What is the best, most effective way to advertise my small one man cabinet shop? I have business cards and have been giving them to my friends and other people that I run into but I still have not gotten any work. From that I think that I need to take it to another level. Any ideas would be appreciated.
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor K:
I have finally admitted to seeing the light. I am in the process of putting together a website. If you have not done this yet, you must do it! Just in the past month of trying to get my own advertising started, some of the best contacts I have gotten have requested my website address. I have become embarrassed to tell them I don't have one. It has become clear to me that it is now a necessity to have a website in order to keep up with or get a jump on all of the other shops out there.
There are also some advantages that I never realized were there before. Have you ever gone to a website and found a link there that you went to and found something interesting to you that you may not have know about if you had never gone there. That link could be you on someone elseís website, say a plumber, designer or builder. So, basically it's a way to "network" with other trades and maybe shops that are related to you and what you do in order to make your business as visible as possible. Some have even suggested starting a blog within the website to communicate with the customers on a more personal and direct basis. I am on the fastest track I can be on to getting my website up and running because without it, the rest of my advertising now seems to be inadequate.
Itís not just the terrible "prospective clients." Itís all the ďwould beĒ woodworkers that just show up at the shop to talk about themselves and show you pictures of their tater boxes and clunky, overbuilt cribs they made for their new grandchildren. I then tried to get out of the Yellow Pages. It took them three years to stop printing my listing. I certainly stopped paying, they just liked having me in there so much that they let me do it for free! I wonder if that would work for my cable bill?
On the web, people can see the quality, and pricing, so the tire kickers and lady's with old barns, etc. will leave you alone. I have had great luck with Google AdWords by the way.
It sounds like a bunch of BS, but your strategy for selling to the general public would be much different than selling to builders or interior designers.
There's "branding", too, which includes things like your logo, and how you want your company to be perceived (high end, low price, "green", etc.). A good thing to remember is that all of your marketing materials (website, brochures, business cards, etc.) should have a consistent appearance - same colors, fonts, etc.
No single thing is a magic bullet. If you have time on your hands because you're not busy yet, get out there and talk to people. Call designers and builders and ask if you can meet with them. Ask them what they'd want from their "ideal" cabinet shop. If you're going to do a website, look at lots of other sites to see what you like or don't like. Do these things now, because you won't have time for any of this stuff once you get busy.
I think that business cards are your number one ad piece. Many people will keep them for future use. So, make sure you have lots of them. Making calls face to face is a great idea. Get to know people and they get to know you. Don't get too impatient, it takes time to get your name out there.
Nothing related to my business at all, but the next day the calls started coming in from previous customers. They saw me on TV and remembered they needed a new dining table or whatever. I never forked over a dime and ended up with 20k worth of work. If you are relying on handing out business cards, it is best to have one that people will remember. If they look homemade, or a little dull, people will throw it in a drawer and forget they even have it. I got one from a salesman from a plastics company and it was printed on clear plastic, and it looked great. I have it in my wallet and I don't even buy the plastics he sells, but I like the card.
"Contacts" are your best bet, make lots of them and keep doing it. I've had very limited results from "direct mail" also known as "junk mail." Exploit every contact and customer to make more contacts. Keep refreshing the contacts; memory is a terribly wasted thing. Remember this is a service business, we don't provide stuff, we provide a service (which may be providing stuff that fulfills a perceived need).
You can also submit a press release to the local paper. In my area, they're always running them, usually in the business section - short and sweet. Something like "XYZ Woodworking has opened a full service cabinet shop offering custom cabinetry and furniture for residential and commercial clients. Owner X has 25 years experience in all phases of woodworking, most recently serving as shop foreman for ABC Millwork."
About ten years ago, I started a handyman business. Besides business cards, my only advertising was posting fliers on a few grocery store bulletin boards with little tear-off telephone numbers. I got one client who kept me busy for almost a year that way.
Word of mouth is by far the best. When you do get a job, be on time, prepare a professional proposal, and of course do a perfect job on the project. Returning phone calls and showing up will place you ahead of half the hacks doing business these days.
My experience is that paid advertising for a small general cabinet shop is pretty much wasted money. The general public that responds to print ads typically expects that custom made means less expensive the Cheapo Depot. Word of mouth is the key to success.
The best money I have ever spent is on the radio in the winter, sponsoring the local weather. It seems every one stops to listen to the weather when itís bad. I did it two weeks on two weeks off. People will still say they just heard your add when it was on last week.
It takes time to get your name out there, as others have said. Once it is out there and you do good work, you'll be fine. Then itís just a matter of trying to keep everyone happy. You won't please everyone. The more people you serve the more that will be unhappy. Anyone that claims to have 100% customer satisfaction has only had one job and it has gone well.
I don't want the general public calling me because I'm a one man shop and can only do so much work. I want that work to be high end customers. I don't want to waste time quoting work I know I can't get. I simply can't pay the bills on the lower end work, among other reasons. So you need to determine who your target market is and direct your efforts to that market. Maybe you should be in local lifestyle magazines?
Another thing you can do, but it takes a little acting ability, is just drive around and look for construction sites. Make sure you have a clipboard and a tape on you. Walk in and announce you are there to see Tony, Ralph, or whoever you want. Someone will ask you what you are supposed to be there for, so you say youíre there to quote on the millwork.
They will say, "you must mean John , thatís his department". Look pensively at your clip board and say, "sorry, you are right it's John." When John shows up he will either say "I didn't have an appointment to see anyone" or he will bring out the plans and give you a look. When we did a lot of commercial millwork, I did this quite often and got a lot of work out of it. A sub shop, hanging doors in a lawyerís office, school reception area and on. The worst that can happen is they tell you they have it covered and send you on your way. That also gives you the chance to give him your card and ask him to give you a shot next time.
Get comfortable with a couple of lead-ins, depending on the situation. One that worked for me yesterday, in response to "what can I do for you?" was "well, if you buy doors, we have something to talk about. If not, I'll just get in my car and get along on my merry way." Fortunately, he buys his doors. I know you probably know all this, but some people don't - just thought I would throw it out there.
In order for any advertising to be effective, you need to understand exactly who you want to sell to. Once you have defined your ideal client, (a prime prospect, if you will) placing your ads is much easier. You simply match your prime prospect's characteristics to the form of media you are considering before you make the ad buy.
For instance, if you wish to sell directly to homeowners who are age 45-60 who enjoy gourmet cooking and travel, running a commercial on a radio station that plays hip hop/urban music would not be as effective as one that is a news/talk format. The same is true if you wish to sell through builders/architects/designers or other businesses. Running an ad in the local consumer Yellow Pages would not yield the same kind of results as placing an ad in the local trade association newsletter.
Secondly, tracking and costing your inquiries will give you a benchmark to compare the effectiveness of one form of advertising vs. another. For instance, if you run an ad in the daily newspaper for a cost of $200 and get ten inquiries, your cost per inquiry is $20. You can take tracking and costing to other levels, like determining your cost per qualified lead and comparing one form of advertising to another on an even playing field. However, if you never ask "how did you hear about me" and write it down, you'll never have this important information available to you to help you streamline your entire advertising approach.
It's very important to realize that advertising's function is to generate inquiries, not to make sales. I describe the sales process as a funnel. Inquiries are poured into the top of the sales funnel. Certain inquiries will be sales leads, and others will not. Some inquiries will fall out of the funnel because they are not the kind of work you want to do. Certain sales leads will become appointments, and others will not. Certain appointments become sales. A sale is what drops out of the bottom of the funnel. If your funnel is empty, there is simply no way a sale will come out. Advertising's job is to help fill the funnel, along with word of mouth, business cards, referrals and past clients or just about any other method of generating inquiries. It costs both cash dollars and time dollars to generate an inquiry. Many of those who say advertising is expensive have never figured the cost to get the phone to ring with an inquiry, whether they buy ads or rely on word of mouth or something in between. Anyway you slice it, it costs something to bring a job through the door.
1. Word of mouth exceeds all other methods.
2. Business cards displayed all over.
3. Business sign at your location.
4. Business sign displayed on your vehicles, they are a traveling billboard.
5. Your business name listed in Yellow Pages in small letters (no ads), but listed in various places. Need that phone number shown. Always keep the same number.
6. Small ad that runs constant in your local paper, whereby you are keeping your name alive.
7. Sign located at where people group together for social gatherings such as sale barns, auction houses, well traveled roads (billboard type). All of the above can be done at low cost to the business.