Little Things that Make a BIG Difference

When it comes to running a successful business, we often focus on the big things: beautiful designs, quality fixtures, friendly and prompt customer service, etc. However, as important as those things are, there are also small things you can do to help your business thrive. Consider implementing these 5 little ideas, and see the big difference they can make in your business!

Develop a Marketing Strategy

Websites, magazines, direct mail, social media, AdWords… trying to decide when and where to advertise can be overwhelming! And, let’s face it, if you said yes to every marketing agency that called you, you wouldn’t have any money left. Be smart and develop a marketing plan. Figure out when you want to advertise and how much you want to spend, then stick to it. Consistency is key! If you’re only marketing when things are slow and stop marketing when it gets busy, your sales cycle will experience the roller coaster effect. Start marketing today and you’ll bring in those sales you need months down the road.  

Answer the Phone

Think about how much you spend just to get a single call to your business. With that in mind, it’s critical that you have someone there to answer the phone when it rings. You can have the best marketing plan in the world, but if you’re not able to handle answering the phones, you may be throwing away thousands of dollars every year. Consider hiring a receptionist or using a third-party answering service. It will be well worth the investment.

Follow Up

Never underestimate the importance of good communication. Follow up with your clients after your crew has completed their installation or service call. This can take a while, but every time you put yourself or your company in front of your client, it only strengthens that relationship. And following up with every sales call is a must! If you typically give a bid and wait for that potential client to call you back, chances are you are losing sales. Follow up as many times as it takes until they give you a firm yes or no.

Show Your Appreciation

After your work is completed and everything is done, go the extra mile and show your customer how much you appreciate their support. Consider sending gourmet chocolates, Edible Arrangements, a bottle of wine, or some other gift, thanking them for their business. These inexpensive gestures can go a long way.

Ask for Feedback

These days it seems like every receipt has a survey on the bottom. Customer feedback is a great way to help you improve your business, and reviews promote your business and build better leads. You can even use a third party company like Reputation Loop to generate online reviews, fast. The concept is simple: After you complete an installation, your customers receive a quick, easy survey. They respond to questions about their experience with your product/service and, if it’s positive, they’re asked to post a review online. So many customers check reviews before deciding which product or service they’ll go with, so don’t overlook the importance of good reviews!

Our Mission

This article is the second in our series on the building blocks of a successful business. You can read the first article here.

If purpose is your business’ “Why,” then mission is its “How.”

As you may recall from our last issue, purpose sets your business’ direction. It is the driving force behind some of the most important decisions you’ll make as a business owner. However, purpose is not something that can be fulfilled or accomplished. That is why discovering purpose is only the first step. Next, you must craft your company’s mission statement.

Mission is what you use to measure how well you are moving toward your purpose.

Think of purpose as a cardinal direction, such as “West.” You can travel west for an eternity, but it is not a final destination. What measures your success and your impact is not reaching your purpose. Instead, it is the pace at which you travel. Just as you can travel towards West at 1 MPH or 1,000 MPH, your business can move towards its purpose at a slow or fast pace.

Mission is what you use to measure how well you are moving toward your purpose. For example, let’s say your purpose statement is, “We will dazzle our customers with outstanding lighting designs.” Although you have a lot of leeway with that purpose statement, it sets confines and kickstarts discussion about how well you’re doing. Although you’re moving toward your purpose if you work all year and end up dazzling two of your customers, your business won’t be around for long at that pace.

You want your mission to stretch you. This is where your BHAG comes into play. Your Big Hairy Audacious Goal should be something that’s achievable, but also challenges you to work harder and smarter to obtain it. It could include a dollar amount (“Our mission for 2018 is to make $1,000,000 in sales”). It could include a number of installations (“Our mission for 2018 is to complete 300 installations”). There are so many possibilities, but it’s up to you to figure out what’s right for your company.  

Once you have your mission set, you are better equipped to plan out the steps to achieve it. In order to fulfill your mission, you may need to hire more technicians, buy a new truck, or launch a new marketing campaign. After you’ve come up with three or four actionable steps, you’re on your way to effectively completing your mission and pursuing your purpose.

There may be bumps along the way, but when you set goals and you have a clear idea of where you’re going with your business, you’ll be able to achieve more.

Damien Sanchez – Co-Owner

This article appeared in the sixth issue of our newsletter. If you’d like to read more articles like this, visit our NEWSLETTER PAGE and sign up to receive our free newsletter in the mail! 

You Need a Marketing Plan

This article appeared in the sixth issue of our newsletter. If you’d like to read more articles like this, visit our newsletter page and sign up to receive our free newsletter in the mail! 

Very few businesses can succeed (and remain successful) on word of mouth alone, which is why marketing is so important. For small businesses, it is especially important to use your marketing to raise brand awareness and to help you compete against other companies offering similar services. Marketing is essential to growing your business. But where do you begin?

While marketing may seem like a huge—and expensive—task, once you have a plan in place, it becomes much more manageable. A marketing plan is the key to marketing success, and it all starts with establishing a budget.  

The key to marketing success is making a plan and sticking with it!

If you want to see growth in your business, you should plan on budgeting at least 10% of your annual sales on marketing. Some businesses will set aside up to 20% of the annual sales for marketing, but 10% is a good amount when you’re just getting started. Once you have a budget in place, you can start setting goals and dates.

In marketing, timing is everything. Early spring is very effective because homeowners make purchasing decisions based on their income flow and cash availability. In the early spring, many homeowners will be getting tax returns back, which frees them up to spend a little extra on things like outdoor lighting.

Deciding what types of marketing you want to pursue is also important. Although we now live in an age of technology, direct mail is still one of the most effective tools for B2C marketing. According to the Data and Marketing Association, from 2015 to 2016, direct mail customer response rates increased by 43% and customer response rates increased 190%.

Because we’ve seen for ourselves how effective direct mail marketing is, we created Sterling Storefront to help you launch your own direct mail campaign, providing you all the resources you need to get started, including a library of high-quality, professional photos.

Incorporating social media into your marketing is another way to reach thousands of potential customers simply and effectively. One of the reasons social media is such a popular way to market is the ease in which you can interact directly with your customers and target potential new clients.

Video is another effective tool to use on your social media platforms, emails, and website. In a survey of consumers by Animoto, 56% of those surveyed said that if a company has a website, it should have a video. And, in fact, if a company did not have a video, a quarter of those surveyed said they lost interest. Visual content, especially video, should not be overlooked when considering how best to market your services to your customers.

Finally, and this may be the most important thing yet, stick with it. I’ve seen so many lighting professionals start marketing their company and then drop it when they get busy. If you want to see your marketing pay off, don’t stop just because other things pull your attention away. Marketing is too important for you to put it off or quit.

Jim Heim – General Manager

Light Travels: The Florida ASLA Annual Expo and Conference

Last week, our Sales Representative, Scott, and I went down to Florida to attend the Florida ASLA Annual Expo and Conference in Boco Raton, FL. We had a great time connecting with so many talented landscape architects!

Thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth and took the time to talk with us about Sterling Lighting’s fixtures.

 

Scott and Jim at their 2017 FLASLA booth.

 

Jim Heim

General Manager

Announcing Our Photo Contest Winner!

Congratulations to our Sterling Lighting photo contest winner, JJ Parks of Radiant Exterior Lighting! His submission received high marks from our panel of judges for lighting design and photography composition. JJ’s photo also performed well on social media, bringing in 47 likes/retweets across all platforms.

From a design standpoint his entry won for various reasons: The light source is hidden and the light is very even side-to-side. It showcases the different textures of the architecture, especially the stonework on the home’s facade. The lighting also brings out the entrance of the home, making it stand out and adding curb appeal to the property.

Thank you to everyone who submitted photographs for our contest. We love seeing our fixtures in action and were impressed by the high caliber design work!

The winning photo from JJ Parks of Radiant Exterior Lighting!

 

Wrapping Up Our 2017 Photo Contest

Sterling Lighting’s 2017 Photo Contest is officially over! Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest, and we can’t wait to announce the winner on July 10th!

Take a look at the final entries we received:

Entry from J-Squared Outdoor Living and Lighting

Entry from J-Squared Outdoor Living and Lighting

Entry from J-Squared Outdoor Living and Lighting

Entry from J-Squared Outdoor Living and Lighting

Entry from J-Squared Outdoor Living and Lighting

Entry from J-Squared Outdoor Living and Lighting

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

Entry from NiteLiters

 

Don’t forget to check back with us on Monday, July 10th as we announce the winner of Sterling Lighting’s 2017 Photo Contest!

Introducing Our New SL07 Bollard Light!

Sterling Lighting is excited to announce our latest fixture design, the SL07 Bollard Light! This low voltage, fully dedicated LED fixture has all the power of the SL07 Path Light in the simple, elegant style of a bollard light. Illuminate paths, driveways, garden beds, and more!

 

SL07 Bollard in the daytime.

SL07 Bollard illuminating greenery.

SL07 Bollard illuminating a garden bed.

Specs:       

  • Watt: 4W
  • Wire Lead: 10’-0” 18AWG
  • Color Temperature: 3000K
  • Operating Voltage: 9-15 volt range  

For more information about our Bollard, call us today at 1-703-454-8273. And be sure to visit our blog again soon, because we have a video in the works for the SL07 Bollard!

2017 Photo Contest Entries Continue to Come In!

Our 2017 Photo Contest will soon be drawing to a close, but there’s still a little more time to submit your pictures!

In the meantime, check out our latest entries:

Entry from Elite Outdoor Landscaping Services in Tulsa.

Entry from Radiant Exterior Lighting.

Entry from Radiant Exterior Lighting.

Entry from Radiant Exterior Lighting.

Entry from Radiant Exterior Lighting.

Entry from Radiant Exterior Lighting.

Entry from Radiant Exterior Lighting.

Entry from Radiant Exterior Lighting.

Elite Outdoor Landscaping Services in Tulsa.

Entry from Elite Outdoor Landscaping Services in Tulsa.

Elite Outdoor Landscaping Services in Tulsa.

Entry from Elite Outdoor Landscaping Services in Tulsa.

Entry from Elite Outdoor Landscaping Services in Tulsa.

Entry from Elite Outdoor Landscaping Services in Tulsa.

Entry from Elite Outdoor Landscaping Services in Tulsa.

Entry from Elite Outdoor Landscaping Services in Tulsa.

Entry from Irrigation Repair Specialist

Entry from Mid America Electric.

Entry from Mid America Electric.

Entry from Mid America Electric.

Entry from Mid America Electric.

Entry from Mid America Electric.

A special thank you to everyone who has participated in our Photo Contest! Don’t forget to vote for your favorite photos by liking and sharing them on Facebook and Twitter!

For more information about our contest, visit sterling-lighting.com/photo-contest. Have a question? Email photocontest@sllights.com.

Our Purpose

This story was published in the June edition of our newsletter. It is the first installment in our series on building an intentional company culture.  

Your purpose is one of your company’s most valuable assets.

While this statement may seem like hyperbole, I’ve personally seen the enormous impact of purpose in my own company. It’s foundational to your business. Your purpose dictates and guides how your company runs and how far it will go. It’s your compass telling you what to take on and what to say no to. It provides everyone in the organization a direction to work towards. You support your purpose with a common set of values shared by you and everyone on your team. Ultimately, your purpose and your core values will shape your company’s culture.

It took us a number of years to find our purpose as a company. We had trouble articulating it, but it just needed to be discovered. We asked questions like “why did we start the business,” “what do we enjoy about the business,” and “what motivates us to continue in this business?” For us, we realized it wasn’t about what we do, but how we can positively impact others.

However, even after that realization, it took some time for Pat and I to work out how we could form a cohesive purpose when we owned three very different companies: a manufacturing company, a mosquito control company, and a lighting installation company. So, we began to try and answer the “why” questions of our businesses by listing out what we wanted to accomplish: good stewardship, building others up, providing for our families, and helping others.

From there, we were finally able to discover our purpose statement. Now, everyone who works at Sterling Lighting knows our purpose well: We practice faithful stewardship over everything that is entrusted to us, and we positively influence all those who come into contact with us. It’s why we exist as an organization. It also prevents people from working here that do not share our vision, and it gives us a unified direction we’re all committed to moving toward.

Understanding and articulating your purpose statement is difficult enough, but applying it takes even more creativity and effort. However, we’ve worked hard to be intentional about living out our purpose and letting it guide how we run our business. Our purpose gives us a yardstick to measure our decisions against. Either consciously or unconsciously, we always ask ourselves: Will this decision make a positive impact on the lives of our customers, employees, family members, or friends?

So, when we design and manufacture high-quality products, our purpose underlies our choice not to cut corners to save 15% on a product that will fail in two years. Poorly-made LED fixtures that need repair work after a couple years will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. However, by using quality materials and cutting-edge technology, we’re able to offer you a product you’ll feel confident installing.

When we decided how we would sell our fixtures, our purpose guided our choice to sell directly to contractors instead of distributors. While this may have slowed our growth because we’ve had to build our brand from the ground up, it has also saved us 20-30% on our fixtures. We’ve then been able to pass those savings along to you! Selling directly to contractors has also allowed us to form stronger relationships with you, our customer.

Finally, when we asked ourselves what else we could do to positively impact our customers, our purpose underlay our decision to create marketing programs, such as Sterling Storefront. We wanted to help our fellow small business owners with an aspect of their business that, because of the time and money involved, often gets put off to the side. Our hope is that by offering affordable, easy-to-use marketing solutions, you’ll be able to more effectively get the word out about your company.

Other marketing programs are also in the works. Just last month, we went and visited a couple of our customers down in Florida, Tim Pleasant and Tim Salopek, to shoot company videos and testimonials for them. In the future, we hope to continue to use our video and marketing resources to help even more of our customers.

Ultimately, I believe that when we fulfill our purpose, we help your business thrive. This, in turn, gives you more time and energy to positively impact the people in your own life. This is why I encourage all entrepreneurs to form and embrace a purpose.

Once you know your purpose, you can form your core values, which determine how you act. With purpose influencing your decisions and core values influencing your actions, you begin to form an intentional culture in your company. You will spend so much of your life working in your business, why create an accidental culture that doesn’t align with the vision of what you want your company to look like? Purpose is just the first step, but it’s an important one.

Damien Sanchez

Co-Owner

Want to read more articles like this? Contact sarah@sllights.com and we’ll sign you up to receive our monthly newsletter.  

Simplicity is the Key to Successful Lighting Design

If you’re in the business of outdoor lighting, you can sometimes feel like the man with the spinning plates at a carnival. In any given job, you have to balance an overwhelming number of variables: the exact placement of each and every fixture, the style of the lights, the installation team’s work orders, marketing and advertising for your business, providing customer service, trade alliance management, and more! The last thing you need is an unnecessary complication that screws up a simple task. For instance, we can all relate to how frustrating it is to send a service technician on an hour drive across town to fix a minor issue, only to have him turn around because he doesn’t have the right part.

When we used a variety of insert LED bulbs, that problem would happen constantly. To suit our homeowners’ needs, we had to carry three different types of 200 lumen bulbs – narrow, wide, and very wide beam spread. We also had three bulbs for the 400 lumen bulbs, and we were brave enough (or dumb enough), to have a 600 lumen LED bulb that had three different types as well. That meant that each truck had to be stocked with a minimum of 9 different LED mr16 bulbs at all times. We then had to deal with updating inventory whenever manufacturers upgraded the bulbs, which was an additional challenge.

To complicate it even further, we also offered 3000k, 2700k, and 4500k bulbs. Our trucks looked like the light bulb aisle at Home Depot! Couple this with the fact that many of our homeowners needed halogen bulbs, the G4, bayonet single and double contact, and a variety of other specialty bulbs, it was all too easy to slip up and send a guy out unprepared. As a business, we needed to focus on providing great service and landing new jobs, so the amount of time wasted on these repair trips was maddening.

SL01 Up Light. Sleek. Innovative. Simple.

Our solution to this nightmare was to simplify. We did this by creating a fixture that was as close to perfect as possible. We spent many long nights with our engineers designing an LED fixture that does not fail, and we are very proud of how well it performs. However, we all know that there will be times when a service call is needed, but those service calls are a whole lot easier with this ideal fixture. The SL01 Up Light LED insert has five different brightness settings and five different beam spread settings. That’s like carrying 25 different LED inserts in a single box! With a long-lasting bulb and an incredibly versatile replacement insert, we accomplished our goal of simplifying a complicated issue in a way that would make repairs easier for lighting technicians.

What we didn’t expect was that this simplification didn’t just make repairs easier, but it also made installations easier. In the past, when we had a homeowner who wanted their system a little brighter after the install was finished, we would have to change out every bulb. We then ended up with tons of spare light bulbs rolling around in our trucks. Now, we’re able to make that change with the flip of a switch inside the fixture! How much simpler can it get?

This solution is also a win for homeowners. When we’re consulting on a design, we can comfort them by explaining that we can easily change the brightness or beam spread after the install. We can even adjust brightness over the years as their trees grow and the appearance of the lighting system is altered.

In business and design, we always try to keep things simple, so you can focus less on service calls and stocking your trucks and more on growing your business and providing excellent service to your customers.

Patrick Harders

Co-Owner