A three-step guide to creating a trades and services company that prospective customers see as credible and trustworthy.
T radebusters CEO Laorence Nohra is big on the concept of trust. Her entire business model relies on it. Sydney-based Tradebusters is an online concierge business that connects tradespeople with customers. Those who require a plumber, builder or tiler contact Tradebusters, which recommends suitable tradies in their local area. But these aren’t tradies plucked from a phone book – they’re vetted for quality first. Tradebusters puts any prospective tradies through a rugged screening process before they’re recommended to customers, so they’re pre-tested for trustworthiness.
Trades and services companies thrive or die on the back of trust, which can take years to build and seconds to shred. These days, online forums give happy or disgruntled customers an opportunity to rant or rave – and these views can define the way a prospective future customer judges any business, whether it’s earned or not.
In a recent webinar presented by mobile workforce management software company GeoOp, Nohra spoke of the value of trust in creating a successful business. She said that 84 per cent of Australian consumers reported that “trusted recommendations” are the most influential source of information about a business.
“As humans, we all have an emotional need to deal with people we can trust and feel safe with,” Nohra said. “That’s why consumers will always generally prefer a recommended business. It’s trust and reputation that sell … it’s not your services, it’s not your flashy website, it’s not even how long you’ve been in business. If you can establish yourself as a trusted business choice, that’s going to be your secret weapon to cut through all of the competition and online noise.”
Nohra noted that more than 70 per cent of customers rely on online search for information about companies, even hyper-local small businesses. She said 1 billion business names were typed into Google every day. “In my mind, the whole challenge of winning business online is only a conversation about how good a job you’re doing at setting yourself apart from others as a trusted business choice.”
So how do good local businesses, especially those fairly new to the market, build levels of trust and reputation? For many, paid ads – and even highly targeted online campaigns – are too expensive or don’t deliver an effective yield. It’s difficult to get your reputational message across in a lineage or small display ad. Local papers don’t have the space or enough reporters to write about business success stories. Sales brochures are more effective at the end of the sales funnel, not the beginning. And all of these things in isolation are unlikely to be effective anyway.
Word of mouth is the most successful way to build a reputation, of course, but this can take years to pay off. It’s no comfort for a small business to have a good reputation if it’s no longer trading.
“In the next few years we’ll see the biggest online marketing spend on online reputation-building.”Tradebusters CEO Laorence Nohra
One way trades and services businesses can build a reputation is through testimonials or case studies – a happy customer telling the world how great the business is in a quote or short story on a tradies’ website or sales brochure. Testimonials are effective because they are authentic. Often they are stories that present a problem that are solved by a white knight who finds a clever or hard-fought remedy. These are real stories about real solutions that help real people.
The other thing about testimonials is they offer proof of subject-matter excellence, at least in theory. Prospective customers could conceivably call up the former client and ask them if they really were happy with the product or service received (although we all know they probably won’t).
But there’s still something a little distant about testimonials. They might say what a business did but they can’t really show what it did. That’s why some services and trades businesses want to take the next step of investing in video testimonials, which show prospective customers exactly what a business can offer. Companies such as Big Review TV offer video marketing packages for small businesses starting at $50 per month (plus an application fee).
Testimonials and case studies sit comfortably on the “selling” rather than “telling” part of the marketing spectrum. A more genuine way to build a solid reputation (and audience) is through creating and publishing your own stories, as well as sharing other content that you feel will be useful and relevant for your customers. It’s all about building trust.
It’s about finding the “pain points” of prospective customers and solving their problems. You might do this with a “frequently asked questions” or a series of “how-to” articles or videos on your website which are easy to find on search engines and promoted actively via social media. “Content marketing is not about ‘what you sell’ it’s about ‘what you stand for’,” writes Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi. “The informational needs of your customers and prospects come first.”
Nohra suggests there are three things small businesses can do to win more business. The first is to make their website more personal so customers get to know the faces behind the product or service. The second is to build credibility through social media, posting content you have created as well as sharing others’ content regularly and in an authentic way.
“You don’t need to be on all social media – just pick one or two that are relevant for your business and do them well,” she says. “I think for tradies, Facebook is a great way to build your credibility.”
The third way is to get others talking about you. “The power [of this] is getting third party mentions on other websites.” She suggests employing a public relations company to create a buzz about your business, linking up with local businesses or industry groups and joining exclusive online networks that promote only reputable businesses.
“Based on a lot of the research that’s out there, in the next few years we’ll see the biggest online marketing spend by small businesses on online reputation-building,” she says. “The goal is to start now and get ahead of your opposition.”
She says trades and services companies need to build a strong reputation and become the trusted local “go-to” business. “That’s incredible brand value that you can’t buy,” she said. “It’s going to attract quality customers and referral partners.”
Disclosure: GeoOp is a client of Top to Tale Media.
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