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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday Web Tools-Making Your Brand

Appliance Repair is an interesting business. A guy with some knowledge and tools and limited capital can
start a bootstrap business working out of his own vehicle part time. On the other end of the scale you find a well organized large operation that has a retail parts counter, a well stocked inventory, and a fleet of fairly new well maintained service vehicles. And in between there are all sorts of combinations of partnerships, family businesses, and professional independent servicers. But one thing they all have in common is a brand.

Creative Commons license on image.
What is a brand? A brand is simply the image you put before the public. A brand is something you have whether you realize it or not. Your brand could be as simple as "that guy who knows how to fix stuff for cheap". And you know what, that brand will often allow for some success. Especially if you are a nice guy and you do good work. That can be a limiting brand too. Think about it for a moment, if you are the "cheap guy" you will have some customers that LOVE you it's true (who doesn't like a value). But, being the cheapest servicer reduces your profit per job, you have to work longer hours to make ends meet. Now to be clear, I am not suggesting you overcharge your customers, but if your only brand is the "cheap guy" you will quite possibly find yourself undervaluing your services and parts sales. If you do that for long enough you will eventually probably run out of money. Sadly, we've seen it happen.

My point here though, isn't to pick on the "cheap guy" there are a lot of really nice guys who manage to scrape by that way. I am trying to make the point that we all have a brand, whether we conciously work at it or not. Many of the most successful companies we are seeing these days have taken the smart strategy of developing their companies brand. In the past a nicely painted service truck with a matching yellow pages ad was perhaps all the branding a service business needed. But those days are fading fast. Do YOU still use the phone book? If you do, I salute your traditionalism, but you are one of the last few. With no phone book how can you get the message that you are available for repair work out into the community? A great way is develop your brand.

I am not a self branding expert by any means, so I suggest a google search of the term "personal branding" for a host of articles on the topic. What I do have is a great perspective to see how a good brand can effect the success of a repair business. The most successful companies that we see staying very busy have taken the time to cultivate their brand. Some people see the flashy logo paint jobs on their service vans assume that they were just spending lots of ad money. Generally there is a lot more going on contributing to the success of these companies. They all share the fact that they utilize numerous ways of developing their image, or "building their brand". They generally are well aware of the fact that most people these days find out about products and services through the internet.

The tricky thing to consider is, it isn't always by using Google or some other search engine that folks get answers from the internet. Consumers ask their friends for advice (often on social media siteslike facebook or twitter) or see who looks the most reputable online (at review sites suchas angies list or yelp). For a repair company to ever get hired by a customer, the fist step is to establish the trust and confidence of his potential customer. For that reason, many of these companies have created blogs about appliance repair that allow there potential customers to get to know them and establish a level of comfort before a customer will invite them into their homes. A presence on social media, if well thought out and implemented effectively, also can do a lot to increase your reputation in the community. Another teqhnique is to encourage your customers to leave reviews on popular sites like angies list or yelp. Oh and by the way, the more of this stuff you do, the better you will likely show up on when people search on Bing or Google or Yahoo or whatever.

My suggestion is to put some thought into the brand you want to project and take one step this month to making it a reality. Do it again next month. And so on. Don't go overboard. Remember, your prime directive should be serving your customers. But stretch yourself a little. Explore some parts of the internet you haven't looked at before, like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Allow your self some play to become comfortable with features and "feel" of these websites. Check out some your interests, check out your competition. I know some of us older guys just don't have much to say sometimes, but putting forth the effort can lead to rewards. Ultimately you should find yourself with a larger pool of customers, you might make more money, and you might even have more fun!

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