Marketing is a highly variable process; exactly what methods you’ll choose to employ will depend heavily on your industry. When it comes to marketing for trades, we’re considering a number of factors. First, your trade business will likely be locally-owned and operated - by you. Second, you’re probably not going to have an excess of time on your hands to devote to marketing - at least not when you’re starting out. Third, most of your financial resources will probably be devoted to expanding business operations, so you’ll want to find marketing strategies that are relatively low-cost.
With all of this in mind, we’ll be primarily focusing on three avenues for marketing - online, word-of-mouth, and business to business.
List Your Business Online
Back in the day, you used to find tradespeople by opening up the Yellow Pages. Today, people search Google to find plumbers, electricians, and other trades near them. You want to make sure that when people search for local tradespeople, they find you first. This process is known as search engine optimization (SEO), and it’s something we’re going to touch on a few times during this post.
One of the most important elements of SEO is ensuring that your business is listed with search engines. The most important search engine is Google, and their most important listing is called Google My Business (GMB). GMBs are free to set up, they improve your SEO, and they give prospective clients an easy-to-read tab populated by your business’ information. What’s more, Google will provide you with free data and analytics.
Reviews, Referrals, and Testimonials
Tradespeople live and die by the quality of their work, and most prospective clients won’t buy services without evidence that you can produce the results they’re looking for. There are a number of ways to get references from clients you’ve worked for in the past; the three methods outlined below are tried and true:
First, we have reviews. These can appear on your website, on Yelp, on Google, or on any other number of platforms. Encourage your customers to leave reviews on all of these platforms; this can be as simple as sending a follow-up email. You can also find a number of programs that automatically send follow-up emails for you with reviews integrated into the email itself; these programs are often offered at a relatively low cost. Good reviews can help your SEO, too.
Next, we have referrals. Word of mouth happens organically; if you do great work for one client, they’ll be excited to tell their friends and families who are looking for a similar service. You can help encourage this kind of behaviour by leaving a business card, or by literally asking them to tell their friends about you - if you’ve done a good job, your clients will be happy to.
Finally, testimonials are one of the best ways to convince someone to choose you over another service provider in your area. You’ll often have to ask clients to write you testimonials. Much like referrals, they’ll be happy to do it if they liked your work. Testimonials are at their best when they’re specific - encourage clients to talk about the kind of work that was done, why they liked the service, and why they’d recommend you.
Provincial Heating, an HVAC service company in Manitoba, has effectively combined reviews and testimonials on their website. Their best Google reviews are prominently displayed on the site, alongside their aggregate score, so prospective clients are immediately enticed to choose their services.
Blogging and social media serve different, but related, purposes. Blogging is done chiefly to boost SEO. Search engines love unique content, and if you’re creating a blog that addresses real questions people looking for your services are looking for, you’ll be well-rewarded. Working in trades is naturally time-consuming, so you can outsource your blog, but doing so comes at a cost. Whether you’ll write them yourself or outsource depends on how much time you have and how comfortable you feel about writing. Keep in mind that blogs can be made for SEO, specifically, which requires a subset of skills you might not have.
There are a lot of tradespeople who might not think of social media as a valuable tool but you’d be surprised at how useful it can be! You can use before and after photos on Instagram to show the incredible changes that your work brings about. You can post behind-the-scenes info so people get an insider look at how you do business. You can promote deals and new services with a few clicks. The power of social media is almost boundless.
Get to know your fellow tradespeople. This can certainly mean people in the same trade as you, but it should also mean people who work at different trades. Let’s say, for example, you’re a plumber. You should get to know electricians, because if they see a leaky pipe has caused short-circuiting in a home, they can tell the homeowner to call you. A carpenter might need a plumber to work with on a new building they’re creating. The more connections you have, the better.
You might find it worthwhile to visit a tradeshow. Winnipeg plumbers, for example, might visit the Manitoba Building Expo in order to meet other tradespeople in the area. While these tradeshows do take some time and money, setting up a booth can really help you network and create meaningful connections. These connections are their own kind of marketing, and they’re mutually beneficial - you refer clients to them, and they refer clients to you!