Marketing is a real pain
It's not what you wanted to do when you set out on this venture and it's understandable. You started your own company to relieve the mundanity of corporate work life and be your own boss. This marketing stuff makes you feel a little too tied down, a little stuffy.
You'd be happy to ignore the entire marketing aspect of your business altogether, but deep down you know you shouldn't. It's important and you know it. It may even be the reason you have not jumped into the mid six-figures you know you're capable of annually.
We should clarify that we are separating marketing from lead generation. Yes, good marketing should bring in leads, but as leads can be bought or elicited on other more direct ways we are putting lead generation into its own category. By marketing we mean ways to generate organic business. For example, if a family is forced to move for a new job what is going to bring your business to mind over another?.
Here are some marketing tips to get you onto that next level.
What do you want out of your marketing plan?
Defining your goals is important. Don't skip this step. In fact, you should write it down and pin it to a board. Defining your goals here will save you an incredible amount of time and money.
Things to consider when making a marketing goal:
- How much do I have to spend monthly?
- Is this an ongoing or short term plan?
- Is this for moving season or the off-season(winter)?
- Do I want solid leads or brand recognition?
- What is my target demographic?
- What should I have once the money is spent?
- What kind of customer do I want (local apartment moves or white glove)?
Let's go through each of these briefly.
We are breaking this down by month because all moving companies experience "lean months". That is, months where the phone isn't ringing so much. This happens to all companies no matter what they're selling. Be sure you will have enough money to pay for your monthly campaigns through these months. For most movers this is between November and February.
Alternatively, you can make sure that whatever your plan is stopping it for a few months will not be a problem. For example Google Adwords you can stop at anytime if you feel you will not be able to afford as much as you did in the summer months. Try not to get into locked annual advertising plans. This is an archaic model anyway. Try not to work with ad companies that lock you into contracts. In this modern era it's a silly and greedy way to do business. Opt instead for companies with flexible pricing and a "cancel-anytime" approach to subscriptions.
Long or short term marketing plan.
An example of a long-term plan is something like a billboard. When it goes up it needs to stay up for at least 2 years. It takes a long time for your logo, design appeal and message to sink into the minds of passersby.
an example of a short term plan would be scorecards at a golf course. Depending on your climate golf courses are only open 6-9 months a year. Placing your ad on a digital screen in a golf cart or a scorecard is effective, but only works while people are out playing. Even if your logo stays on there all year, it will only be seen part of the year. Another short-term plan would be charitable event fliers or billboards. These are often quick and inexpensive marketing opportunities that go a long way, especially when your link and logo are placed on the charity's website.
The more money you have at your disposal will inevitably decide whether you can afford effective long-term advertising. Do not get into billboards or television commercials if you cannot afford the $3000-$7000 a month budget to make sure they're getting eyeballs. You should only get into these kinds of ads if you have a minimum of $40,000 cash in your bank account and you're not in need of another truck. (This figure depends on your area, of course.)
Moving season or off-season?
Depending on how much business you normally do during the summer months should determine how much you put into your market strategy.
Putting $2000 into postcard ads in the middle of August is a terrible idea. Most of the big long distance moves are dying down and people tend to settle in for fall and winter, saving big expenses like moving until after Christmas.
Most of your big marketing pushes should happen at the end of the off-season as people start readying themselves for their moves.
Do you have a bunch of mailers ready to go? They should go out in March so you are fresh on the minds of those about to move.
As for in-season marketing you should always look to boost your Google Adwords to your limit. That's because May-July those who have not put any effort into planning their move go to Google. It is in essence an impulse buy. And if you can handle the volume there's no reason your company shouldn't be in the top 4 ads.
Leads or brand-recognition
Your marketing strategies will always fall on these two braid lines. Business that sell physical items create a different kind brand-awareness than those selling services. Physical items rely on the immediate desire of the buy to posses the product. But no one needs a mover until they really need a mover. So you end up having to plan your marketing in a way that will bring you to mind when the time comes; a coupon on the refrigerator, a billboard, a clever slogan or memorable logo. Two Men and a Truck do this exquisitely. They have been extremely effective at digging themselves into the subconscious minds of potential customers.
I can almost guarantee you their business comes less from Google clicks than phone calls or direct website hits. This is because they are already in the customer's head when they go looking for a mover. They don't even type in "local moving companies" into their browser. They type "Two men and a Truck". Why? Because their company already existed in the mind of their customer.
Make no mistake. The brand recognition route of advertising takes a good amount of cash. But that doesn't mean it can't be done. Even on a limited budget you can be effective with a clever slogan and consistent design elements including a memorable logo.
Leads are easier to plan for and only fall into the marketing category as they pertain to your traditional print-type advertising like Google and Bing Adwords.
If that's the type of marketing you're after (and it's VERY important). there are things you can do like make sure you are on both Google end Bing. Also, be sure you are on other sites like yellowpages.com, Google+, Facebook, Instagram, and whatever else the kids are into these days. Make sure your address, website, and phone number are consistent everywhere your company appears on the internet. (This is actually very important to the way the internet finds you.)
What's your demo?
Working mothers over 35? Family men who work at the factory? Mom's who organize the household? Single men and women in the city?
Who do you want to let know you're here to help them? This can be a helpful guide when designing your ads and logos. This is perhaps not as big of a factor as having a good overall design, but if you are marketing an area with, say, an auto manufacturing plant you are going to have a lot more success designing your ads with a hometown, family-oriented feel over one with a big city, tech-based one.
What should I expect to gain when it's all done?
Be specific about what you want out of your marketing plan. Do you want leads? Do you want to dominate in a certain city over another competitor?
Don't be vague. Everyone wants more profits out of advertising. What can your company excel specifically from this campaign?
What type of customer should respond to your plan?
There's no right answer here. A customer is a customer and money is money. If you are aiming at small home and apartment moves be aware of your pricing structure and be willing to offer discounts.
If you want white glove customers on the beach fronts be ready to go the extra mile for people who are willing to pay for it. Whoever you're after, be prepared and go after them aggressively.
The three marketing strategies for moving companies
There are a few routes you can go for your marketing plan. We'll go through them in broad groups.
This probably goes without saying, but we'll say it here to iterate the importance of running a successful business.
Getting your customers to come back is the BEST marketing plan you can ever have in place and it is, in essence, free. Having a moving software application like MovingPro will not only help you run your business smoothly, it will automatically email your customers after every job to ask for reviews and keep their information on file for use with promotions or simple reminders about upcoming specials. Sign up for MovingPro HERE to try it out.
Tried and true
Billboards - Efficient, but is expensive and requires long term commitment to be effective
Google Adwords - Extremely useful. Depending on your area it may require large bids to be seen at the top of the results. It will definitely be helpful to have your ads set by a professional. The good news is Google has representatives available to do this for free.
Wide mailer - Mailers work. If you can afford to send out a multi-city postcard mailers you should do it. the cost depends greatly on how much effort you want to put into getting addresses and designing the postcard.
Yelp - Yelp ads do work, but the volume you are going to actually close is low depending on your area and how many other companies you're competing against. Plus, if you are starting out and mess up. The customer will go directly to the place they found you and kill you in the review section. All moving companies have bad reviews, however, it's a matter of ratio. If 1 out of your 4 reviews is bad, that shoves your listing WAY down and it can be hard to recover. Yelp is best used as an organic or passive tool to get business. Wait until you are established to go all out in Yelp ads.
Cheap and effective
Temporary Signs - A lot of moving companies do not take advantage of this super-cheap way to advertise. The downside is the effort it takes to stick your sign at busy corners and pick them up at the end of the day. Most cities have an ordinance on signage that stipulates their retrieval by a certain time or else risk fines. Also they could be stolen, but who would want a moving company sign?
Targeted Mailer - definitely do this. These are mailers you send out to specific neighborhoods that have a high turnover rate or ones that are particularly swanky and are sure to want a moving service when the time comes. the effort it takes to get addresses can be significant, but it can be done by a tech-savvy employee or by you on a day when there isn't much to do.
Podcasts - podcasts are the new radio and many are local. A lot of cities and churches have their own podcasts and would love to be approached with an advertising opportunity. If you go to iTunes and enter your city or nearby metropolitan area a podcast will likely show up. These shows can reach thousands of local listeners as well as national ones and the listeners are generally loyal and discerning.
You gotta start somewhere
Parking Lot Fliers - Ok. Nobody likes these, but they do work. Especially at malls and event arenas where you can do it relatively anonymously. Be careful not to break trespassing laws.
Shirts - have nice shirts made and give them to friends and family. Where them to ballgames, events or walking around at a festival.
Car door magnets - This is actually very effective and really cheap. Just be sure to keep them on straight and placed upon a clean vehicle.
Not worth it
Radio - Terrestrial radio is dead. Their numbers are fudged and the price is rarely worth the return. Radio had a good run, but nobody listens anymore despite what the radio stations themselves say. Save your money and advertise with a podcast instead.
Door-to-door - The internet age has made us intolerant of these intrusive methods. It's hard not to get annoyed at Girl Scouts when they come around. And they're cute! what are they going to think of a moving company? Don't do it unless you know for a fact some is moving soon, and even then have a good reason for why you have that information lest you come of as a little creepy.
Cold calling - Again, modern forms of communication have made us impatient with sales calls. There are better ways to get business.
Get Marketing Now
You have very reason to start your marketing plan now. Strategies can take as long as two or three years to bear fruit, but they will bear fruit. So get it going to today and commit to growing your moving business in to the seven-figure operation it can be!