Plumbers and other tradesmen on Twitter – missed opportunities

Twitter No Comments

A contact of mine is trying to find a plumber in his area and he’s taken the initiative to use Twitter.  He’s typed the word ‘plumber’ in combination with various geographical areas and yet he’s had no response.   This, unfortunately, is fairly common and raises two related questions:

1. Do people in the trades (plumbers, electricians etc.) understand the opportunities they’re missing out on by not being on Twitter?

2. And if they don’t have the time for, nor understand, Twitter, then shouldn’t they be looked after by those who may be helping them with their marketing/awareness raising?

It’s surprised me that, as yet, there doesn’t appear to be a company (could be a small one) that has taken the initiative of gaining revenues from trades people through initially giving them something for nothing, building trust, and then converting them to paying for leads.

It’s easy to set up systems that track Twitter searches for things like plumbers, electricians, and also other industry sectors (solicitors, accountants etc.), linked to geographical places referred to in the tweets.  From there it’s just a case of picking up on such tweets, contacting the relevant types of business (e.g. plumbers), giving away the lead for free, and starting to build up a relationship.    Even better would be if the ‘man/woman in the middle’ bridges the gap between tweeter and business, and puts them in contact with each other with phone numbers etc.  Any business that gains one or two such leads over a period of time, and gains business from those leads, isn’t going to be adverse to paying a moderate amount for future such leads.   

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the number of such searches in the UK alone are probably of a high enough level to make this a viable business model to at least explore.  Setup costs are zero and it’s just time investment.

It’s probably fair to say that in the main, trades people in particular, aren’t going to be big Twitter users.   My personal view is that if they are paying someone to build up their profile/sales then that person should be also taking on the role of looking out for potential business via Twitter.  But if they’ve not got anyone retained in such a way then such trades people would benefit from a service that links up service needer with service provider.

Twitter: Dialogue not Sales

Twitter 3 Comments

Off-target retweets seem to be on the increase and demonstrate how some people just ‘don’t get it’ when it comes to building business via Twitter.

Most tweeters (in the business world) have the intelligence to use the system to enter a dialogue, which will, down the line, gain them business.  Some adopt the thinly-veiled sales pitch route by tweeting from time to time but it always being a plug for their line of work.  And then there are those like the one that I got a response from when I tweeted the latest blog …

At first I thought “hey, they liked the blog” then saw the ecommerce owner reference and realised how it was off-target.   It was also feasible that the link could take me through to somewhere nasty.   So I took a look at their profile …

Lots of tweets to lots of people saying exactly the same thing, probably automated.

Scrolling through the previous tweets it’s all the same – all sales and no dialogue.   Perhaps, like email spammers, that person thinks that they’ll get lucky if just a tiny percentage of people click through on their link and indeed it’s something that works for email spammers.    It would be interesting to see how such methods work over a period of time but until evidence convinces me otherwise, I continue to believe that the best results from Twitter come from building a dialogue over time and building a name as someone who is trusted enough to seek advice/services/products from rather than a name as someone who is perceived to be selling all the time.

Why the increase to 20% VAT needs your proactivity now

Blogs, Google Adwords, SEO, Twitter, Website Development, Website Strategy No Comments

4th January 2011 sees VAT rise to 20% and there’s likely to be a negative knock-on effect to the majority of businesses.

The start of the year is usually quite a painful time for many businesses because people tighten their belts after Christmas, which has an impact down the line to businesses.  Taxes also have to be paid by many businesses.  Add onto that a rise in VAT and it’s generally not going to be a good time.

And guess what? You, whoever you are, are likely to lose business/customers in January 2011.   It may be through no fault of your own but the impact of the VAT increase plus other factors beyond your control will inevitably lead to lost clients.   Customers of your clients, whether B2B or B2C, will be paying out more in some ways and so will be cutting back in others and unfortunately, you could be on the receiving end of some of the pain.

So, enough doom and gloom – the purpose of this blog is to encourage proactivity now.   Let’s say that you set yourself for a 10% loss in business in January 2011.  You’ve pictured the end of January figures and they show you being 10% down on typical months.  While it’s not good to be negative about such things it’s also not good to have your head in the sand.

Think about your website and how much it does or doesn’t generate for you in the way of enquiries/business.   What is there that you could possibly do in order to increase the levels of business it generates by 10% or more?   If you’re analysing your website stats then you’ll have an idea of which parts aren’t working.  If you’re using advertising such as PPC then you have an opportunity to dig deeper into what that’s gaining you.   Are you blogging and tweeting to build up your online presence?    Are you identifying which companies are visiting your website and considering how to capitalise on those who didn’t actually make contact?   There is so much you can do within a website to make it more effective.

In short, if you set a mental expectation that the increase to 20% VAT will have a negative knock-on effect to you (directly or indirectly) and set an estimated loss of business figure (e.g. 10%) then you have the opportunity to be proactive now, in the remaining few months of the year, to build strength within your website that will help to offset anything that comes along to hit you in January 2011.

Also, if you use PPC to advertise, you can guarantee that your competitors will be paying more in the early months of 2011 because their business will be down and so they’ll throw more money at advertising. Google will rub its hands in glee as companies try to outbid each other.  If you’re clever right now, you can put into place PPC strategies that will mean you don’t get caught in a price war as the new year woes have a knock-on effect to the desperate measures some advertisers will take.

And if you do all that and then find that actually, the VAT increase didn’t adversely affect you?   Well, good for you because not only will  you be better off but you’ll have taken your website forwards in a way that will continue to benefit you while your competitors are sitting there wondering why things are so quiet in January.

.co domains – are they worth it?

Online Reputation Management, Twitter, Website Strategy No Comments

For £30 a year you can have a .co domain name. 

Does that sound expensive?  If so, read on …

Over a year ago, the Custwin email newsletter encouraged people to grab available Twitter names while they were still available.   That message clearly didn’t get out to enough people and since then I’ve seen many examples of companies who can’t tweet as their company name because someone else (probably competitors in many cases) have snapped them up.

Going back much further there was a land grab on standard domain names, although the range of names available was obviously much bigger than the limitations of Twitter names.  But the principle was the same – grab good domain names while they’re available.

So along comes the .co domains you can buy, and with it a heftier price tag at £30 per year.  Let’s look at a few reasons why you may think it’s worth buying a good .co name while you still have the opportunity …

  1. You want to ensure that competitors don’t trade off your name in the future.  So, if your company is called Widgets for Midgets and you already have www.widgetsformidgets.co.uk and www.widgetsformidgets.com then you may feel quite safe.  But what if the widgets market gets more competitive and someone comes along and decides to trade off your name by buying widgetsformidgets.co?   They create a nicer looking website, do their SEO and other marketing better, and suddenly they’re pulling in a load of traffic that should really be yours.  If you’ve not protected your company name in any way then there’s nothing you can do to stop them.
  2. You have a crystal ball.  You don’t quite know why yet, but you feel that by having one or more .co domains, it could be beneficial in the future.  Look at all those who bought numerous domains years ago, some gaining financially from then selling them on to buyers who needed them.  All those Twitter names that people have registered and are keeping active – will they be of use some day?  Who knows, and although there’s no guarantees, it’s just possible that .co domains could be beneficial in the future.   

    After all, stranger things have happened – who would have expected HMRC to write off up to £1.5bn of unpaid tax, as in the news this week?

  3. In a personal capacity, you may want to create a personal brand for yourself in the future.  Many of the big names in business (and other spheres of influence) use their names as their brands.  So, let’s say your name is Jane Smith and you’re going to create something fantastic and your name is going to be your brand (potentially).  You may not have a clue how you’re going to create this personal brand, or when it’ll happen, but if you don’t grab your janesmith.co name right now then it’ll be gone by the time that you want to use it.   And yes, quite surprisingly, at the time of writing this, www.janesmith.co IS available, as are so many other name variations.

    Just in case you think “it couldn’t happen to me”, the two screen grabs below show that (as at 26th September), Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, are up for grabs as .co names (although David Cameron has been snapped up, presumably by someone with a bit of foresight).

Twitter – the power of negative publicity for One Alfred Place

Online Reputation Management, Twitter No Comments

There’s a flurry of tweets this morning from one of the people I follow.  They started off as:

Has anyone else had a bad experience at @onealfredplace?

followed up by …

Yes, the staff at @onealfredplace have been spectacularly rude to me twice in a week. Will be making formal complaint shortly

and evolving to other tweets from the person who was clearly annoyed by a poor level of service from the private business/leisure environment called One Alfred Place.

I’ve never heard of One Alfred Place before but I see from their website (http://www.onealfredplace.co.uk/) that they’re on Twitter.  I wonder whether they’re picking up on such tweets that are spreading negative publicity about them?  Sadly, as with so many companies, they may not be.

So the negative publicity tweets about them, coming from someone who is pretty well respected in business, and has 3,015 followers himself, is spreading outwards.    People like me have picked up on it as a subject to blog about.  Other followers will just make a mental note that One Alfred Place is somewhere to be wary of.  Others, of course, will retweet it onto others in their network.

Bad news spreads faster than good news and while most people will give a supplier of a service a chance (as I know this particular tweeter would have done), there comes a time when the knife goes in.   What would it have taken for the staff to have provided a good service and so avoided the negative publicity via Twitter.  What will the management do now, having found out that the negative publicity is out there (and will likely be visible in Google as well)?

Above all, when will companies start to realise that the offline and online worlds do not exist separately and an offline problem within a business can spread like wildfire online and have a significant knock-on effect?

As I said, I’d never heard about One Alfred Place before but now that I have and the viewpoint was negative, then that’s something that will stay lodged in my brain for awhile.

The lesson here is that at a minimum, companies should be monitoring online talk about their name/brand and be appropriately responsive so that any negative publicity is addressed, which will include handling the issues that caused the negative publicity in the first place.

Hadrian’s Wall Taxi Company – A Glimmer Of Innovation

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Following on from the last blog that focused on the lack of innovation along the Hadrian’s Wall trail, I remembered that there was just one bright spot, which started before the walk and continued during the walk. 

I’d set up Twitter so that I was picking up on anyone tweeting about Hadrian’s Wall, a few weeks before going.  It was set up to get a feel for what people were experiencing.  Within those tweets there were some retweets from advancedtaxis, apparently picking up on when people discussed things to do with Hadrian’s Wall.

During the actual walk I tweeted a comment along the lines of ‘Day 1 of Hadrian’s Wall walk – incredibly tired’.  That got retweeted by advancedtaxis and I thought “Wow, that’s forward-thinking!”.   There was me, exhausted, potentially in need of a taxi during the week (IF giving up of course!) and a local taxi firm had put themselves right in my line of sight.

During the rest of the week I kept an eye on their tweets and noticed that they weren’t retweeting everything to do with Hadrian’s Wall but just tweets that could have been from people who may feasibly need taxis.  It would have cost them nothing to do that and anyone could have been a potential client.  In terms of brand awareness, even before leaving the comforts of home to go on the walk I was aware of that taxi company so if there was such a need it would have been relatively easy to get the taxi service.

Contrary to the last blog, this example shows that there is a bit of innovation happening, and there may also be others promoting their businesses in a similar way along the Hadrian’s Wall trail route (I just didn’t notice them).  We’ll probably see a lot more of this in the future as businesses get to grips with the opportunities that the web provides, and it’ll be fascinating to see how things evolve.

Hadrian’s Wall Trail Businesses Living In The First Century

Twitter 3 Comments

I’ve just come back from a coast-to-cast walk, which followed the Hadrian’s Wall trail.  It wasn’t a walk in the park and in fact was a real challenge.  It did highlight though how much lack of innovation there was from businesses in the area.  

Although most people doing such a walk will be quite well prepared, many people (myself included) will become a mass of blisters and leg pain.  Both online and offline there appeared to be little to cater for such needs along the way.  Key gaps needing to be filled were:

  1. Lack of refreshment facilities within huge ranges of the trail.  At one point the (innovative) coffee truck man was practically mugged for a much-needed drink after several miles of nothing.  I can’t remember what he charged for the coffee but it could have been well above the norm and it wouldn’t have mattered.
  2. Lack of first aid provisions.  It took 4 days into the trail to find a place that sold Compeed – much needed for blisters.  Although it was overpriced, it could have cost more and would still have been bought by those in need.
  3. Lack of supplementary services.  What does a leg or foot massage cost in everyday life?  Whatever it costs, that fee could have been easily raised to capitalise on walkers who would have been willing to pay the price to have legs reinvigorated to give them a better chance for a fresh start the next day.

What should have happened along the Hadrian’s Wall trail?  Or, in fact, any form of walking trail where there will be needs for goods and services …

A grasp of where the opportunities are. 

This applies to both online and offline.  Offline, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work out where there are long stretches of any walk where facilities are poor (for example, refreshments), and to capitalise on the needs.  Online, just being aware of what people are saying on Twitter can raise opportunities.  Last week was a typical example …

I did tweets that included the words ‘Hadrian’s Wall’ and other words such as ‘aching legs’, ‘blisters’, ‘compeed’, ‘pain’, ‘leg massage’ and more.  Someone innovative, picking up on such tweets, would be in a position to capitalise.  Let’s say that someone saw a tweet that referred to Hadrian’s Wall – something along the lines of:

Day 3 of Hadrians Wall today – legs aching like hell!  Running out of compeed.

If that person offered leg massage services then they could respond to that tweet accordingly.  At the same time of giving such a service they could sell Compeed (at an inflated price no doubt) and also build a relationship with the guest house/hotel being stayed at, to capitalise on walkers who may need such services in the future.

Better than that, where’s the innovative person who is monitoring numerous types of tweets and bridges the gap between suppliers of products & services and those who need them (for a commission fee)?

Hadrian’s Wall was built in the first century.  If Twitter had existed back then there’s a pretty good chance the Romans would have been using it, along with all their other efficiencies.   Fast forward to the 21st Century and we have a simple issue of supply and demand and the opportunity to capitalise on it by being more ‘online aware’.   In any situation where people need something and have no alternative options (whether that be relief from leg pain, refreshments, or something else), then the lack of supply or competition means there are opportunities to gain higher than normal revenues for what’s supplied.

How stupid are so many UK businesses?

Blogs, Email Communications, Email Newsletters, Twitter, Website Strategy 3 Comments

We’re coming up for the Kent 2020 exhibition in April 2010 and it’s started …. the stream of emails and phone calls from companies trying to sell exhibitors their services.  This could be printing, exhibition stand stuff, gimmicks, whatever.

Like local political party reps at election time, they come out of the woodwork expecting to gain business.  To be frank, it’s insulting, opportunistic, and in today’s climate, just plain stupid.

The winners in business in the future will be those that create an ongoing, but non-invasive awareness of themselves.  Does Custwin want to buy new exhibition popups etc. for Kent 2020 this year?  No.  Would we need to next year?  Possibly.   Would we be adverse to getting a blog feed, Tweets, or an occasional email newsletter from companies who supply such products, over the months?  No, we wouldn’t be adverse.   In fact, it would help to build up trust, it may even lead to us meeting the suppliers at some point, and it’s got a much stronger potential to turn into business for the suppliers at some stage.

Taking another subject, a company was pitching chocolate fountain hire for the Kent 2020 exhibition.  As a cold introduction to 100 people it’s possible that very few may respond.  But as a warm drip feed over a longer period of time, the percentage of buyers will increase.  HOW that drip feed is implemented is a subject all of its own but it’s not rocket science.

The focus here happens to be on an upcoming business exhibition but the principle applies for any type of business that wants to gain new clients, particularly at times of the year when those potential buyers are more likely to need such services.

Those businesses that don’t embrace the concept of drip feeding their message into potential clients will soon find themselves losing out to their competitors who understand what makes potential clients tick.

 

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