Today we have a guest post by Marc D. LeVine, Director of Social Media for Riaenjolie Inc, a web development company that specializes in websites for contractors and other tradespeople. If you’re a contractor, take a look at his tips to help improve your site.
Some people truly believe that for most local businesses engaging in Social Media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging, etc.) it is a complete waste of time, and worse – it’s a waste of money. While this may be true for some small businesses, it is not true for all small businesses.
There is no question that computer challenged individuals probably won’t benefit much from social networking, primarily because they do not understand the technology – not because business opportunities do not exist for them. Others may be avoiding Social Media because they already have more business than they can handle and are stretched too thin trying to meet the demand for their services.
Andy Gaur, CEO of RiaEnjolie Inc., a New Jersey web page design company specializing in professional looking and affordable websites for Electricians and other trades people, is very well attuned to the world of traditional and Social Media Marketing for business. “It is much better to be preparing a well conceived and comprehensive marketing plan and getting ready to use an appropriate mix of outreach strategies rather than just sticking with just one or two strategies that have not worked very well for Electricians and others in the trades,” says Gaur. “If you don’t jump on different things – like Social Media – that show promise, you may end up in a struggle to retain your current customers and fail to gain new ones that are unaware of your business and what you can offer them in quality workmanship and affordable pricing.”
The reality is that while there may be a few good reasons for not engaging in Social Media, there may be many more convincing arguments as to why all small businesses should be involved on the Internet.
Local Business People Need Local Business Solutions
Residential Electricians, in particular, do the majority of their work close to home. Homeowners usually seek out electricians and plumbers that do business within or near to their community. If there is an emergency, they want help to come from nearby and as soon as possible. Customers also prefer to engage local trades people recommended to them by their neighbors and friends or from right out of the local listings – often found on the Web.
In order to be easily found, small businesses need to show up in search results for keyword phrases that include a geographic modifier and their services and/or products. An Electrician in Brooklyn, NY needs to show up in search results for “electrician Brooklyn NY or “residential electrician Borough Park,” etc. They can easily do this without ever once engaging in a social networking activity.
When it comes to Social Media, local businesses should be spending their time on geo-targeted social networks like Google Buzz, Google local search and Foursquare. Maybe Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn aren’t for them, but these geo local sites are just what the doctor ordered.
Here is how geo local Internet searching can be of benefit to almost any small business, including electricians. If your small business has done all it can to be easily found, your target customers “land” right on your website and can see your phone number, front and center. If your website is all that it needs to be, they will pick up the phone and call you to come make electrical repairs in their home.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning for how your business will be found on the Web by your local customers:
1. Be Sure to Use Local Keywords. Your customers will look for you by city and state, first. They need to be prominent among your keywords and accompany other keywords that are specific to what you do for a living that you also offer your customers to solve their problems.
2. Pay Attention to Local Google Maps. They offer some great tips on local searching. And, having these maps appear right on your website when potential customers are trying to figure out exactly where you are located in relation to their own homes is a great tool and benefit.
3. Choose Authoritative Directories for Inclusion. Submit your website to the better known “authoritative” directories such as Yahoo! Directory. Look for other quality directories on which to post your URL so as to earn enough link equity to rank you ahead of your competitors, especially in the more general directories (re: searching for electricians).
You Can Ignore Social Media, but Not the Internet
Looking for other reasons why electricians and other small businesses need to pay attention to the Internet, if not actively participate in social networking? Your business may be getting bad ratings and reviews from service reviewers and customers. You could possibly be losing business and not know why. You may not even have an opportunity to answer the critics as they continue to throw bricks at you in front of hundreds or thousands of potential customers searching for reviews on your service.
Listen to What Others are Saying about You and Your Business
One thing every small company should do on the Internet is to listen to what others are saying about you – good, bad and awful. Connect with your current customers as well as your potential ones. Be available to answer their questions and to give your advice. Be there to answer their criticisms and address their concerns. You get a lot of mileage by showing everyone that you care and always respond in an honest and truthful way – even when the news may not be what they want to hear. People respect that kind of attention.
When People See That You Know Your Stuff, They Know Who to Call
Respect also comes with being perceived as a subject matter expert (SME). If you are the local electrician – show your target audience what you know as an experienced tradesman. Create a blog and offer some basic tips free and with no strings attached. Share “how-to” solutions and let people know about preventive measures that can save them money and worry. This is the sort of attitude that earns praise and future business opportunities.
You Don’t Need to Get In Over Your Head When You Make the Right Choices
If it sounds like I have gotten you to stick your big toe in the Social Media waters, I may have. But realize that what I have shown you does not involve constant Facebook updating or daily “Tweeting.” My recommendations are directed at being found and being respected, more than they are about engaging in a full range of conversational activities in social networking.
Spend the Bulk of Your Attention and Your Resources on Your Website
Sample navigation of a typical Electrician’s Website
Home | About Us | Ethics & Value | Guarantee | Safety Tips | FAQs | Glossary | Jobs | Useful Links | Contact Us | Directions
Residential Voice & Data Cabling | Hot Tubs & Spa | Ceiling Fans & Attic | Emergency & Back up Systems | Panels & Wiring | Rewiring | Landscape & Outdoor Lighting | Inspections | Telephone & Computer/Network Cabling | Surge Protection | Basement Development | Knob & Tube Removal | Kitchen & Bathroom Remodeling | Recessed Lighting | Troubleshooting | Smoke Alarm/Detector Services – Commercial
Service Upgrades | Commercial Kitchen Design & Maintenance | Parking Lot Lighting | GFCI Installation & Replacement | Retail Interiors & Ballast Replacement | Aerial Maintenance & Installation | Infra-red Testing | Infra-red Testing | Track Lighting | Telecommunications | Recessed Lighting | Hazardous Locations ______________________________________________________________________________
The one place that you should invest yourself in – to a larger degree than anywhere else we have discussed – is your website. If you are going to be easily found on the Internet, it is your website that will appear ahead of your name, your address and your reputation. If your website does not look professional at first glance, most people will abandon it before ever reading on to determine your suitability as an electrician.
So take a look at your website and ask yourself the following questions about it?
Does Your Website Pass This Test?
1. Is your website design aesthetically pleasing?
2. How intuitive is your website to navigate?
3. Does your website have a clear statement of PURPOSE near the top of its homepage?
4. Content is King. Is your website copy concisely written and richly informative?
5. Do you update your website content REGULARLY to keep it fresh?
6. Does your website have a “call to action” on every page for customers to respond to?
7. Does your website’s index page draw visitors further into its content and to where you display and sell your products and contract your services?
8. Is your website designed to encourage future visits (i.e. is there a newsletter; a tell-a-friend feature; a blog with an RSS button to subscribe with?)
Electricians, you can definitely “short circuit” the process of Social Media and still get the business results you are looking for. You need to be smart in the ways you employ the Internet in order to be easily found and then, to be able to impress your target audience when they land at your website for their very first time. If your website passes the effectiveness test and if you have done all your homework with regard to geo-search, you’ll be very pleased at the additional phone calls you’ll be getting from local customers looking for a good electrician.