It's important to think about how potential customers will see your business and how you will get your key message across to them.
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People's first impression of your business is very important. Many electricians work from home, but some have a separate workshop and/or storage area. This might be accessible to members of the public, who might call in for advice or discuss a potential job. If you have premises like this, make sure that the reception area is clean and tidy. Bear in mind that any vehicle you use will be a highly visible advertisement for your business. It doesn't need to be new, but it should look smart and well maintained. If you use a van, you could get it professionally sign-written.
Whether you work from home or separate premises, many customers' initial contact with you will be over the telephone. Always be polite and try to answer the phone promptly and in a friendly manner. If you are unavailable, use an answerphone and make sure that you follow up all messages. People will sometimes call several electricians for an estimate or a quote - a helpful and efficient telephone manner could make the difference between getting a job or not.
A reputation for good service can only be built over time, but from the outset you should aim to offer a high standard of service and ensure customers are satisfied with the work carried out. Deal with any questions or complaints promptly and politely. Take care when making estimates and try to ensure that the customer is well informed about the work being done. Keep customers informed if you're running late or you're going to miss an appointment, and try to keep mess and disruption to a minimum. A good reputation will pay dividends in terms of word of mouth recommendations, which are so valuable in promoting your business.
High standards are essential to attract and retain customers. One of the best ways of demonstrating that you work to a high standard is to join a trade association or quality assurance scheme. Membership helps to illustrate to potential customers that a high level of service is on offer. Schemes available include:
- NICEIC Approved Contractor Scheme
- IET Electrotechnical Assessment Specification (EAS)
- Electrical Contractors Association/SELECT membership
If you are registered as an approved 'competent person' for self-certifying certain domestic electrical work against Building Regulations - or for installing microgeneration technologies such as solar voltaic panels - then be sure to advertise this fact to your customers. The same applies if you're an authorised Green Deal installer.
Advertising and marketing
Now that so many people search for businesses like electricians online, a good website can be a very good way of advertising your business and reaching a wider range of customers. Think about getting listed in online directories - perhaps 'contact an expert' directories run by some trade associations.
Social media can also be an effective way of marketing your business, staying in touch with previous customers and making contact with potential new ones. Think too about using relevant forums and perhaps a blog (although be aware that some forum websites ban blatant advertising in forum posts). You could sign up to a review website for trades-people such as Checkatrade. You could also consider trying to obtain work through job-referral websites like Mybuilder.com and Rated People too.
An entry in a local print directory can be an effective way of advertising your business. However, many of your competitors will have done the same so try to make your business stand out.
Some firms spend a lot of money on large, eye-catching display advertisements. You will have to decide whether to compete head on with these firms, or look for a different way of attracting customers. You could, for example:
- focus on your own unique selling point (USP) in your advertising material. This might be, for example, "25 years experience", "Family run firm" or even simply "Friendly, honest service"
- advertise in other ways. For example, you could distribute a paper flyer, plastic card or sticker with your business name and telephone number on it as part of a mail-shot that you do, perhaps in the early spring
- look into becoming listed by an insurer, specialist helpline or directory as an 'approved tradesman' (most of these organisations operate a quality screening process and some will only list firms that have been trading for at least two years)
- contact local residential landlords associations to enquire about being included in their suppliers guide
The important thing is to tell people as many of the good things about your business as possible in your advertisements, particularly things that distinguish your business from your competitors.