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Are You a Well-Kept Secret?

Please take a second to answer this question, because ignoring it could very well cost you a lot of money. Are you a well-kept secret? I was thinking back at the number of customers we’ve had the pleasure of installing decorative concrete for and came to a sobering conclusion. I admitted a fact that has probably cost me thousands in sales. They don’t remember me.

Now, this wasn’t a big deal when the housing market was strong and the commercial market was stronger. And sure, some of my customers call when it’s time to reseal or add to the improvements of the past. But most have moved on with their lives, and my lack of interaction with them has contributed to my being a well-kept secret.

So how to get the word out? Network online.

I’m going to admit I was very skeptical of social networking at first. Facebook, Twitter, e-mail marketing, e-commerce, m-commerce — I thought they were for people with way too much time on their hands. Boy, have I been wrong. In the right hands these networks are without equal. No other source of contacts compares, especially when you factor in the low cost of social networking and e-mail. Anyone looking to generate more sales and leads should be developing a social networking presence.

Getting started
The best place to start is by building a contact list of clients, builders, interior decorators, developers and other prospects by way of e-mail, Facebook and Twitter contacts. Signing up for Facebook and Twitter is free. The old way of finding business by placing an ad in your local newspaper is in the past. Completed projects, new ideas, fresh designs, accomplishments and discounted services can be shared with prospective customers at the push of a button. Most of these types of contacts are qualified leads that have some form of interest in what you are doing.

Have you noticed how busy people are today? You ask them how they are doing and they simply say, “Busy.” Website blogging has been around for years but is being replaced with Twitter. Twitter started out as a networking system where folks could let other folks know what they were doing in real time. It has evolved into a quick 140-word way for a businessperson, you, to keep in contact with your customers. Think of it as an opportunity to tell folks about a sale or a new product or service.

Facebook allows more interaction than Twitter, with more conversation and pictures. Both of these services keep you in constant contact with the best source of new work possible, your prior customer. I realize we are just scratching the surface of this subject, so feel free to check out some other sites with potential too, such as SocialMarker.com, WordPress.com, Squidoo.com, Trumpia.com, Marketinginthemomentbook.com and YouTube.

It’s not just about you
I bet you see hundreds of advertising e-mails monthly, and many go unread. So what can make your company’s online communications different? Regardless of what form of social networking you choose, please don’t fall into the trap of sending out information only about you and what you’re doing. Create interesting and informative pieces about how your services can benefit readers. Instead of “Hey everyone, we now offer water-based stain application and we’re ready for you to call for pricing,” say “Please ask how new ecofriendly stains can brighten your existing concrete with 10 new colors” or “15 percent off our new service for past customers only.” The possibilities are endless here.

It’s not just a phone
Smart phones are as much a part of everyday life as a computer is. In fact they are slowly replacing the PC for businesspeople, aka your customers. It is rare that e-mail doesn’t come straight through to a personal phone.

Have you noticed how some websites don’t look right on your phone? You may want to convert your website to a more phone-friendly design, seeing as the phone is where business is being done today. Think of the new design as a simple version of your site with the same logo but fewer layers and less content. I truly feel this is the next big movement in commerce.

Lastly, look into ways you can promote your business through your website. Your website could include a registration box that allows you to build a base of e-mails from qualified leads. Offering something free or discounted will create more interest in customers sharing their e-mail addresses with you — a free discount e-coupon for any service worth more than $500, a contest, or whatever it takes for leads to register. An Internet newsletter, maybe? Imagine combining these ideas with a mobile-friendly website where customers could participate on the fly.

Give all of this some thought, because keeping your talents a secret is not benefiting anyone.

Doug Carlton operates Carlton Concrete Inc. in Visalia, Calif. He can be reached at carltondoug@comcast.net.

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