Growing Your Business In Tough Times

Congratulations. If your business is still thriving through this economy – you have a lot to be proud of. A slow growing economy, over nice percent unemployment, the value of the dollar dropping, and political gridlock in our government is enough to take the wind right out of your sails. Just turning on the nightly news can make you not want to get out of bed in the morning – but don’t let it get you down. Remember, you’ve done something right to get this far, now it’s time to focus on how you can actually grow.

So you’ve reduced your labor force as much as possible, cut every unnecessary cost conceivable, and have even taken on a larger work load yourself. You can’t save profits by making your business run any tighter, so it’s time to make it grow. You’ll have to crawl out of your comfort shell to make it happen though.

Here are a few ideas, some old some new, that might help your business grow.

Network marketing – It’s the no cost way to advertise. Yes you’ll have to join a business group, get up early, talk to people you don’t know, but real business can come from this effort if you really get involved. You’ll also feel god because you will be helping other business’ as well.

The 2 for 1 plan – run a special in targeted areas or through your customer list offering a two for 1 deal – if scheduled on the same day, on the same street, you’ll give each customer half off their bill if they schedule a cleaning with one of their neighbors. It will actually be cost effective and could drive new business your way.

Seek supplier agreements – Talk to your suppliers about additional discounts if you commit all of your purchasing dollars to their company. They may be more receptive than you think. They’re working hard to keep the lights on as well. Don’t think it will work because they are already getting your business? Remind them of your loyalty, talk to them about your situation. Remember, keeping good customers through a little extra discount costs a lot less for them than replacing one they’ve lost.

Team up with a non-competing service – If you can find another ethical company that can understand the benefit in cross promoting each others services, pursue it. You’ll both increase your potential customer base without mailing one postcard. Make sure their business model matches your own for the best results.

Create a customer loyalty program – Don’t forget that it is much more expensive to get a new customer than to keep existing ones. Send out a letter or an e-mail (hopefully you are keeping a customer list) and let them know that their past business is remembered and appreciated. Offer a discount when they schedule your service next time. It will keep you on their minds and may spur some to give you a call sooner than they might have before.

Look for additional services – Keep your eyes open for other needs your customers may have that are not being fulfilled, it just may be something you can begin offering within your company.

Keep in mind, there are business’ that are growing even in this economy. You will have to get creative, try something new, and seek inexpensive ways of reaching those customers that are still out there and need your service. Most of all, stay mentally positive. As hard as it may be sometimes, our customers still respond favorably to energetic and confident individuals.

All the best.

Nelson Keimer

Are Your Color Charts Up To Date? Discontinued Color Blow-Out

Save big on discontinued colors: With a few of the major grout manufacturers updating their color charts this year Modern Stone has updated our charts as well. We are blowing out the discontinued colors at 50% off! Please note that the following manufacturers are the only colors we will stock: Custom Polyblend, Laticrete, C-Cure, TEC, Mapai, and Hydroment. For a full list of current & discontinued colors click here (colors will be removed from the list when they are gone). Special lasts while supplies last. To place your order for our discontinued blow out colors call 866-868-0810.

The Top 5 Mistakes Businesses Make

Many business owners spend a lot of time and money to create and on-line presence. Unfortunately, many build the wrong website, send the wrong message, and fail to attract customers. This report will uncover these fatal mistakes business make and how you can avoid them in your services business. Click Here to download full report in PDF

Providing the Right Option for Today’s Natural Stone Customer

The true stone enthusiast will explain that the only way to properly restore a natural stone floor would be to grind out the lippage, fill the voids, and refinish the surface to the desirable luster. While there is a great argument for this train of thought, and in a perfect world this would certainly be the case, we do not live in a perfect world and more specifically, we do not live in a perfect economy. It’s true, the trend in today’s market has been to restore versus reinstall or sell, but as contractors we still need to be sensitive to not only our customer’s flooring needs, but also their financial needs.

We all know what the full restoration process entails; grinding the floor flat with metal delippage diamonds, filling the voids the either polymer resins or concrete and latex blends, progressively refinishing surfaces with multiple resin bond diamonds, and often times, finishing the project using high grit honing powders or polishing powders. While this process will provide your customers with an absolutely perfect floor, the costs incurred and time required for such a process may not settle so well with your client. On average, this process is going to cost your customer $1.25 per step, per square foot. And as the contractor, we will spend approximately one day for every 1000 square feet that we are restoring. To make more sense of this, let’s take a 500 square foot area and break down what this means to you and your customer. Assuming that we’re going to leave our floor at a satin finish, the full restoration process is going to require about eight steps. In other words, our 500 square foot area is actually 4000 square feet (8 steps x 500 sq. ft.) and our $1.25 per square foot is actually $10.00 per square foot (8 steps x $1.25) for a grand total of $5,000.00 and 4-5 days in your customer’s home. While there’s no doubt that the result provided with this level of service will be outstanding, finding the customer who is willing to pay this price tag may be a little more difficult to come by.

Now, let’s take this same floor and use a more economical approach to provide similar results with much less labor and time spent in the home. Often times, the floors in question will have minor foot wear and chemical etching from heavy traffic or neglect. Unless these floors have been flattened in the past, there is sure to be tiles that were not installed evenly creating a “lip” from one tile to the next. These lips make restoring the floor evenly impossible with diamond discs, but with the right tools and products, you can still refinish the stone surfaces without charging an arm and a leg. One method to take is using Modern Stone’s honing powders to restore the finish instead of using the diamond discs. With honing powders the need to flatten the floor prior to restoration is eliminated and can often be evened out and restored with minimal steps. Even in a worse case scenario, the amount of labor using honing powders rarely exceeds three steps taking the price of the job from $10.00 per square foot to $3.75 per square foot. In situations where the wear is very minor, the contractor will often need only one step to even it out bringing the costs down even further. Top polishing can also be done in one step as well providing a beautiful lustrous finish and taking out minor chemical etching. Keep in mind that you as the contractor are still making the same amount of money per hour, but the length of the job is being significantly reduced. This means equal profitability for you, less costs for your customers. Being that honing powders cannot be used to remove scratches, these limitations must be addressed prior to starting the job and all expectations must be set in stone. (Pun intended)

Another option that will save your customers money while providing high end results is restoring the stone floors using Modern Stone’s Evolution Pad. Instead of a powder, these pads are embedded with diamonds giving you the results of using a diamond disc while being unaffected by an uneven floor. (Learn more about the Evolution Pads in this month’s, ‘Product Spotlight’.) Having the ability to get diamond results without having to flatten the floors first will mean you can offer higher levels of restoration while eliminating costly steps at the same time. Even when working on a floor that has been heavily neglected, you can restore and refinish the area in no more than four steps.

Becoming the most proficient stone restorer means not only being able to offer the highest level of restoration, but also having the ability to offer multiple options at different pricing structures to meet all of your customer’s needs. At Modern Stone Technologies, we have provided all the tools, products and educational needs for you to offer your customers every level of restoration.

Acid vs. Alkaline: What, Why and When?

Acid vs. Alkaline: What, Why and When? By Jasen Santiago

As we all know, cleaning the floor is an essential step in the tile and grout restoration process. In most cases, however, this important first step acts only as a prepping stage in bringing the floor to our customer’s desired result. Whether we are looking to revive an old, dingy floor back to its original lustrous finish, provide a customer with a sealant to protect their investment, or completely change the appearance of an existing tiled floor, the cleaning process is going to be the determining factor as to how well our jobs turn out. So what is the best way to prep our floors? Using an alkaline cleaner? Using an acid cleaner? Or maybe the most effective solution is to use both. These are common questions often debated by many tile and grout professionals. While there are too many factors involved to determine the right answer, with proper education it is possible to determine the right answer for you.

To answer the “acid vs. alkaline” debate we must first discuss the purpose of both of these cleaners. Alkaline cleaners or cleaners with a pH level higher than 7, are often used as the sole cleaning agent in the tile and grout restoration process. Alkaline cleaners are formulated to loosen the bond between simple waxes, vegetable oils and animal fats from the surface we are cleaning. The primary advantage of high-pH cleaners is that they are effective cleaners, even on the most tenacious soils. Alkaline cleaners are also recommended when there is a large amount of soil to be cleaned. Additionally, alkaline cleaners can be used in almost any operation, but will not do anything to remove mineral deposits, rust or hard water stains. Also, when you’re prepping old surfaces for topical or penetrating sealers, alkaline cleaners will do little more than remove the soil from the substrate. This is where acid cleaners come into play.

Sometimes, when prepping old surfaces for sealing, etching the substrate may be beneficial. While alkaline cleaners do a great job of removing surface debris, acid cleaners, or cleaners with a lower pH level than 7, will directly work with the bonding agent in calcium carbonate based surfaces. Etching the surface is going to expose new pores providing some extra “tooth” making the product-to-surface bond as strong as possible. This will make any sealer more effective and in most cases, will make color sealing more efficient. Acid cleaners may also be used to remove tarnish, alkaline discoloration and corrosion, remove hard water deposits from many surfaces, and will neutralize alkalis. Being that acid cleaners are used to remove calcium build-up, they should not be used on calcium based stones such as marble, travertine, and limestone as they will also damage those surfaces.

So what is the bottom line? When do we use alkaline, when do we use acids, or when is it appropriate to use both? The answer to this question is going to be job specific and will depend on a variety of things. What type of surface are you restoring? Which kind of stains are you trying to remove? Or what final result are you looking to provide your customer? On many jobs, using an acid cleaner won’t be necessary. Cementitious surfaces, such as grout or concrete, harden (or become less porous) overtime with the addition of moisture. It’s in these situations where etching the surface is going to make a significant difference. However, on newer surfaces, cleaning with an acid may be overkill and unnecessary. On that same note, using an alkaline cleaner may also be an unnecessary step. Many times grout will become discolored due to years of mopping improperly, but will not have a considerable amount of dirt and debris on the surface. In these situations, a test patch should be conducted to determine whether or not the grout is exposed enough to react with the acid, possibly saving yourself a cleaning step. If the cleaner immediately “fizzles” when applied to the surface, continue the cleaning process using only an acid to start the restoration process. However, if you get little or no reaction with the acid, this is an indicator that you must first remove the soil with an alkaline cleaner to expose the grout, making it a two step cleaning process.

While the great dispute of “Acid vs. Alkaline” will continue on, I hope this article will at least shed some light on the subject. If nothing else, just to provide you with some ammo for the next time you find yourself in the middle of this classic debate.

CRP Member Feedback

The Modern Stone Team would like to give a big thanks to all of our new, and existing CRP members. 2011 is blowing by quickly and as our membership number grows we would like to continue to add value our role supporting the contractor. We have tons of ideas and are ever implementing new things to support our contractors, however, we thought it would be a good idea to hear directly from you! If you would like to give feedback leave a comment below.

As a reminder for our new members make sure you check in with Jasen Santiago at the beginning of the 2012 year, in order to cash in on your product rebate that you earned for the 2011 year. If you are purchasing from one of our Distributor partners, just ask them for a print out of your annual purchases. Hopefully this extra savings will make the month of January even more profitable.

How To Interview an SEO (Search Enginge Marketing) Company

14 Revealing Question You Better Ask

You probably get calls all the time about it..or worse yet, spammy emails making outrageous promises about putting your business on the first page of the search engines. Well, when it comes to choosing an SEO company to work with, there are some important questions you’ll want to be sure to ask to ensure the person you are considering is both competent and qualified. These 14 questions can reveal a lot about the company you are considering.

1. Have you optimized other cleaning services? If so can you give us an example of feedback/response they have received? Go Pro Local has completed many cleaning service and home improvement sites, as that is where we have the most experience. We also work with many different businesses and consumers. These have included hot tub wholesalers, photographers, solar electric companies, architects, dentist and many more.

The specialized tools we utilize work for any business and are best suited for local search engine marketing for local business like yours.

There are some great testimonials from our clients on our testimonials page. We took one client from no website to over 1200 page 1 rankings for highly searched geo-modified terms. The results have been a dramatic increase in business and customer interaction.

2. Based upon your professional opinion when should we expect results? SEO is an on-going process of promoting your business online. With a consistent effort over time, we see the best results. In the most challenging cases, we see measurable results in 6 months. If we are aggressive, it’s normally much less, sometimes in as little as 2 months.

3. Will you/company be doing the work yourselves or will you be outsourcing the job? We do not outsource core tasks. All work is done by our employees and we do have some employees offshore. All core tasks are performed in house.

4. What is the payment schedule? We bill by credit card on the 1st of the month.

5. Who owns the rights to the SEO work? You do. Some companies retain the rights to all the work they do meaning if you quit using their services, you lose a lot of what you had paid for.

6. What is the monthly maintenance after the site is live? What does it include, and why is it due at the same time as the initial investment. Monthly maintenance involves many different SEO tasks that are independent of a website build. Claiming local listings and directory submissions are just a few of the tasks that begin to happen right away. Other maintenance and promotions tasks include link building, article marketing, video marketing, blog marketing, forum marketing and more. We have several levels of maintenance programs available. The maintenance packages are customized based on your business, online marketing blueprint and how aggressive you want to be.

7. Will you be providing any additional value added services with the setup? Example: blog, ezine, newsletters, PR, etc. Often times, we’ll use all of the above methods. We also create content and perform SEO copywriting services for clients that are used for off-site content on blogs and other outlets. As an added service we can help with newsletters and email marketing as well.

8. Is there a limited number of keywords that will be used? We usually select a group of 20 search terms to focus on. These keywords are determined by performing in-depth keyword research and competitive analysis. This way we are able to target buying keywords where there are the best opportunities to rank highly. While these initial keywords are our focus, we track hundreds of keywords and report to you regularly where you rank and where we’re seeing upward movement.

9. What is Google PageRank™ and how does it affect my site? How would you address improving our PageRank™ with Google, and other search engines that calculate the number of quality inbound links to our website?

PageRank is basically Google’s measure of how much authority a site has. All of the search engines do some level of weighted link analysis which helps to sort the sites competing for a given set of searches. If there are two sites that have the same content on them, the one with more back links should rank higher in the search engine rankings.

But, more links aren’t always better. The page rank of the links plays a large role in how well a site will rank. Basically, the more links a site has from other important links, the better. If a site with 10 links has links from Harvard, Emory, NASA, The Pentagon, and other high page ranking sites, and another has 100 links that are nothing more than free directory links, the 10 back links beat the 100. To improve PageRank, it’s important to focus on trusted inbound links that are looked at by the search engines as authority sites.

10. What changes do you make to our site to increase our rankings? Will we see these changes? Will you change the coding on our site? We normally optimize a number on-page factors; including the title and description which are not easily seen on your site but are important in rankings and how your site appears in the search engine results. We also normally optimize the content of your pages and other page elements like the heading tags, which signals of important text for the search engines. We don’t normally completely rewrite the content or change the structure of your website unless it is blocking the search engines from indexing your site.

12. What kind of reports will we get and how often. Will you explain the reports so we have a clear understanding of the output? We report both rankings and traffic. We’ll send monthly reports by email interpreting the data we’ve collected and are readily available to go through the data to explain anything that is not clear.

13. How many pages will you be optimizing in our website? We will optimize all of the pages. The search engines rank pages of sites, not just the main page so every page is important and needs to contain everything the search engines need to rank them highly.

14. Can you assure us that the optimization strategies and methods that you use are safe and won’t get our site penalized or banned? We use strictly white hat techniques that meet the criteria of Best Practices for the SEO/SEM Industry? We don’t do anything risky. Our techniques create natural looking links that boost rankings over time. We post content in the form of articles, press releases and blog posts.

These questions should give you a good feel and clear picture of whether or not the SEO company you are considering is the company you want handling such an important task. You might be surprised at the answers you’ll get from some of the fly-by-night SEO firms out there that use unscrupulous methods to inflate rankings that don’t stick or could get your site de-index (removed) from the search engines altogether. Beware of guarantees or unsubstantiated claim and most importantly, go with someone you know and trust.

The Benefits Of An Outdoor Sealer

Often times, I will have a contractor or homeowner ask me which is the best penetrating sealer to use outdoors. My first response is always, “what are you trying to protect against”? Both types of sealers serve a purpose and should be used when applicable. But when we’re talking about outdoor surfaces, topical intrusion is the least of our concerns.

Sure, a good penetrating sealer is going to protect against topical staining; spill a glass of red wine and you’ll be able to wipe it right up without it discoloring the stone’s surface at all. Even neglected grout lines and tumbled surfaces are going to clean-up almost perfectly during restoration when a high quality penetrating sealer is applied properly. To better understand the need for two types of sealers you must understand what each of the sealers is protecting against and what type of protection that each sealer is providing. As we all know, a penetrating sealer does not completely seal off the surface of the stone or grout. In essence, what we’re doing by applying a penetrating sealer is giving us an opportunity to wipe of a spill before it becomes a stain. Providing stain resistance to our stone surfaces certainly has its benefits. And for the most part, sealing the stone or grout will keep the interior floors looking clean and vibrant as long as they are being maintained properly. However, when we’re sealing outdoors there are a whole new set of challenges that must be dealt with. High alkaline soils, UV damage, Efflorescence, and high acid rain are just a few of the issues that we run into while dealing with exterior surfaces. So what, if anything, can be done about sealing your stone surfaces outside? Penetrating sealers like, Clear Guard, Rapid Seal, or Select Seal are going to have limited benefits as the chances of dropping a plate of food or spilling a beverage are very unlikely.

In order to protect stone surfaces against the outdoor elements the right type of chemistry is going to be required. Modern Stone’s Preserve is the only sealer currently on the market that protects against the damage caused by Mother Nature. This is the same technology used to protect the stone monuments across the country and the marble Pillars built on the white house. Not only does sealing your exterior surfaces with the proper chemistry keep the stones looking vibrant and new, but it will also slow down the effects of efflorescence and other mineral damages. Having the ability to offer your clients this type of service and talk knowledgeably about the different types of protection and challenges when dealing outdoor installations will certainly make a good impression and might just land you the job.

Do Customer Reviews Matter?

You bet they do. Not only do they matter from a customer conversion standpoint, but now Google has come out and said that they are factoring customer reviews into their ranking algorithm. Nothing’s worse than Googling your company name and having some scathing review about your business right there on page 1 for the whole world to see. Prospects will often times Google your company name before deciding to do business with your company…do you know what they’re finding?

Google aggregates review data from many different review sites and displays them on your Google Places listing. Many clients are amazed at what past customers are saying about their business online. One of our recent clients had no idea about a scathing review of their company that stood out on the first page of Google. They remembered the customer but had no idea about the online the review. See it here:

One of the challenges is getting your happy customers to go online and write a positive review about your company. A positive review is about the nicest thing a customer can give your company next to a referral. The challenge is that posting an online review is a multi-stepped process. Your customer has to find the review site, register, confirm their email address, figure out how to post the review, etc. In some cases, it’s a 17 step process that most people don’t complete even if they are happy. Sometimes it’s the customer that’s hell bent on ruining your reputation that will go to any length to get their review posted (or your competitor!).

How to get your customers to review your business Once you’ve created a profile for your business on these sites, you can send a link to your best customers asking them for a review.

First step – create an email template, so it is easy to send a nice follow up to your customers asking for a review. The template could look something like:

This is (your name) from (your business name.)

During our appointment I asked if you wouldn’t mind writing a review of our services.

Online reviews are becoming more and more valuable to businesses like ours. If you have nice things to say about us or your experience with our service, it would help us if you would take a few minutes and share your experiences on one of the online review sites listed below.

There are four different review sites where reviews can be posted for us. Here are direct links to our business in each of them:

Google Local: [hyperlink here]

Yahoo Local: [hyperlink here]

Citysearch: [hyperlink here]

Yelp: [hyperlink here]

Your review can be short and sweet – it should only take a few minutes. Thank you for your willingness to help us out!


(your name)

The review sites you list should include direct links to your review page there. You can make the list into hyperlinks if you know how, or just include the link to your review page after the name of the review site. Sometimes these links are very long, so use a service like TinyURL to give you a shorter link like the examples above.

Ask your customers for their email address while you are at the job. A simple question at the end of the project like, “Do we have your email address? And would you be willing to write a short review for us?” is a good way to collect your customers email addresses if you don’t already have them.

Then follow up with your customers using your email template, and watch how a growing list of reviews helps your business attract new customers!

Create Demand For Your Services

Express the importance of booking early, due to your extremely busy schedule. Like a restaurant that is always busy, this method unconsciously communicates quality and success. Use this method religiously, and you just may find your customers fighting for your slots.

Hey Everyone,

I’d like to share an interesting conversation my wife and I had recently over our morning coffee. She is a personal trainer at a nearby gym and just happens to be their number one trainer throughout their facilities here in Arizona. One of her colleagues had asked how she is able to book clients months in advance while he is only able to schedule week to week.

My wife went on to explain that first and foremost, she values her time as well as the valuable time of her busy clients. Therefore, she makes it a point to recommend they work together to lock in appointment times on a three month schedule. This would insure against any future loss of open slot times to other clients. She started this process about two years ago and now she is so busy that she can’t take on any new clients. It’s the same type of reaction we have when we walk up to a restaurant on a Tuesday, where all of the tables are full and there is a six person line – the food must be good!

As I listened, I considered how we could capitalize on this type of planning in our industry. Whether the service is tile and grout cleaning or carpet — or both, you could utilize this strategy in your business to increase your sales for the new year. Remember, the most often overlooked or unrealized new business potential is the established relationships we already have with our customer base.

I recommend calling or e-mailing your existing customer base now to stress that you want to give your previous customers the first opportunity to schedule with your company before there aren’t any slots left. You will be making a contact that has perceived value to your customers by giving them the first opportunity to schedule with you. This strategy will also convey that your company is very busy and in high demand.. If you like, you can tie this into specials, but don’t make the call about the discount, instead make it about the relationship.

Lets review the benefits of this strategy:

  • Continual contact with customers
  • Offering value
  • Expressing gratitude for their business
  • Building perceived value of your service

The other lesson I hope you will take away from this recommendation is: Listen to your significant other…..It makes your life brighter!

Nelson Keimer Success doesn’t just happen by accident.