Podcast: Hibu talks to Ryaan Tuttle of Best Handyman Inc.

In this episode, Ryaan Tuttle of Best Handyman Inc. joins the Small Business Small Talk team to talk about how digital marketing transformed his business… and how other handymen, contractors and home service providers can get more business by reaching customers online.

[Podcast transcript]

Ian
Hi, I’m Ian Messinger with my co-host, Lauren Blackford.

Lauren
Hey there.

Ian
Thanks for joining us for this special episode of Small Business Small Talk powered by Hibu.

Here at Hibu, we’re dedicated to helping local businesses across America succeed and grow. And a great way to do that is to hear firsthand stories of how actual businesses have used digital marketing to be profitable, even in tough times. Today, we’ve invited Ryaan Tuttle of Best Handyman, Inc, to speak with us about how digital marketing has worked for him. Hi, Ryaan.

Ryaan
Good morning, everybody. I’d like to thank you for having me on today. For the opportunity.

Ian
Thank you, it’s our pleasure. So, we usually like to get started by just kind of giving you in open forum to sort of tell us a little bit about yourself and your business and how you came to be where you are today.

Ryaan
Excellent. Thank you. Started my first business when I was 25. Remodeling business, if we fast forward real quick to the present today. But 16 years later, in 2022, we’ve actually done a bunch of restructuring, added some businesses to that. And so now I own and operate Best Handyman Incorporated, which owns about four other subsidiaries, we have two other handyman locations underneath that. We have a consulting company. And we also have a tile repair business under that as well.

Ian
Okay, versatility. Yes, yes.

Ryaan
And, you know, it’s been a progression over the 16 years of finding out what works and what doesn’t work. And that’s where we’re at with the present day today, we have an amazing team put together, some of that team is working globally, helping us with marketing and software development and all those things. Pretty cool.

Ian
Yeah, that’s wild. Now, I imagine some of the folks who may be listening to this that still think of themselves as just, you know, bread-and-butter handymen may have already heard that and said, “Well, I’m never going to get there, you know, international team like, whoa, yeah.” So tell us a little bit about how you kind of evolved from doing the hands-on, in-home, on-site work to really turning this into a bigger enterprise and a bigger marketing machine.

Ryaan
Yes, that’s a great question. So I started out in the field, I started with my tools, banging on everything, and learning how to build stuff and remodel stuff. And I was working for someone. And, you know, I knew that I always kind of had my own little business, even when I was younger, a little lemonade stand or something. So, I knew I was going to have my own business when I was, you know, skilled enough. As soon as I got enough skills I kind of went out on my own and realized early on, after handwriting estimates on carbon copy paper, and some other stuff, I’d need a computer. And, you know, after having that business for the first year, really realizing that like, there wasn’t a lot of work coming in, because I only knew so many people, you know, I can only tell so many people with word of mouth. So, I started to look into websites, and I just went down the rabbit hole. After that, it was like, whoa, I really… from always having an interest in marketing just being young, you know, I would be knocking on doors with like little pull tabs to do odd jobs around the neighborhood when I was like 6, 7, 8 years old… lemonade stand, selling gum, all that other stuff. So once I really got into the digital world, and started to learn about websites and SEO, I was just so fascinated by that… how we could capture all these different markets and different clients and how we could go about doing that. And so that really took me down a completely other path. And so it really gave me a different type of vision of what I wanted to do with the company I was going to run and how I was going to run that. And so I kind of stopped… I kept learning, you know how to use my other tools, but then I really started using the computer as another tool. And learning that once I could kind of go into the back end of this website, there were a lot of other tools I could start using. So that’s how I kind of got started with really the digital marketing aspect of everything… something that I loved even before I knew what it was, and then being able to use that platform to just, you know… it’s endless, the possibilities are endless.

Ian
Sure.

Lauren
That’s fascinating. So, you’re born to be an entrepreneur, and you were born to be a marketer is what it sounds like. So what made you decide that the website was your first step into the digital marketing world?

Ryaan
Well, um, where I was living at the time, um, I just could really only reach so many people, right? I would do a job for a friend, and then another front, but was always kind of in the same area. So, after a while, you’re like, I’m just kind of like, you know… I’d be working at a house, and then we’d get a call from someone, and it’d be almost across the street. So, in a way, it was great. But in a way, it was very limiting. And I had to figure out how I could get on beyond that. And then I realized with this website, I could start to reach different markets. I mean, I didn’t own a computer until I was about 26 or 27 years old. So I’m a little late in the game, I believe. But once I figured that out, and I had, I was given a great opportunity, because the person that built my website, didn’t do such a great job the first time. And I happened to be working for this customer for like 6, 7, 8 months at his house, and we got to become really friendly. And he was telling me that he had this online forum that he owned, and that he was getting about 30,000 visitors, 40,000 visitors a month. And he started to tell me about and I was just blown away. So, he started to explain to me how he was doing this and some of the people he was working with. And I got this amazing opportunity that one of the people he was working with built websites from scratch and was not really working at the time, it was right around the financial crisis 2008, 2009… he had no work. And so, he had reached out to me and said, “Hey, man, listen, I want to do your website over. And then I want to teach you how to go into the backend of it. So you can blog and you can change out stuff.” And I just fell in love with all of it. And so, I got this really hands-on experience with someone. So not even, like. just have a website built… but see how it was built and see how it worked in the back end of things. And that was just it for me. I just took that ran with it.

Ian
Other than, you know, clearly a fascination with that… it must have worked, right? You wouldn’t put all this time into it if it didn’t expand your reach beyond across the street.

Ryaan
Of course, well, it became this tangible object, right? So, from wanting to find new customers to actually building out this website… learning how the SEO works… and then watching the phone ring. And then, six months later, eight months later, the phone’s ringing more. A couple of years later, we’re experienced this hockey stick growth. You can find us on every page. Yeah. And so, learning how that SEO worked was like magic to me, right? So, I would go in, and I would write these blogs. And I would put in there like keywords and all this other stuff. And all the sudden, like, a few months later, we would get a request on the website. And so I would ask people, you know, I’d call them back and say, “Hey, so how’d you find us?” It’s “I typed this into the computer, and I found some blog you had written.” Oh, yeah. Yeah. It’s like, wow, okay. All right, wonderful. So now there’s all these different avenues and ways I can reach all these different people. So, after that, it was about building out, you know, the client avatar and the KPIs and all that other stuff, and which way we were going to direct some of that stuff. And, um, you know, that’s just been one of the channels we’ve been able to use.

Ian
Yeah, I think he had said on another podcast you were a guest on that small businesses, whether you’re in the trade space or otherwise, should or even could wind up getting 90% of your leads through your website.

Ryaan
Yes, yep. I just realized a long time ago that these websites, you know, they can become like just kind of like a static business card. For some people, they can be like a living, breathing document, you know, that you can change over time and use to manipulate in certain different ways. And so, it’s really pretty fascinating what you can do with these websites. And I still see a lot of people today without websites, or just not with the right websites and stuff like this. And once you’re about to take that website and use it, we kind of refer to it on our team is like our home base. Yeah, right. We built out this home base. And from there, we can utilize that website on different channels, different platforms, but we always refer back to our website.

Lauren
I love how you said that. You know, sometimes it can just be static, or it can be a living, breathing document and I think that’s an important point. Because the more you update your website, the more you add to it, the more you refresh it, the higher it will start to rank. So it’s great that you continue to utilize those skills to keep yourself at the at the top of the rankings. Now, you mentioned that the website is just one avenue that you use for your digital marketing. Talk about other ways that you try to get more clients through digital marketing.

Ryaan
Yeah, another great avenue that we’ve been able to utilize is, you know, social media. We’re not too huge on Facebook. But we are pretty big on Instagram and utilizing Instagram as a platform to leverage for all of our marketing. And for that, I would say, we utilize that more for brand awareness for us. We’ve been able to get a great following over the past few years, that’s been a completely strategic thing. But we’ve been able to amass over 22,000 followers now, and we kind of did that in a viral way. I thought to myself in the beginning, “How can we jumpstart this following? How can we really like, get some attention?” And there happened to be someone in the city of Boston where our companies are based, that I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the Instagram account “Rhea the Naked Birdie,” but she’s from Boston, she’s this little bird that has no feathers or nothing on her. And we had reached out to the owner, because she had put a post out that she needed a ramp built to get into a bird cage, because she was having a super hard time getting back into a bird cage. So, my team and I, we bought a bunch of materials, and we, my kids helped as well to help paint it, we built this little ramp, and she had like, close to I think like a million followers at that time. So, we had built this ramp and brought it to her. And she ended up like posting some stuff on there. And we ended up getting like thousans of followers within like, a couple days just through that, you know, giving back and doing something like that. So. And at first, we did everything through SEO and websites. That was it. You know, I’d actually reached out to one of my one of my team members and said, “What do you think about social media?” “Oh, no, don’t do that. Don’t do that.” And I said, “Well, we need a new platform.” Right? It’s just like in the beginning, word of mouth, we needed another avenue. We went to websites, and then we realized we need another avenue, we can use this for another way to leverage our brand, right? So then when we went to social media, I really didn’t even know how to use it. That’s why I never got on Facebook. I couldn’t figure it out. And Instagram, I didn’t really understand the whole concept yet, these hashtags and everything, right? But then, once I connected that hashtags are the same thing as SEO… another like, you know, lightbulb moment.

Ian
You’re like “I’ve done that. I can take care of that.”

Ryaan
So that’s how we started to get a really good following and all that other stuff and we’ve been able to leverage that platform. You know, we have sponsorships now and some other stuff. It’s just been amazing. It’s been wonderful.

Ian
That’s awesome. Yeah, that’s really awesome.

I want to ask you about something. When we had spoken before, you talked about the idea that, you know, people like us might ask you “How have you succeeded in such a competitive industry?”… and you said something really interesting, which was “It’s not really that competitive in some ways.” And I was hoping you could just kind of expand on that a little bit and give us your perspective there.

Ryaan
Yeah, the handyman industry is not too…that’s the industry we’re in, it’s still an antiquated business, you know? There’s still guys taking their business card out and lining out their landline number and writing in their cell phone and you know, their teams aren’t connected. They don’t have any systems in place. And so we’ve been able to kind of use all of those things that other businesses are lacking right now, especially in the digital space, not just marketing, but in the digital space as well and utilize all those things. I mean, you know, we talked about websites earlier, right? One of the things we were able to do is take our website and solve our clients’ problems before they’re even reaching out to us. So once they go on that website, we want to be able to solve their problems right through our website. We found the person, we have this issue, they come on our website, and they’re going to request an estimate. You know, and last year, we completed over 420 jobs or something like that. So, it gives you an idea in the volume of problems we’re solving for our clients. So it’s been really fun, we’re having a lot of fun with it. We’re getting a lot of great feedback, we have tons and tons of reviews, you know, that’s one thing I always suggest. That’s one thing we’ve done from day one when we started our website was build systems out to get reviews from clients. That’s super important. Some of our businesses have over 100 5-star reviews per business on multiple different platforms. So that speaks for itself and what you can do. And that right there has introduced us to so many different people, right? I mean, we’re not, you want to talk about antiquated, we’re not in the Better Business world anymore, right? People aren’t calling the Better Business Bureau… people just want to go quick, instant, I want to check this guy out, they can get feedback from people they don’t even know which creates this like small, quick level of social trust, right? And then they’re able to kind of follow up through that if they want, they can check out your Instagram, they can check out your website, they can check out some other review platforms like Yelp and some of these other free listing sites, right? And then from there, you’re able to create all this different social trust and really build up your brand through different multiple platforms, what works for you, and we’ve been able to leverage all that. And it’s been working for us to the point where 15 years later, we own three other home service businesses, and you know, we’re winning awards.

Ian 
Yeah, yeah. It’s funny you tell that story, because I’m looking for an electrician now. And you know, a friend gave me four names and phone numbers. And my first thought… and I mean, I’m no spring chicken at this point, either… Someone younger than me or even more in this space, my first thought is “I Google them.” And to a tee, all four of these guys — nothing. No website.

Ryaan
Wow. And how did you feel about that? What did…?

Ian
I didn’t call any of them. Like, I don’t know them. And that’s after a personal recommendation, right? Imagine that. I couldn’t find any record that said, you know, that’s just…

Ryaan
So, what will be your next step? Will you go with somebody locally? What would you do now?

Ian
Yeah, yep. Yep, just kind of looking around. And you know, even if you have nothing but a Google listing with some reviews, at least that gives me context and comfort, you know, and then obviously, the folks that have added on to that, where they have a website, they have social media, they have things and you’re like, “Okay, I know what I’m dealing with. And I have an avenue to, you know, have a dialogue with these folks if something goes, right, and I want to give them a great review, something goes wrong, and I need to, you know, troubleshoot something…” Yes, it gives you a lot of comfort as a consumer if they’ve got a strong presence there. It sure does.

Lauren
I just want to say I think that’s an incredible story of how we should rely so heavily on personal recommendations. And now we don’t anymore, we actually more rely on reviews from strangers and digital advertising to say, “This is the person that we’re going to call and that we’re going to hire.” And I just think that’s it’s so great that Ryan, you’ve taken your business away from those, you know, I’m going to go across the street, to the person who just called me to, I’m going to rely solely on this digital environment and needs reviews, these hundreds of reviews for each of your businesses, to increase your customers. Tell me about when you get positive reviews, do you interact with them? What do you do with them? Do you put them on your website? Do you respond? How do you interact with these reviews that you’re getting other than watching other people read them and call your business?

Ryaan
Oh, it’s a great question. Yeah. So first of all, it’s something that we can always refer back to with other clients, right? So, when we get a call, we might be qualifying a client, or they might have some questions about some projects. What I like to say to them is “Before you even would like to work with us, we’d like you to go online and look at our reputation. Go on Instagram, go on our website, go on all the review platforms, Google, Yelp, and some other listings and see what other people are saying about us.” Right? And so, the more reviews we have, I feel like that builds more trust, right? If you’re going to a company and you see they have like 10 one-star reviews, are you going to choose them or are you going I choose the company with 10 five-star reviews? Right. And then that also works in the other way too. is that on those platforms like Yelp — and I’m just using Yelp and Google My Business listings, as, you know, examples — you’re going to start to rank higher too, right? So, you’re going to be found before everybody else. So that’s why it was really important in the beginning for us to build out systems and to get these customer reviews in. And then we can leverage those, like, you were asking, how do we use those? Well, just for example, on our website, we have a banner at the bottom that shows those reviews, right? So people wouldn’t need to necessarily when they, they might Google us first and see our Google My Business listing, read some of those reviews… and then when they go on our website, they’re reintroduced to the same reviews, they’re all up there. And then we can use those as testimonials. I also use them when we go meet with clients… sometimes I’ll actually pull out my iPad in that meeting and say “Here, this is what people are saying about us.”

Ian
You touched on something there that’s interesting, too. You talked about your website as the home base, but also having these other channels you built up. I mean, that’s the cool thing about a website, you can feed those other things into it like that banner with the reviews, you can feed your social posts into your website, you can already have, you know, contact forms, scheduling functionality, all of that other stuff you’re doing can be integrated back into that home base website.

Ryaan
Yeah, that’s right.

Lauren
Yep. That feeds into what you were saying earlier that your website is solving your customers’ problems before they even call you.

Ryaan
That’s right, super important, right? We’re trying to make that user experience just seamless, right? Not only just from when they’re searching for us, right? Do they have a website? Yeah, we’ve got a website? Are they on Instagram or Facebook? Sure, we have those accounts, right. And then through that, we create just a great experience. When they do get to that website, it’s a very simple, easy process, everything’s explained very well, you’re able to get right through that. And then when they go through, that process is the same on on the other end as well — somebody gets right back to them within 24 hours, you know, and it just keeps on going. And that’s how we create that great user experience. That’s how we get those reviews to shine. And when we have a great experience with a client, we have some templates that we’ve already set up that we’ve A/B tested over quite a bit of time to see what’s working, what’s not, when we send out that template, and I would say, 6 out of 10 times, you know, 50 to 60%, we’re getting a five-star review back, which is great. Yeah.

Ian
Yeah, that’s awesome. The whole conversation we’re having is reminding me that we’ve done over the years a number of surveys to small business owners in, you know, all sorts of different fields. And one of the questions that that always seems to wind up in that survey is, you know, “How much time per week do you spend either executing or thinking about marketing your business?”… and without fail, more than half probably… closer to like 80% always say “Less than hour. I spend less than an hour a week thinking about promoting my business.” Obviously, you would be the other 20%. Well, I threw that out there because I’m curious what you would say to someone that says, you know, and listen, I’m absolutely giving anyone that says that all sorts of, rope to run with, right? Like, you’ve got to run your business… you’re worried about staffing… you’re worried about the supply chain… maybe you’ve got a snow day and the kids are home and you know, there’s all sorts of real-life factors that come into running a business before you’re like, “How do I set up that website?” But I’m just curious what you would say to someone in your field that says “I spend less than hour a week”?

Ryaan
Yeah, I would say first that’s shocking to me. Really, and I know there’s a lot of statistics out there, but if you want to keep the doors open… I’ll just get to the point… you need to keep reintroducing new clients or new requests, right. So, you can either do that through finding new clients or retargeting your existing client base, right? Yeah, so just touching upon that on spending enough time on marketing is super, super important, I would say myself. You asked me two different questions — how much time do I actually spend on marketing during the week, and how much time I spend thinking about marketing. So, to the first one, I would say we spend at least an hour to two hours a day. But to answer your question on how many hours a week I think about marketing, I would say, I would say, at least 10 or 12 hours a day, I’m thinking about marketing, time seven days a week. Sometimes I can’t even go to sleep because I’m just thinking about new avenues or new ways we can connect things or, you know, it’s just so just super vital to every business to have some type of marketing plan in place. And with today’s world, and technology, I know that’s kind of a mundane statement… But the truth is, you know, we’re at a point where yesterday’s technology could be today’s problem or moving at such a fast pace. So really, there’s no excuse why people couldn’t use and leverage the technology today to get more time back for themselves or with their family. And it’s the truth. And so that’s what we do, you know, being able to leverage this technology and digital marketing and tie it all together. And that means you don’t necessarily have to be at your desk, or you don’t have to necessarily be out working with the tools. Yeah, you know, you can leverage all this together to be working for you to give you some time back in your business.

Ian
Yeah. Yeah. Almost kind of making the business work for you rather than working for the business.

Ryaan
That’s right. Yeah, you gotta mature with the business. So, at some point, you can’t wear all the hats. That’s the challenge. And its super fun and something I love doing. I’m blessed to work with some just amazing people who are super talented and super creative. And they just make, you know, coming to work fun. And, you know, we have fun what we’re doing. Marketing is my jam.

Ian
So, it’s working.

Ryaan
Exactly. Yes.

Ian
Well, Ryaan, thanks for joining us today sharing what you’ve experienced and helping us in our goal to help business owners like you across the country. And to all of you listening, assuming you don’t have the time or experience that Ryaan talked about, if your local business needs a digital marketing partner who can deliver the kind of effective digital marketing we talked about today, be sure to visit us at hibu.com. If you liked what you heard on this episode, be sure to subscribe. And please leave us a review if you can. Once again, this is Small Business Small Talk… out.

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