OT - Advice Needed (Business)

  1. You have chosen to ignore posts from ml2620-2. Show ml2620-2's posts

    OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    Hey Ladies -

    I'm a "graduate" of the BDC Wedding Board, DH and I just celebrated our second anniversary. I lurk on the TTC Boards these days, but don't post too often (I'm in denial about why it's taking so long to get pregnant!) My advice for weddings, wait 3 months after you get engaged to make any wedding plans - enjoy your engagement before you both loose your minds completely to stress!

    Anywho ... you are all both my key demographic and wise and saavy women, and I need some opinions and advice so I am hoping you will bear with me and give this a second of thought.

    My husband owns a home services company (moving and storage), and business is not good. We have very little money for marketing and have allocated $1,000 to advertising this fall/winter. For many years, we have mainly relied of Craigslist, but we can no longer compete against some of the uninsured and illegitimate businesses pricing on craigslist.

    What do you think would be the most effective way to spend this $1,000, what gets your attention when you are looking for services, discounts, coupons, a rebate for referrals, a follow up visit to help you rearrange the furniture? free gift with purchase, some sort of added value - Red Sox tickets in exchange for 3 successful referrals, discounted short-term storage, free pens or refridgerator magnets?

    What small business marketing grabs your attention, and what would make you call a business? Any and all ideas are welcome, and desperately needed!
     
  2. You have chosen to ignore posts from Rapunzel41. Show Rapunzel41's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    Personally, pens, magnets, and all that stuff generally get tossed.  We get a ton of that stuff from people trying to market to us, wanting to work as subcontractors for us, and it just gets thrown in a drawer or in the trash. 

    I would try to market to some of the realtors in the area.  Where are you located?  Are you in a big college area?  Posting flyers in areas with "seasonal" population can help, especially if you can offer storage.  You could do move out / move in deals - move out in the spring, we'll store your stuff, and we'll move you back in for the fall.

    I will only hire insured movers, so if you market to realtors, play that up.  I also tend to stay away from bigger companies - my last movers I've never even heard of before google, and they were reasonably priced, though there ended up being "extras".  If there's a way you can make your prices inclusive, that would go a long way.  I don't udnerstand why i'm getting charged for moving blankets if you take the blankets with you when you leave... And I know that roll of packing tape did NOT cost $5, so why are you charging me $5?

    It's a tough market out there.  Good luck!
     
  3. You have chosen to ignore posts from dkb6248. Show dkb6248's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    I always look for a website.  I am unlikely to call/hire a business if I can't find their info on a website.  Secondly, I go to citysearch.com or yelp.com and look up reviews.  I want to know what experiences people have had with a company.  I find 99% of the services I need by googling.  I would advertise your business using Google AdWords.  

    http://www.google.com/services/

    I don't hire someone based on free gifts, but first time customer promotions or discounts are always a good incentive.
     
  4. You have chosen to ignore posts from trex509. Show trex509's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    For services, i generally look online for reviews, especially yelp.com.  For something like moving, I want to make sure 1) i'm not getting ripped off and 2) the company will arrive on time, be careful with my stuff, and treat me fairly (no extra charges tacked on at the end).  Price and good reviews are the main drivers of my choice in vendor (much like for a wedding!).
     
  5. You have chosen to ignore posts from cosmogirl. Show cosmogirl's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    ml2620!!!!!!  Great to hear from you!

    I agree that a sound track record (member of BBB, no complaints) and good references are the best thing.  (Just like wedding favors and guests,) no customer will notice if you have magnets and pens or not. 

    Unfortunately, his business will be slow until the real estate market comes back, and that might be awhile.  I think he should concentrate on developing a sideline, i.e. doing deliveries for a local company -- appliances, furniture, even courier services that would provide steady work, even if not Full Time.  One of DH's moving company bosses got a regular delivery gig for an equipment supply place which helped tide them over when things got lean but that could be done with the van if the moving truck was being used. 

    If his website needs to be upgraded to look professional, that might be money well spent.   Nothing fancy, but a good working link to email, some references, etc.

    PS - Check with Chamber of Commerce and your town for volunteer opportunities to help move stuff.  Great publicity and can make some good contacts!

    The moving biz got so slow that DH has been doing food delivery.  The money's not as good but pizzas are a lot lighter than cartons of books! 

    Miss you and hope you're doing great.  DH and I celebrated #3 yesterday.  Hard to believe!    Love ya! 
     
  6. You have chosen to ignore posts from jasmine09. Show jasmine09's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    I always check yelp too.  I think other things matter much more than "extras": competitive pricing, good website, no "extras" or hidden charges, efficient service, good reviews on yelp or similar site.
     
  7. You have chosen to ignore posts from ml2620-2. Show ml2620-2's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    Thanks Ladies, this is seriously helpful. I think the best use of our money would be updating the website and utilizing yelp. We've received advertising information from them, but have not yet pulled the trigger. We relied strictly on our reviews to generate traffic from yelp.

    Let me know if you think of anything else, and for responding so quickly!
     
  8. You have chosen to ignore posts from kargiver. Show kargiver's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    Hey, ml!!!  Congrats on the 2nd anniversary!  We're married, now, too, and also lamenting not having gotten pg, yet, but we're just coming up on our first year so...

    Anyways, I agree with spending it on a well developed website.  A poorly designed one with a do-it-yourself-in-the-basement feel is a huge turn off.  I avoid business who do not put much into their website because I assume if they are sloppy with that they are sloppy with their products and services.  There can be NO mistakes and no technical bugs.

    I would spend the money to ensure the website projects a very professional image.  It must be well designed in every way or will will turn business away rather than garner what you're looking for.

    A website that encourages me to purchase with confidence is or has...

    • laid out in a way that makes navigation decisions obvious from a customer's perspective
    • interesting but not busy (flashing is annoying and amateur, for instance)
    • all the information I'd need to make the decision to go with your product and/or service readily available (no need to hunt and hunt for reviews, product description, contact info, etc.)
    • a phone and link email address for contact info on the MAIN page
    • easy and computer-guided/assisted payment information entry (easy error screens to navigate if the customer messes up, tabs automatically to next data entry box, automatically copies ship to address to bill to address, for instance).
    • has all payment pages encrypted (https://...)
    • absolutely NO grammatical or spelling errors.  Nothing discourages me from making an online transaction faster than a mistake on a vendor's website.  It screams, "WE'RE SO SLOPPY!!  We HOPE we can process your order with more care than we put into reviewing our website."

    Blessings and best wishes,
    ~kar
     
  9. You have chosen to ignore posts from jasmine09. Show jasmine09's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    To build on kar's suggestion, I like it when moving companies have a form I can electronically submit detailing the apartment, so I can get an emailed quote from them.  I hate calling people--it's hard to find time to do that during normal business hours.  :p
     
  10. You have chosen to ignore posts from lesal. Show lesal's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    We chose a mover/storage company this past winter completely based on our realtor's referral - but I agree that I probably wouldn't use a company without a good website.  I didn't look for reviews on yelp or anything, but there was alot of info on their own website and satisfied client reviews.  I was impressed with the person who came to our house to look at everything and gave us an accurate estimate.  As I recall, we got a labor estimate, as well as an estimate for packing materials based on his walkthru.  so they were 'extra' charges, but we expected it and there were no surprises on moving day.  It was a local, family owned company and after meeting with them at the house and speaking to the receptionist on the phone I did not even call anyone else to get other estimates.  though I had not heard of the company before our realtor mentioned them.  so that's just my experience, it was a very stressful time and we had a house full of furniture, half moving to the new place but needed overnight storage, half going into long-term storage.  When my realtor said, call this guy and tell him I referred you, he's the best and will give you a good price - I just did it and didn't have much time to shop around like I normally would.  at that point you have established a level of trust in your realtor and I think for residential moves that would be the best advertisement.  But I don't know what it takes for you dh to establish a relationship like that with the realtors.  good luck, I know it's tough right now.

    oh, I also did enough online googling to be scared of the supposed discount movers who will give a low initial estimate but tack on a bunch of extras and not deliver your stuff until you agree to pay them.  I don't know how often this actually happens, but you may want to include some of the 'horror' stories on your website, without getting too negative - and how you are different.  I ended up going from somewhat annoyed that they insisted on seeing my house in person and wouldn't give an estimate over the phone - to being relieved about it.  know what I mean?
     
  11. You have chosen to ignore posts from lucy7368. Show lucy7368's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    Honestly, the last thing I want from a moving company is one more thing I have to take with me.  I don't buy anything for months before a move, so I'm not sure I would appreciate a free gift from movers.  Even Red Sox tickets would probably get lost.

    But I agree that I like to be able to get e-mailed quotes.  It's much easier.  

    Good luck!
     
  12. You have chosen to ignore posts from ambergirl. Show ambergirl's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    Service Magic is a great website.  I would recommend that for your company.  I have used it before and I love the contractors have to be licensed, so I feel it weeds out the illegal ones.  I just put in what I wanted (my rugs upstairs pulled up and floors refinished)  I got estimates from different contractors and ended up getting a great deal and loved the work he did. 
     
  13. You have chosen to ignore posts from wendy98. Show wendy98's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    I hate the phone so a good website is vital to me.  I agree no flashing or instant music, because most of us are at work trying to get a few things done on company time, and I for one do not appreciate clicking onto a site to obnoxious music blaring (even if I like the tune I find it obnoxious).

    Have as much information out there as possible, especially for estimates have a basic form so you can email a baseline estimate and then include your contact info again if the person would like a representative to come and check out the place to give a more detailed quote.  Clearly state what is included in the estimate, and clearly state if there are extras for a large amount of stairs etc and that you need to come out to provide a more detailed estimate. (The stairs thing caught my sister off guard once and it cost her a lot in the end.)

    I agree work with realtors, and even potentially estate lawyers.  I have been looking at a lot of craigs list postings and they are a lot of things called "estate sales" (ETA I know what an estate sale is but sometimes I think people just put that on their listing rather than yard or garage sale) but that may be a way to pick up some extra jobs mid week.  And I know that my parents are working with my great uncle to pack up his place and move him into a studio apartment at a senior center, so maybe check with some of the 55+ and assited living facilities to see if you can work with them to help move people in.  The ones I am familar with have a mix of bringing in their own furniture and certain pieces are provided by the facility.

    A posting I saw on craigslist was a "guy with a truck" literally that was his posting, and he has a pick up and was willing to go to yard sales with people to help bring back their stuff.  As a person without a truck the idea appealed to me but he was in Cambridge and I am not.  Yet another aveune to explore for mid week pick up and drop offs, and that you could probably advertise on craigslist itself.

    And finally (after this novella)  we used a company to put my DH's stuff into storage when he moved into my townhouse they were great, a local company.  We used them again to move us out of the townhouse and storage into our new house.  They gave us a 10% repeat business discount, and that rocked.  We actually didn't know about the discount until we called to see if they were available.

    Good luck.
     
  14. You have chosen to ignore posts from ALF72. Show ALF72's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    ML!  Good to hear from you.

    I don't know if this is feasible or if your DH only does local [in MA] moves, but contact the goverment and try to get on their list of approved movers.  The military moves constantly, and we don't generally get a choice of who we use for a moving company.  Basically, we just tell this website when we want to move and how much stuff we have and they set up the move.  The movers do everything, and I know they are getting paid serious money b/c nothing you ask them to do is too much or too difficult.  Maybe you can get your DH on the list for local or NE moves? It's worth a shot.  There is a constant demand for movers and, as a mover, you know you are going to get paid w/o any problem.  Good luck.
     
  15. You have chosen to ignore posts from ash. Show ash's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    My husband also owns his own small business.  I think the key with small businesses is that most of your work comes from word of mouth.  Traditional advertising is expensive and not necessarily targeted to what you need/want.

    I think cosmo is right with her suggestion that this is is related to the real estate market and the economy in general.  I don't think you can market soley to the person who is going to be using your services, since they may not need it or, as you point out, there are others out there who are willing to do it cheaper.  I would imagine your line of work does not get many customer to customer referrals and a lot of times people either just pick up the phone book and pick the first name they see.

    So, for direct to the customer marketing, you need to be the first person they see.  Make sure your website comes up first in google (and I agree a website needs to be well thought out and easy to use) or a decent size ad in the yellow pages.  Do some targeted marketing--see a for sale sign, put something in their mailbox.  Also, all local communities have some kind of "advertiser" that is usually delivered in the mail weekly (at least they used to).  A lot of people turn to this when they need something like moving, or an electrician, or a contractor.

    You also need to do what I do...try to get this into conversations.  I've gotten my husband a few jobs just by saying "Oh, my husband does that".

    I agree with the suggestion of trying to get in with a realtor, but also try companies who move their employees or organizations that might have members who are interested in downsizing and doing some temporary storage (like a seniors group).  Also second the suggestion to try to add some services that tie in with what he would really like to do.  Small jobs turn into big jobs!

    Good luck!

     
  16. You have chosen to ignore posts from downtoearth. Show downtoearth's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    I know a guy who does web sites.  college student so he charges super-reasonable prices. 

    I actually like magnets!  I keep them.  I like the business card refrigerator magnet.
    Love the idea of marketing to realtors. 

    Flyers are cheap.  I always pay attention to the newspaper inserts.  
     
  17. You have chosen to ignore posts from kargiver. Show kargiver's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)


    Hey, AB. :)

    I like and keep magnets, too.  Marketing to realtors is brilliant.

    However, I don't even look at newspaper inserts on their way to the recycle bin.

    ~kar

     
  18. You have chosen to ignore posts from Missy509. Show Missy509's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    email contact and service magic
     
  19. You have chosen to ignore posts from downtoearth. Show downtoearth's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    and Facebook links - have all your friends become fans of your web site.
     
  20. You have chosen to ignore posts from Missy509. Show Missy509's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    Facebook is definitely a good one! Set up a page and get your friends to become fans. Helps spread the word for free...
     
  21. You have chosen to ignore posts from wendy98. Show wendy98's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    In Response to Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business):
    [QUOTE]and Facebook links - have all your friends become fans of your web site. (Kar, not sure why you directed your comment to me.  I'm not the one looking for ideas.)
    Posted by downtoearth[/QUOTE]
    I think Kar was just saying "Hi" and was celebrating another that shares her enthusiasm for magnets which you said you did as well.
     
  22. You have chosen to ignore posts from Missy509. Show Missy509's posts

    Re: OT - Advice Needed (Business)

    advertise with uhaul. I ordered a truck from them online, and during the reservation process I was brought to a page that listed local movers...
     

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