That is the question. What do you do when your budget is consistently prefaced with the same moniker as your category of business...micro.
For 20 years our company has been void of any kind of marketing with the exception of the age old, word of mouth. Where satisfied customers roar from the hilltops of the family barbecue, regaling their guests with stories of how great an experience they had with K & E Sheet Metal.
O.k...enough with the melodrama. However, word of mouth can be that powerful if your work ethic and quality of product can back it up.
Sometimes though, like the last few years has taught us, things can slow down very fast and like African Elephants in drought, we search the desolate lands to quench our growing thirst. That's when smaller companies like ours can suffer a slow and painful death, lacking the working capital to increase things like a marketing budget to help us find those stingy springs of profitable water.
So today when I received a call from a nice, well spoken young gentlemen I withdrew from my usual speech of no thank you and listened. He was looking for the marketing department of our little company and with a chuckle I remarked that he must have found them because I'm the only one here; the other possible choice was on a job site. He got to the point, explaining his general company function, words meandering through very professional--but unnecessary--sounding lines of this and that. All he really needed to say was niche SEO.
Not surprisingly, these are the majority of sales calls that get thrown our way recently. The days of trying to sell me the commodity or equipment I use to make a living seems to have gone by the wayside, online is king. That doesn't mean I don't receive calls from the former, they're just the minority in the monthly phone log.
My problem and dilemma is focused on the immense scope of online marketing, when K & E Sheet Metal can only realistically serve a 50 mile radius. This doesn't mean we don't understand the importance of a web presence, but is it the best choice for us. We love technology and the ease it brings to everyday life and business, but can our micro business thrive by focusing marketing dollars on the web.
In regards to this blog and getting the word out about what we do, the answer would probably be yes. Who doesn't love traffic to their website? However, this isn't exactly saucy women in thongs, posing erotically with sheet metal tools--although maybe it should be--so clicks will be at a premium.
When it comes to gaining and keeping new local customers, I'm not exactly sure which would be the best avenue. Newspapers, especially in this town, have drastically declined in readership, putting a big dent into who's eyeballs will see what services we can provide. Young people read the web, searching for what they need when renovating a house or office building, not the newspaper. Hence my dilemma. For now, I'm not sure how many of these iPhone wielding youngsters are searching in the Glens Falls, NY area for HVAC sheet metal fabricators. This is where I start to lean toward no when thinking of an online marketing budget.
Nevertheless, I will meet with this particular marketing company and see what they have to offer. They are local and willing to make the trip up this way to visit the fabrication shop. That says something and is a giant step up from most of the cold calls we receive on a weekly basis. Can they convince me that slapping down cash for online SEO marketing is the way to go? That is the ultimate question.