Grass is always greener on the other side. As the self-employed owner of a carpet cleaning business in Perth, I have had moments when I felt that marketing would have probably been easier in a tech startup where all your customers are online and advertising would alone be enough to reach out to a significant majority of my audience. In a local business like mine, most customers opt for word-of-mouth referrals from their network while hiring a business. Even by advertising online, I am only reaching out to a small fraction of my total customer base.
However, local businesses have their own advantages and I have gained terrific understanding of the market and the marketing strategies that work over the years I have been in the industry. Here are five insights every local small business owner should know when launching their business.
1. Nothing Succeeds Like Word Of Mouth Referrals
Researching for business growth strategies paint a very rosy picture for online marketing. From the outset, it does seem like a great strategy to invest in optimizing for search or advertising online to get referrals. But these reports often miss a crucial point – a prospect researching online often tends to send enquiries across dozens of websites. This means that even if you do spend dozens of dollars in acquiring a lead, you may not end converting them because the same lead is being solicited by several other businesses. On the other hand, word of mouth referrals have the best conversion rate. Referrals who come off this channel tend to choose you more often than not. As a business, continue doing a great job and such referrals will keep pouring in (although this alone may not be enough many times).
2. Keep Website Free Of Distractions
One of the most valuable lessons I received from my website developer was to have a landing page that was completely free of any kind of clutter or distraction. Sure, a website that does not have flash animations, sliding texts, marquees, etc. may appear dull and boring to an untrained eye. But a simple and elegant website that is minimal and clutter-free is absolutely essential to improve conversions. According to one study, a visitor to your website makes up their mind about your business in the first seven seconds. If they spend these initial moments in waiting for your site to load, or in trying to wade through the clutter, then they are very likely to hit the back button of the browser and go back in search of a competitor.
3. Ensure Giveaways Are Contextual & Useful
Everyone in my industry offers giveaways and keepsakes to customers. The objective is two-fold : first, provide something that will help getting the word out, and second, build a rapport with the customer. Competitors in the space have given everything from calendars to stationery, t-shirts and bags to customers. In my opinion, they are all appreciated by customers. But in terms of returns, they are not effective. Keepsakes should always remind the customer of who you are and what you do. For Priority Floor Care, I spent a few dollars in procuring a bunch of small carpet brushes that I gave my customers while on assignment. These products did a good job in brushing away dust from carpet and were thus a gentle reminder about my business. Also, since these brushes were tagged with my business contact information, my customers always made it a point to call me for any work that they could not do themselves.
4. Know Your Product/Service Life Cycle
It sounds obvious, but many local small businesses simply do not know the optimal life cycle of their product or service. If you know that your customer would typically need your service every two months, you can get new business from existing customers by simply showing up at their doorstep at about the time they will need your service. I have personally dropped by my regular customers when I am in the neighborhood around the time their carpet is due for a cleaning and have been able to set up an appointment quite instantly. But be sure not to be too desperate since that is one of the major reasons customers stop using a provider.
There are a lot of variables when it comes to small businesses, and not everything that works for you is applicable to others. But the lessons provided here are pretty universal and is something every person learns over the course of operating a small business. What are your thoughts?