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We advertise the mobile business with the Yellow Pages. The book and online, on the Internet and in some community directories. The store’s been here 20 years, so it’s known in the neighborhood, it’s its own advertising.
A lot of our business is actually referrals from our older customers. Our advertising has just started this year. We get new customers here and there, but we also get a lot of referrals from our older customers. That’s good because that means they’re satisfied. Referrals are the nicest customers, too –they already trust you because somebody else trusted you.
Are the ‘phony locksmiths’ in the Yellow Pages impacting your business?
There’s supposedly one located right next door to us, based on the addresses, but there’s no shop there. I know the Yellow Pages has no requirements as to what people need to advertise with them. Our contractor’s board is trying to crack down on that, and they’re starting to fine people who don’t have licenses.
(Note: the state of Washington does not license locksmiths but instead requires contractor’s licenses.)
Is part of the problem is that residential customers don’t know who to pick or what questions to ask?
When people do call for lockouts, we try to give them some information over the phone even if they don’t choose us to come out. We tell them to make sure the locksmith has a storefront or is local and to make sure they give you a full price quote up front over the phone because there are companies that change their prices when they get there.
Are you active in any local or state locksmith associations?
We are interested in becoming a member of the PLA (Portland Locksmith Association) and I do think it is important. It is hard to attend locksmith classes and shows when you are the only employees of your full-time business.
How many locksmith distributors do you use?
One local and three that are national.
How did you select them?
Based on ease of services, pricing and how quick they can ship products out. I do a lot of my shopping online through their web sites. It’s kind of hard when you are ordering 90 different items to do that over the phone.
Do their reps come visit you at the shop?
We do have a rep for one of the companies who visits us at the shop. We don’t really use a lot of their resources. They give us brochures and information. One of them is particularly good when I do have questions, so I just call them up and they’ll usually give me the rep of that particular product in the area.
How much contact do you have with the manufacturers?
Very little, we usually work through our distributors, unless it is something unusual. For example, we needed 1000 padlocks keyed alike from Master Lock, and our distributor didn’t think that could be done, but we were able to work it out talking to Master Lock.
Do you see some positive trends out there that make you think business will be good in the next year or two?
I think, just talking to the businesses in our area, the people haven’t gone away – it’s just that they are not spending as much and I think once the outlook is more positive, people will start spending again
I’ve heard some people say that all the foreclosures in the real estate market have been good for the rekeying sector.
That is true. We do that and we do work with some businesses that do repossessions. We have done a lot of rekeying for property management firms.
Is being a female locksmith different from being a male locksmith?
My first reaction is not really, I think everyone wants to do good work and get the job done. My fiance’s first reaction was, “Well yes.’
I thought more about that and there are a few challenges, things that people say to me a lot, but I don’t really notice the difference until somebody points it out. Sometimes when I go up to a door, people think I’m a solicitor, even though they called a locksmith and I am carrying tools. If I’m in the shop, sometimes people will say ‘I want to talk to the locksmith.’ Once you get past those challenges, then people are usually fine.
Especially if it is a lockout situation at night, they like it when I come out there. They are a lot more relaxed and some of them even worry about my safety. I also sometimes bring my 100-pound dog along.
Seth and Alex Hecht, Able Locksmith
Jared Urman, Access Locksmithing
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