How to hire a great caterer for your next event or party

What party would be complete without delicious food? It’s the secret ingredient that keeps your guests dancing and having fun well into the small hours – so it’s important your caterer serves up a feast everyone can enjoy.

At Bark, we’re proud to be helping people throughout the UK find great local catering companies. But before we start putting you in touch with caterers in your area, you need to know what you’re looking for.

To help you choose the right pro for you, we created this easy guide to hiring a great caterer for your next event or party.

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Know your guest profile

While it might be relatively easy to create a menu your closest friends will enjoy, when planning larger events you’ll often need to cater for a range of tastes and eating requirements.

For example, older attendees may prefer a milder, less adventurous menu to younger guests. Meanwhile, guests concerned with health and fitness may prefer more seafood or vegetarian options.

Considering your guests’ preferences in this way should help you arrive at a much clearer idea about what sort of caterer you’re looking for.

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Plan your menu

Once you know what sorts of guest you’re expecting, it’s time to start planning your menu.

With Bark, this is easy. Simply indicate what sorts of cuisine you’ll consider when placing your Bark and ask the pros who respond to your request to propose a menu tailored to suit your tastes.

Make sure you know whether you’ll need to provide vegetarian or gluten-free options so your caterer can make sure there’s something for everyone.

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Do you want any additional services?

Some caterers are more “full service” than others – and the level of service that’s right for you will depend on the kind of event you’re planning.

If you’re planning a birthday garden party, you might be happy with a simple buffet service. But for a larger event like a wedding, you’ll likely need cutlery, table linens, a full waiter service and more.

Simply select the level of service you’re looking for from our checklist when placing your Bark to help us find local caterers who meet your requirements.

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Sample the food in advance

It’s often a good idea to sample a few different caterers’ food before you hire someone. This gives you a chance to check the quality of their cooking and to experience how the food will be presented.

It’s also a great opportunity to meet the chef and determine how flexible they are. Many caterers will be happy to adjust their dishes to your tastes – so don’t be afraid to make your feedback heard.

Click the link below to now place your Bark we’ll do all the legwork to get you multiple quotes from local caterers fast and free.

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Why you should hire a photo booth for your next corporate event

Everyone knows that photo booths are a great alternative to traditional photographers at weddings and anniversary parties. But for household brands like Dolby, Listerine and Adidas, they can also be powerful promotional tools.

Modern photo booths are kitted out with a host of marketing features that, with a little bit of creativity, can be a great way to promote your business at any corporate event. To find out exactly how some of the world’s largest companies do it, we spoke to Martyn Doherty from leading photo booth hire company, The Photo Cabin.

“Corporate photo booth hire is quite a broad area,” Martyn explains. “It covers anything from conferences in the day, as a sort of breakout thing for people to do, to work parties, product launches, festivals, fashion weeks – literally any kind of corporate event you can think of.”

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Companies including Adidas, Listerine, PayPal, Nokia and more all make use of photo booth hire services at big corporate events – and right now, Martyn is working with Dolby at the Ministry of Sound to promote their latest clubbing collaboration.

“They’ve got the world’s first nightclub surround sound that they’ve just installed, so everything has to be remastered from stereo to Dolby Atmos,” he explains. “At every event they’re doing, they’ll have a photo booth there to help promote this night. So they’re doing animated GIFs, data capture and stuff like that.”

Having a photo booth present at the Ministry of Sound will create yet another way for people to enjoy themselves on these immersive new club nights. But the marketing benefits go way beyond the booth itself.

Adidas hired The Photo Cabin to help them cover Milan Fashion Week
Adidas hired The Photo Cabin to help them cover Milan Fashion Week

“Data capture’s probably one of the most requested things with corporate photo booth hire,” Martyn says. “The most common way is just capturing an email address. So the user can just email their photo to themselves, they type it in and we can capture it that way.”

“On Facebook upload, we can also get your name, age, current city, date of birth, email address,” he adds. “Depending on the user’s privacy settings, you can get basically everything.”

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Letting people share their photo booth pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is also a great way to boost your brand’s social media presence. This approach worked wonders for Adidas when they commissioned a custom photo booth for the last Milan Fashion Week.

“At Milan Fashion Week [Adidas] were targeting certain famous people outside venues, getting them to come over and have their photo taken,” Martyn says. “They were getting like 40,000 ‘likes’ when they uploaded the pictures online.”

Listerine enjoyed similar success with their photo booth campaign at the 2014 Isle of Wight Festival, generating over 130,000 Facebook impressions in just three days.

Listerine generated nearly 140,000 with their photo booth at 2014's Isle of Wight Festival
Listerine generated nearly 140,000 Facebook impressions with their photo booth at 2014’s Isle of Wight Festival

“From 400 digital prints, the number of impressions was something like 140,000,” says Martyn. “The ROI for essentially what’s an advert to be seen that many times is huge.”

“But also, it’s not just an advert,” he adds. “It’s going to be kept on that person’s Facebook profile forever, because they’re tagging their friends to it and they’ve liked it.”

By simultaneously letting you capture valuable data about your customer base and boost your online presence through photo sharing, photo booths really are a promotional tool like no other. But it’s not just the world’s biggest brands that are using them to promote their business and attract new customers – soon, you could be too.

Place a photo booth hire Bark today and we’ll find a great photo booth hire company for your next corporate event right away.

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How to pick the perfect photo booth for your party, wedding or corporate event

Photo booths are the ultimate alternative to hiring a traditional photographer.  Whatever event you’re planning, your guests will love piling inside and drawing the curtain to take a few cheeky pictures.

At weddings and anniversaries, they’re a great way to capture group photos without needing to call the party to a halt while everyone gets in position – and they’re the perfect icebreaker at corporate or work events where your guests might not know each other very well.

But with so many different types available, choosing the right booth for your event can be tricky. So we put together this handy guide to help you make up your mind.

Why you can’t go wrong with a classic booth

You can get a whole range of booths for a fraction of what you’d spend on a professional photographer, from affordable passport photo-style boxes, to luxury enclosed booths.

Top-of-the-line booths often come complete with a green screen, live social media sharing, touchscreen displays and more – like this one from leading photo booth hire company The Photo Cabin:

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The Photo Cabin in action at the launch party for Supra’s Skytop IV trainer

A classic booth like this will add a touch of class to any party. If you want premium features, and are happy to pay a premium price to get them, then look no further.

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For great group photos, try an open air booth

For something a little different, why not try one of these ‘open air’ booths. With its tower-style camera and separate backdrop, your guests can simply gather round and strike a pose.

“The plus with these is that you can fit a hell of a lot more people in the photo, which is particularly good for weddings or corporate events,” explains The Photo Cabin’s Martyn Doherty. “Like if you want a big ‘groomsman and his mates’ photo, or if everyone at the wedding wants to try and fit in.”

Photo Tower 3
Tower-style booths like this one are perfect for taking fun group snaps!

“You can’t do that sort of thing with a normal enclosed booth,” he adds. “The only type of event it’s not great for is, like, a kids’ party, because they’re not tall enough, basically.”

As the camera is at a fixed height, these booths aren’t really designed for small children – but they’re absolutely perfect for weddings, corporate events, birthday parties and anything else.

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Save money with this “booth on a budget”

There’s also a range of cheaper booths available if your primary concern is getting a good deal. Expect fewer bells and whistles, but it’s still possible to hire a perfectly good mobile booth like this one without breaking the bank:

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Affordable cabins like The Photo Box can be ideal for parties and corporate events

“That’s your booth on a budget,” says Martyn. “It’s not quite as big, so you can only really fit three people in, max. The features are more limited as well. It’s not got a touch screen.”

“It’s really quick to set up,” he adds. “You literally wheel it in. You put it down, it expands out of itself and it’s got a five-minute setup time.”

Opting for a ‘stripped down’ booth like this one is a great way to get what you need on a tight budget. So if you want to keep your costs to a minimum, we recommend asking for a mobile booth.

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Stand out from the crowd with a custom booth

Or, for something truly unique, you can even have your booth customised with a vinyl wrap or kitted out to include GIFs, slow motion videos, social media sharing, data capture and more.

One of our personal favourite custom contraptions is this cool GIF booth the guys at The Photo Cabin built into an arcade machine cabinet:

“I didn’t want to destroy an old school machine,” Martyn explains. “Taking like a vintage Pacman machine and killing it seemed wrong. So I just got a new arcade cabinet and built it into that.”

With so many different customisations available, the only real limit here is your imagination. Simply specify your requirements in your Bark and we’ll find you the right pro for the job.

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Place a photo booth hire Bark today

We hope this guide has helped you decide what sort of photo booth you want for your next party. Now you’ve seen the full range of booths on offer, you’re ready to hire one of your very own!

Whether you’re planning a wedding, corporate event or anything else – we’ll help you find the perfect booth for you. Simply let us know what you’re looking for and we’ll start contacting specialists in your area right away.

Click here to get photo booth hire quotes today.

Ask the Expert: Five essential gardening jobs to do this spring

With spring in full bloom, now is the perfect time to create the perfect space to relax with your friends and family. Getting on top of things now will make all the difference as temperatures start to rise and barbeque season gets into full swing – and that’s where Bark comes in.

To help you make the most of that neglected outside space, we asked one of our top gardening pros – Harrison Gardens founder Julian Harrison-Jones – to run you through five essential gardening jobs to do this spring.

1. Fix up your lawn

You can find hundreds of Lawn Care specialists on Bark.com
You can find hundreds of Lawn Care specialists on Bark.com

One of the main things that people think about at this time of year is Lawn Care. Weeds are coming through, the edges aren’t done and it’s starting to look overgrown.

“It’s time to start working on your lawn,” says Julian. “That means aeration, mowing, weeding and feeding. You feed the lawn twice a year, in Spring and Autumn.”

“When you’re starting to mow the lawn, because it will be the first cut of the year you should do it on a high blade,” he adds. “You’re just encouraging new, healthy growth. Don’t go crazy otherwise you’ll do damage and you might kill the lawn.”

2. Get on top of the weeding

Your lawn isn’t the only thing growing again now the winter months are behind us. Rolling up your sleeves and tackling the weeding now will mean you have a head start going into the rest of the year.

“To be honest, weeding is probably ‘number one’ because of the time of year,” says Julian. “You’ve left it over the winter, they’re coming up now and if you don’t tackle weeds now they’ll compete with shrubs and plants that you want to keep.”

“Basically, they’re all competing for nutrients and water,” he adds. “So if the weeds take over, they’ll take that away from the actual plants. As well as some weeds, like Ivy or creeping weeds, which will can strangle and kill your plants.” 

3. Choose your ‘feature’ plants

Julian planting flowers for one of his many happy clients
Julian planting flowers for one of his many happy clients

Once you’ve got the weeds under control, it’s time to think about the plants you actually want to look at.

“It’s still relatively early in the gardening year,” Julian explains. “So you can plant your ‘feature’ plants or architectural-type planting – your shrubs, the backbone of your garden.”

He adds: “If you like roses, this is the perfect time for them, as well as perineal flowers and trees.”

4. Get mulching and feeding

Mulching and feeding goes hand-in-hand with weeding and planting, but the exact type of plant food you use depends on what you’re using it for.

“It could be manure, it could be peat, it could be leaf mould or compost,” Julian explains. “If it’s roses, for example, they really like a horse manure. Whereas, in general, your shrubs prefer bark just to supress weeds and keep the heat in.

“With your lawn, it would be nitrogen. Generally, a well-balanced fertiliser containing nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus in equal proportions. You can’t go too wrong with that.”

5. Repair damaged trees and fencing

Starting with storm Desmond back in December, the UK has been buffeted by a wave of severe storms over the past few months. Thankfully, the worst of it is behind us, and you can now be thinking about repairing those damaged fence panels.

“Because of the recent storms, any damage that’s been caused over the winter – fencing, staking trees – those kind of essential works can be done,” Julian explains. “That’s what took up most of January. Lots of fencing work.”

“About two weeks ago we had a job that involved a lot of staking and getting everything back into shape,” he adds. “You should have two large stakes either side of the tree, which should be tied together firmly, then the tree tied to that.”

Find a local gardening expert today

With thousands of registered gardening professionals, giving your garden a makeover in time for summer is easy with Bark.com.

Whether you’re fixing the fence, clearing away those pesky weeds, or planning a full-blown garden renovation, we can help. Simply click the link below to find gardening professionals in your area today.

Why we’ve stopped asking for budgets

“There needs to be a way to stop timewasters who ask for a quote without any intention of ever going ahead,” says one Bark pro. “Maybe a guide with realistic budget advice may help this?”

This was a piece of feedback we heard time and again in your responses to our recent Seller Survey. The overwhelming consensus was that we should give people more guidance to make sure they have realistic budgets.

It got us thinking about what we could do to make sure everyone who uses our site knows what things actually cost. We’ve been testing a number of ideas behind the scenes, and today we’re happy to announce what we think is the ideal solution.

It’s called the Budget Estimator, and it essentially simulates the experience of having an expert on hand to let you know what everything costs.

Here’s why it should mean a better experience for both you and your customers:

The problem with letting the
buyer dictate the price

So why were so many people selecting unrealistically low budgets when placing their Barks in the first place? Are they all cheapskates?

We don’t think so. Based on the feedback we get from you and your fellow pros, it looks like most people simply don’t know what things cost – especially when they’re first-time buyers.

For example, you might guess that a 10-shot photo shoot lasting two hours costs less than a 200-shot wedding shoot with album and retouching services. But unless you’re a professional photographer, you probably have no idea what the price difference is.

Some people intuitively consider this when setting their budgets, and get good responses as a result. But, unfortunately, others do not.

So, when presented with a series of prices and not knowing what something is really worth, most people worry about getting ripped off. They think: “I don’t want to be quoted more than I should be, so I’ll choose the cheapest option just in case.”

How we used to ask for Buyer's budgets
How we used to ask Buyers their budgets

The upshot of all this was that people tended to select the cheapest option available when placing their Barks, even when that’s not what they really wanted.

This led to a mismatch between what people placing Barks expected to be quoted and what pros like yourself usually charge for their services.

The result was bad for everyone: buyers got fewer responses at higher prices than they were expecting, while pros felt that most Barks weren’t worth their time and didn’t bother responding to them.

Luckily, our new Budget Estimator changes all that…

Now the power is in YOUR hands

Letting our users specify their own budgets clearly wasn’t the way to go. That’s why, starting today, we’ll be doing things differently.

Instead of having people guess what a service costs, we’ll show them what to expect based on what you and your fellow pros usually charge. Here’s how it will work:

  1. Whenever someone submits a Bark, we’ll identify what they’re looking for based on their answers to our questions.
  2. We’ll then cross-reference their request with historic estimates for Barks in the same category and area, and remove any outliers that look far larger or smaller than usual.
  3. Finally, we’ll present the customer with a range of prices to help them work out what they can expect to be quoted.

As you’ve seen, our old system meant people expected unrealistically low estimates because of the “Market for Lemons” effect.

But our new Budget Estimator should give everyone a more realistic idea of what the services they’re looking for actually cost.

Our new Budget Estimator in action
Our new Budget Estimator in action

You’ll be able to see the guide prices we provide for each of the Barks you receive, so you can consider them before responding.

If you decide to give an estimate that’s less than the industry average, your customers will feel like they’re getting a great deal – and your customers should still be happy to pay more than the industry average in exchange for a premium service.

In short, we believe our Budget Estimator will help educate our users – so you can win more business at higher prices than you might have been able to in the past.

Let us know what you think!

We’ve tested this new website feature thoroughly to ensure it works smoothly for buyers and sellers alike, and we hope it means you can win even more new business thanks to our service.

Please let us know how you’re finding it by emailing our friendly Customer Service team at team@bark.com, or leaving a comment using the form below.

How we give you better leads than Google AdWords – for a fraction of the cost

If you’ve tried growing your business online with Google’s AdWords service, you already know it’s not for everyone.

The costs are increasing year on year. You’re competing with giants like Amazon that will happily spend £34million-a-year on paid search advertising. Even small businesses routinely spend upwards of £6,500-a-month on PPC, according to online advertising experts WordStream. 

With some popular keywords costing as much as £38 per click, it’s easy to see why so many people struggle to make this kind of marketing strategy work for their business. It takes great deal of research and technical know-how to get up and running – and that’s where Bark comes in.

We provide an affordable service that sends you better quality leads than you typically get from paid search advertising, at a fraction of the price. That’s why we believe every small business can grow quickly and easily with Bark.com.

Yet some people seem to think we’re more expensive than Google.

So today we’ll show you how we beat AdWords on both quality and price – and why, if you aren’t already, you should start winning new customers with Bark right away.

The real problem with online advertising

The promise of “pay per click” (PPC) advertising is simple: if the people who click on your ads spend more than it costs you to provide your services and run your ads, you turn a profit.

Sounds easy, right?

The problem is, only a very small percentage the people who click your ads actually end up spending any money.

Imagine you’re a DJ looking to promote your services in Manchester. Let’s say you put an ad on Google which costs you 50p per click.

Being fairly tech savvy, your website is decent. But you know a high percentage of the people who click your ad will just be browsing. So, based on what you’ve read online, you expect around 12% of them to ask you for an estimate.

That means you can get 100 clicks for £50, and generate roughly 12 enquiries. That works out at £4.17 per enquiry.

Mind you, not all those enquiries will be useful. You might be busy on the day they need you, their budget might be too small, or they might be too far away for the trip to be worth your while.

But let’s assume 75% of the enquiries you get are for jobs you want to do. So from 100 clicks you receive nine valid enquiries, costing you £5.55 each.

Even though you respond promptly and politely to each of those nine people, only six of them get back to you. Perhaps the other three weren’t really serious in the first place. Maybe they simply forgot to respond. It’s annoying, sure, but these things happen.

You still have six potential customers who have read your quote – and each of which has cost you £8.33. But, of course, most people will shop around to make sure they get a good deal.

In our experience, people like to get 2-5 different quotes before they make a final decision. So let’s assume each of your leads has also contacted two other sellers – giving you a one in three chance of securing the business.

That should translate into two new customers, and an average cost per booking of £25.

Here’s what Bark does differently

Ask a marketer what’s different about Bark and he’ll say we’re “further along the buyer journey” than Bing or Google. What that means is, there are fewer opportunities for the buyer to drop off.

We handle all the PPC for you completely free of charge, and hunt down quality leads for your business using a variety of other techniques.

Then you can see exactly what your potential customers are looking for in advance, from their budget, to when and where they need your services – and everything else you might need to decide if they’re right for you.

Plus, you’ll never waste money on people who aren’t serious about hiring you, as we’ll refund every estimate you give that doesn’t get read.

Now, the average Bark gets just over two responses, and each potential customer may have tried somewhere else too.

You can respond to a DJ Bark for just five credits, which will usually cost you £5 + VAT. So if we assume they’ve contacted two other pros in total, your chance of winning the business is one in three again.

That means, in this example, each booking costs you just £18, and you save 28% compared to what Google would have charged you.

That’s why we believe Bark is a smarter, more effective way to find new customers online – but the story doesn’t end there:

You could save another 30% today

The bottom line here is that, in many cases, using Bark to grow your business can be much better value than other lead finding services.

Of course, every business is different, and it may be that PPC strategies work well for you – and if so, that’s great.

But if you’d prefer not to bother with the hassle and expense of managing an AdWords account, and don’t want to deal with the expense of hiring an agency to do it for you: we can help.

Not only can we often send you high quality leads at a fraction of the cost of Google AdWords, but you can also enjoy extra discounts on packs of Bark Credits – making our service even more profitable.

In fact, if you open a new Bark account today you’ll be able to claim an extra saving of 30% on your first credit pack.

It’s free to sign up, and we’ll start sending you quality leads right away.

So, if you’re not a Bark member already…

Click here and claim your FREE account today.

Why our “per response” system is the best of all possible worlds

One of the most frequently asked questions in our recent Seller Feedback Survey was why we don’t operate on a subscription or commission basis.

It’s a good question…

And we agree that, superficially, those options might seem appealing.

But, as you’ll see here, they lead to a rigid service that’s unfair to you, your customers and your fellow Bark pros.

That’s why we believe our “per response” model provides the best of all possible worlds for everyone involved. It helps us provide our buyers with a great service, and it makes it easier for you to close the deal!

Plus, it lets us guarantee you’ll only pay for a lead when the buyer has read your response to their Bark and seen what you have to offer.

Here’s why we believe this is the right model for you:

What’s wrong with a subscription model?

Under a subscription approach, you’d pay a fixed monthly fee to use our service – something we’ve experimented with in the past.

The main advantage of this kind of model is that you know in advance how much you’ll be spending on leads each month, and are able to plan your budget accordingly.

But sadly, this leads to some nasty unforeseen consequences.

  1. | Bad for magicians, blacksmiths and chimney sweeps

First up, the subscription model unfairly penalizes pros working in niche categories. It means pros in popular niches tend to do well at the expense of other businesses.

We get many more GardeningPhotographyDJ and House Cleaning Barks than we do for AcupunctureMagicians and Mechanical Bull Rental, for example.

Since the idea of Bark.com is to provide buyers with a “search engine for everything”, this goes against what we stand for.

We need people to feel they can turn to us for anything in order to promote repeat business. So we needed to create a service that works for the pros in all of our categories.

In this way, we believe we can generate more leads for everyone – including the pros in our most popular categories.

  1. | No good if you work out in the sticks

Similar problems arise for businesses based in rural areas.

If you cover a densely populated area – such as London, Manchester or Birmingham – your service area covers more people, which means more Barks for you.

But we offer a nationwide service that helps people find the pros they need no matter where they live in the UK.

And that means a subscription model is generally poorer value if you’re in the Highlands, Devon or anywhere with clean air and grassy fields.

Again, this would limit the growth of our service outside of major cities.

  1. | But also rubbish if you work in the city!

So, the only people who win under a subscription model are those of use who live and work in the city, right?

Not quite. These people receive loads of Barks for not much money, but that creates its own problem: competition.

Imagine for a moment you have a friend named Jeff.

Jeff is a photographer based in London. He’s paid his subscription for the month, so it’s now in his interests to respond to as many of the Barks that come his way as possible.

He finds he’s getting quite a lot, so he puts together a generic response, which he copies and pastes into every response to save time.

Now imagine every photographer in London is doing the same thing – what does that mean for our buyers?

To begin with they’d get bombarded with way more quotes than they wanted. At most they might choose one, and then they probably won’t use us again – bad for everyone.

To combat this, we could introduce a cap on the number of responses each buyer receives to five, or so. But how would that work?

If it’s “first come, first served” there’s no way to guarantee we’re sending our buyers the best possible pros. Sending them the five cheapest quotes would encourage a race to the bottom, limiting your potential profits. Giving priority to our seasoned pros would put off our newer ones.

In short, capping the total responses any one Bark can receive under the subscription model seems unfair to you and your fellow pros – but unless we did something like that, it would mean far too much competition in urban areas.

So, the subscription model doesn’t work for any of us…

But what about a
commission model?

As far as we’re aware, absolutely no one in this industry operates like this. It just doesn’t work very well.

It would be great if you could simply take commission based on the confirmed work you you secure through our site.

But there isn’t any reliable way to do this without making it much harder for you to secure the business in the first place, which is something we absolutely want to avoid.

It should be easy for you to grow your customer base using the leads we send you from the Bark website.

But keeping track of the commission we’re owed would lead to draconian measures that would be unpleasant for everyone involved.

  1. | Pricing becomes a right pain

First, the process of closing a sale would likely get longer and more drawn out.

It would require more back-and-forth between you and all your potential clients. We’d need to know what commission to charge, so you’d need to agree all your prices up front in our Bark Messenger.

This also creates an incentive for pros to “lowball” their quote on Bark, to pay less commission, and then add on extras direct with the buyer at a later date.

All this has the potential to be off-putting for our buyers – especially, for Barks where you need more information from the buyer before you can provide them with an accurate quote.

Some jobs are tricky to explain unless you do it in person or over the phone, which brings me to our next problem.

  1. | Dodgy dealers ruin things for everyone

Our current business model is designed to make it as easy as possible for you to contact your potential clients. You can send them absolutely any contact information you like to help them get in touch.

If the best way to win their custom is by phone, that’s fine by us. If you prefer to interact by email or text, that’s fine too. And, of course, our Bark Messenger is tailor made to help you connect with potential customers.

But the commission model presents us with a problem:

Some sellers might simply ask their customers to call them for a quote and try to keep all the commission for themselves.

Now, we’re certainly not saying you’d do a thing like that. In fact, we’re sure you wouldn’t – but I hope you can appreciate the problem.

The upshot is that we’d need to redact your contact information from all the posts you send in the Bark messenger.

It would mean blocking out any phone numbers, email addresses, and website links you tried to include in messages to potential customers – something we absolutely don’t want to do.

We’d look bad, and it would be harder for you to convert the business.

And that’s not the only problem…

  1. | We don’t want to be chasing you

Imagine that Bark is operating on a commission basis and you’ve just closed a huge deal.

Let’s say you do loft conversions and you’ve just landed £30,000. Even if we only charged 3% commission, you’re looking at a £900 cut for us.

When would you like to send it over?

The simplest answer is for you to send it as soon as the deal is agreed. But then you could be out of pocket for days until the customer sends you their payment – maybe even weeks.

If the sale falls through for whatever reason, suddenly you’re £900 out of pocket. You might reasonably expect a refund, so we’d need to hire a team to handle these claims – adding to our overheads and driving up the commission we’d need to charge in the first place.

There’s a similar problem with sending the payment after you received your fee from the customer.

We’d need to hire a team to follow-up on all deals and make sure pros don’t forget to send it over. That would be expensive, thus driving up the commission we charge, and lots of hassle for you.

Besides all else, it’s not really what any of us here at Bark HQ signed up for – we want to help you grow your business, not chase you for money!

And that’s really the crux of the issue: the commission model is incompatible with what we’re trying to do here at Bark.

Remember, we are a search engine for everything – from lawn mowing to legal advice – and different pros generate differently sized commissions for their services.

We don’t want to chase thousands of London photographers to make sure they don’t forget to send the odd £10 here and there.

And we don’t want to focus our efforts on promoting big ticket items like construction work, when most of the people visiting our site are looking for things like Gardening, DJs and House Cleaning.

We want Bark to work for everyone who uses us…

And that’s why we decided to make using our site a simple as possible.

Why “keeping it simple” is best for everyone

We settled on our current “per response” model because we feel it strikes the best balance for everyone who uses Bark.

Buyers who use our site get a manageable number of responses to their Barks, and they can contain everything they need to hire the pro that’s reached out to them.

It helps us cover the entire country, without unfairly penalizing pros in rural areas or operating in ultra-niche businesses.

And it means you can use our service hassle-free, while still having a really strong chance of winning the business of the buyers you reply to.

  • You can use Bark on an ad hoc basis to fill any holes that crop up in your schedule without worrying about whether you’re using it enough to justify the subscription
  • If you use us more regularly, you can still benefit from a cheaper service by taking advantage of the discounts we offer on larger packs of Bark credits
  • And, best of all, it lets us ensure we can cover 1000s of different categories, in 1000s of locations across the country and ensure that our Sellers only pay for what they use.

Decisions on pricing strategy are the subject of much debate at Bark HQ and are not taken lightly. We’ve considered every angle on this, and we hope you can see how we arrived at the business model we use today.

As far as we can see, this provides the best value for buyers and pros alike, while at the same time keeping the service quick and simple to use.

That said, we will only be successful if it works for everyone who uses Bark.com – so please feel free to share any feedback with our Customer Service Team by emailing team@bark.com.

We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Why Service Areas Matter

Following some feedback from a recent seller survey, we felt it would be helpful to run you through exactly how service areas work.

The whole point of service areas are for you to ensure that you are getting Barks relevant to you and your business. The Barks you receive are generated through the service areas that you cover. They can be added and edited at any time. Please see a few important questions and answers below which should hopefully give you a better understanding on how they work:

Set Service Areas
Service Areas Tab

“What are service areas?”

Service areas are a combination of the area you cover geographically and the service you provide as a professional. You put in what it is you do as a business (by selecting one of our categories), a location and then set a radius in miles accordingly (up to 30 miles around one location). There is no cap on the number of service areas you can add to your profile. The more service areas you have – the more Barks you will potentially receive. 

“I don’t get enough Barks”

Try extending your service areas. It is always worthwhile covering a wider radius just to see what might come in. If a high value job comes through, you may feel it’s worthwhile travelling that little bit further. So long as an email alert is not going to be a nuisance we would always suggest covering as wide an area as feasibly possible. It’s better to see what’s out there than not. Of course, if you get something that is not relevant or of interest then there is absolutely no obligation to respond.

Extend your Service Areas to get more Barks
With a 30 mile range this Seller had 15 matching Barks. A 10 mile range only gave 5 matching Barks

“I get too many Barks”

Great that you are getting a high number of enquiries, but we only want to be sending you over relevant leads. If it is because they are coming in too far a field, you can reduce the radius you cover to make it smaller – this will then stop so many leads coming through to you. If you are receiving the wrong type of enquiry, you can simply remove this service area. You will find a small ‘X’ which will remove this for you. 

Remove Service Areas
Click the small X to remove a Service Area

“I cover the whole of the UK”

At present, we do not have a feature that allows you to cover the whole of the UK with one click. That said, you can put yourself down as covering every major city with a 30 mile radius (we have the cities listed in order of popularity at the bottom of each page). For example:

  • Web Design in London with a 30 mile radius
  • Web Design in Manchester with a 30 mile radius
  • Web Design in Bristol with a 30 mile radius
  • Web Design in Liverpool with a 30 mile radius
Service Area Locations
There is no limit on the number of Service Areas you add.

You will then be alerted to all the Barks placed in these areas.

You can find a list of the top UK cities here

“I cover many trades as a supplier”

No problem at all. Like with locations, you can have as many of our categories as you like listed in your service areas. You can also have a different radius set for each one so you can cover a smaller area for the lower value jobs and then a larger area for the higher value jobs. We would always suggest adding in as many categories as possible so you can see the other types of enquiries we receive which could be relevant to you.

For example, someone in the Gardening industry might have the following:

  • Gardening in Richmond with a 5 mile radius
  • Landscape Design in Richmond with a 30 mille radius
  • Fence repair in Richmond with a 10 mile radius. 
Vary Service Areas by category
You can vary your service areas by category if you’re willing to travel further for larger jobs.

If you are having any difficulties with service areas then just give the customer service team a call on 0207 1172 656 or email team@bark.com – we would love to help.

The 7 Deadly Sins stopping you winning new business

Our customer service team often get asked how Sellers can ensure they secure the business when responding to a Bark. As with anything, there are no guarantees, but there are some things we see Sellers doing that harm their chances.

In association with Nick Hewer from The Apprentice we’re bringing these together in a video and Blog post covering the “7 Deadly Sins stopping you winning new business” and providing guidance on how to quote.

Sin 1: Not addressing the Buyer by Name or getting the Buyer’s name wrong

  • If you know the Buyer’s name – use it. It shows you’ve read their details, shows a little care and makes a great first impression. “Dear Mr Jones” looks so much better than “Dear Sir”, or worse “Dear Sir or Madam”.
  • One watch-out though – make sure you type it correctly. If you address a Buyer called “Beverley” as “Baverly” (yes that has genuinely happened) it’s unlikely you’re going to hear from them again.
How not to quote
Make sure you get the Buyer’s name right

 

Sin 2: Copy Pasting Stock responses to save time

  • We know it’s quicker to have a ready-made “Dear <insert name here>, I would love to do your job for you please call me on <insert number here> or email <insert email here>”, unfortunately it just doesn’t work very well.
  • When a Buyer is reading the responses – and they could get 3 or 4 they’re choosing which Seller to work with – it’s far more likely that they’ll go with the Seller who’s taken the time to tailor their response to the Buyer’s needs as the Buyer will be thinking: “yes, that’s exactly what I need”.
  • You may think that Buyer’s can’t spot a copy pasted message, but trust us – they can.
  • The average response is around 500 characters long – about a paragraph – and there’s a balance to strike: Write too much and the buyer will get bored, write too little and they may not be interested.
How not to quote
Try to write a quality response if you want the business

Sin 3: Not giving details on what your quote covers

  • There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a job and sending an invoice including materials only to be told by the Buyer “I thought the quote included materials”.
  • The best Sellers are clear from the start what’s included in the quote and, more importantly, what’s not.
  • Including this helps reassure the Buyer that they won’t get stung and makes it more likely that they’ll choose your business.

Sin 4: Not including a price

  • Pricing can be a touchy subject: Price too high and the Buyer may rule you out before reading the details; too low and you risk making less money than you could do.
  • Where price is relatively standard e.g. a pricing a job per hour it’s relatively easy to share a price with the Buyer with confidence that you won’t be overcommitting.
  • Where you don’t have all the information needed to price accurately or the Buyer’s specification is vague this can be much more difficult, however most Buyers still expect at least a guideline price.
  • Our advice is to always give a price, giving comments to support and marking as an “estimate” if needed. This allows scope to discuss with the Buyer later as more information becomes available.
  • For example, if you don’t know how much a garden Landscaping job would cost you could estimate based on the average cost of other jobs you’ve done and include comments along the lines of “price subject to survey” or similar. Alternatively, you could give your usual minimum price and mark the price as “minimum price given, final price subject to discussion”.
  • Around 60% of our responses have a price attached and Buyers tell us this is useful to know so you may be missing out on business if you don’t give a price up front – particularly if your competitors do.

Sin 5: Not including usable contact details

  • At Bark, we want you to secure the business so we always make it easy for the Buyer to see your contact details.
  • When the Buyer sees your response they can click to view your website, profile, contact details or ask you to call them so it’s vital to ensure these are up to date on your Bark Profile Page.
  • One complaint we hear from Buyers is that Sellers aren’t available to answer the phone when they call – we know that it’s likely you’re on another job of course but the Buyer may not.
  • If possible give a phone number that can always be answered – Buyers may not call back a second time if you don’t answer right away.
    It’s also a good idea to include your contact details in your response to the Buyer too. We’d recommend doing this in a signature that is the same each time, something like:

Kind Regards
Bob Jones
Company Name Limited
bob.jones@companynamelimited.com
01234-567890
www.companynamelimited.com

Sin 6: Poor spelling and grammar

  • When your response includes poor spelling and/or grammar Buyers will get the impression that your work will be of a similar standard.
  • Some of the most common things we see are:
    • Using i instead of I.
    • Missing apostrophes, for example: “youre” instead of “you’re” (we also get the occasional “ur”!!!)
    • Using capitals in the MIDDLE of a sentence for no real reason.
Poor grammar response
Poor spelling and grammar turns Buyers off quickly
  • You can get plug-ins for your browser that check automatically as you type, so you don’t need to check in a word processor (e.g. Microsoft Word) before responding.
    • One we’ve found useful is Grammarly, which is available free. It doesn’t check everything but does a pretty good job
    • If that’s not for you then there are loads of free tools available online that can check what you’re writing
    • If all else fails, read your response twice before clicking reply just to make sure it sells you in the right way.
  • Be doubly careful that your profile has no spelling errors, as every Buyer sees this. You can review and update your profile by logging in here and then clicking Profile.

Sin 7: Not selling your business

  • It’s very easy to answer the specific customer requirement, without actually saying why the Buyer should choose you.
  • Remember yours may not be the only response and you want it to stand out.
  • Do you have a portfolio of your previous work? If so, include some pictures, or a link to the page on your website that shows what you’ve done with similar jobs before.
  • Do you have professional qualifications? Explain what they are, and why they mean you’re a great Seller to choose.
  • Do you have positive reviews on Bark or other sites? If so reference them – we automatically show your Bark review ratings to potential Buyers.
    • Did you know you can get your customers (Bark or otherwise) to leave a review for you on Bark? All you need to do is send them the link from your Profile Page
    • Why not send the link out to your previous customers now to build up your reviews right away? 
    • Also include the link on your website so you keep getting new reviews from your customers – Bark or otherwise.
Sell your business to win the Buyer's
Sell your business to win the Buyer’s

No Seller wins every time, but hopefully our tips can make sure it’s you more often. If, for whatever reason, you aren’t successful we recommend you follow up with the Buyer to ask why. Some will tell you and you can use this to adapt your future pitches and improve your chances the next time a Bark comes along – which won’t be long.

What are your tips for quoting? Feel free to share in the comments section.

Nick Hewer Twitter Q&A – The Answers!

Nick Hewer Twitter q&A

On 6th October 2015, we hosted an engaging Twitter Q&A with the highly successful businessman, Nick Hewer. Nick gave us an insight into the business world and offered advice for budding entrepreneurs on the hashtag, #AskNick.

Nick Hewer is well known as the host of Channel 4’s Countdown, and from 2005 to 2014 he appeared as Lord Sugar’s adviser on the British television series, The Apprentice. Nick has been working with Bark.com since our inception, so we were delighted to have him take over our Twitter feed, offering valuable business advice and providing career inspiration along the way. If you haven’t yet seen it, here’s Nick explaining how Bark.com works earlier this year.

Missed out on the Q&A? Don’t worry, because we have compiled Nick’s answers for you to digest below!

Nick Hewer Opening Q&A

Question 1: 

Question 1

Question 2:

Question 2

Question 3: 

Question 3

Question 4:

Question 4

Question 5: 

Question 5

Question 6: 

Question 6

Question 7: 

Question 7

Question 8:

Question 8

Question 9:

Question 9

Question 10:

Question 10

Question 11:

Question 11

Question 12:

Question 12

Question 13:

Question 13

Question 14:

Question 14

Question 15:

Question 15

Question 16:

Question 16

Question 17:

Question 17

After a fantastic Q&A, Nick signed off…

Nick Hewer end of Q&A

Thanks to everyone who got involved in the Q&A! Was your question answered? Is there anything else you would like to #AskNick? Let us know in the comments below!

And while you’re at it, make sure you follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page or visit our blog to keep up to date with Bark news, tips and advice!

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