A slick, quick online response will win sales
All six of our kids individually said “Ewwww. No. Don’t do it! I’ll never drive with you again.” “Marvelous”, was my response. Even my husband wrinkled his nose in distaste in the first instance. You see, I decided to put business branding on our little Hyundai Getzs.
Low-key advertising makes perfect sense to me. It’s inexpensive and continual. In fact, I don’t know why more small businesses and self-employed don’t do it.
The kids think they won by extracting a promise that I wouldn’t put my face on the car – I never planned to anyway.
For today’s column I’d like to walk you through my process of finding and then employing a business to execute the plan. I feel there are numerous business lessons to take from it.
Step One. Like many other consumers, I live an almost completely web-based life. The first place I looked was on the internet using Google. It was a total failure, though. I didn’t have the right terminology, using only painting; auto branding.
Lesson One: Check your search terms. Do you have non-technical terms that your target market will use? Have you put in the locations served and your services? The place to do this is in the page title (the white letters that appear in the top left of each web page).
Step Two. I turned to social media next for recommendations. Through my Facebook Business page I asked if anyone knew of a company they would recommend. As my Facebook updates fed through to Twitter and LinkedIn, I only had to ask once to have it appear in three places. I had about 12 recommendations and lots of good advice. For example, consider adding vinyl instead of paint – it can save repainting the car if you sell it; you need to drive courteously and safely – everyone will know who you are; and keep the car clean.
Lesson Two: Even if you’re not personally on social media, it can still be an area of referral (and, conversely, condemnation). So nurture your customer service to get referrals. They can come many ways in 2012.
Step Three. As with most business people, I’m very busy. I’m also not tightly constrained by budget (time is money so time searching for multiple quotes has a cost). So though I was given referrals in many forms, I skipped those with phone numbers only and went straight to the websites. The two sites I looked at had visual examples which are important to help customers generate ideas. I emailed both companies. Only one got back to me, and almost immediately. The second still has not answered (my inquiry was sent through their online web form).
Lesson Three: Several points, actually. First, try to get your referrers to give website addresses in addition to phone numbers. Most people want to look at your "visual" business card first. Next, website inquiries are as important as picking up a ringing telephone. How many people don’t bother filling out online inquiry forms after bad past experience? My hand is raised. If you run a business, be sure your incoming emails are being answered. Here’s a trick. Have such web inquiries come to your inbox and ensure a copy goes to the person who usuually handles them. And do a weekly reconciliation. How many have they answered of those you know were sent in.
Step Four. Having got the response from the company (I chose www.vinylgraphics.co.nz ), all our communications wdere by email first, then SMS, and finally I picked up the phone to set a time to bring in the car. When the job was finished he attached a photo to an email to show the finished result.
Lesson Four: Vinyl Graphics owner Henry didn’t know if I was a tyre kicker or not, but he still went to a lot of trouble creating and emailing visual mock-ups and tweaks. Though not every online quote will come through, I believe most people are moral and honorable. Faced with competitors with similar pricing and features, they will feel an unspoken obligation to work with someone who has helped them.
In summary, three strategies. The internet makes doing business so FREASY (free and easy). It allows little minnows like Henry, incorporating agility and responsiveness, to compete with the wealthy and larger businesses. You often cannot tell the difference in size from a website.
Word-of-mouth referrals take on many forms. Try to upskill to ask people to also give weblinks.
Finally, and most importantly, create processes that ensure you, or the right staff, attend to all online web inquiries as you would the phone that is ringing on the desk or in your pocket.
PS: If you see me driving around Auckland – you’ll give me a honk, won’t you?
Debbie Mayo-Smith is one of the most sought-after speakers in Australasia. For a free quick tip newsletter, a vast collection of "how-to" articles and other resources to help you work smarter and save time, visit www.debbiespeaks.co.nz