Digital Marketing Advice for Tradesmen with James Dewane

James is an electrician by trade and also an acclaimed author and teacher of online marketing techniques for tradesmen, sole traders and small business owners. We sat down with him to pick his brain about everything digital and get his advice on what tradespeople can to get ahead in the world of internet marketing.

Can you track how well your marketing is working?


Video transcript

A couple of different ways that you can do it and again unfortunately a lot of tradesmen don’t tend to do it. When you talk to many tradesmen – in my case, electricians, and ask them where their business is coming from they often have an idea because what they’ll tell you is that: ‘I ask every time that the phone rings. I’ll ask: where did you hear about me?’

And the truth of that is, particularly if you’re a sole trader quite often you’re busy on the tools, doing your job when that phone rings and It’s a stretch to even reach to your notebook and write down the fact that you’ve got to call this person back, let alone ask a series of questions about: ‘where did you find me, where did you get my details from?’

And there are a number of very easy ways of tracking it. One, Google Analytics is a fantastic tool. Google Analytics will tell you how people arrived at your website. Now I’m no Google expert, but the tools are there, the resources are there that will tell you If it was Facebook that drove it to your website, if was your advertising that drove it to your website, if it was Twitter that drove it to your website.

And of course, in the offline world we have tracking numbers, tracking telephone numbers. So if you’re placing an advert in a magazine or indeed on a particular website or web browser then you would use a tracking phone number and these again are very cost-effective. There are organisations out there that sell tracking numbers for as little as £5 per month. That will help you to know exactly – so you don’t have to ask the question, you don’t have to say where did you hear from me? Or where did you get my details from. You simply log in to your portal and you can see where every single call is coming from.

And online you can do the same for tracking URLs. You can get URLs that will tell you which website or which landing page your customer landed on. And of course in advertising you can use these tracking URLS, or in some cases there are short links - short URLS - that you can use in your advertising that will help you then to again log into your portal and you can then tell and see exactly where the marketing’s coming from.

So it takes away all the guess work. And that of course makes your marketing more cost effective because if something isn’t working, you stop doing it. And those things that are working, you know to do a lot more of it.

What are the best cheap and simple marketing techniques


Video transcript

It’s an interesting question in a sense of what is cheap because most stuff online is cheap and simple to use. I think some of the resistance you meet from tradespeople when they’re specifically talking about marketing, and the excuse they use to shy away from marketing is that they have no time or they have no money. And both of those are false in my belief. I think that if you can spend half an hour, 40 minutes or more a day working purely on the marketing of your business, and that’s not doing your invoicing, putting together your certificates or anything like that, it is specifically looking for customers, and looking at way of keeping hold of your customers. Online, if you spent that much time each morning, or during EastEnders, then you’ve got as much time as you need to market your business.

If you spend that much time online I would suggest you spend it signing up to free registrations, free directories online. You also have the opportunity to sign up to Google Places, completely free of charge. If you’re driving traffic to your website that will help to make sure it gets optimised. It costs you nothing to do some Facebook posts, you can do this a number of times a day to the people that are following you, and of course you should always encourage your customer to follow you or like your business Facebook page. And it costs nothing to set up a business Facebook page. Twitter is another thing. You can tweet all day long and there’s absolutely no cost. But if you wanted to then optimise that and enhance that it’s very reasonable and cheap to do Facebook ads, and if you target those ads geographically you can really get the cost down. In some cases you can get clicks or likes to your page for as little as seven pence per click. This conversation is too short to go into how you do that but there are very easy tutorials inside Facebook if you’re setting up your own advertising campaign. They have their own videos and tutorials and documents you can use which can help you to put this together and this costs you nothing to do in terms of learning it, and very low costs in terms of promoting it. You can put a budget of £3 for the week on a Facebook ad campaign and end up getting a couple of hundred or even a couple of thousand likes to your page. So those are some very cheap and very effective ways of digitally marketing yourself.

How often should I email my customers?


Video transcript

First and foremost is the key questions, customers. I would advise any tradesman to ensure that they are keeping all of the details of their customers. At this point we’re talking about customers, and not potential customers. So every time you have contact with a customer, whether you go out to do a quote for them, or they’ve made an enquiry the telephone, or on your website, you should always give them the opportunity to opt in to your mailing list. And you should start gathering all of that information because once you have that information, that’s free marketing. That’s people that know you, that are more likely to open your emails, because they’ve had some form of contact with you.

The key to not annoying them, or stopping them from un-subscribing from your mailing list is not to try selling them stuff. A mistake again that many tradesmen make is when they think email marketing, they think they must send out ‘buy my stuff’ emails, when the truth is that if you are being helpful, if you are giving them information that is going to make their lives a little bit better, information that they would be interested in, then you are more likely to have them, 1, open your emails, 2, stay on your list and 3, contact you when they need your services.

You can generate work without actually trying to sell

Some examples I would use, particularly from my industry as an electrician is when somebody joins my mailing list they will receive a follow-up series of emails that last approximately 3 years. So they continue to receive emails from me over that period of time and I don’t believe that in any one of these emails do I actually try to sell my services. All of the emails are of content that is in some way helping the customer. For example, one of the emails I would send out, and they would get this every six months, is along the lines of "it’s been six months since we’ve asked you to check your smoke detector, it’s about time you checked it, to make sure the batteries are ok". Then on another email it will be their RCD because again from an electricians point of view the RCD should be checked in your property every single six months. So again, an email will go out, every six months that encourages them to find their consumer unit, check their RCD and make sure that it’s operating properly. Now all of these are seen to be helpful emails and believe it or not they actually generate work because people will come back having rea the email and say "I don’t have smoke detectors in my property could you come and quote for them?".

So you can generate work without actually trying to sell. But the key to making sure they don’t unsubscribe and to making sure they don’t get hacked off getting emails from you is not to keep trying to promote, not to keep trying to sell, but to send them some information. Some information you can curate, for example you can set up Google alerts to alert you to certain situations, for example electrical fires. You can set up an alert every time there is an electrical fire in the UK, and when that occurs you can then put an email together advising people about the cause of that fire, how they could avoid that and you’re making it topical so you’re using recent news events to give them information about how to keep themselves and their family safer. Those type of emails are not selling, they’re more likely to be opened, they’re more likely to be read, and when the time is right, they’re more likely to call you because you’re the helpful guy when they need the service.

Is word of mouth marketing still relevant?


Video transcript

I think it’s absolutely still relevant, in fact I think it’s probably more relevant now than it has been historically because when you look at word of mouth traditionally it was people talking one on one, neighbours to neighbours, friends to friends, and today we have the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter where your friends are not necessarily friends you’ve met but friends in a wider community.

So yes, being very careful about how you manage your word of mouth marketing is very, very important and is very relevant these days.

Should my website be mobile responsive?


Video transcript

Absolutely. I think it would be madness not to have a mobile responsive website. In this day and age people rarely look for services on their laptop or desktop. Quite often when they want or need a trades person it’s at a time when they have a mobile phone in their hand, or their tablets. They may be sat on the sofa of an evening thinking to themselves ‘ should they get a quote for the new lighting in the living room. They don’t fire up their laptop to go searching now, they’ll stay sat on the sofa and use their iPhone or Samsung, their tablet or whatever mobile device they’re using. So absolutely you should have a mobile responsive website. And again, it doesn’t have to be an expensive thing to achieve. For example a lot of WordPress plugins are available to help you achieve that and most web developers will include it now as part of what they deliver when they’re producing the website for you. So yes, absolutely, be more mobile friendly.

Should I concern myself with getting a website when social media is free?


Video transcript

It surprises me still today, the number of tradesmen that don’t actually have a website, because my belief is that you need to have that piece of real estate in the virtual world. You need to have a website. Any small business should really have a presence on the web. And it shouldn’t be an either or thing – it shouldn’t be Facebook or a website; it should be both working together.

I think all of your social media marketing; all of your social media interaction with the public should be driving people to your website. And it’s a- it’s a false belief to think that it has to be expensive. Traditionally people pay a large amount of money to web designers or developer to put together a website for them. But today, in this day and age, there is so much technology out there that’s available that’s easy to use - you know, just coming to mind, very simple things like WordPress.

Using WordPress with a decent theme is a very easy way for somebody to set up a website of their own. And if you don’t want to even go that technical – although it’s not very technical – if you don’t want to go that technical, there are other platforms out there that allow you to drag-and-drop - build websites, and own that space on the web.

Of course one of the important things that comes with having your own domain, having your own website, is the fact that with your website comes the domain name which then can translate into your email address.

And again, a big thing that I find, particularly in the domestic sector, is that people get put off if they’re receiving emails from, for example or @ymail or Yahoo, when in fact that they’re much better off having their company name. For my example, it’s It looks a lot more professional. So by having your own website you have your own email address and it just looks a lot more professional than operating without that real estate on the web.

What does content marketing mean to tradesmen?


Video transcript

I’m glad you asked that question because a lot of tradesmen miss this as a trick.

Content marketing, when I’m talking to electricians in particular I talk to them about creating an ‘expert position’ so they are deemed to be, or seem to be, the expert locally I what they do.

The way I encourage them to do that is to create training sheets, not for other electricians but for the public, to explain things like earth bonding, your consumer unit or an RCD. Rather than trying to stand and explain that to a customer, if you can create that in the form of a help sheet or a PDF download document and regularly blog on different topics that will educate the general public as to what you do. By the very fact that you are seen as educating them, you increase your expert positioning and that to me is what content marketing is about.

It’s not about trying to sell your services, it’s about trying to engage with the public and engage with your potential customers by teaching them, by explaining things to them. Content marketing, to me, can take a number of different forms. It can be a blog, it can be a PDF download document (what in some circles could be called ‘lead bate’) or even to use videos. Particularly for YouTube, again another free resource to use videos to explain things to your customers so that when they come across you online, when they come across your content online, they start to see that you know what you’re talking about, you know your business, you know your industry and you’ve been a helpful guy. When you’ve been the guy that’s explained to them how to put up a light fitting, you’ve been the guy to explain why they need to put up their consumer unit for example, then when they need somebody to come and do a small job they’re going to look the person that’s been helpful.

Again, blogging, creating videos, putting together small PDF help sheets; are all free to do. They’re areas of marketing that a lot of tradesmen miss out on, and I think in some cases it because they’re afraid to stick their head above the parapet. They’re afraid to be seen on YouTube or afraid to out a document out there with their name on it, it’s a fantastic free marketing tool that the general public lap up.

What things don’t work in digital marketing?


Video transcript

Again an interesting question because I don’t believe that there’s anything that doesn’t work!

Quite often – if we talk about offline marketing to start off with – when I’m talking to other tradespeople, tradesmen, electricians, they’ll tell me they’ve tried things like networking, like leafleting, leaflet distribution and it doesn’t work or it doesn’t get results .

I think the truth of the matter is that every form of marketing will work – you just have to make it work for you. The very same thing is true online – there are people who will say Facebook doesn’t work and it won’t get you any business. They say that Twitter doesn’t work and it doesn’t get you any business or that SEO is a black art and it doesn’t work when the truth of the matter is that you just need to tweak things. Quite often, it can be a very small thing that can make a very big change or a very big result .

So I don’t believe that, either online or offline, things don’t work or that there’s anything that doesn’t work – you just need to get to a point where you’ve tried it, seen what works and if the result is not what you were hoping for, then tweak it a little bit and try it again.

I think the message is test it – test it and trial it until you start to get results and if you find after testing it for a period of time that you have to invest a large amount of money into it, then stop doing it and move on to something else that will work for you but don’t just automatically give up because you tried it once and you think it doesn’t work because if someone else is getting results from it, you can get results from it.

What is more important, online or offline marketing?


Video transcript

I think they are equally as important, particularly when someone’s starting out in a new business. They will need to use some very cost effective methods of getting their message out there. When you’re starting out your budget in terms of advertising or marketing can be very low. So using both online and offline methods, combining your digital marketing with the likes of flyers, leaflets, letters magazine advertising and networking can be as important as using the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn, Facebook advertising, SEO, a website. The important thing is when you’re a fresh new business starting out is to watch those costs . It’s all too easy for us to go after the bright shiny objects, spend a lot of money on developing, or paying designers for big flashy websites, when in fact a small self-made website might actually be as relevant in the early stages.

The very same for leaflets, flyers and broachers. When doing these offline methods, people can spend a lot of money with designers on material that would be less effective than something you could actually produce quite cheaply yourself at home. So I think a combination, using both methods in conjunction with one another, is the best way forward.

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