The trade sector is like no other . Huge amounts of work come from recommendation and some people rely entirely on this for their new jobs . Meeting the customer ’ s need always involves visiting their premises so most people look for local companies . In the homeowner sector , 70 % of work comes from recommendation or previous experience with a business . Only in the remaining 30 % can marketing make a real difference . So , while not in any way detracting from the importance of recommendation , this article explores the ways to reach the other 30 %.
The last twenty years have seen a transformation in how trade businesses can market themselves . Accordingly , we will look at a number of the new possibilities for marketing , along with a mention of a couple of traditional approaches that still work .
A lot of marketing is now online but the fact that most business is done locally makes a difference . If you are a tradesperson based in London , you are not much use to someone who sees you on their computer in Aberdeen ! This presents both challenges and opportunities .
It still pays to put your business name and contact details on the side of your van . Also , to put up an advertising board when you do a big job . You should still wear a company t-shirt explaining to the world who you are . All of these are really cheap old-fashioned marketing methods . But they still work .
Recommendation remains critical and the traditional methods mentioned still work , but for all other ways of getting new customers , technology rules . James Chandler of Chandler Building on the Isle of Wight , puts it this way : “ You can ’ t ignore technology , even in the building trade .”
If growth is your ambition and you need to find more when business is slow , then getting to grips with new online marketing methods is the answer .
Your own web site
Once a business becomes larger it is almost imperative to have a web site . When you are small this isn ’ t absolutely necessary . You can achieve quite good online results without a web site as various listing services will most likely provide your details anyway .
There are lots of web site services such as Wix or Squarespace that charge a small monthly fee and make creating your own web site easy . You can do it yourself or get a designer to help . If you use a designer , it ’ s best if they use a service like Wix so you will be able to update it yourself . Alternatively doing it completely yourself does take some investment
in time and the results may not look so pretty .
Key things to include are contact details , what you do , the area you cover and pictures of your work along with testimonials from your clients . And remember to keep this all up to date .
Another alternative to a web site is your own Facebook page . This is free and enables you to make available the same type of information you would put on your web site .
If you ’ ve never done this before , try searching for your business on Google and seeing what comes up . The key to success in the online world is your online reputation .
Online reputation is all about what people find if they search for you . Online reviews of your work tend to polarise around love or hate – you will usually
be reviewed as either wonderful or terrible with not much in between .
If you get a lot of reviews , some will unfortunately be negative and that is normal . In fact , I always take the presence of negative reviews as proof that the system isn ’ t being gamed . However , it ’ s obviously critical that you normally do such a good job that the positive reviews overwhelm the negative ones .
Probably the most important reviews to ask for are from Google . That ’ s because these will have a direct impact on how well you are ranked online , even if you don ’ t have a web site ! For a customer to write a review , get them to search for you on Google , click on you , then click on the star rating and “ Write a review ”.
Most businesses will get some online reviews whether they want them or not . The new marketplaces like Checkatrade will all
actively ask for them . The good news is that you can directly ask customers for reviews by emailing them . And by only asking your happiest customers , you will end up with a better online reputation .
Most of the population have a smartphone and they turn to Google when they want to find something new . In a survey of over 1,000 homeowners , we found that 18 % had used Google to find a trade business at least once .
The natural or “ organic ” listings in the main body of the search results are both popular with searchers and free for your company if you have a web site . The trouble is you get crowded out . Google reviews , mentioned above , can help a lot here .