The recent rise of online quoting websites has been great for both customers and businesses. How can small business owners maximise the potential of these new marketing platforms?
I’ve been operating a small business in the carpet cleaning industry for over 20 years. I remember a time before the internet. Back then, marketing your business was a lot simpler. The YellowPages was a small business owners best friend. A tiny ad for your service was enough to bring a stream of steady customers for the entire year and beyond. All on a budget of a few hundred dollars.
But as the famous Bob Dylan song goes… oh the times they are a changing. In fact, the times have already changed and they’ll never be the same again.
The proliferation of the internet brought with it new marketing channels and new opportunities. For a while things got even better as consumers flocked online before many business owners had time to adapt. The online version of YellowPages and Google Adwords gave us first movers a flood of new customers for cents on the dollar.
But over the years profits eroded, competition caught up and things have become a lot harder. In the spirit of true Aussie innovation new technology platforms have been created to help solve the problem. In recent years the most common of these has been online quoting websites.
These sites allow customers looking for tradies to obtain free quotes from multiple sources. A customer simply has to logon, fill out their job details and wait. The platform sends those details off to a handful of tradies who are willing to pay top dollar for the right to quote the customer. Of all these platforms, the two most popular ones are OneFlare and HiPages.
These sites are great for customers because it saves them time in obtaining quotes from different companies. For small business owners like myself they’re also great. They provide a marketing channel that we can use to further grow our businesses.
However, it’s not as easy as it sounds…
Receiving the customers details is only the first phase in the battle to obtain more business. You see, at the same time as you’ve received the lead, those details have also gone to at least two other businesses. They’re just as hungry as you are for the extra revenue that customer can bring. How can you stand out from the crowd and ensure you beat the competition?
Over the last couple of years my team and I have become experts at this. We’ve developed a few tried and true techniques that will enable you to take full advantage of quoting websites. Ensuring you can nab more customers and grow your business.
Please find below my seven tips to closing more leads through quoting websites:
1. Make Contact With The Customer ASAP
This one seems so obvious that it’s almost silly to mention it. I’m amazed how often a customer tells me I’m the only business to call back after they’ve submitted their details.
You should call the customer as soon as you receive the lead. Like, immediately! These websites act fast and as soon as the customer hits ‘Send’, their system will broadcast the details to businesses. That means when you get the BEEP on your phone there’s a good chance the customer is sitting at their computer thinking about the job!
Catching the customer in this mindset means you’ll have a high chance of them remembering you and winning the quote. It also shows you are efficient and keen for the business. Those two things go a long way.
2. Call Them, Don’t Email Them
I get it! In today’s technological world an email is the easy answer. However, it’s also the lazy mans way of doing business. A phone call is a much better way to sell. It creates an emotional connection with the customer and shows you are serious about their job.
The one exception might be if they’ve specifically asked you to email and not call. Then and only then would I say an email is OK.
3. Follow Up The Next Day
If you’ve contacted the customer quickly and via phone then you’re already halfway to winning the job. By this stage you should have already given them a price verbally or sent them a quote via email.
The hard work is already done. It’s time to put a slight push on the customer. Give them a call the very next day to follow up. Ask them if they need any clarification about your quote or additional help.
I also like to ask a leading question such as. ‘So when can we come around and get those carpets cleaned for you?’ As long as it’s playful and not pushy they will have a hard time saying no. No one likes to disappoint a friendly person.
4. Keep Your Website Up To Date
This is one I learnt the hard way.
One day, after completing all of the above steps a customer made a comment; ‘I thought you might have been out of business, your site hasn’t been updated in over a year’. She was referring to my company blog and she was dead right. The most recent post was over 12 months old!
That conversation taught me a valuable lesson. After you’ve made your first impression over the phone, many customers will do further research. Make sure your website looks professional, is well designed and up to date.
5. Encourage Reviews For Existing Customers
Now more than ever customers are using online reviews to aid in their purchasing decisions. As with your website they may conduct independent research around your company to make sure you are on the up and up.
That’s why it’s important to keep your online reviews looking squeaky clean, especially on Google and Facebook. If your reviews are sub-par (under 4 stars) or you don’t have any reviews at all then it’s time to get cracking.
Contact some happy customers and ask them if they’d mind leaving a review. If you’ve hand picked them this won’t be difficult. In exchange you can offer them a discount voucher or promotional offer.
I make sure to tell them to be completely honest. Again, if you’ve hand picked them and chosen the right customers a flood of 5 star reviews should come your way.
6. Suss out the Competition
The dirty little secret about quoting websites is that they send out the same quotes to multiple businesses. You’ll find you end up going up against the same businesses time and time again. Try to find out who they are (in the sneakiest way possible).
On your follow up call to the customer politely ask if they’ve received any additional quotes. I don’t like to be too pushy here. In fact many people will offer up the information freely if you’re a nice person (which I’m sure you are).
Knowing who you’re consistently quoting against is important. It means you can tailor your message, offering and pricing to be more appealing to the customer. This brings me to my final tip.
7. Be Price Competitive and Comparative
It’s a shame to have to mention this because I truly believe that service, quality and care trump price. However, I’ve noticed the types of people who use quoting websites are very price sensitive. That’s why it’s good to be at least price comparative.
The reality is, if you quote $200 and your competitors quote $100, 9 times out of 10 you will lose the job. This is true even if you offer the best service under the sun. It’s the cold harsh reality.
That being said I don’t believe in playing a price war where lowest to the bottom wins. If you already offer great value and are happy with your current prices then there’s no need to compromise. Just be aware that you might struggle to convert leads through the major quoting websites.
Online quoting websites are a great way to bring you more business. Use my tips to help maximize your return on investment from this exciting new marketing channel.
About the author
Michael Brooke is the owner of Carpet Cleaning Sydney, a successful small business operating in the heart of the CBD. He’s passionate about cleaning, surfing and learning.