Sam Robinson, Sales Development Representative
As a small service business, it’s likely that you (intentionally) overlook one of the most important aspects of growing your business. Marketing. When you’re in the field 12+ hours per day, the last thing you’re likely to do is come home and put together a solid marketing plan. It’s also likely that you’ve been approached almost daily by marketing gurus with unique systems full of promises and proven results. How do you weed through the scams to find marketing that actually works, is affordable and represents your business the right way at the right stage of the game?
The truth is, everything works. Every type of marketing out there, no matter how ludicrous, will generate results. The more money you dump into it, the better short-term results you see. That’s the basis of many marketing schemes… show a quick return for a high investment to prove the system works. You’ll initially see high Return On Investment (ROI) numbers and feel like things are working great. (Hint: when you first start marketing, almost anything will generate high ROI numbers.)
Consider a post-card campaign where the card says “Your mother would be ashamed of you! Clean those disgusting carpets today!” I suspect most of you wouldn’t embrace a marketing campaign that insults your customers, but there’s no question that a campaign like this would get results. There’s some small percentage of the customer base that will react and book a job based on just about any type of message you send out. What’s dangerous about that, is businesses often see these quick responses/results without considering the customers that they’re permanently alienating with their message.
If you need immediate results, people are more likely to respond to bold aggressive messages. If you want better long-term results, you’ll see far better returns when you use a respectful and more professional message. You’ll notice that those bold aggressive campaigns will gradually produce lower and lower ROI. Most marketing companies will focus on the lifetime ROI of an aggressive campaign, knowing that the initial good results will help keep the average high even after the campaign stops producing decent results. You should evaluate aggressive campaigns individually and drop them when they stop producing.
As a small start-up company with no customers yet, you’ll likely need to be more aggressive with your marketing message to get those small pockets of people to respond. You may need to use door-hangers, knock on doors, hand out business cards, and push specials to get your foot in the door. You might find that some of the click-bait style email campaigns get a few people to call, or some really bold aggressive Facebook ads. You’re essentially targeting whoever you can get in the door right now at the expense of a larger number of people you could get later. The goal right now is to keep your head above water, impress every customer you can get, generate some 5-star reviews, start building a referral network and make a good enough impression on people that they’ll give you repeat business.
As you grow to the point where your business has steady work, you’ll find that referrals and word-of-mouth take care of a lot of your advertising for you. This is when you should back off the aggressive messages and focus on building rapport with a larger segment of your customer base. Focus less on discounts and pricing and focus more on quality. Tailor your message not necessarily for getting immediate results, but on creating a solid professional image in your community. Be respectful of your customers and their time. Don’t knock on their door at 7:00 am, don’t cold call them during dinner. Don’t rely on click-bait, tricks or asterisks and fine print. Craft a professional message meant to work over time… you’re no longer running an ad campaign to get jobs, but a public relations campaign to get advocates for your brand.
Lastly, ask every single customer where they heard about you, and track the results. For short-term aggressive campaigns, track the ROI of each campaign individually. For long-term brand-building campaigns, track the lifetime ROI of the campaign. If you're doing it right, the long-term respectful campaigns will gradually outpace the short-term pushy aggressive campaigns, and that's where you'll generate the best growth year-over-year.
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