Steve Teneriello, CEO of The Service Coach, a company providing sales and marketing coaching and support for service firms, spoke to The SmartVan about ways SMB service organizations can stand out among the local competition. Teneriello’s advice? For starters, maintain a company blog.

What can field service companies do to stand out in the crowd against local competitors?

The biggest thing, especially in a local marketplace, is to distinguish yourself by providing education-based content. You can do that through blogging. HVAC business owners usually suffer form the curse of knowledge. They know a lot, but they’re not always great at communicating it. The more that they can communicate through a blog or through content on a Website helps with positioning and gives them more visibility in their local marketplace.

What about organizations that don’t have their own website?

Get one right away! Having a website is almost like owning a piece of real estate. We actually ran a study that we’ll be releasing in February where we looked at 2,000 mechanical contractor websites — HVAC, plumbing and electrical. We pulled out metrics from each one of those sites. It would be very simple for somebody in a local coverage area to expand their reach and ramp up pretty quickly in their organic listings if they crack inbound marketing.

So, right away, get a site and start building equity in your domain. A website is all about authority — the more authority you have, as measured through Google PageRank, the easier it is to rank for keywords such as “heating installation,” “cooling,” etc.

How important is search compared to word of mouth?

It’s a two-part answer. Recent changes to Google in the past two months have actually made it easier for a local business to compete with larger companies because Google is delivering more relevant local searches. Most people search locally. If they’re looking for a plumber in Boston, they’ll type “plumber, Boston,” and when it comes to word of mouth, if they have the right mechanics on their website — like a blog, for example — that blog can automate itself in social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter).

The new word of mouth is expanding your message to that reach of people. The average consumer has about 120 Facebook friends, 110 LinkedIn connections and about 70 Twitter followers. If you can leverage what you do every day and capture a customer review, publish it on your blog. Call that customer a couple of days later and invite them to share the review with their friends. You’ve just expanded your reach by an average of 225 people.

Do you notice any resistance from these organizations that they don’t have time to maintain a website? What’s your advice?

Right now, I think it’s more a conceptual thing. Blogging is definitely a long-term strategy. What we find is a lot of these companies are doing paid search. Paid search is kind of like renting an apartment — you’re not really building equity in your business. You’re just paying for what traffic you can buy on that particular day. With a blog, when you develop content on your site, it’s almost like having a 401(k) plan.  It delivers dividends, time after time.  I’ll put up a blog post today, and three months from now I’ll get leads from it. It’s just one of those things that’s always going to deliver compounding interest for you.

Time is definitely a killer for field service companies. They never have the time, and they’re too busy doing other things. Or it’s a fear of doing it and of not seeing instant results.