I got my feet wet in the online industry before launching my own local small business. Despite the cut-throat competition in the online world, building trust is easy. A good job always earns you a good review on Yelp or Google. With a good online strategy, it is possible to build a good bunch of genuine reviews from customers which will naturally help with future leads.
But the online world is only a small part of the local small business ecosystem. A huge chunk of the population still ask around locally when they are seeking a service. In such cases, only two things matter – location and brand awareness. If you are a business with a very prominent location in the neighborhood, chances are that a lot of business will be inbound. Identifying the best location is outside the scope of this article. But how do you create brand visibility for a small business? Here are some ways we did it.
Keepsakes: Keepsakes are among the most common and popular way among small businesses to build visibility. A lot of businesses get lazy and distribute pens and calendars. It’s not a bad idea but depending on how many other businesses decide to follow this route, the potential customer is going to have loads of calendars and pens. So unless you spend on really expensive keepsakes, chances are your product may get dumped and never be seen.
As a carpet cleaning company, we wanted to offer a keepsake that will get seen when our customer needs us. We ordered a bunch of cheap company-labeled carpet brushes from China. This helped our prospects with small tasks like brushing dust off the carpet or cleaning small areas. Also, since this was so much tied with what we did, our customers always remembered us when they needed to use the product. The result – although it was a couple of dollars more than a pen, the conversions off the product were much higher.
Tie-Ups: Complementary businesses routinely tie-up with each other for business. For instance, a property lawyer ties up with a real estate broker so they may help new property buyers with the legal paperwork. Depending on your business, it may sometimes be difficult to find the right match. As a carpet cleaning company, we had trouble identifying a right industry with complementary skills. We ultimately ended up partnering with a landscaping company since we noticed that customers needed us once for every four times they needed landscapers. So by offering a package subscription deal to the customer, we ensured we had repeat business from customers.
AMC: AMC stands for ‘annual maintenance contract’ and is often used by corporates to provide free periodic servicing to their products. We tried two strategies here. The first was to offer our repeat customers an AMC that would entitle them up to five carpet cleaning calls. Since AMCs were priced at a good discount over individual calls, a lot of customers who were happy with our service and would be calling us anyway chose this option. The benefit to me as a business owner was that I was paid in advance and this helped better with cash flow and hiring contract workers whenever needed.
Another strategy was to tie this up as a service with carpet installers. We replicated the corporate model of tying a product (the carpet) with a service (annual maintenance) – this way, the customers got better value. As business owners, we were able to establish a relationship with the customer which may not have been possible with a one-time installation.
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Jay Barnett is the owner of Priority Floor Care, a Perth, WA, Australia-based carpet cleaning company. He is a serial entrepreneur and has owned multiple businesses in the past.