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Winter 1999: ServiceMaster Site Is One-Stop Shop for Helpful Home Tips

Want to set up a watering schedule for your lawn? Concerned that your furniture stripper may harm your antique rocker? Learn how to petproof your home?

Look no further than ServiceMaster's new Web site The site, launched Aug. 1, 1998, is a virtual cornucopia of useful information for the home, with more than 200 pages of 'how-to' information on a variety of topics: cleaning, appliances, lawn care, plumbing, electricity, structure, warranties and mechanical systems, to name a few.

The site was created by ServiceMaster, a Chicago-based publicly held company that posted $3.5 billion in revenues in 1997. Jim Wassell, vice president of marketing for the company, says the site's original goal was to build brand awareness for ServiceMaster Clean®, one of the partner firms of the ServiceMaster® network of home service companies. These include TruGreen-ChemLawn® (lawn, tree and shrub care); Terminix® (termite/pest control); American Home Shield® (system and appliance protection plans); Merry Maids® (residential cleaning service);

Furniture Medic® (furniture repair); Rescue Rooter® (plumbing and drain cleaning services); and AmeriSpec® (home inspection service). ServiceMaster Clean provides carpet cleaning and janitorial services. "We quickly realized that we had an opportunity to take advantage of the knowledge of our sister firms and provide a site offering solutions to cleaning, maintenance and repair problems," says Wassell. "The site is a virtual library of home maintenance and repair." Visitors entering the site are immediately advised to download the [Macromedia] Flash plug-in, which provides an enhanced multimedia version. Wassell admits the download time for pages takes a little longer with the Flash plug-in, but the visual effects make it more interesting because of the pop-up screens and sounds that appear. Viewers also have the option to use the non-Flash site offering the same information.

The site is currently averaging about 700 visitors each day. There are two main areas - 'Home Tour,' accented with orange-colored icons, and 'Home Tips,' which uses green buttons. A third section in purple consists of Search, Welcome Page, Ask the Expert, Store, Find an Expert, and Coupons.

'Home Tour' provides information on different rooms of the house, e.g., Attic, Bathroom, Basement, Kitchen, and more. Viewers can click on various areas of a given room, for instance, to learn about useful tips. 'Home Tips' is divided into 10 categories-Appliances, Cleaning, Electrical, Lawn Care, Mechanical, Pests, Plumbing, Structure, Seasonal and Disaster. Click the Seasonal icon, for example, and you'll see sections ranging from Fall Fertilizing to Organizing Closets to Safety Tips for Heating.

Wassell says one especially useful section is Ask the Expert. Click on the American Home Shield area, for instance, and you can fill out a form to receive information about purchasing an American Home Shield home warranty plan. An 800 number is also provided. Viewers can also go to the online Store and order a variety of ServiceMaster Clean products. The Coupon Section offers online coupons, e.g., $25 off on-site furniture restoration service from Furniture Medic; $25 off for maid service from Merry Maids; and a 'Special $25 First Lawn Care Visit' from TruGreen-ChemLawn. Although ServiceMaster does not sell banners or post any of its own on the site, it does conduct sweepstakes and has formed strategic alliances to help generate online traffic. Visitors who answer several questions are eligible to enter a quarterly sweepstakes; winners get free maid service for a year from Merry Maids. A recently formed alliance with, which markets home improvement books, will help increase customer awareness.

 "We're offering folks useful tips on how to better manage their home and also build expertise and brand name awareness of our services," Wassell says. "We plan to continually add content so that our Web site becomes a buzzword for anyone seeking information on any subject pertaining to their house."

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