“Twitter. My daughter set me up on it. Never used it.”
Something tells me that many new shop owners, and for that matter, many new small business owners, have said much the same thing at one point or another. Technology, specifically for marketing our businesses, doesn’t always come naturally. This month, I decided to get out of my own office and get a better understanding of the challenges and pitfalls facing new shop owners as they try to build awareness and clientele.
Harry Weirich had worked as a mechanic his entire career. A little over two years ago, he decided to make the leap from mechanic to shop owner, opening HJW Auto Repair in Medina, OH. I went out to visit with Harry and talk about technology, marketing a new business and, of course, to catch up with an old soccer friend.
Q: Starting out, what technologies did you find yourself focused on?
Harry: Honestly, you have no idea going in what you are going to need. I spent some time with the Small Business Administration getting guidance, but that was mostly on legal stuff, not technology. And I didn’t really know anyone personally who did that type of stuff.
Q: So, your challenge was that you really didn’t know where to start?
Harry: Exactly, I’ve been a mechanic all my life, so I don’t really have any technology background. It’s really trial and error.
Q: You mentioned that you tried some traditional means of advertising to get the word out about your new shop?
Harry: Yes. I ran ads in the local newspaper, and advertised in the local coupon books that everyone gets. I also did sports boosters where you get banners and you are in the book and I got nothing out of any of it. Nothing.
Q: Your next step, just from personal use and experience, was to give Facebook a try?
Harry: Yes, so, I saw that Facebook always had advertisements running through my feed and I thought, ‘I wonder how you do that?’ So, I researched it and it’s super inexpensive because you only pay for how often you want your ad to be out there. And so, pricewise, it was like 1/10th of the cost of local print and other traditional means of advertising.
Q: So you learned and utilized the tools available in Facebook to target your ads where you wanted?
Harry: Yes, so that’s all customizable through Facebook, zip codes, looking up certain terms, and then my ad pops up only in a certain radius and among certain age groups.
Q: Have you done anything with any other social media?
Harry: There is a new app called Nextdoor. It is sweet. I just signed up for it 3-4 weeks ago, and I have already had three or four jobs off of it. It’s kind of like Facebook where somebody invites you to the app. I got a letter in the mail and I thought ‘what the heck’ and joined it. But, it is just people in your neighborhood or area.
Q: So, neighborhood groups can get on there and see what is going on in their community?
Harry: Right. What’s going on in the neighborhood: what’s for sale; I’m looking for this; and I need help with that, etc. That app has been great for making a more one-on-one personal connection through an app. It’s given me the opportunity to really just say, ‘Hey, I’m Harry, I own a shop here in the area’ to just the people who live nearby.
Harry and I continued to chat about his past work as a technician and how happy he is to have made the move from technician to shop owner. But, I was intrigued by this Nextdoor app that he mentioned so later in the day, I decided to sign up for the app myself. I entered my address and it showed me the neighborhood groups that I could be part of, and suddenly, I was using the app.
And this is just the type of app I would recommend, particularly for new shop owners. It provides the advantage of a personal touch, and a one-to-one relationship building approach which so often gets lost in the world of the internet. And you can’t get more cost-efficient marketing. The cost of joining NextDoor for Harry and others is $0, but in just a few weeks, resulted in three to four repair jobs. I like those ROI numbers. And as opposed to more traditional means of advertising, and even some web-based means of advertising, targeted Facebook ads, and the NextDoor app, provide a very targeted approach to marketing your business to the local people who may need your services.
The bottom line is that there is a lot to discover out there with web-based marketing, and much like Harry, sometimes it just takes a little trial and error to find out what works best. And, if all else fails, you can always just elevate your kids to Senior Digital Marketing Director.