Yesterday I had a short meeting with a local small business owner in Hastings about how to boost their business and get more customers. My answer was pretty much my go to speech lately, and is applicable to Warkworth, Havelock, Campbellford, Norwood or any small town in Canada (or the US for that matter). I ended up providing them with a lot of info they didn’t know about classified ads. However, first I asked them what they were doing to market their business now.
It turns out that for their marketing they are relying on a store presence, word of mouth and a few display ads in the newspaper. This is pretty standard for a new or even an older small business in my (rural small town) area. These are not bad things to do, but they must be used in a systematic way. Let me explain.
Word Of Mouth
Word of mouth is an excellent way to market your business, but it depends on other people talking about you. That is pretty much out of your hands if you simply leave it up to them. Maybe people talk to others, maybe they don’t. You need to give them a reason to talk. One way to do this is to provide the absolutely best service or product possible. They are more likely to talk about you if they can turn others on to a wonderful experience. Doing this puts them into a small “hero” mode.
Haven’t you ever been to a social gathering and heard somebody raving about a new restaurant, or mechanic, of salon or massage therapy clinic that just bowled them over? of course you have. By sharing their experience, they make it possible for others to get the same experience. When others do, the original person is like a minor hero for showing them such a wonderful meal/auto repair/massage or whatever.
Offer Personal Discounts
Of course, Providing knockout experiences for everyone that comes through the door is difficult, but definitely something to be aimed for. Another way to be a hero is to hand out cards to happy customers. Imagine, after you have finished being paid for your service, if you gave a customer three cards. One had their name on it, and the other two said “For the Friend of (Customers Name).” The card states “TEN PERCENT DISCOUNT.” This will encourage them to come back and could encourage a couple of their friends to try you out.
Offering a one time 10% discount against the chance of future repeat business is an incredibly inexpensive way to build your business. When it costs almost fifty cents to just get the post office to drop flyers into people’s mailboxes at the post office, not to mention the cost in money or time of graphic design, printing and folding flyers, and considering how much paper gets automatically dumped into the recycle bin, you would be lucky to get one response to a hundred flyers. That’s over $50.00 for one customer. Compare that to a 10% discount on actual cash coming in. It’s worth thinking about. Remember, the discount card will be accompanied by a glowing report from the a happy customer who handed the card out.
As for their actual brick and mortar store right on the street, being visible is fantastic. Because along with window area comes the possibility of having window displays. And with window displays you can show what you do, show what you sell and post big signs announcing new and old services, new and old products (of featuring products and services that you rotate on a weekly basis) or special promotions, discounts, events or demonstrations. If you aren’t using your window as a showcase, it is being wasted. And it needs to change regularly or people stop seeing it.
Display ads in local printed media, or radio and TV ads are fine if done regularly. People need to see or hear something multiple times for it to make an impression. This kind of advertising is trying to make an impression, and it hopes that someone seeing the ad actually has a need for your service or product right that second. They must be in pain enough to either call you right away or actually take the time to cut your ad out of the paper and stick it to the fridge, or stop whatever they are doing and write your phone number down. With the best of intentions, they won’t even remember the name of your business ten minutes later.
So they must see or hear that ad 10, 20, or 30 times before they can automatically think of you. We’ve trained ourselves to ignore ads in printed media. And we do. So a couple of display ads run over the course of a month or two is pretty much a waste of money. Not that they might not sometimes pull somebody in, but they tend not to be cost effective.
Online Classified Ads
So what did I recommend to the small business owner I opened this post about? Free online classified ads sites. They are free. They are crawled by Google so people can find your ads when they do a Google search. And people go to the classified sites looking for things and services. There’s another advantage to having your ads in online classified sites. Services like Kijiji and craigslist are ranked very highly by Google. And in Canada, kijiji has been spending serious money to ensure that they show up highly in the search engine results.
Try it yourself. Search for some service like roof repair or lawn care in your nearest city. You will likely find yellow pages and kijiji in the top half of the results. In a small town, you will almost always see yellow pages as the first organic result, but you will not likely see kijiji. That’s because no one in that small town is listed in kijiji. If they were, kijiji would show up. If you were listed in kijiji, it would be YOUR business that showed up, right under the yellow pages listing, and ahead of everyone else. But wait, there’s more!
Multiple Classified Ads
Kijiji allows the user to have multiple ads in the same category. So you can create multiple ads emphasizing different aspects of your business, and therefor being hyper targeted. If you were a roofer, you could write an add about metal roof installation, one about emergency roof repair, one about replacing old shingles and one about roof installations on new homes. Four different ads, all promoting you. And then at the end of the month, kijiji sends you an email asking if you want to repost your ad, and all you have to do is press a button to repost.
If you are ambitious, you could delete your ad after two weeks and post a new version of it, with new photographs, or highlighting different aspects of your business, or including testimonials from recent clients, and show up on the first page again.
Once you are used to it, and have a series of graphics or photos to use, and know what you need to say, it takes 5 minutes to post an ad. That’s a lot of bang for the time and effort. So that’s my advice to new businesses.
I haven’t even talked about using Facebook classified sites, but if you can find some (and they are many) that allow businesses to post ads, then you should be doing it. I do cover FB sites in my local online classified ads workshops. If you are interested in participating in these workshops, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask me about my no cost four page guide to using classified ads, and I will email you a copy.
Give classified sites a try. Low risk, high possible return, and no expense involved. Win – Win – Win.