I got some of my customers to write reviews for me and worked my way up to the first page of Google, but my website still hadn’t seasoned yet as far as search engines were concerned, and the phone was still quieter than I was happy with.
In my eagerness to get the phone ringing more, and fast, I decided to try a high-end paid lead generation service.
The way they work is this: they advertise all over the internet, capture a bunch of customers from my area, then refer them to me.
And because they didn’t have anyone else listed in my area, I was exclusive! This was the break I had been looking for!
Well, the phone rang off the hook day and night. It was like drinking from a fire hose. My schedule was so full, I was running 6 calls a day 6 days a week, booking out into the following week, and barely had time to pick up my parts, let alone eat or sleep.
At first, I was really happy the phone was finally ringing too much, which was a good thing, and excited that I was going to make a ton of money. And I did…in gross receipts. After a month of working my butt off, I sat down and analyzed what I was really paying per lead, and what I was netting per week.
The per lead charge was tolerable if I raised my rates to cover it on the calls that converted into repairs. I also figured out with current gas prices, I was just about breaking even on my diagnostic calls where they opted not to repair.
But the real hidden cost was in the junk leads and the drop-offs.
I would get calls from “tire-kickers” researching price and trying to pick my brain for solutions they could do themselves. And I still got charged.
Because I was so slammed, I would book a call two days out with someone who I could tell was barely committed, then call them the day of the appointment to say I was on my way and be told they already got it fixed by someone else. And I still got charged.
Sure some of this had to do with city clientele, who demand same day service and can often get it by calling around until they find someone. Back in the country, I got spoiled because I was the only appliance repair service within 30 miles, and I converted nearly every lead I got, even though there were fewer, to begin with.
But between paying for leads whether they converted or not, and maxing out the margin my market would bear, I realized after only a month that I was working for the lead generation service, and they were paying me a relatively small salary considering how hard I was going at it all day.
Even though they were responsible for the bulk of my business, somehow it drove me crazy that they were taking so much of my hard earned cash. I had to choose between a quiet phone and having an unintentional business partner. I decided to turn the service down to a trickle and see if I missed it.
So far, it has been a relief. I had become so aggravated by the cost of the leads, I was not my old self on service calls. I started getting less satisfaction from my customers because I was turning into that grizzled technician that has to charge high markup so he can make a profit despite his overhead.
I found a less expensive lead generation service, started working for home warranty companies, got more good reviews and some large commercial clients started calling. Pretty soon I was able to drop paid lead generation entirely, but I’ll never forget those days – nothing is worse than the sound of a quiet phone.