube, every other platform you show up on, and every person using those platforms know that your business is more worthy of doing business with than anyone else. You’re more authoritative, more trustworthy, more quality, etc.
Using SEO, we use technology to convince the "Tech-Giant Platform Robots" of this, and they in-turn showcase you to customers who need your service, presenting you as the best option.
Notice how I didn’t mention anything about getting reviews in the SEO steps. This is because, contrary to popular belief, reviews don’t actually contribute to online visibility on the front end. They don’t help a website, Google listing, or Maps location rank higher on the list for key search-terms.
They ARE important, as they instill trust in the eyes of the end consumer, and that trust factor leads to clicks, which leads to calls. But in a technical sense, they don’t have anything to do with pure ranking.
Reviews fit under the “CTR” category, and act as a sub-category of SEO. While they don’t contribute to rank, they most definitely DO contribute to clicks, and to the quality of those clicks.
Step 4: Results and Refinement
One of the BIGGEST SEO MYTHS out there is that it’s a “One and Done” process. Even design and marketing agencies I speak with are often under this illusion, and it’s just not the case.
An effective SEO campaign is perpetual, and perpetually refined. Once it pays off in the form of #1 ranking spots, ultimate visibility, and high-volume/high-quality leads, we have to keep "feeding the beast” so that it stays on top.
If we were to rest on our laurels, momentum would slow, we’d drop in rank, and our clients would suffer. Someone more aggressive and less passive in the SEO space would overtake our rank, and thus overtake our leads.
Back to the story.
So, after about 3 months, our tree service client was ranking #1 in the county they were targeting. We analyzed the data, as we do every quarter, we identified which SEO processes, keywords, profiles, listings, and media were working BEST for us, and we refined everything else to behave more like those things.
Using what we learned about them and what was working in the digital space, we had solved problem number 1, and were ready to solve problem number 2.
The Second Solution
Having anticipated the growth thus far…the clients were getting about 50-75 leads per month…we knew they were starting to get spread too thin. If we hadn’t had a plan already for this, they may have had a difficult time keeping up with demand.
They knew exactly when and who they needed to hire, and which new equipment was most important to buy first. They had everything lined up ahead of time so, when the time came, they were able to quickly pull the necessary triggers.
They grew from one team to two. The company is run by two brothers, so naturally each took a team, and they ran those jobs in true “divide and conquer” fashion.
Because of the added revenue and expanded profit margins developed by the solutions to the first problem, they handled the second problem with ease, and turned it into a solution in its own right. They had actually solved the problem before it became one by simply planning for it…by having a strategy.
They found themselves doing way more jobs before in way less time, and it was in this realization they had to choose their next strategic move…stay in this comfort zone and be content, or grow outwards and keep up the grind.
The Third Solution
To recap, the third problem revolved around the question, “What now?” Were they to stay where they were, dominate this one area, and keep it at that? Or would they grow into new areas and start cornering local markets outside of their first?
Wouldn’t you know, they chose growth. Now remember, at this point, all of our groundwork has been laid by Solutions 1 and 2. We know exactly how to proceed on our end, and they’ve got the plan to make it work on their end.
So, we repeat Solutions 1 and 2 in new geographical areas. Choosing the areas was the trick…they needed to be areas that were close, easy to work in (not needing permits for every damn thing), and lucrative, while still being accessible enough from a technical standpoint to make everything happen relatively quickly.
Some areas are harder to expand into from a technical side, and thats because the digital competition (a reflection of the physical competition) is so much greater. For example, it’s a lot easier to drive leads quickly and efficiently in smaller counties than it is in large cities.
Ideally, the best balance between profit and expediency are in those metro areas…highly populated, but not as competitive as huge cities. The specific client I’m referencing works in Douglas County GA (about 10 miles west of Atlanta) and the surrounding areas, and getting them to the top happened faster than it would have had they wanted to work inside the Atlanta city limits.
Anyway, we grew them into a nearby, similarly populated county, and effectively doubled their revenue. However, if you’ll recall, there was another problem that had to be addressed in the third problem…
See, up until this point, they were working on their own teams. They were wearing all hats, being worker, foreman, manager, and owner.
And they weren’t sure that if they took time away, or if they stepped out of the field and into an admin role, the operations would continue smoothly and their reputations would be upheld. They were still micro-managing every job.
Luckily, we anticipated this, and had the solution in the strategy from the get. When they first started to grow, they started training their most trusted employees to be managers. They wanted these guys to be the ones that oversaw the crews in their absence.
By the time they expanded into the new county, they promoted these people to that role, and they stepped out from behind the saw. At first, they visited job sites to check on progress, did all the new estimates that came in, and managed the books. They were still wearing many hats, but breaking their back in the field as a worker was no longer one of them.
Fast forward to today.
As business continues to grow, they continue to find it in the margins to hire people to take those various roles. While their crew leads are in place, they’re currently training sales people to respond to and close leads, and have recently hired an administrative assistant to field leads and schedule jobs.
As planned in the beginning, they’ve reached the point that they can now focus on helping their crews run successfully, They can prioritize their employees, empowering them to run the ground-level operations of the business and to take care of customers. They just have to keep everything running from an administration side.
In that, they have found the freedom and control they were looking for all along. They can take a week off and not worry that business will suffer. They can work from home and be just as effective. They can focus on family and relationships without worrying about profit.
Hoping won’t get us there. Hard work alone won’t get us there. Being the best service, or having the best prices won’t get us there.
Only a well-laid plan, laden with clear, precise goals and obtainable achievements can get us there.
It’s not specific to tree service…it’s not even specific to business. It’s a principal of life.
Whether you want to grow your business, get fit, repair a broken relationship, win a war, win a game, or excel at your job…nothing simply happens because we want it to. Anything only ever happens because we have a strategy to get what we want.
I hope this insight has been valuable to you. If you want to discuss your own business, potential strategy, or just have questions about some of the things I said, just visit me here:https://www.facebook.com/michael.ramseyer and send a message.
Thanks, and best of luck.