Do you know someone who refuses to use digital marketing to boost their business? Perhaps this person says they don’t have time for online or they believe the traditional ways are enough for them.
A savvy business owner knows this isn’t a wise strategy. Maybe your plumbing business is doing everything right online. You’re making regular social media posts on several platforms, blogging to build search engine optimization and maybe adding video to your website content.
But just as ignoring online marketing isn’t a great idea, it’s also a mistake to focus solely on digital and forget the power of traditional, real-world public relations. This is especially true with a local home service business. The personal touch is vital to growing trust and credibility with your area homeowners, letting them know you as an active, valued member of their community.
So, let’s take some time to refocus and create a blend of digital marketing and real-world public relations that can help you reach and even convert potential clients in your market. Here are some tips for unplugging and getting real.
• Word-of-mouth referrals: If there is a person-to-person marketing tool more powerful than a referral from a friend or family member, I haven’t found it. Home service is very personal. Homeowners are more likely to feel comfortable inviting you into their homes if someone they know and trust recommends you.
The first and most important step toward growing word-of-mouth referrals is to make sure the customer’s experience with your company is positive and memorable from start to finish. As Laura Patterson wrote for Entrepreneur:
“To earn referrals, existing customers need to believe in your value and have had their own positive experience. Invest in understanding what it takes to create an exceptional customer experience along each interaction point your customer has with your organization. That means from the moment of purchase or reservation, to the moment of service, to the moment of payment, and so on.”
When a customer has a great experience, ask her to review you online, of course, but also ask her to refer family and friends. You could even start an incentive program for referrals. Ask new customers how they found your business so you can identify cheerleaders and thank them. You’ll grow their loyalty and up the chances that they’ll give you a referral again.
• Events and shows: Attending or even hosting fun activities in your community is a great way to set yourself apart from the rest. Going to events builds trust for your company and lets potential clients put a face to the name. You’ll get to know your clients face to face as well.
Set a goal of participating in one event each month. Check online community calendars for festivals, fairs and holiday parades. Consider sponsoring these events to align your name with traditions your neighbors enjoy.
If you host an event, I recommend going with the three Fs: free, fun and food. Incorporate information about your business, but make it educational instead of a hard sell.
Attending home and garden shows in your area is another way to get the word out about your business. You also could ask the show organizers to include you as a guest speaker or offer a demo of new products.
• Speeches and presentations: Speaking of speaking, have you considered being a guest speaker for local civic and professional clubs or schools? Many clubs meet monthly and are always on the lookout for speakers with presentations that are useful and relevant to their members.
Create presentations that will work well with different types of audiences, then contact club presidents or principals with an offer to speak. Practice ahead of time to make sure your presentation is smooth. Remember to bring materials or giveaways with your logo and contact information.
These speaking engagements help build your credibility as a trusted expert in your field, making it more likely that the people who hear your presentation will call you the next time they need service.
These are strategies you can execute on your own, but it’s best to go in with a plan and commit to following through. An experienced public relations agency can help you identify the right opportunities for you. They can even help you craft excellent presentations and book speaking engagements for you.
Writing in Entrepreneur, Aravind Natarajan had this to say about personal, local marketing:
“Through local community brand-building exercises, you can build your own community of followers within the society you cater to. Doing this well makes your business become a part of your customer’s life story. For the customer, it becomes more interesting to be part of that story than the target of your advertising.”
However you plan your public relations and marketing strategy, it is best to incorporate a mix of tactics. High-tech, online marketing has its place, but so does a conversation and a handshake.