Archive for the 'Helpful Hints' Category



Why Every Contractor Should Have a Facebook Fan Page

We can talk forever about how social media can be very good for business, but how does it help you as a contractor: builder, remodeler, painter or otherwise? Here are some big reasons why Facebook, when used correctly, can be a great resource for not only getting leads, but keeping your past customers happy and giving them a way to reward you by liking and commenting on your social material!

1. Loyal fans mean repeat business

The best thing about Facebook is that it’s social, meaning that if you have satisfied past customers, it’s definitely worth getting them to like you on Facebook. It also can’t hurt you in getting repeat business, the lifeblood of many contractors. Loyal customers can help you more on Facebook than on a traditional website simply by giving you real, live testimonials. Ask a few of your fans to submit photos of projects you did on their homes! Before and after photos are especially good!

2. Show, don’t tell

As we’ve said previously, project photos are perhaps the best sort of testimonial you can have! In-progress photos are especially interesting. People will remember photos of before, during, and after portions of projects. It doesn’t help just to post “We do x, y, and z. Call us today!” That isn’t memorable. It’s one thing if you have a loyal customer base that you can always count on. Say work is slow, and you suggest doing like projects for your fans, perhaps make a little special or coupon just for Facebook fans. That’s okay. But make sure that only about 1 out of 5 posts is “selling” based.

It’s okay to post occasionally that you have snowplowing services or do little handyman jobs that you wouldn’t ordinarily advertise. If you want to show that you do bigger things like additions or kitchen & bath remodels, show pictures. This is far more effective in the long run, because if someone’s not looking for a remodel or such now, they may remember seeing the great work you did on a previous project and you’ll be at the top of their list when they need work done!

3. Easy to update

Having a traditional website is great, but how often are you able to get it updated? Many websites out there are several years old, and in the world of search engines, that means more than likely you won’t be found. For many contractors, a lot of website traffic is based on word of mouth and from business cards. Having a beautiful website is great, but having Facebook to supplement it is even more important. Facebook is a lot easier to update than most websites, unless your website is blog based and you can add to it whenever you want.

Even if you have a Blogspot or WordPress based website that you can frequently update, you still want to work with Facebook. If you frequently update a blog on your website, you can post updates to Facebook about your new posts! But if you’re not really a blogger, Facebook is still pretty easy because as long as you post photos, provide quick status updates on current projects, and interact with fans who post on your wall, your fans will see you in their timeline. Staying in front of your customers is important, and what better place than Facebook to do just that!

4. Get Found!

Facebook pages are indexed in Google if you have over one hundred fans, so people searching for your service in your area can find you more easily. It’s important when you create your page to set the location, as this definitely helps in search. Also, every page can have a custom URL, which is easy to share. This is incredibly useful, so even if you have a website, you can potentially show up twice on the same search results, once for your website, and again for your Facebook page. Also, the more places you can post a link to your Facebook page, the better. Facebook pages can become your most useful advertising method.

Just search Facebook for other contractors to see what they’re doing and connect to them to keep up with the sort of material that they post. The networking is the best part of what Facebook has to offer; see what works for other people and adapt it to your own business!

If you need assistance, here’s a great guide to help you create a good Facebook fan page made just for contractors!

If you create a Facebook fan page for your business, be sure to like National Lumber on Facebook. We’ll like you back!

National Lumber & Reliable Truss: Dedicated to Recycling

Here at National Lumber, our goal is to have nothing go to waste. We make every effort to recycle by-products of our manufacturing and daily tasks. Whether it’s wood chips and metal scraps from our manufacturing facility at Reliable Truss, or the paper and plastic that we consume in everyday operations, there’s somewhere it goes other than just the trash bin! Below are some informative product life-cycle diagrams to illustrate just how our recycling program works! You can click on each image to see a larger PDF version of that diagram.

We’re proud to announce that we now offer wood pellets that are made in part of recycled wood scraps from our manufacturing facility at Reliable Truss. Above, you can see the entire process. No more wood scraps going off to rot in some landfill somewhere!

What about all those scraps from metal studs cut to the exacting specifications our customers need? Those scraps are taken away and graded and processed. That recycled material then becomes raw material for nails, which we then sell at National Lumber stores! Pretty cool stuff. You’re being “green” just by buying our nails!

In everyday operations, a company like National Lumber uses a lot of paper products. But we’re proud to say that we provide plenty of raw material for all of the recycled paper products you see around at local stores. We’re proud to be a small part of that life-cycle.

You may wonder, what happens to all of those protective plastic coatings and straps that we use all of the time in receiving, shipping and packaging building materials? We’re happy to say we have those taken away by a disposal company who provide the logistics for seeing that they are properly recycled. Now whenever you see anything using recycled plastic material, it remember that water bottle you’re drinking out of could have a little bit of National Lumber in it!

We encourage you to recycle as much as much as possible, because no material is unlimited, and the more we can reuse and recycle, the better off we’ll all be!

Social Networking: NOT Just Social Anymore!

If you want to keep in touch with old friends and aunt Nellie you can friend them or tweet them, BUT, if you own a business, Networking ain’t just social, it’s mandatory. Communications is a-changin’ (see this article which has a better explanation then I can give you!)

We’ve all heard about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and WordPress for blogs among many other ways to communicate. How about Google+ and social media platforms like Twylah, Klout, and so many more flying into our lives? They are coming, and coming faster then we’d like to believe. If you aren’t on board now, and learning more every day, how will you keep up? The pace is frenetic and there is a lot to know.

The days of “surfing the web” are over. It’s now “join in the revolution or “get left in the attic with grandma’s trunk.” Your business can start off slowly with some basic applications and programs like Facebook’s business pages and LinkedIn for your personal networking, but whatever you do, DO SOMETHING! Hire a kid to get you up and running, research what your competitors are doing, take courses through your trade associations, work with a consultant to get you going, and lots more you can do. Above all, hire someone to be the voice of your company via all of the tools that you choose to get involved in. Ideally, it should be the owner doing the writing because personality clearly comes through when doing this stuff.

Any other thoughts or ideas you’d like to add for our readers? What is working for you? Who is using Google+ and how would you rate it against Facebook?

As my drill sergeant used to say at 4 am when he was clanging his trash barrel cover in the darkened barracks, “Up and at em, boys! Up and at em!”

Steve Linsky
Marketing and Sales Specialist
Green Initiatives Coordinator
Past HR Director at National Lumber
National Recruiting Manager at Wickes Lumber
www.national-lumber.com

Hiring Tips & Advice

“Rebuild Your Team” by Steve Linsky

At some point in the near future (we hope!) you may need to add new employees to your team. It’s been so long since most companies have had to recruit employees that sometimes the skill set to get back into that groove may have eroded by the layoff of your HR folks, or actual recruiter, in the past.

Okay, what’s next? Here are a few ideas from an old recruiter (me) below. Note that I am including Social Networking to find folks as well as the old tools.

  1. Look at past high quality employees that may have left you and go back after them. They’re your best bet, since there would be little training needed.
  2. Network through your own employees for recommendations for folks they know in your field (maybe give a cash incentive, as well.)
  3. Use your LinkedIn account to see who your present connections are linked to within your industry to find targets.
  4. Place a note on your Twitter account that you are looking for help, in 140 characters or less, then re-tweet it a couple of other times over the next several days to hopefully show up at the right time on a prospective hire’s timeline!
  5. If you have a Facebook business page, and you should if you don’t now, place a note on your status of your openings. Hopefully, it’ll get liked and shared by others to spread the word. You can also place a Facebook ad on your home and profile page to show when anyone opens it.
  6. Use Craigslist. Great tool! You can customize by location and by using a couple of different job category placements. You do need to keep updating the advertisement to keep it current, but it’s worth the effort.

Lastly for today, place definitive ads that clearly state the qualifications you require to eliminate the unqualified “tire kickers” who will apply to anything. Remember the TV ad series that showed a guy applying for everything, including Brain Surgeon and Nuclear Scientist?

Good luck! We hope the day comes soon when your biggest problem will be hiring more people!

Steve Linsky
Marketing and Sales Specialist
Green Initiatives Coordinator
Past HR Director at National Lumber
National Recruiting Manager at Wickes Lumber
www.national-lumber.com

Getting Your House Ready to Sell

Getting ready to show your house for sale?

One thing about being in the retail business is that you move a LOT! After 15 moves and selling most of my houses myself, I consider myself as someone that knows how to prepare a house to look like a home to your prospects. Simply put, but effective, here are my tips:

  • Touch up the exterior landscaping to make it bright, neat, colorful and inviting. $500 will buy you new plants, shrubs, colorful throw pillows and a new bench for the yard.
  • Repaint your entrance door and door jambs to make it inviting.
  • De-clutter your interior, get rid of your knick-knacks, refrigerator pictures and everything you can on your countertops.
  • Get your house interior professionally cleaned (unless you are good enough to shine it up by yourself, especially the kitchen and bathrooms.)
  • Paint the interior rooms and ceilings wherever they need brightening up.
  • Add flowers and plants to the interior
  • Hire a professional stager if you can to give you another perspective. If that’s not economically possible, bring in a friend who has the “touch” for interior design based on their own home.
  • Clean up your garage and basement by bringing all of the extra stuff to charity resale operations like Goodwill or Salvation Army. The tax credit will be worth much more then what you’d get at a garage sale.

Everyone likes to look at a clean shiny, uncluttered and welcoming home. Do the work before you show your place and I guarantee you that the time, effort, and cost will come back to you by selling faster and getting the price it’s worth. Make people want to buy your place because they fall in love with it.

Steve Linsky
Marketing and Sales Specialist
Green Initiatives Coordinator
National Lumber

Keeping Up to Date with Industry Developments and Seeking Expert Advice

Partnership, collaboration, strategic alliance, business adviser… all mean the same thing: someone in the know that you can count on to help you with your questions, ideas and problems as they occur. There are many folks who can help us clear up issues and they may in fact come from some unique places, like:

  1. Your competition – Other contractors who you see at meetings or even in the coffee shop. What has happened to you, inevitably has happened to someone else. There are not many folks that won’t offer advice when asked for it.
  2. Your supplier salespeople – They should be considered as unpaid employees and most will treat you as a business partner if they are smart enough to realize that you butter their toast.
  3. Trade meetings and general training sessions – Go in with a list of questions! These are great opportunities to find out what is going on and to solve problems. People like to assist folks they know: “Brothers in Arms” so to speak.
  4. Social networking – The 20% of your brothers in your industry that are already on Twitter, Facebook, and other networks already know that they can get questions answered by reading what other folks are doing online and by gaining from the jewels and tidbits that are online daily. If nothing other then to keep you current, you should be on these, especially to see what your competition is doing!
  5. Paid coaches or advisers – Not everyone can afford this option, but if you go this route, be sure to check with other folks to get references for the best person available in your market.
  6. Websites specifically for your industry – Trade magazine websites, government sponsored sites, industry sites, etc. We post highly relevant links to such websites on our Facebook page every few days.

What else do you recommend to keep up to date on your industry or occupation?

Steve Linsky
Marketing and Sales Specialist
Green Initiatives Coordinator
National Lumber

Contractors: Why Twitter or Facebook?

Question? Are we only talking to each other on Twitter? Does Facebook only keep you in contact with your own unique group? In essence, what do you as a business person get out of the effort? My initial list of reasons to be on social networking sites is below…

1. Connect in a personal way with present, former and hopefully future clients.
2. Social networking offers an opportunity to promote and collect ideas and opportunities.
3. It lets you see what others in your industry are doing.
4. People like to do business with people they know. Do Facebook and Twitter contacts view us as People They Know?
5. Does it really open up a window of opportunity? Or is it just something to cater to our egos and social instincts?

What do you think? Are you in fact getting any leads or business from your efforts? Or is it more for fun and incoming ideas and relationship building? Comments welcomed!

Steve Linsky
Marketing and Sales Specialist
Green Initiatives Coordinator
National Lumber


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