You small outfits have such an advantage over the bigger companies when it comes to marketing that they have whole divisions aimed at copying what they perceive you are doing. The question then becomes, “Are you doing what they think you're doing?”
If you've been following the advice contained in my last 34 articles, you're probably doing pretty well, might have a few folks working for you, outsourced the business systems you dislike, have plenty of time off, and are enjoying yourself. Your business has become all you hoped for when you began.
If you haven't implemented even Flat Rate pricing, then you're a mediocre business wannabe who will be a victim for the rest of your so-called entrepreneurial endeavors ... prolly ending up working for a Big Box Store to supplement your Social Security, if there is any. Think about that — after years of struggling for peanuts, you'll be trading what should be a nice retirement for humpin' around upon them aging, aching feet eight hours a day for minimum wage ... on concrete!
For you smart ones, let's talk about marketing — arguably the most important part of doing business. After all, if the phones don't ring your rowboat, you ain't got no oars. So what's the smaller company's biggest advantage? You! Folks like you a lot, so they keep coming back. You're the tech the big companies are looking for, so don't stop bein' nice, making friends, and asking for referrals. Referrals and testimonials drive almost all businesses in today's marketplace — witness Google reviews, Angie's List, Yelp, etc. To get more business, to grow, to succeed, simply mimic their model — ask for referrals and testimonials!
That's it. That's all you need to do to market your business ... well, except for the follow up, and that there's where the rubber meets the road ... or doesn't.
The insurance industry is expert at asking for, and then following up on, referrals. Here's a quote off the business card of a friend of mine: "The highest compliment I can receive is a referral from you." That's on his business card and it could be on yours! Think of referrals as a rock thrown in a still pond and watching the ripples spread out. You ask your present client for a referral. If he is impressed with your work, why wouldn't he refer you to those friends and relatives? Then each of those referrals has friends and relatives, and each of those, etc., etc., etc.
Do you see the magic? Now all you have to do is take action! Here are some action points:
1.) Call every referral and offer them a great reason for you to come by, i.e., free water heater, AC, furnace, or electrical inspections.
2.) Offer perks to your techs for each referral they receive and each appointment that's made, say $10 per lead and $50 for a booked appointment.
3.) Request a testimonial on your client's Facebook page — not yours but your client's. If you're a hero to Mrs. Jones and she posts it on her Facebook page it could go viral. (Fact: 30% of all women on FB check their page before they get out of bed in the morning.)
4.) Offer the customer a significant reward for any referral made that turns into a booked call. Ours was $200. Offer to give it to them directly or to donate it in their name to a charity of their choice. My customers loved that idea. (If you think $200 is a lot for a new customer, then you don't know your advertising and customer-acquisition costs.)
5.) Follow-up all the above with happy-calls and check if the tech asked the customer for referrals.
6.) TRAIN-TRAIN-TRAIN with your techs and office folks on how to ask for referrals. Don't ever quit training and your employees stay motivated. Training scripts are essential!
7.) Asking for referrals should be on your checklist of “Closing Out The Job.”
If you do all the above, you won't need to spend huge amounts of money on SEO optimization referral companies, Yellow Pages or coupon mailers, although, as you grow, those don't hurt to have in place also.
If you'd like more info contact me. One of my specialties was showing my employees easy ways to ask for referrals, and keeping our advertising costs at or below 5% of revenue.
Go forth, make money, and have fun irritating the big outfits .
Ed O'Connell is the founder emeritus of O'Connell Plumbing Inc. He is the subcontracting business coach for smaller contractors and a Service Roundtable Coach. He can be reached in Auburn, California, at home/office: 530/878-5273 or at [email protected].