In this episode, we interviewed Tanis, a portable sanitation business owner from Texas. Tanis talks about the importance of building a digital presence and some tips on how to succeed in the digital world.
Matt: Hey Matt here in the Service Core Studio. In today’s episode of Toilet Talk, we talk about improving your digital presence. Our guest is Tanis Jamar. She and her husband owned J Bar Enterprises down in Texas, and they built an amazing digital presence. In this episode, Tanis talks about improving your website, how to get more Google reviews, and lots of tips to improve your social media. It’s a great episode you don’t wanna miss, so let’s jump right in. Follow me this way, Tanis. Welcome to the inside of our studio. What do you think?
Tanis: Excellent color choice.
Matt: I thought so myself. It burns your eyes with the orange, but we really like it. So thank you very much for coming. We are big fans of J Bar and one of the things that we are most impressed with is your digital presence. And that is certainly not something that you built overnight. It’s something that took you guys some time and I know you have a lot of pride in. So thanks for talking to us today. So let’s start with like, what is digital presence? It’s, you know, for the audience, it’s everything. Your website, your reviews, your social media. It’s really your brand online, how people see you. But let’s start with the website. Why was that important for you guys to get right? And can you kind of walk us through what you did to get it right?
Tanis: I think you know, when I think about digital presence, it’s how you tell your story. And so it’s not just a bunch of little silos that you have to check all these boxes and say, “oh, I’ve got a Facebook page and I’ve got an Instagram and da, and so I’m good.” What you’re saying matters. And so for us, our website definitely went through some evolution over time. We’ve very much started out with a homegrown, you know, do it yourself drag and drop type of website. And one thing that was important for us when we finally made the jump to say, “okay, we’re actually gonna put some time and effort and money into this,” is what we really wanted: who we are as a company and what we stand for to come out. Not just to try and incentivize our customers to say, oh yeah, we wanna keep using them, or, you know, any number of those different things. But also, You know, we now are in a situation where employees, vet companies before they even apply. And so it was important for us to be very transparent with our story and who we are and what we stand for. Because it attracted the type of people that we wanted to hire. And it also made it not super appealing to apply for people who maybe didn’t really feel like they aligned with our core values. And so, Yeah, I mean, I think your website is, in some ways, kind of like looking at somebody’s family picture album. You know? It’s like you get to, you get to hear about. Who they, you know who they were when they started and where they came from and what they want in the future.
Matt: And, and do they have a crazy Uncle Bob?
Tanis: Yes, absolutely.
Matt: So you wanna make sure that when they see the J Bar site, they know it’s nice people that work there. “I wanna work there too. And also, I wanna do business with you,” right? Because I think that a lot of people, they’re looking at sites and if they’ve never needed what you offer, a portable restroom or a dumpster for their event or their construction site or whatever. If they get there and it’s super hard to navigate, it’s very hard to use, I would guess you’re gonna bounce to the next one.
Tanis: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, certainly we’re kind of in the age where everything has to be optimized for mobile devices and stuff. But it’s surprising how many websites across all industries are still out there that you go to pull it up and you’re in the car and you’re on your phone and you’re like, “Why can’t I find anything on here?” So yeah, the ease of somebody being able to get the information they want quickly is really important because we live in this where it’s, you know, it’s a one minute video. You’re scrolling TikTok, right? Like you don’t wanna sit and take five minutes to have to figure all of that out every time.
Matt: That’s great. So I mean, you guys have that down. I think that’s kinda the basis, like you said, it’s your family album. When you get there, do you like what you see? As a customer or an employee? But the next thing that I think people look at is they’ll search for something you offer in your area. And those little stars are very important to your business. And so I would love to hear how J Bar gets more Google reviews or, or if you dabble in Yelp or other things, but like, yeah. What do you guys do?
Tanis: Sure. You know, obviously Google reviews kind of are still held as the top line, right? And so we do have a lot of those that are kind of organic. We do put a lot of time and money and effort into search engine optimization. And we’ve partnered with a company that does that really, really well. And it is worth the money if you’re not an expert in search engine optimization, it is worth the money to, to pay for it. But we get some of those organically. We also use a company called Signpost that is essentially an intermediary for reviews. It’s a great opportunity because it gives you, if you get a bad review, because a driver backed over somebody’s mailbox, right?
Matt: Not that that ever happens.
Tanis: That’s never happened before ever, but you know, it gives you the opportunity to attempt to make it right with that customer. Hopefully you already know if you’ve backed over somebody’s mailbox, but you know, in a situation where maybe they just didn’t have a good customer service experience and whether it was intentional or not, they still left with a sour taste in their mouth. And, you know, to be able to reach out and say, “how could we make this right? Can we give you a discount or can we take your family out to dinner or whatever.” Whatever it takes to make it right. But it gives you the opportunity to, to deal with that before it hits your big billboard online of reviews.
Matt: Nice. With reviews, do you guys ask every job that you do, do you ask the customer to give your review? And if so, if there’s a variation of that, like how do you do that?
Tanis: Sure. We send every service ticket that we put in for an end of service, so a restroom pickup, when that work order ticket is completed, we send an automatic email out that says, “thank you for your business. Your restroom at blahdy blah address was just picked up. You know, we’d love to hear your feedback. Here’s a link to give us a review.” And it’s a link to signpost and then we just carry on.
Matt: Yeah. So then they can easily leave a Google review. Did you guys ever have a time where you weren’t asking for them?
Tanis: Yeah. I mean it has been in the last probably three or four years that we’ve really gotten intentional about that. Before that, I think more than anything we would, you know, ask if somebody would call us up at the end of an event or something and say, “Oh, this was so great. It was wonderful. I loved it. Hey, would you mind giving us a Google review?” But obviously, that relies on them being willing and able to stop right there and do it because they’ll forget about it, you know?
Matt: Did you notice a huge difference when you got intentional, like, you got a lot more reviews?
Tanis: Yeah we did. You know, another thing that we do with reviews, and this is more for an internal thing, we have a wall in our big meeting room. Whenever we get a five-star review, we print it out in vinyl and we put it on this cinder block wall. So it’s a good way for our employees every Tuesday when we have our meetings to go in and say, “Hey, this is a new five-star review we got. Hey, it was this guy that was the driver, or this was the team that set up that event,” or that type of thing.
Matt: That’s good for morale, right?
Tanis: Yeah, absolutely.
Matt: When you’re a big company, you guys have a pace that’s just constantly moving. And you can see “we did a good job.” Pivoting to social media. What role does it play for your business and what are some of the ways you guys use social media?
Tanis: Yeah. We have all the accounts, you know? Just like pretty much everybody else does. I think with social media, the thing that I think about more than anything is it’s good to have some just randomly funny stuff we’ve done, you know, I think we’re on day 258 or something of randomly inserting a toilet into a picture from a movie scene or something. And people think that’s fun and funny and whatever. But I think aside from just the eye-catching things, it’s about telling your story and it can be a super powerful tool to put your employees on blast that did a great job. Or got employee of the month, or we have this, you know, silly little Jackalope action figure thing that we give out weekly as a, “Hey, I caught you doing something good.” And so I think it’s important that you’re wanting your customer to buy from you, right? The motivation is if I get more stuff out on social media, more people will see me and somebody will buy from me. And I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think if you shift to having your focus being putting things out on social media that benefit the viewer, I think you get better engagement. People want to come back and see something inspirational or timely, or, “oh, that’s a weird fact. I didn’t know that.” Or, you know, rather than just feeling marketed to all the time.
Matt: I think one of the cool things that you guys do is you’re talking on social media about things in your community. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Tanis: Sure. We do a couple of different things. Firstly, we have a pretty heavy construction presence and so one part of our vision statement is that we’re a media company and that we promote our customers and their interests. And so we have a builder spotlight where we, kind of at random, sometimes it’s a new customer, sometimes it’s just a, “Hey, that guy’s done a ton of work with us” or whatever. And so we just, you know, do a little blast on that. And we do that about once every other week or so, and just highlight our customers.
Matt: What about, you know, with a lot of people, you talked about SEO earlier. And for those that kind of think it’s a magical box, SEO is really about adding more content that’s relevant to what people are searching for in your site. So you can grow organically like that, but it takes a long time. For Google’s magical algorithm to pick those things up. But you can accelerate that and I think that the best portable restaurant operators and dumpster operators use a diversified fund just like you would with investing. What’s the role in your business of PPC versus how much you invest in SEO versus the other organic stuff you do?
Tanis: We’re constantly looking at the analytics. So just like with anything, you know, you can’t start a new diet and stop it three days later because you didn’t lose 50 pounds. SEO and any of those online optimizations are just like that. You can’t look at it the week after you start it and say, “this is crap. I’m not doing this anymore. I’m wasting my money.” You do have to give it a good solid amount of time. Six months is kind of a minimum. And so, we have found in our area and the areas that we’re trying to grow the most is that SEO works pretty good. We’re in the Austin market and the surrounding areas. There’s a lot of home building going on. There’s a lot of new builders popping up. There’s a lot of people that have come and moved to Texas that were home builders in other areas, and they’re like, “oh, I could get a piece of this pie.” So we are seeing a good amount of people just searching for portable toilets for rent in Austin or in one of our other target areas. It is a big piece of what we are doing.
Matt: Do you guys do any PPC or are you paying for any ads to kind of accelerate that six month mark?
Tanis: We do. We don’t really do any Google AdWords. I think there’s two schools of thought on that. There’s the ones that’s like, “ah, it’s just a scam. You can do it better this way.” And then the other ones that are like, “you gotta do all AdWords.” We did some AdWord stuff in the beginning. What we have found some pretty decent success with is targeted Facebook ads, targeted social media ads. If you have a company or a person that really knows the ins and outs of that, it’s actually pretty affordable. Now if you just throw a bunch of money at it and say, “blanket the whole world,” it’s not cheap at all. But when you have a company that can really do some targeted ads You know, we found that we’ve had the best success with that for people that are doing like luxury trailers, brides looking for everything wedding in their newsfeed and very specific stuff.
Matt: When you are looking at metrics, because you said you have to know what’s working and with AdWords especially, you can dump money into a pit or Facebook ads and you don’t know what should my cost per click be? And things like that. How do you guys know what works well for you?
Tanis: Sure. A lot of that we do rely pretty heavily on the company that we have worked with for all of our digital presence to kind of give us feedback on that and say, “Hey, we’re at the end of that six month campaign. We didn’t really get as good of results as we thought we should have.” Or maybe we need to add this keyword or that keyword. Another side of that is that we track how many new customers we get and every order that we put in for a new customer has a required box that says, “how’d hear about us?” And so we do rely heavily on that because it’s pretty telling if you have a huge increase in new customers and they all say, “I found your website,” or “I saw you on Facebook,” or that type of thing. You know, it gives us some direction on where to target.
Matt: Yeah. This is what it is. It’s a lever. So you know that if you are measuring it correctly and you’re working with the company that’s showing you the results, “well, we could be spending more because there’s more search volume or there’s more people on Facebook that we can go after.” But if you don’t know-
Tanis: Yeah. If you’re not collecting the data or you don’t have somebody that is collecting the data for you, you’re making a lot of assumptions and shots in the dark of what you think might work and yeah, you can spend a lot of money on assumptions.
Matt: Another thing that you guys do really well is video. What role does video play with your online presence?
Tanis: Yeah. We know that we live in a world now with technology changing and even just five years ago there was kind of that static Facebook newsfeed where it was pictures, comments, pictures, comments, memes, you know, whatever. That’s really not what the majority of people are doing anymore. I mean, TikTok culture is everything right now, and so people want to see videos, but they don’t wanna see long videos. They don’t have the attention span for it. And so we feel like using videos has really given us the ability to set ourselves apart from some of our competitors’ websites. When you click on a website and it’s this big drone flyover, or it’s you know, just whatever it might be. It at least catches your attention to stop for a few minutes.
Matt: I love the drone flyover on your website, and I think you guys do a great job of, “okay, we, we wanna separate ourselves and we’re gonna pay some money to have videography done.” But what about the role of, like, in my opinion, you don’t have to be that intentional when we do have this TikTok culture where an iPhone works pretty well for stuff like community building on social media and stuff, do you guys do some of that?
Tanis: We do some, probably not as much as we should. I struggle to do selfie videos, I really don’t like it at all. But, you know, some of the things that have made an impression on me: we had, oh, I guess about a year ago when there were suppliers that couldn’t get toilets for you. You couldn’t get trucks, you couldn’t get anything. And there was a company that put out a video and it was, I guess, more videographer to style, but it was still not a flashy production, but it was just their CEO saying, “We are not meeting any of your needs right now, and we understand, like, I understand that. I’m trying to,” and so it didn’t have to be this flashy, cool feel good. It was just some honesty, you know, being transparent with your customers and we had an opportunity to have to do that this past year where we were not meeting the customer’s needs and we had some internal things that we had to fix and you know, I didn’t do a video for it, but when you share a true, honest, just, you just lay it out there, right? And you have to do that with tact, obviously. But you know, when you can be transparent and say, “Our company is going through a struggle right now,” or “Our company is shorthanded” or “We’re having trouble hiring” or whatever. People understand and it kind of ties you back to that, “I feel like I know that person” instead of this is just this corporate box that’s right. sending me an invoice.
Matt: It humanizes your business. They know they’re dealing with people that have feelings and emotions. That’s where I think that using your iPhone or whatever phone you have and taking those short videos makes you more human to who your customers are. So we’re gonna land this plane with the last question. What role does your website play in sales? You know, as far as do you use it as an inbound channel and how do you leverage it?
Tanis: Yeah. We do, I know that there’s kind of two schools of thought. Like some people like to publish their pricing and some people don’t. We’ve always just published our pricing, they’re gonna call and get your pricing anyway. It reduces the amount of price check calls that you’re getting. We have a map with zone pricing and all that stuff on it so that people can see, “Okay, well yeah, it’s not your standard base rate if it’s an hour from our location.” And so it gives the customer the ability to pretty much get all the information that they need. They are able to submit a form that says, “Hey, I want to rent.” We don’t have a fully automated process where they can book and do everything at three in the morning and you never have to talk to them, right? Because we want to talk to our customers. We wanna know what’s this project? Are you building a house? Are you doing a remodel? This is for a graduation party? Well, you don’t want a construction toilet, you want a special event toilet for that. And, you know, we want part of who we are as a company, we want to have contact with the people in our community that are using our service, that live in our community. And I think there’s some pros and cons. There are times when I’m like, I wonder how much we’re missing from that 2:00 AM surfer that just is like, “Oh, I’ll just book with the first person. I can do it all online.” But I think overall the benefits outweigh the couple of lost sales maybe to still have that personal touch.
Matt: I agree with that wholeheartedly. And I wanna thank you so much Tanis for sitting down with us.