You’re a plumbing, pest control or other field service company. Or maybe you’re a business that provides software and supplies to companies like these.
You’ve heard that providing helpful content is one of the best ways to attract prospects, nurture customers, and build loyalty. And it’s true:
- Content marketing gets three times more leads per dollar spent than paid search advertising.
- Conversion rates are nearly six times higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters.
- 72% of B2B content marketers attributed their improved performance over the year before to their content strategy.
But where do you start? What do you write about? And how do you develop topic ideas and content that prospective clients actually, you know, want to read.
Here, we put together the basics of field service content. These guidelines are founded on our team’s background in consumer and trade journalism, as well as our experience in writing for businesses just like yours.
8 KEY CONTENT TIPS FOR FIELD SERVICE BUSINESSES
These are the main steps that will take you from zero to content with the least amount of hassle:
- Get on board with content. Research shows that the vast majority of consumers learn more about a local company online than anywhere else, and that they want to reward brands for their authenticity.
- Know who your customers are and what they want. No need for detailed personas—a quick brainstorm will do.
- Know what your goals are for the content. Do you want to build trust in the local community, retain more customers, or something else?
- Glean ideas from competitors’ content, social media, and review sites.
- Decide on the right format, from blog posts to newsletters to series of social media posts.
- Include all the right elements: Timeliness, relevance, authority, and service.
- Repurpose your field service content in other formats and for different target audiences.
- Study content. This is last because it’s important to just take action, instead of worrying that you don’t know it all. You’ll learn as you go along.
Now let’s dive into the details. This guide is thorough yet digestible, and we created it to give you just what you need to start winning with content. If you’re not sure about something or you don’t have all the time or resources you need, that’s OK. Start with where you are, and adjust course along the way. (Download a PDF version of this guide to read later. This is a direct download; no form to fill out.)
1. GET ON BOARD WITH CONTENT
Sure, content is critical for businesses like, say, online stores and fitness centers. But is it really important for a field service brand? Field service and content may seem like two things that don’t play well together, but these facts will take you from “maybe” to “let’s do this!”
For urgent issues, people will search for a plumber, electrician, etc. they can call right now. But for non-urgent problems, people tend to search for ways to fix the issue on their own. Helpful content on the problem will draw these searchers to your site.
- 97% of people learn more about a local company online than anywhere else.
- Given how important search engines are in bringing you business, you need to know that companies that blog have 434% more search engine-indexed pages than those that don’t.
- 91% of consumers are prepared to reward brands for their authenticity. And how do you show that authenticity? Through useful content that showcases your brand voice.
- To win more customers, an industry trends guide suggests, “Don’t be an estimator or order taker. Be an educator. Be a partner.” That’s kind of the whole point of content.
So that’s why you need content even if you’re a plumber, window washing company, field service management software provider, housecleaner, or other related business. But don’t worry: The purpose of this guide is to get you started winning with content right now. We keep it easy, and offer resources at the end if you want to get more in-depth.
2. WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS AND WHAT DO THEY WANT? (IT’S EASIER TO FIGURE OUT THAN YOU THINK)
Just about every marketing expert on the planet will tell you that you need to create thorough customer personas with details on how many pets they have and cute names like “Middle-Aged Mary” and “First-Time Homeowner Harry.”
However, we have experienced first-hand an interesting phenomenon where a marketing team spends a week outlining all their personas on a big whiteboard, asks the sales team for input, painstakingly transfers all their shiny new personas to a beautiful PDF…
…and never looks at them again.
This time-waster is a particular danger for small- and medium-sized businesses, and businesses that don’t have a full marketing department. Sound like you?
Don’t pour all your resources into creating detailed personas, or you’ll never have the time to actually create content. You already have a good idea of what your customers and prospects want, right? If you’re a housecleaning company, for example, they probably want:
- Easy scheduling.
- On-time service.
- To be able to trust the cleaners who come into their homes.
- To come home to a sparkling clean house.
- Quick and easy payment options.
- Excellent customer service.
- The ability to leave feedback after visits.
- Not to be forgotten once you’ve got their money.
Even if you’re not a field service business yourself, if you offer products and services for these companies, you need to know this—except that you’ll think of what their customers want, because that’s what they want. (So, for example, you might offer content on how your target market can optimize their scheduling to increase on-time service visits.)
Don’t worry if these customer needs don’t sound very specific. Just make a list, and later we’ll talk about how to spin narrower content ideas off of these needs.
3. HERE’S HOW YOUR GOALS FIT IN
Next, make your goals crystal clear: Why are you developing content in the first place? Sure, you know you should do it, and you see your competitors already have content. But why?
Maybe you want to:
- Establish your company as the local expert in X.
- Boost email newsletter subscriptions.
- Build brand awareness.
- Win in local search.
- Increase trust in the local community.
- Encourage brand loyalty/increase customer retention
Not sure? Pick the most likely candidate and start there. Again, we’re all about making things simple so you can just start taking action. You can always adjust course along the way as your goals become clearer.
Keep your customers’ wants and your goals in the back of your mind as we move on to the big question…
4. HOW TO DEVELOP CONTENT IDEAS FIELD SERVICE CUSTOMERS WILL LOVE
Now that you have this list of basic customer wants, and you have a general idea of what you want to get out of your content, use these as jumping-off points to develop creative, narrow content ideas. Here’s how.
Take a look at your competitors’ content.
Visit your competitors’ websites and social media feeds, and then:
Figure out which pieces of content have done well for them. For example, maybe their content on a certain topic or in a particular format has a lot of social media interaction or has been quoted on authoritative websites.
Make a list of the H2 subheads in their popular content. H2 subheads are those second-level headlines within the copy that help organize the content—like “How to Develop Content Ideas Field Service Customers Will Love,” above. Often, each of these subheads can be the start of a totally new (and more in-depth) piece of content. For example, that subhead “How to Develop Content Ideas Field Service Customers Will Love” could easily be turned into a whole new piece of content on its own.
Think about what’s missing in your competitors’ popular content. Maybe they have a nice post on how to know if you can trust your plumber, but they don’t mention choosing plumbing companies that send technicians’ bios to customers via an app. Here’s an opportunity for you to tackle the same topic but better.
Consider what topics your competitors haven’t covered at all. That list you made of what your customers want? What items on that list have your competitors not covered at all?
There is a caveat to consider here; if you’re looking at big competitors that have big marketing teams and lots of marketing tools, there may be a good reason they haven’t tackled a particular topic. But in general, if you have a good idea that answers customers’ questions, and no one else has done it, this is a huge opportunity for you to be a first-mover in that subject.
Check out what your prospective customers are talking about.
Visit websites where your customers gather to talk about topics that are relevant to your business. If you’re a pest control company, check out related threads in homeowners’ forums, on social media, and so on.
A great place to listen in on your customers? Review sites where people are posting kudos and complaints about businesses like yours. If you see the same complaint cropping up over and over—say, service providers that leave a mess at the job site—this is a chance to create content that subtly brags on how your company handles the situation.
Brainstorm final ideas.
You now know what your customers want and what they’re talking about, what your brand wants, and what your competitors are doing (and not doing). Have those in front of you as you and your team brainstorm topics that fit into the “sweet spot” between all three.
Need help developing great content ideas? Check out The Bootstrapping Content Marketer’s CONTENT CALENDAR PLAYBOOK. It’s a step-by-step rundown of how I develop content calendars that streamline content production for clients. Plus helpful worksheets and videos to make the process as easy as possible.
Don’t worry about SEO…yet.
SEO keyword research is another important tool that can help you develop content ideas. SEO is a huge topic, though, and it’s too easy to get so bogged down in tracking keywords that you never get around to creating content.
This is a quick-start guide; we want to get you off to a running start without your having to practically earn a college degree in a whole new specialty. So we recommend you save keyword research, and other strategies that require specialized tools and knowledge, for later in the process.
5. THE BEST FORMAT FOR FIELD SERVICE CONTENT
When you think content, your mind may leap to blog posts. Indeed, blog posts are a very popular form of content. If you have the resources to start a blog, this is a great place to start.
But they’re far from the only format—and they may not be the best one for every situation. Depending on the topic and how much you have to say about it, you may find that it makes sense to compile the information into formats like these:
- White papers (Best for B2B companies.)
- A series of social media posts
- Email newsletter articles
- Quizzes (Use a survey platform like SurveyAnyplace.)
- Videos (We focus on written content in this guide, but podcasts and videos are also useful to have in your arsenal.)
Or you could do many of these things with just one idea. Repurposing your content is a great way to get more mileage out of your efforts. For example, you could create an ebook on how to maintain your lawn, pull out one chapter to use as a blog post, create ten smaller excerpts to use as social posts, write a fun, shareable quiz on the topic, develop an infographic that pulls together the key facts and tips. One idea, 14 pieces of content you can share on different platforms.
How to Choose Your Content Format
To cut this overwhelming list down to a manageable size, ask yourself these questions.
1. What types of content does our target audience prefer?
This should be your first consideration.
- If your customer base consists overwhelmingly of busy families, your lengthy white paper will be a flop. Shorter, bite-sized content will be the rule for you.
- You’re a field service software company that focuses on small businesses and their on-the-go service providers: Think about short newsletters you push out to them via email.
- Have a lot of DIYers in your audience? Infographics work well for these people.
- Maybe you target large facilities with expensive cleaning service contracts. Top execs might go for longer, more detailed content.
Again, no need to spend weeks on research; you already have a general idea of who your customers are and what they want. Ask current customers what types of content they like, take note of the types of content that have done well for your direct competitors, and go with your gut. You can always tweak your plan as needed.
2. What format is the best fit for this topic?
This question can help you easily eliminate some content formats from the list. If your topic is on the importance of AI and predictive maintenance for business clients, a white paper might be in order. Content that shows a homeowner how to apply insecticide could be a photo-heavy blog post. Content about how to save money on heating costs? This could work as a blog post, newsletter, or infographic.
3. What content platforms do you already have?
Another approach is to start with the format and create content that fits—especially if you’re new to the content game and are low on resources.
- If you already have a blog, it makes sense to think about content ideas that will fit that format.
- If you have a busy Facebook feed, start there.
- If you have an email newsletter, start with creating content for that.
You get the idea.
4. What can we reasonably do with the time and skills we have?
The best content format may also depend on the resources you have on hand. For an ebook, someone will need to create a cover, lay out the copy, and create an attractive PDF. If you want an infographic that doesn’t look like a 6-year-old did it in MS Paint, you may need to tap into the talents of a staff member who has graphic design skills and a subscription to a design platform like Canva.
All is not lost if you think an e-book would be the best format for the topic and your customers but you can only handle a blog post right now. Keep a spreadsheet of all your content—the title, the type, the date published, and the link—and as you build up your resources you can repurpose the content into different formats. More on that below.
6. HOW TO WRITE CONTENT FOR YOUR FIELD SERVICE BUSINESS
You’ve got an idea that customers are clamoring for, your content idea is different from (and better than) what your competition has done, and you’ve decided on the best format for your next piece. Now comes the fun/hard/scary/exciting part: Writing the content.
Develop your brand’s voice.
If you’re a staid, generations-old appliance repair business that works with staid, generations-old appliance brands, you’ll weird your audience out if you write in an edgy, men’s-magazine style. On the other hand, a budget window cleaning service probably wouldn’t want to write content that sounds like a 1960s business memo.
The good news is, it’s not that hard to figure out what your brand’s voice should be and to stay within that range. You may be doing it already, instinctually. In short:
In the absence of any specific brand guidelines, a friendly, easy-to-read style works in most cases.
That means crafting shorter sentences over longer ones, choosing common words over esoteric ones, and offering explanations and examples that the average reader can relate to.
Our company founder, Linda, has written for a variety of big-name magazines—from Family Circle and Men’s Fitness to Redbook and Inc.—and no matter what the publication, she starts with a base of that friendly, easy-reading style. Then she pumps up the edginess, compassion, humor, or “you go girl” attitude to fit both the market and the topic at hand.
In other words: If you don’t have a tightly honed brand style, you pretty much can’t go wrong with conversational and easygoing. Over time, as you develop your content strategy and get feedback (in the form of reader comments and results), you’ll naturally discover your brand’s unique voice.
Think like a journalist.
Here’s how you can jump ahead of the competition and ensure your content wins:
Learn to think like a journalist.
People have become weary of clickbait and fake news, and they’re craving solid, reliable content that cuts through the clutter. And the elements that create that kind of content have always been found in journalism.
Linda started out as a journalist writing for top newsstand and industry magazines, and editors would toss her pitch in the trash if it didn’t contain these five essentials. Incorporate them into your content to become a trusted voice for your audience.
Element #1: Timeliness
In other words, why now? Why does your audience need this particular piece of content at this time? This could mean that, for example, you run that post on ant control in the spring, or send out that newsletter about recruiting temporary HVAC technicians in the winter. It could also mean that you tie your content in to something that’s big in the news; for instance, we created a blog post, report, and quiz for a client about tool theft after a spate of service van break-ins hit our client’s area.
Element #2: Relevance
Your idea is so amazing…except that only 2% of your audience actually cares about the topic. A checklist on how to clean your VCR may be very, very useful for customers who have VCRs—but how many is that, really? (Don’t give up on a great idea, though! It may be better to wrap that one up into a list of tips for cleaning older household appliances and electronics.)
Element #3: Surprise
Would you click through to an article titled “The Secret to Saving Money: It’s Budgeting!”? Probably not.
Here’s a time-tested tip for turning a ho-hum idea into one that will make your audience sit up and take notice:
When you’re developing your content, add the word “surprising” to your proposed title.
Here’s how it might work for field service content:
- Case Study: How FSM Inc. Helped HVAC Co. Increase Its First-Time Fix Rate BECOMES Case Study: The Surprising Way FSM Inc. Helped HVAC Co. Increase Its First-Time Fix Rate
- How to retain Your Best Technicians BECOMES 5 Surprising Ways to Retain Your Best Technicians
- Why Your Carpets Are Wearing Out BECOMES The Surprising Reasons Your Carpets Are Wearing Out
- 10 Things Your Housekeeper Wishes You Knew BECOMES 10 Surprising Things Your Housekeeper Wishes You Knew
- Now you’re no longer offering been-there-done-that information—you’re offering a fresh new take on the topic.
NOTE: Do not actually add the word “surprising” to your titles! Or if you do, do it very sparingly. Sadly, the word now reeks of clickbait. But including it as a placeholder title during the content creation phase helps you keep in mind that your audience demands information and advice they haven’t seen a hundred times before.
Now your task is to actually offer surprising information. Ask yourself, your clients, or your internal experts, “What piece of cleaning advice do you have that would shock readers?” “What’s the most surprising way we’ve helped you increase your first-time fix rate?” “What are some tips that may be common or obvious to plumbers, but that readers never think of?”
Element #4: Service
Service is the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) element, and it’s crucial. If your content is all about your brand and its awesomeness, you’ll lose readers. And rightly so. Your audience comes to your content to learn something that will improve their lives, not to bask in your glory.
Service content is all about the how instead of the why. Sure, it’s fine to include details on why the topic is important—for example, at the top of this guide you learned some stats that show why you should be creating content—but you also want to create what editors call “take-home value.” What can readers take away from this content that will help them in a measurable way?
How-to pieces are the ultimate in service content: How to fix problem X, how to create a better Y, and so on.
Element #5: Authority
Why should your audience trust you as a provider of information and advice? Instead of coming right out and saying, “Just trust us, we know what we’re talking about”—which never works—subtly infuse your content with signals of authority. Here’s how.
- Use stats. Relevant, recent, vetted statistics can help bolster the authority of your content. For example, if you’re an HVAC company, Energy.Gov is a trustworthy source of stats on topics like how much money you can save with energy-efficient improvements.
- Quote/link to authoritative sites. You don’t want to overdo this, since it could send people away from your content—but quoting and linking to credible, well-known sites and experts helps boost your own trustworthiness.
- Fact check. What’s cool about the internet is also what’s bad about it: that anyone can post anything. If you’re passing along information from another source, double-check the facts to make sure they’re correct. (Not sure how to fact check your content? We have a full post on that here.)
- Edit/proofread. Nothing says “don’t trust this information!” like typos, misspellings, and weird formatting issues. After all, if you can’t be bothered to fix your spelling, why should readers trust that you bothered to provide accurate information? If you need to, get an outside pair of eyes on your content to make sure it’s perfect before you publish it.
We have details on more key elements to good content, including theme, angle, and packaging, in this blog post.
Space it out.
Easy-to-read content is about more than the words you choose. What you don’t put in is also important. We have an entire post on how to space things out, including tips for writing compelling subheads, right here.
7. TURN CONTENT INTO MORE CONTENT
We already talked about repurposing one type of content into other formats. A guide becomes a series of blog posts, which in turn become email newsletters, which you later turn into social posts.
But you can also repurpose content for one audience into content for another.
For example, this guide you’re reading now is the first in a series of guides for the different industries we serve. It would be criminally stupid of us not to reuse pieces of this guide that are relevant to the other industries. How to come up with a topic idea? The elements of compelling content? Developing your brand voice? The examples may change, but in general these tips apply to any industry.
So if the customer base for your locksmith business includes, say, restaurants, retail stores, and small business complexes, you can spin the same piece of content about common door violations for all three markets. Just change the examples and the terminology as needed, and you now have three pieces of content from one.
Don’t want to go it alone? We can help you recycle all your best content with a customized content repurposing plan.
8. LEARN ABOUT CONTENT—AFTER YOU START DOING CONTENT
Wait…why are we recommending learning about content after you’ve already created it? Shouldn’t the learning come before the doing? Shouldn’t you read a few books about content promotion, take an SEO class, and research all the content management platforms out there?
Too many would-be content creators use learning as an excuse to not actually create content. The effect is only multiplied in field service business managers and owners whose main expertise is in field services, not writing.
“I’m not a writer…I manage a plumbing company. What if I do it wrong? What if I create all this content and no one comes? Ahh, better to just forget the whole thing.”
We’re here to tell you that no matter how long you’ve been developing business content, there’s always more to learn. You’ll never get it perfect…and just when you think you do, some crazy market shift or search engine algorithm revision will come along and change everything. So there’s no point in trying to know it all before you get started.
And if you are ready to learn more? Here are some vetted resources to get you up to speed on content promotion, SEO, measurement, and more.
Why go it alone? This post from Call of Service offers some fun and unusual ways to get your technicians involved in your content strategy, from interviewing them to asking them to drum up customer reviews.
So you really want to create those buyer personas we talked about earlier. Here’s your answer. OptInMonster serves up six templates and generators, plus 188 buyer persona questions. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
When you have a lot of content in the works and too many ideas flying around in your brain, you’ll want to develop a content calendar to plan your campaigns, schedule your content, and keep it all organized. Here’s how.
Marketing expert Neil Patel offers real-world advice on how to measure the success of your content.
This post from Alexa does more than offer info on how to optimize your content for SEO—each point comes with links to detailed posts and guides on how to put the tip into action.
We love this post from marketing influencer Jeff Bullas’s blog because it goes beyond the tired tips we already know (“Share your content on social media!” “Email the content to your list!”) Some interesting ideas in this one, and lots of helpful details.
Once you have the basics down, these resources will give you the knowledge to really leverage your content.
But remember: The field service businesses that get ahead with content aren’t the ones who know content inside and out. The field service businesses that get ahead with content are the ones that are out there creating content, making mistakes and learning as they go.
Let us help you by creating a content plan that will set your content up for success—or by training your team so they’re on top of the latest trends and enduring best practices in content. Check out our content training and strategy services.