NAPIT offers helpful advice on how to make the most of your business on a budget, focusing on four business necessities; websites, social media, networking and branding.
1. A Website
In the digital age it is essential that your business has an online presence. Consumers use search engines like Google to find local businesses, so if you don’t have a website you could be losing work to those which do.
“It’s not essential to pay a web designer a small fortune, there are content management systems which allow you to set up your own, perfectly suitable, website.”
Website Creation – It’s not essential to pay a web designer a small fortune, there are content management systems which allow you to set up your own, perfectly suitable, website. WordPress is perhaps the most popular of these, with a range of free articles online to guide you through the process of making your WordPress site, making it an achievable short project to take on yourself.
SEO – Once you have your website, you need to make sure potential customers can find it. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the term used for the process of increasing the visibility of a website in a search engine’s results. There are specialist companies which will do this for you, should your budget allow. If you are on a tight budget there are a few basic things you can do yourself:
- Think about all the keywords your potential customers will use to search for your service and ensure you include them all throughout your site content. Search engines scan through the internet using these keywords to find the appropriate websites for the user; if your site doesn’t contain them, it won’t be found.
- If your business has an office or headquarters, make a free Google Places account. You will then be found on Google Maps searches. This takes very little time, and will make your services an appealing option for local consumers.
SEO is another reason using WordPress is worth considering as the content management system takes care of a great deal of it for you. You will also have the option to enhance your SEO efforts with available plug-ins.
2. Social Media
Free, easy to use, and wide reaching; Social Media is a valuable marketing tool which no business should ignore.
Whichever sites you choose to work with, the following tips and advice will help you to create a positive, effective presence for your business:
- Keep it business – Create a separate business account or page, don’t use your personal profiles, your business is more likely to be taken seriously this way. Your customers don’t want to see your holiday snaps!
- Engage – Don’t just bombard your followers/friends with business promotion. Identify what you can offer and use it to create interesting, entertaining, or helpful content to engage your audience. For example you could provide industry news which is relevant to the consumer, post photos of your work to attract interest or even provide video demonstrations.
- Research – Know your audience and their online habits. Easily interpretable Social Media statistics are rife on the internet at present. You can use these to decide the best time to post, the best platform to use, and more.
- Encourage Customer Interaction – Ask happy customers to leave feedback on your page, you can even offer incentives for them to do so. One way to expand your audience is to get your current followers/ friends to “like”, “share” or “retweet” you posts or page. Offers such as “Like and Share for 10% off” will encourage the follower to use your services and also extend your reach to their followers/ friends too.
“It’s not what you know, but who you know” often holds true; but are we all doing enough to take advantage of this simple fact? There are plenty of different networking methods available, try them all and see which suit you and your business.
The construction industry’s calendar is packed with tradeshows, exhibitions and conferences, many of which are free to attend. Business owners who are not represented at these events are missing out on many opportunities to form valuable professional relationships.
Some networking organisations encourage representatives of different industries to form relationships at regular meetings, with the aim of being able to work together through referral and collaboration.
If you don’t see the benefit in meeting with business people in other sectors, Trade Associations are probably more suited to you. Regular meetings with other tradespeople allow attendees to raise any issues or ideas, receive valuable advice and even share business leads.
Online networking is another option; over thirteen million people are registered on LinkedIn, the business social media site. The site allows you to build an online network of business associates and endorse one another’s skills.
Through effective networking you will see that strong relationships with some will provide an extended network of many, it’s not just who you know but who they know too.
4. Clear Branding
Branding isn’t exclusively for big companies; a brand can be instrumental or detrimental to the success of a business.
Your brand is the impression you make on your potential customers and with a little thought and effort you can ensure it’s a good one. Again this needn’t cost the earth, use the following tips for branding on a budget:
- Turn your van into a travelling advert. Every company that requires the use of a vehicle should have their company name, logo and contact details on it. Remember to include your website; a lot of consumers will want to check you out before calling.
- Give all your stationary (letterheads, business cards, quotes etc) a consistent theme through the use of your logo, colour and fonts. This theme should also be apparent on your website. Remember outlandish fonts in unreadable colours may not promote the professional image your customer would prefer to see.
- Use branded clothing to promote professionalism and a business that takes its image seriously. Remember that whilst in this uniform you (and your employees should you have any) are representing your company and everyday interactions could result in offers of work.
- Advertise your capability by including all applicable accreditation logos and quality marks on your branding. Remember to include your scheme operator’s logo as well as certification bodies.
There are many other ways to promote your services that you may eventually want to consider. But for now, you could start with these essentials and after a little hard work and attention you may find yourself with a thriving online following, a phonebook full of new contacts and a memorable brand, all making your business harder to ignore and giving you the edge over your competition.