By Ryan Oakley, Vice President/Licensed General Contractor at EMERG-NC Property Rescuers®
My first “real” job out of college was at a small – online interactive advertising agency in the Raleigh, NC marketplace. The now much larger business is called MediaTwo Interactive, founded and still lead by a very creative entrepreneur CEO named Mike Hubbard. I was hired as an entry-level “Account Coordinator” and this was my entry into the advertising agency world. My job consisted of managing /optimizing search engine campaigns and banner ads across national networks for a large number of businesses that spent in the range of 6 figures yearly to 7 figures monthly. This is when the light bulb went on in my head, “why are these national companies spending so much money on online advertising?!” The short answer was “results,” trackable, real results with a precise and measurable ROI. Unlike any other advertising media, we could give these businesses hyper-detailed analytics, and information is power, especially when you need to know how much you are spending in order to receive your desired result (call, click, or “sign up.”)
Although I left the traditional advertising agency world I never lost my belief in the power of online advertising. I’ve spent almost 10 years now learning and working in the complicated world of insurance property damage claims and here is what I’ve learned; you need to be an expert at marketing and advertising unless you want to work “for” the big insurance companies and their third party administrators (when ethically you should be working for the property owner.) But that’s not enough, you need to be an expert in property damage restoration claims and how restoration businesses operate or you’re going to waste a LOT of money on advertising trying to learn, even if it’s your expertise (anyone in the restoration industry will tell you it’s a different animal). The vision statement here is “EMERG-NC Property Rescuers® is an on-line advertising agency that happens to be GREAT at property damage restoration.”
From time to time I will entertain cold calling advertising sales people and their offerings. I’ve heard statement like: “we are having great success in the service industry,”. ABC plumbing advertised a hot water heater special with us and their sales went through the roof!”; to which I replied “that’s great!” Except I do the exact same service as my competitors and use the exact same standardized price list as they do so promotions and competing with lower prices isn’t an option!” The point being, advertisers understand advertising (hopefully) but if they don’t understand the complicated property insurance claim process then you are wasting money. That’s not to say they couldn’t learn. But how much are you willing to pay for them to “learn” and where are your calls coming from in the mean time? I’m sure you’ve heard from the random cold calling Search Engine Marketing firm trying to sell you their services “We are a Google Certified Partner!” To which I respond “so am I.” I took the time to take the certification tests because I want to be great at both advertising and emergency property restoration!
“So what’s the point?”
The insurance property restoration industry is constantly changing. More and more of my generation and the ones below me are buying property and more and more property owners are going directly to the internet to find contractors and even buy insurance. The insurance carriers are positioning themselves to tap into this market as well with co-branded insurance coverage (AllState and eSurance). If restoration contractors don’t tap into this market (or haven’t yet) they will be left behind.
“Here’s the conundrum”
There are thousands of restoration companies out there right now who have built and sustained themselves by getting leads from big insurance companies and third-party administrators the traditional way, and at the cost of profitability, and now they are afraid to “rock the boat” for fear doing so could badly damage their businesses lead flow. I would advise them to start learning how to drive their own leads and calls and learn fast! The insurance companies and third-party administrators don’t really care about their relationships with restoration contractors; they care about making profits and keeping their shareholders happy. If this means they pull all of those leads “you built your business on” away from you because they make a “sweeter” deal with the next restoration competitor, it will mean you are on your own to make those phones ring and drive business! One solution to appeasing the insurance carriers may be some sort of co-branding on the contractor’s side. The contractor may continue to service big insurance and TPAs while simultaneously driving their own leads and truly controlling their own destiny and profitability under a different “brand”, and really, isn’t this strategy the very same thing that the insurance carriers are doing?
EMERG-NC Property Rescuers® has been operating for nearly 10 years now and purposely avoids “Preferred Vendor Lists and Third Party Administrator programs.” We’ve always strived to be different as well as better than our competitors. We have many great relationships with adjusters not due to our cost-cutting business practices, but to the quality of the service and work we provide. When we go into a home or commercial building that has had a damaging event there is no question of who we REALLY work for. The answer is always the property owner, and that’s the way we think it should be! We follow the industry standards and bill accordingly, without having to sacrifice our profitability. We understand marketing and advertising much better than most restoration professionals. We know how to “brand,” and how to successfully “media plan and buy.” After all, our vision statement is to operate as “an advertising agency that happens to be GREAT at property damage restoration.” Oh, and by the way?! We’re “Certified Google Partners.”