By Beth Borrego / Published July 2014
By now, the view you have of your business should be clear, and your marketing plan should be strategically laid out in front of you. Each of the progressive steps we have taken, each activity, exercise, and plan should be getting you closer to achieving the success you have outlined for yourself and, of course, for your company. At this point, you’re ready to tie it all together into a system that can be implemented and that will result in measurable revenue.
You should have clearly defined your company’s brand and positioned your services or products at this point. All of your promotional materials should be designed with a consistent look in order to help develop brand recognition. Some of the materials included in this are:
• Business cards
• Business letterhead and envelopes
• Brochures, rack cards, and post cards
• Door knob hangers
• Promotional materials such as magnets and pens
• Yard signs
• Truck signs
• Uniforms (t-shirts, polo’s, and button-down dress shirts)
• Social media accounts
• Web banners for any ad placement
• Print ads for various publications
The basic demographic studies of your market should be complete, and you should be able to easily distinguish between the market segments your company services, as well as understand the consumers within each one of them. Remember, create and position your service or product advertising in a way that is attractive to your potential and existing clients within your target markets. Once you’re able to anticipate the demand the advertising will generate, make sure your office staff and service crews are well prepared and equipped to handle the new business.
Creating and maintaining a company presence online is extremely important. Set up your business’s social media accounts, and optimize your website for the best search engine placement possible. Add Web page content when it’s relevant, and check your page rank from time to time. Oh, and remember, the telemarketers who call you constantly to get you to improve your page rank don’t know your business the way that you do. I have yet to have one accurately be able to tell me what our business is all about or how our customers find us. This doesn’t mean that there are not good companies out there that can help you with your online presence, but suffice to say that there are companies out there with cubicles full of anxious sales personnel who have no idea how to best market your business online. Proceed with caution when hiring an SEO firm.
Sometimes it’s helpful to have a checklist to help you stay on top of some of the ongoing activities that will keep your phone ringing with both new opportunities and repeat business alike. Staying on task can seem overwhelming at times, but if you think about each of the things you have to as being cyclical, it will take the stress out of the tasks and make them more manageable. Let’s break down the most commonly occurring tasks according to type and frequency and look at why each might be scheduled that way.
Every business has seasons where sales are higher or lower. Preparing to attract customers who typically spend during particular times of the year means making sure all of your printed materials are up to date, the budget is there for postage, your database’s mailing list is up to date, and your mailer is scheduled to be sent at the appropriate time. You should recall the importance of simultaneously scheduling print mail along with e-mail campaigns, so that you potentially have more than one opportunity to make an impression.
It is important to make sure to work as economically as possible. Always work with a marketing budget for the current year, and be sure to plan one for the next calendar year as well. Fine tune all of the promotional activities as needed based upon past performance and, of course, your company’s needs. As your company grows and evolves, some advertising campaigns may become less effective and others more effective. Make sure to adjust the budget as necessary for your advertising vendors and in-house campaigns.
Remember to conduct surveys with your clients to see how you are doing. Pay attention to what they tell you, especially if it is a less than perfect review. Thank your customer for bringing any issue to your attention. Show your gratitude for their diligence and concern. Criticism is meant to help you grow, not tear you down, even though occasionally it may not seem that way.
Throughout the year, on a regular basis, survey your customers to ensure their experience was positive. It’s best to survey your clients relatively soon after the purchase, within a week is timely. Be sure the survey is appropriate for their purchase and is designed to collect the desired feedback. Make sure to collect feedback in all areas affecting the customer’s transaction experience, from the contact they have with the office, to the service personnel who visit the job site before, during, and after the job. Collecting feedback helps to pinpoint areas for improvement and also helps to avoid a pattern of repeat issues that may arise otherwise.
If a pattern does arise, take that opportunity to re-train the affected staff in order to correct the area of deficiency. If it is warranted, it may also be worthwhile to hold a larger training for all service technicians and staff. Occasional trainings on things like customer service, practicing excellent communication, and even safety are good, solid business practices. Ongoing education and continual improvement are an important part of achieving your company goals for maintaining excellent service levels throughout the business, and they can have a direct impact on your company image and brand.
Review all of your printed materials to make sure they are up to date and have the most current company and service information. This can be done annually, but is best done at a slower part of the year so you are not rushed by other pressing matters when reviewing the documents.
Remember to budget for memberships to any local and national associations you wish to join that have annual dues. It’s also a good idea to budget for trade shows and conventions that will allow you the opportunity to network with your peers as well as to see the latest products and equipment designed to benefit your business and your customers alike.
Sometimes it’s by networking with fellow business professionals that we find unparalleled inspiration. There’s a certain camaraderie when you network among business owners. Perhaps part of it is in knowing that you’re not alone, and that all of the sacrifice, the time and energy, and the worry are not just on your shoulders alone but on the shoulders of every small business owner out there today. That may be one of the reasons so many business owners I have spoken to over the years find it exhilarating to attend conventions and trade shows and leave with a renewed sense of focus or a feeling of being “pumped up.”
Every casual conversation with like-minded professionals that helps to provide a creative solution for a current business challenge is time well spent. It doesn’t matter what the challenge is really, because if you’re discussing it with other professionals, you’ll get feedback on a wide spectrum of topics. Perhaps it will be about a particular service methodology or specific task production rates, or maybe it will be about equipment or the never ending search for the perfect widget so to speak. Maybe it will be about something related to the needs of your office and implementing automated systems, or even simply about getting repeat business and referrals. It might be that you discover the solution to a problem regarding employee training and retention. Whatever it may be, if it can positively impact your company, it is important.
At this point, you should have written and implemented a marketing plan, fine-tuned or perhaps constructed a website, added social media to your online presence, and perhaps adopted the use of a scheduling tool such as Hootsuite to organize and automate your online posts to social media like Facebook and Twitter. All of your literature should have a uniform look so that your branding and company image are consistent, from your business cards and brochures, to your trucks and uniforms, and of course, your website. The demographic research should have been completed, and you should be on target to properly position your services to the appropriate market segments. Remember that each service should be treated with its own marketing campaigns and should have its own marketing materials when applicable, especially if the service generates a significant amount of revenue for your business.
Track all of your inbound inquiries for new business, and ask them identifying questions to determine what is working and what is not. If they found you on the Internet, ask them which search engine they used, and, if they remember, what key words they used to search for you. If you think of it, ask them how well your site ranked and what they liked about it. Be sure to thank them for the feedback they are providing you with. If they are responding to EDDM or other printed, direct mail products, ask them which one they received. Gathering this data helps you to determine your response rate, which is an important piece of information and helps to prevent wasteful spending on ineffective ad campaigns. No business owner wants to spend money on a campaign that is showing diminishing returns. If that happens, discontinue the campaign, study the market segment to make sure it is still viable, and implement a new strategy to rejuvenate that campaign using a different ad type. If you do not have a page on your website for that specific service, it would be a great time to add one, since that may also bring you more immediate response at no extra cost. In fact, Internet marketing is one of the most effective ways to advertise and at a surprisingly low cost.
From here on out, what you do with the strategies you have learned and the marketing plan you have written is up to you. Over time, you’ll want to review your marketing plan, and perhaps update it as you follow your company’s progress. The success or failure of any business depends entirely upon the consistent endeavors and careful planning on the part of you, the small business owner. Treat your business as you would a small child. The younger it is the more direct attention it will need. The hours you spend with it will be long indeed, and at times you might not sleep too much. As it grows and develops, its needs will change. You’ll cheer and smile at each milestone, adapting and changing during downturns and shifts in the marketplace. These adjustments may mean the success or failure of your business, no matter its age. Companies will come and go, but those that are in it for the long haul have both solid business and marketing plans in place and the diligence to adhere to them, helping to ensure a long and prosperous life for their business for many years to come.
Editor’s Note: This is the final chapter in the Marketing Your Service Business Series.