I recently learned a few things about social media on my quest for a person to mow my lawn. I own a rental home that fortunately pays for itself every month. The tenants are good, the rent is low and the tiny little 650 sq foot home and 180 sq foot loft have been a good investment so far. Last summer (pre wine blog), I was eager to mow the yard, lay bark, pull weeds, and clean up the house. This spring, and now summer, more demands have been placed on my time (reviewing wine can be a full time gig, but someone has to do it). This got me thinking about the small business owner and social media.
There are usually two reasons to pay for any service. The first is lack of knowhow; the second is lack of time. I pay someone to change my oil because I never paid attention to my dad when he was trying to show me (that and I don’t want to monkey with it in the Lexus). I do my own taxes because I know how to do it. Plus, I find it kind of challenging to see how much money I can keep the government from getting each year. Now, I understand the second reason to pay someone…lack of time. I know how to mow yards. I actually enjoy the sense of accomplishment. This year, I find myself lacking the time to do it. The yard needs to be mowed. No one needs to convince me of the importance of a mowed yard. I just don’t have the time. $100 per month to keep the yard mowed now seems like a value.
This brings me to the comparison with Social Media and its integration into a business’ overall customer service and marketing strategy. No doubt you realize the importance of an integrated marketing and customer service strategy. No doubt you’ve heard the importance of social media, search engine optimization, and monitoring your brand. Chances are you just don’t have the time or you don’t have the knowhow. Unless you want to be the only business on the block looking all ghetto with weeds and ten foot tall grass, it might be time to hire a consultant to help get your social lawn in order.
Five Social Media Tips Learned From My Lawn Mowing Service
1. Just because someone calls themselves a lawn mower, doesn’t mean they should mow your yard.
The first guy I called had an ad on Craigslist. I called him, told him what I needed, and we agreed to meet at the house for a consultation before noon on Saturday. I postponed my Saturday plans to start at 1pm. As the morning progressed, I still hadn’t heard from Mr. Craigslist. Finally at about 11am, I got a call. No kidding, the dude seemed hung over from the night before. He barely remembered anything we talked about and wanted to stop by at 2PM. I told him I already had plans and that we agreed to “before noon” and said, thanks but no thanks…click.
Be discerning in your search. Make sure your “consultant/guru” follows through and is professional. There are a lot of flakes in the world.
2. Talk through the job so you know which lawn to mow and how you want it done
The second guy I called was from the phone book. His voice message was professional and he indicated that he would call back if I left a message. About 20 minutes went by and I got a call. We talked through the job, address and timing. We exchanged a bit of information and I waited for him to call back with an estimate. 30 minutes later I get a call back, “Did you say 4804 E 33rd?” “No,” I replied, “2804 E 33rd.” Okay, let me give you a call back in a few minutes. Luckily he didn’t mow the wrong house!
Be sure to clarify your struggles, objectives and goals. Don’t just hand over the reins and let someone take over your brand, voice and customer interaction. If you don’t make these clarifications, you may just end up mowing someone else’s yard and starting over again later.
3. Negotiate the price to fit what you need done
Once the guy found the right house, we connected to negotiate on terms and price. He offered to mow the yard for $50 the first mow and then $30 every week after that. Personally, I wasn’t ready to pay that. We negotiated it down to $40 for the first mow and $25 each week through June and then every other week in the hot months of July/August/September. I knew my budget. I know that paying to have the yard mowed every week in the hottest months of the year is a little overkill (especially since the tenants don’t water very regularly and I don’t weed-n-feed).
The point here is don’t just accept what the consultant/guru is offering. Do you really need ALL the bells and whistles to begin with? It’s okay to start with some of the basics and work your way into more consultation. Start with a Facebook page and some regular page updates. Move forward a little later with brand monitoring and SEO. It’s your business, move at the pace and budget you’re comfortable with.
4. Follow up with the work and clarify objectives
I rarely have a need to go to the rental house. The renters are great and the units pretty much run themselves (except that one time when the sewer pipe froze for 3 days. $6000 later…never mind). In this case, I was hiring a company that I knew very little about and I wanted to make sure they were following up on our agreement. For a few days I decided to alter my morning run so I could run by the house. The day after the agreed upon date I ran by and the lawn wasn’t mowed. “Hmmm, very curious,” I thought. I didn’t have time to follow up that day, but the next day the lawn still wasn’t mowed. Granted, I hadn’t paid any money, but I was still curious as to why things hadn’t been done. The grass wasn’t going to stop growing. As it turns out, I misunderstood the timing. When he said Thursday, I thought he meant the one we had coming up. He actually meant the next one in the line-up. All has been perfect since.
The thing to keep in mind here is don’t just hand over the task to someone and walk away. It’s important to follow up and check in to make sure that your agreed upon objectives are being met. If there is miscommunication, re-clarify goals and timelines.
5. Make payment on invoice and not up front
There is no way in hell I was going to pay a lawn mowing service up front for mowing the yard. The business I hired was great, they sent me a bill at the end of the month that was due upon receipt. I’m not paying up front for that type of service. Do the job and then get paid.
I believe this is true when hiring a consultant/guru too. Set an objective. Clarify the work with your expectations. Agree on a price for the work. Receive an invoice at the END of the month. If you’re not happy with the work or they’re not meeting your expectations, talk it through. We’re not talking rocket science here.
One other little bonus to add that I want to pass on that I learned from my Dad…watch and learn. I wonder how much money I could have saved in life, if I just would have paid attention to my Dad. Don’t just let the consultant/guru take over, watch and learn. Someday, you might be able to fire his ass and do it yourself.
Tags: Social Media