Busy (For Now...)

Despite economic gloom, uncertainty about our continued position in Europe and more rain than Noah had to cope with, a lot of Guild members are telling us how busy they are. That is a good thing of course. Good craftsmen should be busy. They should be at the top of the funnel, the first choice for their skill in their locale.

Being busy says several things about any small business, outside of an acknowledged boom cycle. It says you are reaching enough prospects to fill your order books. Maybe you are getting a lot of work by recommendation, and it is at this point that a lot of harassed small businessmen, with many demands on their time and their wallets, cut back on their marketing expenditure. But this is the biggest mistake any business…large or small…can make.

Marketing is a mixture of things. It can be that advertorial you always do with the local paper, it can be sponsoring that U9 football team or even trade association membership. It is the sign you put up outside your current job, the leaflets you drop down the street you are working in and around, and your subscription to a directory of some sort. But whatever marketing is to the busy man, it sometimes feels like waste.

Except that it is part of the reason you are busy. You may be that person who always asks where your customers heard about you, and you may have the customers who always tell the truth, but the fact is that many things contribute to that phone ringing or that email arriving. And it is hard to put your finger on what it really is, whatever they say to you.

Cutting back when times are relatively good seems to make good business sense. You are rushed off your feet and are still quoting away. So you save a few hundred pounds here and there. But you are forgetting the basic principles which The Guild of Master Craftsmen has emphasised for many a long year – visibility and credibility are vital to the continued success of any business.

Visibility is about prospects being able to find you. You may get recommended to them by a friend but they will not necessarily act on that recommendation right away. It may be a year later, and then they have to be able to remember your name and find your number at exactly the right time. So being in all those familiar places where people look is important. If you are not there, and they look, they may find an alternative.

Credibility is about them trusting you. Their neighbour may have told them what a good job you did for him two years ago…and that is a powerful thing…but they are looking for more than that. It is about showing off your qualifications, about showing that you are a Member of The Guild…because that logo beside your name means more than you think.

For instance, a member in exactly the situation I am describing here told me that he had asked twenty of his customers about The Guild, and of those only ten…only 50%...knew about us. They all clearly recognised the logo and knew that it was a sign of quality. And this member was thinking of leaving because he was disappointed that we only registered with 50% of his customers!

And that is crazy. Brand recognition of 50% is incredibly high. And that is the sort of cut back you simply cannot afford to make. Because you will not always be busy. Every business big or small always goes through quieter times, either because of external factors such as the economy or for other reasons closer to home. And that is where your marketing and your reputation really pays off, because you do not have to start from scratch all over again and build up your activity.

Marketing is an easy cost to slash out of your budget because there is apparently no immediate effect on the business. If you are busy today, you will still be busy tomorrow. However, it is in six months’ time, when someone else is in that advertorial, or someone else is leafleting the streets you were working in, when the phone is not ringing quite as much, that you will start to look around for reasons for your slump. The simple fact is that consistency pays off.