Small business owners Angela Elliss &
Les Smith (see testimonial below)
First-hand account by Angela Elliss
(Managing Director, Home Design Directory)
Having worked in both the building and recruitment industries, and being one of the owners of this website, I have gained a great deal of first-hand knowledge on how best to promote a small business, both online and offline.
Given Australia's current economic climate small businesses catering to the residential construction or building market cannot afford to waste a single job or sales opportunity. Companies need to do everything they possibly can to ensure every sales opportunity is a success. You would be amazed at how many businesses believe that if they are referred for a job, or if they purchase advertising, it will result in a job or a sale. Unfortunately there are no guarantees in a competitive market.
Here are my 7 top-tips for promoting your business both offline and online.
Tip 1. Don't just rely on word of mouth
So many times I hear business owners say, "We get all our work through word of mouth so we don't need to advertise or create a website". This may be true but most people rely upon assurances after they receive your contact details from a friend who has recommended you. Many of your potential clients will perform Internet searches on your business and on your name. Whatever information they find or don't find, good or bad, will impact their decision. (For example: if they can't find your website, and see samples of you work or product, they may decide you are unprofessional and go with another recommendation.)
Tip 2. Create and maintain a Web presence
For most small to medium businesses without a shopfront the Web is the first encounter potential customers and clients will have with your business. If they can not find you easily on the web, word-of-mouth is the only way they will find out about you, and if they lose your phone number, you've lost a potential client.
If you don't have a website don’t panic. There are many well established websites like the Home Design Directory which offer what is effectively a one-page "mini-website". For example the Home Design Directory offers an enhanced directory listing that can act as your website and promote your business online. (Read more about our $197/year Essentials Listing here).
Alternatively you can get a single page website built for as little as $300. Note that most businesses in the building industry do not require more than a single page website. Maintaining a single page website can cost as little as $60 per year.
Ensure your website is uncluttered & easy to read. Your website should display at least 3 professional quality pictures of your work or product. If unprofessional pictures or illustrations are all you have, do not put them on your website, they will drive potential customers or clients away.
Tip 3: Make sure your website can be found
Make sure your website can be found when people type your business name into Google. This simply means making sure your website developer submits your website to Google for inclusion in Google's index (you should not even have to ask, but do so anyway).
Two acronyms to remember: SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) & SEM (Search Engine Marketing )
Align your business with websites that already attract readers interested in your products or services (e.g. this website). List your business in various online directories. Make sure your business listing includes at least one link to your website. This increases the quality score of your website and it will also increase the number of qualified buyers visiting your website.
If you can afford it: Pay an expert to make sure your website shows up on page 1 of Google's Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). Google is currently the only search engine that matters - very few people use other search engines. This can cost anywhere from a 'one-off' fee of a few hundred dollar to an ongoing amount of hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars a month. I periodically promote my architecture practice using Google Adwords for as little as $5/day and when I first started my architecture practice several years ago I paid a 'search-engine-optimisation' experts several hundred dollars to be found on page one for the search phrase 'architect central coast' (try it by clicking on the link - you should see 'Angela Elliss, B.Sc., (Architecture)' on the first page).
Social Media Explained - posted by geek.com
Tip 4. Use social media
Facebook (my favourite)
Make sure your website designer puts social media buttons on your website. Each click is equal to several word-of-mouth recommendations.
If you do not have a website try to find businesses like the Home Design Directory that places social media buttons on all business listing pages.
Use Facebook (it's free) to interact with existing and potential customers. Be friendly and approachable. Answer questions fully and politely. Don't, whatever you do, come across as a pushy salesperson. I highly recommend this book for those who have not used Facebook as a marketing tool: Likeable Social Media.
Twitter, Pinterest & the rest of the social media crowd
Pinterest and Twitter are worth considering. They may be able to help your business if you use them properly. However the majority of the Home Design Directory's traffic growth in 2011 came from our readers sharing our content on Facebook and via email.
I like the image above which someone shared with me on Facebook. I think it sums up social media quite well.
Tip 5. Answer the phone professionally
Too often I have dealt with builders and tradespeople who answer the phone with little more than a grunt.
Be professional. Be friendly. Be helpful. Show that you are an effective communicator. Always mention your name and your business name in your phone greeting, and in your voice-mail message.
Call back when you say you will
If you can't make an initial meeting, or a deadline, let people know ahead of time and reschedule. This shows you haven't forgotten about the job and that you are interested, committed and organised.
Tip 6. Treat every meeting like a job interview
Dress and groom appropriately for every meeting.
Speak clearly and articulately.
Prepare a simple agenda or plan for the meeting
Tip 7. DON'T underestimate the value of points 1-6.
Be better than your competitors. Make sure you’re at least doing the simple things mentioned above. They will give you a competitive edge. And if you're already doing all the things mentioned above, then rest assured you are ahead of the pack.
FAST FACTS about the Home Design Directory
The Home Design Directory is a collection of online article and tools focused on design, residential construction, landscaping & gardening - everything 'About Your Home'. Our website attracts up to 200,000 visitors/month.
Our readers are:
home owners & construction industry professionals
researching, or currently renovating, building or gardening
educated before they make contact with your business
Our advertising options are described in detail in our Sales and Advertising Kit.
Our readers find our articles & directory listings on page one of Google for hundreds of home design, construction, landscaping and gardening search terms. Our readers are exposed to relevant advertising that qualifies them before they call, email or visit your website.
"Within 3 months of advertising we signed 3 contracts worth $660,000. Over the last two years I have signed up over $2M worth of work directly from my HDD advertising!", L.S. Building
Call us on 1300 763 116 to discuss how we can help you achieve your marketing and sale objectives.