Chris R Boyd

Chris R Boyd

Founder, Upspark Digital

Fireplace Business Review: The Results

In our research we looked at over 50 factors that influence good website design and help drive sales enquiries. At random, we chose 50 chimney sweep / stove installation businesses and 50 fireplace showroom businesses from across the UK. We looked how effective these businesses are at building trust, communicating credibility and optimising for sales enquiries.

We split this research into 5 core categories:

  • Credibility Enhancers
  • Enquiry Boosters
  • Technical Optimisations
  • Navigation and Content Best Practice
  • Legal Compliance Best Practice

We will be releasing these results in stages as we explain each category, the criteria we used to analyse each business, and comment on the results.  Read-on below to see the results and the main takeaways from our credibility enhancer analysis.

Credibility Enhancers

Credibility enhancers are all about building trust in your business. You don’t have long to convince a potential customer that you are the right business to solve their problem. That’s why your home page must do a brilliant job at conveying this message quickly and effectively.

Below are the main areas we looked at:

Logo Design:

Does this business have a good quality logo that communicates professionalism and trust? Does this logo effectively communicate what this business does and why a customer should care? Is it unique?

Only 27% of chimney sweeps and 30% of showrooms passed this benchmark. Some had great logos that were unique, full of personality and communicated clearly their value proposition to potential customers. But these were in the minority. Most of you had simple logos that display only the name of the business. If you’re looking to get more customers, better customers or increase your profit margins, then I would suggest that this is one area you should be looking into.

Good Quality Images

The criteria for this sub-category was simple. Good quality images are

  1. Technically appropriate: Appropriate resolution and size
  2. Messaging appropriate: Images that communicate what your unique business is about and demonstrate to customers that you are best placed to solve their problem.

We found websites that don’t display images correctly, that are chopped off on certain devices or a squashed into areas of the website that aren’t appropriate for their size. This could communicate to your potential customers that you are not professional. You could be the best at what you, but if you are not demonstrating this effectively then how are potential customers going to see this?

Also, many of you use stock images that don’t actually represent the homes of your customers. Let me ask you a question, if I was a customer and I looked at two business websites – the first one showed me stock photos from the US and the second one showed photos from my local area. Which one of these two businesses am I most likely to do business with? It’s a no-brainer right? It’s business number two.

40% of fireplace showrooms are doing a good job at using images appropriately, with 67% of chimney sweeps needing to look at their use of images and see where they can improve.

Here’s an idea,  (you might think I’m crazy but, making a website more personable is a proven way to drive sales leads. Why not take a few professional looking snaps of your local area when you are on a job (with permission of course) or if you don’t feel comfortable doing this, then hire an amateur photographer to do this for you. These photos can then be used on your website and social media for years to come, helping to drive you more business.

Online Testimonials and Case Studies

Super simple criteria for these sub-categories, if you had online testimonials or case studies on your site then you passed. We were kind of on the fence about the online testimonials category as we felt, even the ones that passed, aren’t doing as effective job as they could do with their customer testimonials.

I covered customer testimonials and case studies in my first article for fires and fireplaces, you can read more about these in that article which I have created a blog post on here.

Customer testimonials are all about social proof. Social proof is a term coined by Robert Cialdini in his ground breaking psychology book ‘Influence’. Basically, it means how the behaviour and attitudes of other people or in our case, customers can influence the behaviour of other customers. Breaking this down further, it simply means if people can see other people buying things from you and being happy they did, then more people are going to be influenced to buy from you. Amazon has made billions based on Social Proof with its review system.

Amazon’s review system works because you know they are real people with real problems, similarly to yours. Therefore, you trust the reviews and are happier to buy because of this.

Here lies the problem with the way so many of you place customer testimonials on your websites. An example:

‘The fitters did a great job, would use again’ Mrs Smith.

Now that I’ve mentioned the above Amazon example, you’ll see the problem with this testimonial. It could have been written by anyone.

A good testimonial should include the person’s name, town, and a photo of the customer. This is so customers have proof that this is a real testimonial, only then is it ‘social proof’, and only then will you start to see results like the ones Amazon gets from its review system.

You might be thinking ‘But won’t most of my customers refuse to have their photo on my website?’ The answer is possibly yes, but that doesn’t matter. Three to five great customer testimonials are far better than 50 poor ones.

To the results:

Amazingly, none of the 50 chimney sweep or installation businesses we sampled had online customer testimonials or case studies. Zero, zilch, nada. Now that’s a huge opportunity lost. If you have a great reputation in your local area, leverage it by posting customer testimonials and case studies on your website.

40% of fireplace showrooms had customer testimonials on their website. Typically, we found that these testimonials had their own page, and sometimes this page was hard to find. A better use of customer testimonials is to spread them around your website in places where you think they will enhance your credibility and be helpful to the reader. For example, on your homepage – when a potential customer comes to your website, they are quickly trying to work out whether you are credible at what you do. Three well-presented testimonials will help convey this message. Another page where this is helpful is on your Services page. For any specific service you might want to include a couple of testimonials demonstrating customers who bought from you, liked what you did and would buy from you again. There’s no better way to sell than getting this feedback direct from actual customers.

Pictures of you or your team on the home page

Again, a very simple criteria, do you have a picture of you or your team on your home page along with a little bit of text about you and your business? Your business passed if it did and failed if it did not.

This is an area I have had a little bit of resistance to when I have been chatting to clients within the fireplace industry. Most of you don’t want your face on your website. But the simple truth is, customers do!! People prefer to buy from people, not from faceless companies. Most of you run local companies that rely on this person to person interaction and you value this highly. You all tell me how important talking to customers is and creating that personal relationship, but yet, none of the businesses we reviewed had this same level of personal touch when it comes to your website’ home page.

I’ll say it again, people prefer to buy from other people and this sentiment is only getting stronger. Personal brands are overtaking traditional big company brands. All over the world people are blogging, clicking photos and taking videos of what they are passionate about, then selling products and services on the back of them. One of the core drivers of this change is that due to technology platforms it is easier and far cheaper to create a personal brand than a company brand.  The reason I bring this topic up is that there’s now more of an expectation from the public that they know who is behind a company and what they stand for?

To use this in an example:

Sweep Company 1 – Has a good home page, shows all the services they offer and why a customer should buy from them. But doesn’t have any information on what the company is about or who is involved in the company.

Sweep Company 2 – Does everything Sweep Company 1 does but adds in a section on the home page about them and their team. They discuss their passion for keeping families safe from stove fires in their local area and outline a story about why they do their job.

If all other things are equal, which one of these two companies presents a more compelling message and who would you buy from? Again, it’s a no brainer. Company 2. The guy that’s passionate about what he does and who me as a customer can resonate and identify with.


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