I have a friend who is owner and operator of a general contracting business in Central California. He builds beautiful homes and does substantial remodels of homes worth $1 million and up. He does no advertising, has no web site, attends no network events. I have never known him to have a gap in work for the past 20 years. He simply answers his phone and does estimates for future work. He gets retained for enough of those estimates that the pipeline has never really ended in good times as well as recessionary times. He built his own home in a seaside beach community, has a loving family and lives very much on his own terms.
This is not a philosophy post about simplicity and happiness although I could take it that direction. Rather, I am writing about marketing and promoting your local business in a way that gets you more of your most desirable clients. Most of us can’t do what my friend has done. I certainly can’t. When I was in college and studied marketing, they taught us Proctor and Gamble style product marketing practiced by ad agencies. The implication was that when one enters that profession a marketer is primarily engaged in esoteric product strategy to communicate the brand meaning to a public that is just waiting to buy. One of my classmates commented about this many years after we were both out of college and had done a tour of duty in the media business. We laughed because nobody told us about the struggle to find clients at every level. Nobody told us that clients were not lined up in a waiting room like patients for a medical doctor. Rather, they had to be stalked, they had to have their attention captured, they had to be convinced that your produce or service was the best at or below the price that they were willing to pay. They were not going to be loyal. They may not use you the next time no matter how well you served them and if you don’t get enough clients you would starve. Nope, the professors never said that.
This post deals specifically with creating an online presence in order to build awareness so that when a client is beginning to think about their desire or need for your product your business will be considered. Suffice it to say that your offline presence, reputation and actual performance with clients is supremely important. If you don’t satisfy your client, anything done to market your business will be undermined and taken out from consideration.
If your business has at least a basic web site that can be found on Google there are basic tactics to begin to be seen by future customers as they just begin to have the desire or need for your product. With a small sustaining monthly budget, you can have your business message be seen by only people who have in some way demonstrated interest. We all leave “digital breadcrumbs” when we read articles, attend certain events, retail stores and tourist locations, use search engines, issue voice commands (Siri, Alexa) and certainly when we visit certain web sites. Who hasn’t had a message follow them around after they visited Amazon? What many business operators still don’t know is that they don’t have to have national scale like Amazon to use the same tactic. Also, with a little patience you don’t need an ad agency or a media sales rep to create this strategy either. Although most operators prefer to let an expert place a targeted campaign they can actually go to Google or Facebook and place a simple campaign for themselves.
If you have operated your business for any length of time you can outline a profile of the optimal client. We all have higher value clients that we wish that we could have more of. Where do they live or hang out? What are their interests? What do they do for fun? What consumer products have they shopped or researched? If your business is kitchen and bath remodeling wouldn’t you like to send a local message to the person who is hanging out on Houzz.com, going to the home show and watching HGTV who is planning for a remodel but not yet ready to engage with a contractor? There is nothing like creating awareness locally during the consideration stage of consumer behavior to get ahead of the competition.
If you are a realtor wouldn’t you like to capture more listings for the neighborhood that you are an expert in. How do you get inside the head of those homeowners who are thinking about selling? These days they do research online. The visit websites like Zillow and Redfin and they do Google searches to find out who sold what properties in their hood and how much they sold for. These are digital breadcrumbs and you can dispatch a message just for that homeowner to make them aware of your listing expertise. Yes, your message will follow them around online. It will appear on their desktop, in their Facebook feed, on their Smart TV and they will wonder how that can happen. However, when they are ready to list guess who they are going to think about? That’s right. It may be creepy, but it really works. It’s very effective to put “intenders” (buyers) together with experts (sellers). “Intenders” are discovered by their behavior online and offline and messaging them is extremely effective and cost efficient.
There are lots of ways to connect with your potential buyers. Again, being present when they search is important. However, if there are 10 organic results and 3 to 8 paid results at the top and bottom of the search page isn’t being recognized as a local expert going to be a deciding factor in getting the business? Think about messaging your optimal target client while they are in the consideration stage to improve both the volume and quality of business coming in the door.