By Diane M. Calabrese / Published February 2022
Flush with time? Probably not. So before maintaining a website and participating in social media to reach existing and prospective customers, make certain the engagement is happening.
Presence in the digital world is a must for many reasons. Most basic is that individuals searching for products expect to find information there fast. Similarly, when customers have questions, they want to be able to reach the manufacturer or distributor or service provider via quick links.
Start with a website. “It’s absolutely critical because the product we offer is the next generation of cleaning products,” says Bart Van Cromvoirt, president and CEO of Eat Oils™, WorldWare Enterprises Ltd. in Kitchener, ON.
Understanding how to use a product is as important as choosing the correct product. A website enables a company to provide that understanding, explains Van Cromvoirt.
Information also flows to a company. “We’re always open to suggestions,” says Van Cromvoirt. Getting feedback from customers is important.
“Businesses sometimes underestimate the power of social media,” says Van Cromvoirt. Recognizing the significance of ever-expanding digital channels, he is putting a big investment in further boosting interaction.
Blogs, videos, podcasts—communication channels of every sort—give companies multiple choices regarding how best to connect with customers. The ways members of our industry have tailored their approaches reflect an abundance of creativity.
“Our Soap Warehouse Brand blog has been a huge benefit and draw to GCE,” says Linda Chambers, brand and sales manager at Georgia Chemical Equipment in Norcross, GA. “Blog posts are long-lasting and constant information for customers to find, via a web search, and use.”
The more informative a post, the more perennial it becomes. “Our number one post is one I made April 9, 2012, about the differences between sodium and potassium hydroxide,” says Chambers. “It is always in the top five in a search—currently number three…” [Number one currently goes to an online article she wrote on the same topic.]
“How many companies can say material they put out almost 10 years ago is still bringing them business?” says Chambers. “It is very important for our company to show that we are experts and leaders in customer education—and that we want our customers to have the knowledge to show their clients they are experts in the industry.”
Foundational information a company offers may ignite give and take that works to the advantage of customers and sales, explains Chambers. “Potential customers and current ones are constantly contacting us via Facebook posts, messenger, and website contact forms to ask about a product they saw that we carry, to ask what we suggest they buy versus what they are currently using, and to tell us about a job they have that they will be needing products for.”
Chambers says that at least 70 percent of the inquiries turn into a sale, and 50 percent of the purchasers turn into long-term customers.
Effective engagement via website or social media hinges on two things, says Chambers. One is consistency. The other is to commit to provide information and not a sales pitch.
“Even if you only have time to reach out to customers once a month, do it consistently at the same time—say the first day of the month—and that way your followers know when they will hear from you,” says Chambers. “If you are a supplier of good information, customers will come back to you without pushing a hard sell that may turn away customers.”
Websites and social media give companies the chance to disseminate word about not only new products but also recognition of those products. Media search digital platforms for interesting stories, which in turn amplifies accounts.
“We are particularly proud of the news shared by national and international media of Idrobase Group’s activities,” says Bruno Ferrarese, co-chair of the company based in Borgoricco PD, Italy, and he gives us a sampling of company news shared in the last year.
Ferrarese’s company received the China Awards prize for disinfection solutions in China. It supplied nebulization systems that function at minus 40 degrees in Siberia as well as fire prevention systems to Dubai Mall restaurants. It also provided the training, with fog makers, of special rescue units in Korea.
“It is essential for our company to share educational content via social media or website because it allows us to make all our services known, contain after-sales costs, and increase productivity,” says Ferrarese. From a YouTube channel to QR [quick response] codes, communication lines strengthen ties with customers.
“The videos shared on the YouTube channel are a very effective tool to educate distributors and repairmen on the features of our products,” explains Ferrarese. “Through the video tutorials, the features, installation, and maintenance of the product are explained to them as well as a 360-degree presentation of the solution.”
Easy, direct links to customers also fortify preventive maintenance. “All high-pressure washers, fog makers, and nebulization systems are supplied to the customer with the preventive maintenance QR code,” says Ferrarese.
“In fact, our group has created a tutorial to keep its products always at the top of their performance to avoid possible breakages and the related economic loss,” explains Ferrarese. “Repairmen can independently follow the videos to carry out all the operations essential to perform periodic maintenance of our group’s solutions.”
The ease of engaging customers brings benefits to them and to the company. “It is possible to learn and very useful to analyze the behavior of customers or prospects both in social media and on the site,” says Ferrarese.
The ongoing analyses allow the company “to produce specific solutions for each reference market,” explains Ferrarese. “Listening to the needs expressed has allowed our group to expand its business in more than 90 countries with specific solutions for each state or region, such as for countries with a particularly hot climate where products are made of metal instead of plastic; the pumps are equipped with high temperature seals and special filters for highly corrosive desalinated water.”
Contractors want to get it right. Craig Harrison, president of Front 9 Restoration in Palm Desert, CA, has been there, and his social media presence builds on his prior contracting experience.
“One of our goals from the start of the company was to give back to our contractors and users what I wished I had many years ago,” explains Harrison. He adds that the goal encompasses offering products that work better than advertised, the absolute best customer service, and the most precise instruction possible.
Harrison started a Facebook group for professionals using his products. “We started this in 2019 and are quickly approaching 11,000 contractor members,” he says. “We have excellent moderators, and it’s a great platform for contractors to ask questions, share pictures, and get immediate feedback on jobs.”
The group allows Harrison to see the successes of users of his products. It also enables contractors to “boast a little bit or ask for help in a place where they get encouragement and constructive advice,” he explains.
“Education and instruction are imperative to the success of any company, and ours is no different,” says Harrison. “Social media has many avenues now, and one that we have utilized with our products is the smartphone app.”
And that is a powerful app. Inside the app is the 100-page, product-based “restoration cookbook” for Harrison’s company. “The app makes access to unlocking the art of inorganic stain restoration a breeze for new and veteran companies,” he explains.
“Without the education our manual provides and without our Facebook group, neither we nor our customers would be nearly as successful as we are,” says Harrison. “Social media and our website allow us to give precise instruction to everyone who needs it as quickly as possible, without having to place a phone call and possibly wait in line behind others.”
Harrison embraces the opportunities to actively listen to customers and loves to hear their feedback. At the same time, he recalls the “way it was” when he was a contractor himself.
“I was that customer as a pressure-washing contractor before I began working on our product line,” says Harrison. Disappointment with products available to him motivated him to launch his product line and company.
“Where I had my cleaning company was in the heart of the Colorado Desert in Southern California’s Riverside County,” explains Harrison. The golf-course rich region has some of the worst efflorescence/alkali problems in the world, he adds. The region also experiences summer temperatures reaching 120ºF.
“My unique needs were to clean stains that were sunbaked into hard surfaces, to remove very hard and slippery calcium carbonate or efflorescence, remove battery acid burn from golf carts, and other difficult staining,” explains Harrison. He started his company in June 2012 and now offers four products that clean more than 140 different types of staining.
Today, Harrison—like Van Cromvoirt, Chambers, Ferrarese—uses multiple channels to provide the
competent and meaningful give and take with customers that informs and assists and to continue to innovate.