As with any small business, starting up and growing are the two challenges that many owners face. We are no different. With some experience of ‘doing business’, we had to think on our feet about how best to grow our business without compromising quality of service.
From our inception, we focused on three things: Quality, Convenience, Reliability.
If we could deliver the same quality of ironing via our ironers, we’d get repeat business and this would lead to strong brand perception. If our customers could arrange a booking as and when THEY needed the service, we’d be offering what our customers wanted, after all, we are an ironing Service. Our customers are busy people, so we made booking times available up until 10pm daily. Being reliable is something our customers need. We heard many times how other ironing companies had ‘let them down’ or just ceased trading without any warning. We aim to be 100% reliable – easier said than done as things can go wrong and indeed they did (I’ll cover this in a further blog post later). Issues with transport, traffic, etc.
So, on to growing the business…
I remember reading a quote from a leading business person (their name escapes me!), it said:
Early to bed, early to rise, work bloody hard and ADVERTISE.
SO, advertise we did!
Here’s a summary:
100,000+ leaflets – delivered directly by ourselves. This enabled us to target the likely areas where our service would be well received. We found that our customers didn’t necessarily have to live in large houses – they just had to be busy households. Mainly working professionals, families. The response rate to leaflet drops was between 1-4% so persistence is key if you’re thinking of doing this yourself. For every 1000 leaflet delivered, we could expect 10-15 customers. Hard work!
Newspaper Ads: We advertised weekly in a local paper, which yielded 2-5 customers a week. Quite costly and we were always in amongst competitors – initially one or two, then it became 5-6. Wouldn’t recommend this strategy for long term results – its good to get your brand recognised and to build awareness though. Can be quite costly, anywhere between £100 – £200 per month.
Word of mouth – the old faithful staple of business! Getting others to recommend your business is the best way of generating growth. We found that if a customer was delighted with our service, they would tell friends, family and work colleagues. Always ask for referrals too – it costs nothing and most customers will be more than happy to promote your service if you ask them nicely. A financial incentive might work well too – we offer £5 discount to both parties.
Internet: without doubt, this has been the lynchpin to our growth. Our first website was basic, providing information and an ability for customers to contact us to book. Now, our website processes 100’s of bookings a day – with 90%+ of our new business being sourced via the web. Google is the main referrer and SEO is something we work at on a daily basis. A mobile friendly website, like ours, will help your business rank higher in search results too.
Social Media: Spreading the word, virally. With the likes of Facebook and Twitter, any business can build a faithful following of people who use your service or just like what you’re posting. We have 6000 followers on Twitter and many more on Facebook. We post regularly, usually tips about the industry we work in, or updating our followers on new area coverage.
With all these methods at our disposal and a clear digital strategy in place, we found that our reach became nationwide. So, we needed to revise our business model so we could cater for customers wherever they lived.
How did we do this? We built a network of like minded ironing professionals.
That’s in our next post…
Onwards and upwards