Apart from the intangible, marketing local services differ from marketing products by a very important distinction: the number of in-person touchpoints with the customer and the inherent necessity to keep in touch.
Production and inventory costs pressured the companies selling physical products to heavily invest in marketing. Not being saddled with high fixed costs both consumer-centric and B2B services, on the other hand, were traditionally undermarketed in the past. Now with the presence of online marketing tools, tactics and strategies, service-based businesses, especially local ones, they are quickly catching up.
Let’s take a look at which are the marketing practices that you should consider for your service-based business in 2020?
Add value and streamline the decision making-process by bundling complementary or related services. A small discount to a bundle goes a long way in increased revenue. With service-based businesses the inventory costs usually don’t come into the equation, so service bundling comes at a low no cost, but with the benefit of more attractive offers.
Sometimes a pretty straightforward single service could be repackaged to serve a different customer. Interactive tours repackaged as corporate team-building events, children’s party animators run scheduled daytime parties as a stand-in nursery service – get creative and think of customers’ pain points and how you could address them. Even the introduction of a subscription plan to your service could prove a simple but effective makeover of your offering.
The next step would be to add scale by turning your service into a product. Local and 1-to-1 services scale notoriously badly, but examples of how expertise in a service translates into a marketable product are out there. Books written by industry experts are probably the best evidence of it. Latest examples feature bespoke graphic designs turn into sellable templates, and consulting businesses and yoga teachers move into selling tutorials and courses. What is the possible product extension of your core service?
2. Implement a Booking System and a Store Locator to Your Local Service
Setting an appointment or booking a service doesn’t have to be done by phone only. Reach out to customers who would prefer to contact you outside of working hours or to those who are reluctant to make a call. Why does it matter to your service-based business?
- It makes you available 24/7 to your customers.
- Booking an appointment online saves time for both new and repeat customers.
- Gives you time off the phone and minimizes interruptions during working hours.
Apart from adding convenience, how is this feature a marketing tool per se, you may ask. It implies your services are in high demand, that’s how.
There are hundreds of customizable WordPress plugins for any type of service like appointment modules, booking modules, availability calendars.
Chances are your services are not standardized enough to fit in an appointment calendar. In that case, make yourself available by adding a simple contact form to your website – a feature often overlooked but effective in collecting leads.
Another feature to consider is the store locator if you operate in more than one location.
76% of people who search for something nearby on their smartphone visit a related business within a day, and 28% of those searches result in a purchase.
3. Tweak Your Business Model to Add Novelty to Your Marketing
Challenging times have fueled the ingenuity of local businesses during the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak. Large-scale lockdowns forced service-based businesses to adopt creative ways to connect with customers and stay afloat.
Most of their efforts were grouped around adding remote web-based adaptations of their services, and pickup-and-delivery service extensions (that’s when an appointment system comes very handy!)
A home organizing company rolled out $100 personal live video consultations of how to reorganize a client’s home. An HR consultancy invented remote group team-building sessions called ‘tiny campfire’ .
A New York beauty salon expanded their offer with house calls and Facetime styling consultations with personalized color-kits delivered-to-door for those who had to isolate and wanted to DYI hair styling. Dog groomers added pickup and delivery service for pets en masse when the pandemic hit.
Adoption of experimental changes to your business model can certainly give you something to shout about. But more importantly – staying relevant and in touch with the local community. Although experimental tweaks create a wealth of marketing opportunities, some of those changes may, after proving their viability, stay part of your services portfolio for the long term
4. Update the Way You Showcase Your Work
If you think plumbing, moving furniture or pool cleaning are services not ‘sexy’ enough to show off, think again! Gardeners and make-up artists may have an advantage in marketing local services but every job can be showcased attractively and effectively. Even the most mundane of services need and deserve a place on the mantelpiece, and prospective customers love to see the evidence of a job well done.
Don’t simply presume people know what drycleaning or locksmithing is, or that they don’t care about the process. Why do you think the ‘oddly satisfying’ videos garner thousands of views on social media? Because watching them causes the release of chemicals in the brain that brings about happiness and content. These are the same hormones (serotonin and dopamine) that kick in when humans eat sugar, have sex, or get likes on Instagram. Now redefine ‘sexy’ for your own service business.
Even if you’re not savvy enough to make a marketing video of your process, a simple ‘before-and-after’ picture tells a thousand words about your expertise. Just remember to make a routine out of it, post regularly on your website and social media, and results will follow.
5. Rethink the Good Old Blog Post Writing
Regular and relevant posts on your blog and social media improve your visibility with search engines and customers. Search engines crawl for fresh content on your website and give preference to content that is linked to by other sites. But the real point is, as in showcasing, is that this effort should serve as proof of expertise.
Talk about the ins and outs of job: how you’ve found a solution for a peculiar problem, or what it is like to move a customer’s prickly and fragile cacti collection to a new home, what it takes to come up with new nail design or give an advice on business cards design from your own vast experience at printing jobs. You will certainly have anecdotes to share or petty hate to write about! The more people know about the professional and human aspects of what you do, the more they can relate to you as a person or business.
When marketing local service businesses need to be local-specific with their content and keywords. Add local-specific keywords to your page, mention local news and events in your content. “Service Business in (City, State)” is more likely for your page to pop up in search performed from this exact location.
Think of other media to transform your writing to: e-book, infographics, presentations, video – there are many services that transform text into video.
6. Take the Time to Update Your Old Content
When local services businesses have generally been putting effort into producing fresh content regularly, their old blog posts are often left unattended. This translates into a missing opportunity for your conversion rates and SEO rankings.
Start by looking into the best-rated old posts (or those converting best) to change outdated examples, tidy up your internal linking with adding more links to newer posts and fix broken links, review the associated keywords, and update headlines.
A changed date to your post would make it a piece of fresh content with little effort. Follow a full guide to this often underused tactic and polish up old posts to increase traffic and conversions.
7. Harness the Power of Customer Reviews
82% of consumers read online reviews about local businesses, with 52% of all adults saying they ‘always’ read reviews.
The problem with online reviews is that people tend to actively review a service when they’re unhappy about it. Making an effort to accumulate positive reviews and neutralize the potential reputational damage by the unsatisfied ‘vocal minority’ means to stimulate positive recommendations.
How to solicit recommendations and how to make customers talk about your service business?
- Ask for a recommendation in person after a job well done. Most people will not refuse such small favors.
- Ask for a favorable rating or a review in a follow up email – thank your client their purchase and ask for a review. Make it easy for them: link to a review section on your website, your social media page or a third party website where your service business is listed. It usually takes just two or clicks to leave a 5-star rating, so it pays to emphasize your call-to-action.
- Reach out to recent repeat customers if you haven’t done so.
- Hone the relationship. Take the time to comment on a good review, make sure to humanize your response. Don’t be too formal, businesses are people.
- Don’t miss the opportunity to react to negative reviews. People pay disproportionately more attention to negative reviews than to positive ones. Always consider answering those whether to stand your ground or to apologize. If your voice is missing, the negative opinion becomes a fact. Turn it into a conversation.
As a form of social proof online reviews are a tricky but unavoidable territory that your business better take control of navigating actively.
8. Get More Personal Recommendations
Yes, online referrals.
Incentivize the process: offer a free gift, or even better – make a complementary offer. A discount voucher or a coupon code would work two-fold – as an incentive for leaving a review and as a gateway for future sales with both current customers and new leads. Ditto – bonuses for both parties. Remember to keep it simple and make the process of referring and getting the bonus as effortlessly as possible.
If you run B2B services, give a referral and ask for one in return – this often proves to be the easiest approach. The other one – to offer a referral commission – works for most businesses too. Sometimes business clients are reluctant or have a policy of not recommending other businesses. Think up other ways they could boost your reputation: case studies, success stories, any form of testimonial.
9. Connect with Other Businesses in Your Area
A beauty salon can get customers when advertising through your local dry cleaning and vice versa. The same practice works well online when done right. Reach out to other businesses and establish partnerships with them to cross-promote each other’s services.
Marketing local small businesses in particular can benefit the most when following this simple checklist:
- The partner business caters to the same types of clients in the area.
- Businesses are relatively the same size on the local scale.
- Quality over quantity: check for partner’s domain authority and compare it to your own. Don’t overdo the backlinking practice as too many links may backfire.
Again, mutually agree to produce valuable content and include a recommendation with a link to the partner’s website.
10. Research Your Competition’s Marketing Efforts
You surely know who you compete with in your niche. But do you know what’s under the hood of your competitor’s marketing strategy? Are they inept to never think of one at all or have they set up an advanced set of solutions that syphon leads or foot traffic hurting your own company’s bottom line?
See what marketing practices your local serviice competitors are employing and that are successful, what they lag behind with, and get ideas on how to improve the marketing performance of your service business with these tips and free tools.
11. Remember to Check Regularly on Your Website’s SEO
Although self-evident, it’s easy for locally-operating service businesses to forget about the basics when a distraction or complacency kicks in. Even if your on-site optimization was flawless two years ago, check again. Issues and errors tend to pile up when left unattended for some time.
As rules of the SEO game change pretty quick too, it’s also important to check on your website’s SEO health regularly.
What local service businesses often miss is that not everything in SEO is scarily complicated. Pay attention to some of the very basic on-page SEO bits and pieces to ensure they’re done right.
Different pages for each service.
Yes, that’s right – when each service is assigned its own page on your website, those services get a better chance of showing up higher in the search results. Make sure to describe each service in detail, link to your other services on other pages, include relevant keywords. If your services list is lengthy, simply group services by relevance until your proposition looks neat. A well-organized website makes the most of both user experience and SEO.
Name-Address-Phone (NAP) on every page.
The majority of brick-and-mortar businesses depend on foot traffic – make sure you spare your customers the effort of another click to find your contact details. The same with the phone number or contact form when your service is performed at the client’s location, e.g. home repairs or cleaning. Display your company’s contact details in the header or footer present on every page.
Is your website (still) mobile friendly or fast enough?
Search engines favor fast-loading websites in their search results and penalize the slow and heavy webpages. Make an effort to avoid unenforced errors in optimizing for mobile and for speed. By keeping your WordPress website fast and mobile-friendly, you put it in a better position to attract more organic traffic, new leads, and paying customers.
Those are only the basic issues to start with. You can diagnose your website on your own by making an audit with these free tools. After you’ve gained traction, hire a specialist to help with more complex SEO issues to perfect your website with future scalability in mind.
12. Review Your Business Directory Listings
Even if your business still doesn’t have a website (only 64% of small businesses have websites), or you haven’t yet allocated a single dollar for internet marketing, your web presence starts with telling all prospective customers that you’re out there by making your business visible online. You probably have your company profile on industry-specific directories but is it up-to-date? Have you answered to reviews, updated your locations and working hours?
Thing is, information gets out of date surprisingly quickly and tends to go unnoticed. So are the changes to those platforms. Google MyBusiness, the must-have service to list your business, rolls out new features every quarter.
You certainly know that this is how your location gets a pin on Maps and a place in local search results. But did you pay attention to the fact that since late 2019 you can list services and quote prices? It’s only a matter of time before Google My Business starts selling your services from your profile.
Local businesses could take advantage of the location-based search functionalities of the most powerful search platform – Google accounts for 92% of all mobile search! If you’re not there yet, claim your place now.
Wrapping It Up
Keep an eye on what works when marketing your service business and what doesn’t. Find what works and don’t shy away from trying out new approaches.
Eliminate the guesswork from your marketing strategy: set KPIs and track them with every marketing effort you take. With online marketing you’re in for the long game.