I work in advertising sales. I have for a long time. I talk with small to medium sized businesses. Many of them are just starting out and have little to no money to spend on advertising. While there is no such thing as a free lunch, there are quite a few things that you can do to get your name out and present a message. The internet has made this possible.
Keep your message consistent
You are going to be spending a lot of time on getting yourself listed on sites, as well as creating your own website. Before you go through all of that trouble you need to have a few pieces of information that you put wherever you go. It’s truly not enough to just put your name and number out there anymore.
Your message is going to give the customer a compelling reason to do business with you. You can spend all of the money that you want on marketing, but if someone comes across your information and they don’t have a reason to buy, they are going to move right along.
I remember hearing that it takes about eight visits to from the Google search results page to your site to generate one phone call. That means that on average seven out of eight people don’t like what they see. You don’t have a lot of money, so you’re going to make a robust website with plenty of information.
Before you spend one second filling anything out anywhere, you need to type up this information:
- What are your hours of business? Do you take emergency calls? If so this is a plus and will often get you calls outside of normal business hours.
- Do you have a physical address? If you do that’s great! When you claim things like listings on popular directories, they are often going to sort by distance from the customer. You want to be a part of that sort. So even if you don’t have an address, it may be wise to see if you have a friend with a P.O. Box number that they would let you use.
- What type of services you offer? You should have a bullet point list of these services for directories. After you do that, you should write out exactly what you are offering with each service. For example:
- What form of payment do you take for your services? You really need to be able to accept checks, cash, and credit cards. It is never really free to accept a credit card. You are going to have to pay a transaction fee to the vendor. You can get started with a company like Square. They will mail you a reader for free that works with your smartphone. They charge 2.75% of your transaction total. If you would like to explore this avenue further, here is there link: https://squareup.com/reader.
- When were you founded?
- Write out a mission statement. You want it to be something small and catchy. Example: “To provide Cook County with the most affordable carpet care, with respect to you and your property.” You would want this to be in the opening few sentences of anything you post online.
Take some photos, maybe even a video
Eventually, we are going to be claiming a bunch of online listings. Again, because I work in this space I know that half of the traffic on many of these websites go to the “organic” traffic. Since we aren’t spending any money this is great news for you. Having great looking photos is a surefire way to stand apart from your competition.
In order to maximize the usefulness of the photos that you take you’ll need to take a few things into consideration:
- You don’t need to have a professional photographer, but you will need to make sure that they are plenty well lit. A smartphone camera’s Achilles heal is the ability to take a decent photo in the dark.
- If you have a storefront, make sure that you take good quality photos of it both inside and outside. If you don’t have a storefront, than you are going to need pictures of a good looking vehicle with your logo on it. You could also use a photo of an employee on the job looking clean and professional.
- Many sites won’t allow you to put a video directly on them, but you can make a quick video describing what you are all about onto youtube. You can than link to that video wherever you put up an ad.
Here is a great article on how to use a smartphone to take a really great photograph. http://www.popphoto.com/gallery/10-tips-making-your-smartphone-photos-look-they-came-real-camera
Create a website for free
You totally can make a decent website for free these days. The catch is usually that you have to register it with the domain name of the host in your URL. Let’s say we are Jared’s Plumbing.
You’d want the URL jaredsplumbing.com, but for free you are only getting jaredsplumbing.wix.com. Beggars can’t be choosers. And in this case a free site is better than no site. Wix is certainly better than nothing. Build it. Here is the link.
Here is the part where little money can go a long way. Having your own domain with a decent site is going to be a huge feather in your cap. People only want to deal with a business that they feel is legitimate. That’s why I say if you only have one dollar to spend, you spend it on a website.
With the price of hosting being as cheap as it is. It shouldn’t really cost you more than $100 to host a site for an entire year. You can register your domain for about $9 annually. You can uHere is a list of the cheapest ways to facilitate this.
Put content on the site
Today if you can edit a document in word, you can more than easily build a website for your business. In fact, if you don’t feel very confident at the thought of it here is what you do. Type up these pages in whatever word processor works for you, and find a tech savvy family member to write up the site for you. Buy them lunch, or give them $50 if you can spare it.
Before you write anything out, ask yourself who your audience is. Or, another way to put that is who is your ideal customer? Try and write in a way that is relatable to them.
- Home– This page should cover who you are and what you do. It should cover the areas that you cover. Just write something like: “Proudly serving the entire Phoenix area.” You don’t need to cover every city. In fact, if you do it just sounds super spammy. You should have hours of operation, as well as your mission statement from earlier. If you have a physical address and want people to come to you, it’s important that you have a maps widget on your homepage. You want it to be as easy as possible for people to find you. Here is a link: https://maps–generator.com
- Services– All of the different things that you sell to people in order to part them from their money. This is where you list it out with a description of what that is. A lot of businesses don’t like to list prices on their sites, but if you can it’ll only help you get more calls. Do you really love one kind of job, but think it’s obscure? Put it on there. Chances are it’s not mentioned in detail by your competition. It’s easier to rank for “antique copper plumbing repair” than “plumbing repair”. That’s called a long-tail keyword.
- About– This should be a history of the business, as well as a bit about the owner, including how long he has been in business. If you are photogenic and look good in front of the camera, go ahead and shoot a video and throw it on Youtube. Here is a link to a video that explains to you how if you aren’t sure.
Also, you should really Google the phrase that people would type to find you, such as “plumbing contractors” and see what comes up. That’s your competition, and that’s who you are going to beat. It’ll take at least a year, but if you get onto that first page of results you are getting free advertising, really it’s the Holy Grail.
Market your website
I always tell people when trying to sell them advertising that having a website without advertising is like having a car without gas. That is true, but there are tons of freebies that we can go out and grab right now. You should claim all the major local business listings.
Be warned, when you do this you are going to get called to “verify” the listing on many of these sites. You need to stonewall the sales rep and tell them that you would just like the verification for now. Here is a list of really useful listings that can bring you business right now. As mentioned earlier, you are going to fill in every possible bit of information that you can. This will help you rank higher in organic searches.
Google– You are going to want to make sure you are seen in a few places. The first is Google Maps. Many people with a smartphone search for a local business by where they are in relation to that business on Google Maps. It’s great because the only thing you need to do to beat your competition is show up closer. You also want to claim your Google my business account. This will get you that righthand blue listing when people look you up. It looks great! Also, it points powerful backlinks back to your site, which increase your organic placement.
Yelp– This platform is fantastic if you have a restaurant or coffee shop. But, really it’ll benefit all types of businesses. They’ve recently made news for some review manipulation, but that doesn’t matter. We are beggars and not choosers. Lets claim that listing.
YP.com– YP.com gets a decent amount of traffic, and is in the top 5 online national directories (surprised?). It’s espescially effective for service and contractor types of businesses. The audience that uses the site is a bit older than Yelp, but I consider that to be a good thing. Head on over and claim your listing. Again, the more that you put into this thing the more you are going to get out. Make sure to upload pictures.
Yahoo Local– Yahoo Local is one of the most popular and well used directories. It can be difficult to get the free listing since the management of this service is now provided by a company called Yext. They specialize in “cleaning up” your business listings across the internet. It’s a huge waste of money. Here is a direct link for only the free listing:
BBB– The Better Business Bureau is an important and valuable place to get listed. It’s an incredibly trusted resource. Go ahead and claim your listing. Make sure you give them a good email, since most people who have a gripe with you will go to them.
It’s good to stay in front of any issue you may have. You’ll have to log into whatever local BBB page is relevant for your area. You should automatically get there when you click this link. You are than going to go to “for businesses” and take it from there.
Facebook– There are certain types of businesses that can really benefit from Facebook advertising. Once you set up a free business page there you can post what you do and your site to your friend. You can also go looking for jobs on local buy/sell/trade boards.
Craigslist– Look at the job boards and see if there is anything you can do. If you do a good job ask for a referral.
Local Chamber of Commerce– Look up your local chamber of commerce. Some of them cost to join, and some of them are free. If you are lucky enough to live in an area with a free chamber of commerce listing go out and get it. It provides you with an opportunity to get in front of more customers, and provides a powerful local backlink to your new website.
Lets get the phone to ring
Now that you have listed yourself on all of the top directories, and you have a website it’s time for to sit back and watch the jobs roll in. That’s not going to happen overnight, but you’ll be in a position to capitalize on anyone who may be interested in you. You’ll also start getting calls from people who found your information.
You must answer the phone every time it rings.
I can’t tell you how many people I have helped out who don’t answer the phone. Maybe they are on a job. Maybe they are busy. Leads are precious. If you can’t answer the phone, have it forwarded to your mothers house and let her do it for you.
If you take the time to do the steps you will get calls for free. You can live on it. But, I’d certainly recommend building up some cashflow and moving forward with a few paid campaigns. We’ll discuss that at a later time. You really can advertise your business for free. Good luck!!!