We Offer the Best Darn Service in the Area...How Do We Let People Know About Us?
For many portable restroom companies, marketing is an afterthought. Sure, most have a Yellow Pages ad, but few invest in the power of marketing to grow their business by creating an annual plan with a realistic budget for marketing expenses.
Marketing experts agree that a business should spend approximately ten percent of their revenues per year on marketing. It only makes sense that you need to let people know who you are, what you do, and how to reach you if your business is going to grow.
Marketing, however, can be frustrating for the inexperienced. You know you should implement some of the marketing ideas that come across your desk, but which ones? You know that marketing has value, but how do you measure it? Marketing is one of the most difficult purchases to justify because it doesn’t add up as clearly as, say a new truck.
In fact, marketing done poorly will not only fail to add up, it may even subtract from a good business’s reputation. For this reason, many people are afraid to go beyond the basics.
How much to spend and where to spend it is a tough decision, and there are numerous options available. Some marketing tactics will be successful for a particular business, some won't. Some will cost an arm and a leg, some won't dent the budget at all.The key is finding the right combination of tactics and making them work for you.
Advertising—“I tried that once … it didn’t work!”
The thing about advertising is that it doesn’t work unless you work it. A one-time space ad may not bring in a single customer. However, if the ad is well done, and it runs in the same place for several months, people will begin to notice, but the phone still may not ring.
The ad really starts working when you call on people and they recognize you because they have seen the ad. Awareness is the beginning of a relationship. The longer an ad runs, the more familiar you become to your audience. It doesn’t sell for you, but it lets potential customers know who you are, what you do, and how to reach you. If it runs for a while, it also shows them that you are in business to stay.
Put a special offer in the ad, and it may even make the phone ring. But be careful that you don’t make “sweet” deals in your ads that will make your regular customers feel left out or cheated.
If you want to try advertising, think of where you should be so that your customers are likely to see the ad. Construction newsletters, real estate guides, chamber of commerce newsletters may be better solutions for getting noticed by builders. If local construction suppliers have community notice boards by their entrances, put up a small poster with tear offs there. Local papers are probably too expensive for the recog-nition you’ll get. However, running a classified ad in the “Services for Hire” section during the summer months may be a good way to pick up the occasional back yard party or wedding.
One of your best advertising spots is on your very own fleet of trucks. Magnetic signs and removable placards get a lot of attention. One operator I know had a big sign on his trailer all summer that said, “We’re going to a Party.” It was definitely noticed, and he heard comments from hundreds of people. Your message will be seen by more people on your beautifully clean truck than in your local paper; so get creative!
Advertising can be expensive, but you don’t have to spend a lot to get noticed. A very basic ad might have a picture of a restroom with a benefit driven headline such as: Cleaner, Faster, Friendlier Restroom Service—Call: “Company Name” ask for “Ed” at 1-800-292-1305 with an address. It doesn’t have to be any fancier than that to be noticed by potential customers.
Plan for a Year
Portable restroom businesses tend to be seasonal. During the slow season, you have the time to think about the coming year and create a 12-month marketing plan. If you know how much you want to spend, you can sit down with the rate cards from many different advertising options and decide how, when and where you want to reach your prospects. For example, you’ll want to reach builders throughout the building season in case they get fed up with a current supplier and want to try someone new. Summer event planners are best to reach at least eight months before an event, since the planning stage is a long process and they start early. Summer party planners tend to make decisions only weeks before their events, so you’ll want to reach them throughout the season.
Don’t forget to plan a customer reten-tion program. How will you communicate with current customers throughout the year? Will you plan mailings? Will you run special offers to increase the amount of services you supply? How about a mid-summer handwashing sinks promotion? What about customer appreciation gifts like hats, t-shirts, coffee mugs, or calendars? Do you celebrate customer anniversaries for those who have been with you for a year, five years, or even 10?
If you know of any annual events that a company, family or organization has, call a few months ahead and ask if they want to reserve their units today. It’s a good opportunity to suggest an upgrade. A stand-alone sink prevents a lot of traffic indoors, or a Comfort Inn is great for parents with tots or for the physically challenged.
Marketing should be a continuous process to be successful. New customers don’t show up when you need them most. Instead, they are more likely to sign with you during the busiest part of the year. If you want to grow your business, marketing needs to be done during the busy season. Planning ahead will enable you to keep marketing even when things get rushed.
Here are 7 tips for marketing your portable restroom business on a small budget:
As you can see, you can market your portable restroom business on a limited budget,
but it takes a plan and timely execution of that plan. The more you market your business, the more people will know who you are, what you do, and how to reach you.
1. Think profits, not sales.
Marketing is not just about telling new customers about your business, it’s also about staying in touch with current customers and making sure they know about all your capabilities to serve them. Selling new services such as sinks to existing customers may be more profitable than trying to find new customers.
2. Improve your relationship with your customers.
Everyone appreciates a little extra attention. If you purchase new units, put them into service with your best customers first, and let them know they have been upgraded for being a good customer. Being honest, giving good advice, and listening to their concerns, will improve their loyalty to you.
3. How can your best customers help you?
Use your knowledge about your best existing customers and your most profitable services to acquire new customers. What do your best customers have in common? How can you use this information to target new prospects?
Ask your best customers for word-of-mouth referrals. This is the best marketing a small business can invest in. Announce a new customer award program, for example, any existing customers who recommend a new customer, get a month of service free or even a cash reward.
4. Watch what works.
Track your marketing efforts and invest more in what works and less in what doesn’t. Continue to experiment with new marketing ideas. The most important question to ask of a new customer is, “How did you hear about us?” Keep track of the answers, and see
what paid off.
5. Work the network.
Build relationships in your community through service clubs, church groups, chamber of commerce meetings, and charitable activities.
6. Public Relations.
If you donate service to a charity group, make sure the local paper hears about the role you played in the event. Don’t be bashful about taking credit—it’s not about the credit. It’s about free advertising for your business.
7. The Internet.
Be sure to get a web page and get your page connected to Internet Yellow Pages, local business search engines, and service lists. If you are not technically savvy, talk to a local technology expert who can help you.