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How drillers can reach new customers online


March 16, 2018
By Julie Fitz-Gerald

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Nobody’s going to the Yellow Pages anymore, says Chris O’Shea of Business BDC Advisory Services. "It’s a conversation about experience and about your ability to deliver as a service provider." Photo credit: Pexels.com

Marketing your water-well business has never been easier with free online tools and platforms literally at your fingertips. The trick is knowing which social media and website platforms are right for you. Chris O’Shea, business advisor with Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) Advisory Services, shared his best tips and practices on how well-drilling businesses can effectively use these tools to turn your target market into repeat customers.

Chris, what impact can successful marketing strategies have on small businesses?
Absolutely. In my work, it’s a core foundation of what we attempt to get our clients to consider. Anytime a business is dealing with the general consumer-based marketplace, in this case homeowners, commercial landowners or anyone who is looking at drilling a well, marketing really opens up what we consider to be the top end of your funnel. There is a buyer’s journey that we want our clients thinking about: How does someone become aware of you as a business to know that you exist? Then, do you have experience in drilling wells; do you have the ability to provide me with a solution to my problem? These are the things people will go through and navigate when they’re looking to figure out whether you’re the right service provider for them or not. We want our clients thinking about what tools, what ways, what means can be used to generate that interest in the consumer world.

What’s a realistic starting point when revamping a business’ marketing plan?
It’s a great question and from our perspective, we don’t want to dump anybody into the deep end of a pool. They have to navigate this in terms of time and effort for what they can do versus perhaps our idea of what they should do. Sometimes it makes sense to get some help externally, and maybe you go to a service provider who can do the actual Facebook postings as an example, but what we really want them to start thinking about is where can they spend their time, their money and on what platforms does it make sense to do that. Every business will be different in terms of their ability to execute against that, but the strategy part is really important…. We want them to think very systematically about how they can implement things into their business. Is it 15 minutes a day? Maybe that will work for them. It’s a bit of a hamster wheel: you have to continually do this. You can’t start and stop, you have to continually have these conversations with your prospective customers to 1) know what makes them tick; and 2) be in the places where they’re spending their time.

What are the main components to a good marketing initiative?
It’s really about the plan and what you want to accomplish. We always reverse-engineer it from your target customer. Who are they? Where are they? What do they need to know? How do they need to know it? Where do they spend their time? If you can spend a little time thinking about end user and end customer, whether that’s geographical – you may have a new area or region you want to be in based on new developments happening – these are all things to be very mindful of…You want to know, for example, what makes that 35-year-old couple tick. You can then start figuring out what you have to do to be in front of those individuals. A 35-year-old couple is very different from a 50-year-old couple or a 60-year-old couple. Sometimes it’s a mixed bag, but if you can at least understand where that plan is going to take you, you’ll know you want to spend some time posting on Facebook or having an email newsletter or paid advertising like Facebook ads. These are things you can leverage, but if you don’t know what your goal is or who you want to talk to, it’s the old adage of throwing darts at a dartboard without knowing what’s going to hit. You want to be very tactical and very strategic.

Should a website and a social media presence be a part of every business, and if so, why?
It’s 2018 and we live in a digital world. Every business, no matter how small, should have some level of digital presence, a digital footprint. How much and how big can vary widely. You can build yourself a free website, social media is free, generally speaking, so these are not things that will cost businesses a lot of money. We try to help our clients understand that if you’re trying to target a 35-year-old and they have a need for a well driller in Ancaster, Ont., what is the first thing they’re going to do if they don’t have a provider in mind? They’re going to Google it. That’s where the discussion starts.

Nobody’s going to the Yellow Pages anymore. It’s a conversation about experience and about your ability to deliver as a service provider. The customer needs ammunition to make that decision and the ammunition you provide is on your website and on your social media channels. The customer is going to peel back the onion and start snooping around to see if you do what you say you’re going to do. Are you a good provider to work with? If there’s a problem will you solve it? A drilled well is a big investment for the average homeowner, so can you make me feel better about that by providing me with good information in a space where I feel comfortable. Every business needs a solid digital footprint, including a website, which we consider to be a conversion engine: I want somebody to land on my website, get good information, and turn it into a “contact us” form, a phone call or a message on my social media channel.

What social media platforms are most beneficial for businesses?
Anybody who spends time in the digital space will tell you, it’s a Google-Amazon-Facebook world; that’s the Holy Trinity of digital presence right now. Amazon may not be applicable here, but certainly Google and Facebook are and those are the two we would start with. Google is a communication line that you want to be very fluent in. Facebook is a social media platform that billions of people use and that unto itself has some cache, but Canadians have a high per capita usage of a tool like Facebook and there’s some demographics there. So this becomes a conversation about reverse-engineering the platform for the customer you’re trying to go after. If you’re trying to skew younger, you may want to look at Instagram or YouTube.

These are all the connective pieces that we want our clients to understand and use as part of an overall communications strategy. What do you want to say and where are your customers spending their time? You have to know a little bit about these platforms and the only way you learn is by doing. So you have to figure out what these platforms will do for you.

Can you walk us through the first few steps of creating a new marketing strategy?
A first conversation would be just to think about the customer. Who are those folks that I have the most interaction with and success with? Then determine what your business goals are – I want to be in this particular area, region, city, town, community. When you can plot this out at the starting point, everything else just flows from there. We would love to have them build themselves some level of web presence, and again there’s lots of low-cost tools, there’s lots of free website platforms like Go Daddy and Wix that have professional-looking designs. From a cost perspective for a small business, those are some options. If you don’t know how to do it, find a provider in your community who can help build you a website.

Mobile has become a higher priority now as well, so having a mobile-friendly website is super important. From there, you determine the message: What do I want to say; what’s my brand; what makes me different? Then, knowing that we’ve spent some time thinking about our customer, you can decide, “Okay, I’m right for Facebook, it sounds like a good idea for me, so let’s do that.” Or perhaps you want to try all of these tools. Again, experimentation and repetition is really the name of the game. You have to go out there and try some things, see what works, fail miserably, try some more and just keep trying and doing things.

Are you able to ballpark the percentage of increases in revenue and customer-base after running a successful marketing campaign?
This is the concept of marketing that trips up a lot of entrepreneurs in the sense of there is no “If I do this, I will get X.” There is no “I’m going to spend $10,000 in marketing next month; what am I going to get in sales?” Nobody has that crystal ball. There are so many variables involved. One is your buying cycle. Maybe it takes people three to 10 months to make a decision that they need a new well and they just need to come back and be constantly reinforced with the message that says, “We are the right ones for you. We are really good at what we do, we’re affordable and we have great experience.”

So if I’m going to invest time and money, the ROI is actually: What happens if I’m not there? Who gets the business? Who else is doing the things that you could and should be doing – in terms of word-of-mouth on steroids in the digital space – to get that business? What we want you to do is to start looking at data and hopefully it tells you a story. You should have data, things like Google analytics, installed on your website because it will tell you a story about how people use your website. You should look at Facebook insights; it will tell you a story about how people are using your Facebook page. This data will help you determine whether or not you’re doing a good job [with your marketing strategy].

Once these best practices are in place, what are a few ways that well drillers can maintain their marketing game?
Having a budget is helpful. Having a tactical execution plan of things like a content calendar. If I’m on Facebook, how often should I post? Once a week, once a day, once a month? Figure out what feels right and then make sure you stick to it. A content calendar will make sure it becomes a habit.

Can you offer some helpful resources that well drillers can use to make this process as smooth as possible?
BDC puts out a lot of content around this stuff to help our entrepreneurs understand and navigate the sales and marketing space specifically, so we have a blog where you can find this. But frankly, it’s a Google world. If you have a question, Google it. Somebody will have the answer. In terms of motivating and moving forward, the ultimate motivation in my opinion is relevance. If you’re not doing this in 2018, 2019 and 2020, the odds of being relevant to the customer base that you’re trying to go after is going to continue to peel away. This is about staying a part of the conversation and the community of people you want to talk to. It’s not optional: it’s mandatory.

Do you have any last marketing tips or advice for our readers?
Just do it. You’ve got to get out there and do it. For an industry that may be a little bit behind as far as overall acceptance or use of digital tools and marketing as a driver of business, be the first to market. First to market wins a lot. If you’re in a competitive landscape and you’ve got other people in the same boat as you, start before they do.

Thank you, Chris, for offering this valuable information!

This interview has been edited and condensed. Julie Fitz-Gerald is a freelance writer based in Uxbridge, Ont., and a regular contributor to Ground Water Canada.