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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Five ways apps could transform your trade business

How you run your trade business is vital if you want to cultivate a great public image. Slick branding and expensive advertising are great - but the way you and your staff treat customers is far more important

Realistic estimating and quoting, good timekeeping, reliability, and going the extra mile are all vital if you want to really impress - and get those coveted recommendations.

Here are five ways that apps can help you streamline your operations, boost productivity and improve your reputation.

1. Realistic and speedy estimates

When someone calls for an estimate on a new job, the ideal response is to give a realistic estimate there and then. Delaying your estimate, even by a few hours, could annoy a potential customer and cost you the job.

If you set up your most common jobs in an app that all your staff can access, then whoever answers the phone will be able to give a ballpark figure for initial inquiries.

Here's a tip: everyone expects an estimate to be slightly lower than the final quote you will give when you visit. However if your estimate is too far below your competitors', many customers will become suspicious that it is artificially low, and will bear no relation to the final price you give.

To make sure your pricing is realistic, ring around anonymously, check what your competitors are estimating and align your own estimate with theirs.

2. On-the-spot quotes

Your estimate may get you on-site so you can provide a quote - but your quote must be accurate as it forms the basis for your contract with the customer.

If you can access up-to-date prices via a trade app on your phone or tablet, you will be able to give a fully accurate quote on the spot, and even send it to the customer’s email address for printing out.

This will win you far more jobs than ringing back in the evening when you have everything priced up.

3. Good timekeeping

No-one enjoys waiting in. When a customer asks, “When can you come?”, they want an honest answer that they can depend on.

Trade apps allow you to check what everyone has scheduled for the rest of the week, and to commit to a date and time. If your employees have the same app, their schedule will be updated in real time - so no fear of double-booking.

A note of caution - no matter how careful your scheduling, things can go wrong - jobs overrun, traffic accidents happen, and people get ill. Drum into your people how punctuality is part of your service, and that it is essential to update a customer if you are going to be delayed.

You could also add a GPS app onto each employee's phone, so that you're able to track where they are and if they're running late.

4. Reliability

Reliability and time-keeping are interlinked, but reliability is more than just turning up when you say you will.

Reliability means that you do the job correctly the first time, so no call-backs are needed. Reliability means coming out when water is pouring through a bedroom ceiling at 3 o’clock in the morning. Reliability means hiring a van when one of yours breaks down, so that you don’t let anyone down.

A good trade app will let you track how many hours each employee on your team works in a given week, so you can pay them appropriately and keep them happy, polite, and punctual.

5. Going the extra mile

If you really want to get recommendations and referrals, going the extra mile will reap rewards. Encourage everyone on your payroll to be polite and respectful, every time - this could include:

  • always smiling and appearing happy - even on a Monday morning;
  • working on a job until it’s finished, rather than knocking off in time to clock off at 5pm;
  • cleaning up thoroughly after a job, and providing your own clean cloths, mops, and buckets for spills;
  • not smoking or swearing on the job.

Use a customer satisfaction app to automatically ask for customer feedback after a job is completed. If you're lucky, the feedback will be great. If it's not so good, take the opportunity to put things right before word spreads.

Giving bonuses to teams that consistently do well can also encourage your employees to up their game.

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