People will not use your courier service unless they know you exist, and how they can get hold of you. They also need to be reassured that you are offering the sort of courier service they want, and that you’ll provide it at a sensible price.
It is all about communication.
Being able to provide the service isn’t enough; people need to know that you provide it, and that it will work for them. Yellow Pages is a good place to start your research, if you still have one, or sites like Yell.com on the internet. Try to find out how other courier and similar businesses in your area get new business enquiries. Yellow Pages ads still work brilliantly in some areas, but are ignored in others. Try to find out which is true before spending your money.
Radio advertising (either of your courier service, or to recruit for staff and or couriers) is a very good way of advertising your business locally, but it can be very expensive. Look for the cheap deals, for example, some stations offer almost to give away advertising if it’s for recruitment, so try recruitment advertising. It makes your business sound successful to listeners.
The real deal is getting your website to the top of Google. That’s how people find out about business services nowadays. So you need to get your head around “Search Engine Optimisation” (SEO), to get up there for free, or you need to be prepared to spend some money on Google Adwords. Be careful with Adwords, though, because in the courier industry you can pay £1 a click easily and it soon mounts up to serious money. If you want someone to optimise your website for you, choose carefully, on the basis of recommendation, as there are loads rip-offs offering rubbish.
While you’re working on that, try joining all the “business networks” in your area. Check out what your local Chamber of Commerce (and other local business groups) offer in your area.
You’ll meet lots of local business people at their breakfast events. It’s a great way of turning yourself from being a stranger to being someone these people know and trust enough to try using for their courier work.
If you are any good at public speaking, you could offer to give one of the talks.
Find a subject that isn’t tediously self promotional, and that has some relevance to a wide range of businesses. eg “The importance of cash collection in a recession” or “One million reasons why every company should avoid factoring like the plague”.
If that’s not your thing, at least ensure that you ask an intelligent and friendly question at the end of everyone else’s talk. It gives you an opportunity to raise your profile locally: “Hi, everyone, my name is John Smith from Couriers-round-here.com, and the question I’d like to ask is…” Sit there in the talk, with a pen and paper, and note down any questions that occur to you, so you can be first to ask one. Always gets you noticed.
Do-It-Yourself Public Relations is also worth some effort. PR isn’t just about sending out press releases, though this is a start. First you have to create news for the purpose of providing content for your press releases.
News is easy to create. Sign up a new customer. (“FABcouriers sign up ABC plc for local deliveries”). Take on lots of couriers (“FABcouriers creates three jobs locally”). Recruit someone (“FABcouriers take on new customer services manager”). Win or enter a competition (“FABcouriers runners up in ‘Best local company’ competition”). Do something green (“eco-couriers deliver lower emissions”). These are easy press releases to write, and local papers and radio stations will gobble them up. Local radio stations are especially easy to get air-time on.
Remember the press release rule: who what where when how, and so what? Try also sending them to www.courier-direct.co.uk, which is a trade magazine for the courier industry.
Set yourself a target of the number of press releases you want to send out every month, and make the time to do it. Like selling, it’s something you have to put in the diary and devote time to, or it just slips by.
Try using customer satisfaction questionnaires, enclosed with your invoices. They’re a brilliant way of getting testimonials and references for you to use in your sales effort. All you do is send out forms with your invoices, asking for feedback “for quality audit purposes”. Lots of people will write back, and you can use their letters as references. You can also do this on your website, using one of the free questionnaire websites. Offer a prize draw to encourage responses.
You can also email your customers and ask them to complete your survey. Google “Survey Monkey” for a good free one. You may be shocked by what you hear back.
There’s not much that is more important than knowing what your customers actually want, and whether they think they’re getting it from you.
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