(This article contains an excerpts from a book I have in process on learning the skills and setting up your own computer business)
Marketing your business is another of those topics where whole books and tons of resources exist. You are limited only by your imagination and pocketbook. In the beginning I suggest you start with the free and very low-cost strategies. You can expand later. Many businesses find that if they do good honest work their reputation grows so fast that soon you have too much business to handle!
Word of Mouth
Word of Mouth is free and believe it or not your best source of business. Mention casually to everyone you meet that “I have a part time computer business; I love it and it is doing great.” You would be surprised at how fast word gets around. Many people like to make referrals (make sure you thank the person that referred someone!) Your current customers can be your best word of mouth referrers. Treat them right and they will tell others!
My side hustle was built almost exclusively using word of mouth advertising. Once I had that first dozen or so customers the referrals just kept coming in. And your current customers become your best future customers because if you treat them right, they keep coming back over and over!
Business cards are cheap whether you print them yourself or have them made. They don’t have to be too fancy, but they do have to look professional. Always carry a few so you can hand them out to anyone when you discuss your business.
You want your cards to make it easy to contact you, with an email address, phone number and website, if you have one. You don’t need to show a physical address if you are working out of your home. I have seen business cards suppliers advertising a quantity of 250 or 500 for free, or maybe $9.99. A deal like that is fine to get you started. If you can’t find a free deal I recently purchased 500 cards from a local Staples for $14.99 and they did a good job.
Flyers in Supermarkets
Many supermarkets and some other retail stores have a community bulletin board where they allow flyers. Design a basic flyer describing your services (in black and white), make a bunch of copies, and spread them around. You will have to check the flyers often to replenish them because they have a habit of disappearing.
While a web site isn’t absolutely required it does lend an air of legitimacy to your business. Again, it doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to look professional. List your contact information and services provided. Maybe post an occasional article or provide links to sites you think your customers would find helpful.
There are lots of ways to get a website up that are very low cost. Check out WordPress for one possibility. If you decide to build your own that skill could turn into another income stream. If you don’t want to tackle the site on your own head over to Morse Digital Labs and we’ll put one together for you very reasonably.
Craig’s List is a free online local classified service. Try listing your business there as a start. You can experiment with a general posting listing your services or something more specific. For example, you could list a particular upgrade including parts and installation.
Many local newspapers and circulars offer inexpensive advertising. Try running an ad for several weeks and see what effect it has on your new customer calls.
Some local websites offer free classifieds. Try them, it can’t hurt. Remember, the goal is to get that new customer to call and then use word of mouth to multiply the effect.
Other Computer Repair Shops
Yes, I mean you should talk to the competition. In most areas there are local full-service computer repair shops with a good reputation. You need to talk to them for a couple of reasons:
1. A source of parts when you need them fast.
2. They are often a source of advice when you get stuck.
3. Refer them business that you don’t do or is too complicated for you. Sometimes they will even offer you a percentage on your referrals. For example, I didn’t like replacing broken laptop screens, so I referred that work to local shop. Clients respect you when you say “I usually refer my clients to Joe at Village Computer Services for that.”
4. Once you have established a relationship ask them for referrals of business that you can do when they get too busy. Remember what I said about getting too busy once you are established – it really does happen. Most businesses would rather refer a customer to someone they trust than to simply send a customer out the door!
Newsletter or Blog
Collect those Email addresses! An Email newsletter is an easy way to keep in touch with your customers. Remember to only send the newsletter to customers who know you and wouldn’t mind getting the newsletter. Any kind of spam is definitely a “no no,” and you always should allow an easy way for a customer to unsubscribe. Some people just do not want any extra Email.
Over time your current customers will be your best source of business. In fact, depending on the size of business you are trying to build you will find that once you reach a certain number of customers your marketing will be almost self-sustaining. When a customer needs computer services they will not even think of calling anyone else!
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
This is a common marketing idea which basically means what is special about your particular business. In the beginning you do anything to get those first few clients. Eventually you want to have a special reason that customers should use your services. For example, your USP might be “free pickup and delivery.” I don’t see many computer businesses doing that. This might work especially well when you don’t have a physical location and you can bake your transportation costs into your price.
With marketing you are only limited by your imagination. I would love to hear about other ideas that you find work for you!
Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash