Top tips for growing your business
For any trade company that wants to grow their business, having enough leads is the first vital step. And even if you’re not that interested in scaling up, generating more leads lets you be picky about the work that you do, focusing on making higher margins. The following article looks at some of the ways of getting the number of incoming leads off the scale.
Keep your name out there
As is widely known, recommendations coming from word of mouth remain the top generator of leads for installers serving residential customers. But what isn’t so well known is that you can very much help this process along. That’s because there can be years between jobs and people may struggle to remember you. So, even if you rely on word of mouth, try to keep your name out there. It can pay dividends.
Activities to do this can be quite cheap although it does take some effort. This is in contrast with using services like Checkatrade, My Builder and Rated People which can be quite expensive.
Although few of the ideas that follow are not rocket science, collectively they can make quite a difference and the lack of sophistication makes them no less worthy:
• Give a business card to every prospect and every customer. You can get cards online incredibly cheaply. Even if only one in ten gets kept it’s still worth it.
• Provided the client allows, put up a board outside with your name and contact. One site down the road from me has had a board on display for years. It’s on the road side of a tall hedge on top of a wall so the homeowner doesn’t seem to mind. I personally sourced some major work on my house after seeing a board next to a really nicely finished job.
• Make sure your van has your business name on the side in large lettering with contact details. Try reading lettering on other vans from a distance before you decide on the size of the lettering as it’s easy to go too small. Remember that older people’s sight deteriorates over time so small lettering can’t be read.
• Get a company uniform and insist staff wear it. Maybe this seems too cheesy but it both helps to reinforce the business name as well as being more professional looking. Even a t-shirt can help. Someone sat next to me in the pub yesterday and was advertising their plumbing business on their t-shirt.
• While it is true that papers and magazines are generally in decline, I continue to hear stories of local publications like the parish magazine continuing to generate leads at a low cost. I also hear tales of people spending fair amounts of money with yellow pages and achieving very little. So, look for the ultra-low cost and ultra-local options – these are the ones that can still work.
It is a mystery why businesses will sometimes use quite expensive advertising when they haven’t exhausted all of the avenues that are low cost or free.
Get a web site
With over 70% of work coming from personal recommendation, that means that nearly half as much again comes by other routes. We found that 17% of homeowners search on the Internet to find trade companies. It’s the next highest way after word of mouth recommendation.
This is why having your own web site is important. Try searching for your business online and the chances are that you will find it. However, when you don’t have your own site, the listing is likely to come from a third party. So, if you want prospects to see the information about you that you want seen, you need to provide it. And of course, competitors with web sites will be showcasing all their best work which can contrast with your lack of presence.
On your site you should highlight your contact details and exactly what services you can offer in which areas. You should also include stories and pictures of your work and testimonials from some satisfied customers. You can get your own web site either by using a recommended web designer (ask around) or by using a service like WIX which allows you to do it yourself.
As the older generation pass away, connecting with new businesses through the Internet is only going to grow. In the future it’s likely to be the only way new business arrives when prospects have no word of mouth recommendations to go on.
Satisfy your customers
As mentioned before, recommendations are the largest generator of new business. The biggest influence on getting recommendations is the excellence of the work done, the attitude and reliability of the installer and leaving behind the feeling that the price was fair.
When something goes wrong and it’s put right quickly and efficiently, research suggests that the customer becomes more loyal than when everything went smoothly. This does actually make sense. That’s because the customer has learnt from experience that they can trust you. Prioritising work to put things right is not only fair to the customer, it makes good business sense too.
Research with more than a thousand homeowners conducted by my company, Powered Now, found that 50% see reputation as critical in deciding who to go with. This aligns completely with the feeling that recommendation is the top determinant in selecting an installer. That’s why doing quality work is the number one priority if you want to run a successful business.
Experiment with lead generators
60% of Homeowners are nervous with tradesmen that they had not previously met according to a poll by Bradstone Assured. Slightly under 50% worry that they will be ripped off. For these reasons 70% mentioned online reviews as important in deciding who to go with. Even more, 90%, said that they had looked at online reviews prior to making any decisions.
This is why online reviews and trust are so important. It’s something that a number of new services have tried to leverage. Arguably the most important are Rated People, Checkatrade (now substantially owned by Homeserve plc) and My Builder. All of these regularly advertise on TV trying to generate leads from people looking to get work done on their homes. All host customer reviews of their trade companies, doing their best to tick the trust box. They make their money by charging either a membership fee or a fee per lead.
The original idea of these services is that traditional word-of-mouth marketing would be replaced by online customer reviews. This hasn’t happened as word of mouth is still very much alive. However, each of the three are now substantial businesses and they certainly can’t be described as failures.
These services do have some significant advantages. The first, which applies to Rated People and My Builder is that installers can turn the lead tap on or off to try to match incoming business to the capacity to do the job without undue waiting. The second benefit is that they have the potential to enable a business to grow much more rapidly than they would with word of mouth alone allows. As a result, they are most relevant to ambitious businesses.
Great in theory
This is all great in theory and some trade businesses have told me that they have been really helped by these services. However, critics say the reviews can’t be trusted and they particularly attract prospects who only buy on price. The picture is mixed so a simplistic view is just that – simplistic.
My recommendation is that if you are ambitious and want to grow faster, it’s worth experimenting with these services without committing too much money. At the same time, a proper test may mean winning some business on price in order to get initial reviews which are vital to success on these platforms.
Success for the long run
If you run a lifestyle business and like things as they are, generating more leads may not be of much interest. For others, it can give you more choices. I My hope that these ideas and thoughts are helpful. I am aware however that words are cheap. It takes a lot of hard work to actually implement them. Good luck!