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Money For Nothing: Maximizing Free Advertising Opportunities Online

There’s no question that the best form of advertising is via word of mouth. But while these kinds of referrals are great — and practically result in slam-dunk sales — they are fairly limited.

There’s no question that the best form of advertising is via word of mouth — when one of your happy customers tells their family, friends, or neighbors about the great work that you did and how they should call you to have work done at their home. Because they are organic and genuine and delivered from a trusted source with personal experience, these kinds of referrals offer the highest level of confidence that the company being referred — you, in this case — is legit and genuine and that the person receiving the referral would be making a wise decision to go with you.

They are also the kinds of referrals that are beyond what money can buy.

But while these kinds of referrals are great — and practically result in slam-dunk sales — they are fairly limited. I mean, how many people do your customers see and talk to about AV installations in a given week or month? And even if they were some kind of super fan and told every single person that came over to their homes how much they loved their new system and how great you were, that’s still not too many.

What about all of those other people out there that are looking for some form of AV work? How do you let them all know how great you are? For many, this is where advertising helps bridge the gap.

There’s certainly no shortage of advertising options, but most of them cost money. I’m sure many companies in our industry have been greatly successful with TV and radio spots, and I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section. Our company tried its hand at a billboard ad once, and while we were promised “hundreds of thousands of brand impressions,” with slick graphics of road traffic patterns and driver demographics of this particular stretch of road, I’m not sure it resulted in a single job. (It did, however, result in about $6,000 worth of invoices…)

The Yellow Pages used to be a terrific way to let people find you when they let their fingers do the walking, but I think the only person that still regularly uses a phone book is my mom. And I hate to disappoint you, but she’s really not much of a tech buyer. (Though, to be fair, she did do some rather serious comparison-shopping for a new iPad Air case…)

Today’s shoppers let their fingers do the clicking on the internet, and that’s likely going to be the overwhelming way that most new customers will find you, either through a Google search or some other means. While companies like Netsertive, Relidy Marketing, and One Firefly can help you to optimize your web presence and search rankings for a fee, there are a couple of other options that you should be taking advantage of that won’t cost you anything but a few minutes of time.

I’m talking about Angie’s List and Yelp.

To be honest, I didn’t give either of these services much of a thought until recently. In fact, I thought Yelp was only for restaurant reviews, and basically only looked at the service when we were traveling and wanted to find a decent place to eat near our hotel.

But when an Angie’s List representative called me the other day — narrowly avoiding getting hung up on, I might add, by very quickly starting her side of the conversation with, “I promise I’m not going to try to sell you anything or ask you for any money!” — I decided to look into it a bit. It turns that these services get A LOT of traffic. Angie’s List claims more than three million members and Yelp had an average of around 135 million unique monthly visitors in Q4 2014. That is some powerful potential to tap into.

Both sites let you “claim” your business for free and create a pretty decent on-line profile that includes posting hours your business is open as well as a lengthy description of your company, pictures of work you’ve done, and contact information as well as a link to your website.

The whole process takes just a few moments and doesn’t cost a single penny.

Both companies rely on reviews to help users formulate an opinion, but Angie’s list makes it incredibly easy for people to submit reviews, providing a link that is specific to your company as well as a postage-paid mailer in case they don’t feel like sharing their email info.

I used our company’s review link to reach out to customers that we’ve done recent work for, emailing and asking if they wouldn’t mind taking a few moments to rate our work.

My message was short, basically saying our company was looking to expand its online presence to local customers via the popular service Angie’s List, and we hoped they were pleased with the work that we did for them recently, and wondered if they would be willing to spend approximately two minutes to fill out an online review of our services? I included the link and closed by saying if they needed any further work done, they should please respond of give me a call.

Within days we had 16 reviews telling the world about the terrific job that we had done.

Will this result in any new business? Too soon to tell, but it certainly can’t hurt…

You can claim your company’s Angie’s List page here and your Yelp page here. And if you know of another great way to bring in business, share it in the comments section!

John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.