Are you a small business with money to gamble? Ready to set up on your own for the first time and throw away a few hundred pounds before getting your first job? Of course not. Yet this is the risk small business owners may be taking when they get themselves listed in offline business directories like Yellow Pages or Thompson.
But surely these directories have been around for ages and are a trusted source of information, a familiar part of life. The directories themselves may be heavy tomes that look reassuringly full of names and telephone numbers. But people using them soon realise they have no knowledge about who's inside or who's to be trusted. There's no way of telling one plumber or caterer from another. The ones with bigger adverts and a bit more information look expensive. Those with just a name and number too small fry and uninspiring.
What small businesses need is a way to set themselves apart. To get noticed for all the right reasons. And if you're setting up a new business you need a cost effective way to get known, to build a good reputation and to gain a following. Traditionally, you would do jobs for friends and family and ask them to spread the word. This can work but is a slow process and you may feel inclined to do favours which will eat into your revenue.
What every new or small business should do is get themselves listed with an online rating service. This way you stick your neck out and tell the world you're ready to do a great job. Of course, you expose yourself to publicly available comments from customers, but if you do a good job then you will reap the rewards. If there are things people prefer done differently you will be made aware and you'll have the opportunity to consider improvements to your service. All helpful stuff when you're starting out.
Another plus - you'll be quids in. Paper directories are mostly published annually and therefore have to charge you an annual fee. That's a lot of money to invest, with no guarantee of any return. Also, because they are published annually you are in trouble if you miss your local area's deadline. You could be twiddling your thumbs for several months waiting to get yourself in the next edition.
Online directories are updated in real time. This means you can be up on a site in a matter of hours and can change your contact details instantly if you need to. You may not even have to pay any upfront fees, but just membership and referral fees once the site starts working for you. And if things don't work out you can be off the site quickly and on to your next marketing idea.
Some websites allow you to showcase your work. Upload photographs of what you've done, even pictures of yourself so that the process of getting work is less of a gamble, for both you and your future clients. The people employing you will know a bit about what you do. They will feel more confident in hiring you, which should make for a more straightforward and positive relationship from the start.
Much has been written about rip-off Britain, cowboy tradesmen and the like. Its easy to be lumped into these unhelpful categories unless you can distinguish yourself. Leave the cowboys behind in the directories and small ads and take the modern, intelligent approach to building your business. Show the public what a fantastic job you can do and let your customers blow your trumpet for you.
Why gamble your livelihood with offline directory listings? There's just no point when you can market yourself more effectively and cheaply.