A locksmith business, be it mobile or store-based, is unique. Add to that not every locksmith provides the same services. Some locksmiths specialize in commercial work including electronic access control and offer a few safes in their showroom. Some locksmiths specialize in automotive work and will change the combination and install residential and commercial locks, exit devices and closers. Some locksmiths are general practitioners and do a little of everything.
A handyman or carpenter may install locks, but only a locksmith knows the proper security package for a customer’s home or business. This is the personal touch most locksmiths can offer their customers, which enables them to get to know their customers on a personal level. This type of relationship is pure gold. With encouragement, your satisfied customers will share their satisfaction regarding your services to their friends and associates.
A store-based professional locksmith business offers its customers the opportunity to schedule service at their location and also to come into the store and purchase products, set appointments and discuss security issues.
Although it is more expensive to operate both a store and service vehicles, the storefront provides a built-in source of advertising, a sense of permanence, and an easier way to develop clientele.
A mobile professional locksmith will provide his or her service at the customer’s residence or business. An advantage of being mobile is having a service vehicle equipped with all the equipment necessary to service your customers. Many locksmiths start out as mobile to save the initial expense of renting and staffing a storefront. As the business grows, they later have the funds and customer base for a permanent location.
For retail storefronts, signage is a no-brainer. In addition to the business name and hours, many shops advertise special promotions or services, such as “Gun Safe Sale” or “Ask For Your Home Security Survey.”
A mobile locksmith is caught in the debate of “Do you have signage on your vehicle?” Signage is a two-sided issue. Driving around with a billboard on your service vehicle is a great way to let people know you and how to contact you. On the other side, it informs less than honest persons that expensive tools are stored within.
I have contacted a number of locksmiths regarding this issue and have discovered the feelings are about split 50 percent for signage and 50 percent who do not have signage on their vehicles. For one of those locksmiths, the recognition of the company name being driven around to job sites every day is worth significantly more than the loss.
Something to consider: When you purchase a service vehicle, get one that does not have side or rear windows. Install a locking partition behind the front seat. This way, your property has secondary protection if someone breaks a window.
The downside is you also let dishonest people know who you are. A number of locksmiths have had their trucks burglarized, losing thousands of dollars by having their key machines, tools and lock hardware stolen.
Then there are the cities, counties and other jurisdictions that are strapped for cash. This results in fees, taxes and more regulations. Around where I live, if you have a sign on your vehicle, there are towns that charge a fee for a tag that avoids a ticket if you drive through with signage and do not have a current tag.
When I was growing up, our number one source of advertising was the Yellow Pages. It seemed whoever had the largest ad would get the most business. Those days are no more. More and more informal surveys seem to be showing that people are using personal referrals and the Internet more often than the telephone book. This is especially true for those who own Internet (data) enabled cell phones.
Today’s marketing techniques must be varied in order to communicate with your potential customers. Integrated marketing is putting your message in front of those people in need of your services at the right time. There are a number of ways to get your message out: in person, direct mail, advertising, Internet, etc.
One of the best methods I believe is to personally “press the flesh” by contacting companies that can use your services. For example, if you do automotive work, contact body shops, car dealerships and rental car companies. Offer them a commercial price and consider offering services such as parts delivery, technical support and key and remote programming.
Another way to provide the personal touch is being a guest speaker at organizations’ meetings. These can include houses of worship, business networking organizations, volunteering organizations, Chamber of Commerce, etc. To find organizations that have guest speakers, try using a search engine to find organizations and who to contact to become a speaker. Many organizations have regular meetings (usually about once a month). Many organizations have a very difficult time arranging for a speaker. Some of the organizations offer a free meal for the speaker. If you are not comfortable with public speaking, you can join Toastmasters International to become proficient. Their web site: www.toastmasters.org
As locksmiths, we are professional in the area of security and protecting a person’s possessions. Some topics to consider include: Securing Your Home/Business, Which Safe is Best for My Needs?, What is a Security Survey?, Electronic Keys and What Exactly is a High Security Lock? Bring mounted samples of locks, maybe a cutaway lock cylinder, brochures and business cards.
One more way to get your company’s name out into your community is to sponsor a child’s sport team. For not a great deal of money, your company can sponsor a baseball, soccer, football or other sports team. Depending upon the organization, supplying the uniforms and assorted sundries, you get advertising as well as the opportunity to personally interact with customers and potential customers.
Another way to increase your business is to set up a referral network with other service companies who sell to the same target market. These can include carpenters, welders, painters and other companies. For example, if there is a home or commercial property that has been burglarized and there was damage to the entry, a carpenter can make the necessary repairs and a painter can complete the job after you install the replacement higher security door hardware.
If your customer needs iron window bars, having a referral network with a welder can give both of you an opportunity to make additional money.
A referral network is simple, all of the companies agree not to steal the customers and they agree to send business to each other. It is beneficial to send a customer to someone you know and trust, rather than have them find someone who may be capable of providing your services and you end off losing a good customer.
We live in a fast-paced, rapidly changing world. Rather than talking on the telephone, many people prefer to either text or e-mail in order to communicate. A way to attract their attention is to publicize your email address or that your company’s cell phone number accepts texts. If someone sends you a text message, you have his or her telephone number to reply. To simplify the texting process, many of the new smart phones have the capability to create text messages by speaking the message instead of having to type.
Another form of marketing is to contact customers who had service calls the same day. Ask them if they were happy with the service and the locksmith who provided the service. Create a list of about five questions that can be answered in about one minute. If they are happy, the conversation will be very short. If they are not happy, the conversation can take a while. Your job is to satisfy each and every customer. Ask each customer if he or she is completely satisfied.
Making your customer happy is job number one. Acknowledge any mistakes. People are only human and by acknowledging the mistake, it is possible to resolve the problem. Offering a discount on a future job can go a long way to improving relationships. An unknown problem will usually cost you a customer and they will probably tell about four people or more. The cost to keep a disgruntled or inactive customer is significantly cheaper than to obtain a new customer. If you haven't heard from a customer recently, send a personalized letter or email. Taking ethical care of your customers is the smartest and most inexpensive marketing a company can do.
When you bill your commercial (and some residential) accounts, consider writing a simple short one-sided, one-page newsletter discussing new products, specials and things your customers might want to think about. You can get enough new information from the manufacturer’s web site in order to write a few paragraphs. Talk about electromechanical locks for audit capability and offer a free inspection or site survey.
The Internet has become a windfall to many businesses. All someone has to do is use a search engine and type in the service wanted. I typed in the word “Locksmith Los Angeles” and received more than 2.5 million results. That makes it difficult to have your name appear in the first few positions.
Search engines use specific criterion to determine what a person is actually looking for. Each search engine is different. Knowing what a particular search engine is looking for can prove to be advantageous by including the searching information.
One important misconception is that a company must have a web site in order to reap many of the benefits. This is not true. Most search engines (i.e. Google and Yahoo) provide a free business listing. According to Google, “97 percent of consumers search for local businesses online.”
Google Places for business is a free local platform that provides an opportunity to have photos and videos showing people why your services are desirable. There is even a section that helps people choose the keywords your customers are using in their searches.
Should you decide to expand to paid advertising, unlike a telephone book, you pay only when a customer clicks on your ad. For more information, go to www.google.com/places or search free business listing.
Internet yellow and white pages and for example, phpDirectory Source™ web sites can also provide a marketing opportunity for local businesses and local customers. phpDirectory Source offers a free version, branded version and a bundled special. Merchant Circle is another example for free online advertising without having to have a computer, domain name or be computer savvy. For more information, go to www.merchanciricle.com or www.phpdirectorysource.com.
The use of social networking is becoming a significant way to market products and services. Social networks include Facebook, Twitter, Bebo and Linkedin to name just a few. Manufacturers are using social networking sites to create demand using different methods of marketing, such as posting images and videos that promote their product line.
Social networking can be used to direct potential customers to your web site. Post brief updates of new products or reminders that you offer services such as safe installation, and post photos of recent installations. Note: Be sure to include contact information like email address and cell phone number, making it as easy as possible for customers to reach you.
Referrals are another benefit, particularly on Facebook and Linkedin. When one customer reads your post or views your photo and clicks on “Like,” he or she is spreading your message to all his or her Facebook friends.
A good example of social networking to promote products is a small hot dog stand where an actor would grab a quick meal. He became involved in contractual problems and would write about it on his social network. Many people became fans during the problems. He wrote about the problem and as a result the hot dog stand sales increased dramatically.
Before you get your name out, you need to determine what services you want to promote. Develop a company brochure, advertising materials and business cards. A company brochure is a leaflet that has very positive words with color photos that lists the products and services your company offers. The full color brochure is printed on heavy stock and folded to be convenient for your customer. The search engine I used found more than 30 million web sites on the query of “how to make a company brochure”.
Some locksmiths put safe dialing instructions on the rear of their business card. Others provide a calendar or have a magnetic business card that can be put onto the refrigerator.
Personalized key blanks can be ordered having your business name and telephone number. Some locksmiths like neuter bow key blanks that make it more difficult for key cutters to duplicate. Check with your local locksmith distributor for a list of companies that provide the service.
If you direct mail, try a post card. It is economical and does not have to be opened to be read. More people will throw away an unopened envelope if they do not know whom it is from. People will read both sides of a post card for a number of different reasons including the possibility of a coupon or money saving offer.
Once you get in the habit of doing marketing, the task becomes easier.
For marketing to be successful, it must be a continuous task, taking advantage of every opportunity. When business is quiet, take some time to create a flier, search the Internet for organizations looking for a guest speaker, or just going to neighborhood companies and drop off a brochure describing the services you offer.